The time is right to wander into the past and share some older writing. I do not date my poems, but very much remember the moment that inspired this one. It was my first year of grad school, meaning this was written in either 1996 or 1997.
While reading through things written 20 years ago, it has been surprising to see themes repeating in recent writing and in how I currently feel. An example is my rekindled appreciation of the value in one-to-one, genuine and open conversation between close friends. For me, there is great satisfaction and healing in completely unplanned, unfiltered, vulnerable sharing. It seems I was searching for that when “Bare Souls” was written. There is also a nod toward the challenge men face with shedding the shield we are taught to carry. The shield we use to hide emotion and our true selves.
The inspiration behind this poem came when I was walking home after working late on campus one evening and passed a ground level apartment with the blinds open wide. This was one of the buildings common around campus where half of the apartment is below street level, making it very easy to gaze downward and see inside. There were two guys engaged in conversation, and from the brief glance I got of their faces, it seemed they were discussing something rather deep and serious. While many other students were passing time in a completely unmemorable evening at the campus bars, these two were filling the evening with the art of conversation.
The depth of sharing these two were having filled me with envy and made me long for the few times I had such powerful and meaningful conversation with a trusted friend. Looking back on this poem now gives a feeling of immense gratitude for the group of friends I have today. The friends who are my family – brothers and sisters who are related me to through shared experience and compassion rather than DNA. The people who make me feel fully alive when I sit with them in deep and open conversations – debating, discussing and provoking thought in each other, and most importantly, simply listening.
The two guys I saw for that brief moment all those years ago have surely remained friends, treasuring the connection they have, just as I treasure my family of friends.
The writing here is rather elementary and is not an example of my best work. However, the message within it still resonates with me across 20 years, so it must hold some value.
We are very lucky in Indianapolis to have a music venue simply called The Cabaret. In a just-the-right-size setting we are able to witness the magic of live shows from the world of jazz or the Broadway stage.
Ms. Dee Dee Bridgewater
In August 2016 the jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater took to The Cabaret stage in a whirlwind of a show. She took us on a trip one Friday evening from the tender emotion of “What A Wonderful World” through a few hilariously heated moments in the bedroom with “Whoopin’ Blues” that even seemed to surprise members of her band. The latter was recorded as a duet on an album, but that particular evening was all Ms. Bridgewater…….and a story which referenced a stick of butter. For that part, you needed to be there.
I was captivated by her performance that evening. She owned the stage and was in full control of the show, but never wavered from being a lady. A number of times she allowed a member of the band to shine center stage during a solo as she floated off to the side. Those breaks also allowed a moment to cool off using an ornately decorated hand fan. Ms. Bridgewater gave us every last ounce of her talent and ability, which made that little fan as necessary as any instrument on the stage.
Watching a jazz legend in an intimate concert space creates a memorable experience. When that legendary talent comes from a woman who obviously is enjoying herself while retaining the humility to appreciate her fellow musicians as well as her audience, it is truly inspiring. I distinctly remember trying to shield the light from my phone using the billowing tablecloth as I texted the first line of this poem to myself during the show. Thank you, Ms. Bridgewater, for the performance and for the inspiration.
Visit Dee Dee Bridgewater and The Cabaret to learn more about each.
Fall is nearing in Central Indiana and as the leaves are just beginning to change, I am reminded of this poem. This was written during the time of seasons changing in 2016.
I was driving home one evening and, while stopped at a traffic light, a solitary bright yellow leaf drifted by and landed near my car. There were no trees nearby and I had no idea where it had come from. What eventually became the title of the poem popped into my head as I pondered that lone leaf and continued driving home.
We all marvel at the beauty in a diverse display of colorful fall foliage. Greater beauty comprised of colorful diversity. Hmmm…..seems the trees are sending a repeated message each and every year some fail to see.
This is not the poem I had planned to share this week, but with the recent natural disasters, seeing so many in need and just as many providing assistance, the timing feels right. This one is similar to the recent post Call Me, in that my writing has had a strong theme of giving and receiving in recent months.
The events leading to this happened over the past year or so, but the poem was written just two weeks ago. It took some time to piece together and process all the gifts I had received in that time period.
During my journey of moving toward living a more open life, I received some life-altering assistance from a few very close friends. I found myself with recurring thoughts that I could never repay what had been given to me. Still, I needed to find some balance and make sense of why I had been blessed to have such extraordinary people in my life. I began to think beyond just myself – to society as a whole. Eventually the concept of spiritual currency developed and expanded beyond present time to something crossing lifetimes. The concept went so far that I even developed a symbol to represent spiritual currency (shown above). I now wear it proudly as a tattoo on my left ankle. If you are interested, a full explanation of the symbol is here.
The concept of spiritual currency is very important to me, and sharing this is frightening. I hope you find this post meaningful and enjoy reading the poem. It is dedicated to three people I am blessed to call my friends. I will not name them here, but I will be reminding each how special she or he is for the rest of my life.