Uncharted

sara-bareillesThere are points in our life that we find ourselves on a precipice, teetering back and forth. A battle ensues between the rational mind and the impassioned heart. Step back toward solid ground, implores the sensible intellect. Take the leap, begs the courageous soul. Back and forth the maelstrom intensifies, leaving our physical presence stagnant. Disarray, chaos, and confusion suffocate what seems like the last breath of fresh air waiting to be exhaled from our lungs. Until the tiniest of nudges sends us over the edge, tumbling into uncharted territory. And suddenly it feels beautiful.

I pen these words in a moment of faith and hope. It has been less than forty-eight hours since I was coaxed into the dark abyss of the unknown. I want to give these emotions time to evolve, to come of age in my soul. I feel them intensifying. I don’t want to bring them into this world before their time. And yet, neither do I want to lose the rawness of those same emotions. I have decided that now is the time, the perfect time.

Traveling north on the interstate, my destination is St. Augustine Amphitheater for the second time in as many months. I have a peculiar habit of listening to the music I am going to hear live while driving, a concert before the concert, if you will. Streaming from the speakers in shuffle mode is a combination of perfectly produced studio recordings alongside the imperfections and subtle nuances that can only be captured in a live recording. The anticipation of a concert experience I had been looking forward to for months had me wanting to press down on the accelerator of my Mustang with a little more enthusiasm. This was one of those times where I am pleased that my rational mind prevailed.

As the ambient lights faded, an energy surged through the crowd as evidenced by the deafening pleas for the featured artist, Sara Bareilles, to appear. The electric blue lights illuminating the stage lit a fire inside that began what turned out to be a magical and breathtaking evening. The two hours from my seat in section 202 passed in the blink of an eye, the infusion of inspiration closely guarded and carried with me as I take a leap of my own.

There are singers. There are performers. And there are artists. Sara Bareilles is an artist. She takes the words, lyrics, and melodies of a song, one that you have heard a hundred times before, and transforms them into something new, like a song that you are hearing for the very first time. It’s a brush with genius that words cannot convey. It must be experienced to fully appreciate the significance of its impression. I heard many of my favorite offerings by Sara: Gravity, Chasing The Sun, Brave, King Of Anything. There were two songs, however, that moved me into an unexpected state of enchantment.

she-used-to-be-mineFor the past eighteen months, Sara has been working on the musical score for a Broadway show set to premiere next year, Waitress. As the opening notes of her song She Used To Be Mine carried towards the ears of her audience, they bypassed the physical senses and headed straight for the soul. A heart-wrenching, introspective, and incredibly powerful love ballad brought tears to my eyes. I don’t even know why it is that those tears materialized. I don’t know that I was either happy or sad. To be honest, I didn’t care. I was just moved. We don’t always need to understand why it is that we feel a particular way. We just need to decide to feel. That is enough. A true artist has the power to kindle that emotional reverberation. With the final note of this spellbinding performance, I came to the realization that I was not alone in my sentiments. In unison, three thousand other fans, connected by a riveting rendition of emotional portrayal, found themselves standing in awe and appreciation. It was a moment, maybe the moment.

Compare where you are to where you want to be, and you’ll get nowhere. ~Sara Bareilles, Uncharted

I have listened to this song time after time: on the radio, on my copy of Kaleidoscope Heart, on my Sara Bareilles Pandora station. It wasn’t until I experienced it live, however, that it finally hit home. Maybe it was the surge of emotion washing over me at this point in the concert. Maybe it was a connection to the fear, doubt, and uncertainty conveyed through the vocal chords of this gifted musician. Whatever it was, I found myself ready to enter uncharted territory of my own.

I won’t go as a passenger, waiting for the road to be laid. Though I may be going down, I’m taking flame over burning out. I’m already out of foolproof ideas, so don’t ask me how to get started. It’s all uncharted. ~Sara Bareilles, Uncharted

little-black-dressInspire and be inspired. It is my mental anthem, my guiding principle. I have been inspired in a very unique and compelling fashion. I may never grasp the breadth of influence that was provided to me on this special evening. That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t aspire to inspire the world, one person at a time. It’s all uncharted after all. And that’s what it makes it so incredibly beautiful and wonderful.

 

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Perfect game

baseball-on-moundWith two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Ryan had delivered a masterful performance. The velocity on his fastball complemented the sweeping break on his slider to the tune of twenty-six consecutive outs. One final out stood between Ryan and a perfect game: no walks, no hits, and no errors. Perfection was within his grasp.

Using his forearm to wipe the beads of sweat forming on his brow, he massaged the ball in his hands as if to summon a magic genie to grant him a final wish. Taking his position on the mound, he simultaneously looked into his catcher for the sign while placing two of his fingers over the red seams, a familiar texture to the pads of his fingers. Shaking off the curveball called by his catcher, Ryan had settled upon the tried and true heater with an imperceptible nod on this one ball, two strike count.

