“The Masque”

It is an odd thing, the leaps memory makes when triggered…

So many horrible images of the devastation in Texas and along the Gulf Coast, aftereffects of massive winds and waves from Tropical Storm Harvey.

Prayers for the lives lost and for those that remain to pick up the broken pieces or move on…

Brought to mind is one of the many storms we lived through, growing up in the quiet Birmingham suburb of Center Point, Alabama.

Hurricane Camille, one of the largest and most destructive storms to make U.S. landfall, had spawned virulent storms that were bearing down on us. Before losing power, we had seen on television the damage in Mississippi as Camille and her offspring roared north.

I was almost eight years old. It was literally “the summer of ‘69.”

Our family (two parents, one maternal grandmother, four kids, and a dog named ‘Fluffy’) were still adjusting to all the creaks and groans of our new-to-us house, having moved in only a few months prior. The full basement (always damp and musty) offered the promise of protection. Yet the small creek running behind our house tended to overflow and flood our safe-ish haven.

Our next door neighbors, the Underwoods, had a huge birdhouse mounted atop what had to be a thirty foot pole. I remember vividly watching it come crashing under the onslaught of the still approaching storms. Fear has a distinct taste no matter what your age…

In those days I loved comic books and drawing. But soon my imagination was captured by the movies of the original “Planet of the Apes,” “2001: A Space Oddessy,” and by monsters! Dracula, the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Creature, et al.

Summer meant even more visits to my beloved Huffman Public Library than usual, and my most recent borrow was a book about all these monsters in a “pull back the curtain” treatise. It detailed the actors and (more importantly) the artists responsible for transforming these normal performers into the very personifications of suspense and horror.

During the height of the storm, my clan gathered by candlelight to work a jigsaw puzzle of some beatific European vista. My companion was this awesome book (with pictures!) and a flashlight providing light for my arcane illuminations. The rain pummeled our house, but I was lost in the words and images:

Karloff as the Monster, Lugosi as Dracula, Lon Chaney Sr and Jr as the operatic Phantom and Wolfman respectively.

The stories of these films were fascinating. The stuff of nightmares? Most assuredly. But seeds of dreaming were being planted nonetheless.

The text pointed back toward older films and even older tales. Stoker and Shelley gave way to Lovecraft and Poe. “The Telltale Heart” and “The Masque of the Red Death” were beyond my adolescent understanding, but the dark poetry of it all was mesmerizing.

Storms and years passed. Movies and books made room for the discovery of making music. Art, books, film, music…all avenues for creation and escape.

One word from those heady days lodged deep: masque. My Curious George curiosity helped me discover the broader meanings beyond the French root for ‘mask.’

The monsters I feared and loved and the masks they wore seemed to give the wearers power of a sort I sorely lacked. Yes, monsters could be vanquished, but they always returned in sequel after sequel.

I learned through the years, as many do, that masks are easy and seductive. Who doesn’t want the safety of a mask, be it terrible or benign? Words your small and terrified true self would never utter ring out with false confidence and power.

Even as adults, our disguises are ubiquitous. Our social media rampages are delivered from the safety of distance and emotional shields, beyond thought and consequence.

Don’t like my post about ___? Defriended! Complete disagreement with ___? Blocked! Idiot snowflakes! Shut up, fake news!

The temptation of the mask is a powerful one.

My triggered memory has looped all the way back to now, a leap to the realization that my life, with rare exception, has been lived behind masks of all kinds:

Master and slave, hero and monster, saint and sinner. Judge and jury and emotional executioner all in one.

It’s pretty simple, actually. I care too much what others think.

When you have lived a life learning to edit; to blend and always agree and dissemble…you find that learning abandon is hard. My “masque of spirit death” adheres with a vengeance.

Come Spirit Wind that blows away all pretense, and reveal the person You created me to be…


You wake up with a mild sense of dislocation, for a moment wondering where you are and when you are.

Loss today takes on a new meaning that’s all too familiar; at a loss for words.
With that slightly unbalanced feeling of an ever-growing need to express, and being unable. And not even knowing where to begin.

“Do you write?” I was asked today, the question framed in the context of words and music. While probably only a beat, my answer of “yes” came after what felt like a lifetime pause.

Yet that simple one word reply burned on my tongue like a coal of fire. It wasn’t a lie, but honest to God felt like one. I stumbled through the rest of the conversation with the grace of a wounded animal, but in the human way of mask in place to hide the fade.

I play music every week. I listen to music every day. I read about it, watch documentaries and shows and films filled with it.

But the disquiet (a polite way to say horribly empty unrest) is there, a constant companion who sticks closer than a brother.

Music feels out of reach.

Time sprung forward today to accommodate the coming longer days of spring and summer. Yet it feels like I’ve leapt forward to a time where music lies behind.

“Call unto me,” the scripture says, “and I will answer…”

Is the silence an answer?

I will sit here in the quiet and unrest and wait…

“All Things New”

After 55 plus years, the shadow cast by life is growing long (and seemingly longer every day). New is a word rarely if ever you apply to yourself.

