"I dream of a hard and brutal mysticism in which the naked self merges with the nonhuman world and somehow survives...Paradox and bedrock."-Edward Abbey

27 September 2010

Holly's Kiss

They were brilliant red, surrounded by bright deep green leaves. I was mesmerized. They were so striking, and I had been watching them for what may have been a rather long time. Then again, at somewhere between a year and half and two years old, days could move at the pace of a glacier.

I grabbed as many as my tiny hand could hold. A few found their way into my mouth. I seem to recall a sour taste, but somehow that didn't matter. They were so pretty.

"What are you doing?!?" My great grandmother's voice made me jump, dropping the rest of the berries.

She smacked my back, causing me to spit out a few more, but it was obvious I'd swallowed some. I drug inside where my grandmother and a family friend in a floral-print dress were talking. My great grandmother went to the telephone, telling the other two women I had wandered to the holly bush.

The next thing I remember was walking around the yard with the family friend in the floral-print dress. She kept telling me it would be okay. I did not feel well. In fact, my stomach hurt. The pattern on the woman's dress was moving, and not in time with her walking.

And I threw up all over that floral-print dress. I think I knew I did something of a bad thing, because the look I gave the family friend must of conveyed either fear or remorse. She gave me a hug, called me a good boy, and took me back in the house. When she showed the vomit stain to my great grandmother and my grandmother, they both breathed a sigh of relief.

Many, many years and lifetimes later, it came to pass there was a girl named Holly who decided she liked me liked me. At that age, just first noticing girls, one would think I would at the very least be intrigued, but I was not into it whatsoever. In fact, the very mention of her name left a bad taste in my mouth.

25 September 2010

Thoughts on a Preternatural Afternoon

Front yard of the House of Owls and Bats, twenty-five, September, 2010 CE, Gregorian calendar, two days after the full moon, the month of Hoh, 4708 at 1533...

I have lived in the place Spanish conquistadors called colorful-and not just for the autumn colors-thirty-four of the thirty-eight years I've been alive-let's not dwell on the southern bit here in context, shall we?-and I've never seen a dandelion so late in the year. Even and especially here at over ninety-one hundred feet. There are those who deny the world's climate is changing, to which, I wonder what bullshit rationalization they'd make to this observation. Like doomsday zealots, when called out upon their mythology, what excuses would be said to, like a balm over a sucking chest wound, to supposedly make it all better?

Color me curious...

My personal Kilimanjaro. The weather seems to be holding oh so well. A seed of an idea starts to germinate; Father Mountain, what are you doing in the next few days? I might try for a visit. Brew some tea, neh?...

Even the tourists have remarked the aspens have not fully turned. They speak of how hot and dry it has been down below. Everyone seems amazed and frightened, at least for the moment, at the weather.

Part of me wonders if this is not the beginning. A voice in my skull speaks of by the time I am forty-five-seven years away-that the weather here won't so much different that of the metroplex's here and now. I am not convinced that's the whisper in my ghost, or just a supposition. I am hiding and waiting, just watching the observed factors. I can fell it in the marrow of my twisted skeleton that something has changed on a deep level with the world, but I do not know exactly what. Only time and observation will provide the answer.

23 September 2010


It's a curious practice, the attempt of making a definitive mark of the changing of the seasons on a calendar. Time, after all, is an abstract. Of course, by trying to mark time, break it up into little sections, humans perpetuate the illusion they have control. As a species that seeks patterns in everything, the concept of chaos is more than a little terrifying.

Over the years and lifetimes, I have found the changing of seasons to be all but imperceptible. Just one day, boom! the cyclic wheel has turned, and it's no longer [place seasonal name here]. Where I live, winter lasts for half a year and the first omens of autumn, the first leaves turning, was happening a week or so before my birthday. In fact, one of my friends declared the first day of high country autumn three days before my birthday. It was cool and breezy that day, and I was wearing jeans and button-up, but I was still able to knock about in sandals, so I felt inclined to disagree, perhaps out of denial, or maybe even the Congo.

