love, teZa (aka Lord Flea)
We were walking along the edge of his Florida pasture one day, Bill, my father-in-law and I, taking advantage of another opportunity to talk about life and share each other’s company. I surprised myself that day when, after a young and rambunctious bull hopped the fence right in front of us, I instinctively approached it, not so much from bravery as an automatic reflex. Bill was already in his eighties and I, a mere forty-year-old then, wanted to protect the enfeebled old man, whom I was uncommonly fond of, and would have taken a bullet for, if truth were known.
“Watch out,” Bill said in his droll manner, cautioning me, alert to the unpredictable ways of livestock, especially a young upstart like this rowdy yearling-bull. “He’ll butt you hard if you don’t watch out.”
Wouldn’t you know just as Bill said this, the young bull charged me. But I, propelled by guardian mode, met the chest-high head of cowhide over steel with a double whammy fist right in the middle of the young animal’s eyes. Dazed almost as much as I, the bull shook his head and jumped right back over the fence, joining his four-legged family who stood bedazzled by the young daredevil’s adventure.
From the moment we met I loved Bill. I knew I wanted to marry his son the instant I heard Bill say to his elegant wife, “I must be in heaven, I thought I saw an angel,” when my future mother-in-law waltzed into the room to greet me that day. And it wasn’t he who objected to my bare feet, like she did, nor the fact that I was an artist and an adventurer of sorts. He wasn’t dubious about my mothering skills either, when it came down to whether I had what it takes to raise Carter’s two youngsters he had full custody of after a vicious divorce. This was a blended family we were a-brewing, creating a new dream of different backgrounds and faiths, cultural influences, even politics.
Grampa Bill, after his angel passed on, wasn’t one to let dust settle. Within nine months, at eighty-seven he married an acquaintance, a woman everybody hoped would be a great companion for his golden years. Sadly, she turned out to be an alcoholic and within five years the old man was not only divorced, but taken closer to the poor house by her shiftiness. Instead of finding another angel, Bill had been cornered by a succubus.
I sat with him as he sorted that one out. The trauma sent his mind to the farthest regions of awareness as he dove into the haze of senility.
In the numb twilight of Bill’s recovering from spousal abuse, he awoke one day to feel terribly sad, upset about our son’s debilitating football accident that would leave the seventeen year-old permanently handicapped.
“The worse thing that’s ever happened to our family,” the old man moaned loudly.
He wept that day I sat beside him, quietly talking of our son’s recent injury. Bill then reached into his pocket to grab what he thought was his linen handkerchief, always there. He didn’t realize it, and I said nothing to upset him further, but instead of the hanky he dabbed his flowing tears with a soft, used one-dollar bill.
I remembered hearing one of his daughters insist to the caretaker that he always had to have one in his pocket. “So daddy has some money and still feels he has some control over his life; just a token to help his self esteem,” she’d instructed.
Now, nearing ninety-nine, Bill was waiting for me as I caught the next plane from out west where Carter and I had gone camping. Bill knew – somehow, even at that final stage of the bumpy ride, filled with both joys and ravages that life brings us all – exactly who he wanted at his bedside. Of his four grown children and their spouses, I was the only in-law requested to be present. That’s because Bill was always more to me than just my husband’s dad.
Carter and I had driven out west on a month’s-long celebratory camping jaunt in honor of having successfully raised our kids. The minute the youngest joined his sister, safe and secure in college, we took off cross-country, driving to a new campsite every night, bicycling everywhere we could, cooking delicious food on wood campfires right outside our roomy tent. We were in Montana riding our bikes on the golden hills of the plains where the buffalo used to roam so abundantly, with the endless and eponymous Big Sky above, when we received word that our own old buffalo chief, Bill was on his death bed.
Three days before, Carter and I had ridden our bikes around southwestern South Dakota at Wounded Knee, close to the Lakota Indian Reservation. We were infatuated by the landscape, as foreign to us as if we’d landed on Mars. I leaned my bike against a rock and wandered away on foot from where Carter was intently observing a small animal or chasing some reptile between the hilly mounds and scrubby brush of that arid place.