The complex movements of a pitcher and his arm are unnatural to a human body. The amount of stress and fatigue imparted by such an unorthodox motion is rarely appreciated. With a deliberate and repeatable windup, Ryan delivered the ninety-five mile per hour fastball just above the letters on the batter’s jersey. The swinging piece of lumber passed just below its target, the ball exploding into the back of the catcher’s mitt with a detonating crack.

Teammates from every position on the field and in the dugout swarmed the mound like ants toward a single kernel of corn. Buried beneath the pile of jubilant compatriots, Ryan didn’t feel the weight of those people on top of him. He would have cause to feel that weight in a different way later. Right now, all he felt was euphoria. Perfection had been attained on the baseball diamond.

apartment-windowLooking out the window of his 7th floor apartment, scotch on the rocks in one hand, the baseball he had used masterfully earlier that day in his other, he began to feel the weight and pressure that never seemed to visit him on the mound. The burden was originating not from anything outside that window, but rather from within.

Looking at the dirt embedded in the leather cover of the baseball, he stared deeply at it, as if he were peering into a crystal ball, trying to make sense of his tangled emotions. He had just attained perfection. Why was it that he felt so incredibly empty after such a momentous accomplishment? Ryan had everything he had ever dreamt of: fame, fortune, the applauding cheers and support of a huge fan base. Baseball came natural to him. He had what some would call an innate knack for understanding the subtle nuances of the game. Coupling that with the pure athleticism of his twenty-nine year old body resulted in a storied set of records, accomplishments, and accolades.

Rising from the black leather chair, Ryan found himself gravitating towards the acoustic guitar delicately balanced against the wall. Picking it up, taking it in his hands, he courted it as a gentleman would to a lady in requesting a dance. The choreographed dance that took part between Ryan and this instrument was as beautiful as any strikeout he had ever recorded in his career, probably more so. As the melodic chords began to echo from the hole in the solid body, the weight was lifted from his shoulders. An air of lightness came over him. There was nothing else in the world, just Ryan communicating with his soul through these six strings and the manipulation of his fingers over the fret board.

This was a recurring theme in his life, riding the highs of public recognition in the baseball world, followed by the ensuing loneliness and solitude of his personal life. He was too tied to the routine, too accustomed to the numbness to recognize it for what it was: a whisper from within.

The careful knock on his apartment door surprised him. Was it another reporter looking for the inside story? Was it a teammate’s attempt to drag Ryan out into a nightlife that felt foreign to him? The big city lights and flirtatious women did not appeal to Ryan. Despite his renowned acclaim in the public’s eye, he was a very quiet and reserved individual.

Looking through the peephole, Ryan felt the mounting anxiety of an anticipated confrontation melt away. It was only Callie. Turning the deadbolt and opening the door, his next door neighbor smiled, “Hey Ryan, how’s it going?”

Callie was the furthest thing from a baseball fan, and Ryan took solace in that. She was his welcome buffer from the fanatical experience in that other world he frequented on a baseball diamond. Working in the local museum as a curator, she was a recluse from the same mold as Ryan, enjoying the quiet serenity of her domain among the artifacts she collected and displayed.

“I heard you playing next door. Thin walls, you know? It sounded like you could use some company.” Ryan and Callie had an intangible connection between them. It wasn’t a surprise that the melancholy way Ryan strummed his chords on that evening sent a message to Callie next door. Their relationship was not. and never would be, romantic in nature. It was much deeper than that, almost like a familial bonding between brother and sister.

“Come on in,” said Ryan as he stepped aside to invite her in. “Do you want a drink? I have some chardonnay in the fridge.” It was the bottle of wine that was shared between Ryan and his last attempted romantic endeavor pressed upon him by his agent. “Get out, see the world,” his agent had said in a suggestive way. The unfinished bottle was indicative of the date’s outcome. It wasn’t that she wasn’t attractive, in the physical or mental sense; he was just left without any compelling interest to pursue a relationship at this point in his life. There was too much else going on.

“Sounds good,” said Callie, “just a half glass for me though. I have to be at the museum early tomorrow morning. We’re procuring some wooly mammoth tusks from an archeological dig site in Arizona. It’s going to be a busy day of cataloging and setting up the new display.”

Grabbing two goblets from the cabinet, Ryan decided to join Callie, switching from scotch to wine. Pouring a half glass in each one, Ryan carried them out to the living room while taking note of the excitement in Callie’s voice. “You really have a knack for taking otherwise ordinary things and infusing a breath of life into them.”

