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Think about
Think about how many times I have fallen
Spirits are using me larger voices callin’
What Heaven brought you and me cannot be forgotten

Southern Cross, Stephen Stills, Rick and Michael Curtis

 



I have a lot to do this morning so this will be brief. At least, that’s my intent. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.

Just wanted to show a new small piece at the top, Steady As She Goes, which is headed to the West End Gallery for their annual Little Gems show which opens on February 12. I love doing my boat pieces even though I am not a sailor. And even though the romance of sailing free on the wide expanse of the ocean under endless skies is powerful, I know that will not be a sailor in this lifetime.

My loss, no doubt.

But the boats themselves offer great symbolism for me that translates well in paint and speaks to the non-sailors like myself who understand and envy those who respond to the lure of the open sea.

I thought that a fitting song would be the Crosby, Stills and Nash song, Southern Cross, especially with a video that features the lyrics. Interestingly, Stephen Stills wrote this song with the Curtis Brothers, Rick and Michael, basing it on an existing song from the Curtis Brothers called Seven League Boots, which they had recorded several years before with members of Fleetwood Mac.

Stills explained how their collaboration on Southern Cross came about:

“The Curtis Brothers brought a wonderful song called ‘Seven League Boots,’ but it drifted around too much. I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce. It’s about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds. Once again, I was given somebody’s gem and cut and polished it.

Well, he did a fine job in polishing it and I like how it attaches to this painting.

Give a listen and have a good day.



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“They are all in the same category, both those who are afflicted with fickleness, boredom and a ceaseless change of purpose, and who always yearn for what they left behind, and those who just yawn from apathy. There are those too who toss around like insomniacs, and keep changing their position until they find rest through sheer weariness. They keep altering the condition of their lives, and eventually stick to that one in which they are trapped not by weariness with further change but by old age which is too sluggish for novelty. There are those too who suffer not from moral steadfastness but from inertia, and so lack the fickleness to live as they wish, and just live as they have begun. In fact there are innumerable characteristics of the malady, but one effect – dissatisfaction with oneself. This arises from mental instability and from fearful and unfulfilled desires, when men do not dare or do not achieve all they long for, and all they grasp at is hope: they are always unbalanced and fickle, an inevitable consequence of living in suspense. They struggle to gain their prayers by every path, and they teach and force themselves to do dishonourable and difficult things; and when their efforts are unrewarded the fruitless disgrace tortures them, and they regret not the wickedness but the frustration of their desires. Then they are gripped by repentance for their attempt and fear of trying again, and they are undermined by the restlessness of a mind that can discover no outlet, because they can neither control nor obey their desires, by the dithering of life that cannot see its way ahead, and by the lethargy of a soul stagnating amid its abandoned hopes.”

― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life



I was reading an article that referenced the essay De Brevitate Vitae ( On the Shortness of Life) from the Stoic philosopher Seneca that written sometime around 49 AD. The passage above really struck me because it seemed to describe the dissatisfaction so many people have with their lives and the actions that result from this.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but it feels like the underlying current of what we’re seeing take place these days in this country. I have tried to discern what the desired outcome for the insurrectionists is or what drove them to act as a violent mob and I keep coming up with blanks.

What do they want?

They are not the downtrodden nor poor. They are not voiceless or without political power. There’s a high probability that most of them have livelihoods and assets that place them well above that of the average American. They are not trying to gain rights for themselves or others that have been denied. They are not fighting injustice.

And if they succeed, they have no plans for a future. Certainly not a future that will be in any way better.

All they have is anger and dissatisfaction with their lot in life. As entitled and privileged as they are, their lives lack purpose, lack meaning. It is a spoiled and bored existence, devoid of real consequences for bad behavior and fortified by the highs and unreality of video games and action flicks combined with conspiratorial bravado and cosplay costuming.

And that’s a recipe for disaster. 

This is just an observation this morning. Like I said, I am not sure I have a finger on what really is behind it. I am just trying to understand it so that I can begin to make sense of what I am seeing.

Still not there.

Here’s a topical song, Unsatisfied, a favorite of mine from The Replacements and their great 1984 album Let It Be.

