Friday, June 25, 2010

'A Pristine Shady Place'

I had the most extraordinary experience this morning. I got up and went for one of my longer walks. This morning was extra stressful, because of some things I'm having to face up to, so, at first my thoughts were angry and plentiful. It was like I had a movie running in my head that I couldn't turn off. I walked the two miles up the road and then turned around. Let me set the stage for you, for the last half a mile of my journey. Where I walk is from what's called lower Boulder, to the upper part of town, finally to the post office where I turn around. Right now, after so much snow runoff, Boulder is very green. Because of a late Spring, the wild roses are still in bloom, and send out a fragrance into the air that is hard to describe. As I was coming home, still playing the movie in my head, I came to a spot that is my favorite on the walk. In this particular place, there is a row of cottonwood trees lining the road, which cast a shade over the road fifty or sixty yards or more. In front of me, is a large green field with a herd of sheep quietly grazing. To the left of me is another pasture, soaked with water and the smell of late Spring mixed with Summer. To the right, there is a creek full of water running beneath the road I was walking on. Right before I reached this point in the road, I was calmer, but still lamenting the woes and stresses of my life. As I reached the shady spot to walk it through, the thought rose in my mind. "This is where God will speak to you…" It was nothing more than that, and as I walked through this tunnel of shade and breeze, I had the most extraordinary feeling of peace walking through it. It sounds a little hokey, but I assure you, it was anything but--in the experience. Nothing in my thoughts led up to this thought, it was instant and interrupting. When I came out of this tunnel of shade, all my previous thoughts of anger had completely disappeared, and I could only focus on what had just occurred. Had this not occurred, you would probably be getting an ear full of some complaining, but in the experience, there was nothing to complain about, nothing to really fear. Wow!

While I was doing my play here last summer, I heard a tatter of a comment of something that someone had said about my play. It was something like this, "I liked most of the play, but what's with the God parts and all the Shakespeare?" I don't think the person that told me this was thinking about it hurting me, but it caused me at once to question what I was even doing. And then I surmised, We should talk about God. And we should talk about Shakespeare. It doesn't take a genius to understand that Shakespeare is filled with notions of God, (read or see Henry V), and that most of the great literature has a spiritual component that causes it to rise above the norm. The play that I am about to embark on is filled with this kind of spiritual questioning, the big existential questions. What is this all about? What is this quest, this human life that is so fragile and fickle? We have all been in a place in our thoughts where we ask, "Is there nothingness at the end of life, or does our spirit fly above the earth and become free to explore the rest of the universe?" Two thoughts, in the same head, at the same time. Two thoughts, diametrically opposed to each other questioning the whole of existence. In Under the Desert, the character of Tom comes into a café to tell a waitress of how God spoke to him in the desert. He maintains that to see God in such a way is void of peaceful thoughts because now he feels compelled to speak about what he has seen. He can never live a normal life because of this revelation. Now, my experience this morning was not as jarring and profound as Tom's revelation of God, only a tiny affirmation of something that is attempting to speak to me when I am in a position to hear. I believe that all of my walks beneath this shady tunnel led up to this moment. All the things I'd seen there, and smelled there, and felt there. There was nothing supernatural about it, just an accumulation of experience that coached the thought into my head. It had nothing to do with a religion of any kind, but it did have to do with a certain kind of preparation. I will continue to ask the existential questions in my plays and in my life. It reminded me that I should be in a constant state of preparation to hear what the universe is saying to me.

I'm not sure what the rest of the day will bring, but I will take that experience with me throughout, and I will anxiously wait my next walk to experience what will happen when I walk through the shady tunnel. I'll let you know.