A few quick strides and I came upon a jaw-dropping sight: an old grey buffalo, lying peacefully in a patch of sunlight. He must have gone off by himself, too, and was enjoying the last of the day’s fading sun. He paid me no attention as I came within ten yards of him and stayed that distance, half hidden by a hilly outcrop. I stood watching, fascinated to get so close to so magnificent a wild beast. He blinked and gazed toward me. I froze and met his eyes. He lifted his massive head back to catch the sun’s warmth, and serenely closed his lids, accepting my closeness.
He was at total rest, as if waiting, willing to embrace the inevitable shadow of the day’s end that was quickly approaching. I couldn’t help but think he might be getting close to pulling his last breath, by how resigned yet expectant he appeared. Immediately I thought of Bill, back home, and how he too, might be savoring his last moments in the gentle sun of life. The buffalo’s strong neck held his proud head high, feeling every morsel of warmth, absorbing it, yet at the same time he seemed to be honoring the disappearance of the bright disk above.
At my respectful distance I stood stick still, fascinated by such regality and noble strength that even in old age, was evidence of this huge animal having been a great leader in his day. As I watched the old buffalo I sensed he was preparing to die. What else could explain how this giant old rogue, now so feeble, so incapable, couldn’t keep up with the rest of his herd? Or why he had found this sunny, isolated spot to nestle in, between craggy rocks, so well hidden that Carter and I hadn’t noticed him when we approached the area earlier on our bikes.
While watching the old bull, his wet and flaring snout held high, his eyes occasionally roaming the horizon – totally aware of me – I saw how solemnly, how bravely he faced the last strong rays of the resting sun. Again, I thought of Bill, our family’s Grampa, and wondered if this ancient bison – not in distress but oblivious, and ready to leave behind that which no longer served his noble pursuits – was a sign that our own family’s chief, back home, was soon to leave his earthly body.
A few days later, in Montana then, we received the call.
Bill waited for Carter to arrive first, and then for me to come the next day, because there was only one seat out of Missoula the day we got the expected news. When Bill saw I had made it, he right away sat up in bed, agile as a trapeze artist, and said, “Oh, you’re here!” and immediately fell back down. Within an hour he lapsed into the in-between shadows of not-here, not-there of his approaching, last sunset.
Our kids were away in college as their Grampa rested in these waning hours of his life’s shine, while Carter, his brother and sisters and I gathered around our family’s old bull, being present for the head of our family’s comfort and ease in this, his glorious and final passage.
I wouldn’t have missed this most important event in Bill’s life, his last rite of passage, just as momentous as his earlier ones must have been. His four children and I stood around his bed, we who loved him so, witnessing Bill’s last breath as we joined hands around our favorite old bull, saying prayers, whispering comforts, saying our good-byes, offering heart-quaking thank yous.
Moments after, there was only stillness from Bill’s suddenly empty form, lying nobly and chief-like, surrounded by his tribe.
Later, alone with the love of my life, the man who shared his father’s great capacity to nurture, to love, I asked Carter in a small voice, “Why do you think Bill wanted me here?”
My own father, with whom I’d had a strained relationship, died twenty years before with me by his side also. Since marrying Carter, Bill had become my surrogate father, my pal, a role model for parenting: an unmatched spiritual mentor. He filled in the chinks of my broken faith in paternal strength, making up for all the misunderstandings and shortcomings of my own father, a troubled man. I could talk to Bill in private about my dreams, and he’d help me understand myself better. His wisdom affirmed how the subconscious affects us all so deeply. Dreams, you see, were Bill’s passion, and while he was a successful businessman, he was also an expert dream interpreter. He encouraged everyone he met to follow their dreams.
Now Carter looked at me and said simply, “Because dad loves you, teZa.”
