The Pearl Diver

The world began and the little boy sat on the shore looking out across the ocean. The old man approached the boy, stopping near the fence between them, and motioned to him. When the boy approached, the old man spoke to him: “A stranger has come who will be staying for awhile. He dreams of diving for pearls here.” The little boy nodded and wondered what this meant.

The next day as the boy was day-dreaming, a stranger came from the forest path and walked thru the gate in the old man’s fence. He carried a small black case and didn’t seem to see the boy. The boy watched as he surveyed the rocky shoreline, stepping on the boulders, looking out across the waves. He settled on the largest one jutting far out into the sea, placed the black case at his feet, and removed his shoes. After securing the small case to his belt, he paused, then crouching, threw his arms back and sprang out from his perch, diving in a long graceful arc into the deep blue water. After an impossibly long submergence, he re-surfaced, climbed back onto his boulder, placed his case on the ground, then stretched out, resting in the sun.

This became the stranger’s routine. The little boy noticed that other than his black case, the pearl diver always emerged from the surf empty-handed. He wondered when the stranger’s precious pearls would be laid out in the sun to an admiring world. Day after day the stranger did this, as days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years, years became decades.

One day, the boy saw the old man and called him over. “What does he do beneath the surface, and what is in his small case?” The old man replied, “Well, my boy, there is something very special in his case. In it are sand grains from another world. He plants them in the oysters hoping to grow and present us beautiful, mysterious pearls.” “So where are his wondrous pearls?” the boy asked. “Son, the reason why is unknowable, but the oysters reject the sand grains from another world. That is why he emerges empty-handed.” Disappointed, the little boy now understood.

On the day the end of time arrived, the little boy and the old man stood together and watched as the stranger rose and walked past them empty-handed, other than his small black case. “Is he sad?” the little boy asked. “No. He has enjoyed his time diving in the ocean” the old man explained. The little boy admired the stranger for being brave and stoic. The old man watched as the stranger departed and wondered if that was a tear he saw in his eye. The stranger continued down the path, disappeared into the forest, and the world ended.

Share:

Climate of Change

In human history, globally disruptive transformations have occurred after sets of events converged and social, political, or environmental pressures led to annihilation of the status quo. We are in such a cycle now. Step back, look from a distance, and it is apparent that the shape of current events perfectly fits the profile of an approaching apocalyptic realignment. A Boomer, I watched the Cold War end in my twenties. It’s easy for me to see the stretch since then as a history book chapter where an era began with optimism and idealism, followed by unforeseen, conflicted, seemingly random world events that proved unresolvable, leading to a disintegration that changed everything for everyone. These pressures exist around us now and are building. We all know what they are. We face evidence of them every day. It is unknowable how this will come to a head. Some of us will be swept away. Some will adapt and endure. Some will prosper. There is no survival preparation for this, other than eyes wide open and get right with your neighbor, family and yourself. It’s coming. No-one escapes untouched. Good luck!

Share:

The Next Thing

Riding my stationary bike, eyes closed in my quiet basement, I peer into the Next Thing, which I’m closing in on. I think my spirit won’t just dissipate, it will carry on in some form to the benefit of the species, to life itself. I’ll rejoin the ocean of souls from where I once emerged. I believe I will reconnect with loved ones and other people from my life. Maybe in this thing we can re-configure and see each other again from our old eyes, but shared. This omnipresent entity we are absorbed by will free us of the barriers of individual creatures driven by self-preservation in the physical world. From it we will re-constitute and precipitate again as new, original beings. Our souls spring from a joined source of retained memory, perhaps. Life advances, new and improved.

Share:

Invisibility

It has taken some time, but I’m finally becoming invisible.

Recently, I came across a video of my family from when I was about 5. Some time ago my parents had old film footage converted to video cassettes and gave copies to us. One part showed my family entering a relative’s house on a holiday. My 4 older siblings entered first looking excited to see our cousins, followed by me and my folks. I looked very uncomfortable and intimidated. I remember being very self-conscious entering places like restaurants, stores or church when I was young. The size of my family drew attention to us, which made me nervous. Even as a teenager, I remember dreading the 30 seconds or so that it took from the point of entering a restaurant to being seated. I also had an aversion to being seen smiling. Very young, I remember being praised by my mom and a photographer for finally smiling after he snapped a picture of me in a cowboy outfit.

As an adult, I came to understand this part of my nature better, developing coping methods and discovering options to deal with my social anxiety. Alcohol helped in some social situations. I learned that beta-blockers masked the fight or flight response that over-loaded me when I performed or spoke to a group. With anti-anxiety meds I could feel at ease around people, allowing me to reveal more about myself. I learned to trust the positive way people responded to me more than my feeling that people didn’t receive me well. All these things helped me manage socially, but didn’t change the essence of who I was.