Yesterday afternoon, I drove the eight miles to Salt Gulch for another rehearsal for the music show we will do Saturday night in Escalante. It was a long rehearsal, I sang and played with three other musicians for about two and half hours. Then, I drove back to Boulder, put on my fancy shirt and jacket, and went up to the Grill to sing and get some grocery money. When I walked in to the restaurant, the spirit was chaotic. As I mentioned before, there is that first feeling of dread when the energy is like that. These people will hate me. After a cup of coffee, I tuned my guitar, got out my stool and went to work. Sometimes, when the restaurant is very busy and loud, I feel like I am a voice crying in the wilderness. I know from experience, I have to be patient, sing the songs and let the audience make the decision about my presence. Am I interrupting their dinner? Am I adding to it, taking something away that they wanted? It's simple and yet very complex. I have to analyze the crowd and find the songs that will work. With patience, I begin to see a table that is really listening. I begin to play for that table. Soon, there is another table that is listening, now I have two tables. Someone comes and puts a five-dollar bill in the wine glass I have discreetly placed on the front counter. A table leaves, I stop for a 'Happy Birthday' song. There is a small smattering of applause after I sing my rendition of 'All of Me'. That's a good sign. I follow with 'Ring of Fire'. More applause. They are becoming my audience. Any performer that has been doing it for awhile knows that an audience will come with patience, if the work he or she is doing is polished and professional. I never take a set list into this particular venue, because I have to work on what the audience is wanting. I have to be unafraid to provide ambient music until that point when I can entertain. Its always a challenge, and is always pleasing at the end of the night. Last night, I only made twenty-five dollars, but I only worked for two hours. I had a wonderful meal of fresh pesto and pasta, mixed with trout. I got into a conversation with a man who loved Kris Kristofferson, and had seen him many times. He wanted to talk about that experience. I sang 'The Silver Tongued Devil'. I sang, 'Sunday Morning Coming Down'. Music brings out the most interesting conversation in people. A song can define a moment in life that conjures up a memory. A song can sooth, it can evoke drama, comedy, even tragedy. After dinner, I came home and went immediately to bed, it had been a long day.

Today at three, I have to be in Salt Gulch again for another rehearsal. Then, I have to be back to the restaurant at 7:30p for another go at applying the trade of a troubador. It is an occupation of fearlessness, always a journey, always a challenge. Do what scares you, something will always come of it, except of course, if you are jumping off a ledge…


Gerry said...

I knew you were going to get a sign and all summer more feelings of connection until everything you are doing everywhere all flows together into the travels of one man to bring his art to the world. And you will end up feeling just as much at home one place as to the other. I had to get feeling at home on the Internet and Youtube because that was where my outlets were going to be. If you blog that is how you will travel into other hearts and minds. Am trying to get some karaoke going at the Westward Ho as well, so these people can spread their wings too. Just called your brother Gary because his daughter Laura Lynne put on Facebook she was having a hysterectomy today. He didn't know but read his messages and found out it was for severe pain and endrometriosis so she thought it was a good thing. He was surprised she put it on FB but I said that is the fastest way to get prayers going up when you are scared from relatives and friends. I really loved your blog today. It was beautiful.

LaRena said...

I always enjoy reading your blogs Raymond. A real treat and I miss them when you are busy doing other things. Your prose is vivid and often makes me feel nostalgic for Boulder. (Ah the smell of the wild roses and the sound of the creek.) Happy memories. It was nice to have you tell a bit about your friendship with Randy and Robert. I thought you were all creative, smart little boys and would rise to the top like cream on milk. Life is hard often, regardless of the path you take. You mention getting out the screw driver and I always chuckle thinking of Randy, who has accomplished remarkable things, but put a tool in his hand and he starts to swear. I was telling a friend this morning who has just finished a re-modeling job and is distraught about the ends and odds not finished. Randy had the same experience with his wonderful contractor. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise as he and his son Mason build the last custom cabinet that had been left as soon as the contractor was completely paid. Randy said it was a wonderful experience for he and his son to work together Randy hasn't done any wood working for many years but it turned out beautiful. (Ah the great teaching of Edison Alvey.)

Often I feel some sadness about the disconnect with you and my boys. Then I remind myself that some people come into your life only for a season.

When Rodney Peterson would come to visit and Ronald Lyman wanted to be in on the fun I clearing remember you five playing on the lawn. Raymond, Randy, Robert Rodney and Ronald. When there was any miss behavior how could I possibly be expected to yell at the right R kid. I could only make it a five R demand. Oh the joys of youth and a bunch of little boys romping on your lawn. No wonder I get a touch of nostalgia.

Keep working hard dear Raymond and the rewards will come. Keep smelling the wild roses as long as they choose to waft their fragrance in the air.

Chuckh said...

Once, in a moment of extreme anxiety and despair God spoke a single word to me. When I heard that word, I calmed down immediately and fell asleep as it was night and I was in bed. Often I think about that time and the feeling of love, warmth and calm I felt at that moment. I don't understand it nor do I tell people about it much. But I do understand it when people say they have felt something similar. I don't understand what life is about, but I do feel we are all connected in a special way and somehow we don't really see that connection in our everyday lives. To me life is a mystery and as the Catholics say, it is the mystery of faith. Love to hear from you, Raymond.

Chuck said...

When are you putting on Under the Desert? I want to be there on top of Thompson Ledge. It is odd how nature, a place, a time can make your disconnect feelings somehow connect and allows you to be at peace again. Mother used to take long walks down through the fields.
LaRae used to hike to the top of a ledge. I love canyons..they work for me. I can even think of them
down in the Gulch, Silver Falls,
Spooky Gulch, and feel connected.
I loved your 'spiritual moment'.