Be careful out there and have a good day.



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For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Hosea 8:7



‘Everybody, sooner or later, sits down to a banquet of consequences’

— Robert Louis Stevenson



I don’t usually use Bible quotes to open my blog but this was such an obvious equivalent in meaning to the Robert Louis Stevenson words above that I originally intended to use that I decided to go with it in conjunction with the other. 

Actually, the Stevenson quote is not a sentence he has ever put to paper or spoke, to the best of my knowledge. It’s one of those online citations that catch on and become forever attached to a personality.  This misquote is, however, distilled, from words that Stevenson really did write, this from an 1887 essay, Old Mortality.

This is the bit from which the misquote is derived:

Books were the proper remedy: books of vivid human import, forcing upon their minds the issues, pleasures, busyness, importance and immediacy of that life in which they stand; books of smiling or heroic temper, to excite or to console; books of a large design, shadowing the complexity of that game of consequences to which we all sit down, the hanger-back not least.

In the essay before this excerpt he speaks of an older man walking through a graveyard, looking at the monuments, wondering if that was all that remained of a man’s life when he was gone, the only shadows of lives lived. He then above points out that our creations are the real shadows of our lives, that they speak better and with greater complexity of the part we play while alive. The part where he points out that nobody is exempt from participating in that game of consequence called life. Even those who try to stay in the shadows, the hanger-backs as he calls them, are engaged in this game.

Through the years, Stevenson’s game transformed into a banquet which is basically saying that we must eat the meal we prepare.

We reap just what we sow.

Actions have consequences.

And today we may witness a singular day of great historical consequence. The actions of the past four years, the past year, and the past few weeks may come to a head this day, bearing the consequences of the actions of this past period of time.

It may not be an endpoint and it will no doubt have actions that will have consequences of their own but for now a mighty wind has been sown and its whirlwind approaches.

The banquet table may be finally set and we must eat the meal we have put together.

Every one of us.

We will get through this. 

Here’s song from Rival Sons that is basically paraphrasing both these quotes as far as karmic hammers go. It’s Get What’s Coming. It might be  setting the tone for today and the coming weeks for those who will be called on to answer for their actions: When it comes back around you’re get what’s coming.

Pay close attention. It’s going to be a day.



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Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still, in peaceful dreams, I see
The road leads back to you, to you, my beautiful Georgia
Georgia, no peace I find
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind

Hoagy Carmichael, Georgia on My Mind



Nothing more this morning but a sigh of relief and a big “thank you” to the good people of the state of Georgia. Here’s a strong rendition of the song Georgia on My Mind performed by a collected group of Broadway stars. Lots of talent here.

I was going to play the seminal version from Ray Charles, by far the best known and most powerful single performance of the song which was written in 1930 by Hoagy Carmichael. Willie Nelson also had a sweet quieter version of the song that went to Number 1 on the charts in 1978.

But give a listen and, if you’re so inclined, send out some psychic thanks to our friends in Georgia. 

Have a good day and let an old sweet song keep Georgia on your mind…



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And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us see that we learn to take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things.

― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1892-1910



Gosh, I wish Rilke was sending me letters. I always seem to find something in his collected letters that speaks directly to me, something that helps me better understand my own place in the world.

Give me his letters and the Peanuts comic strip and I am all set for advice on how to live my life.

Rilke’s words above on the New Year speak loudly this year. Let us look at 2021 as a clean slate, a tabula rasa, that that is filled with new potential. The time ahead may be filled with hard work and stressful times but we should use every available minute of it in attempting to make 2021 far better than its predecessor. 

I know that these words can sound like empty platitudes but I truly hope they ring true this year and that we don’t waste the gift of time we are given.

Have a happy and quiet New Year’s Eve. Stay safe and perhaps next year at this time, we can truly celebrate the end of a wonderful year.

For those of you who don’t buy into my hopeful look forward and plan on partying your brains out tonight, here’s a song from Wynonie Harris, the great blues shouter who many consider the father of rock and roll. His style, his stage moves and provocative hip gyrations were swiped and adapted by Elvis, who some thought was the G-rated version of Wynonie Harris. His stuff really rocks and this song, Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes at Me, reminds me of the best work of Louis Prima, which is pretty high praise.

