Category Archives: healing

Followed by a Moon Shadow

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens

I first heard this song as a freshman in coll20160424_181349ege.  It struck me that it was hauntingly beautiful… but maybe I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant.

The song is about losing body parts and being okay with that.

That can actually be kinda creepy, right?

It is probably a song about gradually dying.

But that’s not really what it’s about.

I am there now.  Peeling, cracking, drying out… my life has reached the downhill run toward the finish line.  But I am not worried and not afraid.  Life is so much more than hands and eyes and legs and feet.  I can lose those things and have no regrets.  I am so much more than merely the sum of those physical things.

My spirit soars.  And my life is bound up in words and meanings that are now written down, and are at least as imperishable as paper.  And may, in fact, be written on a few human hearts here and there.

Leave a comment

Filed under feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor, illness, insight, inspiration, music, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Caravaggio’s Dark Angel

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio [1571 – 1610] Amor Vincit Omnia 

I don’t often choose to write about works of art that creep me out in a bad way. Or works of art that I harbor some mild hatred for. But this is one that bothers me, and I feel compelled to explain why.

I first saw this painting in a freshman-level Art History Course taught by a female Art-Nazi. I was repelled by it, completely unable to explain why. Even then, before I psychologically overcame the mental barriers that kept me from allowing myself to remember my own sexual assault when I was ten, I had a fondness for idealized nudes, even nude boys. None of the other paintings disturbed me in the way this one did.

It was explained in the textbook that Caravaggio was famous for his chiaroscuro style using strong light in a dark background to paint figures and faces. His work would inspire later greats like Rembrandt and Peter Paul Rubens. And his work would evolve into the works of the Baroque movement in painting.

So, what could it possibly be that turned me against this artist and this particular painting? It would take me years to figure out.

I believe if you look carefully at all of Caravaggio’s faces, you can see why I view them all as self-portraits. Compare the eyes, face-shapes, and brows of these faces with Caravaggio’s own (depicted here by another artist to lend veracity.)

He was, in fact, noted for his brutal realism in his paintings. So, did he use only relatives as models? As near as historians can tell, he did not.

But, the Cupid or Eros in the painting that annoys me is bothersome because I am the one being painted in the middle of the darkness.

Cupid, even a nude Cupid, was a common thing for painters to paint in the late 1500’s. But other painters would paint him as an idealized, beautiful nude boy. Caravaggio’s Cupid may be a beautiful nude boy, but is in no way idealized. His teeth are crooked. His smile is devilishly smirky. Even his body is awkwardly posed and plumpish in places that are not what you would call a perfect “10” model. Yes, this boy is trapped in a pose that reminds me of being pinned down and helpless, told that I shouldn’t scream or things would hurt more.

And Cupid is supposed to be wielding weapons that will make you fall in love. But these wicked bronze arrows will pierce the heart and cause death. The bow looks like a mere stage prop, as do the instruments and armor strewn about as if left by someone fleeing this deadly child. The painting is not about love, but violence in matters of life and death. I hated it because it brought to mind my own personal trauma.

The actual model for this painting was a boy named Cecco (a nickname for Francesco,) and is identified later by historians as a young art student named Cecco del Caravaggio (Caravaggio’s Cecco.) Much of Caravaggio’s life is a mystery. He never wrote an autobiography, and no biography was written about him when the people who knew him were still alive to tell on him. Only police reports and the gossip that surrounded the Greatest Painter in Rome of his time are available to speculate from. But he was definitely a brawler, drunk, and eventually a murderer. He had the bad sense to murder a gangster from a wealthy family which probably caused his own possible poisoning and death in 1610. He was rumored to be a homosexual, and was accused of molesting models, even, likely, Cecco from the painting. It is easy to see why I came to detest this man and his work, simply because I was a victim of sexual assault.

But being a student of art, I never gave up on learning about this painter and his work.

