Liscannor, Ireland: rest, rainbows, and rejuvenation.
Liscannor. A tiny town on the Atlantic coast of Ireland. There’s Lahinch across the horseshoe bay, with white houses pebbled along the hazy kelly hills. I ask a local how to pronounce it.
“To the English, it’s pronounced Lis-CANN-or. To the Irish, it’s Liscannoooor,” she says with a ghostly purse of the lips and a brogue roll of the tongue.
Travelers, weary from a month on the road, we settle into a cozy beach cottage and light a fire in the black stove. A previous dash to the country store has rewarded us with a crisp wine, and we clink our glasses. As the room warms, we peel off our layers of coats and scarves and finally sweaters, our socked toes curling to the heat as we bask in the embers.
A strategically placed Irish novella beckons from a bay window—first him, then me, and then we chat about secrets hidden between delicious words.
A tumult hurls rain sideways, loud as breaking glass. The lap blanket gets pulled to the chin with a smile.
A season in a day here, soon the sun gleams and glistens, turning grass the famous emerald, and gray stone to a true gold. And, yes, a rainbow, its full arch so clear that if we each run to a side, we swear we’ll be soaked in its paint.
In the past, the village folk got together and created a park with lovely stone benches. Not facing each other, but each facing the sea. There is no sitting across for such a view—Ireland is for holding hands and silence and stirring of souls.
The Atlantic is a raging, smashing, crushing giant bull, stomping and snorting, tossing the spray straight up with such a mighty blow, that the water is momentarily suspended there, afraid to come down again. And soon, with a season in a day, it whispers and laps and shimmers gently to lovers and sleeping babies over smoothed rocks and boulders, and seabirds can tiptoe on its shores once more.
He is now making breakfast—our last before we leave. And I am on a stone bench, pondering, then simply being. The stone is chilly through my jeans. And it’s time to go. The sun filters glowing ribbons down on me, whispering stay. But that’s the beauty of Ireland. You never really leave, once you’ve been here.
You may see ancient stone bridges standing a thousand years. If you listen for ghosts, you can hear the march of soldiers, the creak of wagons, the clip-clop of horses.
Turn a verdant country corner.
Just there, between the poplars, you will see a quaint bridge with playful wrought iron, a hundred years ‘young.’ A tell-tale pink ribbon hints at a recent wedding and life’s warm, wonderful continuity.
From deafening swollen rivers to the smallest giggling brook, we build bridges to connect to each other—to family, neighbors, strangers, foreigners… enemies.
The waters divide; we join. We do. We build those bridges because we hope. We are always hoping, we have always hoped to join together. The human spirit is more powerful than a raging river.
We panic sometimes. We get suspicious. We suddenly fear the other side. We knock our bridges down.
A storm blackens the sky, and we forget the sun ever shone.
For a while.
But that is not the definition of “us.” We are better than our fear.
The river shimmers from a tiny crack in the desolate clouds, that first glimmer of light, and we suddenly remember. Curiosity returns, as constant as the flow of the river.
And, like our ancient ancestors everywhere—our mutual family carrying our shared DNA in their blood, we pick up that first stone and drop it in the water. Because THAT is who we are. And, with childlike innocence, wobbling and precarious and full of dreams, we take that first step to the other side.
I have a Zen radar, which finds the cool artsy places to work. As a copy editor and writer, my office is wherever my heart says, “Here.” I search around, laptop in hand, and when I feel that “mother’s hug” I know that’s the place where the magic will happen. I do that at home each morning with my Zen radar on, searching for the “feels.” Hmm. Livingroom on the comfy couch? Sun’s a bit bright. Office with a candle lit? Strong possibility. Backyard swing with the hummingbirds? Mmm. There’s that hug feeling.
On the road in Europe, my Zen radar blips constantly at “the perfect spot” because they’re everywhere. When my hubby and I have a long driving day and I’m working in the car and we’re zipping past castles, seas, mountains, and villages nestled in valleys or clinging like barnacles to the side of a cliff, my radar can sometimes scream HERE! Wait—HERE! No—HERE! HERE! HERE!” These are the moments I respectfully put away the manuscript and sponge in the beauty of our little rock hurling through space. That’s as important as breathing. That’s how the artist finds stories.
