Time As A Point Of Reference

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAToday I took a walk on the beach outside my home. The tide was just beginning to come in so I walked in the wet part of the sands and made footprints going in different directions. I was a child creating a map of confusion as some of my prints pointed that way and others pointed this way. Some toward the sea, others toward the land, and some even toward the sky. When I reached the end of my morning sojourn, I turned around and headed back, retracing my steps.

I was thinking about the early explorers and how they were able to navigate uncharted seas when the stars in the sky no longer matched the stars with which they were familiar. When the big dipper and the North star were no longer points of reference, what did they use as a guide? Was it courage which fueled their quest? Did they not fear falling off the end of the world? They could always turn around and retrace their steps the way I was doing, I reckoned.

I no sooner had this thought when an unannounced wave came upon me. I was caught off guard. I was surprised. I froze, not from the temperature of the water for it was warm, but from its suddenness. In that moment, a second maybe three, maybe more, I do not know. Time stopped. All movement stopped. The constant roar of the sea stopped. There was silence. I stood there in the footprints of my unmoving feet and saw the trail they had made only minutes before covered by the sea. I did not have to look behind me. I knew those footprints were covered also. Without past or future where was I. Without the familiar, without the known, and unable to retrace my steps, where was I? I was in the present moment, locked in place for however long that moment lasted. Then the sea moved again. I could feel the sand slipping from beneath my feet and took a step forward.

Maybe in times such as this all one can do is take that first step again and again. Whenever it is needed. We make each moment the present moment without holding on to any points of reference. No breadcrumb trails, no familiar stars or footprints in the sand to guide us back home. No past, no future, no time, just now.

I don’t know how things happen or why but I have come to trust that things happen for a reason, although often it takes a while for that reason to be known. When I returned to my cabin and changed into some dry clothing, I picked up my battery operated cassette radio to see what time it was. I am not a big fan of clocks so this is the only clock I have other than the time on my computer. It has managed to keep perfect time for over twenty years. Today the liquid crystal display had some of its display missing so that an eight looked like a six in the last digit of the minutes. No problem. I can live with that. A few hours later the entire display was gone. I replaced the batteries but there was no change. Time had stopped again. At least as recorded by this clock.

In truth it did not matter. I have no place to be and no particular time to be there of I did. Checking the time was more a habit than a necessity. I do wonder if the two experiences of time are related and if the sea and the dead clock were trying to remind me that this moment, right now, is all I have?

Rollo Del Tomebamba XII

One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.

d6ad4d51-30a4-4ae6-a93a-f2c61125a3f6Parque Paradiso – A Photographic Journey

Just by turning right when exiting the front door of my new flat rather than my usual left, I found a whole new world along the Rio Tomebamba. A bit beyond the part of Cuenca where the Iron workers lived and established their guild is Parque Paradiso, a beautiful span of green and waters.

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Iglesia de El Vergel is the first landmark I see strolling the walkway.

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Symbol of the Iron Workers’ Guild.

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The cobble stoned walkway of my previous river walks gives way to a dirt path leading to the park.

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Through the cooling groves and soothing smell of eucalyptus trees. 

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I remind myself to breathe deeply through here and enjoy the clean scented air.

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There is an above ground walkway to protect the habitat of the various frog species leading to the picnic and open areas.

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And there is a lake.

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Or continue along the path to the meeting of rivers. The Rio Yanuncay on the right feeds into and becomes part of The Rio Tomebamba. A beautiful paradise for all to share.

Random thoughts and experiences while I walk and live to The Roll of the Tomebamba.

Rollo Del Tomebamba XI

One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.

d6ad4d51-30a4-4ae6-a93a-f2c61125a3f6Fitting In

I never have and most likely never will. I am much a loner and follow no man or god other than myself. But I tried. O’boy did I try. I tried in high school. It was my high potential inner city ghetto youth phase. In college it was my Black student revolutionary phase. I tried with the corporate world. My white shirt and tie, Mr IBM phase. I tried to be a part of the institution of marriage. My get married, buy a home I can’t afford, have a baby to please the wife, and get divorced. What I refer to as my socialization into “normal” society phase. 

What I learned from trying to fit in is that I don’t, but it took me a long time to let go of trying and accept my freedom and choice to not have to fit in. Not with any group. Not with any state. Not with any nation. 

The only group I consider myself a part of is the human race. I am a human life form living on a planet third from the sun. I still don’t fit in, even here, but everywhere, I am learning becomes my home, at least for a while. Maybe I am an alien! Wow! That would explain a lot of things…

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Laundry day on the river.

Random thoughts while I walk and live to The Roll of the Tomebamba.

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On Being A Witness

vcxa8286It was November 30, 2014 and I was making a final survey of my luggage and cottage to see if there was one more thing I had to pack before leaving Savusavu, Fiji. I was leaving so much behind. Being here for almost four years and having to leave every four months for immigration requirements enabled me to add to the fifty pounds of stuff I had brought with me on my initial trip. The fact that I was leaving this paradise was also do to the cost of having to leave every four months. Paradise had become too expensive to keep leaving due to my not having the $150 thousand USD to invest in property. The cost of living in Fiji was low but you had to have money to acquire residency there.

