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Love Letters to the Universe #7: Let Me Count the Ways

23 Jan

Dear Universe,

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. The Greeks had a number of such words to denote different meanings, but those are words. Love itself is as boundless as you are, as is my appreciation for you. But, still, I do not shirk from this task, as to count the ways in which I love you will be as refreshing and energizing an act as counting one’s blessings, for love is the one thing that is worthy of doing for its own sake.

Since it is fortuitously the seventh letter I have written to you thus far, let the number of ways be seven. There are seven days of the week, seven deadly sins and seven heavenly virtues. The archangels number themselves as seven. There are seven directions: East, South, West, North, Above, Below, and Within. Seven, in numerology, signifies spiritual awakening and seeking the Truth. Most importantly, we have seven central energy points to our being that the ancients termed: Chakras. These, when aligned, allowed our kundalini (or coiled snake) to energize, activate and ascend to divine inspiration and living.

As a being made of love, is that not the energy of my chakras? Cannot each one, sing a note in a seven fold orchestra which is my soul? How sweet, when by chance or design, I so aligned myself and sang my love to you, benevolent universe! Let me count the ways then, so that you will know the fullness of my love for you…

  1. The Root of Love- This is the love of experience, the love of sensation and the love of the world and its wonders. This is the love of a sea breeze, of crimson swathed sunsets, of the gentling caress, the crispness of the apple, the lofty grace of an arch, the sound of laughter. We taste your sweet nourishing milk, and know the balm of drifting sleep. It is only when addicted and gluttonous, do we blind ourselves to the beauty, dull ourselves to the desirable. With temperance and moderation we look for the endless variety of your pleasures, from the promising songs of spring, the sultry tones of summer, the lofty call of autumn and the drifting lullaby of winter’s song. We are rooted by your love to this life, this Earth, and we know we are loved.
  2. The Sacral Love- This is the passionate, erotic love, the love of tangled limbs and mouths and unified intent. This is the thunderous push of magnetized love. This is the summons that must be heeded, the desire that calls and is called. Lechery may malign our sacred song with unquenchable hunger, but given avenue, the Sacral Love, aligned by pure intent, fulfills and washes over us when the two become one. The dichotomy of the universe is found in this creative and claiming power. From this love, beyond language, beyond history, we find matter pulled to one another. We dance the tantric dance of the ages, again and again, without shame, without limit or regret. The swish of the skirt, the curve of an arm as it draws you near, the haunting song of creation reenacted through us by you.
  3. The Solar Love- From the Solar Plexus we find the love of self, for here spins that golden compass which gives us direction and purpose. Here when we listen to the loving song of ourselves, our divine spark, we know our own divinity. Here in the sanctum of our inner shrine we discover our truth. We may allow Sloth and despair to dim this idealized intuitive, but through diligence and perseverance, we will follow the call, heed our guts and know our path. It is from here we meet what Kierkegaard called the infinite self, that which is boundary to the world without boundaries, which is you, my love.
  4. The Heart Love- This is the truest love that binds souls together throughout time and space, calling them to each other. It is here that love for another reaches so deep into the self, that one becomes interchangeable with the next. These loves are so true and deep that indeed, one’s heart may literally break with the pain or loss of another. We may, born of fear, allow weakness to make us wrathful, but always we remember love is patient. It is here my heart most aligns with the book with which I was raised. I have said that we have faith that we are the embodiment of your desire to experience yourself. I have also said that we hope to do right by you by the enactment of our free will. But here, in our heart we know the true meaning and purpose of our service to you. For love is the greatest of these, and the greatest of these is you.
  5. The Throat Love- From the throat we let out words of fellowship which may find new friends, bind together communities and eventually find their way to our heart and write their songs there. The throat is the vehicle for charitable love, for here the word is the thing, and the thing is love. This is the love of friends, of community, of cheer, voices lifted to singing together. Only when we use our words to bind, hurt and and claim will we give into the greed of our darker nature. However, the charity of spirit shines through when we give permission and embolden, enlighten and hearten our fellow creatures. What is more fitting than lifting our voices in song, or sharing laughter, or praising your wonders, my lovely?
  6. The Third Eye Love- From our third eye comes the clarity of all sight with brings empathic love for humanity. Here all are equal, and humanity is loved with a love made into reason, reason into goodness. We disdain envy, as it is without compassion, without empathy. Here we can see suffering and know that it is a call for love. Here we can better glimpse your plan, which is indivisible from your beauty. This love allows the sight of a better world, one where love is not blind, but sees all and is content and rejoices with those that rejoice and comforts those who do not. Here we see you in each misty eye and we reach out to you, my darling.
  7. The Crowning Love- If we are worthy to wear a crown, then that crown is love, for it is what makes us great, binds us to you and each other, and makes a shadow of death. Here we are alone so that we might better hear your love song to us, great cosmic oneness. This is the love of philosophy, Truth and Light. This is the divine love for all things that are just and right. This is the love that we share with you, my darling, only with you. Pride has been known to go before the fall, but when humility gives us strength to lift our faces to the stars and see our destiny written there in glowing promise, then we are exalted with you.

