Lady Death

Did you know there’s a saying that goes a person’s fate can be read on the wings of a butterfly? That’s what makes fate so hard to know, because the little creatures that carry it rarely stop fluttering long enough to read their wings. I’m sure that’s also what makes them so naturally mystifying, what we don’t realize draws our eye whenever they pass us by, bobbing through the air just out of reach.

They’re with me wherever I go. And wherever I might be, they find me. They are beautiful little things. Gentle, innocent, fragile, small.

Something else not many people know is that butterflies love salt, and a common place they find it is the remains of a dead animal. Flesh, devoid of life and giving way to nature and time – they love it.

I think that’s why they follow me. Like cats that know what doors leave out bowls of water or scraps of food, they’ve caught on to where they can get their salt fix. It’s invisible to us, but maybe their eyes see power over death like a color in the air, a magenta dust on the wind.

It’s a tale as old as time, really; and always the same motivation. A loved one who’s died, their memory growing more distant with each passing day, or one who’s sick and will know death shortly. I was different. I just…wanted to know.

Is it like everyone seems to think, something to be scared of and staved off? Is it “just a part of life,” or is that something we tell ourselves to assuage the anxiety of uncertainty? Is it sleep, or is it just…nothing? Are we just our bodies, our minds, or is there really a spark that drives the whole thing that remains eternal? After all, everyone in history has done it, so it can’t be that hard. It’s the biggest mystery of our time, and always has been.

Anyway, yeah, I think that’s why they follow me. And maybe I misspoke earlier. It isn’t a power over death, because everything that lives dies. That’s an immutable law of existence: everything that is, once was not; and everything that is, will not be again. So, not over death, but a power with it.

And the little buggers can’t get enough.

FIN

(Hey guys.
The astute among us might note the date on this post, that on the one prior, and the distance between the two. Like with all of us, life has had a lot of moving parts lately. Plus, I just haven’t had a lot to say, I guess. But this little ditty came to mind while on a walk earlier today, and it seemed like a good time to post again.
I haven’t been quiet that this is just a place to work out for me: run thought experiments, shout into the void, practice, blah, blah, blah. Feeling now, though, that there might be a good time of creative productivity on the way; a breath of air amidst all the chaos, if you will.
So, yeah, get ready to see more o’ me. This’ll be cool.
Peace, everybody.)

The Beautiful Mind of a Composer

I went back through my history of posts on here to see whether or not I’d covered this thought before, and couldn’t find it leaping out at me; but even if I had, it’s worth another visit.

I don’t often get jealous. Or mad, really. There’s a whole range of emotions, and while, like, duh, I’ve experienced both, they just come up very rarely. Don’t get me wrong, I consider it a good thing, but it means that when it happens, it’s usually a bit more serious.

The jealousy I’m about to speak on runs kind of deep, and I only found out I had it a few months ago. If I may, I’d like to start at the beginning, about a year ago (and no, don’t let that frighten you, I’ll keep it brief).

I was helping a friend move, and while her boyfriend at the time and I took a truck load of furniture to the new house, he asked me what I do. I mentioned at the time that I’d just left my job and was trying to find my way as a freelance writer and fiction author. He gave a polite gasp of awe, said how cool that was, and how tough it can be to be a writer (preach, my brother); and remarked how he could never write stories.

What I’m about to tell you – you, right there – I know to be truth. It’s an undeniable part of the fabric of being that I feel in my bones that anyone and everyone has the capacity to be a storyteller, without exception. We are ourselves, each a living, breathing tale in the making; so how could it be anything but natural when the art form is a part of our being?
Do I appreciate his reverence for the craft? Absolutely. Does it take patience, perseverance, will, and a vulnerable, heartbreaking openness and respect to do properly? I believe so, yeah. And is it a practice that’s ever finished? No, I don’t think so.
But no matter the case, his reaction – while flattering – stuck with me beyond the compliment.

Skip ahead a number of months to my friend Micah’s graduation party. He’s graduated with a degree in (sorry Micah, I’m about to butcher the facts by guessing here) music theory with the intent to teach (which is confidently true, because he teaches now). The point being, he was a music student. Consider it as owing to my own conical viewpoint, but I asked him if he’d had any interest in composing his own music, and his answer surprised the crap out of me: he said “no.”

Let’s put a pin in that really quick.

