All At Sea

There’s something to be said for giving in to our instincts and just letting go. Floating on the sea of change, rather than trying to fight it. Trusting in our navigational abilities, while becoming one with the rhythms that move us.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for blazing trails and thinking outside the box – in fact, I’ve made a very good living from that ideology – but sometimes swimming against the tide can be exhausting. More battles are actually won from within the system than fighting against it. This is a lesson I find myself relearning over and over again.

There’s another lesson that often precedes it: Life hurts. The longer we are alive, the more opportunities for pain will present themselves to remind us of that fact. Survival itself becomes a badge of honor. There are times, however, when that hurt can seem overwhelming. It drags at us like a kraken, entangling us in its tentacles, drawing us down into unfathomable depths of bleak despair. If we let it.

This is where the second lesson comes in. I discovered a long time ago that muses aren’t always invisible ideals. Sometimes they are living, breathing inspirations, cloaked in the raiment of a mentor, a patron or an idol. If we are very lucky, we get to count them among our friends and family. Recognition of these motivators is where the true blessings lie in this shifting, crumbling sandbar called life.

Our muses can be our salvation when the crushing weight of the world has shattered our spines and beaten us down into the dust. They can remind us of our aspirations and, as living embodiments of that which we wish to obtain, give us the strength to push back. They become avatars of our inner struggle to achieve.

We just have to remember that spending too much time licking our wounds will only lead to soggy stitches. At a certain point, we have to reenter the game. When we do that, our muses are there to remind us of what we’ve been missing. I would do well to remember that in my darkest hours. We all would, really.

As a case in point, we are now five days into this new year. Within 48 hours of that new beginning, I had two of my more influential muses find their way back to me. Whether through circumstance or deliberate action, their timing couldn’t have been better.

Having fought my way to the precipice once again, I sit back now on coiled haunches in anticipation of the leap, gathering encouragement. I feel my wings softly agitate the air around me like sails. I map the beacons that will guide me back into the jetstream. And I ponder the portents these visitations herald.

The first was on New Year’s Day, when my son Gideon, who I hadn’t seen in six years, almost to the day, stopped in for a visit with his lovely girlfriend Erica in tow. He’s changed since last I saw him. He’s gone from being a sullen, baby-faced and suspicious teenager to a confident, bearded and smiling young man. Even better, he came bearing forgiveness.

As a boy, before hormones and resentment dampened his spirit, he was one of my constant inspirations. Now, he returns as a token of hope that incinerated bridges can, indeed, be rebuilt. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the new year off than with that visit.

The other was the triumphant return of one of my more profound muses, Venus de Mars, after a two-year hiatus. Ordinarily, we host Venus – either alone or with her band, All The Pretty Horses – once or twice a year, as she makes her way across the southwest, engaging fans old and new with her music. While she’s here we share ideas and dreams, play catch up on new scars and fill the house with passionate utterances framed by impassioned vibrations.

This visit was a bit different. Not just because of the hiatus, but in direct redress of the circumstances that brought it about. In a way, it was a celebration of artistic life. A reclamation of bliss after the blizzard of uncertainty. As such, having Venus’ poet wife, the brilliant and fierce Lynette Reini-Grandell along for the ride was an extra special delight.

After everything this beautiful and talented couple has had to deal with during those two years – from the Orwellian horrors of their audit by the Minnesota Department of Revenue to Venus’ heart surgery, and everything in between – to see them touring together and sharing their art through music and words was like a doubleshot espresso of creative energy to kick the year into high gear.

Their live webcast from our living room, on Friday, January 2nd, was edifying in ways I haven’t even begun to process fully. It was a glorious return to the nourishing waters of creative expression that is always at its best when shared with an appreciative audience. It made me feel young again. It reminded me of my connections, both literal and figurative.

I would be very remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the precursors to this permutation. In early November, my parents and brother returned to New Mexico after far too many years living outside their comfort zone. Bringing them home and back into the warm embrace of familiarity was one of my greatest recent triumphs. That coupled with deeper connections to friends and my abiding partner, all of whom have nurtured me through the eclipse, believing in me even when I no longer believed in myself, set the stage for transition.

Having said all that and spoken of muses, portents and new beginnings, let me just add that I have never been one to embrace superstition or a belief in miracles. I am a pragmatist of the first order and take each day as it presents itself. I am also, however, a firm believer in the eddies and tides of universal energy. The stuff that binds us to the world around us and, on a much larger scale, entwines us with the very essence of the stars.

I believe we regularly draw those energies into our lives, shaping them through attitude, expectation and interpretation. Despite a constant barrage of outside forces, we always have at our disposal the ability to create sanctuary for ourselves and others. We can be the change we wish to see, simply by virtue of shaping those energies into positive examples of self-expression.

If pain and suffering is all we know, it becomes very difficult to accept positive change, because trust has been diminished. Trust in others and also in ourselves. If we can just let go of some of that misery – bleed it off, as it were – we allow for an exchange to take place. An influx of hope to wash away the ache encrusting our souls, like tidepools awash in effluvia. Sometimes that cleansing wave is all it takes. More often than not, it is just the beginning of a greater and much-needed exchange.

It sounds simplistic, but I know it to be true. Make positive changes within ourselves and positive changes in the world around us will follow. I read somewhere a long time ago that our eyes are like beacons to our soul. In my very literal mind, I saw that to mean that each person is like a lighthouse, with twin shafts of light shooting out and cutting through the fog in search of ships lost at sea, tossing in the darkness without a compass.

That has both positive and negative connotations. Much of the hurt we experience comes from opening ourselves up to the pain and suffering of others. This is that all-important first lesson I spoke of earlier. If we react by shuttering those beacons, we simply become another sea-swept vessel. Sadly, the ratio of lighthouses to ships in this watery world we inhabit is hugely overbalanced in favor of the flotilla.

What I wish I could remember during those sodden times is that being a lighthouse doesn’t just draw the needy and unappreciative wielding instruments of pain, it also draws the uplifting and humanizing, bearing words of encouragement with which to incite gratification and bliss. Like a flower unfolding in the springtime sun along the sandy shores of our island, it draws the bees that will pollinate and nourish us. We become a familiar harbor for our muses and, in so doing, give them the opportunity to inspire others.

Old wounds do heal over time, if we let them. Learning to live again is the antidote necessary to ease the pain. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting go. Other times, it takes more introspection and effort. It really all depends on what we’re willing to put into it. For me, it means remembering to trust my muses. Both the infrequent visitors and those who surround me on a regular basis: My family, my friends and my very patient partner.

And that is just as it should be. Nothing of worth is ever drawn from stagnant waters. For myself, falling back into the arms of my muses – an act of trust unto itself – has opened me up to a sea of possibilities. A return to the comforting lure of lighthouses.

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