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HUXLEY STONES – The Song

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Wedding Day June 8, 1899 – Margaret Gray and William Miller (my grandparents)

In nighttime fog, as you press yourself through tangled cobwebs and gauzy mist, where do your dreams take you in time and place?

Do you, like me, sometimes “chat” with a departed relative or friend almost as if you’re at a seance?

Might it seem so real that you can feel your grandmother’s hand on your arm… or smell the scent of tobacco on your favourite uncle’s breath? Hear the excited timbre of your childhood friend’s voice?

I have very fond memories of childhood (and adult too) visits to a cemetery at a countryside junction between Wellington Rd 24 and Sideroad 27 in the bucolic rolling hills just outside of Hillsburgh Ontario. Huxley Cemetery.

There, I’d commune with my grandparents and their siblings, my aunts and uncles – some that I had met, and many more that left this little blue planet before I drew my first breath of air.

Nowadays, when I’m not at the actual cemetery “visiting”, I sometimes have nighttime explorations in my dreams and fill my head with the imaginings of these ancestors whose very presence made mine possible.

My life rests upon their lives, even though I never knew them apart from family stories and old worn photographs. They were real flesh and blood people with all of the troubles and joys that I have felt in my own life.

In this week’s lyrics post, I’m taking one of my imaginary journeys into the world of my forebears for a dusky chat with my grandparents, Will and Maggie, buried side-by-side many years back along the grassy slope of Huxley Cemetery.

What sort of conversations do you have with your past?

Huxley Stones

by Larry Green

Intro

Before these stones

before this granite’s tome

before you go no further this day

before your sand returns from bone…

slip through the cracks of Craigh Na Dun…

Verse

“… pull up a chair beside

and chat for just a few, would you?

tell us first, where have you been?

We’re sure there’s been so many changes

Since your last drop by to see us

We’re not mere misty strangers

hazy illusions of a painter’s brush”

Verse

“Could you tell us all we’ve missed

these 80 years or so

the big the small dear share it all

parcel up the news from near and far

Were you your parents’ sheen and shine?

we worried so about your mother

to carry such a worried mind”

Verse

“We catch the roamer’s stories

in glimpses as they pass

what war or peace was seen of late

whose hearts are filled with love and hate

If only we could trade places,

to wander streets and dance vivacious

what might we see out there?”

Verse

“And what of your siblings dear?

So sad we never got to know you all

anywhere ‘cept here

by this chiselled quirky stone standing tall

where kinfolk talk in whispered tones

We see the wrinkles on your brow have grown

reminding how days and nights have flown

your face now weathered like our own”

Verse

“Oh my we yawn and close our eyes

under sun it’s hard to fathom

how we weary now, no chore or two to ply

God knows we toiled long and hard

in our many days gone by

this stone of dates you touch is chill and sterile

but in you our hearts stay warm this while”

CHORUS

Tell me, are you a

caregiver creator lover jester

warrior outlaw explorer sage?

Blow the grass, lie with us forever

look up and see the clouds as we do

your bones and blood a part of us together

Are You Suffering the Slings of PTVD?

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No, not PENILE TRANSMITTED VENEREAL DISEASE

…that’s so 1960’s and ’70’s.

You wouldn’t believe how many times – while working in a hospital lab in Canada’s Arctic region – in the late 1970’s, I isolated a fun bacterial bug scientifically labelled Neisseria gonorrhoeae on my lab culture plates.

You know… The Clap. Venus’s Curse. The Drip.

Nasty bug (although admittedly kinda cute microscopically) for sure, but with proper treatment it went away more readily than will the PTVD I’m discussing today.

Yes, the PTVD I’m talking about here is Post Traumatic Virus Disorder.

In many ways, it’s spread through person-to-person contact too… albeit socially-isolated contact ie. daily news reports and social media websites.

Remember a year ago (or was it a decade?) when we panicked and washed canned goods before setting them onto a pantry shelf? When we rushed to fill our carts with rare exotic gems such as toilet paper, flour and yeast?

It’s really hard these days to see life through anything except “virus” glasses.

Yup, our days are lived out in some form of Post Traumatic Virus Disorder.. maybe forget the “POST” part… it’s still just Traumatic Virus Disorder.

