PAST RAMBLINGS - 26
(collection of past Homepage greetings and stories)
May 11, 2010   -to-   Dec 4, 2010

Michael Tomlinson - Past Ramblings
Ramblings 1
3/13/99 - 7/11/99
Ramblings 2
7/27/99 - 1/8/00
Ramblings 3
3/6/00  - 8/7/00
Ramblings 4
9/18/00 -  11/19/00
Ramblings 5
12/17/00 - 4/10/01
Ramblings 6
5/9/01 - 6/25/01
Ramblings 7
07/23/01 - 10/07/01
Ramblings 8
10/19/01 - 2/18/02
Ramblings 9
3/22/02 - 8/5/02
Ramblings 10
8/27/02-12/22/02
Ramblings 11
1/24/03 to 5/31/03
Ramblings 12
7/18/03 to 12/24/03
Ramblings 13
1/11/04 to 5/28/04
Ramblings 14
7/03/04 to 10/1/04
Ramblings 15
11/03/04 to 2/22/05
Ramblings 16
4/01/05 to 7/1/05
Ramblings 17
08/21/05 - 11/16/05
Ramblings 18
12/20/05 to 6/11/06
Ramblings 19
07/19/06 to 11/13/06
Ramblings 20
12/02/06 to 4/2/07
Ramblings 21
5/21/07 to 9/4/07
Ramblings 22
11/9/07 to 3/1/2008
Ramblings 23
5/16/08 to 11/8/08
Ramblings 24
12/11/08 to 09/06/09
Ramblings 25
11/01/09 to
10/21/2010
Ramblings 26
5/10/10 to
12/4/2010
Ramblings 27
4/01/11 to
10/1/11
Ramblings 28
2/1/12 - Fall 2012
Ramblings 29
Spring 2013 - Holiday
Ramblings 30
2014 & 2015
 
May 11, 2010
I could be writing you from my desk at home but for some reason, whenever I feel inclined to write a new rambling for my website, I prefer to go to a coffee shop and do it. Perhaps it's my subconscious need to reclaim my youth when I used to submit to the demand of the ol' work whistle. Before music I did hold regular jobs, you know. Over fifty of 'em before I was thirty years old. Nope, I was not always a plucker of guitar strings and a yodeler of bird-like melodies. I was master of many professions before this. Well, that's going a bit far. Let's just say I had a lot o' jobs. Shall I go through the list and name a few of 'em for ye? How 'bout the time I took a job managing a Golf Pro Shop - having never played the game even once in my young life? It's true. I was a bicycle mechanic in my hometown of Amarillo. A frequent customer of the bike shop - from whose flat tires I regularly plucked spines of the prickly pear - stopped by one day to offer me a job. He seemed to like my flat-fixin' abilities and hearty work ethic. The latter is a mystery, for as he spoke I was ignoring the stack of new bikes I was supposed to be assembling, and rapidly cracking open pistachios and popping them into my mouth in an attempt to set a new Texas record. Anyway, he thought perhaps I'd like to leave my part time bike mechanic job and run the brand new Golf Pro Shop he was opening across the street. I was 19 years old, green as a pickle, and had never even held a golf club in my hand. Still, I liked the idea of being the manager of something, so I grinned the kind of grin you grin when you have bits of pistachio between all your teeth, and I said, "yessir, I'd like to give that a try!" 
I lasted one day. Well, I showed up one day. I only made it to lunchtime, leaving the guy a note that explained my reluctance to finish out the day. 
Dear Mister Joe Bob, (I forget your last name) this is Mike. I am the guy you hired to run your new golf store. Remember? Anyway, I thought I could do it, but I guess I won't be able to. I think maybe it would be better if I had ever played golf, but since we live in the dusty, windy Texas plains where there are tornados and rattlesnakes and hail storms and stuff, well, I have not done that yet. A lot of men in yellow and green (and even plaid!) nylon britches and white tap shoes have been asking me questions about stuff and I have not felt this stupid since calculus. I gave 'er a shot anyway, but I'm afraid I might have given out some bad advice, so I think it's best that I'm not here when they come back. It's one thing to try and answer questions about a game I don't know nothing about. It's another to have to bite my cheek to keep from laughing at somebody's pants. I don't think I could keep on doing it, sir. So I am leaving to go play Frisbee.
   ~ Sincerely, your former manager, Mike 
That wasn't my only one-day job. In my senior year in high school I thought it might be cool, since I had plenty of credits to graduate, to go to school half-time and work the afternoon in a program they called Distributive Education. I signed up, the school found me a job, and I left at lunch to meet my new boss at a store where they sold and repaired sewing machines. I'm serious, this was the Amarillo School District's idea of a good career choice - based on my school records.