Europe in the fall so far has been sweater weather at best. At last, in France, it begins to sprinkle. My hubby Anthony dons a coat and scarf and steps out for a long day of outdoor work. Today, it will be in the mud. Not a problem if you make it an adventure, which Anthony always does.
Too soggy for my computer, my outdoor office is traded for two propped-up pillows and a down-filled duvet in our cozy hotel room.
Thunder punches the clouds, and a deluge floods the streets—and surely my spouse as well, as the mud turns into creeks outside.
And here I am, warm and cozy, sorry for my soggy spouse, happy that my Zen radar is on overload with an artist’s stormy-day atmosphere.
I have a record-breaking day for pages done. I am thrilled, and my soul is full.
Sundown, Anthony tramps in, and we are both starving—we haven’t eaten since our early breakfast.
We drive to the nearby ancient city of Gordes—one of those “clinging to a cliff like a barnacle” towns—and walk the streets. Turns out, this is the day they have closed for the season. On top of that, it’s Monday.
We drive to the next town, and the next. “Y a t’il des restaurants ouverts?” Any restaurants open? Nope. None.
With the wipers swiping buckets in a frenzy, we finally come upon a grocery store. Opening the car door, rain dumps on us as we laugh our way in, soaking. With no access to a stove or microwave, we buy a prosciutto salad, goat cheese-and-fig wrap, and a bottle of rosé.
Back under the duvet, together this time, clinking glasses, we enjoy an astonishingly delicious dinner (that came to 20 euros total.) My Zen radar signals again. After all, I have my sweet man, a perfect impromptu dinner, and France in the rain. Magnifique.
On a balcony overlooking the Adriatic, dawn fails to wake sleepy tourists; I have the view all to myself. Little sparks of light speak of fishermen, assuring tonight’s dinner will be ‘sea to table.’
A soft voile mist blankets but cannot veil, and mottled silver breaks through steel clouds—morning won’t be held back any longer.
Ten centuries prepared, old town gazes, steadfast, through long black rectangle eyes, from rustic peach stone facings here to whitewashed monuments there. All stand, precarious yet without fear, on a crumbling, stratified rock cliff.
I see the church bell through the arched window of the tower. That will wake the tourists, I think with a teasing grin. This feast for the eyes can’t be wasted on just me.
I walk down an ancient cobbled path, to a view of vast rolling hills, like a quilt draped over a pile of sleeping cats. Squares of green tufted candlewick trees, a plain beige patch here, a striped green and brown vineyard there, a golden plowed field with mustard peeking through in vivid yellow.
Descending steep stone steps, I see a grotto with a statue of Mary to the right, and a marble bare-breasted maiden to the left. Viva l’Italia!
The wind is soft as the sky, with its gentle haze muting the colors—just a little. Italy doesn’t do ‘muted’ for long.
I arrived in the dark, delivered to the tip-top via a treacherous drive up, up, up, inches away from the craggy crumbling bluff, the driver confident and nonchalant.
The thing is, that’s how to do it. Perceived danger is a funny thing. Like the light mist, it can be gently dismissed by a calm confidence that all will be well.
A surprise gust of wind catches my attention and hair. Yes? I ask the sky as if it will answer. I often open my ears to the possibilities, the avant-garde, and the muses skipping and floating, invisible and playful.
“You see me?” I ask out loud as my dark tresses flail about. “I see you, too.”
Talking to the wind is not crazy. It is connecting to all that is, not just the plain old atoms and molecules and facts and the concrete.
What is wind, anyway? Molecules, tossed about wildly, carrying the atoms of people and trees and dinosaurs and stars. That’s the real circle of life. Oh, the stories an atom could tell.
A cat, its coat patched in shabby gray, meanders, nonchalant as the driver, and is on her merry way after a rather royal sniff to my offered hand. A queen walking among the common folk in disguise, her cloak didn’t fool me—the flitting tail was a dead giveaway.