Deferring the compliment as was custom for Callie, she shyly responded back “Well, you do too you know.” Taking a sip from his glass, Ryan responded “How do you mean?” He didn’t feel attached to anything other than his next scheduled pitching performance, even if that connection was contrived in nature.

guitar-against-wall“That guitar, your music, it’s beautiful, poetic, and moving,” she said as she casually pointed to the instrument that had resumed its position resting against the wall. Ryan was taken aback. His narrow view, blinders only allowing him to focus on the catcher’s mitt and throwing strikes, obscured the observation posed by Callie. When Ryan didn’t respond, Callie continued on, “Seriously, you have a gift, don’t you see that? Even on those days and nights that I don’t knock on your door, I can sense your emotions through the vibration of those strings I hear on the other side of the wall.”

Caught in a momentary flashback, Ryan recalled the very first time he picked up that guitar. He didn’t even know what to do with it. And yet, his hand took hold of it, gripped it, and strummed the strings like he had done it a million times before. Sometimes the things that come to us so naturally are taken for granted until someone brings it to our attention. His presence in the sporting world had received the lion’s share of his attention. Callie’s recent words fell upon him with a warm sensation that he could not explain. The words wrapped around him so as to not let the feeling escape.

Coming back to the present without a word being said, Callie shook her head while smirking, “What are you smiling about?” Ryan hadn’t realized that a smile had materialized on his face. “I don’t know,” he said, “let’s just say it’s good I have friends like you to help open my eyes.” The creaking sound from the neighbor’s door opening one apartment down could have been mistaken by Ryan for the door that had just been opened within him, Callie’s words being the key to unlock it.

“You know, we’re hosting an event in our cafe on Saturday afternoon to promote the new exhibit. A little music would spice it up a bit. I think it would be a great idea to bring your guitar and play a set during lunch. Heaven knows we could use a little energy to help excite our patrons about the new offering,” she offered with a mildly sarcastic grin, eyes rolling.

Ryan’s next start was scheduled for this Saturday. But, being a night game, he could certainly fit this suggestion into his schedule. As much for himself as for the help it would provide his friend, he shrugged his shoulders and smiled, “Sure, why not?”

rotunda-cafeSeated on an unassuming bench near the center of the rotunda, the bubbling fountain provided a soothing backdrop to his melodic sounds. The tables situated around the fountain were filled with hungry patrons, black forest ham and Gruyere cheese sandwiches for the adults, gourmet peanut butter and jelly for the kids. The hum of conversation filled the cafe, sound waves bouncing and reflecting off the stained glass ceiling and columns supporting the architectural masterpiece.

With trepidation, Ryan brought the instrument into his grasp and began the familiar strum of his favorite song. In that moment, he could only hear the percussive sounds emanating from his instrument along with the trickling sounds of water meeting water in the fountain. At first, Ryan presumed he had retreated into his own private world, hearing only that which he was focused upon. Glancing up, however, he noticed that all eyes were on him. He had commanded the attention of every patron in that cafe.

As he began to play the final verse, the lyrics he sang brought a smile to his face. Two simple words, why not, had changed his life. Such an innocent statement in an otherwise ordinary day has the power to produce extraordinary results when we choose to embrace them. Inside those thirty minutes, Ryan forgot that he was pitching a baseball game that evening. He wasn’t concerned with giving up walks, stolen bases, or home runs. He was already home and he had no need to run anywhere.

Front row

WP_20140619_002A year after a storied and improbable visit to the World Series, I sat in my seat at Tropicana Field, cheering on my baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays to a victory against the Kansas City Royals. As fate would have it, the ticket in my possession entitled me to a post-game concert. I had no reason to believe anything remarkable would occur on that evening. That’s the way most special things actually establish their roots.

Despite the poor acoustics of a baseball stadium and my seats a hundred yards from the stage, I found myself moved by the live music. I clearly remember leaving the concert that evening, oblivious to the fact that I was there first and foremost to see a baseball game. Purchasing both albums available by Daughtry at the time, I vividly recall the following morning, driving with my windows down, Starbucks cappuccino in the cup holder, music blaring as I cruise along the shores of St. Petersburg Beach on my way back home. Music has a way of doing that, imprinting indelible memories in our consciousness that resurface when we need them the most. It’s as if musical melodies hold a brush, sweeping strokes of color across our mind, painting a vivid image of our first connection with a song or artist.

Fast forward to the present day and my much anticipated Father’s Day gift courtesy of my son and wife, tickets to see Daughtry in St. Augustine. It is believed by some that anticipation of an event provides more pleasure than the actual encounter. On this occasion, I was giddy before, during, and after the entire experience, primarily on account of the person standing beside me.

In addition to seeing my favorite male artist perform live, I had the privilege of taking my son to his very first rock concert. I could tell by the look in his eyes and the mannerisms of his body prior to the opening song that he wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Although we weren’t in the front row, it felt like it. Seated just five rows back in the pit section, there was an intangible connection between us and the band. We could do more than see their facial expressions. We could feel the emotion. Every smile exuded happiness. Every scowl expressed angst. Every bulging vein conveyed a sense of determination and hope. Rocking my head, bouncing my leg, and belting lyrics from deep inside, I nudged my son and encouraged him to do the same. I understood from personal experience that you can’t force a connection with music. In due time, I knew it would come to fruition.

