Friday, October 14, 2011

What is Life

I just finished watching the Martin Scorsese documentary, George Harrison Living in the Material World. I have just wiped away the tears and for now I think it is just best to feel it and not explain much. I saw so much significant, profound, and moving stuff in this man and this great HBO special. It is now more obvious than before that the "quiet" Beatle was the most profound and deep of the Fab Four. The last words in the program were from his wife, who said that you would not have needed a light to film him leaving his body because the room was that bright. Harrison spoke about how important it was to leave his body at the right time and in the right way. He was sad that John Lennon didn't have that opportunity (even though he did leave it). George was prepared and ready! His life was truly a spiritual journey!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Moment!

On Monday night I attended a Toad the Wet Sprocket concert with a beautiful friend in Providence RI. The club, Lupos Heartbreak Hotel, a former theater, was intimate in size and we had seats right up front. If you sift through my blog, or have been a reader, you know how important music and especially this music has been to me. I was aware of Toad's music, but only in a surface way through the songs most played on the radio, like All I Want. I owned several of their albums, but only listened to those few songs. Three years ago, I took on the project of converting all my music to digital files to listen on my computer, as well as from an MP3 player. (10,000 songs later, still not done) Well, in the week after Vicki's memorial service I was listening to those files randomly through my whole house music system. Any song could have played and they did, from The Beatles to Steely Dan to The Black Eyed Peas. But, while at my computer, I heard this melody that lured me enough to get up and go to find out what the name of the song was and who played it. It was of course, Windmills, by Toad The Wet Sprocket. I had never heard this song before! I listened closely and looked at the lyrics and was moved beyond words. When I first heard it that day I could sense Vicki's presence near me. This was the first time, but not the last that I would feel this presence during the year or so after she died. Anyhow, the music seemed spiritual, heavenly and light. Ethereal is probably the best word to describe what I felt. Mystery, to use author Richard Rohr's word for God in Falling Upward. I looked up the review of the album and this is what it said. The title of the CD is Dulcinea....

"Dulcinea is Toad the Wet Sprocket’s fourth release. Without changing the formula too much, they conjured up 12 more hooks, stretching them ever so slightly to make the alternative tunes a bit edgier and the mellow ones a little folkier, and scoring a couple of modest hits along the way with “Something’s Always Wrong” and “Fall Down.” One of the thematic threads of Toad’s music has always been a certain spirituality, a sense of awe and wonder in regard to life and death. Dulcinea exploits and explores that theme with reverence and humility, going so far as to close the album with “Reincarnation Song,” a delicate examination of a soul’s transition shrouded musically by a veil of electric guitar feedback. One of the best songs on this album, and perhaps their entire catalog, is “Windmills,” a moody look at the fragility and futility of existence that will cause not only the exquisite melody to linger with you, but contemplations of your own purpose in life. Every song on this record creates a world of its own that is impossible not to be drawn into."

Do you see the synchronicity? The mystery? I have not tried to understand, explain, or rationalize any of this. I just accept it as meaningful and mysterious. This began a journey with TTWS that is hard to explain and have anyone else feel, so I won't go that far here! Only those who have taken this sacred journey will understand. But songs like; Way Away, Fall Down, Good Intentions, Whatever I fear, I Will Not Take These Things for Granted and more seemed to each coincide with important themes in my life these three years since Vicki's passing. So seeing the band became a priority and I finally got the chance. It was a great concert and they played all the best songs and sounded great! I was jumping out of my seat when they announced they will be releasing a CD of all new music in 2012 and they played two of them Monday night. I was hardly able to stay in my seat! Here is one.....The Moment....

I tend to explore what interests me deeply, and so I have been exploring Toad's music closely and especially Glen Phillips, the lead singer/songwriter. That is his picture above. Here are a few excerpts from his story..."Phillips was born in Santa Barbara, California, United States, and began making music at age 14. Glen grew up in a household where Reform Judaism was practiced and Eastern Religion was studied, and his spiritual curiosity has been one of the major themes of his writing. Phillips began Toad the Wet Sprocket in 1986, at the age of 16. Phillips is frequently barefoot when performing with the band."