Silver-edged clouds glow uncannily, stealing the scenery—they want their moment, too.
Patchwork clouds and patchwork fields and patchwork cats; patchwork atoms and patchwork me. We’re all just pieces of each other, really—we people, animals, earth, sky… cats.
I’m no philosopher, but that sits well with me, as I sit, well, in Umbria.
On a hospital bed at the California Dream Institute, Cal woke up flushed and clammy. And furious. He’d failed again to control his dream.
“That was a bad nightmare.” Dr. Kline nodded to the erratic line graph that spiked like an earthquake reading. She pulled the electrodes from his forehead. “Did you catch that bad guy you’re always after?”
“Not yet. Next time.”
Her ruby lips parted into that delicious smile. His tortured dreams were almost worth the reward of her fingertips on his skin.
“Your pulse is still high.” She ripped electrodes from his chest.
“Ow.” Cal studied her, his face stoic. Always stoic. The rapid heart rate readings? That would be Dr. Kline’s proximity. A secret that would never be revealed. He needed to keep her safe from Bob.
Bob. Cal had chosen the most innocuous name he could for his nemesis, to take some semblance of power away from the demon who haunted his dreams nightly.
Cal could have named Bob what he really was—Brain-Eater.
Noticing his own fear, he repeated to himself, Bob. Bob. Bob. The mantra always grounded him.
Like a ribbon in a gentle breeze, Dr. Kline floated into a leather seat and crossed her legs. God, she was perfect.
“Cal, how many more times are we going to do this?” Her smile looked suddenly… placed there, for politeness’ sake.
He felt a rush of disappointment but knew it was for the best that she wasn’t interested—in him, or the experiment. “Until you stop taking my money, or I catch Bob.”
“Bob. The guy in the dream.”
Cal frowned playfully to hide a cringe. “Yes, the… guy in the dream.”
She frowned and slipped on black-rimmed glasses, and somehow got even prettier. “Cal—I’m not sure this is the right approach. You believe your nightmares will stop if you actually catch—and kill—Bob?”
“Ah, yes. You think I need a shrink.”
She leaned uncomfortably close to Cal’s face. “I think you need a friend. Tell me about Bob. Please. Maybe… maybe I can help. I have a good imagination, I’m open-minded, and I don’t have a judgmental bone in my body. Come on. It’s been two months. I think I’ve earned your trust by now.”
Cal considered it. He longed to tell her everything. But—then Bob would come for her, too. Bob was attracted to fear. Bob said that fear made the brain taste good. Something about the flood of adrenaline.
Dr. Kline smacked her lips at Cal’s evasive silence, glanced at the clock—five p.m.—and stood up. “That’s it. This is way against protocol, but…” she closed the door and snapped shut the blinds, “… this is an emergency.” She walked to her desk and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. Grabbing beakers, she poured two stiff drinks. She shoved a glass in his hand and commanded, “Drink. Now.”
Chuckling under his breath, Cal muttered, “Drinking.”
“To Bob, may he rot in hell.”
Cal shot her a shocked glance, but she was kicking off her shoes and nestling back into her chair. He composed himself and said blankly, “To Bob.”
She downed the whiskey in a cheek-rounding gulp. He followed suit, and she poured them another one. Stiffer than the last.
The clock ticked on the wall. Tic-tic-tic… mesmerizing and oblique and fuzzy.
He saw her lips moving, chatting about minutia, her voice blending with the clock. He was getting quite drunk. Otherwise, he never would have done it. He never would have said it. But he simply couldn’t help himself. “Bob is real.”
“Aha! I knew the whiskey would work!” She stabbed a finger at him. “Wait. So—you know Bob, in real life?”
Cal shook his head. Here goes nothing. “No. Bob’s a demon. He visits people in their dreams, and he kills them if they get scared.”
She frowned, obviously attempting to sober up. “Kills them—for real?”