For about 400 days and 400 nights now (sounds slightly biblical, doesn’t it?) we’ve riddled and sieved and parsed everything we do through the virus filter.

Should I go here? should I do this? will my friends judge me for not wearing a mask at the Starbucks drive-thru? am I likely to pick up – or transmit – the virus if I do that?

For many months, trauma and guilt have been built-in to every decision we’ve made, accompanied by… sometimes righteousness, sometimes worry, sometimes rebellion, sometimes disgust.

And much like the recent American election where opposing sides dug-in to their polarized stances on politics and “swamps”, most of us world-wide have similarly dug-in to a position on the relative seriousness of the COVID virus, the efficacy of masks and gloves, the meaning and dividing lines of personal freedoms.

Families, friends, and neighbours split up on either side of the volleyball net.

They lob volleys of logic or loose thought at each other, stealthily trying to score points, rarely taking notice that they’re actually playing on different courts, so that neither side can win regardless of the quality of their “spike shot”.

It’s become an ugly game.

I have definite strong thoughts about this.

You can probably guess where I come down on the matter with my science-based lab background – but I understand there’s not a great deal of hope in persuading others who oppose me of my beliefs, no matter how well thought-out or expressed.

Or honestly, to be swayed in a different direction myself. The trenches are deep.

Virus-wise, I sweat out and contemplate my choices daily, often many times daily. There are personal and moral dilemma bridges to cross.

Sadly, and somewhat distressing, this divide is an ocean, a divide with no boats available to span the distance without large societal change.

To use the American example once more, the virus is a microcosm of heavily-partitioned Democratic vs Republican thought.

These are large issues, politics and viruses… issues larger than my brain capacity.

I wish I had the mental acuity to work out a solution to the monumental challenges that face us in months and years to come.

I know what I’d like to see, but alas, I don’t have the recipe (*can you hear me singing?… And I’ll never have that recipe again, oh noooooo)

Fortunately (for my mental health), I’m confident and optimistic that there are and will be solutions found along the road to overcome the difficulties. But. It will take time.

When humanity has appeared doomed (eg. during previous World Wars), approaches and answers were brought forward that allowed us to progress into a hopeful future… not a perfect future, but a hopeful one.

It’s tough. But both Penile Transmitted Venereal Disease and Post Traumatic Virus Disorder are largely solvable and will allow us to share “intercourse” once again with our fellow citizens…

Let’s remember what Voltaire said,

Perfect is the enemy of good. Done is better than perfect. The best is the enemy of the good.

To Be Childishly Wise And Wisely Foolish

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*head to the bottom of this post for my recording this week of a Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) instrumental piece simply titled STEPHANIE.

The fool doth think he is wise,

but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.

So, am I wise?… or a fool? Oh, what a tangled web…

Good ole Will Shakespeare poured forth his great nuggets of wisdom through the jesters and fools within his plays.

We often absorb serious messages more readily when we don’t know we’re being schooled… it’s a bit like when I’d blend vegetables into what I was cooking so the kids wouldn’t realize they were eating “health” food (shhhh… they’re all in their 30’s and still don’t know).

To write a few words of wisdom – I’ve discovered a thousand times – is no easy feat. To paraphrase E.B. White, the perfect sentence is one from which nothing can be added or removed. Every word plays its part.

You know the power of a mere few words… yes, the classic example of Hemingway’s famous 6-word story of sorrow: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Like just about everything I do in my blogging and songwriting, I’ve once more been on the hunt for inspiration. And while I’ve been called a jester or a fool many times in my days – wise?… well… I’ve not often stood accused.

It’s pretty clear that most of our wisdom is acquired through the experiences of life… the hard knocks, the tumbles, the luck, and joys… still I believe some can be taken in more casually and obliquely through the process of osmosis ie. reading, playing, and enjoying the simple joy of cartoon characters.

Have you noticed how much of the great wisdom of the world today comes, not only from the Shakespeare’s and Hemingway’s, but… in a complexly simple form… from the mouths of children or children’s writers?

