Learning to Dance

Explorations in the Spiritual Life

Month: August 2004 (page 2 of 3)

back again

Waking up and seeing trees, feeling the cold mountain air, seeing chipmunks run along sapling branches was a nice reminder of why I like mountain life. Deserts are beautiful, in their way, but mountains draw my soul.

I wrote a bit this week, and I’ll use those thoughts to spark some more. Tonight I’m a little tired, still trying to settle back in, and doing so by finishing off a book about Wyatt Earp which doesn’t exactly turn my thoughts back towards my now present concerns. I suppose I’ll have tomorrow to pick up my ancient sources once again and get my mind back focused.

In reading this book, however, I was again struck by how things do not change over the years. Present political issues find expression in events of a hundred years ago, with Democrats and Republicans occupying similar ideological spots.

I’ll likely write more on this later. It is why I like history, however. Understanding one time is almost impossible if one doesn’t understand trends and patterns which reflect the common human experience more than the peculiarities of a specific place and time.

off and away

Cooler days mean more sleep filled nights, usually. Well, it was, only I woke up around four, with that groggy awareness which seems to allow for me only to pray. I do, only not as focused as I should.

I’m off today, for most of the week, to “the town too tough to die“. I’m not really sure what that means. My brother, older by a few years, has gotten to reading old west history. I don’t think this quite fits into his usual world history curriculum, must be a hobby on the side.

So, I suggested the town, and surprisingly, for he is very hobbitish, he took me up on the suggestion, and planned a whole week. I didn’t even need to leave secret messages on his door, nor bang on his window with my staff. He roused himself for an adventure, a quest, a pilgrimage of Western demi-gods.

Spirituality takes on a different bent on such a trip as this. A curious study to be sure, a change from the regularity of the cell. Indeed the earliest monastics prized the desert as a place of spirituality. Old caves, hidden huts, all the trappings of Egypt can be found in Americanized versions. That the goal was shameless profiteering and rampant immorality in these one time boom towns likely makes for a different aura. It would seem like a ghost town would have some measure of lingering ‘atmosphere’ of some sorts. We’ll see what kind. Temples to different gods, worship of fallen dreams, violence and greed mark these spots, but with also those who sought at least justice, and maybe their own kind of virtue.

Not the typical pilgrimage for a monastic sort, but this whole evangelical monasticism is still being worked out. I tried Graceland a decade back… that doesn’t seem appropriate, despite the name, so we’ll see how these spots resonate.

I’ll be writing, only without computer access. So, obligations met, only not posted for purview.

Should be a fun time, good quality bonding, what, what.


I realize I’ve falling into some bad habits. It’s not so much the intentional actions as much as unintentional inaction. Regular rhythms of spiritual discipline have fallen by the wayside, to be replaced by what? Nothing. I note this not because I feel guilt over not praying as much, or reading enough, or any of the other tasks. I note this because in my interactions with others I feel spiritually parched. The flow and resonance of the Spirit does not seem to echo from within. I feel the drain and loss of trying to be one who walks as everyone else, rather than one who walks with the Spirit.

The reality as well is that I won’t be able to create a renewed rhythm tomorrow. I’m off for a week, to a curious place, with my brother. It should be fun. And… it may be a burst of change which allows for a wonderful focus next week. I want to attack my new project, but I think I need this.


Tornadoes came to the valleys below, thundershowers flash flooded fire ravaged hills. But not here. We only had the appearance of inclimate weather, without the actual inclement weather itself. The wind would pick up, shadows would disappear, all the land turned dark, but then an hour later all would become a little brighter, the wind would die down, and the air settled to a mere cloudy day.

I had a day of taking care of tasks creative and overdue, so it was a productive day, if not a great day. I feel mellow this evening, unsure of the source, or even whether its a positive or negative kind of mellow.

This is part of what I did, and since it amuses me I’m including it here as well.

Again tonight my mind doesn’t wander over introspective fields, no issues or concerns or delights press my thoughts. I think I need some space, or I’m walking on the right path, and feel only the ease of a well formed groove. Either way I end this day feeling good, ready to move forward, finding moments of inspiration which seem to add up to something over the weeks.

And I watched a moment of the Olympics, several moments, interspersed throughout the day. One of the sports which I never watch which I watched (the reason I like the Olympics is the chance to see obscure sports) was fencing. Images of swashbuckling and musketeers went through my head, only it’s not that. Two men lunging at each other, whoever lunges the quickest wins. No parrying, little movement around, and generally very quick. The reason, I realized, was that fencers care hardly at all about defence. As long as they get the first touch, getting hit in return is meaningless.