Cal nodded. “Seventeen dead so far, in the ten years I’ve been aware of him.”
She folded her arms and sat back in her chair, looking skeptical as hell. “What are their names? These victims.”
This was Cal’s ace in the hole. He pulled out a folded hand-written list from his pants pocket. “Here. Google these names, if you want. They’re all dead. And I saw each and every one of them in a dream the night before they died. Bob killed them in my dream. The next day—they’re dead, in real life.”
Dr. Kline snatched the note and her phone and did a quick Internet search. She got two people into it and narrowed her eyes. “Okay. So, you have dead people on a list. You could have gotten those names from…”
“The newspaper. Yeah, yeah. Check the dates.”
She studied the coffee-stained, hand-written note that he’d obviously been carrying for ages. “So… at first glance, it looks as though you wrote their names the day before they died.”
Cal nodded. “That is correct. I’d wake up from a nightmare and write the name of the person in my dream—the one being terrorized by Bob.”
She shook her head, her hair falling in her face. She swatted it back. “You could have just written the wrong date after the fact.”
Cal was drunk, yes. But—he was aware that he had a chance to shut his mouth—to shrug and laugh and pretend it was all a joke. Instead, he murmured as quietly as he could, “Check the back.”
Screw it. He raised his voice. “Check the back of the note. What I just wrote down a moment ago, while you were pouring drinks.”
She flipped the note and read the most recent item on the list. “John Embers. October 30th.” She looked up curiously. “That’s today.”
Cal nodded, already feeling guilty for involving her.
She squinted, thinking. “So—according to what you’ve told me, this… John Embers was just killed in your nightmare—the dream you experienced here in my office, not an hour ago.”
Cal nodded. “Yes, that is correct.”
“Bob—scared him to death?”
Again. A moment where Cal could shut his damned mouth and leave the pretty lady out of it.
Dr. Kline refilled their glasses. “To John Embers, may he beat the odds.” She downed her drink, and Cal followed suit.
He just couldn’t keep quiet. “Bob didn’t scare John to death. He scared him into immobility. When they’re scared, he can make them immobile. And then he…” for god’s sake Cal, shut up. This was the point of no return. It was the whiskey. Or maybe Cal was tired of sharing the burden alone. He blurted out, “He makes them frozen with fear, and then he eats their brains.”
Dr. Kline did something completely unexpected. She laughed. Not just laughed, but the gut-wrenching, arms wrapped around the belly, tear and snot and drool kind of hysterical laugh that borderlines on mania. She toppled to the floor, squealing. “Oh—oh—my god, I’m dying here!” She sat up abruptly, serious for a split second. “Oh—get it? Dying? Oh, no, it must be BOB!” Peals of giddy sniggering continued.
Cal was at a loss. In a way, it snapped him back and cleared his head. She didn’t believe him. Good. Time to do the right thing. Cal smirked. “You liked that, huh? I got you!” he forced a dark chuckle. “I’d better catch a cab home tonight. We’re still on for tomorrow, same place, same time?”
She wiped her nose on the sleeve of her doctor’s smock and managed to control herself. She even feigned sobriety. She remembered she was a doctor with a patient, and it was pretty damned funny to see her stand up, put her hand out for a professional handshake, and trip over her shoes. Too drunk to blush, she shoved her toes into her high heels—on the wrong feet—and opened the door. “Same place, same time. Good night, Cal.”
The next day, Cal entered the office, and there stood Dr. Kline, white as a sheet.
He pressed his lips to hide a smile. Hung over, are we, doc? Turns out, that wasn’t the problem.
“What the fuck, Cal?” She held her phone to his face. The screen showed a story about the mysterious death, of one John Embers.
Cal squeezed his eyes shut. “Told you.”
“Did you do it, Cal?” Her voice was ice.
His eyes flew open again. “What? No! Of course, not. I told you. It was…”
“Bob? Your imaginary friend from your dreams? You’re seriously going to blame… Bob?” Dr. Kline looked equal parts furious and… scared.