A 17 year old kid was supposed to walk into a sewing machine store and begin building a life. I lasted just the one day. My only duty was to sweep the floor and dust sewing machines. That was to be my career training. It wasn't a huge shop, but Amarillo was so dusty that you could start dusting machines at one end of the room and by the time you reached the last one, the first machine was dusty again. I didn't feel that I could envision a livelihood in that field so I left those folks a note too. Plus, I liked high school. I was making some cool friends and didn't like the idea of missing out on all the laughter that could be had at school. I was always weak willed at facing difficult conversations, but generally creative at writing, so I often used my composition skills to weasel my way out of splainin' stuff in person. I stayed till closing time and said goodbye, but didn't feel I should hurt their feelings by actually quitting on the spot. So I left a letter stuck in a new Singer machine I'd polished up real nice by the sales desk. 
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Skowler,

I am Mike, the guy who dusted sewing machines all afternoon. I know we didn't talk much, but I think you know who I am. Anyway, after much consideration and lengthy prayer I feel that me and this career would not be good for each other. My mama taught me dusting when I was real little, so I can do the job okay, I just don't know if I could put my 'all' into it, if you know what I mean. Even today, on my very first day, I found my mind drifting so much that I nearly walked through that big front window twice. I don't know what it is about sewing machines that seems to get me dizzy-headed, but it sure does! So to save me some bad scabs and you having to replace windows, I feel I should resign and just go back to school all day. Plus, I forgot how much I love calculus until right now. Thank you for the exciting vocational opportunity you offered me. I hope you find someone more inclined toward the sewing machine dusting profession.
    ~ Very sincerely,
      
Mike Tomlinson
I didn't have the guts to go back and ask for my four-hour-check, so I never saw those folks again.
There's one more job I'll tell you about - I was once the Parts Man for a tank-trailer manufacturer. They made those gigantic tank trailers that are used to haul gasoline.  I lasted six weeks, but it seemed like years.

I had some trepidation about taking the job, because I knew when I accepted it that I would be quitting as soon as my tax refund check came in. So it was a little hard to stand there in my interview and pretend that I was looking for a real future, something I could depend on building my retirement on. In reality, I knew my tax refund would be coming in within 4-6 weeks. Despite my slacker ethic, I'd been reading the Castaneda books for three years, and was starting to develop the very most infinitesimal beginnings of a sense of personal integrity. I hated lying to them like that, so I decided that I would make up for my secret plan to quit so soon by working harder than I'd ever worked at a job. 

After spending the winter working at a ski resort in Whitefish, Montana, it took all I could muster to show up for work in that noisy trailer factory. My first day there I was dumbfounded at the challenge I'd taken on; the parts department was the grimiest, most disgustingly unorganized place I'd ever seen. Workmen impatiently greeted me at the window to the department, asking for parts I had never heard of, and while I searched through overturned shelves and boxes of junk, they talked to me about "Ol' Charley", the long time parts man, and how he had "let thangs go a bit in the last decade or two." It looked to me like a high flood of muddy water had surged through the parts department and swept Ol' Charley away, leaving boxes of bolts and washers and hoses and fasteners and rods and fittings all dumped over shelves and scattered haphazardly about the floor. I hoped I didn't find Ol' Charley's body in there, but it wouldn't have surprised me.

After spending six months atop a magnificent snowy mountain in Montana, my new work environment couldn't have been more depressing. It was a four walled room with no ceiling, set smack in the middle of the factory. Having no roof on my department meant that I had to listen to the thunderous, calamitous echoes of welding and grinding and hammering metal all day. Hollering workmen and gunning engines were my background music. It was pure hell but I'd made a personal vow that I felt would give this job everything I had. I would become the Greatest Parts Man Who Ever Lived. Or at least, that they'd ever seen.

I began learning parts and arranging them, ordering items that were out of stock and cleaning and filing those we had plenty of. There was a dutch door where workmen would come to request parts and I could see them looking at me with a mixture of amazement and suspicion. There was not a broom or a cleaning implement of any kind in the department and when they saw me cleaning the place up, I think some of them felt it was a slight to Ol' Charley, whose memory they held dear. I was not much like Ol' Charley. For one thing, I would often fast in those days, sometimes for a week or two. I'd carry my bottle of carrot juice and have a sip many times through out the day. Some of those men could not get over my audacity in taking a drink any ol' time I wanted. They would warn me daily, "Man, don't let the boss catch you drinkin' that outside o' break time!" I'd just laugh, finding it unimaginable that a boss would care if I had a sip of carrot juice any time I wanted. 

I spent a full six-weeks doing that job, waiting for my tax refund - and winning over the plant management with my overhaul of the department. Management had started bringing visitors out to see the parts department, a place that had always been a source of embarrassment in past years. I had boxes labeled in clear and logical order, every part we needed in stock, and the floor clean and swept. My parts department looked like a supply room in a hospital. And I continued to drink carrot juice at my whimsy. 


Then, just as I'd predicted, my tax refund came in. Six-hundred-plus dollars. That was enough money to live and eat on for three months at the house I was sharing with a couple of friends. I was so very ready to leave that job behind but I told nobody I was leaving. The day after my check came in I went to work and spent most of my morning composing a letter to the plant supervisor. Then at lunch I locked the dutch door, tacked my letter to it, and never came back. I was free and happy, excited to begin spending my long, carefree afternoons playing my guitar at the park.

That very evening I saw a friend, Hugh Ward, who worked in the plant. He lived near me and knocked on my door, a look of bemused befuddlement on his face. "What the heck happened to you, man?" I burst out laughing, thinking about how I'd simply walked away without telling anybody. It was that giddy kind of feeling you got as a kid when you were playing hide and seek and you could see kids looking for you but not finding you. That's what I'd felt all afternoon. But what Hugh told me next really surprised me. "Man, the plant supervisor shut down the whole plant and made everybody come in and sit around on the floor while he read them your letter. He was convinced that somebody had done something to you to cause you to quit and he was not happy about it. I'm telling you Michael, we were laughing so hard, people were rolling on the floor. That letter was the funniest thing I've ever heard in my life!" 