These days, I’m understanding the ways social anxiety has influenced the course of my life. It is a fundamental element of who I am. I realize now that it’s not being looked at that gives me discomfort, it’s being thought about that causes it. This tension produces an aura around me. It is a tangible gravity that pulls on me and pushes out from me. With just minimal engagement, people will instinctively tend to give me space, regarding me as private rather than aloof. They are cool with me leaving only the faintest trail on their radar. But this also means my creative efforts are offered from a distance to an audience focused on many other things. My creations sail off into the void and are devoured by the vacuum. No sound or light reflects back. No echoes or murmurs in response. No acknowledgement or acclaim.

I am getting what I wished. I have almost achieved invisibility.

Share:

Kickender Drive

Considering a ‘Kickender’ Kickstarter drive:

$50k goal. Represents one year of post-employability income.

If you send me money, I will keep updating this document after I am no longer employable, and will not have to exit gracefully before becoming incapacitated and a burden to my family.

Estimated date of completion: December, 2036. This is based on current life-expectancy (77) of an American male.

Rewards: Upon my death, contributors will receive a zip file with all my music, a PDF with commentary and visuals from this site, a copy of my death certificate, and a post-humous thank you note from me.

Share:

Trump is Not the Problem

Trump is not the problem. He is a symptom of the problem. The problem is what has become of the GOP. Our country has a 2 party system. It is not good for our country when one of those parties has lost it’s mind. This all started with Lee Atwater and his Willie Horton ads during the 1988 election. The right never accepted Clinton’s win in 1992. People like Rush Limbaugh discovered they could rake in millions stoking right-wing resentment, and the right-wing talk radio industry was established. Newt Gingrich’s ‘Contract With America’ dominated headlines in the early 90’s and made him a household name. Rupert Murdoch created Fox News, which has become the media platform of the Republican party. These people, and others, have created financial empires dividing the US. THEY are the cancer that has overtaken the Republican party and threatens our country.

Share:

Bringing Home Maya

Maya

Our efforts to find our next pet began Sunday, August 27, 2017,  when we drove to the Chicago Animal Care and Control shelter down Western Ave. on the southwest side. There was one dog that looked nice and seemed to have a pleasant personality, but a couple of ladies had expressed interest in her, and wound up adopting her. We went to another shelter in the Loop, and a third in Lincoln Park, but we weren’t seeing a dog that we felt was the right one. It was suggested to us that we monitor the CACC website for new dogs being introduced for adoption.

Tuesday evening, my wife brought to my attention one beautiful female puppy shown on the website. She was a 6-7 month old pug/labrador mix named Elizabeth. She was tan and black with warm, trusting eyes. We knew immediately that if she was as sweet as she appeared, this was our dog. The next day I worked through lunch, left my office early, and drove an hour and a half to the CACC shelter on the southwest side. If the dog was still available for adoption when I got there, my wife and Julia would join me to meet her. I walked through the kennel looking for her, but she wasn’t there. I asked about her and was told she was still being evaluated in the medical unit. It was explained to me that we had seen her on the pre-adoption part of the website, and that we should be monitoring a different part of the website for when she would become available for adoption. I was told it probably wouldn’t be until the following week.

The next day at work I checked the website from time to time, and saw that she was still pre-adoption. Just before I left for the day, I took one last look, and saw that her status had changed and she was now available for adoption. I called my wife and Julia to let them know, then got in my car and made the trip again to CACC. I got there around 5:45, with 15 minutes to meet the dog, make a decision, and begin the application. But again, I didn’t see her in the kennel area. When I asked about her, I was told she was mistakenly listed on the website as available, and would remain in the medical unit overnight, as she had just been neutered. I asked the volunteer if there was any way they could reserve her for me until I got off work tomorrow and returned around 5. At first the volunteer said she could not, but when I explained that I’d done everything I was instructed to do, she got her supervisor, who was the person who helped me the prior day. The supervisor agreed to put a hold on her adoption availability status until I got there the following day.

The next day, Friday, I left work early and made the trip to the shelter for the 4th time in a week. Julia and Eli took a bus down Western and met me there. They arrived just before the shelter volunteer brought out Elizabeth. We all went into the yard with Elizabeth, then into a fenced-in enclosure where they took her off her leash, and let us interact with her. We immediately saw that she was a calm, affectionate, happy puppy. She wagged her tail and licked our faces, with her beautiful floppy ears pulled back, and an eager, questioning expression on her face. As we Facetimed Natalia, my wife arrived and joined us in the enclosure. There was never any uncertainty about her for any of us. We drove home with her sitting between Julia and Eli in the backseat. Upon arrival, we brought her into her new backyard to begin her explorations. Earlier, the family agreed on a new name. Elizabeth was now Maya.

Maya is our pug/lab mix. She has all the pug markings, but the lab in her pushed her smooshed-in snout back to normal and un-curled her tail. Today is Sunday. Maya is settling into her new routine of walks, naps, playtime with her chew-toys, backyard explorations, and pondering the elusive cat-thing. Only Kitty has yet to be won over. Just a matter of time.