Oh shit. No, no. Don’t be scared! “I went straight home last night. I swear.” His face brightened. “The taxi driver! He can tell you—he dropped me off at home!”
“You could have taken your car afterward…”
“My car was here!”
“You could have taken another taxi. Enough, Cal, tell me what happened. The truth, this time.”
Cal was at a loss for words. He slumped into the leather chair. “It wasn’t me.”
“We’ll see about that,” she snapped. “He’s probably your neighbor. You probably walked there. I’m checking where he lives…”
Cal watched her eyes widen in confusion as she tapped the phone screen, and he knew he had won the day. “He’s not from here, is he? They’re from all over the world. Bob’s victims. One was from India. The closest one so far was in Kentucky. Where did John die?”
“Australia,” she whispered and sank onto the hospital bed. “He died in Melbourne, in his office. Just keeled over and died.”
She stared intently at him. “His brains were not eaten. There wasn’t one word about brains.”
Call shook his head. “No. That’s just how he kills them in the nightmare. I think it marks them for death, and the next day they just drop dead of ‘mysterious causes.’”
“I’m a doctor. There’s no such thing as ‘mysterious causes.’ You have a stroke, an embolism, a heart attack…”
“Or they can’t find a single anomaly, as in Bob’s victims. That’s how you know.”
“Know what, exactly?”
“That Bob killed them.”
She opened her mouth to argue but had nothing to say.
She jumped up. “Get on the table.” She grabbed him surprisingly roughly and made him lie down. She slapped electrodes on his temples and chest. “God damn you, Cal, you are making me feel insane. I am a doctor. An educated, rational doctor. So, here’s what we’re going to do. You are going to have another nightmare. You’ll write down the name, and then we both spend the night, here. And we don’t leave. Not to eat, not to pee.”
“What if I have to…”
“Shut up, Cal, and go to sleep. You will not make me look like a quack. There is a logical explanation. I am proving your theory wrong.”
“Very well.” Cal was back to his stoic self. And falling asleep on command was never an issue. Bob only ate brains during Cal’s sleep. Bob had told him before, that when Cal didn’t sleep, Bob went hungry. So, Cal was the most sleep-deprived person on the planet. Still, a human goes mad with too little sleep. So, Cal had decided to purposefully sleep, with the aid and supervision of a sleep doctor—the ravishing Dr. Kline, to be precise. And Cal was absolutely determined to find a way to kill Bob.
Dr. Kline dimmed the lights. Cal heard the quiet whirring of the monitors and gave his heavy eyes permission to close.
Dr. Kline said something funny as he faded off to sleep: “You know, they say that every character in your dreams is yourself.”
Yes, thought Cal, I’d heard that before, too. Of course, it didn’t apply to Bob, who was an actual demon.
But—what if it were true? What if Cal was Bob? No. That’s not right. What if Bob was Cal? Somehow? And, if Cal could manifest Bob, could he therefore control Bob? Cal was astounded by this revelation—this theory—and was anxious to put it to the test.
Cal opened his eyes to a haze of white.
There he was. Bob. Looking very much the demon he was. Red skin, horns, and a tail. Cal had long ago figured that Bob’s image had been created in Cal’s mind with the help of the Hollywood stereotype. It didn’t make Bob any less real.
“I smell fear.” Bob hissed, his black lips curled into a seductive smile. “She’s very pretty.”
Cal’s heart jerked in his chest. No! Not Dr. Kline! He hadn’t said it aloud. Nevertheless, Bob answered, “Yes. Dr. Kline.”
Cal glowered. “She’s not scared in the least. She is a scientist. She doesn’t believe in you. Sorry, but today, you starve.”
Bob’s eyes drilled into Cal’s. “Oh, my, yes, she is scared. Terrified.” His forked tongue stroked slowly across his lips. “I can’t wait to taste her.” He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply as if smelling a steak on a barbecue.
“You won’t touch her. I can promise you that.”
Bob grinned lustfully. “You’re scared, Cal. You like this one. That’s even more enticing. It’s your fault she’s going to die. How does that make you feel?”