And just as I forgave the man who molested me, I have come to forgive Caravaggio for his brutish ways and painting such a nude picture of me. I may never actually like his work, but I do see his skill and what makes him a celebrated artist.

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, autobiography, education, feeling sorry for myself, healing, insight, monsters, nudes, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Do Not Crush the Butterfly…

20180211_083952

Art on the bedroom wall, with Christmas lights being used as a night light.

Talking to a school administrator the other day about the challenges my children and I have been facing in the last year, I had one of those experiences where you get a look at your own life through someone else’s eyes.  “Wow, you have really been on a difficult journey,” he said.  I just nodded in response.  Financial difficulties, health problems, dealing with depression… life has been tough.  But you get through things like that by being centered.  Meditation tricks.  Things you can do to smooth out the wrinkles and keep moving forward.

I always return in the theater of my mind to a moment in childhood where I learned a critical lesson.  My life has been one of learning how to build rather than destroy.  It has been about creating, not criticizing.

20180207_215154

Electric lights have come to Toonerville, helping to light the darkness.

When I was a boy, I was a serious butterfly hunter.  It started when Uncle Don gave me a dead cecropia moth that he had found in the Rowan grain elevator.  It was big and beautiful and perfectly preserved.  Shortly thereafter, I located another cecropia in the garage behind the house, a building that had once been a wagon shed complete with horse stalls and a hay loft.  I tried to catch it with my bare hands. And by the time I had hold of it, the powder on its wings was mostly gone.  The wings were broken in a couple of places, and the poor bug was ruined in terms of starting a butterfly collection.

cecropia_moth_hand

A cecropia moth

Undeterred by tragedy, I got books about butterfly collecting at the Rowan Public Library and began teaching myself how to bug hunt.  I learned where to find them, and how to net them, and how to kill and mount them.

I discovered that my grandfather’s horse pasture had thistle patches which were natural feeding grounds for red admiral butterflies (pictured top left)  and painted lady butterflies (top right).  But if you wanted to catch the rarer mourning cloak butterfly (bottom picture), you had to stake out apple trees, particularly at apple blossom time, though I caught one on the ripening apples too.

swallowtailBut my greatest challenge as a butterfly hunter was the tiger swallowtail butterfly.  They are rare.  They are tricky.  And one summer I dueled with one, trying with all my might to catch him.  He was in my own back yard the first time I saw him.  I ran to get the butterfly net, and by the time I got back, he was flitting high in the trees out of reach.  I must’ve watched him for half an hour before I finally lost sight of him.  About five other times I had encounters with him in the yard or in the neighborhood.  I learned the hard way that some butterflies are acrobatic flyers and can actually maneuver to avoid being caught.  He frustrated me.

The tiger swallowtail was the butterfly that completed my collection, and it was finished when one of my cousins caught one and gave it to me because she knew I collected them.

But then, one day, while I was sitting on a blanket under a maple tree in the back yard with my notebooks open, writing something that I no longer even recall what I wrote, the backyard tiger swallowtail visited me again.  In fact, he landed on the back of my hand.  I dropped the pencil I was writing with, and slowly, carefully, I turned my hand over underneath him so that he was sitting on my palm.

I could’ve easily closed my hand upon him and captured him.  But I learned the lesson long before from the cecropia that catching a butterfly by hand would destroy its delicate beauty.  I would knock all the yellow and black powder off his exquisite wings.  I could not catch him.  But I could close my hand and crush him.  I would be victorious after a summer-long losing battle.

But that moment brought an end to my butterfly hunting.  I let him flutter away with the August breeze.  I did not crush the butterfly.  It was then that I realized what beauty there was in the world, and how fragile that beauty could be.  I could not keep it alive forever.  But it lasted a little big longer because I chose to let it.

So, here is the lesson that keeps me whole.  Even though I had the power, I did not crush the butterfly.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under commentary, compassion, feeling sorry for myself, healing, humor, insight, inspiration, wisdom

Debussy Reverie

Some Sunday thoughts require the right music.

