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.
Ahhh, another turn of the year and here we are on the eve of 2011. How exciting! How enthalling! How positively intriguing. What will this year bring us? Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a most health-filled, posperous, and full-filled year, this blessed year of 2011. And I don’t say that lightly. A new year is a new beginning. When all of us (at least those of us who follow this solar calendar, not the lunar calendar of other cultures) have the opportunity to assess what’s come to us this last year, and how we’d like to set out course, so our sails will fill with promise and good intentions for this next year.
My wishes for all of us in 2011:
May all your dreams come true.
May all the world’s promise of a united family of man happen, one step at a time.
May all of us, each individual in the world, shine our lights a little brighter.
May we all come to believe that we are ONE, and that we are all in this thing called life–together!
May we all assist each other, in whatever way we can, to help the bigger picture become more filled with Light, more peaceful, more accepting of forward evolution.
May we put aside our differences and forgive, truly, in our deepest hearts.
May we approach each moment as if we’re seeing what is before us for the first time—with wonder, with curisoity, with excitement, with trust.
May our world leaders be filled with inspired, enlightened decisions, taking all of those under their wings, to a better place.
May we all believe in our dreams, and never let go of knowing we can achieve them….one little step at a time, one word at a time, one act, one thought, one breath at a time.
Lordflea is sending you all (the plural is ALL you all, kind of a southern jokey thing) the very best thoughts…from my heart to all of yours. To me, that is the most important social network there is—one heart united to ALL hearts. A heart-work, if you will.
May the Light shine upon all of us in this upcoming year of 2011!
in the Light, Lordflea
one word at a time.
one sentence at a time, if you’re lucky it’ll be a good one that won’t take thirty re-writes.
one paragraph at a time that maybe, just maybe, will end up in the correct place and you won’t have to wonder why the heck you wrote that stuff there anyway.
one scene at a time, that throws some relevance onto the theme.
one thought at a time, that isn’t too overbearing or preachy.
one character at a time, who can be attractive even though a thorough scoundrel, or imperiously vilified to shed radiance upon the threads of goodness propelling the protagonist to finish his or her quest.
one page at a time, that might make it past the throw on floor pile, and have a life of future possibilities as it joins the others you’ve accumulated, the paragraphs, the sentences, the words . . . . sometimes taking years to amass, but always, always, the thought in mind that what you have to say will make a difference, maybe to just one other person, maybe to more.
“i am, therefore i art.” Art meaning, to me, visual arts and literature. I have a vision: Books can still change the world. Good books influence people like rarely other things do, even celebrity’s latest actions, even political movements that erupt with violence or well-intentioned actions. Books have the power to make people feel. Laugh, cry, think, hope—empathize with the characters.
I’m writing a book that I hope will help others to lighten up and laugh as they experience the pain, the inevitable pain, of growing up human on planet Earth. I’m at the final stages of editing, and out there querying agents and hitting up everyone, including family and vague associates, for contacts in the publishing world. So far I have some great editors and agents who are soon to receive my initial contact. But first . . . . I’m finishing my “last” edit of this spiritual adventure tale, with illustrations.
This is what it feels like to write the book I’m working on:
So dear friends, that’s why you don’t see me blogging every single day, or even every couple days. i’m BUSY!!! But when the book comes out, i’ll have a link here so you can all find it and read the amazing adventures of a spiritual warrior wannabe.
in the Light, lordflea
friends sharing intimacies: who we are, our dreams, our fears even. honest to the bone.
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
sorry for the typos in this post: i am crippled with a tech problem, soon to be fixed (via wordpress, my host). thanks for your patience and tolerance, dear literate reader.
i guess you know by now that once a week is the rhythm of my newest my blog entry. until i work out some technical difficulties, i’m keeping my entries short. wordpress, who hosts my blog, has changed its format and so when i’m typing to you, i have to do so somewhat blinded, so to speak, meaning i can’t fully see my screen because all the new bells and whistles are covering up where i type, upload my images, etc.
isn’t this often the case in life? we try to improve ourselves, or our society, or, in this case, our internet offerings, and often we end up complicating or confusing things beyond the pall.
so today i’m briefly touching on the subject of how i came to think of myself as a SPIRITUAL WARRIOR…and what that means, and how i dare claim that “title” after many attempts in failing that responsibility. and also, for those of you who are interested, how to become a spiritual warrior your own self.
here’s a couple of my drawings depicting what it feels like to be a spiritual warrior.
so let’s see: of course when i converse with others through visuals i’m hoping enough of you “get it” without me having to verbalize the meaning behind the image. because…guess what!! sometimes i simply can’t “explain” what an image truly is about. but in this case, i’ll try.
the first is simply my spoof of what’s most important in life. not cash, not power, not even politics…but…quite simply, to live In Spirit, and do the next right thing, which can only be determined when one “listens” and “obeys” the inner voice that manifests in all of us, when we are aligned with the One. The ONE LIFE is the unifying energy throughout the Universe, not our own single, little life, but the big powerful, all-inclusive, all-pervading life force that is within and without all that is. Energy. the Chi. the Holy Spirit. the Kundalini Shakti…prana, Qi, wowie-zowie, whatever you call it. and yes…many do call it “God” although i think that name is waaaaaaay chaged with too many dogmas, too many arguments, and too many control trips. so we’ll just call this energy, this “cash” we deal with in spirituality, as the IT.
the second drawing represents the various stages one goes through in acquiring the “right” to call oneself a spiritual warrior. first comes the desire to be a steward of the land, a guardian of humanity’s right to evolve, and all that those choices incur: being judged by others, being considered weird, or…in the olden days, even a pagan, a witch or magician or shaman. hey! i’m okay with all those names. at birth we all know life is magical. then we start the “dance”…and some of us forget the magic. so we go off on our tangents of sensuality, ownership, and needing to be “right.” so we get out of step with the magic. then, in time, we are confronted with choices. and some of us choose to once again embrace the magic of life.
and if you do, consider yourself signed up to be a spiritual warrior. that’s all it takes. amen, and ahhhh-women, and you’ve taken your first step to being an official steward of righteousness: i am that. so’ham. hamso.
i’ll share more about the spiritual warrior way of life. i’m writing about it in my book, so that’s why i can’t update my blog more often. you’ll see my book out soon if all goes well.
be well, live and love and laugh a LOT,
in the Light, lordflea
ps. i had a comment today that surprised me. it was an old friend of timothy plowman’s, a dear heart of mine, and so now i’m curious: the commenter said he’d found lordflea from googling tim’s name. so here are a few other people i’m quite knowledgeable about, and will write about from time to time…so let’s see who finds lordflea now…the secret is getting closer to the surface, eh maties! wheeeee, i love a riddle! timothy plowman, hundertwasser, phil jackson, tomas sanchez, wade davis, neil walk,