the people along the sand all turn and look one way;
they turn their back on the land, they look at the sea all day.

as long as it takes to pass a ship keeps raising its hull;
the wetter ground like glass reflects a standing gull.

the land may vary more, but wherever the truth may be -
the water comes ashore and people look at the sea.

they cannot look out far, they cannot see in deep -
but when was that ever a bar for any watch they keep.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Brother Crow

brother crow (a song)
by me, 4/2007

Hello again, Brother Crow
I hear you singing but I don't know
what you are saying to me with your song
but I will follow you on...

I hear you calling me, Brother Crow
through the darkness and through the cold
to a light in the shadows I see you fly
your shape is so strong against the sky...

you fly to the sun, you bring us light
feathers burned to black,  eyes as black as night
your voice is broken, but still so strong
your calling is never wrong…

hello again, brother crow
i hear you calling me, and here i go
to a light in the shadows i see you fly
i never hear you sing in the night…

Are you a healer? Are you a mage?
Do you hold the key to unlock my cage?
Do you foretell sorrow, or promise light?
I never hear you sing in the night.

In the morning you come to me, Brother Crow
Seek me out like sunrise and let me know
This is your message, this is your way,
I am alive another day

The Wind Hides The Place, 2007

the wind hides the place where the chuckwill sings,

hides it among brush and leaf and grass,

hides it in moans from the northern sky

that hides itself in the mountain pass.

I know how to hide, and I often do,

while the wind howls around me like liquid stone,

ignoring me here but to pluck my strings

that are covered – well, hidden - with flesh and bone.

I stand in the brush as it bows its head,

the wind giving aid as it bends to pray.

I feel the touch of that same strong wind

though, unlike the brush, I have little to say.

The chuckwill sings, and I startle its song,

not for long – for the likes of I

have another pass and another place,

so it waits, and it waits, until I go by.

I move fast to something, the pass or the leaf

or the memory of the whispering brush;

but where I am going and where I will be,

the wind and the chuckwill have much more for me.

John Shigley, 2002

How My Spirit Guide Found Me

I have had many people ask me "why do you call yourself Brother Crow?" Truth is, I really don''s just that I say "Brother Crow" many times a day, in greeting to those special beings that manage to fly their way to my path on a regular basis, or wake me with their caw, or get my attention by gathering in a treetop and going at it with dozens of their brethren.

Example: recently, I was on the beach in Boca Grande, on Gasparilla Island, SW Florida. It was beautiful, tranquil, a nearly empty beach, sand sharks and stingrays playing in the shallow water, horseshoe crabs and sand dollars and sand pipers and pelicans dancing around in the gorgeous blue water and bluer sky. It was a near perfect experience...except I was in a bad mood because the waves were low and slow that day, and I like to play in waves. I pretty much had a hissy fit, made everybody with me uncomfortable, and sat in my beach chair and grumbled until I decided to go to the car, get some fruit juice and rum and make me a very strong cocktail and get drunk on the beach. On my way to the car, walking up the boardwalk, a huge black crow flew within inches of me, face level so I could not miss it, and landed on an old docking post about four feet off the path. He stood there and looked right at me. I looked at him. I said "hello brother." He cawed, once.

A light went off in my head. What an ass I had been. I had been selfish, unthinking, insensitive, a prick in every sense of the word. My wife, my daughter and her friend, my son and his friend, were enjoying the beach and water and the beauty of this isolated island - they had said one hundred times if they said it once... "God, this place is incredible. This is my favorite beach ever." And I was pissing on it with my childish attitude.

But Brother Crow made an effort to intersect my path and "caw" me into reality. I shook my head, grinned, and said, "thanks, brother, you're right." He cawed one more time, and flew off.

I don't think I have ever seen crows hanging around beaches. And I certainly had not noticed any that day. Until this one brother flew into my lifepath and helped me make a correction. Amazing but true.

I no longer look for spiritual signs or miracle encounters...I have become too exhausted to do that which I am skeptical about anyway. But this time, a crow flew into my face and my attitude changed because of it.

That is why I call them "Brother Crow." Every day, for the past four years, this kind of thing has happened. They are all around me, at the oddest times, cawing, gathering, waking, cawing. And when I acknowledge them, welcome them, I feel like I am making room for the possibility of mystery in my life. Not divine intervention necessarily - just setting it up so I can be open to looking outside of the established boundaries of reason and culture and adulthood, and perhaps see something new. And act like a better person because of what I see.