Share:

On my Mom’s Death

Ann Elaine Schuurman
January 2, 1928 – July 26, 2017

The buzzy, arcing live-wire of worry bounced around somewhere in her consciousness since my mid-teens when I began my rebellion. By the time of her death, it didn’t keep her up at night anymore. I think that somewhere deep in her fog of dementia she still recognized me because her expression changed pleasantly when she realized I was present, even though she couldn’t communicate verbally. She didn’t understand forty years ago when I left home, seeking a creative existence, disregarding good advice, stumbling frequently, falling very much short. She didn’t understand two years ago when my darkness ended and I landed on my feet. I have the same intuition now as I did when my dad died: Now she understands why I am this way. My black sheepishness is un-necessary.

My mom, Ann Elaine Schuurman, passed away peacefully in her sleep July 26, 2017. These were the events of her final days:

Sunday 7-23-17

My wife wakes me up saying something is going on with my mom. I call Patty. She says she’d been contacted by the nurse and informed of a change. Mom’s oxygen was low, and she was not responding to a supplemental feed. She had not been eating or drinking for two days. The hospice caregivers were now acting in accordance with my mothers’ living will instructions.  They didn’t expect her to wake up again. It would only be a matter of days. Me and Julia arrived late afternoon. We sat with her for some then left. Her breathing was shallow.

Monday 7-24-17

Patty had spent the night with mom. She told me there were no dramatic changes. She told me mom’s blood pressure was low. They were administering morphine to keep her comfortable, but that was all.

Tuesday 7-25-17

I took over from Patty from 9:30 AM until noon. At 7:30 PM I returned and settled into mom’s room for the night. She continued to sleep comfortably. I fell asleep before 11. I dreamt that my parents were meeting us at a hotel somewhere, but we couldn’t find them. The nurses and attendants came in throughout the night.

Wednesday 7-26-17

At 5 AM the nurse gave my mom a morphine dose. Around 7, a nurse came in to take her vital readings. Her temperature was up to 102.4. There was a purple area on her thigh that she brought to my attention. I asked her if she was able to compare these readings to the last ones taken. She said she would get them into the system, and we would be informed. I updated Patty on the phone, then left for work. I called Patty from work and we discussed this around 8:30. At the hospital, she spoke with the caregivers, but there were no clear medical events yet indicating death was imminent. Around 10 AM Patty called me and told me our mom was gone.

 Saturday 7-29-2017

We met at Patty’s house around 8:30 AM. The families were all present. We drove to the cemetery and parked, lining the narrow lane. The ceremony was brief. We left flowers for her, and she was lowered next to my dad. We drove to the Lutheran church. The service was nice. Family members spoke along with people she had mentored, worked with, and befriended. People spoke of her serving the poor alongside my dad in the 80’s in Washington DC. They mentioned how she was a successful business woman. Vince Salerno, my old friend and collaborator, accompanied Helen, the church music director, in a rendition of ‘Nearer, My God, to Thee’ as my mom requested. Afterwards there was a dinner at a restaurant where we were able to mingle and share memories.

I watched my mother fade over the last decade. When her passing finally occurred, there was sadness, but there was more a sense of relief. Years ago, when she was fully present, dementia to her was the worst imaginable exit. Nonetheless, she endured it with dignity and grace. All her children carried her in their hearts as she receded into her twilight. She was tended to most heroically by her faithful and devoted daughter Patricia. My mom is once again with her beloved husband Richard. When I was little, I remember wondering how I’d react when both my parents were gone. They are both gone now. I’m missing them very much.

Share:

Letting Go Misia

Misia
Summer 2000 – June 15, 2017

I’d left work and met the vet at my home at 1. My wife had just said goodbye and left. Misia’s muzzle was moist and smeared with her lipstick. I sat down next to Misia who was laying on her cushion in the living room. I cupped her chin in one hand and stroked her face with the other as the vet gave her the first shot of sedative/pain killer. Misia and I were face to face looking in each other’s eyes. I was overwhelmed with sadness that this was our last moment together. After about twenty seconds, her eyes slowly closed, and she relaxed fully into my hand, peacefully sedated. We waited ten minutes, then the vet asked if I was ready. Unable to process things, I paused to brace, then told him to go ahead. He inserted the iv into her rear left leg, then began the drip. I felt her breathing, one breath, two breaths, three breaths. She stopped after her sixth breath, exhaled, then gave a little shake. The vet took his stethoscope to her side and listened. He leaned back and looked at me. I asked him if she was gone. He nodded, and said he was sorry. He laid her on her side, and Misia exhaled again one last time. I put my head down and lost it. I became aware of this image of me, viewed from above, sitting cross-legged in front of the cushion with my head bowed, crying and shaking. I looked up at her one last time, saw her laying on her side with her beautiful, pink tongue drooping from her mouth. I went to my kitchen, propped myself on the counter, and let the waves of emotion wash over me. I could not bring myself to look at her again. It was as hard as I knew it would be.

Share: