Saturday, April 30, 2011

National Poetry Month: Wild Winds

Had to sneak in one more of my poems before the end of National Poetry Month. This one is also from my 'Learning to Stop' phase, and like many of the others was written almost exactly ten years ago. Wild Winds is one of the many poems from that time that explored the 'guy' perspective.

Wild Winds

Muddy boots
horizon in my eyes
I orphaned my grief
and ran with wild winds
to Wyoming mountains

Winter castaway
icicles in my beard
Alone with white rivers
wolves and wheeling eagles
where nothing gentle survives

Free until one morning
Spring enchanted winter
caressed the icicles
until their strength
ran like tears

I left Wyoming
before April's deep blue thunder
and ran with wild winds
to find a harsher place
where nothing gentle survives

National Poetry Month: Nomads

Here's another poem from my 'Learning To Stop' phase. Even though it was two years after Jim and I bought the house together (four years into our relationship), I still had odd moments of angst about being in a relationship and having settled down in suburbia. It's not that I doubted my choices or the direction my life was going; I knew it was the best thing that had ever happened to me. It was just such a vast change to go from being an individual to being part of a couple, that there were psychic aftershocks for a long time as the tectonic plates of my life adjusted to the shift.

This has got to be a very common feeling, especially for men.  Of course, we're not supposed to talk about it. Straight men in particular probably have to bury this stuff, because I question whether many women - despite their gender's PR spin about being more communicative about their feelings - could really handle hearing a man express doubts about being with them. I wonder if one reason relationships fall apart in the first several years is that people ignore these feelings, never 'rethink' themselves, reassess their lives, and never find a way to get comfortable with themselves again after they enter a relationship. For me, Nomads captures the feelings I had during one of those aftershock moments. Of course, as the poem makes clear, I had no real answers for myself in the moment.


O Love,
you are salvation balm!
But I see you
tame the wilderness
and wear the stone smooth

And I’ve seen:
sailors done with the sea,
gypsies at hearthstones,
knights with hung shields—
content yet restless

I trust myself
to Love’s steady mast,
sailing by strange stars,
for a time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Enter The Dragon

I had shied away from watching martial arts movies from the 70s because they always looked a bit too cheesy. But a friend told me I had to watch Enter The Dragon. So onto the Netflix queue it went.

No doubt there is a lot of cheese here, largely because the movie so clearly shows its date. The "70's mandude" swagger will make you roll your eyes more than once. The music is all over the place; one minute its like bad James Bond spy music and then the next it sounds like something from Shaft. The audio track stinks and makes it seem like you're watching dubbed foreign film when the whole thing is actually shot in English. John Saxon for me is always a Rashid Ahmed from Dynasty. Lame acting, weird clothes and hair, a thoroughly ridiculous story, and a silly villain.

That's a lot to look past, but this movie does a great job serving up some really sweet fights. No question about it! The rough cinematography actually works in favor of the film as there are some scenes where you totally feel the power Bruce Lee brought to the table. I knew Lee was big into fitness but holy crapballs! This guy has a V-back I would die to have, and he ripples every time he moves! His skills are presented in amazing clarity, and it makes me understand why Bruce Lee fans object to the slicker cinematography of today (even the stuff that I don't see as slick must seem like it is to them). A roughly shot movie like this further emphasizes that slick studio magic tends to dull the edge of a martial arts movie.

From what I understand, Lee had a lot of control over this film, and I can see it in the way there are pieces of martial arts philosophy lovingly worked into it. Apparently, this new release has re-inserted these scenes as - back in the day - some movie studio douchebag cut them from the film after Lee's death and prior to the initial release. Brilliant decision to put them back in. I just do not get why this material seems to offend the US movie industry so much. Even today, such material is routinely cut from foreign movies for US release. It deadens the spirit of the film to not have it.

So, okay yes, there is a lot about this movie that is dated. No, I can't quite get past the high pitched 'whooo-ahhh!' that Lee lets loose when he's fighting sometimes. Yes, there were times I was watching the story and thinking "WTF?". But I really can't imagine any fan of the genre not being satisfied by Enter The Dragon. The spirit of the martial arts is definitely here, Lee's presence is awesome and smashes through all issues you might have, and his skills are so strong that you can easily see why he became such an iconic figure. I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, and I would consider checking out some of his other films which is surprising given my feelings about these films going into Enter The Dragon. I think I'd even consider buying a copy for my martial arts movie collection.