Everything was ready. I still had internet service until midnight and a few hours before I had to leave for the first leg of my journey so I switched on my iPad to check the news and download a book or two to read on the flight. It was somewhere during that internet stream that I read one of my favorite poets, Mark Strand, had died earlier that morning. He actually passed on the 29th of November, a Saturday, but Fiji is a day ahead of the rest of the world, so it was Sunday here.

I quickly went to my bookshelf to search for my copy of his first book of poems, Sleeping With One Eye Open, but remembered I had given it to a friend who was starting a bed and breakfast and asked me if I had any poetry books she could have for her guests to read. Because I was leaving for Fiji at the time, I donated most all of my poetry books to her new endeavor. I knew she would give them a good home and books are too heavy to travel with, especially by air. How many times have I repeated this ritual of giving my books away? I remembered Strand had recently published a new Collected Poems volume and found it in the iTunes bookstore.

During the download, I saw the book was originally published in 1964, but it was the mid-nineties before I came across it. During the sixties just about all of my poetry reading was restricted to Black poets: Toni Cade Bambara (March 25, 1939-December 9, 1995) Nikki Giovanni (June 7, 1943-), Amiri Baraka (October 7, 1934–January 9, 2014), my Debutant Ball date, Ntozake Shange (October 18, 1948-October 27, 2018)), et al. For me they were the poet witnesses of the Black struggle and experience in America during this time. Their poetry was akin to the gospels I heard in church as a young boy. It both pulled my heart strings and identified the deep anger inside my soul. I travelled to Newark on many occasions to hear Amiri sing his words. While a senior at Rutgers University, I took classes with Nikki and Toni who were both instructors at Livingston College where I was a dorm advisor.

I had many long conversations with Niki about what it meant to be a Black poet. Can I write poetry without it being Black? I had tried my hand at writing but had not found my own voice. She encouraged me to be patient. “Your voice will come,” she said, “and when it does, it will not necessarily have a color. It will just be yours to use as a witness for your experience.”

Thirty years later, the poets who lead me on the path to finding my own voice as a witness to the everyday were Mark Strand, Mary Oliver, Rumi, Rilke, et al. The times had changed. I was beginning to find my own voice as a poet, not necessarily of the Black experience, but of my life experience.

On the flight from Nadi to Los Angeles, I set back, opened my iPad and started to read. Perhaps it was just the order of events but after reading the preface and introduction, the first poem was also the first poem I had ever read by Mark. It was When The Vacation Is Over For Good. A fitting memorial to the life of a witness poet.

I read and reread Mark’s poetic accounts of witnessing life for the next ten hours until the lights came on and the cabin crew was preparing to serve breakfast. I cried, I laugh out loud, I reminisced, and made a promise to myself to be the best witness to life I can be, and to share that experience with the world in prose, poetry, and conversations. That is after all, why I Am Here!

Reading

vcxa8286Reading is another one of the four things, along with writing, thinking, and dreaming, I have done for myself most of my life. I have always found books to be easier to be with than people. A book can engage me the way few people can. People generally want to be right whereas a book openly presents itself for the readers’ enjoyment and engagement. Where thinking is having a conversation with myself, reading allows me to have a conversation with the author and/or the characters of the book without the egos of in person encounters.

A book is a conversation I choose and not one I am placed into because of social situations. If I don’t like a book I am reading, I can set it aside for another time or maybe for good. There is no proper social edict involved. Reading opens me to new experiences, new places, new thoughts, and ideas. It expands my world and offers me different views of how to see this life of which I am a part. Reading expands me in a way only matched by my dreams and thoughts.

Alchemy Of Love

B4CDCBA5-54B7-429E-AFCF-4B6DB5AA682D“You write a lot about ‘Love’,” a friend recently commented.

“I do,” was my response.

“Why?”

“I write about love because it is what I am, what I am learning, and what I want to understand more of before I leave this world.”

And then, in the style of Almitra, the High Priest of Orphalese, she said… “Tell me what you know about love…”

Love is being truly alive. Living your life wide open without really knowing what that looks like. Having no concept, image, or preconceived notion in your mind.

Love is saying, “Yes” to being fully alive in who you are each and every moment of your existence. It is everything you are — your sorrow, your joy, your life, and your death. It is the sacredness of your being. Love is your true nature, that which you are. Love is the core of everything you do. Love is the expression of your own beauty. Your god essence.

Love is not the picture Hollywood paints it to be. That is the image of romantic love, which is only a minute aspect of love. Romantic love gets too hung up on the other who is merely a vehicle through which you can express your love, not what love is.

“What is ‘Romantic Love?'”

