Saturday, March 3, 2012
"I Won't Abandon Him to Mortality"
It seems like a lifetime ago, when I danced to the music of the Monkees in our high school gymnasium. I was wearing a plum colored, "poor boy" sweater, with plum and pink, windowpane checked bell bottoms, an image that has inexplicably remained with me for a long time now. I must like it.
You've probably heard that Davy Jones, one of the Monkees, passed on a few days ago. As these things go, the news brings with it reactions from those closest to him, or most often associated. So, we heard from Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith, his fellow Monkees. I've been an ongoing fan of Michael's and am especially fond of his beautiful and haunting song, "Joanne," something I've written about previously. I was struck by his statement regarding Davy Jones' passing, which seems to mirror my own thoughts about this thing we call death. Michael Nesmith's statement:
"While it is jarring, and sometimes seems unjust, or strange, this transition we call dying and death is a constant in the mortal experience that we know almost nothing about. I am of the mind that it is a transition and I carry with me a certainty of the continuity of existence. While I don't exactly know what happens in these times, there is an ongoing sense of life that reaches in my mind out far beyond the near horizons of mortality and into the reaches of infinity. That David has stepped beyond my view causes me the sadness that it does many of you. I will miss him, but I won't abandon him to mortality. I will think of him as existing with the animating life that insures existence. I will think of him and his family with that gentle regard in spite of all the contrary appearances on the mortal plane. David's spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people, who remember with me the good times, and the healing times, that were created for so many, including us. I have fond memories. I wish him safe travels."
Closely tied to this memory of dancing to "I'm a Believer," is another memory, a gift I received from my mother about the time of that school dance. There was a store in the small mid-western town I grew up near, just north of where I'm now living. It had a soda fountain with tourist items in front, along with some magazines and books. A gift area, with slightly higher-priced items, was towards the back. Occasionally, I would wander through that part of the shop and sometimes a particular object would catch my eye. It was on one such visit that a vase, sitting on a glass shelf, captured my attention. I recall standing in front of it, admiring it - the colors, the shape, its smooth hand-painted exterior - imagining how it would feel tucked into the crook of my arm, as though it might contain my secrets, my dreams, the things I held close to my heart. I came back to re-visit it more than once.
My mother knew the woman who owned the store (this was a very small town), and would herself shop there from time to time. Perhaps my mother asked her if there was something I had been admiring, perhaps this woman offered what she knew. Either way, it became my gift for my sixteenth birthday. That this woman would be paying attention and be able to offer this information to my mother, that she cared enough to do so, well, how wonderful is that?
I still have it, carefully packing it for every move that came my way in life. It now sits on an upper shelf of my bookcase where it might well remain for a very long time to come. For some reason, it's been crossing my mind lately, the memory associated with it, the love that my mother brought to her gift-giving, the care with which she selected each of them.
A few weeks back, I came across a poem by the 15th century Indian saint and mystic poet, Kabir. Although the clay jug is referring to the universal memories we all share and carry inside of us - the canyons and mountains, the stars and the oceans, the universe itself - I keep coming back to the vase my mother bought for me and what it means, this vase I can see but really lives here, inside of me.
"The Clay Jug"
Inside this clay jug
there are canyons and
and the maker of canyons
and pine mountains!
All seven oceans are inside, and
hundreds of millions of stars.
The acid that tests gold is there, and
the one who judges jewels.
And the music
that comes from the strings
that no one touches,
and the source of all water.
If you want the truth, I will tell you the truth:
Friend, listen: the God whom I love is inside.
Thank you to Tony Zimnoch for introducing this poem to me through one of his posts: everton.blogspot.com