The Lonely Winter

Last night I took a drive home. A long, isolated drive through a desolate winter world.
Upon embarking for the drive home I kissed my sister on the cheek and gave her family one last hearty goodbye, turning to make my way down their driveway to my car. It was late evening, and the first flurries of a nasty winter storm were just starting to fall. I had no desire to be caught up in it too far from home.
I turned the key in the ignition and the old beauty coughed herself awake with the vigor of an aged, faithful dog greeting it’s owner at the door after a day of absence.
I eased the car back down the driveway, mounds of shoveled snow towering over my car on either side. The winter had been harsh – record low temperatures and record high snowfalls. With another foot forecast tonight dallying on the drive would be ill-advised. Already the tree line along the road was obscured with white swirls. Snow snakes slithered and swam along the grey road ahead of me.  The riverside parkway drive was almost devoid of other drivers. It was a holiday, there wouldn’t be too many people out on the road with the Nor’easter bearing down over the city.
I drove carefully, watching the deserted streets while taking chance peeks at the void of whiteness to my left stretching out over the river. The sun swam hazily somewhere above the fog of blowing snow casting a warm, lazy glow across what I could make out of the frozen waters. There was something hypnotic about the emptiness of it. The abstract sight of that white nothingness pulled on me – I couldn’t keep my eyes away from it. The snow fell harder now – thin, fast flakes in a furious flurry chaotically darting through my high beams. My distraction was becoming dangerous.
I spied a small driveway off the road and pulled over into it. A river lookout nestled between skeletal trees. As the snow fell stronger I sat for a while and admired the stark vista.
As I watched their was a brief moment where the snow suddenly lifted, and I was struck with awe at the colours sent out through the flurries. The setting sun hung idly above the horizon, an indistinct glowing orb sending out fans of fiery flavor across the vacant waste. The clouds above mirrored the windswept snow dunes across the frozen lake – sharp, jagged angles, illuminated contours whistling of a cold harshness.
The storm closed in again and barred down on me. I knew I should leave, avoid the potential of getting stuck there or sliding into a ditch, but something kept me rooted to the sight of those frozen crags out over the river. I sat and contemplated the construct of winter around me. The dead trees reaching desperately towards an apathetic sun. The bone-like structure of the landscape – the absolutely lonely desolation of it, entranced me. I felt like something was waiting beneath it all, like the whole story wasn’t showing.
I reveled in confined comfort within that car for a long time, watching as the storm abated and night time fell, feeling a part of something larger I didn’t understand.
When I finally put the car in gear and slowly eased back onto the snow coated road darkness had taken over and I had to drive slow and careful to make it back to the city. After an hour the city buildings loomed ahead and I felt at peace with myself and the world.

There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you. In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself. Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition.
~ Ruth Stout

Advertisements

There Is No ‘Is’ In God

A friend challenged me to define my belief in God, since he apparently had trouble understanding it during our inebriated back-and-forth slurring at the bar after last call. Here’s my attempt at defining this most controversial of beliefs as objectively as possible.
Additionally I decided to forgo the use of the word ‘is’ for the duration of this writing, as I feel when writing about something such as an unknowable concept like God using definite affirmations seems counter-intuitive. Plus, it may end up being way more fun this way. Certainly more challenging.

I believe in life. In existence. I appear to be perceiving and interacting with the universe, and seeing seems to be believing. I have an idea that everyone else believes in existence too, although I have no way of knowing if anyone else exists consciously other than myself except through word of mouth. Yes, you can tell me you exist, and yes I appear to be able to physically observe your existence, but objectively that cannot be considered anything more than proof of my own ability to observe and interact with the vibrations of reality that intersect my own consciousness and drive my own perception of reality. Therefore I can only trust myself, and not take the word of someone else and what they may believe when considering my own beliefs.

