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“Cold Today”

It’s cold outside today.

An overriding grey hugs the tree line and neutralizes the sun and shadows.
It’s not a crisp and invigorating cold;
It’s a bitter and numbing iciness that leaves a hollow in your bones and turns your heart lonely.

Fire doesn’t seem to get past your skin in this kind of cold.
It’s enough to make the lost want to be found…
Even if just to feel warmth again
Even just the memory of it.

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“Opened to Wonder”

Do you remember the first time you found wonder?

I do. I’ve been remembering each one of them.

Curious George Goes to the Hospital, the last book in this beloved series and the first favorite of Forrest Gump and yours truly. It is the first book I remember loving, and it opened the door for all the rest.

Thuvia, Maid of Mars by the great Edgar Rice Burroughs. Holding and reading the near crumbling remains of what I know now to have been a first edition hardcover from 1920.
I found it lost and alone in our family bookcase, right above all the endless volumes of green bound Encyclopedia Brittanica. I discovered treasure that day indeed.

A childish first grade cartoon about Robin Hood scrawled by me (complete with dialogue), winning the attention of Mrs. Bankston and a trip to the principals office for kudos. I thought I had done something wrong and was in trouble…

The Letter, by the Box Tops, a song all but unknown to the rest of my second grade classmates, much to my bewilderment. They most certainly didn’t have a clue about the Beatles.

Many years later it was the first time my newly teenaged finger raked across the strings of my brothers Alvarez 12-string guitar, filling the room with glory and sealing my fate for life.

When Mr. Widener, the Erwin HS band director defended one of my feeble bass solo attempts from the derision of an upper classman by declaring me to have “more music in my little finger” than the heckling senior. Humbling to be sure (it was a bass solo after all).

The moment when a room full of your peers goes silent at the end of one of your songs, only to erupt with applause.

These are the moments when your eyes are opened to wonder, to creativity. When the spark inside erupts into flame, a fire that consumes doubt and fear.

Yet doubt and fear are never far. Creativity comes at a cost. Even remembering requires a heavy price.

There is a verse that says we do not wrestle with flesh and blood, but “powers and principalities” and all manner of spiritual adversaries. While I know and believe that to be true, there are battles that are waged here in what passes for the real world. And for me the powers and principalities I war against are cowardice and fear and despair.
In every battle there are the fallen and forgotten. I have been lost in the ruin of myself, a victim of wounds both physical and spiritual. But there is strength in remembering, a spark of flame in the distance of memory, a reward worthy of risk at any cost.

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Tabula Rasa

I am a slate scraped clean
Waiting on new words
I’ve been wandering for years
There’s no time left for dreaming

Now left behind and moving on
Live within the same sad song
My heart beats in the space between
These words will never mean a thing
It’s so cold in the silence

I am an empty page
Waiting on memory
Wondering for years
If there’s hope left in dreaming

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The Rhythm in My Head

There’s a rhythm in my head
In my head, in my head
There’s a rhythm in my head
And it won’t go away

The tempo is persistent
The backbeat for my pain
It’s icy and insistent
Like this cold October rain
Inside the pressure’s building
Tight as the band around my arm
The numbers tell the story
And fear cries in alarm

There’s a rhythm in my head
In my head, in my head
There’s a rhythm in my head
And it won’t go away

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The Show Must Go On

It has been said that ‘some things are too broken to ever be fixed.’

Faith whispers just the opposite, but my heart and life sing a different song. Today I feel every part of broken. ‘All my choices have gone awry’ as Strider admits at the end of a tragic journey that ends in fire and despair.

In music, a horrible final rehearsal usually denotes a great performance to come, and it’s also said that life is a dress rehearsal for something glorious.

If that is the case, then the rehearsal of my life promises Glory beyond the circles of this world.

I am tired of rehearsing. Open the curtain and bring on the show…

Falling together 911

The Choice

Everyone has a memory from the day the towers fell.

Close your eyes and you can still see the haunting images from that horrible day: planes colliding with glass and steel, smoke and dust and panic in the streets…tales of valor and heroism, and the heartbreak stories of loved ones left behind.

All this and more will be recounted tomorrow as our country remembers the deep wounds inflicted upon us. Cries of vengeance will once again fill the air, yet retribution will not return those lost that day.

The image seared upon my soul from 911 is of those who leapt from the burning towers. Death was a certainty, and their only choice was how to meet it.

What must they have felt? Fear, most certainly. And from the unasked-for choice thrust upon them, despair and hopelessness. Most fell alone, but some met their end hand in hand.

I will remember the hopeless, and honor the memory of those brave souls who faced and entered eternity by the fall and not the flames.

I remember and will never forget.

An old rusty lock on a gate to nowhere

All You Are

It is written that we should bear one another’s burdens. But no one can wear the yoke of someone else’s failure; how else will a man learn his lesson?

Some will point out that Christ paid the price for our failings and falls, but I sometimes wonder if he ever felt the weight of failure. I believe he suffers all those lost…but isn’t that ‘lostness’ due to choice?

But down here you make your choice and pay the fare…time to move on. Best to be prepared to wear the sigil of your fall for longer than you can imagine.

The weight of failure staggering
The sting of bitterness blinding
Abandonment and loss
Forged the chains forever binding
Years will be required to pay the cost
In the end all you are is lost

The Last Time

It was only ten long years ago when I saw her last. We had just moved to the Nashville area, yet this weekend I was once again working in Birmingham (as I would for many years). I don’t even remember where and for whom I was playing. All I know is that Katrina was ravaging the Gulf and was making herself known even this far north and beyond. I was anxious to get back to the new house in Tennessee that would be home for the long decade to come.

She was ill, and had been for a while. My visits were becoming more infrequent despite my continued presence in the area. There was more than a share of guilt and fear that shadowed my heart, and my memories of hospitals and abandonment played out in my avoidance of those hurts and the frail, aging woman who seemingly embodied them.

It had been a long day, and night and Katrina’s storms were falling. I had promised to stop by on the way back, but still wrestled with myself as to find a way to circumvent the visit.

Love and loyalty and guilt won out over fear and hurt when I saw my mother for the last time.

All I remember was the watery gleam of her eyes in the flickering glow from the nearby television. She couldn’t speak, forcing me to mumble pleasantries and empty promises for my next visit. She opened her mouth and the words “I love you” crumbled from her lips. I replied in kind, kissed her dry as dust cheek, and left for my long drive.

It seemed that I rode Katrina’s coat tails on the way back, my car buffeted by wind and constant rain. My heart was heavy and my thoughts filled with images and memories of my mom.

While her spirit didn’t find release until the early part of March, my farewell was granted on a stormy night in August ten years gone.

Much has changed and much has been lost. While memory remains I embrace the moments that define a life, and learn the lessons of last times.


“Cross the River”

I cross the river
And I think of you
Memories haunt me
But you never do
The river is deep
This river wide
Wide as my longing
Deep as my pride

River flow on to the sea
River roll and set me free
River flow inside my soul
Wash the stains and make me whole