The Sound of Your Own Wheels
Life was supposed to be a fun weekend getaway but turned into a nightmare. The snowstorm came as expected as it was unexpected, covering all roads in a thick layer of white. I tried to drive carefully, but lost control and slid off the road. Unable to go back or forward, the wheels spun maddeningly in place no matter how hard I worked the pedal. Frustration stole me. How could this happen to me? How was I going to fix this mess? I looked around, but there was no one in sight. I was alone, trapped, and completely helpless.
Death Dreams of Lions
Dreams & nightmares
The other night I had a dream in which I was trapped somewhere, kind of a jungle-type place.
There were other people trapped there with me, but nobody I knew.
Some of these other people had health problems. And in this place, there were lions roaming freely amongst us.
We walked, I for one, rather nervously, but the lions didn’t look the least bit nervous. They kept walking past us, ignoring us.
But it was obvious the lions were aware of our presence just as we were aware of them. The lions clearly knew they had nothing to fear. The people, almost zombie-like in their stunned, sick silence looked oblivious.
I struggled to avoid eye contact with either the lions or the other people. I knew that this was a precarious situation, one with which I was in no position to do much — I couldn’t see any way to save myself.
As the dream went on I kept thinking, “I gotta get out of here and go home” but I couldn’t ever see how.
Eventually, it dawned on me that we weren’t keeping the lions, like in a zoo or something, they were keeping us for their future use, like a well-stocked pantry just off the lions’ dining room.
Over wake-up coffee later, I figured out that the lions were death, in no big rush to kill and eat us. After all, none of us were going anywhere or escaping.
The Lions were not my friends, but neither was I theirs.
We were all just there, waiting and watching one another: The lions, me, and everyone else.
In my dream, in many of my recent dreams, threats of death are ubiquitous, almost like a killer virus lurking around every corner, or in every handshake avoided, or in every social gathering canceled, almost like a fascist take-over of our country that moves from little brown kids in cages on our southern border to all the rest of us designated as “enemies of the people being herded in boxcars for a trip to our own cages.
If dreams are where our minds go to help us/force us to deal with matters too difficult or horrifying for our conscious minds’ to handle, lions are the least of my worries I suppose.
But to be honest, dreams about death and lions don’t make the nights of sleep all that restful.
WEATHER SHIT As Predicted
Thanks a lot, Alexa ... Thanks a bunch, Weather Channel ...Thanks Universe
The snow, just now, tiny flakes Falling across all of the world within my scope of vision.
I can hear and smell my loud, obnoxious snow-blowing machine waiting in the garage, laughing at me waiting and laughing. Winter, NOT in the Swiss Alps on a rare, perfect, sun shiny day on the Jungfrau – Hell no, but now, today in the Spokane suburbs now.
In a Dream Untitled and a Fractal Life Reexamined on a Constant, Infinite Loop
I had an untitled dream.
It involved my being lost, floating on some body of water and being separated from the touring group.
There were a few gorgeous clouds and an equally gorgeous night sky and my search for the Southern Cross.
When I got back everyone was eating giant pork-chops, but I was told there was none for me. A young woman sitting next to me said “Evolution is a joke,” and I felt furious and was ready to go off on her when I woke up.
If you’re still with me I suppose you can handle that I loved this dream: the distance from others, the enormity of the sky and the choppy soothing danger of the water. I never felt afraid, just curious and hopeful. Life and death, are equal partners in the great mysteries. Both hope and resignation coddle our true spirits in our dreams. and evolution is a fuckin’ fact; we all get born and we all become personally extinct. So enjoy your pork-chops while you can. Although this poem has appeared previously, in numerous settings, I love it so much because every time I read it, it somehow morphs into something new and other — much like every fractal of memory and as we grow and change some things come with us and many, simply do not.
It’s All About My SHEEHAN Poem
If you live long enough you learn what life has chosen to teach you...or you don’t
Everything I’ve written since 1980, has either consciously or un, been an effort to handle the truths life was teaching me about myself and my son and the impossibility of our relationship.
That impossibility existed because I didn’t have the emotional, psychological or spiritual strength to deal with his profound disabilities, and this gap in who I was and am as a person, allowed/forced me to deal with this “tragedy” this “challenge,” in ways both planned and unplanned.
The planned ways reached their zenith with my three related novels, written to help me grasp the deeper realities of my journey with Sheehan, starting with Stuck in Neutral.
Two more novels, Cruise Control (a companion piece to SIN) and Life Happens Next a sequel to the two earlier books, took the story further and likely as far as I’ll ever go with it.
But all my other novels dealt with additional hardships in life: mental illness, homophobia, suicide, catastrophic natural disaster, the illusions of fame and fortune. Living through the truths of Sheehan, both the person and the poem, led me to the path I’ve been on ever since.
Once you’ve faced the hardest, worst thing, every other hard thing is just one more thing.
All my poems since I stopped writing novels have tried to look honestly and deeply at what the First Golden Rule/Noble Truth of Buddhism tells us life is all about, heartbreak and difficulties and the ability to deal with them, face them down and keep growing.