When I first obtained the latest Daughtry album, Baptized, I played it non-stop in my car. Who am I kidding? I still play it non-stop. But, at that time, there was one song, Battleships, which seemed to come on with an uncanny frequency when my son was in the car. It became our shared anthem of sorts.

WP_20140619_024Standing in our spot at that concert venue, awaiting the first chords of the next offering in the set list, we both instantly recognized the signature opening drum beat of the song. And when the first few notes traversed the air and landed upon our ears, the drums thumping in both our hearts, I saw a spark. In the form of a sly grin and a slight, almost imperceptible bounce in his step, he began to sway to the rhythm of the music. As I watched Chris and the rest of the band pour everything into the performance of this song, I saw my son entranced. I enjoyed watching him experience the spellbinding power of live music as much as I did watching the performance itself.

It happens to each of us in our own unique way. Music moves us. In a way that even the most carefully chosen and eloquent words can’t fully express. And the reason I can identify with this particular band so well is twofold. First, the voice, the melody, and the lyrics of each song are captivating. Second, and more importantly, I feel their performance. This is something that cannot be appreciated from a studio recording. It must be experienced live. And when I witnessed the emotion, passion, and energy exerted by this band in the performance of their music, it extended beyond seeing it. I felt it. We both felt it.

If you got a wild heart, don’t you let it die. ~Chris Daughtry

Leaving the venue, heading back to our car, I asked my son whether everything sounded a little muffled. To ease his worried mind, I said “No worries, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.” Holding his hand as we navigated through the crowd, I felt as though we shared another important connection together as father and son, courtesy of some good old fashioned rock and roll music.

WP_20140619_005We may not always be in the front row, but that doesn’t mean it can’t feel that way if we allow the music to enter our soul. As true a statement for a rock and roll concert as it is for anything we experience in life. Another indelible memory etched into my heart. And I hope when my son hears a song from this concert played on the radio five years from now, he recalls the same memory that we were fortunate to share together and smile. I know I will.

Time after time

time-shows-us-what-really-mattersIf I were the adult. The presence of these five words in our house seem to scale exponentially with the age of our eleven year old son. The words that follow these five vary. If I were the adult, I would be able to stay up as late as I want, I could tell someone else to pick up their dirty laundry, I could go out and buy ice cream whenever I wanted. On my weaker days, I throw back a sarcastic reply that falls upon deaf ears. On the more patient days, I simply bite my tongue. Not because I think he is correct, but because I can hear those words coming out of my own mouth some thirty years ago. I remember how it feels. We spend our entire childhood wanting to reach adulthood, and much of our adulthood wishing we could return to the innocence of our younger years.

As a twelve year old, I remember the pride I held in my musical collection. Although compact discs were evolving into mainstream use, I was smitten with my turntable and collection of seven inch records (affectionately known as 45s). One of these was Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time. At that point in my life, I had no vested interest in the lyrics. I was simply proud to own another number one billboard single in my prized music collection.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. ~Marcel Proust

Those round vinyl discs are long gone, perhaps serving as drink coasters in some nostalgic eighties diner. Thirty years after my initial exposure to this song, however, my eyes and ears have acquired some experience in ferreting out little nuggets of wisdom. During a recently heard acoustic performance of this song, the lyrics shone through allowing me to experience something from the past again. For the very first time.

As I watch my son experience life, I relive some of my childhood memories through his own eyes. Often, they are fleeting glimpses. Some that bring a smile to my face, others that cause a moment of despair. These flashbacks last but an instant, quickly replaced by the responsibilities of adulthood. But, when I slow down and allow myself to acknowledge those recollections from the past, I sink back into those youthful days and empathize with the emotions of an eleven year old boy, past and present.

If you’re lost, you can look, and you will find me, time after time. If you fall, I will catch you, I’ll be waiting, time after time. ~Cyndi Lauper

childhood-lasts-all-through-lifeThe unbridled laughter emanating from my son’s room causes my own heart to share in the same delight. I have never heard anything more authentic. It is pure joy, a result of human connection, even if it is through a Skype session.

And as I listen to his worries and difficulties bubble to the surface, I live through those with him. I have been there. I know how both extremes feel, the exhilarating times and the discouraging ones. I return to my childhood more often these days. Not to relive memories from the past, but to help guide a young boy towards creating new ones in the present. Time after time.

Brave

self-expressionThe legend of Pandora’s Box, deeply rooted in Greek mythology, carries with it severely detrimental and far-reaching consequences for those who dare to open it. Me? I had a different experience altogether when I cracked open that ill-fated cauldron. Was it detrimental? No. Was it far-reaching? I can only hope. Time will tell.