If you’re nice to yourself and enjoy the good things in life, you’ve probably seen Ratatouille, the movie about a talking rat that wants to be a chef; if not, well…that’s…that’s what it’s about. It’s great. And in it, there’s a scene where the main character Remy is trying to teach his brother, another rat that scarfs garbage, an appreciation for flavors and the art of cooking.
He has him try a bit of strawberry, and a bit of cheese, then a bit of each together, all with his eyes closed and coaching him on how to savor it and ruminate on the experience. It’s visually represented with a black background and ribbons of color drawing themselves in the air as the different flavors are experienced. It’s well done.
(It’s also a good time to note here that, since seeing the movie, any time in the past twelve years I’ve eaten an exceptionally good meal, I do the same thing.)

By every fiber of the word, I’m an amateur writer. I’ve been blessed with a few paid successes here and there that I appreciate deeply, but it’s rooted in a love for story crafting. There are few pleasures above being brought a fantasy from the ether, honing the ability to capture that experience in words, and give it to someone else. A confession: that’s not really what gets done on here. This is fun, a routine-keeping tool (that I sometimes fail miserably at), and a place to vent, speculate, experiment with thoughts, and do exercises.
Most of the time, the root of a story comes from a thought, a real-world parallel, an ideal, a what-if, or…
…a piece of music.

A musical number will start, and like those ribbons of light in Remy’s brother’s head, a scene can start. It’s murky, like it’s being seen and heard, absent of context, through a window thick with frost. Then as you think on it, let it grow, allow the theater of mind to work, the ice thaws and it gets clearer and clearer, more and more refined, until you have a tale to share.

<removes earlier pin>

I have no idea at all, but I have tried so hard so many times to imagine the mind of a composer when an idea takes root. To put myself in that black space, floating in the void as the sounds come into being, layering on top of one another, an orchestra working in harmony. Imagining how they grow and morph, becoming the pieces of clockwork that produce flavor and emotion and memory and resonance, then to have the sense of responsibility settle on you that charges you with capturing it so it can be shared is all a process so beautiful tears well up thinking on it.

But I can’t.

My imagination in that regard begins and ends with that silent, empty blackness. No sounds bleed into being, no ribbons draw themselves in the air to inspire and awe.

And that shit is…just…heartbreaking, I find.

When Micah answered “no,” my immediate reaction (besides bewilderment) took it almost as a slap in the face of an art that I didn’t even share in; which might be weird, I admit now. Later, I asked my buddy Peter (a bassist and songwriter) what he thought of Micah’s answer, and he was nonplussed. Paraphrasing:

“Yeah, no surprise. Just because he has a masters in music doesn’t mean he knows how to compose, or likes doing it. Like, having a degree in philosophy doesn’t make you a philosopher. Knowing old philosophy doesn’t mean you’ll produce new ones, or that you’d want to.”

I took his word for it, and over time it’s come to make sense. Just because we watch movies, doesn’t mean we all want to be filmmakers, or if we enjoy murals downtown, doesn’t mean we necessarily want to take up painting.

So, I don’t know why this feels so different to me, but damn it does. You know that old, “If you could pick one superpower, what would it be and why?” Like, obviously telekinesis or teleportation is high on the list, but being tuned into whatever frequency lets you hear and craft orchestral pieces is a contender.

For now, I content myself with a vicarious imagination. Letting the ribbons draw themselves and dance while listening to the music that came to someone else. And really, it’s not too different from other arts. There isn’t anything to separate it from the eye of a photographer that sees the beauty in a captured moment, or the bones of a dancer that know the feel of a performance.

We’re all antennae for the arts, and that’s pretty cool.

Today’s Hors-d’oeuvres (#foodforthought)

Happy Tuesday, everybody.

First off, if you’re having trouble (like I did) with the title today, that’s apparently how you spell the little munchies you have before dinner or in between courses (plain speak: “orderves”).

Second, I’m out there husslin’, so for today, you’re at a fancy dinner party. It’s a big ol’ Great Gatsby mansion with a courtyard, a fountain, waiters n’ shit. I’m the guy who walks up holding a tray and a towel over my arm (I assume for some reason) and offers you little worldly food items. Let’s say I have a curly string mustache, too.

I’ve always been a bit of a quote collector and I think we should all be. A few years ago, my girlfriend’s mom gave me one of the best compliments I’ve ever received when I said, “I like to consider wisdom where I find it, no matter the source,” and she replied, “That should be on a pillow or something.”

But that’s what today’s about, a few morsels here and there that resonated, and I’m gonna cross my fingers they do the same with you. Cheers.