Some Sunday thoughts actually are music.

rev·er·ie

/ˈrev(ə)rē/

noun

  • 1.a state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream:”a knock on the door broke her reverie

Powered by Oxford Dictionaries

I had originally thought to call this post “A Walk with God.” But that would probably offend my Christian friends and alienate my Jehovah’s Witness wife. It would bother my intellectual atheist friends too. Because they know I claim to be a Christian Existentialist, in other words, “an atheist who believes in God.” Agnostics are agnostics because they literally know they don’t know what is true and what is merely made up by men. And not knowing offends most people in the Western world.

But Debussy’s Reverie is a quiet walk in the sacred woods, the forest of as-yet-uncovered truths.

And that is what I need today. A quiet walk in the woods… when no literal woods are available.

This pandemic has been hard on me. I am a prisoner in my room at home most days. My soul is in darkness, knowing that the end could be right around the corner. I am susceptible to the disease. It didn’t slay me on its first visit to the house, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get me on the second or third visit. Health experts are expecting a resurgence of up to 3,000 deaths per day before the end of the year. If I am relying on luck to avoid it, luck will run out.

I am not afraid to die. I have no regrets. But I have been in a reverie about what has been in the past, what might have been, and what yet may be… if only I am granted the time.

And, as always, I feel like I have writing yet to do. I am about to finish The Wizard in his Keep. And I have stories beyond that to complete if I may.

But the most important thing right now is having time to think. Time for Reverie. And reflections upon the great symphony of life as it continues to play on… with or without me.

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, healing, health, insight, Paffooney, religion

Building a Life from Memory

I write some science fiction, but I am a lot more about bringing the past to life in this day and age.

And I confess, I used to long to see Annette Funicello naked, at about the age of eleven or twelve. And she is closer to my mother’s age than she is to mine. But when I lusted after her in secret, she was always falling in love with Frankie Avalon and Kurt Russel in the movies.

The music of my life back then, in the 1960’s, was the Monkees singing, “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville.”

My heroes were astronauts like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins.

And yet, I wanted to grow up to be just like Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, or Jerry Lewis.

Too often I am tempted to look back on a 60’s childhood and see a golden age, as if it were the best time of my life. But wait. The pain and fear and darkness of that time was certainly no better than now. I was sexually assaulted in 1966. JFK was assassinated in 1963. Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were soon to follow. Grissom, White, and Chaffee burned up in an Apollo training accident. My Grandpa Beyer died young of heart failure in the 60’s. There was enough trauma in my life to make me want to kill myself in the early 70’s.

I believe I may have learned how to tame a fox for myself. It takes patience and understanding. Thank God for the people who helped me tame my monsters and keep myself alive. The Methodist Minister who taught me the facts of life on a chalkboard and assured me that I was not evil for what had happened to me. And the boy who was my friend in P.E. class where we were both bullied, because he was willing to listen on that dark day when I was planning to kill myself and all I could say was confusing nonsense, but he listened and was willing to be my friend anyway.

The point is, I learned hard lessons in my early life that gave me the insight into how to solve problems and overcome the darkness now when our government is flirting with fascism. People I used to know and trusted now want to punish me for being a liberal and wanting to help the poor and minorities rather than go to war against them. There never seems to be enough money. Climate change threatens our very existence. And people seem to care only about themselves and generally hate others.

There are reasons to believe we can solve our current set of horrific difficulties. There are good people doing good things, even if no one seems to notice. We have done similar difficult things before. We survived a Cold War, avoided nuclear war so far. We are probably on the other side of the Covid pandemic now And life can be a good thing again if we only let it.

Leave a comment

Filed under battling depression, commentary, compassion, feeling sorry for myself, healing, humor, Liberal ideas

Opening Windows on the Past

C360_2017-06-16-11-04-41-011222xxx

This particular Iowa trip has me thinking hard about mortality and the cold harsh wind that blows toward us from the future.  My cousin’s only son lost his battle with depression, and his family finally came to terms with the loss.  But the sadness is past.   The responsibilities of the living is what remains.