My weekday hours lapse in front of a computer monitor, eyes blurring through pages of computer code. Sometimes the only saving grace for my sanity is the melodic tunes that fill the air. Enter Pandora. I like surprises. I never listen to an album front to back. I always shuffle. I like not knowing what’s coming next. It turns out that preference holds true for more than just my musical offerings.

As I meticulously matchup parentheses in my code, the magic of Pandora is streaming through my headphones. Relinquished as a backdrop for my primary activity, it is typically little more than white noise to break up the monotony in the silence of my cave. Until. The music once reserved for the background is suddenly promoted to the foreground. There is no longer any focus on sans serif characters in the form of a computer program. Now, it is only the chords, percussion, and lyrics combining to reach my core with more expediency than it reaches my ears. And ever since that moment in time, Sara Bareilles’ Brave has been my anthem. Most songs catch me with their tune first. The lyrical appreciation usually comes later. This song was no exception. However, usually taking days or weeks, the lyrics captured me within seconds.

Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out, honestly I wanna see you be brave. ~Sara Bareilles

I am a free spirit when my thoughts spill onto the page. I muster more courage to publish what is on my mind when I can avow it through the safety of a blog post, shielded from immediate critique, either positive or negative. For me, neither one is handled with the necessary grace. There is a sense of refuge when I am able to remain concealed behind my words.

Run across me on the street and my propensity to usher true feelings into the open is much more unlikely. This song and these words, however, have shifted the fulcrum ever so slightly. I have been given a subtle vote of encouragement to be me. I know that these little nudges ideally come from your family, your friends, those people that are closest to you in your daily life. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. And you know what, that’s alright. You take inspiration in any form it comes, from any place it originates. More often than not, it comes around full circle.

A few weekends ago, while I was off getting lost in the forest, my wife sunk two wooden 4x4s into the ground. Serving as the anchor points for our hammock that had been sitting in the garage for close to a year, she had picked up my slack and created a serene and tranquil resting spot a few short steps from the back porch. Framed by two tiki torches on either end and surrounded by the colorful blooms of our cape honeysuckle bushes, our own private oasis had been established in the comfort of our own backyard.

On a cool Florida evening with a slight chill in the air, the setting could not have been more sublime. With my wife and I seated comfortably in our Adirondack chairs, our son is gently swaying back and forth in the rope hammock. The two tiki torches flicker with life. Its flames illuminate the cape honeysuckle as the setting sun provides the magic of twilight, a transition from sunset to moonlight. Unbeknownst to me, another transition was about to transpire.

Momentarily disrupting the ambience, my son and I vacate in different directions. He heads off to his bedroom, me to mine. We return to our previous venue, musical instruments in hand. He with his Native American flute, me with my acoustic guitar. We easily slip back into the aura of bliss supplied by two female influences, Mother Nature and the handiwork of my beautiful and artistic wife.

The moment of truth arrives. Or so I thought. It just so happens that what I was really encountering was the moment of inertia. As I began to strum the chords to Brave on my guitar, the words followed from my very own vocal chords. First with slight apprehension, but soon with the freedom and conviction that the lyrics portray. We each have our own unique obstacles to surmount. This was one of mine. This was the first time that I had freely strummed my guitar and sang a tune in front of my family. Big deal, right? Well, for me it was a big deal. Probably bigger than it should have been, but I’m not too sheepish to share that it was a big step for me to take.

What followed was special, almost surreal. After my unique rendition of Brave, my son followed suit by performing a song of his own creation on the flute. Back and forth, we exchanged the spotlight in our own private concert. Native American song on flute, then my version of Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. Another mesmerizing combination of flute tones courtesy of my son, followed by The Rainbow Connection on my guitar. Kermit the Frog probably performs it better on the banjo. But, in this private oasis, our connection is much stronger. Our evening’s final performance is an extended interpretation on my son’s flute which is shared by him with the same confidence I was lacking at the beginning of the evening. As his notes roll from one to the next with ease, my fingers tap on the guitar body while my wife’s do the same on the side of her chair. Providing a complimentary drum beat, the rhythm keeps our family in sync. In so many different ways.

find-yourself-artSelf expression is just that, expression of yourself. There is no right or wrong. Actually, there is a wrong. Choosing to not reveal your authentic self, that is wrong. And unfortunate. Whether you are singing a song, playing an instrument, painting on a canvas, giving a speech, writing a book, or jumping into any other creative endeavor, the most important choice is to do it in your own unique way. Express yourself.

Self-acceptance precedes effective self-expression. I leapt over a personal hurdle on this magical evening that will not soon be forgotten. But, the element that will forever be preserved in my memory is watching a young boy open up and share what is inside with courage and bravery. If that is the only thing that I help to inspire in my lifetime, it will also be one of the most meaningful to me. With a synergistic effort from husband, wife, and son, we composed our own music. Maybe out of tune to the rest of the world, but wonderfully so within our own circle.

 

Chasing the sun

chase-the-sunFrom the time I lock the front door of my house in Florida until I set my suitcase on the bed in a Singapore hotel room, thirty hours have elapsed. A period of time stretching across more than one complete day. As I chase it across the span of two continents and the Pacific Ocean, the sun never dips below my horizon. Night time only arrives once I cease movement.

In a world filled with routine and the farce of certainty, this departure from the norm was one that neither my physical nor mental being was able to fully grasp. My body was speaking one language while my brain was interpreting another. It was an internal chaos that took time to decipher. Although a flight halfway around the world provided the stimulus for this cognition, the internal strife is not foreign material to me. These battles seem to churn endlessly in my mind.

I recall beginning this blog with a rather naive mind. I had so many different subjects to explore, so many observations to write about, so many experiences to share. I was positive, without a doubt, that I could keep on writing forever, drawing from the bottomless well of inspiration that bubbles from the spring within.

And then. I won’t even entertain the notion of writing the word. Among writers, there is a superstition that even mentioning this evil entity will cause it to awaken from the depths and rear its ugly being, clouding all continuity of thought and blocking the free flow of emotions from inside. We have all been there. And if you have not yet been greeted by this unwelcome visitor to your psyche, follow the advice of Hawaiian surfers, he’enalu. Ride the wave.

It is exasperating to grasp for an acute insight that is lurking deep inside, only to open your clenched fists to find emptiness, nothing, a void. Our mind convinces us that we have lost our talisman, the magic gone, the well tapped dry. Carry on, nothing to see here. Is this the only explanation?

I have been stumped in the past by the apparent lack of ideas bubbling to the surface. However, I have been on the opposite end of the spectrum also. I have had so many visions, thoughts, and ideas racing through my mind at one time, that not a single one of them is able to edge out the other in pursuit of the next published story.

And this behavior is not confined solely to the act of writing. It occurs everywhere a choice is presented to me. What to write? Where to go? What to do? Paralysis by analysis. I devote all my energy to thinking about the possibilities. Before the overactive mind catches up with reality, the moment of opportunity has passed. I sit dumbfounded as I contemplate how the passing minutes have suddenly become hours.

The overflow of information and opportunity can be just as crippling as the complete lack of it. But, this recollection of my trip to Singapore has opened my eyes to an important revelation.

So how do you do it,
With just words and just music, capture the feeling
That my earth is somebody’s ceiling,
Can I deliver in sound, the weight of the ground
Of a cemetery in the center of Queens

There’s a history through her
Sent to us as a gift from the future, to show us the proof
More than that, it’s to dare us to move
And to open our eyes and to learn from the sky
From a cemetery in the center of Queens

Chasing The Sun ~ Sara Bareilles

The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles’ most recent release, found its way into my collection courtesy of the song Brave, carrying a message that resonates with me every time I hear it. But, in a very unexpected and poignant manner, the track following this song is the one that struck an even deeper chord, Chasing The Sun.

For me, the beauty of music lies in its artistic portrayal of emotions through a combination of lyrics and melody. And the words above were amplified in volume and lucidity when they first fell upon my ears. We have so many ideas, so many thoughts, so many plans for the future. We may never get to them all, but that shouldn’t keep us from taking the next step. From living in the moment right now and taking advantage of the opportunities directly in front of us.

The gift of my heartbeat sounds like a symphony. ~Sara Bareilles

Take one step forward. And then another. Where it leads you is unimportant. It is in daring to move that the symphony of our life continues to play. We are alive. Fill your lungs. Run.

Musical rest

fall-colorsAs I step over the threshold from indoor shelter into the natural elements of this late October morning, it welcomes me. The crisp autumn air envelops my body like a comfortable blanket. Fall in Florida is here. I am not graced with the beautiful parade of colors. Nor am I privileged to witness the tranquil dance of falling leaves as they delicately tiptoe towards the ground. But, I am still treated to a cool breeze that has traveled for a thousand miles from the north to greet me. And like a long lost friend returning from afar, I embrace it.

With windows down and blazing sun rising over the Indian River to the east, music is pouring from the speakers in my car, adding to the aura of bliss that only Mother Nature can provide.

As I coast past a local police station, a temporary road sign that displays important information on an LED screen catches my attention. It is cycling through three different messages: “Don’t text and drive”, “It’s the law”, and “Follow us on Twitter”. Of course, at the exact moment my eyes first met the display, I see the last two messages in succession. “It’s the law, follow us on Twitter.” Funny, I thought, when was the law passed that requires me to follow the police on social media? 😉

All joking aside, this message is one that should be taken very seriously and is worthy of everyone’s attention. And, the manner in which I received it made me appreciate just how important it is to process information within the right context. It’s important to see the whole picture.