I was astonished. As much fun as I'd had writing it, I'd really only thought that two or three people in the main office would read it. It had never dawned on me that my letter would cause a work-stoppage, that the Supervisor would actually call everybody together and read it aloud. Apparently, he was out to find out who caused his new favorite employee; the World's Greatest Parts Man, to quit his job. According to Hugh, it was the only time he'd ever seen a full shut-down in all his years at the plant. I was very happy to have been of service. 
To Whom it May Concern, 

You may have noticed that itís well past lunch time and I have yet to open the window to the parts department. Donít worry, Iím not dead in there. Honestly though, suicide was an option I did consider that first week. In fact, I was convinced for awhile that I was going to find Olí Charley with his wrists cut somewhere under that mess, but apparently he got out in time. 

The first time I ever stepped into this rusty train wreck and saw what I was up against, I nearly passed out in horror. But you guys didnít even give me a minute to adjust before you mobbed up at the door and started blowing cigar smoke in my eyes and demanding parts Iíd never heard of. Never having been in a house fire before, I wasnít prepared for the damage a man can take on when he inhales constant cheap cigar smoke from the wrong end. Oh, I know, I put on a smile every morning and appeared to thrive like a weed in that dust and grime. But listen now, 'cause Iím going to have to be honest with you boys and tell y'all how it really is: no human being on this earth ought ever to have to breathe last weekend's Brut and British Sterling, combined with sour beer breath and stale cigar smoke through the same window. I suggest y'all talk to your daddies about borrowing a toothbrush and a splash of Old Spice. That shitís strong too, but it wonít cause a manís lungs to wither. Mine are shriveled up like little black raisins and Iím just praying theyíll pink up again after a day or two in the shower.

Iíd be surprised if yall hadnít seen this coming - I mean, surely you could see me fading. I started out sprightly and strong, but even with all the fresh carrot juice, I was turning mush-brained and slack-faced. I caught a look at myself in a truck mirror one day and just about had a stroke when I saw I was starting to look like a long-time employee. Yall probably have no idea what Iím talking about, do you? Just notice the next time you get a new employee; does he have some light in his eyes? Now take a look at your buddy right there next to you. See what I mean?

Itís not just that Iím overly vain, I could live with limp facial muscles if I had to. But Iím hoping to be a singing star someday and though I donít necessarily need to be overly handsome, it wouldnít hurt if I looked at least as good as Van Morrison during the Tupelo Honey period.

Thereís probably more I could tell you but why? Truth is, as gifted as I seemed at parts managing, I ainít really cut out to be handing out gaskets through a hole in the door. I did the best I could though, and left the place considerably tidier for you than Olí Charley did for me, that poor, lost bastard. Thanks a lot for the fun times, fellas. If you ever hear me on the radio, be sure and remember you used to warn me about drinkin' carrot juice outside o' break time.

Yer Former Parts Man,
  
~Michael
So that's a little bit of my work history, friends. Perhaps it explains my obsession with writing songs about fresh, cleansing rainfall and all it's healing symbolism. I'll tell you more another time, tales of working at a cemetery, installing cable tv, roofing houses, routing hornets, I done it all, podnas.
2010  - 25th Anniversary of the release of Run This Way Forever

Can you believe that you've been listening to the songs from my first album for a quarter of a century? I don't mean to depress you with that news, but you were just a fresh sprout when you first heard Yellow Windows and Raining Away.  There are at least two real positive ways to look at that: (1) not one of those songs has yet been played at your funeral. (2) You may get to hear me sing several of those songs in your own back yard this summer. What the. . . !?? How could that be?!?

Well, just read on my friends, and I'll 'splain it all to you real slow.

~Singin' in Your Pacific NW Backyard~ ~Singin' in Your Pacific NW Backyard~ ~Singin' in Your Pacific NW Backyard~

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, there is a chance you could hear me singin' my heart out in your very own backyard this summer. (or patio, living room, porch, rooftop) I don't organize many commercial concerts in the summer because there are hundreds of festivals, concert series, etc. around the country in the summertime and it's hard to compete with those. But smaller, casual concerts are easy to do and something I really love. 

To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the release of my first album, I've decided to do some backyard concerts in the Northwest and to post some videos of some of those evenings on YouTube. How do you get me to sing in your backyard? Read on, my friends.

I'm putting three private backyard concerts up for bid
 this summer. Just for you and your yard full of friends and family. Or, if you're really that miserly, just you. Either way, I'll be singing songs and telling stories and pluckin' strings with unbridled joy and gusto while you sip cool beverages and demand songs like, "Sugar Shack" and "Innagoddadavida."

The highest bid will get first choice of dates - including Saturdays. The second and third highest bids will get a Sunday or weekday evening. (I won't totally rule out Saturdays, but they are not guaranteed) Optimal times for these shows are from mid-July through mid-September, because rain is less likely, but I'm open to your ideas. It's up to you, but I recommend that you invite a number of folks who can fit indoors if it rains. Myself, I've got an awning I can sing under.

I'll bring an amp or small PA, but we'll be considerate of your neighbors and keep the volume reasonable. (invite 'em!) It will feel like we're sitting around a campfire. I'll play several songs from my very first album, but also songs from throughout my recording career and even some brand new songs that I'll be putting on the next album.