RIP Bruce Lee

Friday, April 22, 2011

National Poetry Month: Ghosts

This poem is also part of my 'Learning To Stop' phase. Ghosts was the first time I was able to write a poem about something I had felt many times over the years, something that I think most artists feel at one point or another. There are times where I would have all this incredible creativity just flowing out of me like a fountain. I wasn't trying to be uber creative, and yet paintings, writing, and/or whatever would just flow out of me without any effort and it was all really good. At those times, you sort of step back from yourself and ask: "Where is all this coming from???" It's exciting and rewarding, but it's also a little freaky at times and I always loved to ascribe something supernatural to it.


And the Fall returns—
a guide not a friend.

Chill night winds
cross over into day
rousing spiders
and dead leaves.
I write verse
like a spell caster.

In the late afternoon
voices whisper secrets
on slanted sunlight,
lulling trees to sleep.
I greet each moon
without blank canvases.

These days flutter by—
pages in a book of shadows
crowded with fresh letters,
poetry, and paintings—
ghosts given form.

Am I speaking
or spoken through?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Cayman Islands: Post 2 (Stingray City)

Aside from our snorkeling adventures (more on those in another post), Jim and I went to Stingray City. Of course, we went at a time when all the cruise ship passengers couldn't go because they had to be back on their ships. That meant a lot less people!  They take you way out to the barrier reef, where there is a sandbar that you can stand on and be about waist deep in water. They provide some bait squid that you can hold in your hand, and the rays come over your hand and suck the food up like vacuum cleaners!

They are so smooth and soft, and they act like aquatic versions of cats. Consider: they only come to you if they think you have food for them and then they bump and rub against you. The only thing missing was a purr. They also have yellowish eyes like some cats, although ray eyes are alien-looking. In fact, rays (and octopus) are like earth aliens to me...creatures that live on our planet but are so different looking that they could pass for aliens. We held them, fed them, petted them, and even kissed them. Here are a few pics of our Stingray City visit; we're actually holding the rays in our arms...fantastic!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Kung-Fu Master

I read some reviews on Amazon that suggest this movie is actually a TV show or mini-series that has been spliced together for release into a 95 minute movie, and that makes a lot of sense after watching this. Kung-Fu Master is no piece of art, as a movie or as a genre entry. Dou Xiao's direction is incredibly poor, and the martial arts are a curious mix of actual skill, badly done (and silly) wire-fu, and cut aways evincing incredibly bad editing. While a plot can be thin in this genre, it should be at least serviceable. This movie has no discernible plot, and the end makes zero sense.

What's good about it? Well, Kung-Fu Master has some excellent distance shots of some of the fights that incorporate several combatants at once. Most of these sequences involve fights with javelins or sticks. There's also (I think?) some good effort displayed by star Yuen Biao, but the wire-fu and endless cuts always make you question whether it's real or completely choreographed.

It almost seems as though the movie is trying to be a modern day version of one of those cheesy chop-socky movies from the 70s, but I can't quite believe the people behind Kung-Fu Master had that much vision. I got the movie dirt cheap at a close-out sale for a Blockbuster Video store. And that's about all I can recommend you expend for it. Poor.

Monday, April 18, 2011

National Poetry Month: "Thanatopsis" by William Cullen Bryant

One of my favorite poems of all time! A masterpiece of transcendentalism by a great American poet who seems to have fallen into relative obscurity, Bryant wrote this in 1812 at the age of 18. Pretty amazing! The title has been interpreted as meaning 'a meditation on death'.


To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight
Over thy spirit, and sad images
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart; -
Go forth, under the open sky, and list
To Nature's teachings, while from all around -
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air -
Comes a still voice - Yet a few days, and thee
The all-beholding sun shall see no more
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up
Thine individual being, shalt though go
To mix for ever with the elements,
To be a brother to the insensible rock
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.

Yet not to thine eternal resting-place
Shalt thou retire alone, nor couldst thou wish
Couch more magnificent. Thou shalt lie down
With patriarchs of the infant world - with kings,
The powerful of the earth - the wise, the good,
Fair forms, and hoary seers of ages past,
All in one mighty sepulchre. The hills
Rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun, - the vales
Stretching in pensive quietness between;
The venerable woods - rivers that move
In majesty, and the complaining brooks
That make the meadows green; and, poured round all,
Old Ocean's gray and melancholy waste, -
Are but the solemn decorations all
Of the great tomb of man. The golden sun,
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom. - Take the wings
Of morning, pierce the Barcan wilderness,
Or lose thyself in the continuous woods
Where rolls the Oregon, and hears no sound,
Save his own dashings - yet the dead are there:
And millions in those solitudes, since first
The flight of years began, have laid them down
In their last sleep - the dead reign there alone.
So shalt thou rest, and what if thou withdraw
In silence from the living, and no friend
Take note of thy departure? All that breathe
Will share thy destiny. The gay will laugh
When thou art gone, the solemn brood of care
Plod on, and each one as before will chase
His favorite phantom; yet all these shall leave
Their mirth and their employments, and shall come
And make their bed with thee. As the long train
Of ages glide away, the sons of men,
The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes
In the full strength of years, matron and maid,
The speechless babe, and the gray-headed man -
Shall one by one be gathered to thy side,
By those who in their turn shall follow them.