Romantic love is the seeking of love, your true self, through another person rather than finding it within yourself. It occurs because we see parts of who we are in the other and make the attempt to love ourselves by loving the other person. We use the expression “falling in love” because the other becomes the object of our love rather than the vehicle of our love.

“Can you extrapolate on this?”

In the photograph above, a fire burned an image into the tree. In this image, I see the goddess juggling the fire between her hands. The fire leaves one hand and enters into the other. This is a picture of how I believe romantic love is meant to be. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our love gets trapped in the other person and we become dependent upon the other to return our love to us. For reasons of ego or lack of understanding, the return often does not occur. We feel unloved. When we love another person, our love ideally flows through that person back into us and we never therefore feel unloved. The other becomes the vehicle for our love not the container. Our needs and the needs of the other are fulfilled simply by being who we are.

“Where do I find love?” She asked.

Love is not something that is “out there.” It is in you always. You don’t find it in the way you find a quarter laying on the sidewalk. You discover love by remembering those times in your life when you felt connected to everything alive. When there existed no discord or tension of opposites in your being. Love needs you for its existence. You welcome the love you are into your consciousness just as the tree welcomes the flame which will consume it. Love consumes you so all you are is love. You know that but you just forgot.

“Once I rediscover the love I am, what do I do with it?”

Your whole being becomes an expression of the love you are. You burn with a flame which is visible to everyone you meet. You become the beacon you are here to be. You leave pieces of yourself behind wherever you go. You give yourself away and seek nothing in return. “For love is sufficient unto love…”

What’s In A Name?

vcxa8286A friend recently sent me a list of The 100 Most Beautifully Unusual First Names. I was not surprise to see my given name listed. There have always been those who complimented my name when introduced, but I have never felt comfortable with  my given name. It never felt like my name. The first indication of my utter uneasiness with this name was as a child. Because of a speech impediment, I was unable to pronounce my own name. People outside of my immediate family could not understand me when I said my name or anything else. My schoolmates laugh and teased me when I talked.

After having my tongue clipped, a barbaric treatment for what in those days was referred to as a lazy tongue, years of after school speech lessons that my mother worked a second job to afford, and many trips to hearing specialists, I was by the seventh grade comfortable with telling strangers my name. I could finally say my name. However, many asked, “Is that with a ‘d’ or a ‘t'”? Sometimes I still forget to lift my lazy tongue.

As my mother told me the story, I was given the name by an old maid, a term for an unmarried woman in those days, who lived in Prospect Village where I lived until the age of four. She asked my mother if she could name her second born if I were a boy, as my brother was already named after our father? I know. I too hear the echoes of Rumpelstiltskin, but she only wanted to name me.

The woman had one true love who was killed in World War I before he could return home to be her husband. My mother said she had forgotten all about it until the day I was born and the neighbor showed up at the hospital to reminded mom of her promise. So I was given my name after her dead fiancé. A man I never met or knew. I was named to keep alive someone’s memory. Most of us are named after someone else, and not for ourselves.

The name never clicked with me so eight years ago on December 31st, 2011, following a revealing dream, I changed my name. I wanted my name to reflected who I am today, to carry me through my remaining years, and my given name was too encased in the past to carry me forward. One can outgrow a name in the same way he/she outgrows a pair of shoes, but to change one’s name is not as carefree as buying a new pair of footwear.

In the past, I admired those individuals like Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali), Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and others who changed their given names to reflect where they were going more than where they had been. It may have appeared to the world that these name changes were simply an outward, surface change but I can assure you without a doubt the change came from their soul’s core, as mine did.

As recently as a few months ago, J.K. Rowling adopted the male pseudonym of Robert Galbraith to allow her to more easily write in a different genre. This is a common practice with writers. Her name change was a business decision and not permanent. Changing one’s name is a courageous step for whatever reason it is adopted. I know this because of the various reactions I received when I announced my own name change.

Most of my friends easily adopted to the transformation, but a few had difficulty with my decision. They could not understand the why, and continue to use my given name. I have not corrected them in the past because I myself was still in the transition period. I remember how long it took me to refer to the examples above by their chosen names, but now it feels important that I notify everyone again by what name I wish to be addressed.

We don’t have the option to name ourselves when we come into the world but we do have a say concerning the name with which we go back into the world. Most of us will carry the same name for our entire physical existence as a tie to a family or tradition, and some of us for whatever reason will chose not to keep our given names. We make new entries into the Akashic Records and the government’s extensive data base. We receive mail and tax forms with an aka (also known as) following our chosen name. We have friends who cannot see we are no longer the person they once knew, and for that reason they choose to hold on to the past.

To visualize the power of a name think of Louise Ciccone. Okay, you got that? Does that name have any given power in your mind? Now think of Madonna…such is the power of a name.

Change of the past and the familiar is difficult for many, but this I know is true. In the end,

nothing is truly mine except my name. I only borrowed this dust.

My name is Tao. I am everything and I am nothing.