Is it the ocean flowing in our veins?” from The Wedge, by Phish.

Just before the latest cosmic collision
I was tying my biking shoes
In the Jersey Shore Mecca of gyms
And experiencing my own variation
Of being a human netty pot
As water that had pooled in my sinuses
After a wonderful swim in the ocean
Started cascading from my left nostril
Like water from a hose in the garage.

After blowing out most of what was left,
I started riding, indoors,
The sun had beaten me down,
I just wanted to sweat a little.
Opting for my music instead of the gym’s
Allowed for some Phish instead of Disturbed,
Which put me into a meditation zone,
Which let the thoughts flow,
Acknowledged one by one,
Let go just as they came
Until I got stuck on a thought about breathing
And wedges, as The Wedge blared in my headphones,
As the ocean that I swam in started dripping, again.

There it was, the latest cosmic collision,
Something about the oceans, wedges, and
The implication that the salty water is so important
An elixir, a cleaner of sinuses, a test of our bravery.
Again, these collisions are coincidental,
Yet they happen, and by the way, I wrote about swimming,
Yes, in the ocean, for a new project I’ve just started,
Could it be that I am finding connections just because,
Or maybe the ocean does talk to us or runs in our veins.

It’s late, nearly ten o’clock.
The New Retro is streaming,
My skin is recovering
From a day at the pool.

The morning was spent with my daughter.
We soaked up the direct rays
The two of us alone with the guards
Letting the clouds carry us away.

The afternoon we faced directly into sunset’s wheelhouse,
The five o’clock sun strong and
My book about Joshua’s friend
Funny, sacrilegious, and enlightening all at once.

Then, the big kids came,
Those guys my age and I gave up reading
To talk the nonsense us guys talk
When we get the opportunity to just be guys.

The connection between morning and night
Being salamanders, who knows why, but
My daughter nearly stepped on one and my friends
Who is staying at a resort named after the amphibians.

I don’t know what this means Uncle Jim, so
Don’t read too much into this one.
I think it was just a perfect day
Touched by the energy of the Quarry.

June will be gone in a couple of hours.
I’ll wake to the repetition of running and
Head back to the waters
Looking forward to what July brings.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of everything writing. Mostly, that means working on this blog and I’ve been trying to keep up a schedule that allows me to be a month ahead with a post everyday. I’ve been good with the consistency having gone nearly two years without a miss. I’ve also written two books of poetry that I’ve been hoping to publish. One is based on my relationship with my grandfathers and father-in-law, each who have passed away, but taught me some very important lessons. The other is based on the Gold Star Mothers, particularly characters that I created from an actual Gold Star Mothers business journal that started in the 1950s and ran through the 1970s. Any publishers out there reading poetry now? Since I’m new to publishing, I have been attending two writer’s groups that have helped inspire me to get my work out there, but I think have also left me a bit intimidated by the process of getting “publisher feedback.” I’m learning it’s a slow process.

Since I teach and have the summer’s off, I thought this would be a great time to try some new projects. I have a couple of things working, but the writing has been so hard. With only two weeks to go until school starts and my idea well feeling dry, I decided to do a little home therapy and binge on Netflix. I’ve been on a two day bender and I’m feeling like there might be a break in the great wall of block that I’ve been fighting. Here’s what I’ve watched…

1. Jaco: Jaco Pastorius III was a jazz bassist who was recognized as one of the greatest players ever. He was not without demons and ultimately his life ended in tragedy. There was a scene in the movie where Jaco was said to have said something about doing great things with the bass in an almost spiritual way. I took that to mean he was going to find his voice and express it through the bass. I started thinking, “What’s my voice when I’m writing?” I’m not sure yet, but I’m more aware of finding it than I have ever been. I do know that hypocrisy and ways that we keep repeating history keep coming up in my blog. That’s a good start…

2. The Irish Pub: This documentary examined the culture of traditional Irish pubs, specifically those in Ireland. One of the writing groups I attend meets in an American-Irish pub. They are not the same. The pubs featured in the documentary has similar characteristics; small, intimate, built for conversation, and loyal to their communities. I loved the authenticity of both the story telling and of the people who were featured in the video. Whether cheerful or gruff, the one thing about all of the people was their sincerity and transparency. Is this another connection to finding that authentic writing voice? I think so…