Thus, great universe, I am in love with you. I love you as a sensation. I love you as a lover. I find you in myself, and love you there, as well. I love you as a twin to my heart, a friend to my spirit, and I look for you to love among all humankind. Finally, I love you just as you are, sweet universe. Since I am apparently made purely from love, and the two constants of this life are love and death, then my dear, when I die, I shall only be love, which is just what and where you are. And there I will live with you forever, and love you all the more.


Trav

Love Letters to the Universe #6: I Had a Dream

19 Jan

Dear Universe,

I had a dream. I was walking alone in a wilderness, winding and deep. I came into awareness with the drive to move through this untamed landscape and the hope that if I should I would find myself where I could better understand my place in this profundity of life. For what seemed an instant and a lengthy struggle of some eons I made my way, instinctively moving down a path that somehow continue to manifest itself before me in unforeseen ways. I felt the approach of my destination in my bones and interpreted these vibratory messengers as a mix of dread and a burning and curious need.

I exited the wilderness on the shore of a river as it flashed and sparkled on its way to unknown destinations. Across an arch of a bridge over the water, a great eye resided. The vast ocular manifestation dwarfed the river, the bridge, me and all in its unrelenting observation. I trembled and faltered as I set my feet upon the bridge. Before the unfathomable judgement of the eye’s scrutiny I felt naked and terribly alone. What right did I have to approach such a celestial thing as that eye? How could I stand before it?

As I went down on my knees on the bridge, all of my pretense was stripped from me. All my ignorance, all my sins and pride, were laid bare and revealed as insignificant trivialities. The day of judgement had arrived for me, and all I could do was bow my head before the unflinching gaze of the great eye.

A most uncanny event occurred. I was whipped as if from a spinning wind, and the tiny thread of consciousness that remained intact before that gaze shifted. I saw myself kneeling on the bridge, a shadow, a puppet. I had become the eye. The judgement that I had feared had always been my own.

I thank you, sweet universe, for this vision. I wanted you to know that I have taken the lessons it taught me to heart. It has tempered my actions and thoughts. I understand that the greatest possession one could own would be a clear conscience. It fills me with grace and thankfulness with the thought of this divine justice. It allows me to pity the wrongdoer as they and all must face this eventual eye of appraisal, their own. How may I judge them, when I am so filled with the dread and delight of having to face this eye? Colors, creeds, states, and affiliations are stripped away before its gaze.

Martin Luther King Jr. had felt this gaze upon himself. How else can you explain the way in which he helped us understand the grace of non-violent resistance. He had a dream, and that dream was a prayer and a request of you, sparkling star-filled sweetheart.

So many make requests of you everyday, but they do so without the understanding that when they do so, they must ask so of themselves. Some ask for retribution, justice, success, health, and prosperity. I wish my wife and children to be healed from their auto-immune disorders. I believe that they suffer so because of my father-in-law’s repeated exposure to Agent Orange. He became so exposed because of a calamitous conflict that sadly should have, could have been avoided.

I know how change occurs; it happens from within. That is what we have dominion over, ourselves. We decide what a hairless and tailess monkey is. No political, social, or military force trumps this inner-power, this will to manifest. The idea is daunting at first: how may we hope when monkeys only learn to love themselves, each other and you, one by one? Then, we take that shift and look through the eye, and understand that it is glorious. It is a change that can occur at any time, is happening all over the world. Lights coming up in the darkness, inspired by others, yes, but lighting themselves.

I will continue to hope for a world where we treat each other as brothers and sisters. Where we delight in the ride together.  I hope for a world that will not leave mothers and children weak and wounded from conflicts that occurred before they were born. But, I also will not ask you for anything, sweet universe, that I would not be willing to summon up from within myself.

For there is enough food in the world, my sweet, because of you. And if there ever was a shortage, you gave us reason to muddle through the rough patches. What we have chosen to prioritize has always been our own choice. If we choose to live with cruelty, violence, greed and intolerance, then we will reap that. In the end, however, under the gaze of the eye, we find all of these things trivial and we marvel that we could have so duped ourselves into ignoring the brilliance, the manifest love and goodness of you.

And so, I take the time to reflect on this day in the cold heart of winter, a day of celebration for a man with a dream, and I use the words of Percy Shelley and ask this one request:

“Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!

And, by the incantation of this verse,

 

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

 

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Your faithful and ever-dreaming admirer,

Trav

Love Letters to the Universe #5: The Definition of Perfection

14 Jan

Dear Universe,

I believe we’re perfect for eachother. In fact, together, we may just be the definition of perfection. Yes, that may be a bold statement unfitting such a meager scrap of flesh which is the hairless monkey that is prone to fits of frustration, melancholy moodiness, and regrettable over-indulgences, but I have my reasons.

I have accepted the fact that I arise from your self-indulgent desire to experience yourself, but I, being a well meaning but ultimately foolish hairless monkey am never satisfied. Is that all, or do I embody some other concept, contain some other aspect that is beneficial to your beauty and culmination than just the bare essential of my very awareness?