There is no bottom level for a beginning bid. It's up to you. My private shows around the country are usually $4500-$5000, but that will have no bearing on this bidding. Name your bid and if you're one of the top three, I will perform a concert at your house. Maybe you'll want to get together with a friend or two and join together to make a bid. Use your imagination, my friends. 

Please read about my private performances, so you have a sense of what they are like. Then, if you'd like to make an offer, I'll be accepting bids through June 15. I will respond personally to everyone, whether your bid is in the running or not. If you're among the top bidders, I'll let you know where you stand and what your chances are of getting a concert At Your House. Just send me an email with your bid.

 mt@michaeltomlinson.com 

I'm looking forward to meeting everybody and singing in your back yard. 
Yer ol' fren,
  
~Michael

Whidbey Island Concert for WAIF Whidbey Island Concert for WAIF Whidbey Island Concert for WAIF


My sweetheart, Patricia,
wondering how much to tip a London Cabby
A couple of weeks ago my sweetheart, Patricia, and I spent a few days on Whidbey Island, where I performed a concert at Mukilteo Coffee Roasters. It was a benefit for WAIF, the animal rescue organization on the island. (www.waifanimals.org

The concert sold out and it was such a pleasure to sing for everybody and enjoy being on the island again. My friend Brian Dina joined me on guitar and flute and really added a lot of depth and joy to the evening. 

Whidbey is such a beautiful place to be in the springtime. Perhaps you saw us driving around in circles, lost and pounding the GPS unit with a stick. And then afterwards, maybe you passed by and saw Patricia and me running barefoot across a meadow and brandishing very realistic-looking Medieval weapons. Fear not, it all was in good fun. It's such a great way to relieve stress after a nasty encounter with that arrogant lady in the GPS box. (Gong! Gong! Recalculating! I said Merge Right, Idiot!) 

Patricia had brought along the wonderful Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris CD, All the Road Running. It's kind of a folk/country album with suggestions of rock here and there - all wrapped in Mark's velvet guitar playing. It's such a pleasure to have an album of music we can both listen to over and over again when we're traveling. It is really one of the best records I've heard in a long time, so I wanted you to know about it. Of course, I may be biased. Patricia showed up having already learned all the Emmylou parts - every little nuance and inflection. So how could I not like it?

~Benefit Concerts~ ~Benefit Concerts~ ~Benefit Concerts~

I'm continuing to work toward having as many of my concerts as possible benefit worthwhile causes. If there is something in your part of the world you are particularly involved in supporting, and you want to present an idea to me for a concert, I'm open to discussion. 

I am working toward finding sponsors to cover my costs, so that ticket sales can go toward the cause. But there are many possibilities, so feel free to let me know if you have some ideas.   
   mt@michaeltomlinson.com

This was quite a long rambling, and if you've stayed with me this far, I really thank you. I enjoy writing for you and hope that you feel you get a laugh or two or that there is something there that feels heartening to you.

I know that this time in our world, in our country, is difficult for many of us. So many people are in limbo, wondering how to make a living, how to flow with the changes of economy and society that we are encountering now. There is almost no part of our world that is not affected. We are all having to take deep breaths and pay attention to what we feel in our hearts. There is no better way to embrace change than to breathe deeply and seek a feeling of trust before you take a step. I wish you the courage to take the steps necessary to find new ways of living and making a living, of being more connected to each other, the earth, your source and even yourself. 

Thanks for visiting me. I hope you're doing well this springtime.

Your friend in breezy Seattle,
 
 ~Michael

P.S. Today is Mother's Day. I've decided to offer up one of my songs that was her favorite of mine. It is called "Years" and was inspired by my parents and their love for each other. They passed away six years apart - on the exact same day of the year.  Please have a listen, or you are welcome to download it for free and let any friends you wish know about it.
 