#1

“If objects for gratitude and admiration are our desire, do they not present themselves every hour to our eyes? Do we not see a fair creation prepared to receive us the instant we are born – a world furnished to our hands, that cost us nothing? Is it we that light up the sun? Or pour down the rain? Or fill the earth with abundance? Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe goes on.”
-Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

The Take: I would actually recommend reading all of ‘The Age of Reason’ by Paine- well, actually not. Part 1 is terrific. In (very) short, with Part 1 he basically outlines his views on religion at large, the idea of a Creator, existence, and his own personal form of deism (which I personally find beautiful). The above is a good foot in the door for what the rest of Part 1 is about. It doesn’t capture all of the wonderful ways he illustrates it and further fleshes it out, but it’s a pill if that’s all you want. An even more concise if less flavorful way to express what I think Paine tries to get across here is this: “The world is so much bigger than you and majestic beyond reasonable understanding. That alone is reason enough to appreciate life.”
(The second half, called “Part 2”, is basically a constructed essay-form breakdown on how the stories in the Bible don’t, in his view, conform to logical processes or, as the title goes, reason; and personally, I didn’t find I needed that, but if it’s your bag, go for it.)

#2

“Death by violence, death by cold, death by starvation – these are the normal ends of the stately and beautiful creatures of the wilderness. The sentimentalists who prattle about the peaceful life of nature do not understand its utter mercilessness; although all they would have to do would be to look at the birds in the winter woods, or even at the insects on a cold morning or cold evening. Life is hard and cruel for all lower creatures, and for man also, in what the sentimentalists call a ‘state of nature.'”
-Theodore Roosevelt

The Take: I think I feel good including this one here because I’ve noticed it comes up a lot in my fiction (nothing that’s made its way here yet). I hold that it’s a reasonably good theme to include or just understanding to utilize whether it be in fact, fiction, or real life, because it’s true. Life isn’t easy within civilization sometimes, much less without it. It can be a terrific reminder the next time you think you live in a shithole or boo-hoo about how nothing ever happens in your town. Just watch one episode of “Naked and Afraid” and you’ll realize even that’s wilderness survival set to Easy Mode.
[WOOP WOOP! WARNING! POLITICAL MOMENT AHEAD! 3…2…1…]
And whether you have a stance on hunting, you yourself are a hunter (I’m not), a vegan, vegetarian, or anything else, before you forsake friendships in arguments over these things: hunting isn’t the problem. Is trophy hunting pretty dicky? Yeah, absolutely. But an ethical hunter killing for food that isn’t wasted, while it isn’t utterly natural, it isn’t outside the norm; as it’s an unfortunate fact that that deer or elk wasn’t going to live happily ever after. So the next time you come across a headline that aims to criticize some aspect of hunting, do a liiiittle bit of homework before biting the hook.
[-jets powering down…cooling…cooling…cool-]
If I haven’t lost you yet, on a literary note, taking an understanding that nature in its raw form is exactly what Teddy calls it – “merciless” – and is still beautiful into writing can help bridge some schisms over seemingly conflicting themes. I hope I’ll be able to share some of my own works that attempt the same here one day.

#3

“You’re never gonna get the same things as other people. It’s never gonna be equal. It’s not gonna happen in your life so you just learn that now, okay?
Listen. The only time you should look into your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

-Louis C.K.

The Take: I think I first encountered this one while scrolling through Facebook yeeeeaaaars back. Originally, in the set he expressed this on, it was while he was discussing being a parent and some of the lessons one dishes out when they find themselves in that position (I also did a super fast google check to make sure he’d been quoted elsewhere too), but it came across as a good bit of personal advice.
It sort of pairs flows from the same perennial, ages-old proverb “Comparison breeds contempt,” and I think it puts a good cap on what we’ve covered. It’s good to expect nothing, yet appreciate everything (saw that on a bumper sticker once, holds up).

Anyway, I think that’s about it. Hope some of this rings with some of y’all.

See ya Thursday (or before, who knows anymore).

PS – I have NEEEEEEWS! Another story of mine, “The Scars of Eliza Gray”, is currently in the works to be featured on the NIGHT LIGHT horror podcast in a few weeks. So stayed tuned, ’cause I’ll be posting updates as I get them and blasting it out there once it’s up! Also keep an eye out and an ear open for the episode where we discuss and give our takes on Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” and “Us”! Yaaaaay!