Yes, and no. It’s never very simple is it? But, then neither am I. I am a highly sophisticated organism that has become aware of himself. This awareness has given me something that I cherish, however it causes me anxiety: Free Will.

I make choices. Every moment I live and breathe, I am choosing this or that. We see the paradox in the instant which is the hairless monkey. Just as I am connected to you, that I am the love that is you, the awareness that you have summoned to yourself, then so am I aware of my separation. Likewise, just as I see myself bound by the finite experience of time and space, I am freed by the very dichotomized prison in which I live to choose in nearly infinite profusion. In fact, the more aware I am, the more knowledgeable I become, the more I have to choose.

Why is this good for you, my love? Each moment I exist, all the possible outcomes on the threshold of being line up according to my understanding, only limited by my consciousness. I might leap to amuse you, sing to serenade you, weep to move you. Each of these possibilities exist, they are created from my very exercise of free will. I choose one, hopefully wisely, and move into the next exploding corona of possibilities. How would I choose wisely? I would decide upon that choice of action or inaction that leads to the most possible choices.

So, each moment I exist; a multitudinous array of possibilities blossom outward from me, creating alternate realities. This is a fact that I understood many years ago. It continues to drive my every decision and gives me a sense of awe that I might so contribute to your eternal glory. “How can you possibly make such a mark upon creation?” you ask. Well, because creation is an ongoing event, and in my eyes you are forever young, forever nascent and freshly arrayed.

I know, so many before me have boldly asserted their love for you and called you perfect. I, too, join the chorus, but I add a refrain. For what should the definition of perfection be, but that which encompasses and embodies the ability to become infinitely more perfect?

You, my love, are a blossoming unity which expands into the great could be. Because of my free will, I live a pioneer on the threshold of that great expansion, surfing across the great gleaming tide of possibilities. And I am not alone.

Each hairless monkey has that divine spark, that little fire which ignites and embodies free will. You use each as an engine to become more, be more.

And how might I better sing the song which is myself, which blends into the great symphony which is you, my darling?

I must become more aware. I must search for gnosis, the spiritual knowledge, which has sustained me so well so many times before. What I find, I must ingest so that I will shine out ever more with possibilities. I accept all faiths, all paths, all experiences as tantamount to this ultimate result: Your perfection. And since, I am not alone, I must learn to work in tandem with these other manifestations of your love.

When I work with another hairless monkey in harmony and gladness, the number of possibilites are not doubled, but each one of mine couples with each one of his or hers until we shine all the brighter toward your intended brilliance.

When I was a very young hairless monkey, I was raised by some very well meaning, but confused and confusing hairless monkeys. They meant love, but suffered from that tragic and common malady, exclusive insanity. They told me that there was only one way in which I might celebrate your magnificence. They told me that it would be impossible for me to be acceptable in your eyes; aye, even for me to be a good and moral monkey without their guidance and the rigors of their teaching, which came from a very confusing and often self-contradicting compilation of tales and decrees, bound in a book.

I wanted so desperately to love you, I tried to read the book. I tried to understand how the uttering of syllables by some hairless monkeys should lift them to your bosom, while other most gentle and sweet monkeys would be punished in a lake of fire for their refusal or lack of knowledge about the book or syllables.

As you can imagine, I was very confused, sweet universe. I became distraught at the idea that I was born so stained and disfigured that I should need such a limiting path to your love. I walked away from these well-meaning monkeys so that I might better see if what they said was true.

It was then that I understood the nature of free will. I saw the glory born in each and every one of us, the glory that these other monkeys seemed to have overlooked. We were not born twisted and evil, but born a shining possibility, and the most glorious, of course, was love.

I came about this understanding most soundly through suffering and tragedy. The first woman that I had ever loved was cruelly murdered by a stranger. This event sent me spiraling into the sensation of so many shining and possible universes being cancelled, snuffed out, by the whim of some unthinking brute who, sadly,must not have known the awful impact he was making upon you, my love.

I try to be grateful for the choices that lie before me. I have written these letters, and shall continue to write them, with the spirit of spreading those little seeds of consciousness that have come my way. I hope that someday my great-granddaughter may come across these letters and know me, and through the love which I have tried to thread into the fabric of them, know you, my darling.

I hope she comes to understand your state of constant birth. I hope this future monkey will know that one can know you and be good without a book, or any particular syllables uttered first in some desert by desperate hairless monkeys so long ago. I hope they will know that to kill or enslave another hairless monkey is to strip them of that great power, their free will, which enacted upon, will fulfill our purpose, which is to spread your glorious perfection, your infinite being to the fathomless limitlessness of what could be.

It is just a choice, like anything else. Like sitting down to write these letters. I see the blank whiteness of the unwritten page and think: It could be anything. Do I let myself become filled with anxiety over such whiteness and forget my purpose?

Or do, I, feeling your loving presence all about me, a presence which is never killed by a stranger, rejoice and marvel at the thought: “It could be anything!”

And so may it be.

With all the possibilities of love,

Trav

Love Letters to the Universe #4: A Self-Indulgent Desire

10 Jan

Dear Universe,

I know what you are thinking; and it’s making me blush. With a title like that, well, what mind wouldn’t go there? But, since this is only the fourth official letter I’ve written to you, I wouldn’t get too naughty (yet), my dear. I am a gentlemen. But, let’s forget provocative titles for a moment and recap what we have covered so far:

  1. Life is a ride, and like any ride, it’s more fun shared.
  2. Life is a mysterious ride. For our own happiness, we must learn to accept the mystery.
  3. Love is the one thing worthy of doing for it’s own sake.

(OR)

Life is a ride through mystery, and Love is the greatest detective.

That sounds nice, doesn’t it? There’s only one problem. Where do I (and all of the other hairless monkeys) fit into the equation? Why are we here? What do I have to offer the life of such a fathomless and seemingly infinite creature as yourself, great universe?

You’ve been leaving little flirtatious hints for me haven’t you, my saucy minx? I thank you for that.

Last year, on the green cusp between spring and summer I went down to the river. I sat on the leaf sculpted shore of the Connecticut and placed my naked toes into the water. I let my thoughts unravel as I took in the feeling of the coolness upon my feet, the warmth of the sun’s caress on my brow, and the dazzling light show upon the water’s surface.

I thought about the water gathered up here in the reservoir, yet always moving, still. I pondered my relationship to this great body of movement. It accepted my feet into itself, effortlessly. This realization awed me with the sense of the water as the symbol for all things together as one. Was not my body made from this water? Yet, I am here, apart from the water. I am separate, or have been gifted the illusion of separation. The water is whole. How can I be one with the water and yet separate from it?

I imagined myself as I have most enjoyed the water. I have been known for taking a canoe out upon the surface of the water. My canoe is carried by the river. My life is liberated from the shores because I am surrounded by that mystical and glimmering incandescence. My life is the canoe upon the water, and my journey over the water is time. I imagined myself rising out of this depth, whole and complete in a canoe. I marvel at the light and the space and the rising and falling rhythms of the river. I may delight in the sound of a loon, or wave at other wayfarers on the water. Eventually, I will die, and sink back into the fullness of the flood.

Then it hit me. My separation allows me a vantage point impossible without my awareness. I am the water experiencing itself. A sense of peaceful awe filled me.

I (and all the other hairless monkeys) am the universe’s self-indulgent desire to experience itself. Each and every one of us is the eye of the universe looking here and there, marveling, and saying: My, look at that! Isn’t that interesting? Isn’t that beautiful?

Imagine, oh, loveliest of wonders, if all of the hairless monkeys realized this. Would they be disappointed? How could they be when each and every one of them is a manifest of this desire? Each one of them carries that divine spark inside themselves.

Would they be so apt to hurt themselves, to allow themselves to move down the river without taking in the wonder and glory of it all?

And once realized, the hairless monkeys would know that when they look into each other’s eyes they look into their own, for there they will find you, in all your desire and faith that, yes, it is worth it. Every single one of you is worth it.

Am I not a god then, surrounded by other gods? Then reverence would be the norm, peace the unquestioned requirement.

I am not saying that you have not had other things in mind, oh most complicated and ingenious one, but might we hairless monkeys avoid some of the wretched mistakes we make if we knew that each and every one of us grew from this most divine desire?

We have just passed the third anniversary of when one of my friends took her own life. She was a graceful and lovely woman, whose friendship was very dear to my heart. How I wish I could have conveyed to her this understanding: The universe has this one precious opportunity to experience itself as you.

Yet, thinking of anniversaries, I am reminded that in but a few handful of days we celebrate one other holder of said divine spark: Martin Luther King Jr. He and so many other hairless monkeys have witnessed your glory and said: “look here, we are all the same. The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” They allowed their divine sparks to shine so bright, that when we looked upon this brightness we recognized the awareness that was you, beautiful one. Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Krishna, Lennon and countless others, recording their joy in our hearts, and I thank you, lovely universe, for each and every one of them.

So, I accept with wonder and astonishment the fact that I have grown out of your self-indulgent desire to experience yourself. I promise to endeavor to remember this fact. May it color my every day upon the surface of this shining reservoir called Earth. I will look for that awareness in every soul I meet, and see my own joy and marvel reflected there. Know then, sweetest divinity, that each thing I do is but a token, however childishly crafted or placed, of my eternal appreciation…

…and love,

Trav

Writing update…

10 Jan

1. The Valkyries: The Bone Snake has a cover! It is being edited! It should be out some time early in 2015. You’ll be able to catch up with the monster-hunting motorcycle mamas that were first introduced in The Wardmaster. Very excited!

2. The Vale of Shade (The entire “trilogy”) will soon be available for purchase. I had originally written this (my first big work as an adult) to be a large epic one volume fantasy. Now, it shall be made available to read all at once (again, sometime in early 2015). Find out if Arden, Arriana, Tuckus, Lodon One-Hand, Oakia, and the rest will be successful in journeying to the Vale of Shade and facing the darkness there. Just waiting on the cover…

3. Love Letters to the Universe is coming along smashingly. People seemed to have recieved the first three letters with marked enthusiasm. Someday (hopefully in 2016) a collected volume of the letters will be available. Until then, just enjoy each one as I write them right here, faithful reader.

4. The Pyrelord is in the final back stretch of the first draft process. With any luck this fantasy featuring many of the characters first introduced in The Wardmaster (but mostly new ones, as well) will be available late in 2015.

5. This year my superhero story, “The Deadly Duo” should see print in a superhero anthology about retired heroes. Check back here for the announcement when it is published.

6. And best news of all: My muse seems to be singing full steam ahead. I hope everybody has a great year! Don’t be a stranger.

Trav

Love Letters to the Universe #3: The Biggest Question

5 Jan

Dear Universe,

I used to believe that all of the big, important questions didn’t really have an answer. I told this to a woman while we stood in a snowy wood overlooking a lake cozied between two mountains in February.

It wasn’t just any woman. She was the most honest and forthright person I had ever met. It was a quality I found very, very attractive. Of course, there had been the huge wild dark eyes, the curvy and strong figure, the warm and winsome smiles and the way her skin felt against my fingertips; it was the first time my fingers had discovered they could taste. There was the way I had felt sitting beside her, putting up my feet, and feeling truly at home for the first time in my life during that first night as we talked to the dawn.

It wasn’t just any wood beside just any lake. Here, we had come the Halloween before, just the two of us, and danced to some piping melody among the year’s ruins of leaves and bony branches.

It wasn’t just any February; it was the last February of the century. It was the February when I brought this young, wise, funny and mysteriously amazing woman back to Lake Willoughby to ask her a question. You see, I had discovered that the really big, most important questions did have an answer. You showed that to me, oh sweetest universe, by sending said big-eyed girl into my dreams and, again and again, through some mad coincidences, into my life. So, I did what any self-respecting young man might do.

I got down on my knees in the snow and asked a very important question.

I am still reeling from the answer. I suppose I will continue to reel until I spin off into the next life where I might (with any luck) get to ask (or be asked) such a question to (or by) such a spirit.

You see, I didn’t realize it at the time (at least not consciously), but as I had fallen in love with this woman, so then did I fall in love with you.

I have always been a philosopher. It is just how I have courted you, my cosmic benevolence. And in all my days and night spent thinking or talking over the mystery that is you, I realized an important fact.

We do things for a reason. We might (if living a life unexamined) be woefully unaware of why we do the things we do, but it doesn’t change the fact that we do each thing for another thing’s sake. This successive other thing is then, in turn, done for yet another thing’s sake. So on and so one, forever and ever, Amen (or Ah-women). The real question that remains then is: What thing is worth doing for it’s own sake?

Let’s face it. This is the question that has built empires and torn them down again. Some hairless monkeys, like the nefarious O’Brien from George Orwell’s 1984, believe that that thing is power. Some perhaps think that it is money, but what is money but the currency, or system which cradles power? Power, the babe that demands suffering for it’s existence and is born from fear.

Some would say that it is pleasure. I like pleasure, don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan. However, pleasure seems to me to be a condiment of life. I love a bit of ketchup on a hot dog, but I would not try subsisting from drinking the darn stuff. Would you?

No, the answer of this all important question was holding my hand on that cold February day, looking me in the eye and saying: “Yes! Yes! Yes!” (I told you I was still reeling)

The answer of course, is love. For love is not only the babe that is born of tenderness and lives off compassion, but it is the babe that is us. What baby can thrive, develop and turn his or her happy face to you, great universe, without being held and cared for, cherished and treasured? It is often said that we are what we eat, and what we most need, crave and relish is love. We drink it from the milk of our mother’s love, we eat the produce of the sun’s seed and the Earth’s womb. We are made from you, great universe, for you are love.

What could be nobler? What feels more right than this?

With greatest thanks for the multitude of questions that all lead here, to this, the most ultimate of answers:

because I love you,

Trav

Love Letters to the Universe #2: Mysterious Acceptance

7 Dec

Love Letters to the Universe #2: Mysterious Acceptance

Dear Universe,

I haven’t been totally straightforward with you. We have had a breakdown in communication. I stopped writing; you stopped making a whole lot of sense for a while. There were days when I seriously wondered if I’d write again; I told myself it was you, that you weren’t even listening. Heaven knows, that is a thought that definitely does cross a high school teacher’s mind once in a while when he’s trying to get a bunch of hormonal and over-tired adolescents to get enthused about British Romantic Poetry. However, it just isn’t true, and I know it.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m the one with the problem. I suppose most of humanity is afflicted with this problem most of the time. It is a drag, and I’m sure it makes us very difficult to tolerate. That’s why I want to thank you so much for sticking by us silly hairless and tailess monkeys for a while longer. You won’t be sorry. We might be horribly slow learners, but I think you could say we’ve made some real progress, haven’t we? In any case, we can be occasionally rather adorable, you have to admit.

The problem as I see it: Exclusive Insanity.

Picture this:

A freckled four year old boy with a mop of curly brown hair walks on the side of the road. It’s summer so the boy is wearing a yellow Scooby-Doo tank top  with the Mystery Machine on the front. Said boy scuffs his new sneakers to send a bunch of pebbles onto the hot road paving. He looks up to witness the results of this attempt and spies a thing which is beyond imagining.

There is a bird, but it isn’t pecking at the ants gathered there. It isn’t startling to wondrous flight upon the boy’s scuffing approach. The bird is lying so still, like a discarded toy. It’s little marble eyes are glazed in a hazy cloud. The ants crawl over the bird in a frenetic and grotesque dance.

The bird is not a bird, not anymore, it is a sign. The boy furrows his brow.

The boy understands forever. He’s waited for his mother to finish interminable conversations with old co-workers in the supermarket so he might convince her that he needs a comic book or a lollypop near the registers. He understands love, the boundless ties that cause one to study another’s every movement, to delight in their arrival. But now, he must understand something completely different.

He must understand the sign of the bird that is not a bird anymore. Some dark understanding blooms inside his head, but there is no room for it. The boy’s brain is filled with love and forever. Where would there ever be room for such a thought? How can there be room in an endless warm summer’s afternoon for such a thing on the roadside? Yet, Knowledge, as one agonized monster once said, cannot be unlearned. The sign has been read, and the boy must somehow contain both the immortal and the mortal. What happens to such a boy when he must carry both things in his mind?

He goes crazy. You’d have to go crazy, wouldn’t you? But, that’s okay; it’s a crazy world. When in Rome do as the Romans. And the Romans were very, very crazy. They weren’t the first and they sure weren’t the last. Some hairless monkeys have built amazing monuments, painted marvelous pictures, written heart-rending songs, inspired illuminating faiths, and so much more all because of that dose of crazy. Everything they did was crazy, but the world kept spinning and everything was sort of hunky dory.

Except sometimes it isn’t hunky dory. Sometimes it really isn’t all that fun at all. Usually, this leads to, or is a direct result from, exclusive insanity. The hairless monkey of the moment does not accept that he’s crazy with crazy ideas. He even begins to think that not only is everyone else crazy, but that his monkey poo really has a far more pleasant smell than had been previously reported.

Thus, hairless monkeys might believe that once a hairless monkey walked on water, or a hairless monkey had the head of an elephant, or that a hairless monkey divided a sea with a wave of his stump-poking stick, and that kind of crazy is just alright. But then the hairless monkey says that only his crazy story isn’t crazy. So this inspires the hairless monkey to yell and scream a lot, be generally an unhappy monkey, and if things go horribly wrong: kill a bunch of other hairless monkeys.

Everybody is crazy. You’re exclusively crazy when you forget this fact.

So to get back to it; I had stopped writing to you because I suffered from my own particular brand of exclusive insanity. Just as any trauma can cause one to lash out at the world or lash within, so can living cause two different kinds of exclusive insanity. The first says my way or the highway, cause I’m the only sane monkey around. The second says: everybody else must be right and sane, and I’m the broken monkey with crazy ideas about what should bring one joy.

I mean, to lock yourself away alone in a room and record your thoughts and strange little fantasy tales is surely mad, is it not? Yes, it absolutely is. Except there are millions of crazy things these hairless monkeys do. They watch other monkeys chase balls around quite a bit. They sit in front of glowing screens and push buttons in the desperate hope that another monkey, far away, might push buttons in response. Some monkeys look at birds, some stuff them, some hunt them and some watch other monkeys hunt birds on glowing screens.

Writing is insane, but then so is everything else. It happens to be a flavor of crazy for which I have a particular fondness. It brings me joy; and thus it is worth doing.

Why does it bring me joy? I have no idea. It is a total mystery to me, but that’s all right. I like the mystery. In fact, I think we have come to the remedy for the exclusively insane hairless monkey. And I thank you for that as well, lovely universe.

We must all practice Mysterious Acceptance. Life is a mystery, a crazy plot. We have no choice than to accept that fact. And by doing so, we hop aboard the proverbial mystery machine, pet the great dane and ride off into adventure.

Do what brings you joy. Enjoy the mystery, accept it. I will do so myself, and sit down in front of a glowing screen and wonder at what will come out of me, for the mystery of the universe is like a mirror reflected inside of me, as well.

What could be better than waking up each morning, to cry out “the game is afoot”, and walk out into the unfolding mystery each day? Nothing, except perhaps to walk out hand in hand with you.

Love and Peace,

Trav

Love Letters to the Universe #1: The Milky Way Experience

22 Nov

Dear Universe,

Hello, it’s me, Travis. I’ve been thinking about our relationship lately. Now, wait, don’t get all torqued out of shape. I’m miles away from self-indulgent morosity, and I’m not about to quit on you. I turned the big four-o this year, so I’m far too stubborn and old for any of that horse pucky. I guess it comes down to the fact that I’ve realized it has been far too long since I checked in and really let you know how I feel about being here with you.

I’ve been frittering away the precious hours and minutes. I’ve been worrying myself sick over minutia. And most of all, I haven’t written, which is strange because… well, I love writing to you. It brings me joy. Why haven’t I written? I suppose I could list a thousand reasons, but to tell you the truth, none of them are really valid. The important thing is that I stopped doing the very thing that filled me with a sense of being connected.

Sure there was a lot of other benefits, too. There was the euphoria of having my first stories published and all the jigging and exclaiming and grinning like a fool. There is the soft magic hours where the words fly out of me and into you, like night-time whispers of love. There was the satisfaction of adding to that ongoing pot of recorded human speculation and fancy, of which I have sipped and gulped with such relish, and from which I have been succoured and fortified. But, most of all it was that sense of being connected, the understanding that I was was just where I needed to be, doing just what I was made to do.

You see, writing to me has always been an act of gratitude.  As I wrote, I recognized all the beauty these eyes have seen. As I wrote, I told stories that were reflections of this greater story in which I’ve been allowed to be a character. I’ve read the studies; gratitude equals happiness. Although, to tell true, the studies were just another reminder of a truth that I recognized, because it was unfolded to me many times by you. Just another thing for which to be grateful, another reason to be happy.

You’ve taught me so many things, and I’m a better person for it. You’ve sent so many people into my life, some a blessing, others a challenge, but all have perfectly made me who I am.

And who am I?

I’m a writer, kind of like you. I don’t always get what you’re always trying to tell me. But it is no fault in you as a writer. I don’t always see where you are going with weird plot twists such as chronically sick children or  tragic deaths of ex-girlfriends, but I still love the story. I still love you. In fact, you’ve inspired me to be who I am, and heck, imitation is the highest form of flattery, is it not?

You, the big story, taught me, the little story, that a story could write itself. So, that’s what I’ve been trying to do: take the story that is my life and tell it in the most graceful way I can. That’s what we’re all supposed to do, isn’t it?

You don’t have to answer. Sometimes, I just like asking questions. But, then you know that, don’t you?

Anyway, I am through with suffering the illusion that I could ever be alone. That’s the real reason I shirk writing to you. It’s just plain silly. Because when I write, I know you are listening. I’m just alone with you, and when that happens, who knows what kind of magic might ensue?

So, I’m going to keep on writing, sending my thoughts of love and gratitude out into the big beyond, which is you, my darling universe. I want to shout out the sparkling wisdom that I’ve been lucky enough to find, wallowing around like some boy in waders at the world’s shore, just looking for something to catch my curious eye.

Like the truth you taught me so long ago when I was such a confused and depressed young man, out on a spring evening with a group of friends.

How the stars shone, all pearlescent beauty against the plum dark night! How I studied their majesty with a sense of awe. Then when I least expected it, the world changed. The stars no longer resembled a dusting of light against the bowl of the sky. A great depth opened up above me. For one spinning moment I could not tell if I was looking up, out or down into the fiery wheel of the Milky Way. For that moment I saw the sky in three dimensions, and the feeling the view gave me held.

My stomach rose in a fluttery glee. I saw then what I had missed so many, many times before. The Milky Way was a wheel after all, a ferris wheel, on which we rode, from birth until we shuffled off to make room for the next folks who had realized that taking a ride on such a contraption was just the thing their spirit needed.

That was it. Life was just a ride. All the meadow muffins and road apples I had been obsessed over (and often taught to be obsessed over by many of the oh-so-serious fellow passengers) was just that: bullshit and horseshit. Life was a ride! I whooped with joy and went spinning off to bed that night anxious to awaken again in the morning to see what glories the ride would reveal to me on the morrow.

Since then, I sometimes forget. I don’t forget as often as I used to. That is one strange aspect to the ride. The more your back starts to ache, and your knees pop, ironically the more sure your spirit becomes.

But, even when this happens, you send other folks to remind us. Like that funny guy: Bill Hicks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iMUiwTubYu0

When I watched him remind others about how life was just a ride, I knew it as the truth. I also knew that I wanted, if I could, to help remind others. I suppose that’s why I became a teacher, why I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Except now, I’m done with wanting. I’m more into being now.

So, I’m going to keep doing what brings me joy. I’m going to write stories, record the little and big thoughts I’m given here, and enjoy the ride.

I’d like to leave you with a thought. Imagine if every hairless, tailless monkey on the planet got up and went out and looked up into that shining wheel on which we ride, and they all raised their hands and let out a little whoop of joy. Maybe for a minute they wouldn’t feel alone, maybe for a minute they would forget about the things that wear them down and turn them against each other. Maybe when they would turn back to their homes and their beds they would do so with the deep commitment to make their ride as joyful for themselves and their fellow hairless and tailless monkeys as they possibly could.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Love and Peace,

Trav

In defense of writing, and my plans…(bwa-ha-ha-ha!)