I guess that would beg the question; with the warmth since, has it been indian summer, or has summer just been hanging on especially late here in the pointy lands? Is said question really relevant? After all, remember, time is an abstract. Dig on some quantum physics or Buddhist philosophy if you don't believe me.

It is not without a sense of irony, however, that the day marked as the autumnal equinox, the sky was filled with pendulous clouds, which brought about hours of rain and cool temperatures. We went for a walkabout anyway. When heading back home, there was a bit of comfort in the scent of wood smoke in the air. We had our own fire, and I found a bit of simple enjoyment in it, despite the fact it foretold of cooler days upon the event horizon.

Irony aside, it was needed. The moisture will help with the tinderbox conditions, which has included burning bands. Cooler temperatures will help get the aspens to really start turning. There's a festival celebrating the trees turning coming up, and according to the media, it's getting around peak time in our region that is called the central mountains, which sounds sort of gangsta to me.

Word. Sentence. Paragraph. Thesis. Yes, I know, my grasp of Street is both intimidating and horrifying. I am so Street I'm Trail.

Such a statement is made without the benefit of intoxicants, so perhaps I should start, but I digress...

Has one season really ended and another began? That's not so black and white as a date on the calendar. Even and especially in a place where it can snow at any time of the year. And I am a sucker for those shades of Grey anyway.

Whilst some of the birds have gone on their way, there has yet to be a hard freeze, which really sends the flora to sleep. Up in the sky, there are still towering thunderheads that I sometimes see the resemblance of Chinese dragons contained therein. These things are more definitive omens of the changing of the season to me than the notation of the of such on a monkey-made article of timekeeping, but maybe that's just me, and I'm a different breed of cat.

It will be autumn soon enough. The passing of the equinox or a date marked upon a calendar have so little to do with it. One day, boom! the cyclic wheel will have turned, and it'll no longer be summer. On that unmarked day, I'll be certain to raise my teacup in a silent toast to the seasons shedding their skin in a way imperceptible to mere monkeys.

18 September 2010

Tinderbox Days

Along the mountainsides there are bands of greens, yellows, and even a few oranges. It's been so warm, the aspens haven't really peaked just yet. Insects still dance in the sunlight. There have been some mournings it has frosted, but only lightly, fading into phantasm upon the sunlight's kiss. In the later afternoons, once whatever the day required has been done, it is perfectly comfortable to take tea outside, reading a book in nothing but a pair of cutoffs.

I have dug these halcyon days of late summer, seeping into an early mountain autumn. There is no indication of snow within the next week to week and a half. My ten pence guess is the first flakes might not fly for at least two, if not three, weeks. The ski resorts might not be pleased by this, but after the cold and brutal winter, which still scars my memory, an extended summer and omens of a mild indian summer are rather welcome.

But moisture would be a boon. Wildfires blister parts of the Rocky Mountain front range. Even in our little Sahel, there are burning restrictions. It has been said that those who fight fires have been on edge as of late. I can admit to seeing the smoke from the train's steam engine and worrying the forests are about to go up in flames.

Still, despite being in a tinderbox, I find myself feeling rather zen. Moreso than usual. Since that journey into the outback, I have felt lighter, seeing as a weight has been lifted. Part of me wonders if mediums like this will take a new turn. Over the last eight months, I know I've told a few stories, but, by and large, a lot of this has been a portrait of my mourning. Tales of how I've sifted through emotional wreckage in an eight month journey to bury someone, even if it was just in metaphor. Perhaps it is an awful thing for me to state, but I am a little tired of it.

Hopefully, with that pall lifted, I can move even further on. I realize this is something one does not ever fully recover from. Be that as it may, I have noticed recently, when sipping tea, reading one of my books, and taking in the halcyon tinderbox days of late summer, seeping into an early mountain autumn, that I feel much lighter. I am sickly skinny as it stands, being an aberration, it's bound to happen. But this lightness comes from the lifting of a psychic weight, and I find myself feeling even more zen than usual, if that's even possible.