I was born while Eisenhower was President.  I was alive and aware when Kennedy was assassinated and when men first walked on the moon.  I was teaching in a classroom when the first teacher in space was killed on the exploding space shuttle.  And I was also in the classroom when the twin towers fell on 9-11.  It is an important part of the responsibilities I have for being alive to keep that past alive too.

 

C360_2017-06-18-11-53-35-071

My mother’s knickknack shelf.

The reason we collect and care about little extraneous things like porcelain eggs, angels, fine blue china plates, and the California Raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine is because those little, otherwise unimportant things connect us to memories of important times and places and people.   We keep old photographs around, many of them black and white, for the same reasons.

 

C360_2017-06-17-10-30-40-905

The fiction I write is not contemporary.  It is mostly historical fiction.  It is set in a recent past where the Beatles and the Eagles provided the sound track to our lives.  It does not cross the border into the 21st Century.  The part of my writing that is not about the past is science fiction set in the far future, entirely in the universe of my imagination.  It is my duty to connect the past to the future.

C360_2017-06-18-11-53-11-091

And I share that duty with everyone who is alive.  My great grandparents and grandparents are now gone from this world.  But their horse-and-buggy memories about life on the farm before electric lights and cars… with humorous outhouse stories thrown in for comic relief… are in me too.  I am steeped in the past in so many ways…  And I must not fail to pass that finely brewed essence on to my children and anyone young who will listen.  It is a grave responsibility.  And it is possible to reach the grave without having fulfilled that important purpose.

C360_2017-06-17-07-21-51-672

In times of great sadness and loss we must think about how life goes on.  There has to be a will to carry on and deliver the past to the future.  Every story-teller carries that burden, whether in large or small packages.  And there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even arrive.  So here is my duty for the day.  One more window has been opened.

 

4 Comments

Filed under autobiography, battling depression, blog posting, family, healing, humor, insight, inspiration

Truthfully…

Truthfully… for a fiction writer, a humorist, a former school teacher of junior-high-aged kids, telling the truth is hard.  But in this post I intend to try it, and I will see if I can stand the castor-oil flavor of it on my tongue.

20160424_180210

  • The simple truth is, I rarely tell the unvarnished truth.  And I firmly believe I am not alone in this.
  • Yesterday I battled pirates.  (While this is not literally true, it is metaphorically true.)  They were the scurvy scum o’ the Bank-o’-Merricka Pirates who are suing me for over ten thousand dollars despite my efforts of the last two years to settle 40 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.
  • I hired a lawyer, but in spite of what he told me, I expect to lose the lawsuit and be wiped out financially.  I also believe Donald Trump will win as President.
  • I am a pessimist.  And it helps me through life.  I am always prepared for the worst, and I can only be surprised by happy and pleasant surprises.
  • My son in the Marines has developed an interest in survivalist gear and chaos-contingency plans.  We are now apparently preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse.
  • 20160424_180244
  • I like to draw nudes.  I have drawn them from real-life models who were paid for their participation.  But no bad things happened.  It was all done with professional integrity even though I am an amateur artist.  Chaperones were a part of every session.
  • In high school I identified as a Republican like my father.  In college I became a Democrat (Thanks, Richard Nixon) and voted for Jimmy Carter.  I argued with my father for eight years of Ronald Reagan and four years of George H.W. Bush.
  • My father has now voted for Barack Obama twice and will vote for Hillary this fall if he is still able.  We spent most of our conversations this summer exchanging “Can you believe its?” about Donald Trump.
  • Blue Dawn
  • I have been collecting pictures of sunrises for three years now.  I stole the idea from my childhood friend who now lives in Florida and takes beautiful ocean sunrise pictures over the Atlantic.  But I do it because I know I don’t have many more sunrises to go.  I have six incurable diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, and COPD.  I could go “BOOM! …dead” at any given moment.  I believe in savoring it while I have it.
  • I was sexually assaulted when I was ten years old.  I can only tell you this particular truth because the man who assaulted me and inflicted physical and emotional pain on me is now dead.  It is liberating to be able to say that.  But I regret forty years’ worth of treating it is a terrible secret that I could never tell anyone.
  • Telling that last truth made me cry.  Now you know why telling the truth is not easy.
  •  
  • I really do love and admire all things having to do with Disney.  And when I was young, I really did want to find a picture of Annette naked.  There was no internet back then.  That quest helped me learn to draw the human form.  I know how bad that sounds… but, hey, I was a normal boy in many ways.  And I don’t draw her naked any more.
  • Finally, I have to say… in all honesty… I don’t know for sure that everything I have told you today is absolutely true.  Truth is a perception, even an opinion.  And I may be wrong about the facts as I know them.  The human mind works in mysterious ways.  I sometimes think I may simply be bedbug crazy.
  • (P.S.) Bedbugs are insects with very limited intelligence.  They cannot, in fact, be crazy or insane.  Their little brains are not complicated enough for that.  But it is a metaphor, and metaphors can be more truthful than literal statements.