That's why I call myself Brother Crow; I want to be open to them, just in case.

I Remember Loving This

I wrote this song/poem in the fall of 2004, on the first trip to the North Georgia mountains made by my family in many years (we had moved to the northeast). I was overwhelmed with the beauty and majesty of this place that I loved...and was torn with regret that I had given up this beauty in order to find my place in the religious system of evangelical christianity. This song/poem helped me find the courage to walk out of the church...I hope it will be a blessing to you.

I remember loving this
canopy of stars at night
whisper whoosh of rolling creek
cradling in mountain arms
covering of ancient pine.

Now my world is white and gray
lived within these four square walls
bathed in pale fluorescent light
the hum of ballasts in the air
the tonal center of my life.

the only stars I see are pings of light
reflected off the dangling stones
in ears of women in the choir
creation framed by stucco, white,
stained glass yellowing the sky.

Blue gray carpet at my feet,
not needle brown and lichen green.
How did I travel so off course?
I took a trail I thought I knew
and stumbled to this other place...

where hymns are sung to empty space,
the last remains of what once was grace.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Standing In the Gap

Between everything that exists, there is a gap. Between you and me. Between our planet and the next planet over. Between our galaxy and the next galaxy over. At the microscopic level, between cells. At the subatomic level, between electrons and neutrons and protons...between quarks, strings. Between strings...more strings. Quantum physics has postulated that at the very deepest level of what is, what is is nothing. Or, mass-less - energy that may or may not be conscious, but not matter.

There are gaps in understanding, between what we know and what we say we know, and what we don't know. Or say we don't know. I think even our definition of knowledge has gaps in it.

There is a fundamental truth (and yes, truth has gaps) that I am finally beginning to understand. Nothing touches. People don't can they? The atomic structure of our cells actually slide in between each other as we touch. Vibrations on a quantum string level send forth waves that ultimately end up being a sensation of touch as they are interpreted within the complicated system of organic reality. But we don't really touch. Nothing touches. Atoms don't touch, strings don't touch.

The gap is the essential reality of the universe. Nothing touches. There is emptiness between everything, and within everything. Quantum scientists are hot on the trail of this reality, but Buddhists figured this out centuries ago...I am just now beginning to get it. At the center of everything is emptiness. A gap.

"And the Lord said, I sought for a man to stand in the gap, and I found not one."

The purpose of life, the meaning of everything, the key to existence, is learning to, accept and embrace...emptiness. Standing in the gap. Not necessarily touching anything...God never said anything about touching anything. In fact, he seemed to get pissed off when people touched him. Remember the guy who tried to keep the ark of the covenant from falling to the ground? He touched the ark - which was the symbol of the reality of and presence of God - and god sent his ass to dirttown. Killed him with a bolt of power from the Neumotron.

God does not want you touching anything because you can't. Ultimately, though it feels and seems like touching is isn't. There is a gap.

Emptiness, isolation, and not-touching is the truth at the core of existence. There is more empty space than space filled with anything.

This whole concept can be incredibly empowering. Standing in the gap can help us find the center, in the midst of anything. And in the center, we can discover serenity...and perhaps wisdom.

Perhaps there is no greater wisdom than to understand that emptiness is the center. That if there is power in a particular event - or even thought - that power resides within us. We are the power.

The concept of emptiness also teaches me about the true nature of touch. Throughout life, I have come to see that intimacy is a matter of something other than physical contact. I have known lovers who did not know the other's favorite food; I have known people who were unable to have physical intimacy due to a disease or handicap, and yet lived deep within the reality of their loved one, and were experiencing intimacy beyond what most people ever know.

Knowing that material touch never really happens...and to know that true intimacy is not a matter of physical contact...has helped me to understand that touch is something different. It is mystical, it is found when someone can stand in the gap, experience the serenity of the center...and touch with their hearts, or their minds. I also know that when touch from the gap takes place, then the physical intimacy that follows is both inconsequential and astounding in pleasure!

We must learn to accept that we are standing in a gap, and embrace all that it means. We must let the gap teach us and we must teach ourselves as we stand in the midst of nothing.

When we do this, we discover that the gap is not a lonely fact, it may not be a place at all, but a journey...from one reality to another. That journey can become our definition, a definition that is not static but dynamic, changing constantly, evolving, growing, becoming, expanding.

Perhaps one day, we shall be the ones to fill the gap.