Defense, I guess, is what made the old sword fights interesting. You wanted to win, but you had to do so without getting a sword thrust in return. The real art was the defending. Except in sport and ceremony.

Curious, that.


The sun is out, barely. Most of the sky is white rather than blue, the smell of rain still permeates the air, and thunder showers have a thirty percent chance of visiting once again today.

The beauty of all this, besides the drama of a change of weather, is that the temperature is twenty degrees cooler. Such a drop is relaxing, almost too much so.

But I still worked this morning, waking up before dawn and pressing on with website design, trying to get a uit of Romeo and Juliet finished before I leave for a bit on Monday.

Did I mention I’m going to Tombstone, Arizona for the week? I don’t know why. My brother, a high school world history teacher, has become obsessed with the history of the Old West, and when I casually mentioned we should go to Tombstone he not only agreed but ran with the idea far beyond my meager suggestion.

That means a break for me, my first time away for a few years. Given the movement in certain areas in my life I’m not sure I want or need the break, but it will likely be more beneficial for my soul than I realize. Plus, it’s quirky, and nothing rejuvenates my being as much as something quirky. It twists my conceptions and restores a sense of fun and humor which may emaciate from overlong contemplation.

A hummingbird just flew by, and has landed on a cedar branch. Tiny and quick, it is a moment of curiosity for me when I see one paused at rest. I need to get a feeder or appropriate plant. This is the third time I’ve seen one, so I think it would happily make a stop here on its regular route.

That’s that, I guess. Nothing pokes my brain asking for mention, and I sit here this morning neither elated nor depressed. I suppose I’m feeling bland, now that I think about it, but it is a busy bland, an occupied bland, and that is not a bad kind of bland to be.


We call it the smell of rain, but it’s not really that. It’s more earthy than water could be. It is the aroma of rained on land, the smell of dirt, but more than that. It is soil, mere ground up rocks, but more alive, a life giving aroma which taps into those primal parts of our being, even still, instincts which revel in the delight that things can grow, that water from the heavens is sustaining us and our kin for a little bit longer, parched land can sate its long thirst.

The soft patter only lasted an hour, making a complete change in feeling, in aura.

Unfortunately, an unmade room and scattered possessions occupied my time more than sitting on a rocking chair with a cup of tea in my hand and the rhythm of life all around singing to my soul.

Tomorrow will be more focus, set up by the work of today. Much orbits my thoughts right now, in fact, but nothing which settles enough to discuss. So, I’ll to bed and see what lyrics paint my dreams, or stir my thoughts for tomorrow’s quests.


The sky is gray, streaks of white, rain filled, echoing distant thunder. The cloud moved in over the course morning with a tease of precipitation. We still wait.

I got a new desk last night, or rather an old desk which was given to me, in good condition, larger and more steady than the temporary version I made when I first came up here. With my books and shelves and other assorted furniture and collected items putting in the new desk means a morning of moving things around, creating piles, moving those piles, unknotting cords, and generally making a fine mess of things before order is restored.

All this to say, I have a bit of practical work filling my morning before I can commit to longer meditation.

Good news, though, fills my head. I’m starting a new project this week, or next at least. A historical fiction account based on the Gospels. The fun part is that much is now presently dependent on my own skill in shaping it. If I can pull it off, my collaborator, and uncle, has publishing connections so can push it through. That fact in itself is a peculiar instance which transcends my own expectations, and so I walk down this present path with an open mind, the kind that comes from potential answers from unexpected directions.

This isn’t a burden lifted, but a burden with an end, and purpose. Indeed, it requires a lot of work, a lot of training, a lot more focus than what I’ve even done in the past.

It is a delight, and more so should it help resolve the pressures of this present life and current worries.

late evening

When it is almost 2 am by the time one walks in the door it is easily figured that the evening has been missed… as regards to writing this. A delightful and full evening in other ways in fact.


I woke up at four this morning, parched mouth, blurry eyes, over warm. I lingered in my groggy discontent for a few moments, before remembering the sights which were to be seen outside. The Perseid Meteor shower was peaking at just before the dawn hours, and it was just before the dawn hours. So I roused myself, wandering outside, boxer shorts, no shirt, feeling too comfortable in such an outfit at such an early hour.

I expected to see the heavens alive. Well, I didn’t really, having experienced the vagaries of the Perseids in the past. But, I did expect to see the heavens.

Pale reflected light was all I saw, a textured shroud covering the sky, not very thick, but thick enough to hide all but the two brightest dots above.