My heart grew like a balloon pushing against my chest, realizing I was included in this inner circle not by chance, but by life’s many choices that had led us all together.
After the events last week in Tucson, Arizona, I simply have to say something. Usually I try not to bring politics into what i share here, on Lordflea Sings. Usually, I put the focus on us leading spiritual lives, not political ones. But enough is enough! I simply must say something, because when the sentiments of a country get so fomented, to take no position is simply that of a wimp. And I’m no wimp.
I guess it was meant to be that I was asked to pose for this statue, which now stands at an industrial crossroads in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Named “Civitas” by its artist, Audrey Flack, there are certain responsibilities that come with the sense of having an effect on others, and that is one of the main purposes of a deity, whether it be of a fairytale-nature or from one’s artistic viewpoint, like this statue is. As “Civitas,” my alter-ego, I wish to speak frankly about the dangers of making politics one’s religion.
I know people who judge life by not just their politics, but others’ as well. I know people who have judged me (incorrectly) thinking they know me because they might know a certain fact about my political sentiments. But, in truth, no one can know another, not the real person that the other is, by looking at one’s politics. Life is complicated, and there are so many aspects to one’s relationship to living, that labels and thinking associated with political branding simply is a superficial manner in which to view others. And the only result of this type of divisive-thinking is what’s happening here in America: political craziness. People getting pissed off. People taking up arms. people shooting other people. We must STOP! this tendency. So here and now I am finally stating my political manifesto:
There is a much deeper meaning to life than what appears on the surface. Poltics is superficial. Economics is superficial. Everything about the material life is transitory and in the end, insignificant. I have personally felt (and now foster through prayer and meditation) the depths of life’s meaning and therefore I know this to be true: Politics is the means to the end (peaceful and humanitarian governance), NOT the end itself.
For years I ran from any public conversation that had to do with politics. Or sex, or God, for that matter. These three things–sex, God, and politics–I still refuse to discuss with any but my closest friends. I daren’t go there even with my family. And to tell the truth, with some of my friends, I’ve come to realize I have to skirt everywhere but dead-on when it comes to discussing politics. Why? Because some people can’t stand to associate with others who hold opinions other than theirs. It’s that plain. I prefer to mingle with folks who don’t hold any solid opinions or judgments in their minds when they speak, or act, especially directly with me. Yet hold true to the one thing no one can deny—the Mystery of life. Native Americans call this Mystery, “Great Spirit.” So do I. My friends tend to be open-minded, forgiving, and see life creatively, rather than from an implacable, black-and-white point of view.
When Bush was in power I cringed to hear the Bush-bashers. I guess everyone thought I’d just love to join them, that I was an uber-liberal, because wherever I went, two years ago and the previous 8 before that, people would delight in putting down the President of the US and think I would, too, thinking nothing of calling him every insulting name. And now, guess what? The same is happening for our present leader, President Obama. Right wingers and conservatives everywhere I go assume I’m one of them and admonish the administration right in front of me as if they knew, and never even suspected otherwise, that I would love to join in their Obama-bashing.
Where do people get off thinking that everyone has hatred in their hearts?
I’m reading the current story in this week’s New Yorker magazine about Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, one of my heroes, who in December was finally released after two decades of political imprisonment. What did she do to keep from going insane all those years of the military regime’s unjustness toward her and her democracy-prone allies? She meditated. She didn’t sit in a bath of heart-acid thinking how evil so-and-so was, thinking of those bastards she was going to get as soon as she could. NO! Because if she had, she probably would have already died of heart disease, cancer, or some such physical wrath that negativity takes upon the physical body. Her battle was and IS one of the spirit, and yes, she uses politics, as I do, as a weapon of spiritual transformation. that’s my political affiliation: the “In Spirit” party. As more and more of us are living our lives are also deciding to become members of this enlightened nonpartisan political party. The spiritual battle is the only battle worth fighting, the only battle worth losing one’s life over. And that is what I am: a spiritual warrior.