Cal’s hair stood on the back of his neck, his throat dry.
Bob’s eyes rolled half closed, aroused by the smell of Cal’s fear. He took a deep, staggered breath. “More. I want more. I’m so…” his head turned sharply to Cal, “… hungry.”
Cal bolted, his terror building. He ran, blind, through the white mist, and careened straight into Bob, whose nails dug into Cal’s shoulders, holding him still. In a sing-song rasp, Bob said, “She’s scared; so scared! She sees the monitor. It’s spiking all over the place. She thinks I’m killing you. She thinks I’m…” Bob leaned into Cal’s ear, “…eating your brain.”
Cal remembered the strange thought—about Bob and him being the same character. And so, Cal calmed himself. He took a deep, cleansing breath and filled his heart with the truth—that he was in love with Dr. Kline. Cal let the pure love fill his essence. Not the lust—that needed to be put aside. Cal focused instead on the sweet, deep, ache he felt every time she bit her pencil, or twirled that one curl of hair that rested on her shoulder or offered her soft handshake for their daily greeting. The scent of the room when she was in it. The times she’d jiggle her left foot.
The mist was fading noticeably. Cal hung on to the love and wore it like a shield.
Cal studied Bob’s black eyes. They looked… curious, at first. And then they widened with the realization that something was different. A change was taking place in this dream realm. Cal was gaining control.
Bob’s face contorted in rage, and he lunged at Cal.
“You are nothing but air, Bob. Nothing but air.”
Bob’s body fell right through Cal, as if Bob had no substance. Bob was evaporating.
Cal smiled. He thought of his heart monitor. He could feel his heart rate, slow and steady. And he knew Dr. Kline would be happy about that.
“No one is scared, Bob. You have nothing to feed on. You—are me. And I am you. There is only one of us.”
Bob gurgled, deep in his throat. “Yessss. Only one of us! It will be me, you fool.” He cackled with a blood lust. “I want her brain. You want her brain.”
“I want you dead, you sonofabitch.”
“Death…” Bob hissed, “is relative.” His chin jutted up and he shrieked and writhed, bathed in pleasure and pain.
Hurricane-force winds snatched and tore at Cal, but he pictured Dr. Kline’s smile, concentrating with all his might. “Go…”
Bob clawed at the air savagely.
Bob laughed manically, roaring “Brains brains brains brains!”
“hell!” Cal scissor-kicked Bob in the gut and sent him flying.
He watched as Bob split apart, atom by atom, with a piercing wail. A mush of red and black meat and rotten bones and pus swirled and funneled up to the sky with a revolting stench… and vanished.
With that, Cal opened his eyes, awake.
“Oh, thank god, I was so worried!” Dr. Kline stroked his forehead and gently pulled the electrodes off. She held his hands and sat him up. “Did you get the name of a victim?”
Cal smiled, relieved. “There was no victim. I won. He’s gone forever.” Cal couldn’t believe the close call. The next victim would have been Dr. Kline. He looked into her beautiful eyes, tempted to tell her how he felt. That it was his love for her that grounded him, that left no room for the other guy. He thought, for a sick minute, that if he were in fact, Bob, and they had joined together, then Bob would be released into the world in corporeal form. And then, there would be no stopping Bob at all.
Cal shook his head. No. It was the love that had saved him. Saved Dr. Kline, too. He dared to reach up and subtly touch that curl on her shoulder. “You were right, Dr. Kline. I was all the characters in my dream.”
Her brow furrowed. “What? I never said that.”
Cal grinned, incredulous. “Yes, you did. Just as I faded off to sleep.”
She laughed lightly. “I certainly did not. Maybe it was Bob.”
Cal was suddenly overwhelmed by her scent. He needed her. Now. Without permission, without question. He grabbed her forcefully, inhaling.
She giggled. “Cal… wow. Took you long enough.”
He groaned, deep in his throat. And pressed his teeth to her neck, her hair, her scalp, and bit, his teeth nipping her flesh.