Music is mediator between spiritual and sensual life. ~Ludwig van Beethoven

Think about your favorite piece of music. It is composed of many different musical notes. When put together and played sequentially, it results in both a sensual and spiritual experience that enhances the ambiance in much the same way it did for me on this fall morning commute.

But, the musical notes themselves do not constitute the whole picture. In fact, it is debatable whether they are even the most important part of a musical piece. It is how they are spaced apart from one another, the silence between each musical note that defines the song and provides its character. Is it a soft, flowing love song? Or is it an energizing, adrenaline infusing rock song? It all depends on how the artist utilizes that magical space between the notes.

Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness. ~Maya Angelou

My musical tastes are quite eclectic. I may have an unstated personal agenda to outwit the Pandora algorithms so that it can’t possibly figure out what it should play next on my behalf. Pop. Rock. Classical. Childrens. You never really know what tunes are entertaining my psyche on any given day. In that respect, at least, I am a difficult book to read. Hey, who can resist bouncing inside to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight? A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh. Be honest 😉

be-quietWe subconsciously use music to help massage our moods. Deep inside, we know exactly what is needed and instinctively reach for that right track to get us back on track. When you listen to that song which resonates with you, however, take notice of the musical rests.

You are the music while the music lasts. ~T.S. Eliot

We each have a song within us. In our own personal rendition, we have many unique notes that comprise the melody of our life. Remain quiet and reflect during the space between each of your musical notes. It will define you. It will give meaning and character to your song. Compose your own masterpiece. Sing your own song.

Mahna mahna

mahna-mahnaThe most sophisticated people I know – inside they are all children. ~Jim Henson

We all get consumed by our responsibilities as adults. We commute to work each day like obedient herds of cattle. We put forth our best efforts to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. We dress in our best clothes. We outfit ourselves with the best attitude we can muster. Coffee sometimes helps. It’s easy to get lost in this world of regulations, procedures, and unwritten rules of modern society. Sometimes, we need to break free. With wild abandon.

Beneath all these imposed expectations, buried deep inside is your true self, your inner child, just waiting to bust out. Wild orange hair, furry green tunic and all.

I recently volunteered to serve as coach for a Lego robotics team in our community. The team consists of five boys between the ages of ten and twelve. The program is sponsored by the FIRST organization (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Among other things, the team is responsible for designing and programming a robot to achieve certain mission objectives. It fosters creative thinking, teamwork, and problem solving within the realm of science and technology.

My role as coach is to administer guidance. The team does all the research, brainstorming, and design. I am simply there to provide course correction if I see them going off on a tangent. I help to educate them on the thought processes involved so they are better able to achieve the goals set forth as a team. The funny thing is, last night they taught me something instead of the other way around. That seems to be occurring much more often the longer I hang around with kids 😉 I like that.

As our team was nearing the completion of another mission objective, various anomalies with their robot design and programming were preventing them from claiming victory. Frustration was beginning to set in and it was showing. And then something happened. One of the boys grabbed the wireless mouse and covertly snuck it into his pocket. As the other boys were attempting to revise the code in their program, the mouse pointer mysteriously and unexpectedly began to take on a life of its own as it danced across the screen.

The devilish grin on the mouse-wielding thief gave it away shortly thereafter. However, in that moment of pure youthfulness, the entire atmosphere morphed from one of frustration to one of carefree exploration and discovery. They allowed themselves to loosen up, become authentic, and in the process become much more productive. The scream of jubilation from these five boys once their mission was successfully completed was more authentic than anything I witnessed that day.

My hope still is to leave the world a bit better than when I got here. ~Jim Henson

Most of us would not think to engage in such “ludicrous” behavior at our place of business. We need to fit in. We need to conform. We do what is expected and required in order to be successful. Or, at least, that’s what we are led to believe. Personally, I noticed the opposite occur last night.

When we take the initiative to break out of our mold and do what is in our heart, we achieve so much more. And we have fun in the process. As you go through your day, be courageous and creative. Dance your own dance. Just like the lovable, furry creature in the video below, find a way to be yourself regardless of the pressures around you. Especially if it means dressing in a furry pink coat, horns, and yellow round lips. You will certainly leave the world in a much better place.

And good luck not singing this for the rest of the day. Mahna Mahna! 🙂

Goose bumps

hedgieThe grunting and snuffling of a foraging hedgehog should be offensive and repugnant. Instead, it is strangely endearing. If you have never held a hedgehog or watched one run around on its stubby little legs, find an opportunity to do so. It is almost sure to sprinkle pure joy into an otherwise ordinary day.

As disappointing as this next fact may be to all the hedgehog lovers across the globe, this story does not focus on the cuteness factor associated with these nocturnal rodents and their pig-like snouts. It’s about their quills and what they can teach us about our innermost desires and life purpose.