So live, that when thy summons comes to join
The innumerable caravan, which moves
To that mysterious realm, where each shall take
His chamber in the silent halls of death,
Thou go not, like the quarry slave at night,
Scourged to his dungeon, but, sustained and soothed
By an unfaltering trust, approach thy grave,
Like one who wraps the drapery of his couch
About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Grand Cayman: Post 1

First off, I had some real fun driving in Grand Cayman because our rental car had the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car. So between than and driving on the left, it was really fun. Every time I went to signal a turn, I switched on my windshield wipers instead. Never really got that down.

The condo we stayed at was right on the beach (see pic below for the view from the back door!). Since the who condo seemed pretty dead, we had the cabana right out back all to ourselves with really no issue or worry. From there it was a couple steps to the ocean and fantastic snorkeling.

The cabana is where we spent most of our time. We woke early, walked on the beach, ate, sunned, snorkeled, sunned, napped, ate, sunned, snorkeled, napped, ate, watched the sunset, and slept. That was pretty much the program for the majority of the week. It was a very relaxing trip!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

National Poetry Week: The Secret Place

Another poem with structure. This one was completed almost exactly ten years ago (4/23/01) and - like Memories of Waves - is part of the group of poems I refer to as the Learning To Stop poems. Part of what I was after with these poems was a tonality that was calmer, lighter, and more nature-themed (I had moved to the burbs with the trees, big backyard, and Jim's garden only a couple years prior). This group of poems was all finding silence and piece of mind within a relationship after the whirl of single life in the big city.

The Secret Place

The secret place
unfolds like spring flowers
leading me away
footsteps in the wind
dream woven powers

And when people ask,
it's gone without a trace
I never remember
what I was thinking
in the secret place

The morning breeze
feels pale green
and the wet earth
smells of growing things
from a garden unseen

I love you, this world,
and your real embrace
but I fall asleep
to return to you
from the secret place.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grand Cayman

We've come back from Grand Cayman but, since I didn't bother with journal entries, I will need to sort out my thoughts before posting any details. The Cayman Islands are a British Territory, but the feel of the islands is 100% Caribbean. We spent a week on Grand Cayman, a bit north of the popular 7 Mile Beach area. We prefer to be away from the crowds, especially for a trip like this where we were all about kicking back and relaxing.

Even with that in mind we hit the island at a perfect time. We often had the beach entirely to ourselves! Sometimes, the ocean outside the condo was left to us as well. The back door of our condo unit opened right onto the beach, and there was great snorkeling right off the beach.  There was a 'reef' of sorts, but we're debating whether its a reef that has died or a reef that was struck down by a hurricane or something and is making a comeback. Either way, the snorkeling was very good. The concentration of critters doesn't match other places we've snorkeled (St. John, Hawaii), but the variety of what we saw was impressive.

So the weather was fantastic, we were well away from the cruise ship grounds, we had easy access to great snorkeling, and it seemed as though we'd hit a true 'lull' in the level of visitors. The last day we were there saw an influx of check-ins. Still wasn't anywhere near crowded, but we're glad we had so much time to 'own' the beach and ocean.

More posts to come.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

National Poetry Month: Free Spirit

Sometimes I just like to write straightforward, old school verse...all with rhymes and stuff. It has an immediacy that can be bracing. Wrote this back in 1999/2000, when I was taking my first tentative steps into my Zen studies. It's from what I call my 'Garden of Mountains' phase.

Free Spirit

Take it as a given
You see another place
Different eyes
different mind
another time and space

When others run
you meditate within
Secret symbols
the path you’re on
You’re really flying like the wind

They’ll never understand
You’ll somehow be alone
Hearts you hold
souls you watch fly
eyes fixed upon the vast unknown

So take it as a given
and do as you will
Freedom fighter
do not stop until

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

National Poetry Month: Memories Of Waves

I wrote this one in Mexico while staying by the beach. Thought it would be appropriate given the recent trip to Grand Caymen. I'll be posting about the trip once I get the pics organized.