I’m a humanist I suppose, so yes in a sense I do believe in a concept of God. God, from my observations of my own experience of existence, does not appear to be a person or some corporeal entity that exists separately from my own consciousness to watch and govern my actions. I do not believe in a God as creator of the universe or divine father. Rather, God can be observed and appreciated in the way a beautiful woman moves as she dances Flamenco in a flowing red dress, or a radiant golden sunset over a rippling ocean casts diamonds of light across the waves. God could be that first bite of thanksgiving turkey after a day of preparing and fasting for it. God may be kissing and loving your wife or husband, and God can be heard in the first word of your child, and the stars at night and even that bloody nagging itch that wont go away on my calf. God, from my perspective, can be considered to be my conscious perception of these great things and my ability to mentally process and take delight in them. Or sorrow, fear, remorse etc. God is not limited to the positive – any action, any emotion, any experience at all is a derivative of the experience of God itself.

I read once that the word ‘Allah’ originated as an exclamation of sighting God. I find that to be really quite poetic and simple, if it were to be the true meaning. From my understanding one would chant “Allah Allah!” upon observing great things, like an amazing dance or a fantastic feast or a beautiful natural sight. “Allah! A glimpse of God!”
Sadly I have found nothing to back this up, so it seems unlikely to be true. Be that as it may I still like to think of it as such.

It may seem like I am saying I believe that I myself am God, especially since the only intention I can observe to exist in the universe is my own, but I do not mean that only my experience can be God. Yes, I am God, but you are God, too. God can be considered as life itself and the act of existence and observance of existence. We are all God. I’d like to say that God is the human experience, but that would be unfair to dogs and elephants and dolphins and spiders and, well, possibly even trees I suppose. They are God as well. Facets of God, at very least. God as in the conscious observation of reality (defining reality can wait for another day). Since animals do consciously observe and interact with the world it would be unfair to say they are not included. An argument can be made to say that self-awareness should be necessary for the definition but I believe we simply do not know enough about the animal experience to omit them.

So yeah, I guess you could say I do believe in God. Probably not the same way anyone else does though. And that’s the cool thing – our relationships with life are deeply individual (unless you join a religion I suppose, but I have too little experience with religion to comment fairly). Some people put a face to life and call it their God. Others just love life.

In short I’m just using the word God to explain my feelings on the state of active participation with life. Perhaps that can be considered stealing the word and redefining it. That may be so, but that is still my belief on the concept of God, if I must have one.
Ultimately I consider myself a scientist. That is my current profession if not my vocation. But one important facet of science can be defined as the search for the human soul, and that can ultimately be considered the search for God itself from a certain perspective.
It often amuses me that science and faith appear to be so at odds with each other when at the end of the day they appear to be a search for the exact same thing. I find it interesting how much a simple difference in definition, a re-imagining of the words, can divide people so strongly.

Phew. That was more challenging than I expected! Did I slip up? Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments, I love hearing other opinions and perspectives on topics such as these. :)

You Can’t Write Horror on a Beautiful Day

Scene Manifestation.  Start. Horror. Still, cold night. Iced roads. Iced breath. Boots smashing through frozen puddles like hammers on glass.

It’s too nice to write here. It’s too sunny. The sunlight is pouring into the apartment from the cloudless sky outside, filling everything with that easy warmth love stories are made of. A bright blue aura over a labyrinth of clean cut high rises that makes you want to jump into lakes and eat gelato. That’s not inspiring. The only thing this weather makes me feel is lazy and unproductive. Disconnected from that world and disconnected from the world inside my head. How am I supposed to manifest this story with that sunny, angry love confining me to a place of frustrated happiness? How dare it be a beautiful day outside!

Perhaps I should wait until dusk to describe the scene properly. The stage I need for our opening act is cold, dark, and silent. It’s lit by moonlight and the distant glow of gas stations far beyond the malicious woods.  It’s so still each footstep seems to shatter grass and gravel under his boots, like thinly frozen puddles on one of those flash freeze city nights.
But you don’t need to know this, dear reader. I’m telling you a story, not painstakingly feeding you the every labored thought of a writer without a muse. But the story can only come to life in the darkness. And here I am being devoured by the brightness of the most beautiful day, the exact opposite of the scene I need in order to tell the story.
Okay perhaps we should start the story earlier. On a beautiful day before the tragedy occurs. Set the scene a little bit for you.