“Ouch! Hey—you’re scaring me. Cal! Cal?” Struggling at first, her mobility slowed until she was still as a statue, her eyes widened in horror.
He opened his mouth impossibly wider, inhaling her adrenaline, and feasted.
Hey readers, you can also find this story published onReedsy!
AND, you enjoy the macabre, Here’s another story of mine, about reaping what you sow… What Goes Up
Canyon. A dragon inhaling ember and spark, blasting out sunset red inferno, licking green steeples to black, spreading wings of smoke, devouring forest creatures as they run, turning painted houses to tinder and ash
Canyon. Tears. Devastation. Yelping. Quiet.
Canyon. Fuss. Questions. Peeking between
fingers. Thinking. Planning.
Canyon. First glimpse of antlers in brush. Paw prints by a trickle of fresh water. Charred branch swaying with a curious new resident. Two fluffy singed ears daring to trust A sapling pushing through rich replenished soil
Canyon. Yellow machines rearranging earth with delicacy and respect. White headed bird settling on a strange smelling canopy. Two legs concerned for four. And four legs accepting two. Symbiosis of species sharing one goal.
Canyon. Maps and hiking boots and cameras.
Orchestra of coos, cheeps and chirps. Soft treads. And soft prints. An infant
in a cloth pouch on the back. Another in a furry pouch in the front with a
tail. Meeting in a cautious moment. Kindred spirits. Survivors. Adventurers. Explorers.
Honoring the canyon.
If you enjoyed this poem, please leave a comment and subscribe to my blog! Here’s another poem you may like: Good Morning Silver
My cousin Henri and his spouse Gary are board members of the Long Beach Chapter for PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.) So yesterday I went to their pre-Pride Parade breakfast. There, I made a sign that read “I love my cuz and his hubby!” When I noticed that everyone else’s signs had writing on the back as well, I quickly scribbled the first thing that popped into my head: “It’s All About Love.”
I really was just there for Henri and Gary, to show my support. I didn’t think any deeper than that. I slipped on a PFLAG tee. Sign in hand, off I went with the PFLAG group, to get in line.
The parade started and I walked with a woman I’d just met, named Lori, who wore a matching tee shirt. Within moments, I looked at Lori with surprise and said, “I can’t believe how much love I feel in the air—its palpable!”
She agreed. She’d walked Pride before and said, “They really love PFLAG.”
And then I heard it. I saw it. An outpouring of thunderous applause, shouts of “We love you!” and “Thank you!” as our PFLAG group walked by them.
Again, surprised, I looked at Lori who said, warmly, “I told you. They Love PFLAG. So many people here have been rejected by their own families. Our support means the world to them.”
I almost felt stupid. Of COURSE PFLAG was important. We were straight people saying “I accept you and I love you, and I want to be on the record, in public, saying so, for all of you who have felt unaccepted and unloved.”
I couldn’t believe the affect it had on me. Just by carrying a sign, by walking a few miles, by smiling (uncontrollably beaming, actually) I was feeding damaged, broken hearts. I was helping to make souls feel whole again. I was a bandage, an elixir, a nurturing shoulder, a hug, a friend, a healer. Me. Personally. Just—me. By being there.
Astounded, my heart and eyes welled up for joy. I started making eye contact with each person standing on the sidelines, giving them my own personal wave, and they would whoop and holler, blow a kiss, say thank you, shout God bless you. Who was getting more of a healing, them or me? I suddenly felt so humbled and honored to be in that position. Me, who had just come for Henri and Gary. Suddenly I felt a responsibility, I felt… important. I felt loved, by thousands of people. My eye contact made a group of ten wave their arms frantically at me, and the cheers would turn to a delightful roar from the whole crowd, as if I’d just won a gold medal at the Olympics. Me. But not me, Rose. Me. The Stranger who was saying to the brown eyes, to the pink shirt, to the man with a blond wig, to the shy lady in the corner—“You are a whole person. You are loved. You are, in fact, really awesome, just the way you are. You are brave, you are honest. You are honoring your path.”