6 Apr

We are just three months from my five-year promise deadline. Looking back, I have some things I would have changed, but for the most part, I’m pretty proud of myself. Sure, I spent a lot of time discovering and trying to maneuver through social media (always with the excuse it was for better exposure, yeah right), and there were some choices as to where I would send my novels that, knowing what I know now, I would have done vastly differently. I was also a father of five children, a husband and a teacher. In fact, right now, I’m putting off yet another pile of papers to grade (I graded all of Saturday. It’s Sunday now), to right this little update.

But, I did manage to write close to fifty stories (not all of them keepers- but there were some gems in the lot), massively edit (re-write, actually) four novels, and write three more. I gave four speeches to aspiring young writers, published three novels, attended two writing conventions, and gave three readings (all of which I was invited). I  got to meet over the internet some of my favorite writers, and discovered and become friends with a bunch more talented folks. I got to meet a bunch of folks in person, some of which I’ve been a fan for years. I will cherish the memory of smoking and laughing with Rick Hautala at a conventions just months before he gave up the ghost. The inestimable Jonathan Maberry sent my son some supplementary readings when I told him how much Finnegan was a fan of his Rot and Ruin series. I’ve seen my book on book shelves and in the libraries I have frequented. Great stuff.

This challenge was a brave one. I have tried so long and hard to see myself as a writer, but how liberating it was to finally act like one. The real moments of glory for me was when I sold my first story just one month into my promise to Northern Frights Publishing. I gave a victory cry that sounded through the valley, then later read the work to my wife and reduced her to tears. I loved having my wife eagerly ask for more of my work, to hear her laugh and gasp as new plot points were revealed. Perhaps, most of all, I loved being lost in my long lonely drives to work, I loved frantically rushing to the keyboard and letting the words set themselves loose. I loved getting to know these characters that seemed to tell their own stories. I loved getting teary eyed as my tired heroes made sacrifices and fell into the arms of loved ones at journey’s end. It was those moments that kept me going despite my confusion about how to market myself, my disappointment of the apathy of people (sometimes the ones that counted), and the downright cruel critiques from some of the same people. Sure the glowing reviews helped, the kind comments from readers and listeners were pure gold, but it was the joy of writing itself that kept me going.

My one complaint: There just isn’t enough time to do all the things you love; and I love writing. With renewed vigor I have attacked 2014 to make this a year of abundant proclivity. I am about three-fourths done a novel. I have written two novelets and three short stories in the past couple of months. I plan on finishing the novel, and writing another this summer. And now we come to the future…

In 2012, my novel, The Wardmaster saw publication. Yes, it hasn’t sold a lot of copies, but I have faith that after a couple of the right people read this fantasy, that the readers will come. It is based on a novel concept: the main character is not the main character. The series is based around Crimm the Pyrelord, a psychic warrior who awakens after sleeping away a thousand years and finds his precious Vanaheim in the hands of cannibal monsters. Each tale in this series is told from the point of view of a person who becomes Crimm’s companion. Each can be read separately, yet each builds the tension in Crimm’s journey to liberate his homeland and restore the order of logos to the great tree. It is the second volume that I know intend to finish, and get this- I have seven more (at least) planned.

In The Wardmaster, I introduced a band of monster-hunting motorcycle mamas named the Valkyries. These women won me over, and my wife who demanded more tales about these indomitable women. Hence, I wrote The Bone Snake, the first full volume in a series that will be a planned nine volumes long. The Bone Snake is being considered for publication, and I have all faith that it will someday soon be available on a bookshelf near you.

So, I plan to write a lot more stories this year. I plan to finish The Pyrelord, and write the second Valkyrie novel this summer. I will continue to write until I die, because that is just who I am: a writer. It would be nice if I sold enough stuff to get done teaching so that I could devote even more time to my craft, but nevertheless, I will continue because the book that you have yet to pick up and thoroughly enjoy is just a record, a byproduct really of the inspiring time I’ve had with whatever fascinating characters that decided to pop out of some imaginal world and invite me along for the journey.

If you haven’t read my stuff, some words of advice. If you are looking for a truly funny and heart-warming tale of friendship- check out Hairy Bromance. If you want to go on an epic quest to restore a magical world from a terrible curse- purchase The Vale of Shade– which will be released in its entirety very, very soon (by June). If you want to step sideways into another world where psychic warriors pit their all against twisted gods- check out The Wardmaster. If you just want some quick reads with plenty of thrills and few chuckles- visit The Night Library. You won’t be sorry- just leave a review so I know you’ve been there, and someone else might get the chance for a little escape and wonder.

Wish me luck, after these grades are in, I’m off to get the Valkyries out of another scrape.

Go well and stay well.

T. L.

Writing update

13 Mar

Well, I’ve been busy editing and editing, formatting, and such. Soon (within the next couple of months) I will have THE VALE OF SHADE, the complete edition out and ready for purchase. I am very excited and can’t wait to see the cover. I also have a work out for traditional publication, so cross your fingers for me.

Until then, I have another Vanaheim novel to finish, and a slew of shorts to write. The snow is piled up outside my window and I’m hoping for Spring someday. Until, then, I’ll just have to write about it.

Take care,

Trav