Ah well. Back to bed, to reading Arrowsmith and Jewish Backgrounds (two different books, if that seemed a peculiar title). A little bit of sleep forming an hour later brings me to past the dawn, where I find the shroud torn and broken, blue sky above, only framed in white clouds (which have a twenty percent chance of bringing thunderstorms… though I’m not sure they meant bring them here).

A squirrel on my balcony inquiring about, roused me again. I wandered over and out, poured a cup of critter feed along the rail, and noticed I was being watched. Directly above me, peeking over the edge of the roof, a steller’s jay sat, judging my performance. I said hi, finished the task and went back inside. It fluttered to a branch opposite the balcony and muttered for a while.

Jays have a standard call, a screech, which as I type this one graciously let loose. Three screeches, a pause, then repeat as necessary. Not a pretty, melodious sound.

However, these beatiful black and blue birds have a secret. There is a quite a vocabulary and skill for mimicry within their range of talents. Unseen one would not suspect a jay for the various calls which come from the branches. While they sit on a beam or balcony and perform, it is undeniab.

One sound I’ve been hearing recently, maybe from the same bird, approximates the sound of a squeaking bed. Another, which I’ve heard from several birds is that muttering, a quiet singsong, which almost, but not quite, approaches the tune of a songbird. It seems to be an absent minded expression, maybe even one of contentment. Little whistles, chirps, gurgles, and such fitting together less like a song and more like a musician practicing a song, for the first time, shy and unsure.

These jays are magnificent little birds, a treat one gets only in these mountains.

When it is warm at night, I sleep less soundly and dream more unusually. Or, really, I should say, I dream. I imagine I always do, the experts say that people dream all the time, but only in the restless warmth of an August night do I remember the vague oddities of how my mind turns when unleashed to itself.

Not that I remember specifics, though if I wanted to, I imagine one of those small notepads by the bed to use immediately upon awaking would do the trick. I’m not sure I want to, so I don’t.

But such restless sleep makes for a bit of a restless morning, when plans are adjusted because of either miscommunication on my part or miscommunication asserted to be my part for other reasons.

This evening I have a meeting, a meeting about writing. A door could open, or it could not. To be honest, like always, I want to know where I stand, so I can move forward in some direction.

Someone asked me recently if I was nervous about it. I said I wasn’t. Because, I suppose I am resigned to the hand of God working, and if this sudden, unexpected turn is that path, then wonderful. If not, then steady onwards, finding other paths, trying to put my own foot in a door.

What makes me more nervous is that it is with extended family, an uncle and aunt I’ve seen less times over the course of my life than I have fingers, maybe, as I think about it, as I have fingers on a single hand.

Family complications before my arrival on the scene created chaos, a chaos which reverberates, and causes that peculiar familial uncomfortability, in which we know we share the same blood but have no real relationship.

Then again, I’m more shy in expectation then in reality. The switch to my personality goes on, and all is well. Sitting here, in my mountain cell, I feel the expectation growing. All there is to do is what I can, prepare my thoughts, gather my notes, seek to work out clearly how my mind is working as regards to this proposed project, and go tonight, knowing that nothing can be lost, and much can be gained.

But, all is in God’s hands, either blessing or nothing. Either way, today marks the beginning of a new step. It is the direction which, until tomorrow, remains in the shadows.


We are in the mountains, surrounded by forest and forest creatures, yet we are not far from the urban meadows of Los Angeles, which spreads from ocean to desert, with but momentary lapses of attention.

The night is dark, only scattered porch lights illuminate nearby, not enough to give bother. But, I did again notice the light pollution to the south, where millions sleep, where artificial light does not, casting its glow high into the sky.

Still, though not secluded, sitting for a spell underneath those continuing lights of above, I taste of something, something which always resided within my soul, giving me that longing, unquenchable, that distance, that assurance of something grand just beyond our view. It is this which causes me to wander from weddings into a barren desert, or wander from the suburban chase to mountain reclusion.

Sometimes, in those quiet moments when everyone has gone to bed, when the wind lightly stirs the cedar branches or brings a twinkle to a distant star, I taste it stronger, it comes to the fore, and I am filled with the sense of the eternal, that constant river in which we barely participate, yet which calls us always, in and through all things, to lay down our selves and take the great leap within its gentle and powerful current.

Words escape, prayers replace, and I sit in solitude, at tune with the world around, feeling myself a beginner, but a beginner who knows, who has begun. There is only to continue, for tasting of this, being given this gift, is not something which can be left behind. It lingers, in the moment, in the constant, so that one is drawn back to the song, risking one’s own soul if not pursued.

But it is restful, peaceful, a melody which gives ease to the innermost being, a harmony of all things resonating within and without. All is well, it sings. And so it is.

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