Thursday, September 6, 2012

Jekyll and Hyde

That I am I.
That my soul is a dark forest.
That my known self will never be
more than a little clearing in this forest.
That gods, strange gods, will come forth
into the clearing of my known self, and then go back.
That I must have the courage to let them come and go.
- D.H. Lawrence

I have this quote practically memorized. My memory isn’t quite verbatim, but close. I discovered it when reading an excerpt from Lawrence’s essay criticizing Ben Franklin’s list of virtues that was taped to the walls of the narrow halls in the College of English at my university.

It comes to my mind, often, because it reeks of truth to me. It is true in the way of a Zen koan, an anecdote used to stir the mind into enlightenment. When you understand the meaning, things just click inside you.

After my yoga class yesterday I told my teacher that I don’t understand why my muscles and the rest of my body are so tight when I am almost always relaxing. Masseuses across the years have regularly told me I am too young to be so tense. They said it five years ago and they would say it now. Little has changed.

Saying it aloud made the issue more real and sparked further introspection. I don’t have an answer. I am still searching for one, but I have started to collect an idea here and there. I think part of the answer lies with those strange from the dark forest; I don’t know if I have the courage to let them come and go.

I wrote recently about the poet I keep chained up inside. I don’t think he is alone. There is a monster in the depths with him, a monster I have fought and killed a buried and given new life only to fight again. There is an anger within me that I haven’t voiced, a violence I don’t respect and haven’t accepted. The poet always knew the beast better than I, for the poet often wandered through the dappled shadows cast by the canopy of my soul.

I don’t know this beast and I think I fear him. He is not simply trained, or leashed, but a feral creature caged. He has been slapped, punished, beaten. He has been hidden because I became overly sensitive about what people might think of me as I aged. I locked him away with the poet so that no one would have to taste my darkness.

Without the dark god’s voice lending its rough crystal honey to my own, am I a whole man? Without his animal desires, am I body and mind? Have I striven so hard to be the opposite of the creature that my yin yang is nigh white washed? Am I so far from symbol I value so highly? I am no saint. Am I guilty of trying to be one? I only wish to be a man who stands for what he believes in.

What is this burden I carry in my flesh? Is it the arrogant child who learned early that apathy was safer than caring? The middle school student in velvet pants, long hair, and a beret with milk dripping from his hair, standing straight against the words gay, homo, freak with the entire 8th grade class as an audience? Is it the lazy, unchallenged teen who drew lines of blood so deep in his shoulder that the scars remain almost 15 years later? I once spent hours in my youth pretending I was myself, sans limits. Who did I become when I was actually trying to be myself under the restraints of life? Not that creature I once imagined I was. Not that potential.

I feel like Promotheus, had he been chained to the stone before he could give fire to the world. I writhe against the face of the rock at the injustice. I feel the weight of it beneath my skin and I cannot name it. My shoulders tense at the thought and the ache and tautness lives like a thing in my brain. Some kind of knot that loops and tangles and constricts slowly around the gravity of what I bear until its load is hidden from sight.

I am ready to name it, to let go, to be as relaxed as I imagine myself being. I think perhaps, to do so, I must be prepared for the gods to come and go from the forest. I must greet them by name, ply them with wine and song, and send them home again content in their doing and being.

I must have the courage to let them come and go.

But I am tentative. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Holiday Lost (Sorry, Milton)

Now that I have finally caught up on my Open Diary reading, (would you say I ODed? -mischievous grin-), it is time to catch up a little on entry writing. I have been a terrible person. I haven’t written at all in the last ten days, with the exception of three and a half hand written pages of a letter to a friend in the UK, which my puppy promptly decided to eat. -sigh- I am not overly eager to re-write my friend, but I suppose I must, since it is my turn in our epistolary venture.