Yes he was barefoot at the Providence concert. I ordered from Amazon, and have enjoyed his solo work which began after a break in 2001. The titles of the CDs are Mr. Lemons, Ablulum, and Winter Pays for Summer. Here is the second new song that they performed that night. Friendly Fire....

I cannot wait for this Cd to be released.

My very first post was in April of 2009. It was titled, I Will Not Take These Things For Granted and contained the Toad song by the same name. So in a way I have gone through a full circle or cycle in deep meaning. In that post I said this....... "Anyway, I believe in the following quote, "Truth can only be expressed aesthetically--in story, picture, film, dance and music." This is a quote from "Dark Nights of the Soul" by Thomas Moore." I am sure you agree the word story, as mentioned in that quote, would include poetry, mythology, and even SONG LYRICS. In the book I have just read by Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, he is discussing the importance of myths in our spiritual journeys and he says, They hold life and death, the explainable and the unexplainable together as one; they hold the paradoxes that the rational mind cannot process by itself. As good poetry does, myths make unclear and confused emotions brilliantly clear and life changing. Lastly, I want to add another quote to create the trilogy of truth that was once explained to me as a very young man. I was told when you hear something three very close attention! The quote, which I found in Dark Nights of the Soul is from Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay, The Poet. .....the poet...."stands one step nearer to things" and "turns the world to glass." Clarity, truth, life changing...good terms for the last three years. All three quotes overlap and clearly support the idea of the sacredness of things in the secular world if your eyes are open and clear. I guess this would be a great spot for another Toad song that I am presently digging....Eyes Open Wide.....

I have much more to say about Falling Upward and Richard Rohr, but I will save that for the next post. I want to say one more thing. Thomas Moore points out that..."Many Poets and artists created their best work out of their emotional darkness." Finally, I'll end with the beginning for me and this Night Sea Journey. Ironically the quote is from Falling Upward.....Sooner or later, if you are on any classic "spiritual schedule," some event, person, death, idea, or relationship will enter your life that you simply cannot deal with, using your present skill set, your acquired knowledge, or your strong willpower. Spiritually speaking, you will be, must be, led to the edge of your own private resources. At that point you will stumble over a necessary stumbling stone, as Isaiah calls it; or to state it in our language here, you will and you must "lose" something. This is the only way that Life-Fate-God-Grace-Mystery can get you to change........ This, I think is where I have been........ This song is a great introduction to Falling Upward......

Thanks James!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Ship for the Journey on the Sea!

I posted this song because I like it and because it struck a chord with me and the Night Sea Journey. The idea of traveling the sea, being immersed in the stuff where life brewed and ultimately fills us with the life essential liquid that sustains our bodies.

I also want to mentioned that my son, Bailey had auditioned for, and was selected to play in the Junior Festival Concert at the Fine Arts Center at UMASS Amherst. The event is sponsored by the Western District of the Massachusetts Music Educators Association. It was a beautiful (very spring like) and an awesome experience. I get very emotional when I hear or see excellence and hard work pay off. Bailey, as well as all the sixth through ninth graders represented the best of Western Massachusetts schools. I was moved and had a great time! The first video I am posting is the song, WINDRIDGE by David Myers in which Bailey played the snare. You can see him standing to the right of the conductor. The snare is not Bailey's best or preferred instrument, but he did have the highest percussion score in Western Mass of all that auditioned. He was very proud of this his work on this piece and worked hard with his teacher, Matt Gold at Williams College, and his former teacher at Herberg Middle School, Chris Unczur. I am very proud as well.

In the next piece, Into the Storm by Robert A. Smith, Bailey is just to the left of the conductor and he plays the xylophone, bells, and gong. Xylophone and Marimba are his instruments of choice!