Memories Of Waves

Immortal Ocean,
lazy lover
letting my Earth
turn to deep space—
a Hunter’s realm.

In darkness,
I dreamt of His
aqua turquoise beard
tickling my feet
as I wrote
in the sand.

The Dog Star howls
and I’m awake
with dying stars—
the waves
my letters

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Poetry Month: Clown Among Night Flowers

Clown Among Night Flowers

crumpled newspaper
of crimson laughter
haunting city streets

yellow piano bar signs
flutter like fields
of neon flowers

form is

          the man with
          loosened tie
          and tired eyes

          the dirty feet
          of souls wasting

          the on-duty
          light of a taxi
          swishing by

saxophone song pretzels
exhale sensually
and a crumpled newspaper
like a sail

Monday, April 11, 2011

National Poetry Month: Flowing Inside The Lines

One of my friends on Facebook reminded me April has been designated as National Poetry Month, so since my writing has been rather limited lately (mainly to the haiku I've been posting), I'm going to raid my vaults and post some of poetry from the past during the month. This first posting is from four or five years ago. If I recall correctly, I wrote it just before "The Ancient Elm" cycle blew up (you can link to the cycle in the 'Topics' section at the left of the blog). This poem is one of the seeds that kind of got that whole cycle thing going.

Flowing Inside The Lines

No lines!
No lines!
Do not buy a journal with lines!
My flow gets regimented
Chastised before born
The teacher demanding
Structuring my mind
to see lines
to see limits
to see
categorizing with right and wrong
I spend the rest of my life
trying to free my mind,
turning rainbows
back into pure light
rolling stone tablets
back up the mount
(thanks but no thanks)
I do not need lines
I do not need lines
if I let myself
I can have…

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ordinary Mind Is The Way & Everyday Zen

In ancient Zen literature there is a saying: 'ordinary mind is the way'. For me, this reflects the idea that Zen is not about mysticism or altered states of mind or seeking. Zen is about tapping into what is already inside of us, and it's something anyone can do at anytime of the day: while meditating, while folding laundry, while pitching business to clients, whenever.

In fact, I believe that one of the hallmarks of an enlightened person is that the mind state they achieve in samadhi becomes something they experience constantly in their everyday life. I call this 'Everyday Zen'. A person like this has so thoroughly disciplined their mind that they are in control 24/7. Such a person would be alert, attentive, unshakably calm, positive, balanced, focused yet detached, very quick of mind but slow to react, extremely patient, and happy in an understated way. While attaining Everyday Zen is not my goal with Zen, it is something I hope to achieve as a wonderful side-effect.

I've been able to attain Everyday Zen for short periods of time (we're talking a few hours and usually when there are few distractions). However, the challenge would be to keep Everyday Zen going regardless of what is happening around me. This is why I reject the idea that zazen should be done in a quiet place or when you're burning incense or chanting 'om' or a mantra. These things are fine if they help, but only if the person using them is fully aware that they are utterly inessential and mean nothing. I believe I should be able to go into zazen and reach samadhi while sitting at my zen table, while sitting in an airport waiting for a plane, or in a room with loud terrible music blasting away. This is the a sign of a disciplined mind.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Scottsdale, AZ

I'm on business trip at a conference. We've been put up at a fabulous resort, and I'm on a break right now. During the rare breaks, I've taken to coming out on a terrace to sit and watch the sunset. The sky is totally clear, and I can see mountains along the horizon. It's beautiful, warm, and very peaceful. Heading home tomorrow.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools Hijinx

Me and a co-worker (Lauren) nailed our boss (Hendrik) today for April Fools Day. We called him up at home and I pretended that the head of the office (Heath) had pulled me into his office demanding to know what Hendrik has been sending to a prospect worth $2.5 million because they called him complaining that they weren't going to give us the business because of him. Hendrik was a bit stunned, but I went on saying that Heath was really pissed off and that he was going to talk to Lauren in a few minutes.

By now Hendrik was very worried and we had him going for about five minutes. Finally he asks: "Okay, tell me exactly what Heath said." I go: "Well, he asked me whether I think April Fools jokes are good for morale in the office and then..." and I let it trail off figuring Hendrik would realize he'd been had. But he didn't! Lauren and I were laughing so hard by now that it was hard to keep it together.  After another minute, it started to sink in and we just cracked up.

Hendrik vowed revenge, and this was the result. My car and about a million post it notes. I also got another co-worker too, so this was a memorable April Fools!