So, enjoy and bid goodbye to 2020 tonight in whatever way you see fit. May we all have a happy New Year in 2021.



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“Sublime”– Now at the Principle Gallery



Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

–Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’



I’ve heard this Bob Dylan song hundreds of times over the decades since it first came out in 1964 and a particular line in it always jumps out at me, even in idle listening. The line is: Don’t stand in the doorway/Don’t block up the hall/For he that gets hurt/Will be he who has stalled.

I have always read it as being about the inevitability of change and that those who try to stand in its way rather than trying to adapt are the losers in the end. The fact that it is used in a verse that refers to senators and congressmen makes it pointedly topical, especially in times when the present Senate Republican majority leader has been heard telling a group of big donors in recent days that he will oppose and stall every bill put forward by the Democrats, even bills he considers good bills. He said he would not allow them any victories.

That means he also will not allow the American people any victories, any gains, as he darkly tries to stall progress and change. We have seen this act before and have suffered from his mean-spirited intransigence.

But try as he might, change will come, in one way or another. It can be slowed or stalled but it is only temporary and eventually it bursts through all obstacles, usually obliterating them in the process. Like the lines from the Dylan song.

So, for this last Sunday in this monumental and often awful year of 2020, I thought it fitting that I play a version of this song, probably one you haven’t heard before. It’s from a 1969 album called Dylan’s Gospel from a group called The Brothers & Sisters of L.A., which was a group of L.A. based studio backup singers organized to record an album of Dylan covers in a gospel format. The group included some pretty high profile studio singers including Merry Clayton who I have wrote about here in the past. She is best known for her searing vocals on Gimme Shelter from the Rolling Stones. She is the lead on today’s song and knocks it out of the park.

The album was not a commercial success so this was the only effort from the group but it left behind several powerful versions of Dylan’s songs including The Times They Are A-Changin’.  So, let’s wrap up this year with some gospel firepower, brush aside the barriers and let the times a-change as they surely must.

Have a good Sunday.



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And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep!
The Wrong shall fail,
the Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Christmas Bells



The lines above are the last two stanzas of a poem Longfellow wrote in 1863 during the height of the American Civil War. Several years later, in 1872, the poem was incorporated into the Christmas carol we know as I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.

I am hoping that the last three lines hold true for us going into the future.


I ran the short bit above several years ago on this day, Christmas, in the pivotal year of 2016, just after a new president*** had been elected and there was still uncertainty as to what he would turn out to be.

As for the poem which later became the carol, there is a little more to add to the story which I thought I would add this morning.

At the time it was written, Longfellow was still deeply grieving the tragic death of his wife in July of 1861. She caught on fire while using sealing wax on an envelope and despite Longfellow’s efforts died the next day from her burns. Longfellow also suffered severe burns, to the point that he was unable to attend her funeral. It also left scars on his face which prevented him from shaving so that he wore a full beard until his death in 1882. 

After his wife’s death, Longfellow suffered extreme depression, turning at times to using laudanum to ease his sorrow. In the winter of 1863, as he began writing the verses above, he was deeply depressed by his continued grief, his worry over the war that raged between the states, and the fact that his son had been severely wounded in combat. As he wrote, he heard two church pealing for the holiday and he felt his demeanor changed by it, feeling hope that indeed wrong would fail and that right would prevail.

It made for a powerful bit of verse. This morning, I am filled with the hope that right has indeed prevailed and will continue to do so. Let’s hope that this Christmas day, taking place under the dark clouds of pandemic and disorder, offers us the light of hope on the horizon.

Below is a nice version of the carol with lyrics from the late folksinger and damn fine actor, Burl Ives.

Merry Christmas to you all. May you have a good and loving day. Peace.



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We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore



Murakami’s words above are a continuation of yesterday’s theme, how early memory embeds deeply and remain with us forever. It’s one of those obvious truths that becomes more and more evident as the years pile up. I’ll probably revisit some deep recollections today, as I usually do around this time every year.

Polishing the touchstone.

Here’s a warm wish to all of you for a happy holiday. May you assist your young ones in creating their own touchstones of happiness or even create a new one for yourself.

Here’s a Christmas tune that goes back to the basis for the day, Christmas Must Be Tonight, from The Band. As with most everything they did, it feels right.

Stay safe out there. Merry Christmas.



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Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.

-Jorge Luis Borges



It’s that time of the year when the young build up their stores of memories and the older folks delve into their own storage for past remembrances from this same time many years ago.

The memories that the young will bank this year will be so different from our own memories of holidays past that many of us may pull out this week or the next. And how could they not be different? The world is forever changing, for good or bad. But the relationships of families and friends remain constants so while circumstances and surroundings may change, the base on which memories are built remains much the same.

So these memories being formed in the next week or so will likely be as rich for these young people fifty years from now when they find themselves watching the youth of that time creating their first deep memories. These may end up being the richest they know because this year with all its awfulness created hardships that in many cases illuminates the good that is embedded in our lives, good that is often overlooked in the rush of life.

This year gave us time to reflect on such things and to see that our time here is all we really possess.

If you’re looking for a silver lining to a very dark cloud, maybe that’s it. Maybe time is, in the end, that substance, as Borges writes, of which we are made, that thing that sweeps us along and inevitably consumes us.

This seems a little more evident this time of year as I revisit my own richly detailed memories of this season from many decades ago. There are many remembrances from the intervening years but they most often lack the depth and detail of those early ones and some even have faded into seeming non-existent. Some are there but remain hazy, as though they don’t belong to me, like I am looking at the memories from another life. Like I was a different person at that point.

And maybe I was. Perhaps that’s another thing that comes with being made from time– it changes and as a result, we cannot help but change, as well.

Time…

Here’s a song about time. It’s not a holiday song but it is a great, great song from Tom Waits. I feel a bit sacrilegious in playing anything other than Waits’ iconic version but this one is lovely. Plus to add a festive touch, it is performed by a giant tragic clown who strokes his sleeping French bulldog as he sings. It’s a nice performance by Puddles Pity Party of a song that always slows my heartbeat a bit. I particularly always seem to hear the line And the things you can’t remember tell the things you can’t forget/That history puts a saint in every dream even when the song is playing in the background.

Have a good day. Enjoy your time here.



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Practice giving things away, not just things you don’t care about, but things you do like. Remember, it is not the size of a gift, it is its quality and the amount of mental attachment you overcome that count. So don’t bankrupt yourself on a momentary positive impulse, only to regret it later. Give thought to giving. Give small things, carefully, and observe the mental processes going along with the act of releasing the little thing you liked.

–Robert A.F. Thurman, American Buddhist author/professor



I like this bit of advice.

Give away things that mean something to yourself, something to which, as Thurman points out, you have a mental attachment that must be overcome. That’s always been the yardstick I use when giving away work at my talks or simply as a gift. It has to be something that hurts a bit to give away, something that you just want to hold onto a bit longer. 

But giving away the valued things of self brings on a feeling of magnanimity in myself, a feeling that seems so much larger and grander than that which usually comes along with clinging onto something. The feeling of generosity is warm and encompassing, like a field of fully opened sunflowers reaching toward the sun. On the other hand, miserly stinginess feels cold and all balled up, like a raisin sitting on a frigid garage floor.

And you most likely will find that the more that you give away, your desire to cling on to these things will fade away.

Let me clarify: I am not saying that you should give away all you have. Again, as Thurman also points out, don’t bankrupt yourself on a momentary positive impulse. First of all, a large or expensive gift doesn’t necessarily have any emotional attachment. Sometimes a small but thoughtful thing, even something that might appear trivial to someone from the outside, holds the most lasting meaning.

So, don’t equate price with meaning. But give when you can or when it it is needed and don’t be afraid to give of yourself, even if it’s only a few sincere words on a piece of paper. Those always ends up being the gifts that hold the most meaning for both the giver and the receiver.

But you probably knew this, right? So let’s listen to a song with a similar message from JD McPherson and his fun holiday album, Socks, from a few years ago. This is All the Gifts I Need.

Have a great day.



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