There was a season in my life when I hit the road for an endless numbering of years. As many of my friends and followers know, I was twisted up inside for a long time. Still am sometimes, though nothing as convoluted as those days when chaos ruled my heart and mind.
I left hearth and home many moons ago pursuing a dragon, chasing the dragon to be more exact, according to the mythos of a certain Anonymous Twelve Step group. I lived (or couched more like it) all over Northern Colorado, bouncing from place to place, sleeping where I should not have been sleeping, drinking when I should not have been drinking. I had even settled on a major geographical and jumped the state line runnin’ from Johnny Law as a menace to society (and myself), ending up in the great and mysterious state of Oklahoma. I had had the normal cocktail of violations associated with alcoholic behavior at the time, nothing serious mind you (that is a laughable statement is it not? Hey, its progress not perfection)….Nothin’ too serious, mind you; a DUI that never got resolved; probation violations and such, all of which are (Thanfully!) cleared up by God’s Grace and the Weld County Judicial system and Hotel Emporium for wayward saps like myself.
As far as jails go, Weld County, Colorado has a particularly nice one with an abundance of time available for reading the Good Book, a score of bad books (specifically the Game of thrones series, sorry I hated that story) and folding socks. There are lots and lots of socks needin’ to be folded up in there.
At the Weld County Hotel and Emporium they make these extremely cool entrees I like to call Gunslinger burritos, which of course I borrowed from Eddie Dean, a character out of Steven King’s Dark Tower series. Gunslinger burritos are Dorito chips crunched up real fine. You take some of that fancy commissary Ramen and filter out the water. Mix those perfectly timed (in lock-up, time becomes a specialty) noodles in with the dry Dorito rub inside the conveniently provided bag and roll for like, thirty minutes…or until the grumpy guard gets tired of the guests loitering and congregating while drooling over one table, hoping for a handout because the green Boloney wasn’t that satisfying…and chases you off to your quarters without television privileges. I felt more akin to a 9-year-old than a hardened criminal (chuckle)…but I digress.
It was a very long and more than strange trip so to speak, and I ended up seeing and experiencing a lot of things, mostly destructive and self-revealing…though, there were also rare glimpses of heaven as well along the way, when these eyes actually held enough clarity to see it when present…and of course look for it when it was not. We are not talkin’ a strong blast of sunshine mind you, but a shimmer or vibration of hope dancing on a breeze, or a subtle revelation in a proverbial neighbor’s eyes that held a promise of love, acceptance and serenity. The darkness, when descending, is more than deep and the duration of one’s dark night of the soul is literally entwined to the level of pride one is desperately holding on to, and the measure of hope one can find is wrapped up in how well he/she can actually perceive of such a thing as hope.
Heaven always provides for us however, and sometimes…just sometimes…the doorway opens up just enough so a fella can see instead of having to rely solely upon a shadow of faith that has simply withered away.
Sometimes, people need to see hope…and sometimes, more often than we might think, God lets us.
Oklahoma, the place of my geographical retreat, turned out to be everything a man could want, as well as everything a man should run from as fast as possible. Considering it was me however, I dove right in to the fire with hardly a second thought, as a frosty moth to warm flame. Things got real bad real fast and before I knew it, I had gone all in with the whiskey bottle and was heading 90 mph down a dead man’s curve. Shortly before that curve, just prior to the bottom dropping out, I found myself sitting outside on a hot sultry Oklahoma night complete with crickets, humidity, B. Paisley…and of course…a no-longer-full traveler of John Daniels.
I am of course, busy feeling sorry for myself as I literally had nothing left. Feeling sorry for oneself is a prerequisite of the Terminally Unique category and most addicts eventually excel at this skill. I work nights cooking doughnuts and rarely see the sun. A night off has blessed me with a pure vision of what hope could be, once one opens up the windows and clears out the air up in there so to speak, the eyes being the windows to the soul. I am listening to Brad Paisley and Allison Kraus as they lament my life in their Lullaby, singing to those of us still here...about those of us who have gone on to that great clearing at the end of the path. Pretty close to ending it myself, I had but to make the decision as the plan was already fermented and bubbling forth. I sit and ruminate while feeding on my sadness about all that I could conceivably break in my anger and fear, and indeed, had broken.