1 Comment

Filed under commentary, Disney, drawing, feeling sorry for myself, goofy thoughts, healing, humor, mental health, nudes, Paffooney, pen and ink paffoonies, pessimism, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Totally Huggable

Tax time has always been about worry, raising money at the last moment, and horror when I finally see the bottom line and how much I owe to the IRS. (I have to withhold more money each month with each new tax year because the taxable percentages keep going up on my pension, apparently not stopping until I run out of pension or die, whichever comes first. And the Texas Teacher Retirement System has told me they can’t interpret the tax tables correctly, so I have to guess on withholding amounts.)

Last year I owed $750. Trump’s 2017 Tax Bill, the gift that keeps on giving… like a reverse Robin Hood, taking money away from retired pensioners like me to give away to wealthy fire-truckers (pardon my almost-French) in large tax cuts.

Fortunately, after borrowing money to pay off the tax bill, rather than having to beg the government for a payoff plan like I did the previous two years, we got a stimulus check from the government. It covered my debt, and I had enough left over to pay off my $580 tax bill for this year.

So, today, my daughter came to me and told me the new stimulus checks have come. $1,400 dollars! And I don’t owe any of it over tax bills this time. That, of course, explains the title for today. Yes, I give hugs when I’m happy.

But, to be honest, I haven’t always been huggable.

I was traumatized for years by the sexual assault I endured and kept secret from the age of ten. I underwent PTSD-like panics whenever someone tried to hug me. It interfered with my first three girlfriends, and even, at times, my parents and grandparents.

How, then, did I ever achieve huggableness? Well, it was a long road.

It began with my little second cousin, I won’t name him here because he may read this blog, and I have no intention to ever embarrass him. I did, however, name one of the characters in The Baby Werewolf after him. He was an essential part of my life when he was in the third grade and I was in my Senior year of high school, twice his age. I befriended him one Fall morning while waiting for the school bus. He was being picked on by one of the older boys, driven to tears, actually. I bullied the bully who was only in Jr. High and much smaller than me. He had run off behind the firehouse and was apparently planning to miss the bus and run home after it left. I talked him into getting on the bus, and I let him sit with me to keep the bully from retaliating.

After that, I had made a friend. He was constantly seeking me out and talking to me after that. He was a real cuddle-bug too. He would sit in my lap or ask me to carry him around on my back. And to my surprise, the touching I couldn’t stand from anybody else did not bother me a bit with him. He would play Monopoly with me and his brother and some other kids. And he would cheat. But he told me not to tell on him, so I didn’t. He laughed at my jokes. He told me who his secret crush was in school. He told me what he knew about sex from watching animals on the farm. (And he probably knew way more than I did.) And he was the first person I was able to hug in eight long years.