July 2009 found me on the road in the Midwest with a few hours to myself. I ended up in a bookstore outlet where I discovered an excellent book by U2’s Bono about the plight of African orphans. The images and ideas presented were powerful and moving, inspiring me to write a song that pretty much came into the world fully formed.

A year or so later, my band was involved in a concert to benefit missions in Letsotho, Africa (the very same area captured so vividly in Bono’s book), and this new song was the central theme of the event.

Another year or so passes, and I am producing an EP for Birmingham artist Rebekah Gilbert, and this same song finds its way onto the project.

Time and distance grants perspective. It took stepping back from this song, to see and hear it through other eyes and different interpretations to discover it’s true nature.

What started life as a cry about the unseen, unwanted and abused in the world was revealed to be something more.

It’s not about orphans. It’s about me…

Look through those eyes
Walk in their shoes
How does it feel to be unwanted?
How does it feel to be abused?

Carry that weight
A heart of stone
How does it feel to be so hopeless?
How does it feel to be alone?

43 years ago today I was made new. Years have passed, and the shadows of life, loss, and lostness are still long. But in a season of reminders, for this moment I remember Grace and “All Things New.”

Then mercy comes calling
Grace brings good news
Love wraps its arms around you
And makes all things new…

“Rivers of Loss”

This has been a week of loss; facing and being reminded of losses past and present…

How do you deal with this thing called loss? Even the word itself, when spoken slowly sounds like sand slipping through fingers. No matter how tight your grasp, grains will find a way to fall.

You can wrestle with loss. But at best you walk away with a permanent limp, and scars to show when your tribe gathers at the end to sing the story of your life.

You can ignore loss, or shrug it off with an “oh well” sigh. It has a tenacious way of slipping past the outer defenses, even straight through to the heart in moments when you expect it least.

Wall up your loss, lock it away. Build a strong tower to contain it. Yet you’ll find that you walled yourself in with your loss, like a sad tale from dear old Edgar Allan…

Some will make an effort to simply replace what is lost. It certainly feels better when the void is being filled. But I am reminded of Job in the Old Testament. After losing everything, God restored lands and wealth and even blessed him with a new family. While restoration takes many forms, people can never be replaced.

Loss is a wide river to cross. After time the surface can be calm, but dangerous currents run fast and strong in the deep waters.

You don’t get over loss. You simply live with it.

Praying this day for peace and comfort for all those crossing the rivers of their loss.


“A Week of Years”

It’s been a week of years since I saw you last.

An eternity on some days, a mere blink on others. Two thousand five hundred fifty-seven days since your passing, seven years and a day since we said farewell, the needs of life pulling me away from your side one day too soon.

You weren’t perfect. You had your demons and your darkness like all men.

There were those years where not much passed between us, falsely secure that time wasn’t our foe.
But time kept slipping, slipping toward a future without you, without my dad.

Like you, I am far from perfect, and fall far short of the man you were.

But I love and miss you…

I wish I had stayed to see you cross the river.

The Falling Year

December 31st, we meet again.

For the artistic person, there is a continual need to create, whether song, story, canvas or bust. Whether you see the world through a camera or the lens of other giftings, nights like this one are made for final expression.

Some say that art is a viewpoint or commentary by the artist on the surrounding world. Others of a more spiritual leaning see art as a form of prophecy, seeing things unseen and how our “now” could or should be. Certainly the prophets of old possessed passion and truth expressed in a variety of creative ways.

Passion didn’t keep those prophets alive. Thankfully modern critics only act like they are out for blood. But I digress…

2016 has been an interesting one, to be sure. Here at the end, the tendency is to hang a label on the year soon to be was. I discovered my personal 2016 hashtag months and months earlier.

Welcome to “the Falling Year.”

This was a year of falling. I watched as music, once central to my very core, fell away to a more distant remove more by necessity than choice, with the needs of the many outweighing the needs of dreams.

For me, it felt like a falling year for faith. I saw the religious more concerned with temporal influence than spiritual, all set to a backbeat of hatred and vitriol. Sadly, this song seems hellbent on singing across the bar line well into the new year.

But this new year is coming soon, even as I do my one finger pecking. Soon these few words will be flung into the ether, and whether my entry is commentary or prophecy will soon be moot. I honestly think they are neither.

Sometimes the spark of creativity just wants to flicker if not burn.

Maybe I just wanted to look through my lens and see a world beyond the falling year.



“The Blue Metal Door”

The color blue is my favorite.

But there’s a door a shade of blue somewhere between the grey of today’s sky and the drained blue of a failed passion. Door 166 leads to a strange purgatory of sorts, a narrow and cold space between poor choices and the illusion of freedom.

I hate this door and this room and this non-color blue.

I would summon a prayer of thanks, but the lie would burn my throat.

A day will come where thanks will be a color somewhere between the clear sky and the deep blue sea, and the only hint of grey will be the clouds above the horizon.

How long, O Lord? How long…?


It is a hard and terrible thing to be misunderstood, and harder still to lack the skill and courage to make your true self known.

Sad to gain this insight after all the years, now feeling helpless and clueless and utterly less.

So what to do when the fire is all but extinguished and there are no more stories and melody and rhyme?

The world turns
The heart still yearns
For the love we are unlearning

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

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