How about a prologue with a really good introductory line that gets you hooked from the start. Something that doesn’t make any sense perhaps, or is so riveting you have no choice but to keep reading. That’s what I need, a snare. I need to ensnare you, dear reader, but how?
A cloud hovers over the spot in the sky where the sun sits, mocking me. Suddenly the world is thrust into… into a slightly dimmer version of it’s former gloating glory. That’s not interesting.

Okay. So it’s a beautiful day in the beginning of this story. How drab. There’s water not too far away. A fast moving river, just beyond the circle of trees. It sounds fierce, determined. Just like this day is determined to ruin my opening stage, so the water seems excited to break the otherwise silence of this forest clearing. Okay, so there’s a clearing in the forest with water rushing by somewhere just beyond it. Around the clearing the forest presses in like the bystanders around the taped off scene of some horrific, fatal crime. The crowd wants to know what happened, wants to stick their egos in and feel knowing and important on the subject. They want to know what death looks like. They want to know if it could have been them. People don’t like to admit it but death excites everyone as much as it scares them. That’s why we crane our necks every time we see flashes of emergency lights on a street corner as we drive by, slowing our pace to get a glimpse of something primal, something unknown. To see something truly terrifying for once, something to jolt us from our autopilot stupor and remind us what it really is to be human. Death and sex, all we have left connecting us to a past we don’t understand, but desperately yearn for. A past when being human meant something less robotic, more alive.

So the crowd of nosy trees, big and oppressive, filed in from all sides blotting out the forest beyond but dared not to go any further. For in that clearing of gentle shadows and perfect rays of penetrating sunlight was something as unknown, and terrifying, as death.
In that clearing was love.
The man and the woman, they didn’t talk to each other. They didn’t need to talk to each other. What could possibly be said with the throaty, grunty sound we pass for language that hadn’t already been said with their eyes and their fingers and their lips? With their noses and their ears pricked they sensed every vibration sparking from the body of the other. The smell of their love mingled with the earthy excitement and terror the trees felt upon observation of this sweaty writhing mass in the middle of their forest. The water became angered that the intruders were not perplexed by its great and powerful intrusion of the silence and roared again with renewed intensity, desperate to reclaim their attention but knowing it would fail.
And the intensity of their love roared stronger in response. Flesh mingled with grass and dirt, mingled with flesh again and for that moment, a moment immeasurable, neither the trees nor the lovers nor their grassy bed or even the river could tell where any one of them ended and the next began.
The man and the woman became still, quiet, lying in the bosom of the forest sucking at the sweet nectar of the evening air. The river returned to focus on its own flow, ever moving on to search out new curiosities. The trees, content that there was nothing more to see here and the frightening show was over, turned their attentions back to farming the sunlight and conversing with the birds.
That had been the first time they had made love.

And by night time, once the warm glow of light basking this dear writer in unproductive rivulets of fuzzy emotions mercifully begins to fade and shadows begin to dance between the city blocks; once darkness descends across the land and the writer is in the perfect sadistic mood he so craves – murder will come to the forest clearing.

Or not. Suddenly I’m rather attached to these two characters. Oh bother, beautiful day, you’ve gone and spoiled my scene.

My Suicide Blonde

The three hits the cushion just to the left of the pocket and bounces right in, as planned. I straighten up with a smirk and walk around the table to where the white ball came to a rest beside the old cigarette burn in the cloth. I know Myles is silently impressed. I avoid looking at him.
Friday night, midnight, and the Dominion Tavern is bursting at the seams with the usual suspects. Punks with multicolored mohawks clad in studded leather jackets with missing sleeves. Hipsters in plaid sporting awkward facial hair designs or buddy holly rims. The whatever misfits – my crowd, standing around the pool tables or parked on bar stools with the usual stream of conversation over clinked beer glasses and jagermeister shots.
Feels like home.