14 September 2010

Mom's Requiem

"Smiling with the mouth of an ocean
and I wave to you
with the arms of a mountain...
I see you.."
-Faith No More

We stood in the outback of the Sahel, near the ruins of Waldorf. The sky was blue and the sun was shinning. Breezes tickled the angel feathers in my c'boy hat.

And I said;

"Well, here we all are, and it only took us eight months and eleven days to get here...

Here is a place we have been coming to for a very long time. This is where we'd come to hike and explore. A place to picnic. Here is one of the places we'd come to watch the Rocky Mountain aspens turn the colors of precious jewels, spun gold, and flames.

And this place is sacred. Just look around you and take it all in. This is the type of place, which, in the past, might have been called one of Nature's Cathedrals.

We all are vividly aware of why we're here. It's getting on two years ago that Mom said she wanted what was left her shell to placed here. Eight months and eleven days after her passing, we come to make good on that request.

It is here that we'll witness an act of rebirth and immortality. Mom left us back in January, costing us a wife, a sister, a mother, and grandmother. Yet, she has continued to exist in the memories we have of her and the stories we share. As we scatter her ashes, she will be becoming one with these very mountains that surround us. These mountains have stood for millions of years. Upon the scale of worlds, few things are older. On a cosmic scale, perhaps only the stars themselves.

This is her monument. Whenever any of us look in the direction of these mountains, we'll see her. In that regard, she'll outlive us all."

Like at my grandmother's funeral, my father wept. Good or ill, for him, I kept my eyes dry. It was a good day to let go.

...I promise you, mother, someday I too will properly weep for you. I do not know when that day will be, but your phantasm will be the first to know...

So it goes...

Om mani padme hum...

12 September 2010

Songs of Lament and Anxiety

Her birthday is in two days. That's when we scatter the ashes. Something I look forward to and dread. There is a concert within the walls of skull. A backbeat, which resonates of the impending event.

Perhaps one of the only ways I can think of the day without screaming...it also played in my skull the day of the memorial;

Although, she said this variation caused her to think of me;

She was fond of this one;

And this one, which I think of her to, she said used to haunt her dreams;

One of her favorite films was The Big Chill, in which this played at the beginning. Ironically, a funeral. I'm thinking of taking my copy of Let it Bleed, which has this, into the outback with us;

And I'll always remember her dancing with my father to this in the kitchen when I was a whelp;

Finally, when my grandmother died, I was listening to this one a lot, and it gave me comfort. The snake chases its tail and I find this song in my skull in context of what I am about to do. Again, it lends comfort;

It's another two days, and it will be her birthday. The day we scatter the ashes. I am charged with saying something pretty over my mother's immolated bones.

Perhaps it is selfish of me, but I want the day after to be here already...

04 September 2010

Time of the Preacher

It was twelve years ago when I was first introduced to the Universal Life Church. There was the cat who was oh so proud of the fact he was a minister through the organization. He got his ordination via the spider's web and could perform things like weddings and other holy man-esque things, which seemed to me like Northern Exposure where the DJ had become sangha via an ad in Rolling Stone. This cat who was oh so proud of being an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church said he could ordain me right there on the spot, if I so wanted.

What the fuck else was there to do on a weeknight before kiting off to get mediocre sleazy diner coffee? And I always did like Northern Exposure, and the DJ character. Besides, my hypocrisy knows no bounds.

When heading out for coffee with one of my best friends, I told her I was now officially a minister. With a church, none-the-less. My fellow sangha was going to print me out a certificate stating this to be fact, which could work, given there are those who live and die by pieces of paper, whether used as currency or to show they sat in classrooms and regurgitated facts fed to them.

"You?!? A minister? You?!?" She was gobsmacked.

"Me. Ain't it grand?" I said with an impish smirk.

"I think it's a bunch of bullshit," she said finally.

When I got that certificate, I was very eager to show it to my friend. The whole absurdity of my heretical ass being sangha. Proof this was at least a real place, even if its credit might be dubious, based upon one's perceptions. My friend looked at the certificate, shook her head, and then grabbed a piece a paper and wrote;

"Robbie Grey is a certified bullshitter..."

And that was one of my best friends. She still is, even if she can be quite the punkass. To this day, she is quite unrepentant of that certificate she made for me.

So, over the years, those who have found out my dubious title of being sangha with the Universal Life Church, have either ooo'ed and awww'ed, or seen it as the joke it is. My parents used to try to use this as a way for me to say Christian grace at the dinner table, despite my decided lack of Christian beliefs. My sister would say me being a minister was why I had studied so many different theologies.

Shortly before my mother was diagnosed as terminal, she decided when she did die, she wanted her ashes scattered in the outback of the Sahel. Particularly at the ruins of an old mining camp and a particular bristle-cone pine that is an amalgamation of a bonsai and baobab tree where we'd sometimes picnic. When it got closer to the end, my mother requested that the priest who married my sister and Whitie say something nice when we scatter her ashes. I found this queer, given my mother wasn't Catholic, but she found it queer that her eldest son was a heretical Tibetan Buddhist who was apparently an ordained minister with some online church al-la Northern Exposure.

I was having Thai with my father, sister, daughter, and Whitie. My nephew, still on a strictly milk diet, just watched. At one point, the upcoming scattering of my mother's ashes came up. We discussed a wake at the House of Owls and Bats involving smoked chickens and red beans and rice.

"So, Son, as a man of the cloth, to you intend to say something over your mother's ashes?" My father asked me.

Oh, I had thought about it, but couldn't think of anything. I figured I'd leave it to the professional. The priest looked like he'd been around since the Inquisition. At most, Sabinan and I were going to leave a few sets of prayer flags strung through the branches of that bristle-cone pine.

"I'd loath to upstage the priest," I said through a mouthful of pad thai.

"The priest ain't coming," my father said.

"Really?" I was gobsmacked.

"He's transferred parishes," Whitie put in. "He won't be available."

It was then I noticed how intently everyone was eyeing me. I'm the zen one. Sometimes, I've strung words together in a way that might be considered clever. I was once ordained as a minister, making me, in a family of Southern Baptists, Catholics, heretical Buddhists, and Agnostics the most qualified.

"Fuck!" I muttered. Then I shrugged. "I reckon I can try to come up with something."

"I think that would be nice," my father said.

In the rising and setting of ten suns we will scatter my mother's ashes in the outback. Sabina and I will leave Buddhist prayer flags to eventually be blown away in the alpine winds. And now, it seems, I have been placed in the position of saying something over my mother's ashes. Part of me is honored the rest of my family would ask me to do this. Another aspect is utterly terrified at the prospect.

It's only ten days. No pressure. No pressure at all.

03 September 2010

The Call That Never Came

Over the years, every so often I don't hear from my parents on my birthday. Being busy or just plain forgetfulness. It used to offend me, but I got over it. They had three of us, and trying to keep those dates in mind can be difficult.

My grandmother's birthday is the day after mine. She was fifty years older than I. I sometimes wonder if she was still alive if she's succumbed to the same elderly madness that got her mother, which we called senility, but was probably Alzheimer's or Dementia. More than once, my mother would phone me on my grandmother's birthday, singing cheerfully to me.

"It's your mother's birthday, you senile old bat," I'd say after the fact. "Mine's the day before."

We'd laugh, and my mother would tell me to shut up about calling her old. Eventually, I'd speak to my father, and he'd say he tried to tell her the correct date, but that she got drunk and forgot. It was amusing.

It hasn't hurt my feelings that I've not heard from my father. My brother phoning me on birthday is something that happens only every few years, despite the fact I jingle both my siblings on theirs. When my sister phones, instead of sending a message in a bottle, we often talk for a couple of hours. It gives me warm fuzzies to hear from my daughter.

I remember on my sister's birthday, she knew she'd hear from me. In the past, she could count on that and the phoning from my mother. That was why this year was so strange. This year, and the years forever after, it was just going to be me. I agreed it was surreal, but the full implication didn't hit me. Well, not until the day before.

My phone does not ring that often, but that's because I am not one of those social types. Yet, every time it has over the last few days, I've half expected/wished/hoped I'd hear my mother's voice, despite knowing the impossibility of it. As the new day progresses, I deal with the cold acceptance that this is the one phone call that will never come. Ever again.

02 September 2010

The New Eighteen

Some time ago, I heard that forty was the new twenty. Apparently, this excused older women from preying upon young men who had just started to sprout hair in places they'd been previously afraid to wash. Upon one of my friend's sixtieth birthday, he proclaimed-several times, I might add-that sixty was the new forty. My mathematics aren't great, but this did tell me these things happen in twenty year intervals.

I am now thirty-eight. Given the above mentioned factors, thirty-eight is the new eighteen. I can groove with that. Eighteen was a great weekend.

The other three-hundred sixty-three days had their ups and downs...

When I was eighteen, I was a senior in high school. I fought with my parents, even and especially my mother, a fair amount. There were times of driving around during late hours burning fuel and listening to mixed tapes. I was learning the hard and painful way the acceptance thing was not going to happen for my aberrant ass without a lobotomy and perhaps a different shell. There was, ironically, the matter with the youth councilor I started dating, closer to graduation, who helped perpetuate an amused observation my sister had of me;

"There were these girls who would want to go out with because you had long hair and wore jackets with buttons and pins. They figured you were a bad boy. But you didn't do drugs or drink that much or have a criminal record. You just read and drank coffee and wrote in notebooks and kept to yourself."

We still chuckle about that. It was proof to me that a judgment based upon appearance is a sickness, despite the fact we are such visual creatures. Over the years and lifetimes, I have lost track of how many times I have been told I was not what I either appeared or what was expected. Perhaps that makes me deceptive by nature. But then again, it's all true, even and especially the lies.

When I was twenty-nine, a girl said I intimidated her because she saw me as a bad boy. Not a bad boy in the conventional sense, but as the cat who cooked, kept house, and shopped for himself without the mollycoddling of a woman. She observed the simple fact I didn't need anyone and questioned whether I wanted someone.

Of course, twenty-nine would be the new nine. At new nine, what the fuck would I want to be doing with girls? I mean, other than pulling their hair or throwing rocks at them? At the new nine, girls had cooties.

There's something cool to me about surviving thirty-eight years. See, when I was twenty-three, my fucking psycho-x said she'd had a vision I was going to die when I was I was thirty-seven. My asthmatic lungs would finally give out on me, and I would asphyxiate.

That was back when I smoked two to two and a half packs a day, and had coughed up blood once or twice. I was being self-destructive at the time, and was still under the adolescence's delusion immortality. Besides, twenty-three would be the new three. At the new three, what the fuck does anyone know? About anything?

I abstained from tobacco a little over two years ago. Whether that has much to do with disproving that vision is conjecture. It could also be a case of prophets don't know everything and oracles can be wrong, or an aspect of one making their own fate. Whatever the case, thinking about it gets me to want to give out a self-righteous guffaw;

Ha! Ha-ha! Fuck you all!

At the new eighteen, I suppose one can be angsty and defiant like that...

It seems to be the jack-off fantasy of the culture. An if only. If only I was [place whatever rose-tinted idealized age here] know what I know at [place chronological age here]. That's where the trouble starts. The grasping for some perceived perfect time instead of existing in the here and now. Not many like to accept that the moment is all one really gets, the rest being memories and jack-off fantasies.

I am thirty-eight. High school, and other forms of institutionalized learning, are mercifully years behind me. I've not fought with my parents in a good long time, and couldn't fight with my mother even if I wanted to. When I go driving, I have CDs or a radio, and rarely do so just go burn fuel. I have come to accept being an aberration; being too tall, too skinny, with eyes too big for the rest of my face. I'm still not sure what exactly got Sabina's attention about me, although I know it wasn't some bad boy misconception. There is a cobweb of gray in my dysfunctionally calico hair and I have my own teenager to deal with.

This is the new eighteen, because time is an abstract. Anyone with a base understanding of quantum theory and/or some Buddhist philosophy knows that. Even the prophet, Saint Douglas Adams, in his gospels of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy observed time is an illusion, and lunchtime, doubly so. Thus showing, sometimes prophets do know something.