I hang up the phone and go outside to the little table in the backyard to eat my breakfast. I’m drinking coffee I roasted myself. Eating bread I made myself. Eating cheese I made myself. I feel so . . . medieval.
My wife is in Panama for a couple of weeks visiting family, and she’s been chatting with me long distance about an old friend she met by accident in a little restaurant over there. These were friends from the old days of my religious journey, who have remained faithful to the old beliefs and I can’t help thinking of them.
The peach tree in the back yard is doing well, lots of hard little peaches which may be ready in a month or two. The tomatoes in their flower pots are coming up. I’ve even got the grass looking halfway decent.
They’re still in poverty these people we knew during the hard times in Panama, hand to mouth, the way we were in the days we knew each other’s presence. Things, for the time being, are so much better for me and mine now.
A couple of months ago, Gladys died. Another friend from the old religious days, when we believed God watched over us. She was poor too and trapped in a difficult marriage. She died of a brain tumor. For years she was my wife’s best friend wildly exuberant and in love with God if not her husband. Gladys and my wife barely had a chance to say goodbye before she was gone.
A couple of weeks ago I was washing dishes when suddenly I heard the name Tony Ciccone from some schlocky celebrity news show on TV. He was a friend also from the old days in Manhattan in 1984, when Tony and I would hang around in the kitchen at 43rd St late at night talking about photography, drinking espresso from a moka coffee pot as the Japanese sisters shooed us around and cleaned up the kitchen, laughing together in their language, impenetrable to us. Young and full of ideas. Tony is an alcoholic these days according to the news interviewer and often lives under a bridge. It was always hard for him having Madonna as his younger sister.
I can go on and on.
It’s good that we don’t know the future when we’re young, or we might be terrified for ourselves.
The grass is looking good because I’ve learned to fertilize it and cut it tall. If you cut it tall it makes better roots. I’m getting good at this yard work stuff, so the yard doesn't look like its just been through an air raid.
There’s no difference between me and them, why things have so far turned out better for me I have no idea. When I think of the people in Oklahoma who had their homes and neighborhoods strip mined out from under them in a single hour, as well as loved ones, I know there’s no reason that can’t happen to me too. We’re not special. We’re all connected.
The neighbors yappy dogs are shrieking their hearts out at me through the fence as they always do when they find me out here, these obnoxious descendents of the great Dire Wolf, whom man has reduced into these nasty little beasts. Now there’s a sin for you.
I never thank god. I always reserve the right to grieve if someday it all falls apart. It helps me appreciate it more, knowing it can go away. To thank god would insult the ghosts of my friends who have died too soon, and the ghost of my young self who lived the life with them.
This afternoon my kid and I will go to the state park and have a cook out and go swimming and walk around a little. I’ve got BBQ spare ribs. It was a small revelation to me that I could make the ribs properly over charcoal on a closed grill, low and slow and then just heat them up over the little grill in the park instead of the usual hot dogs. I wish they were all here. I wish we could eat together and I could share my fragile bounty with them. I wish things had turned out better for them.
There’s no happily ever after that I believe in, though I think there’s an ever after of some kind. I wouldn’t want to go through eternity as myself anyway, I’d go crazy if I couldn’t be better than this.
Esoteric religion states simply “God is One,” like the old Jewish prayer, but it means something else. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worship idols. It means there is simply no other being or object in all reality except God. There is only God, there is no creation or creator. Only surface and deeper structure. Consequently the search for God, or heaven, is not a journey to go somewhere. It is an intensification of the moment. There is only this moment, the eternal fugue of Now. To be enlightened is to be anchored in the reality of the moment to feel everything without defense and to feel especially the eternal connection with others and what often connects us is our mutual experience of suffering and injustice. Happily ever after can only be the realization that we are never really alone; that happiness and suffering are always in motion and that it is the nature of evil to pass away.