August 4, 2010
This morning at five a.m., I sat outside under my walnut tree and just listened. It was early dawn, not quite daylight yet, and there was a restlessness in the trees and wind. A subtle rustling of leaves and branches and wind skating along the surfaces of things and searching for anything it could make move or shift or cause to utter a sound. It invited me to utter a sound, it made me breathe, joining my exhale with it's restlessness. And the two of us, the wind and my breath, began to wander the neighborhood together. It was exciting, for I had not realized all the secret places it knew. There are a myriad of crevasses and indentations and shadowy, tangled hideaways where wind and breath can visit - and only they are aware of. The wind knows all the places a bird goes, and even skims gently over the most subtle mound of soil upturned when the earthworm surfaces. I asked if my breath could go to all those unknown places and if my mind could let go and follow - without words or thoughts. Just follow, just bank and turn and flow and push up against a rock or wall or trunk or tire and then fold into itself and the wind and seek a new path in an instant. It was easier than I had imagined and I wonder why I have not done this a million times. But now is not too late. Now is good. Breathe in gratitude. Imagine what gratitude really is, for we actually do not know. As close as we believe we have been to it, we really do not know the pulsing aliveness that is real gratitude. It's a whole world, really. And I have only dipped my toe into it's lovely surface. Breathe in gratitude and then call your thoughts back home. Say to your mind, which is yours to command; be still. Hold with me now. Steady. Quiet. Calm. Now breathe out and join the wind. Let it all out, your breath and everything that wishes to ride upon it. Is your pain there? The arguments you keep reshaping? Your fear of tomorrow? Your anger at injustices done to you? Relax and know that you are just the same as every human being on earth. No one born here breathes freely from birth to death. But many surrender after a time and let their breath mingle with the wind and become it's own searcher, it's own wave in the current of life seeking life. Swaying under the leaves, whispering, shuffling, murmuring as they do, it is easier to let your breath go. Still, I forget. But they remind me, whispering. "Free yourself. Free what is already free and always was free - your own self." Start with your breath and more will follow. Inhale. Exhale. Thoughts will come next. Then arguments and judgments, then what you believe in your mind are rock solid facts. They will all follow if you breathe into the wind. And then you will receive something quite beautiful; you will be shown something beyond facts; something real, eternal. No one can say how this will come to you. A spark of some kind? Maybe. An idea? Sure. A presence of something fleeting and forever in the same instant. Everything. Nothing. Yes, that is it. Nothing and everything will come to you and you will not be able to tell them apart. You will not be able to hold this idea, so just allow it to drift and sift through you. You will probably wish to stay in this delicious trance because it is the default setting of humanity before our own faulty programming of fear and pain and illusion. No more though. We are through with that. That is why misery and confusion and distrust and sadness is at it's highest level now. That is why you are restless of heart and soul. That is why I went outside before daylight with my tea, bundled up on a summer morning as if it were October. Seeking release, forgiveness, solace, kindness, peace in my heart. For an hour I sat there, closing my eyes and opening them. My mind out raced the wind. But every so often, in the gentlest way, leaves would murmur to me - Pause. Allow. Relax. Surrender. Do you not see that you are all of this and more? You are not you, sitting there in your sky chair. You are wind and rustling, light and dark, mist and clouds and sky and earth, worms and spiders, sidewalk and footpath and street and highway and river and flood and dry desert stone. That body is not your home. It's your low income housing at best. It could never contain you, who you are and what you came here for and where you've been and where you will go. You are not an age, you are not even one sex. Or one race. You are a part of All That Is. Can you find the edge of All That Is so that you can determine just where your border ends? No. All That Is would never even try to define itself. It doesn't want to. Every tiny part of itself is complete and whole, even a neutron inside a molecule inside a wisp of dandelion lint. Barely a glint off a ripple in the ocean or the tiniest frequency of the full sound a stick makes when snapping in two. And yet, it is whole. You are whole. Breathe in the idea. Is there any reason not to trust this? Will harm come if you pause now and imagine yourself perfect? Does it seem like a thought or an idea created to control you or is it the most freeing concept you can imagine? Follow what you feel. Not what you think. If I say to you, Breathe in peace. Breathe out all that you wish to release. Does that bring you to enslavement? Or is there freedom beyond definition? Which path calls to you? Are you through with one and ready for the other? There is no right or wrong way here. What are you ready for? Do you wish to be home now? In this instant? Because you are there. You are home already. So sit with that for a time. Sit and breathe in the idea - I am home. I am whole. I am enough. Even if this is only a moment's reprieve from your restlessness, that is good enough. A moment is everything. All there is, really. And your trusting breath is what you have longed for.

For some weeks I've thought about writing a new rambling for my website. When I went outside this morning, that was not on my mind. But after an hour of breathing and listening and drifting in the dawn, I came inside and closed my eyes and typed this. It is for me, really. As all my songs are, as well. But I'm sharing it with you because we are a lot alike, you and me.

I hope you're doing well this summertime. Remember to take a deep breath now and then and to be kind to yourself.

Your friend in breezy Seattle,
 
   ~Michael
 
November 17, 2010
Howdy my friends, did you ever have a day when some specific event of Nature, some creature or burst of weather or beautiful sight caused you to rise up out of your dark mood and come alive? That happened to me today. I was sitting on my porch reading, tossing out peanuts to demanding blue jays, and talking to my little pup in my lap about the sad situation in the US Congress. My little dog Bungee, although I've registered her properly numerous times, does not vote. It makes me furious, but then I guess she doesn't like that I don't bark. Well, I do a little bit.


She refuses to vote!
I was attempting to read the Sunday paper but after one section it occurred to me that it was making me heavy and sad. So I threw it down and went inside and brought out Pema Chodron's book, "Comfortable with Uncertainty", and began to re-read chapters I've devoured dozens of times. The sign of a good book, of great content or story telling, is that you can read it a hundred times and still sometimes feel like you have never seen it before. You know, like episodes of Seinfeld. You know George is about to confess to the woman he wants to break up with that he is ". . . very, very gay! Extraordinarily gay!" and yet it is somehow as hilarious as if you'd never heard it before.

This time of year in Seattle, quite a few of our days are dark and damp. Cave-like and mildewy. And when you have a few of those days in a row, well the weather seems to have come not from the sky and wind and clouds, but from inside your own being. It can feel as if it is your own dark emotion and mood that has blackened the world. And now that we've gone back to standard time from daylight savings time, well, a rainy day in November can bring darkness around 4:30 p.m. Let's just say it's not a recipe for cheerfulness, podnas. You see very few perky people in Seattle in November. 

My pup has been extremely ill for close to a year. It's been a private journey we have both taken, this daily path through the mystery of what will help her to heal. As much as I wish to express this story to you, I don't believe it is possible. So look into your own life, at some long and difficult climb, some challenge you have had that called forth a love and commitment in you that has no end, that you didn't even know you could do. And that is part of what I have experienced seeing Bungee through this malady. 

Back in the spring she developed a sore that wouldn't heal. And small, wart-like nodes started appearing all over her body. The vet who I took her to, unfortunately mis-diagnosed this as a form of skin cancer. As a result of this, it was five months before I came to find that she had no cancer at all, but a severe staph infection. She has now been to a total of six vets and numerous healers. Watching my precious little friend suffer all this time, growing frail and weak, then eventually blind in both eyes, was one of the hardest things I've ever experienced in life. 

But there is hope. After two different batches of antibiotics failed to help her, and many alternative therapies, she is finally on a new one that is looking much more effective. And for once, it's not destroying her appetite and quality of life. And I took her to an eye specialist who had me begin putting drops in her eyes every day, and now she is beginning to see again. I can't begin to tell you what joy it brings to my heart to see her start to regain some of her spirit and joy and faculties. She is not through her healing, but I am seeing such positive changes, and such a new calm peace in her, that I believe she is going to pull through this and have a few happy years to boss me around still. Bungee is over 14 years old, but I've known of many Maltese Terriers living three or four years beyond that time, and a few even longer. So give a "Hear, hear!" for my pooch, will ye? 

We were out there on the porch this morning, the gray day closing in on us, and I felt a strong urge to meditate. I have been doing it more often in recent months, but for some reason, if I can't be outside, I tend not to meditate as much. So I sat there with Bungee sleeping in my lap. I placed my hands just behind her, barely touching her and asking that whatever healing light move through me be allowed to move through her too. And I began to do what I always do when I meditate; I watched my mind race and bounce about like some frantic jumping bean. It never fails, sit down in pursuit of calm and quiet and your mind will take up all the frantic motion usually filled by computers, phones, television and traffic. But Pema reminds you to just relax and call your attention back over and over again. Never tire of it. Never judge yourself for it. Just call your mind back each and every time you catch yourself thinking or following a scenario. 

I don't know if you ever attempt to meditate, but I can promise you that you have meditated many, many times in your life. And you have done it well. I'll give you an example: ever sat before a campfire or fireplace and gotten lost in the flames until something happened inside you and you wanted to never, ever break the spell? That was meditation. Ever watch moving water, a river or stream, or ocean waves, and find yourself mesmerized into a trance by the motion and sound of the water? That is meditation. The truth is, if we will avail ourselves of Nature's gifts, of weather and natural elements, trees and flowers and sky and birds and creatures and wind and sun and stars, we will have in our lives precisely the amount of meditation we need. The perfect balance of present and past and future. But since almost none of us live that way, then it can help a great deal if we unplug from our gadgets, put down our toys, and take a few minutes to practice being completely in the now. 

It's not a trick to be learned. It's not magic. It's not something that others can do but you cannot. It's something that exists exactly as you need it to. No one on earth can meditate better than you can. And if you find that your mind races, just notice it. Then as if it were an infant you were bringing back to the blanket every time she crawls toward the street, bring your mind back with the same patience and kindness. 

I did that today. I called my mind back a hundred times from thoughts and stories and ideas and memories and fears and sorrows and dreads and regrets. And through no doing of my own, this willingness to patiently persevere brought me to a great void of thought. It's like an accident you can only hope will happen. But when it does, you realize that you cannot cause it. You can only continue to come to the present moment again and again. And then one of those times when you do this, you will fall off the cliff and soar. Into light, into color, into silence, into nothingness. But nothingness in this case, is not what you might think. It's more like I fell into everythingness. A place where everything is. Today I saw textures and colors. Sometimes I see nothing but still adore the quiet bliss. I actually had the sensation for the longest time that the sun was shining on me. I felt like if I opened my eyes I was going to see that the sun had miraculously broken through the raggedy low clouds and enlightened the earth around me with amber. Of course, that hadn't happened. 

I kept my eyes closed for a long time, maybe an hour. Like you may remember doing that time you sat before the fireplace and lost your sense of time, that is what I did today. Only something different happened for me this time. After I watched the play of light and colors and shapes on the outside of my eyelids, feeling wave after wave of glowing shades of color warm my being, I finally came to a place where I willed myself to open my eyes. I could have just as easily stayed there in trance for days. But with some reluctance, I opened my eyes to the world and saw everything around me with fresh eyes. Across the street just then, a gust of wind rustled the tall birch tree towering over the lane, and a splash of yellow leaves danced in the air, fluttering, glittering, their light and dark sides flickering in the air as they drifted so gracefully to earth in slow, fluid motion. And I cried. 

I was sitting right there on my porch, in plain view of my across-the-street neighbors, easily seen by anyone walking down my sidewalk, and my face just crumpled up and I started sobbing. It surprised me that I did this. But the beauty of those leaves, the intense colors of the world around me, the lightly snoring pup in my lap who seemed a little happier and more at peace. It was all just too much to contain and I cried. I didn't really cry about anything sad. Or maybe I did, but it was mixed with crying about things happy, too. Like my meditation, I cried about nothing and everything. it only lasted maybe two minutes, but I knew I had been allowed some amazing grace of release. My pausing to breathe and trust the present moment had naturally opened a pathway for the pressure I had held to release and flow from my body and my being. The wind swept through the pale limbs of that birch tree and sent a wave over to gust through me at the same time.

As it turned out, I'm pretty sure nobody saw me crying. I didn't much care, but I think I would have had some "'splainin' to do" if any of my neighbors had walked by. I'm a fairly big ol' palooka of a man and well, I'm soft hearted and friendly, but I don't think many of my neighbors have seen me sobbing before. I wouldn't have had a thing to tell them if they'd asked. "It was them leaves!", I would have professed. "Them birch leaves just about did me in!" I imagine they'd have smiled kind of nervously and hurried on home to lock the door. 

