In Motion: Bellingham, Poetry, San Juan Islands, Ted Talks


Monday, November 29, 2010

Spirit Walk

The other day I saw something that blew my mind away. An eighty year old man was walking across James Street to get to his car without looking to the left. Left was the direction I was traveling towards this man at 40 mph. His body was slanted and traveling steadily towards an older model Toyota parked on the opposite side of the road. He seemed determined to get there, crossing this busy street of four lane traffic but without looking at what was coming towards him from the north. I slowed down trying to anticipate his move- was he walking towards a car parked on the left side of the road, or what? YES- this skinny little man moved steadfast towards his car despite the traffic volume.

Really this was an act of suicide from my perspective. To just walk out into traffic without looking, huffing it full speed and determined that you would survive to reach your car- amazing! And that’s what he did thanks to my quick reactions. Strangely enough this act of determination reminded me of our neighbor’s dog Blackie.

Blackie was a cute little terrier that seemed to wag its whole back side when he came up to great you. I knew this dog. It was a part of my childhood for a good decade then one day it was gone. When I asked our neighbor about it he said that the dog had walked in front of a car and committed “doggie suicide.” He continued to tell me that they found it in the street dead. Apparently dogs will do this and that it's common –when they feel the end of their life is near they will simply go out on a walk and let fate take its toll.

Well, this eleven year old had never heard of that and somehow the story stuck in my mind like a permanent marker flagging it for future review… fast forward to 2010 and this man crossing the road… What’s up with this guy just leaping out into traffic reminding me of a little Scottish Terrier?! I don’t think he really just needed to get to his car, I think he was testing fate; this guy was on a spirit walk.

Carolos Castenada, a Spirit Walking expert says, "A path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others in leaving it if that is what your heart tells you to do. Look at each path closely. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself one question. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good, if it does not it is of no use."

What does that mean? It means that a man determined to walk across four lanes to his car, will do so regardless of the risk, AND he will do it again!

This is beautiful. I slowed down and let him pass watching in awe as the cars coming from the south slammed on their brakes to avoid the collision. Would I ever be so old or desperate that I would try such an act of bravery? It’s not the age it’s the attitude. I’m certain of it. God bless ‘em all that go on this "walk" every one! It’s harder than it looks. –and watching it is nerve racking!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Marlene Dietrich

Falling in love again. What am I to do? I can’t help it…

My affair with the voice of Marlene Dietrich came about during a rather monotonous trip to the music department at Barnes and Noble years ago. While casually going through the A to Z pop/rock stuff that took up half of the music section, I found myself glancing over at the other shelves, “What’s over there”, I wondered. Looking for unique music I wondered over. There was a strange section dedicated to classic actors who recorded albums. Putting on the headphones I scanned through names like Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, getting a 30 second sampling of their musical talent. When I heard Marlene’s voice for the first time it struck a chord with me, and quickly became one of my favorite CD’s.

Marlene was born December 27, 1901 in Germany and rose to fame in the 1920’s performing at Berlin cabarets. Her deep contralto voice mesmerized audiences with its seductive undertones. Hemingway said “if she had nothing more than her voice, she could break your heart with it”. When Paramount Pictures picked her up in the 30’s she became one of the highest paid actresses of the era. Her singing and USO work during World War II earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Légion d'honneur from the French government.

Like most new found loves, I played that CD over and over. However, my family didn’t care for the art deco/cabaret era music like I did, so I had to find creative times and places to listen to it in peace. Whether at night with some red wine after everyone is asleep, or the early morning hours on real low, her music is like the perfect soundtrack for a particular mood that passes through me from time to time. While moving three months ago I re-found the old CD and again the chord is struck and my mood is put to rest.

Whether she is singing in English, German or French, you need no translator to understand what she is singing about. Her voice spins a web of emotion that drips off every syllable; new love, old love, love gained, heartache, and love gone to war, return unknown. Although the only thing we have in common is that we share the same birthday, it feels like we've been friends forever. What a great find!