I spy my shot. The seven sits in the middle of the table with a clear path down to the corner pocket. I’ll have to cut the white pretty tight past the eight, no problem. I bend over the green cloth surface, balance the cue on the knuckles of my left hand, focus on the seven and where it’s going to go. The rhythm of conversation dulls away as I steady myself, visualize the sink and stretch the cue.
Myles looms over my back, a hulking 6’4 heavyset Asian man in a long leather jacket and bright red hair. I can feel him there, feel him grinning. It’s pissing me off.
“You’re gonna miss that shot.”
I tell him politely to forcibly inject his cue somewhere inappropriate and my right arm strikes forward, perfectly connecting center-south on the white ball. There’s a clink that’s barely audible over the drone of bar chatter as the white cuts into the seven, sending it careening perfectly between three balls to the corner pocket. The seven bounces against the cushion, twice, rolls out and hits the thirteen, coming to a rest ten inches from the pocket. I straighten up and turn around. Myles smirks like a jackass, like some malevolent techno Buddha, and brings his own cue down to the table.

Echos of laughter and loud, slurred talk close back in around me. It’s a good night, although it feels just like a thousand bar nights previous. Myles sends the thirteen barreling into the pocket I’d just missed. That’s alright, he’ll miss the next shot.
I lock eyes with Hugh, my best friend, over at the bar. He gives me a stupid wide-eyed grin as if to say “Hey! This shits alright!” and goes back to talking to Shannon, his long term problem girlfriend. Surprisingly they don’t seem to be arguing about some stupid bullshit, which is great. She gives him a kiss veiled with a curtain of golden hair and I smile. My adorable dork friends.

Then Nicole walks in.
I feel her in my stomach before I see her with my eyes.
I tell myself I wasn’t waiting for her, like every other night. It’s a lie.
Resisting the urge to walk over and greet her I watch as she sweeps through the the tables by the entrance, throwing boisterous smiles and excited hellos to everyone around her. Party McKay, the big punk bouncer on door tonight, sweeps her into a sweaty bear hug. Her white blond hair sways rambunctiously around her shoulders and she screams excitedly and folds up into Party’s huge chest. Like every night. She does the rounds, saying hey to the punks and the misfits.
Myles  shoots on the table, effortlessly sinking something. I turn around, intending to lose myself in the game again, to shit-talk Myles into scratching on the eight. I know Nicole has seen me, she’ll make her way over when she’s ready.

“Oiy, Curt.” I look down. Tiny Kimi, her cute little face pointed up at me in a huff haloed with blue punker hair. She’s holding my beer, Labatt 50. I forgot I’d ordered it. I thank her and give her a 10, ask her to come back with two shots of Jameson whiskey. She agrees, and I see her look over at Nicole, then back of me with a knowing twinkle in her eye before taking a couple more orders.
Clink – Myles sinks another ball. He’s going to clean the table, the bastard.
“Curty! Hey!”
I smell her before I see her. That familiar smell of hair oils and makeup, of late nights and cheap beer. Stale cigarettes and lipstick. Leather and broken hearts.
I hate it when she calls me Curty.
Or maybe I love it.

I flash her my best cocky smile, like she just walked in and caught me by surprise, like it’s cool to see her but I’m not really affected by her presence. Like the whole reason I’m here, again, isn’t just to see her.
“How’s it going?” I ask her, with my cocky smile still plastered awkwardly to my face. She’s good. Of course she is. She’s always good. She tells me about her day. I settle in to listening, watching her enthusiastic face while she rants on about trivialities of her serving job and people I don’t particularly care for. It’s addictive, just watching her. Watching the muscles behind her snow white skin animate her features, watching her sparkling blue eyes express every word her blood red lips send my way. I touch the white hair on her shoulders, roll it in between my fingers gently while she talks. She loves it when I touch her hair.
My suicide blonde.
I tune out the words, hear Myles sink another ball on the table and laugh. It was the eight. That’s alright, I wasn’t really into the game anyway.