And that's my little website rambling for ye. I never know what they'll be. If you hung in there with me up until now, well, my hat is off to you for your fortitude. I'll be letting you know about my sweet dog, Bungee. I plan on sending out word of her progress as soon as there is something more solid to report. In the meantime, thank you, thank you, thank you, to the folks who sent kind messages and ordered my CDs and even sent checks when I asked for some help with her expensive vet bills. You all touched my heart with your kindness and caring.

I hope this coming Thanksgiving season you will take some time for quiet, some moments now and then to breathe in and exhale fully. Whatever you do, don't forget to be kind to yourself. It's the best place in the world for compassion to start. Just practice on yourself. It will all get much easier to spread it around after that. 

Your friend in misty Seattle,
 
~Michael


The 10-foot tall Halloween Monster I created.
Parents liked it much better than the kids did.
Kids seem to favor blow-up Costco decorations.
 
December 4, 2010

Howdy my friends, it's been an eventful couple of weeks, concerts and wild winter storms, surly nuns, lost guitars and napping on the floor of an airport. If I can't find something interesting to say about all that, then I'd better get back to writing little puppy tunes and crocheting doilies. Several days ago I was checking in early at Denver International Airport, a little bit sad, as I often inexplicably get when I travel, when the ticket agent said, "Mister Tomlinson, we just had an aisle seat open up, would you like it?" I actually teared up a little at the gift. I don't know why, it's not so much that I can't hack a claustrophobic window seat in the back of a plane full of flu victims, it was more the unexpected kindness of someone extending a friendly gesture that choked me up. I leaned over the counter and the agent must have thought I was going to divulge a great secret. I said, "I can't tell you how much it means when you're traveling, to be met with a little kindness." My eyes were a little wet - a normal man might have been embarrassed. Hopefully, there was no drool.  I caught a little movement and I think she may have pushed a button under the desk. 

I left the counter feeling blessed with my surprise gift; a seat with one arm and one leg free! Whee! Free to windmill and wave about at will! I like to get a really good rpm going and cool everyone in the back of the plane. But I have to watch myself or my muscles in one arm will get too bulgy.

Having checked into the airport early, I realized that I had time to get a massage. I thought it would be nice to arrive home to Seattle relaxed and calm after my concerts in Colorado. I stopped at the massage station and there was a massage chair open. I could tell from the moment the massage therapist started working on me that I was in for a truly powerful, healing massage. Ten minutes into what I'd arranged as a 20-minute massage, I whispered huskily through the face hole, "C-can we make this a half hour massage?" She said, "of course." I'm a sucker for the face hole conversation. I feel like I'm attending Confession and I will blurt out stuff that blushes everyone in the place. But I can't see that. I'm in my own little private cave and speaking to some powerful Massage Goddess who hovers above us and cannot be seen. It's very religious, so I don't cuss much. Oh, I take that back. I did once tell a really nasty joke about a dolphin and a chipmunk and a man with square sponge pants who went into a bar.

Are you familiar with deep-tissue massage? I mean where a therapist places, say, her knuckle or knee, or maybe a boot heel, against a muscle and will determinedly grind out weeks of tension? I nearly blacked out in pain, hollering, flopping, going in and out of consciousness over and over again. When I finally came to I had a raggedy, raw throat, so I know I must have been screaming in a blood curdling manner. There's no telling what I hollered through that face hole, but I can't imagine that I kept it family friendly. I'm just too weak under torture.

Afterwards, I struggled to my feet, reeling at the altitude of my full height, and fumbled a fistful of currency out of my pockets that I couldn't recognize or value. The pictures were pretty, but individual denominations meant nothing to me. Then I grabbed my bags with the clubs I used to call hands, and I lurched generally toward my gate of departure. The world was throbbing, expanding and writhing. That massage!  Had there been a stampede during it? 

I leaned generally forward and glanced around at the confusing crowds of creatures and cargo and those strange, strange lights. The numbers! Why all the numbers! I couldn't make sense of what I now know were gate numbers. To my altered consciousness then, A-51 might well have been a crude cave painting of horses running. I don't know how I knew to, but I looked at my boarding pass for a very long time, trying to remember which part of it told me something useful. Eventually, I realized it was upside down - which only helped a little. Somehow I recognized the human face of the Alaskan Eskimo. Not personally, like I didn't think, "Hey! There's Joe Inuktituk!" but I did know it was a human being. And so, blessedly, I was no longer alone on this earth. That drawing started to bring me back a little bit and I could start to just make out some of what was around me.

Just ahead the ground was moving. Not all jiggly all over the place like an earthquake. But just in one direction. Did I dare to get on this moving earth thing? To my eyes the people on it hunkered like blurred and misshapen troglodytes. Still, my destination was far away and in my condition it seemed like an insurmountable distance. I didn't know if I could drag my legs that far with just my arms, like I'd done so far. I lunged toward the strange walking sidewalk but then faltered, frightened at making the final leap. I trembled there a moment, weighing my chances of stepping on it with my bags and staying upright for the duration. Just as I was about to wisely decide "No!", I was jolted from behind and my choice was taken from me as I was jarred into space and catapulted onto the moving earth.