To wit, I’ll share a tiny morsel of the “accidental” sagacity that, like seeping slickness, comes our way in cartoon word’ish wizardry.. I give you THE TAO OF THE ‘TOONS

Dr. Seuss rhymed these wads of wise thought:

Today you are YOU, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. YOU are the only YOU. Isn’t that awesome? There’s nobody alive who can be you better than you. So never aim to be just like someone else. It’s a waste of a perfectly good you.

I’m afraid that sometimes you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ’cause you’ll play against you.

Be who you are and say what you feel because the ones who mind don’t matter, and the ones who matter don’t mind.

Linus van Pelt (of Peanuts fame) is the thinker and philosopher. He’s thoughtful and respectful and is often the voice of reason among his Peanuts gang. Linus clings to his security blanket while remaining perpetually hopeful.

Linus blanketed us in great perception:

Brothers and sisters should never be in the same family.

Most psychiatrists agree that sitting in a pumpkin patch is excellent therapy for a troubled mind.

• I dread getting old… I don’t want to have to wear bifocal teeth!

There’s a difference between a philosophy and a bumper sticker.

Life is like a ten speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use.

Calvin (Calvin and Hobbes) is an Obi-Wan of a kid too.

I think night time is dark so you can imagine your fears with less distraction.

Getting an inch of snow is like winning 10 cents in the lottery.

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.

People always make the mistake of thinking art is created for them. But really, art is a private language for sophisticates to congratulate themselves on their superiority to the rest of the world. As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance.

……………………

And finally, let’s leave the jesters and wise folks behind with their nuggets of words, and try out a nugget of music magic from the songwriting artistry of Lindsey Buckingham (written in 1973), interpreted by me “duetting” with myself on my guitar!

When asked where the name of the song Stephanie originated, Buckingham said: “The song Stephanie, well that was really just an instrumental piece that didn’t have a title, and, uh, Stevie said why don’t you name that Stephanie, and I said, OK, and that’s what it was.”

Another Year of the Non-Marathon – 8 Anti-Pandemic Motivating Ideas for YOU…

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It’s spring, at least for us northern hemisphere’ites… and all feels blissfully… normal…

… the birdies are totally randy and twitterpated (way too many PDA’s! even PDF’s!)… houses are selling above asking price within milliseconds of being listed for sale… daffodils and snowdrops and daphne are all in sunny rainbow bloom …

Springtime, and the acacias are blooming”… (The Eagles)

… but of course, not EVERYTHING is normal, not anywhere, at least not on this small blue planet that Elon Musk is trying to escape. Dark ominous shades of COVID clouds persist, for a little while more anyways.

We’re all finding NEW adventures and new ways of doing things we love because many of the old adventures and old ways have been subtracted from our daily arithmetic.

Maybe you’ve made 5,000 sourdough loaves, or crocheted 75 doilies, or binge-watched Bridgerton sex-scenes 6 times, and ZOOM’ed 10,000 work meetings or chatted with family members…

… in my case, I’ve spent my COVID sabbatical year writing and recording probably a dozen new songs, which is WAY above my normal productivity.

Sure there have been changes, and I really do miss helping out at the soup kitchen, but… most of the things I love to do haven’t been profoundly affected by this year of closures and partial re-openings followed by more closures, and then more re-openings followed by… you get the idea.

However, the one thing that I’ve missed the most is external motivation.

I thrive on motivation which is why I’m constantly searching for mentors and leaders and thinkers who inspire me to get off my butt and JUST DO IT!

Once again this year, for the second year “running” (thank you COVID), I’m missing my spring Half Marathon race in Vancouver (first Sunday of May) that typically pushes me hard – physically and mentally hard – in training from January to May each year.

It’s a beautiful spring run – surrounded by 10,000 other crazies like me – with fresh, early morning ocean air, and gorgeous snowy mountain vistas that blunt the mountain of advancing pain in the waning kilometres of the race.

Training preparation is the motivational voice whispering in my head that tells me to run a little farther, a little faster. I’m the dog with his ear listening intently to his master’s voice on the RCA Victrola machine.

Now, if you’re a strong self-motivator and don’t need a looming deadline, I hereby award you a gold star and applaud your discipline and energy; I bow to you humbly.