One more choice (there were others) is Fantasy on Russian Air. Bailey is playing the Timpani and he is to the far right of the conductor!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Shine It All Around

Vacation is over and I spent the day preparing lessons for the week. Readers may not see me posting for a while, but I will try. I am working to try to be more in shape to meet the challenge that life has given me. I joined Twitter and it is very cool. I can make quick comments and they post to my side bar.
Anyhow I am watching Robert Plant with Strange Sensation on Palladia. This is a high def channel with great sound and it sometimes features music I love. The song that grabbed was from Mighty Rearranger and called Shine It All Around. I found the exact performance on You Tube. Plant can still sing and is exploring great music.
Oh Yes....RJ......James, keep rockin'.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pisces Fish for Black Pete


Conversations between Black Pete and fellow blogger RJ, as well as others, inspired this post. (Black Pete and RJ have an amazing blogs and you can find their links right here on my sidebar.) They have been discussing the Beatles and their evolving and changing connections to the Fab Four. I, for one, always liked McCartney the best. I know that Lennon was the driving force behind starting the Beatles and his issues also tore them apart. Lennon was an enigma at best, but I agree that the "quiet Beatle," George Harrison was under-appreciated by many. I think he was the one Beatle who TRULY embraced and communicated a spiritual sensitivity in his music right to the very end of his life! The word genuine comes to mind. I have read many articles in Rolling Stone about Harrison's kindness and generosity. He had many guitars and was known to give them away! Here is a review of his last Album which he recorded while he was fighting cancer and was completed with help from his son after he died....

George Harrison went quiet not long after the second Traveling Wilburys album, surfacing only for the Beatles' Anthology in the mid-'90s. He was recording all the while, yet he died before completing the album that would have been the follow-up to 1987's Cloud Nine. His son, Dhani, and his longtime friend/collaborator Jeff Lynne completed the recordings, released late in 2002, nearly a year after George's death, as Brainwashed. Given its baggage it's easy to be suspicious about the merits of Brainwashed prior to hearing it. Posthumous efforts often feel incomplete, Harrison's albums were frequently inconsistent, and Lynne favors ornate, cinematic productions that run contrary to George's desire for this project to be simple and low key -- nothing that would suggest that Brainwashed would be a success. Defying all odds, Brainwashed isn't just a success, it's one of the finest records Harrison ever made. No, it doesn't achieve the splendor of All Things Must Pass, nor is it quite of its time like both Living in the Material World and Cloud Nine were, but it's a quiet, subtle gem, one that strikes close to the heart of Harrison's music. It's intimate, alternately insightful and cheerfully lightweight, balancing his trademark black humor with silliness and good humor. Anyone searching the album for his views on mortality -- as he faced not only cancer, but an attacker that nearly took his life -- will surely find it, but this is not a somber album, it is a warm album, the sound of someone enjoying life without losing his wry sense of humor. This same spirit carries over to the music, with Harrison abandoning the idea of getting a hit and simply relaxing, primarily by playing a lot of ukulele and guitar. There aren't any major songs here and perhaps a tune or two could be pegged as throwaways by the cynical, but there are no down moments and it all holds together well -- better than most Harrison albums -- and it's a fitting way to say goodbye, every bit as good as Double Fantasy and, in some respects, even sweeter. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Here is a song, Pisces Fish..

And the lyrics..

Rowers gliding on the river
Canadian geese crap along the bank
Back wheel of my bike begins to quiver
The chain is wrapped around the crank

Old ladies, who must be doggie training
Walking, throwing balls, chasing all the sheep
While the farmer stands around, and he’s complaining
His mad cows are being put to sleep
I’m a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul

Smoke signals from the brewery
Like someone in there found the latest Pope
In a vat of beer that keeps pumping out with fury
While the church bell ringer’s tangled in his rope

But there’s a temple on an island
I think of all the Gods and what they feel
You can only find them in the deepest silence
I’ve got to get off of this big wheel

I’m a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul
I’m a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul

And I’ll be swimming until I can find those waters
That’s the one unbounded ocean of bliss
That’s flowing through your parents, sons and daughters
But still an easy thing for us to miss

Blades go skimming through the water
I hear the coxswain shouting his instructions about
With this crew oh, it could be a tall order
Have we time to sort all these things out?