Who did this to me
? I should have been allowed time to decide! I dared a look over my should to identify the nudger and couldn't have been more surprised to see a nun. I'm serious. A nun.  Finally, I was starting to identify humans in general: that I could now classify them into certain livelihoods and positions was a huge advance over when I'd first stumbled out of that massage parlor.  I glanced again but she refused to look back at me. Okay, she was definitely a nun - I remembered  her hat from a movie I saw once.  I was just about to confront her when we came to the end of the moving sidewalk.  What is this?!  I almost wondered - as I dove head first and felt my rolling bag travel the length of my body. 

I sprawled there like a Texas yard sale for a couple of minutes while the endless line of travelers walked around and over me. The nun was gone, I could hunt her forever and I'd never find her. You've got to be really sure about a thing like that, you can't just run up and put some random nun in a headlock. Can you?

I could go on and on, and truly every millisecond of my experience was fascinating beyond belief, but let me just shorten the story by saying that I made it to my gate in time to find that my flight was delayed. And then delayed again. And again. Because of a winter storm in Seattle. But just as I'd given up, making a passable bed from clothes, and begun to nap on the floor under some chairs, they announced that we were indeed going to Seattle. 

There was an ugly scene awaiting our arrival. Pandemonium came to mind. Tired, bedraggled passengers who have never slept on an airport floor do not realize that this is not the end of life. They panic, they call hotels and argue with clerks. They run toward ghost taxis and start to wonder if they could possibly walk twenty miles through the storm. But experienced floor sleepers like myself remain calm. We recognize each other and catch each other's knowing eyes as we tiptoe through the panicked hordes. We know how to grab a newspaper here and there for padding, pulling underwear from our bags for sleeping masks. We have already been scouring the area for ketchup packets, which will sustain us till morning if we get hungry. 

But then I crumbled and got all caught up in the raging anxiety and found myself racing in 18-degree winter weather for the last Light Rail train of the night into Seattle.  It was a third of a mile away, could I make it? I passed many less gifted runners than myself. I don't think I elbowed anyone, but if I did, I am so sorry! It was just shockingly cold and my lungs were like little frozen cutlets rattling around in my chest. 

Can you picture running like this after midnight in a storm, knowing this is the last way into Seattle and that there are thousands of stranded cars on the freeway and no other possible way home? And then finding that after your spastic run, the train tickets are sold through a touch screen that does not seem to register the temperature of frozen fingers?  No one should ever have to experience such a thing. If I'd have thought of it, I'd have punched "10" instead of "1" and bought everyone in line a ticket so we could get on that train and out of the wind. But I didn't think of that. Finally, I got my ticket and ran to the train. I think every person that was behind me made it too. We kept holding the door open for everyone we saw running toward us, even as the recorded automated voice recording grew angrier and angrier with us for holding the doors and delaying our departure. It's unnerving how that robotic voice can get more and more stern. It's the same with the woman in my truck's GPS unit; she will eventually tell me to "pull over and park it!" if she has to recalculate more than a dozen times.

I owe a huge amount of thanks to my friend Jeff LaBow, who left his snuggly gal Joie, and his warm house at midnight in pursuit of a navigable path to downtown Seattle to rescue me that night. I kept calling his cell from the train, fully expecting that he'd be saying something like, "
Sorry brother, I can't get up the hill," but he's got this old VW wagon that is famous for getting around in snow and he's the man to call when you need a ride on a blizzardy winter night in a hilly city like Seattle. (I'll be sure and give you his number) No sooner had I emerged from the tunnel under Nordstrom in downtown Seattle, than Jeffrey drove up and honked for me. It was such a different reality than I'd imagined on the floor of DIA, where I'd laid down to take a nap a few hours earlier, that I almost couldn't register that my good friend was taking me to my home.

I've been ill ever since that trip, came home sick and then got sicker. But it's not all bad, the fever made me creative (or crazy, I'm not sure which).  Two days ago I was moping around wishing I had a new Christmas song for my website, thinking it would encourage folks to buy my CDs for Christmas. Then I had this thought, "Hey! I'm a songwriter! I can write a Christmas song!" I did it.  In a day and a half I wrote Christmas Ride and just fell in love with it.  I called Patricia and played it for her over the phone and she loved it, saying, "It's like an old timey Christmas song. So happy and pure."

I called my engineer, Jay, and he had three hours available before he took off on holiday. I walked out of the studio last night with a recorded version of the song I'd only finished earlier that day. I've never done that before but I'm so glad I did. I hope you like it. 

As always, my ramblings can go any ol' way. You know that by now. I'm just glad that you take the time to visit and see what I'm up to and listen to a new song. 

While you're listening to Christmas Ride, try this: imagine that life could be that fresh again. Imagine that you could feel so clean and clear and that everything about you is okay. Listen a few times and just let yourself feel that kind of happiness you sometimes felt as a kid at Christmastime. What I feel in my heart is that it is only our minds that have ever fooled us into believing otherwise. While you're listening, just breathe into your heart and see if you can trust what you feel.

Whatever you are experiencing this season, I wish you peace. I wish you a release from suffering and I wish you loving kindness. I feel like I experience loving kindness in some form every day of my life. And that the more I notice it, the more it happens. I wish that for you, my friend.

Whatever your religion, faith, beliefs, I wish you a Merry Christmas in the most pure and gentle ways you can imagine. 

Your friend in sunny Seattle,
   
~Michael
 
Listen to my song
Christmas Ride
 

   

   

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