Everything for me started with Sheehan and with my poem Sheehan.
I appreciate Medium for many reasons, but above all others because it has let me keep the Sheehan poem alive. Every time the poem is read and applauded (in the form, here, of our ever sought-after and appreciated “claps” and visits) I know that another soul, another heart, has been touched by the story. I think it’s pretty difficult to forget or dismiss this piece after you’ve experienced it.
So, if you are reading this and have read other postings of mine, but you haven’t yet read Sheehan, I implore you to go to it and take the painful journey with me.
Writing Sheehan was the best I could manage in trying to love my son. And despite its inadequacy I stand by the good its done in the world.
Our goal as writers should always be, first and foremost and above all other goals, to make the world a bit less painful and difficult. I think in the end that’s what I’ve tried to do with the Sheehan poem. I think once you’ve read it, you’ll understand and agree.
Disability and Fascism, American Style
Let’s destigmatize disability on the American far right, (and everywhere else)
As a novelist I always felt that my stories should revolve around issues of importance. And that they should/must include my philosophies, thoughts and feelings about fairness, justice, the responsibilities of freedom, and that they should focus on the burden and rewards of love and caring. All my novels deal with these matters.
My best-known novel Stuck in Neutral (HarperCollins, 2000) was, and continues to be, much beloved by people on all sides of the political spectrum.
Honestly, this is always a surprise to me; I don’t understand how anyone who supports racists, homophobes, misogynists, and other “haters” can get beyond or into the core of the story? And maybe people with those beliefs aren’t the self-described “conservatives” who have supported this book for over 20 years.
Stuck in Neutral is, more than anything else, a salute, tribute and testimonial to humanistic values, love and the need for kindness and connection.
As a relatively extreme anti-fascist/radical/socialist, it always surprises me that so many people with views antithetical to mine, love this book.
My views on humanism, freedom, and the value of life and the extremes of love are sewn into every page. Or at least that’s how I tried to write it.
How can people so diametrically opposed to everything I believe and feel, love the book so much?
But I think I’ve figured out part of the reason; The novel is more of a poem than a prose work, more an act of willful imagination than a carefully constructed imaginary world of the kind that make great fiction, great.
Poetry offers the reader the chance to fill in lots of blanks, blanks created by one’s own limitations and potentials. In this way, Stuck in Neutral is a literary Rorschach test:
Did his dad kill him or not? Of course not.
What do you see in this inkblot? Two lovely butterflies,
Two cruel bats, the devil, an angel?
Fact is, we’re all in this mess together, and the better we get at figuring this out the better-off we’ll all be.
The protagonist of Stuck in Neutral is Shawn McDaniel, a 14-year-old boy who the whole world sees as incapable of learning or understanding much of anything at all.
Shawn is in a wheelchair, incapable of feeding himself or communicating with anyone, only (singularly) Shawn knows that he actually understands the world as well as anyone else.
In a seminal, critical scene, Shawn flashes back to a moment when two bullies are picking on him and he is rescued in a violent reaction by his enraged brother.
Everyone who has read the book or its companion novel, told from Shawn’s brother Paul’s POV, remembers this scene, the horror not only of the bullying, but of the intensity of the rescue and the way that in reaction to bullies, the very worst instincts in each of us can rise-up.
We haven’t heard as much, recently, about the increase of bullying in schools and elsewhere as we first heard following the election of Trump. Schools being closed due to Covid-19 may be part of the explanation.
As someone tragically and ironically pointed out, March 2020 was the first March in many years where there were no school shootings.
But speaking to educators and kids, bullying is still widespread and problematical in their worlds, and especially prevalent against kids with disabilities, both in schools and in our communities.
Our literature, not just for teens, tweens and children, but for ALL of us must continue to confront the spiritual and physical dangers of bullying in all its forms.
I am glad and honored that my novels continue to be part of that confrontation.
I hope, regardless of your political orientation, that you continue to look at the deep cruelty at the heart of bullying and to stand up against it, always.
Consciousness and Soul Stuck in Neutral
My poem Sheehan told my story — SIN tells Shawn’s
Every time a follower of mine reads and reacts to my pinned story Sheehan, I am reminded of who I am as a writer and a human being. And why I’m doing this thing we do.
No single event or experience can represent all of ourselves. We are a blend of loving, good qualities and selfish bad ones. I am the worst of men and the best, the kindest and most generous and the most cruel and evil.
As writers and poets I think our most important task, a lifelong learning responsibility, is to look at ourselves and our lives and try to always put love at the center of our purpose, our understanding, and our growth and learning, using our words to advance this purpose.
Reading my Sheehan poem will burn part of you up. It will scar you and it was meant to do so.
Reading Stuck in Neutral asks you to consider more fully what a human life means, yours and mine and everyone else’s. These two works tell a reader everything that matters about my work, my life and, hopefully about the human capacity to survive loss and replace despair with love and hope. Not a bad way to spend one’s life . . . not bad at all.
We each have a story to tell and a reason for being alive; the trick is to find both these things and spend your consciousness and energy showing your progress on this journey to your soul.
Great work if you can let yourself work it.