As my friend would say, I just got back from a work holiday. Or, in my fair country’s vernacular, a vacation. I spent 10 days away from the stagnant pool of proofreading and I enjoyed every minute of it, even the moments in which I found myself in the dentist’s chair twice in two days and on a two-hour trip to spend maybe twenty minutes signing paperwork for the financing of my new Ford Escape. The same vehicle that decided to blow a hole in its EGR valve on Sunday, a quarter of the way to the dance I had intended to attend on Sunday night. I did not make it, obviously. Fortunately it is a relatively minor problem. The vehicle is still drivable; it simply runs poorly, like a martial artist with a crushed larynx and a tracheotomy.

On the last two Saturdays I took Mira down to the local Farmer’s Market for socialization and training. Mostly socialization, of which she received a ton, since she is a puppy. People of both genders and all ages are drawn to puppies like moths to flame, albeit with more pleasant results. We enjoyed the sun, the attention, and the company. I have to admit, I secretly enjoy kneeing people in their assumptions. I realize she is very similar in appearance to a black Labrador, but better to ask if your guess is the right one than to barge on down that road without looking. I think that is just a general rule of thumb, whether we are discussing my dog or anything else. If you do want to go that ass out of u and me route, please do though, I repeat, because it is just fun to say, I secretly enjoy kneeing people in their assumptions.

My vacation was exactly what I needed. On my second day back at work, I can tell you I need more of it. I spent a lot of time relaxing and just as much being active. I finally had the chance to do some things I have been wanting to do all summer, which was great. On Wednesday my friends Ben, Dan, and I hiked up Grouse Creek Falls for about an hour and a half before turning back around. Don’t let the word “hike” give you any illusions, we literally climbed up the waterfalls, up rocks and across pools, finding purchase in a deep pocket in the stone in the middle of the flow and pulling ourselves over to the other side. The bed of the creek is all loose river rocks and mountainside and we went up the creek itself, letting the waterway be our path. Ben and I did this barefoot. It was rather rough, but a lot of fun. This is my third time climbing up the falls, though I had never hiked up so far after getting above the falls. It was, as Dan called it a few times, a bona fide adventure, but hardly as epic as it might sound. The waterfall is a series of short falls, cold, deep pools and easily climbed rock faces.

Ben stayed over and had dinner with my dad and I. The next day we loaded my parent’s sea kayak on top of my Escape and drove it downtown, to a boat launch at a place called Sand Creek. The creek is more of an estuary for the lake and we paddled up it until we came to the actual creek, which is too shallow for a boat of any kind. Round trip, it was also 3 1/2 hours. I drive by the creek regularly as I go in and out of town. It is different now. I know it, I have trailed my fingers across her surface, dipped into her and explored her curves. A river looks different, when you have traveled it. There is an intimacy you never expected. She is no longer some stranger you pass along the way, but someone you meet eyes with, a sparkle hidden in them as if you share a secret, a knowing that no one else will ever understand. No other lover will know her the way you did, whether she has one or a thousand. That time, that intimacy is yours, your conversation, your discourse.

(On a side note, I feel similarly about dancing. In three minutes with our clothes on, I have known strangers better than many of their lovers ever will. When you move someone, move with someone, you transcend the adolescent pawing so many call sex these days and rise toward that oneness we all imagine comes along with physical joining. At the end of that three minutes, in my arrogance I have often returned my partner to her so-called lover and thought to him, “You’re welcome.”)

On Friday, Ben and I went fourwheeling. We took the ATVs, quads, fourwheelers, or whatever you would like to call them up and down a series of trails and logging roads up behind the land my parent’s and I live on. After an hour or so we left one of the vehicles in some brush overlooking what my dad calls “The Cataclysmic Event,” where a cliff of pure clay fell into the river years ago, leaving behind a steep slope down to a flat semi-moonscape. Riding together, we took the other ATV back to my house, where we parked it and hiked up the river that runs past our property until we finally came to the Event again, picked up the other ATV and rode home one last time.

Those were the major activities of my time off. I filled the other hours with Civilization V, a few movies, rereading a couple of the Percy Jackson novels, running a D&D campaign based on a book that I may someday get back to writing, taking walks with the dogs, and all the other bits and pieces that make up a life. I went no where, which was a joy after the last serious vacation I took.

Have I ever told you about the world I live in now? I think not. Tomorrow, then.

And a thousand words, goodnight.