That’s right, I just made a connection between the body part of an exotic rodent and the meaning of life. Stick with me. And yes, that pun was intended 😉

Like other mammals, hedgehogs get goose bumps. Whenever they feel threatened, quills are brought to full attention. In an effort to make themselves look larger and scare away predators, this self-defense mechanism serves as a reflexive survival instinct.

As humans, we also experience the wonder of goose bumps. When we are captivated by intense feelings of awe, admiration, or pleasure, goose bumps wash across our skin like an ocean wave tickles the shore with its foamy fingers.

At some point in our lives, we have each been touched by these moments of intensity. As quickly as they materialize, they withdraw back to the depths from whence they came and depart from our awareness. But, in that split second when they occupy our presence, they leave us with the most intense feeling of euphoria. I have a fanciful notion that goose bumps are the physical manifestation of a soul’s smile.

There are a few scenarios, without fail, that stir the emotional cauldron in the depths of my being and allow my soul to reveal itself through these virtual smiles. The stage is set around the World Showcase at Epcot. The time is 9:00 pm. As the frequency of a beating drum rises in a crescendo, my heart follows suit in anticipation of the magic that follows. I have been here numerous times before, both physically and emotionally. Although I know every little nuance of tonight’s performance, I welcome its energy with gratitude as the pyrotechnics soar across the sky, reflecting off the water in the lagoon. My soul is at home.

As the story continues and the final pages of this evening’s rendition are spoken through lasers, fireworks, and music, the globe at the center of the lagoon peels open to reveal a flame at its core. The words to this enchanting song echo from the pavilion of each country represented around the World Showcase.

With the stillness of the night
there comes a time to understand
to reach out and touch tomorrow
take the future in our hand

 We can see a new horizon
built on all that we have done
and our dreams begin another
thousand circles ’round the sun 

We go on
to the joy and through the tears
We go on
to discover new frontiers
Moving on
with the current of the years
We go on
moving forward, now as one
Moving on
with a spirit born to run
Ever on
with each rising sun 

To a new day
We go on 

We go on

We go on. With those three words, goose bumps radiate across every inch of my physical, mental, and spiritual being. As the physical remnants of this sensation recede, I step back from a surreal world and into the present. In that brief moment, however, I became aware of everything around me. I am reminded that we all share a common bond, a common story that we continue to write with each passing moment of our existence. We are all interconnected and have the power to transform this world. Together.

Next time the universe bestows this mystical feeling upon you through whatever makes you come alive, stop and notice it. Become aware of everything around you. It is your soul’s way of smiling from within you and making itself visible through your physical being.

The era we are living in today is a dream of coming true. ~Walt Disney

Allow your soul to speak. Follow it with fervor. It is in those fleeting moments that you uncover the true meaning of your life.

Counting stars

night-skyAstronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another. ~Plato

Gazing into the vast blanket of a night sky, we are treated to a sea of inspiration in the form of light that has been traveling for years to reach us at the very moment we lift our eyes skyward. There is something magical about that revelation. It is a thought that is only able to occupy our consciousness when we choose to look beyond what is visible to our eyes.

Scanning the sky, a bright pinpoint of light settling upon the western horizon pulsates. Like the beacon from a lighthouse, it summons my awareness and I faithfully follow it. As my eyes converge on the eyepiece attached to the telescope, my mind is racing with anticipation. Light is gathered from the farthest reaches of our solar system, focused at a precise location, and brought to my eyes through a sequence of reflecting mirrors that provides reflection of a much different kind.

What originally appeared as every other star hanging in the night sky, a closer look has revealed the sixth planet from our sun, Saturn. We all know about the rings around Saturn from the images in textbooks. But, it is not until the light from our sun is reflected off this heavenly body and reaches our own eyes that we comprehend its magnificence.

In this fleeting moment of inspiration, I am reminded to look beyond what is seen with the naked eye. Learn to explore every little thing that incessantly tugs at your conscience. It is doing so for a reason. Through the telescope of introspection, the brilliance of these insights can penetrate your soul and reveal compelling truths that provide clarity beyond the clearest mountaintop skies.

For me the greatest beauty always lies in the greatest clarity. ~Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

In a world consumed with monetary gain and fame, we easily lose touch with our own dreams buried deep inside. Obscured by societal expectations, the essence of our being is left stagnant like the stardust of nebulae.

Looking towards the heavens, we are able to appreciate the wonder of the cosmos and open an intrinsic portal to the depths of our soul. We all have the courage and power to dive inside and transform that stagnant stardust into the creation of a brilliant new star. Suddenly, counting our stars becomes paramount to counting dollars.

Dreams are like stars. You may never touch them, but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny. ~Anonymous

In a language understood by none, but comprehended by all, fantastic and magical stories are written across the night sky. Take the time to gaze skyward, awaken your inner muse, and reconnect with the inherent energy of the universe. Create a personal supernova and illuminate the night sky with your awesomeness.