I spy Kimi heading our way, her tight tank drawing male attention all around the room as usual.
“Got you a present” I say to Nicole. She laughs. We take the shots from Kimi. Down the hatch. For a moment there’s just the burn. Then Nicole is tugging me towards a table in the back, a table liberally littered with our friends. Her arm entwines with my own.

For a moment there, like always, like every moment she’s touching me, my heart burns. Her boyfriend will be here soon. I’m just a stepping stone on the way to her real fun. An old friend whose attentions she can feed on, her narcissistic appetite nourished. Most of the time that’s alright. We’ve tried being more, with disastrous results. I tell myself we still are more. More than we’ve ever been. I tell myself we have a deeper connection than what she has with these people she finds, and fucks, and destroys and moves on from every few week. I tell myself ours is a genuine, lasting love. Not just a one-sided affection. That it means something.
I tell myself to shut the fuck up.

She leaves me at our table in the back, off to the bar to kiss the bartenders on both cheeks. I nod to the crowd of familiar faces, take a seat, and light up a cigarette. Belmont, king size. The smoke drifts lazily above the table. Beside me Bea launches into conversation, some in joke at the table I was too late to be privy to. Laughter. Shannon across the table takes a break from an argument with Hugh, to say hi and take a drink. She fliraciously flashes those big eyes my way.  Bea’s husband is absent again, I see. Hugh clinks my glass with his own and I take a sip. Myles works his way through the crowd, his head bobbing to some electronic beat only he can hear. Nicole is back, taking a seat beside me. I’m surprised. She rests her silk hair on my shoulder and breathes in the crowd. It refreshes her, enlivens her. Without the bar, the constant socializing, she practically feels physical pain.
I just feel it when she’s not around.

Our bar. Ten years of memories flash by in a second. I light another cigarette, take another sip of beer, and resign myself to falling comfortably into another round of goofy, empty conversation none of us will ever remember. It feels good.

It feels great.
I’m drunk and I don’t remember that happening.
It’s almost last call. Nicole is spreading the word, bringing the bar back to her place just like every night for the obligatory after party. Twenty-plus drunks crowded into a tiny, smoke infested apartment above the bars for another couple hours of drinking and smoking and cocaine and singing and dancing and… and I know I should just go home. I know it every night. I’ll remember none of it, I’ll feel like deaths door for hours in the morning, and I know my wallet will scream my name in hatred, once again.
But of course, that’s folly. How could I not go, and miss out on all the fun?
Miss out on just another couple hours with my suicide blonde?
We file out the doors of the bar, saying our good nights, grabbing our skateboards and jackets and girlfriends and whatever else we think to grab before we leave, and it’s on to really get the night started. I follow Nicole out the doors and onto the crowded drunk-strewn streets.

Aurora

Just concept.
An ocean.
An ocean of light, shimmering, dancing. A woman, her face turned upwards, mesmerized by the ocean of light. She stands on the earthen beach below, her hair blowing gently in the midnight breeze. The ocean is in the sky, the light shimmers and shifts, and the woman stares up at it, her eyes shimmering and shifting along with the aurora borealis. She is in a field, a wide and wild field. There is tall green grass all around her, and distant mountains cupping her peripherals. She feels a million things, but is lonely. And that’s okay, the world will keep her company. She feels very small in that moment, very insignificant within the vastness of the breathing world around her. It’s moments like this she realizes the world really does acknowledge her existence on it’s surface, however. The shimmering ocean of dazzling colour above her is proof of that. Something so beautiful could only exist to be deeply appreciated by a perspective that can fathom the concept of it’s existence. And so she stands, the grass gently grazing the tips of her fingers, the chill night air kissing the skin on her face, the hem of her skirt billowing with life, her boots wet with condensation collected from the grass. She stands, head tipped up towards the endless sky and she watches the ocean of light dance.