I am sitting there, now a frail and slight man, staring into a bottle of swirling honey brown liquid, losing myself in a deceptive promise of pain relief beneath a set of burning Tiki torches which cast a haze of heat and mirage in a futile attempt at keeping the bugs at bay…as well as the heaviness of night, just long enough for me to enter into my self-imposed oblivion where plaguing memories do not…well…plague.
A light catches my eye, more of a shimmer really, not far off in the distance of that sultry summer evening. In the darkness of my own impending insanity, I view a veritable wonder of nature, a show of living light and hope dancing on the border between this dark place I am at and quite possibly, the next. A great and seemingly ancient Cedar tree sits atop a small hill…
…it appears to be alive…
…Or rather, alight.
Sparks are dancing, coming together and growing apart within the protective arms of the aged Cedar. It seems the very stars of midnight have taken on life and intention, clothing themselves in a living luminescence beyond anything these eyes have ever seen, and have decided to reveal themselves on earth while sitting on the branches of an old Cedar, hundreds of them, just to flirt with my eyes. Fluid and with grace, earth bound angels weave and spin a show of light under the soft velvet canopy of the Cedar branches, dancing starlight blends together until one light has now become the greater for the joining with another, glowing in unison, weaving in flight and twirling around the others, never vacating the comfort and protection of the great fragrance of the tree.
I am mesmerized.
It was the very definition of serene. If there ever were a living definition of that word serene, it would be the image I have of that great old Cedar tree filled with flying light. In any mood something of this nature would have been a real gift, but this…that this Cedar could seemingly coax the stars from the sky was beyond me and of course, in my state at the time, was far too difficult to handle as my specific mood sitting at that table had been one of defeat.
Dunno why really.
I just did.
…great sobbing tears that start deep in the mind, pressing forward, streaming down the cheeks to be captured by the wind and carried away to a virtual field, a field of rebirth, rest and care, where our sorrow and grief go to be buried deep within a fertile soil, fed by the well wishes and kind hearts of family and dedicated friends. My vision blurs as a veritable river of pent up frustration and resentment explodes from my eyes and heart, buried far too long inside my mind, festering and decaying, descending to the earth in an offering of sorts, an offering of memory…so that one day, far off and distant, what I had experienced in my dark sojourn would not be wasted…and that somehow and in some way, my life would retain value, that it would not have all been in vain, meaningless.
I wished upon those stars playing in that Cedar tree through watering eyes, though with my damp vision the tree with its many stars had become one shimmering angel star, in and of itself, a moving and gentle thing. I wished upon a nameless star of someone else’s borrowed hope, far too distant for me to grasp or even comprehend at the time, though nonetheless, I still made the wish.
What came next is the substance of a book I am writing and of course, most of you will have to wait in order to know how things work out. What I want you to take from my spinning of this yarn so to speak, is this…
I gave up on hope, by choice, one time and one time only throughout my life. Here is a hint…It wasn’t in jail where I literally had no freedom to do anything but what I was told to do by surly guards. Even then, I still had hope. Even then, I still believed that my life could have meaning, that what I had accomplished and what I had lived throughout my years might still have value. There are no walls outside of us that can contain us, only the walls we build within. I quit on myself and I quit upon life because that is the only choice I thought was available to me at the time, given the situation I was in. I gave in to the madness that had been threatening to overtake me and washed myself in the blood of the generations of my family and friends who had gone before me, refusing to accept their lessons.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. Victor Frankl
Hope is a funny thing, however. Hope only blossoms…after it has been planted. Hope, among all the myriad of other things, is a seed...a seed that must be buried in order to grow. Hope, in many respects, is a Phoenix; a crashing violent explosion of life after death. In order to gain its power, hope must embed within the powerless and it is in the admission of said powerlessness, that the seed can begin its life cycle anew, regardless and sometimes in spite of, all that we try to do to quell it.
…for when my vision watered over, when the crying was at its worst and the tree was brightly blurring, I saw the skein of my life; the heart and soul of who I was as an individual, a bright dancing thing vibrant and alive. I dreamt of a smile worth smiling and a life worth writing about. I wanted so badly to look into a mirror and not see the man I had become. Mirrors at that time, were anathema to me. I wished for my daughters to be successful, maybe even University where they could thrive, safely grown past their teen years. I dreamt of a park and a tree to sit under, watching my boy play at football, running free and fast. I dreamt of children all around me thriving and growing, maybe even teaching them a few things about what I had learned. I also dreamt of ministerial counseling, even sponsorship while sitting in an office, surrounded by books and such…writing my own book even. I dreamt of a day when I might be free of my burden, my darkness in addiction, a day when I might fly.
I dreamt of these things for quite a long time before I went to bed that night, taking from that vision of blurry fireflies as they created a new generation of light, a certain amount of joy, albeit distant; as I had no real hope of seeing my children again…I took from those visions a special kind of satisfaction in what could have been…
…if only things would have been different.
After the tide of grief subsided, I drank the last of the whiskey, went upstairs and made a promise to myself and to God that I would never sit out there and look at that tree again.
I haven’t looked at that tree in my mind’s eye for a very long time. What came after was too painful, too powerful and much too pure in the jagged edges and crystalline tower of endless glass bottles and broken dreams to even remember such a small gift as the mating season of fireflies, of light begetting light, not until recently of course, when I received an invitation to oversee my first wedding. When the question was asked of me, I thought to myself for a very long while as to why my answer was such an emphatic yes!
Why was I so eager to do something I had never done before or even dreamed about?!...
Yet I had.
Light begets light.
Hope begets hope.
Life is a fragile thing in many respects, and peculiar…but resting deep within and beneath all of the pain and heartache, within all of the endless nights of loneliness and self-imposed oblivion there is a seed, a seed of light. It’s called life. What has been seen cannot be unseen no matter how hard we try to keep it from our waking minds and in fact, more than likely it is in spite of the lengths we will go to, to avoid our full potential… that our full potential tends to blossom regardless.
There are no real reasons why some die and some live. It is not within our power to know the unknowable. There are no guarantees for us, the children of the Sun. All we have is the power to choose, to choose a path other than the one that is destroying us. Light begets light, no matter how hard we try to avoid, deny or even quell it. The mating season of fireflies, the season of our creative hope, is just a glimmer within us and small, weak even. Especially in its dream state.
I want you to consider this… I posted that dream on Social Media quite some time ago, just after witnessing the dance of those fireflies. I now have children at Regis and the University of Colorado, respectively. My son plays football quite regularly with the Denver Bronco Youth League. I am counseling. I am sponsoring. I am ministering a small fellowship and I…
I have hope, again.
I am filled to the brim with hope about my future and the lives of those I care about and those that do in fact, care about me. I work with children in some way/shape/form on a daily basis, my own and those born of others.
And of course, the writing…Oh, the writing. These hands could not have asked for a better therapy, nor could have my heart. Instead of choosing to think on the darkness and the blood, instead of choosing to ruminate on the death and emotional decay…of blaring sirens and broken glass, instead of choosing to experience again the anger, shame and despair; instead of suffering through the insufferable by indulging in sad memory of sad times, I spend my days sharing the light given to me during that fantastic season, as brief as it was, of the joining of Light to light, during an endlessly tragic and dark night that a great Cedar tree captured the stars for me in order to preserve my tears and plant them deep within itself so that one day, I might see what it means to witness such a thing as the mating season of fireflies, after my tears have grown into serenity.
Hope my friends, is a choice.
Hope my Love, is alive.