3. The Winding Stream: Johnny Cash is a huge name, but to understand him, it is necessary to understand the Carter family and their influence on Johnny; all music, really. I grew up in eastern Virginia, but the western part of the state is a mystery to me. I considered going to college in Clinch Valley, I was sold on the recruiter more than the chance to go west as a young man, so when I heard the Carters mentioning the area in the documentary, I was immediately connected. My take away from the movie was a sense that the Carter-Cash family is “supposed” to play music and keep the old songs alive as if it is a duty, then and now. That same message was a theme of the Irish pub movie and I think it’s something I feel about writing. The block has been creeping in, but I can get around it, because writing feels like something I’m supposed to be doing. Sometimes the writing is good, other times crap, but it’s always necessary. I can embrace the struggle and know that it’s part of what I must experience. Coincidently, today I was asked if I had my fantasy team ready for football season. It’s a question I get asked a lot since I teach PE and coach basketball. I answered, “No,” and because most people are surprised that I don’t do any fantasy leagues, I knew to explain that I spend more time writing than I do watching sports. I didn’t get into the whole “it’s necessary for me,” but my life with sports (I love them) takes a back seat to my creative life.

4. Runnin’ Down a Dream: At four hours, this documentary required a couple of bathroom breaks, but I think it cracked the block wide open. (Upon review, I have to call foul on that last sentence.) I saw Tom Petty a really long time ago, thirty or so years, I think. I’m still trying to get my head around all the lessons in this documentary, but again, authenticity keeps coming up. I’ll say it, “I’m a fan of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.” I like the whole catalog of stuff, even the Stevie Nicks songs. My friends in college did not like his music, so I learned to listen to hair bands and LL Cool J. Whenever I drove, though, it was my music and TP and the Heartbreakers never got skipped. I never thought about why I liked his music. I just did. As I listened to the process that Tom and the band went through to create their music, I have an even deeper appreciation for what they’ve do. The music is honest…

I know the block is about to go away because I get feelings of connectedness to stuff I don’t normally notice. Most people think of them as coincidence, but I like to believe they are cosmic collisions. When was the first time I heard Weather Report? College. When was the last time I heard them? Sunday, the day before I watched the Jaco doc. I never knew he was or that he was in Weather Report. Coincidence or cosmic? I stepped into a dive bar for a quick beer the other day. The conversation that shot around the bar was unique and funnier than anything on television right now. I had never been there before, but the next day I found myself learning that traditional Irish pubs don’t have television or music so that people will talk to each other. Coincidence or cosmic? In the Winding Stream, John Prine is singing. He gets mentioned in the Runnin’ Down a Dream because Tom Petty’s bass player Howie Epstein produced Prine’s 1991 album. Okay, that one is probably coincidence, but I’ve been waiting for many weeks to watch the documentaries and then I decide to watch them both in the same day and I make that connection. Hmmm…

But that’s how the block is broken. The collisions, real or imagined, start hitting and off the words go. No kidding, as I’m writing a TPHB song (Burn Babble) just came on Radio Paradise.

Thank’s, everyone for your support… Hey, publishers, hit me up…

Sometimes I probably find meaning in things that are more appropriately classified as coincidence. I also carry the idea of webbing (for you technical educators, “concept mapping, semantic mapping, whatever”) a little crazy sometimes. Let me explain:

1. Last summer I read a bunch of books. One of them, maybe it was Stephen King’s On Writing, although I can’t be sure, made mention of Tim O’Brien’s, The Things They Carried. I kept meaning to read the book, but never did.

2. Last month, I was reading an Australian newspaper from the 1930s and came across an article about a guy named Oscar Asche. He had been an actor of some renown and then an author of a book called the Joss Sticks of Chung. Not knowing anything about Mr. Asche or joss sticks, I did some reading which led to me writing a poem about Asche and the sticks.

3. One day at work, my normal printer was not working, so I walked to the school’s library to get finish the job. While I was waiting, I looked at books that the librarian had displayed atop the book cases and there was O’Brien’s book. Of course I had to check it out, but it sat in my office for a couple of weeks. That is, until today…

4. I was totally into the book even though I couldn’t find a link to Stephen King. The story also smashed right into a discussion I recently had with other writers about creative non-fiction and whether there really is such a thing. Near the end of the book, which may or may not be about the Vietnam war, there is a direct reference to a character taking “joss sticks” from villagers.

5. Really?

My mind was swirling the rest of the day. I call things like this “cosmic collisions.” I had to put the map together, which led to another map for a character I write about in this blog named, Rory. He’s a guy who is trying to make sense of things much in much the same way I try to find meaning in these random happenings.

Maybe it’s time for Rory (or me) to burn a little incense…