I wasn’t me, Rose. I was Acceptance. I was the Mom saying the words of support that their own mother never said. The Dad who hugged instead of hit. The Grandparent who showered love, not shame. I was, in fact, Their Family walking for them in the stead of their biological family who had refused to go.
I know I already used the word “Humbled” but it keeps coming to mind. I was in a position of honor. One I didn’t sign up for, one I didn’t mean to be in, in my naïve happy support for my cousin and his husband. I didn’t know—I had no idea I would be Every Family. It was a great responsibility, and so very… again… humbling.
They treated me like a war hero coming home, or Princess Di in a carriage. They loved me. Because I was, for a moment—for a three-mile stroll with a sign—Their Family. And for a truly lovely moment, they were my family, too. I learned, on a new level, that, really and truly, It’s All About Love.
I was recently challenged by a wonderful public speaker and motivator, Marshal Gillen. The challenge? Come up with a WHY. WHY am I doing what I’m doing? What is the purpose? In my case, Why am I doing what I’m doing, writing and music-wise.
It used to be an easy answer—“For my kids.” And it always entailed sacrifice, artistically speaking. “I will take the secure gigs. I will take requests and play what everyone wants to hear. I will people-please and make money and put a roof over my head. I will be formulaic and study what gets me the best gigs.”
I was proud of being a musician AND a responsible breadwinner. I bought a home with musician’s wages, I bought a car with musician’s wages. I didn’t do the artist thing, not properly—I couldn’t afford to take risks.
But now that my kids are grown and on their own paths, I am embracing the artist. The uncompromising one. And the WHY has changed.
Here comes my new WHY:
I am the only one who can write the stories and songs in my head. They are important. I was given a gift and I need to honor that.
I have the potential to break the glass ceiling with my writing. If I don’t try I have zero chance of doing that. If I succeed, then I can make a living doing what I love most—CREATING. I am a creator. And with that comes the responsibility to create.
Lets say there is a God who created all that we know. Regardless of your belief, just go with me on this one. What if God made the universe and the stars, but before he made the planets he got frustrated and said “What’s the use?” and stopped? No earth, no people.
But the earth does exist. We exist. And artists exist. Why? Specifically, why do artists exist? To create. It is that simple. Everyone has their gift, their purpose. Some people heal. Some are wonderful listeners. Some are educators, some are protectors. Some quietly hold the world up with good thoughts. Some lead, some follow. Some protect the world from moving forward too quickly, some catapult the world toward a better tomorrow. And still the artist—creates.
Why? What’s the use?
Remember that God out there who could have stopped with the stars, but didn’t? Maybe God didn’t even know what would happen, but felt compelled to create for some reason. And there was a reason. It was us! I think all in all, humans are pretty cool.
We artists may not know why the hell we spend hours and days writing, painting, playing our instruments and spouting poetry to no one, for no money. But there IS a reason. It is because we are creators. It is what we do. And in the end, we do make a difference.
Did our song, our story, our painting uplift a person or two along the way? Maybe prevent some tragedy by calming just one broken soul? Even if that broken soul may be our own? I think the answer is, YES. I’ve been touched a thousand times by an inspiring word, the lyrics of a song. I stood for hours once at a Van Gogh museum, with tears in my eyes. I had no words. There was no explanation for a bunch of blobs of paint touching my soul, but there it was. Long dead, Van Gogh touched my soul and changed me for the better. His life was a tortured, tragic one, but he has inspired millions.
I have no fame, no fortune. But I have had a few people say they were deeply touched by something I wrote. I have even had people tell me my music or message changed their lives. I am not Van Gogh, I am nobody really, but there it is. I, little me, through my own creation, touched someone’s life for the better. So that is my WHY. I am a creator. It is my responsibility to create.
Marketing it? That’s a whoooooole other subject. It is the other side of the coin. An artist can toss coins all day long, but if you love to shout “Tails!” you will lose 50% of the time. You have to shout “Heads!” now and again and toot your own horn. Yuck. Not my forte. But I owe it to the creator in me, to try.