This is the first time I’ve come right out and announced to the world, here on my blog, where for two years I’ve been anonymously trying to make a difference and help people relate to the world on a spiritual plane, rather than just seeing what’s going on through the physical, mental, political, economic, and human lens. A somewhat limited perspective, if you ask me.
So now the gig is up! Now I’m not anonymous anymore. You can see for yourself who and what I am. I’m proud to fight the battle for Universal Peace in the name of Spirit. I’m proud to be a warrior defending The Mystery, a spiritual warrior who wears the cap of lieutenant in the Army of Love! Won’t you join me?
So now that the secret is out — will it change things for me, as a person, as an artist and writer, as a spiritual blogger? I doubt it. Will it incite people to tune into what’s going on, on a spiritual level rather than rant and rave about partisanship being the worse it’s ever been, and one side blaming the other, and feel impotent listening to people saying how crazy things are in America these days? Will it change any of that? I doubt it. So why bother coming out of the closet?
These times they are a-changing.
More and more of us believe that the spiritualization of humankind is our only salvation.
I am here to proclaim that fact loud and clear, from the highest mountain, from the widest megaphone I can get my hands on. Many are already aligned with this thinking: that this is a spiritual life we humans are leading, NOT a political or a solely material one. When 2012 comes around there has been predicted (by many ancient sources, not me!) that 112,000 “Awakened Sundancers” … that is, open-minded, open-hearted individuals … will be already aware and have already embraced this thinking. THAT’s what 2012 is really about. And what happens next? The rest of humankind will become spiritualized by the sheer number of us radicalizing (in a spiritual manner, that is) all aspects of society: the arts, social sciences, religious beliefs, and yes, even a few enlightened politicians (you go big-O!).
won’t you join us? Open your minds. Open your hearts. Let love and Light enter the cave of your heart, replacing fear and uncertainty. You will have a much better time of life when you do. Start praying and meditating about thinking about world peace. Your thoughts are seeds. The beginning of change is how we think. Please start changing your thinking to more positive ways, and our reality will follow our thoughts. Stop promoting divisiveness by talking about it. Just talk about how we are changing everything to the better, one thought at a time, one person at a time. And everything—-will change! Believe me. It’s that simple.
Break the ice away from your frozen hearts. Dive into the waters of Peace, of fulfillment.
Think: We Are One
Join the Army of Love
in Light and Love, your pal Lordflea
here is an excerpt from “More Than Dust,” the book i’m writing. enjoy!
Timote and I traveled to Jamaica, our trip funded by a grant to discover a feared-extinct medicinal plant that researchers desperately needed, for a possible cancer-killing alkaloid they’d isolated from an old specimen, in a lab. Tim and I arrived in the blue-green island and drove to a mountainous region, a tiny hamlet called Bamboo. From there we made day trips all over the region, scouring the land around the site of the last known sighting of Brunfelsia Americana. In the 40s specimens had been collected from there, and none from any other location on earth ever since. Because of botanical information-gathering sources, called herbariums, dried and pickled specimens of every plant gathered by botanists are available for research, and that is how the cancer-experts discovered a near-magical ingredient found only in this particular species, that Tim and I were now hunting for.
Extreme strip mining, for the mineral bauxite, had changed the lay of the land in that part of Jamaica, drastically affecting the natural plantings. Still, Timote was not discouraged, because as we talked to native people we found that some old-timers remembered seeing the plant, called by various local, patois names. After a week of bush whacking our way through one red-herring lead after the next, we climbed an isolated plateau of land we were directed to, in a hidden valley, of sorts, a place where one small bit of land rose above the desolation below like a living altar, which had miraculously survived decades of destructive bulldozing by bauxite miners. We were elated to find one lone stand of this rare species of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, brunfelsia’s common name, and even more thrilled to find seeds and seedlings among the shriveled, deformed, last remaining group, anywhere, of this precious plant.
Live and love and laugh a lot, today and everyday,
your pal, lordflea