You’ve already graduated and can leave the classroom now. But, if you’re at all like me and need a reminder and a push… especially in viral times like these…

… well, let’s work together and push ourselves forward until this pandemic is in our rear-view mirrors!

In the “tips and pushes” I’m listing below, I’ve largely focussed on physical exercise for my examples… but they can just as easily apply to gardening or reading, piano or sewing, or a hundred other pursuits that get your heart rate or enthusiasm gene excited…

*8 Ways to Inspire and Motivate Your Way Through A Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Pandemic*

  1. My biggest personal item… JUST start. Don’t wait and wonder when the motivation or inspirational moment will arrive. For me, the stimulus occurs when I decide to make it occur. It ain’t magic, it’s simple (but ironically difficult) perspiration and dedication.
  2. EAT the elephant one bite at a time. Sure, a terrible cliche, you say? So true. It’s super easy to be dissuaded from starting a big project because it’s … well… BIG! Broken down into a bunch of tiny steps, it’s amazing how the big can be tamed by focussing in on the small stuff and taking one teensy step after another. When I run a half-marathon, I don’t cross the start line with the entire 21.1 kilometres coursing through my head… instead I focus on one kilometre at a time… first kilometre goal in 5 minutes and 15 seconds. Kilometre 2, can I closely match the first kilometre time? When I reach the final 5 or 6 kilometres, my mind tells me to try and only slow by no more than 5 seconds per each kilometre. Yup, one bite or kilometre at a time.
  3. FIND your focus – it’s easy (so so easy) to be distracted by a dozen or more things on your TO-DO list. It takes a lot of discipline to narrow your focus and decide on the most important stuff to tackle. This is why I usually do my run training early in the day, so I’ve accomplished this and can let my TO-DO monster go wild for the remainder of the day.
  4. TALK up your ideas and desires – by sharing your goals and plans with others you build in a voluntary “peer pressure” system for yourself. Many of us like to show our relatives and friends that when we say we’ll do something, we follow through and do it. YOU have sticktoitiveness… YES!
  5. MUSIC – this works even when I’m looking to motivate myself to write… music! Listening to music we love has a magical power to excite, energize, and motivate us when we need a lift. Today, 30 years after I first heard it, John Parr’s song MAN IN MOTION (also the theme song for Rick Hansen’s wheelchair-around-the-world-tour to raise money for spinal injury research) still pushes me to go much harder than I would otherwise, when running a track interval training session. Music is a genie in a bottle that needs a release… if you only let it…
  6. FIND your competitive spirit – no, not in the way we normally think of competitiveness. The approach that I’m looking for here is the internal drive to go beyond what we have done before. Maybe a friendly competition with yourself to, for example, finish a boring or routine task. Repeating a single line of a guitar lick in practice literally 100 or more times isn’t always fun, but eventually carries me to where I want to be. The routine things are often what we have to surmount to get to the greatness of our overall goal. Call it a necessary evil.
  7. AVOID the ruts… yes, ruts can and will kill motivation. And ruts, like SH*T… happen. Change and variety can bring you a freshness and new approach to your task, so mix things up. Try varying what you do instead of just going through the motions. As an example, when preparing for a half marathon, I mix up my types of exercise so it’s not only running. I bike or swim, or play some soccer for the mental break away from only running. Try listening to music and podcasts that you usually don’t listen to. A refreshed mind is a good way to keep the enthusiasm up. Rah rah!!

  8. REWARDS – this is the super fun part. If you’re really looking forward to a nice reward after you’re done with a task or a project, then your motivation tends to go up. Tea or latte break. Exercise break. CBD or THC oil break. Cookie or ice cream break. Martini or Margarita break. One minute “self-appreciation” break. OK, a Bridgerton sex-scene break! During the half marathon run, I readily admit that I begin to hallucinate and fantasize about the food table set up after the FINISH banner… cookies, muffins, donuts, bananas, juices. Dangle those carrots *ahem, more like chocolate Larry* in front of your nose and celebrate to keep your motivation up.

Congratulations… we’re fired up and ready to get going. Let’s not let this golden moment pass us by while we await our “old” world – somewhere over the rainbow – to return…