Sometimes my life it feels like fiction
Some of the days it’s really quite serene
I’m a living proof of all life’s contradictions
One half’s going where the other half’s just been

And I’m a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul
I’m a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul
I’m a Pisces fish and the river runs through my soul

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Weigh Away

This song appears in my music player, so it can be played anytime by anyone. I have also posted it before, and this morning it just hit me again as songs can do.....I am really swirling around lots of stuff......ideas...sadness..optimism...weight...betrayal....surprise...blessing...truth...untruth...and somewhere in the middle!

Lines of people to pass you by
Posing sympathy with their whitewash eyes
With the ladies feigning their mourning cries
And the men shaking hands:
Weigh away
Way away
All the pictures in your mind
As you're passed the thousandth time
Thousandth photograph
Listen to sympathetic lies
As their reasons change under mourning guise
With the gentlemen feigning sorrowed sighs
And drinking champagne:
Weigh away
Way away
As all the people pass and pose
You hold back the tears
And hold onto memories
Small talk hangs like a dirty cloud
Saying nothing real but deafening loud
An urge to run away from the crowd
And mourn all alone:
Make a promise to no-one
Wondering if you'd been worthwhile
Turn away from the chatter
And the hungry smiles

Also yesterday was Vicki's birthday, so I will post a video and great song that I made and posted a while back! In the first picture you will see my father who died at age 60 in 1993 dancing with Vicki at our wedding! There are many pictures of my father in Korea where he served in that war! There are also many of my mom and dad before they were married and it ends with one of me.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spirituality of the Deep!

I have sat in front of this computer so many times trying to write a post and I just get frustrated and confused. I am not dead or stagnant, but instead in a dark night, and it is not an event or a feeling or a fleeting moment. It is a journey, and as Thomas Moore states in Dark Night of the Soul;

"that is not a challenge to be dealt with quickly or cannot be dismissed so easily. It leaves a lasting effect and in fact, alters you for good. It is nothing to brag pushes you to the edge of what is familiar and reliable, stretching your imagination about how life works and who or what controls it all. The dark night serves the spirit by forcing you to rely on something beyond human capacity. It can open you up to new and mysterious possibilities."

I truly sense this fact too. I feel optimism. I feel possibility, but it is all so confusing. It is like reaching into a bag containing all the letters of the alphabet and you reach in knowing the endless possibilities the letters possess, but I cannot see what I am reaching to grab and I don't know what to spell. Does that make sense?

I am not a soul vampire or a person trying to manipulate anything. I am trying to get through each day as best as I can. The issues and problems I face are real, and yes, I suppose in some ways imagined, since we rarely see with perfect vision, but that doesn't make the issues any less important, painful, or less in need of care. It is a lonely journey. In therapy, my therapist has listened and supported me. She has pointed out that year two in dealing with the loss of a spouse can be the most challenging and I would have to say I agree. The support falls away and you are left alone to navigate this undulating sea. I understand that!

Perhaps this vivid and emotionally charged dream is a better way to try and explain. Bailey and I were at some kind of public attraction or event. It could have been anything from a carnival or berry picking or some other outdoor thing. It was a sunny day and there was a large flat screen TV showing highlights of previous days and visits. I remember staring and seeing something familiar. I squinted to see what looked like Vicki with two other people. As she walked closer, I could see it was her carrying a bag and she was with her bother and his wife as best as I could tell. At this point Bailey who was much younger than his 14 years (maybe 6 or 7) also saw her and slowly approached the screen. he put his out out and Vicki did too and they each touched the screen. Bailey in tears, kept repeating MOMMY! I began to cry and we moved out of the way of many other people who were also gathered there. I wrapped my arms around Bailey and we cried together while everyone watched mumbling about how strange we were, like we were doing something wrong. I remember knowing that no one understood and even ridiculed us a bit! I shared this dream in therapy which was vivid and remembered unlike many that I have had.