Of course, I would eventually figure out that because he was smaller than me, and a boy… there was no sexual tension between us to trigger my PTSD-like reaction.

So, the healing really began with him in 1974. He’s grown now. Wife and family… boys of his own. I’ve seen him briefly, but repeatedly at family reunions. But, unless he’s reading this now, he probably never knew how important his friendship was to me. I can hug my daughter now, totally huggable, because of him.

Leave a comment

Filed under autobiography, healing, humor, Paffooney

Into the Spring

The weather, amazingly, is more than fifty degrees Fahrenheit better than it was a week ago today in Texas.

The sun is now out.

Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day...?”

‘Of course not. It is not Sonnet 18 out there.

It… “art NOT more lovely and more temperate.”

And William Shakespeare is just a pen name.

But I saw a pair of Robins in the park while walking the dog.

And I don’t mean Robin Williams and Robin Hood.

I mean the red-breasted birds that herald the arrival of Spring.

Though it is not Spring. And I have trouble sitting here and writing this due to painful hemorrhoids.

Still, it seems like something new is starting.

It has now been an entire year since the start of the pandemic. 501,000+ people have died.

It is definitely time for something new, something better, to begin.

Leave a comment

Filed under artwork, autobiography, birds, commentary, healing, humor, Paffooney

Twenty Years a Diabetic

My bloodwork first revealed my diabetes in the Summer of 2000. So, the first of my two grateful notations is my diabetes. Surprise you, does it? There are very good reasons why this bad thing that happened to me has helped me more in life than some of the things most people identify as the best things in life.

Diabetes is a chemical nightmare that you fall into by a compounding of your worst daily habits. Your body turns food into a form that your blood carries to every cell in your body to provide the energy that every living cell runs on. But that form of chemical is glucose, a sugar. And sugar is not only the fuel for cellular life and activity, it is a poison.

Blood sugar is like highly combustible gasoline in an internal combustion engine. If you have too much gas causing too large of an explosion with every spark from the sparkplug, the longer you run it with your foot on the gas, the more likely you are to blow the engine up. This is the reason diabetes causes heart attacks, strokes, and can damage or destroy so many of your body’s essential organs.

The regulatory liquid that controls the sugar’s poison power is insulin. It is produced in the pancreas as a peptide hormone, a chemical that cooks and flavors the blood sugar to make it delicious enough to be more easily eaten up by the cells of the body. But sometimes the pancreas gets lazy or overworked enough to become rebellious and it stops producing enough insulin to cook the sugar. And sometimes, as in my case, the pancreas begins producing insulin who simply aren’t very good cooks. I have way too much insulin in my bloodstream, but it is wimpy and weak and couldn’t win a sugar cook-off if my life depended upon it. And my life does depend on it.

The reason I am grateful for diabetes is the plethora of fundamental life lessons that I had to learn in order to keep living a good life.

How well you can think and feel and move around depends on how well you manage what you eat.

Candy is out. If you like sweetness in your meals, natural fruit sugars like fructose, especially when combined with helpful, cancer-suppressing antioxidents like you find in strawberries, are a much better choice. Niacin is the name of a chemical you need to know when choosing what to eat. Niacin helps balance your blood sugar level, making your insulin gain levels in cooking skill chemically. You find niacin in things like peanut butter, pork sausage, chicken wings, and mushrooms, as well as many other foods. For nearly twenty-one years I have regulated my blood sugar successfully by making adjustments to my dietary habits.

And that leads to the other thing that I am grateful for. I am grateful for my ability to change my daily habits when necessary. I have learned that even deeply entrenched habits can be altered over time by small changes that I make note of and examine my progress with constantly. It has not only helped me navigate numerous health problems, but it has aided me with my 5-year Chapter 13 bankruptcy. So, I am grateful for diabetes and changeable habits.

4 Comments

Filed under commentary, healing, health, humor