So, I have many thoughts and it all just seems mangled and confused. I have a new life that I am living but it just doesn't feel like mine yet. I get up at 4:30 everyday and get Bailey and I ready for school. I get to school by 6:45 and leave for home by about 4:00 most days. Then comes dinner and on three nights per week Bailey either has a basketball game or music practice. He has a major concert coming up at UMASS with the best young musicians in Western Massachusetts. I try to make Saturday a day for me, but I end up trying to get some house stuff done like laundry and other cleaning. Sunday ends up being anywhere from 6 to 8 hours of planning or grading compositions.

So, I guess that has left very little of what I used to love or be! Music, creativity and reading for myself! The hardest part is that only one person has stopped to ask one simple and caring question during the last 6 or 7 months as I have slipped under the current of this night. That question is, "Are you OK?"

I am just at a loss for words at this point! I am not trying to offend anyone or hurt a single soul! I feel a sense of a new life, but it just hasn't formed for me. I just don't know how to express it all and I don't want to burden anyone. I am exhausted too. I want to exercise to meet this challenge with more energy.

I have never been here before and I don't know how to do it well! Going back to the beginning of this post; my imagination is being stretched, I am trying to find that thing beyond human capacity on which I can rely and I sense new and mysterious possibilities. I am sorry if this isn't what some would want to hear to make them feel good. It isn't a bright shining place where it is easy to see, but a darker place where only if there is an inner light I can shine shine. I hope I have that inner light?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Toad and More!

Christmas and New Years Day have passed by and it is on to the real world of essays to grade and lessons to plan. I have always felt a bit of a let down after the holidays and in spite of an alcohol household growing up, I love the holidays! I am leaving the tree up till next weekend. It was fresh cut in Vermont by Bailey and I and very alive. Also, the 12 days of Christmas are not over. January 5 is twelfth night followed by Epiphany.
I received an e-mail from Glen Phillips of Toad the Wet Sprocket and in it there was a new and free song that they recommend sharing and posting. It was a gift to their fans as they are reforming as a band! COOL! Here is an excerpt from that mail.

Happy Holidays!

2010 is coming to a close, and Toad the Wet Sprocket is preparing for a busy 2011. We'll be touring throughout the year, and are excited to be switching up the set and adding some new surprises. Since we broke up in 1997, we haven't made much in the way of long term plans. That's changing this year - we're a band again. In honor of that change, and out of thanks to you all for sticking around so long, we want to give you a Christmas gift in the form of a song: Click here to download "It Doesn't Feel Like Christmas". The song was penned by our friend Sam Phillips, and we hope you enjoy it! If you'd like a friend to have it, please encourage them to join the mailing list as well. They will receive a link with their confirmation email. You can also share the song and post it on your interwebs (blog, FaceBook, wherever) via Bandcamp here. We'll see you on the road in the coming year.



Here is the song off of You Tube....

Another cool development is that Bailey tried out for, and was chosen to play in the Western Massachusetts District Music Festival at UMASS this Spring. His point total from his audition gave him the highest score in Western Mass. That is what I said...Bailey is the best percussionist in the junior division in Western Massachusetts! Amazing! I am so proud and he is so talented. He teacher told me recently that Bailey has a future in music. I am happy, but also sad that others have ignored this talent!

Lastly, since before Thanksgiving the exterior of my house is undergoing a complete restoration. A back mud room that was poorly added has been torn off and a deck added. New siding is being installed. It is almost done and it looks great just as our tree did this year.

So for those who care to ask (and not a single person has) I am not caught in some dark, morbid wallowing in mourning of Vicki's death. I receive support from my therapist and I am in a place that seems to be typical for someone who has encountered what I have. The hard part is the life stuff. The responsibility that I have taken on that two people once did! Only one person has ever commented to me in a right on the mark kind of way. Ironically the person was an assistant teacher who works in my room and one day at lunch she said, "It must be very demanding to be a single dad and do this job! You must be exhausted!" I am paraphrasing her, but I thanked her for her soulful and rare understanding!

The last part of this entry will be a montage of pictures I took in front of the tree with Bailey this year and a cool remake of Madonna's Holiday. The song is by Darren Hayes who was half of the duo Savage Garden and I have posted many of his and their songs in the past. I want to be sure to end this rare post on a positive note...