At the Bottom of the Heart

“But city life sometimes takes away the ‘early dew of morning’. Still the longing for the ‘old, old story’ remains; whatever is at the bottom of the heart stays there”

Vincent Van Gogh
Portrait of Vincent Van Gogh by John Peter Russell. Vincent watches me while I write.

In the current age of self-branding I was trying to find a way to brand myself. Creating this site is a way to share what is passed over in the publishing sphere, and I wanted to give it a name. But the idea of branding myself caused me to look at myself as a product. I know in order to make it you gotta sell a little of your something right? I tried many names but my own because it didn’t feel right. I felt a little lost as to how to share what I create. I felt sad and useless, and deeply troubled with the notion of selling myself as a name, as a brand. I pushed writing aside for a while to reflect and dove into anything that pulled at my sensitivities. I rediscovered Vincent Van Gogh and delved a little further into his life. Feeling excited to have found my soul kin, I ordered his autobiography, letters to his brother Theo, his life in his own words. Sixteen pages in, and I found this quote and it struck me right in the heart. I knew what he meant. The naturalness of ourselves, the waking newness of ourselves in each day is robbed by the demands of a busy life. The city is tough on the soul, constantly demanding more us. And yet the longing for something simple, something our ancestors knew is there. At the bottom of the heart lies the fossils of the old, passed on through us. Right then and there I found what I wanted to name all of this. It feels fitting to me to name all my efforts as the early dew of morning- everything I create in spite of the demands, everything I hold dear and what gives me a sense of purpose. Whatever is at the bottom of my heart- the old stories, the histories, stay there like fossils waiting to be discovered in time.

So, what’s at the bottom of your heart?

Short Story: Dandelion

Something poetic reaches the tips of her fingers but she digs them into her nose. Flicking the dirt she has found, the window offers a new insight- a car crash. One car slammed the breaks but the other couldn’t swerve around and impacted it from behind. Both drivers are pointing and yelling, sweaty foreheads, clammy button down shirts, and she by the window wondering what it must be like to own a car, pay the bill monthly for the insurance, to go to work five days a week, and get a paycheck to split like tasteless, bitter, pie slices fed to their respective collectors. Holes in her socks, an old t-shirt a faded grey with bleach stains, and worn out pajama pants. Who cares? She thinks to herself and so another voice echoes, ‘yeah who cares?’.

The plates get cleaned, the pot gets scrubbed, she mops the floor and for a second, she imagines herself calling out to someone, ‘honey everything is clean come look’. Or the same scene but they help her, putting their arms around her, passing her the towel to dry the soapy stove, and playfully roughing up her hair kissing her temples. All this is soothing for a couple of minutes, while brushing her teeth, washing her face, and taking a shower. But as soon as her legs slither into her cocoon of a blanket, it fades and as it does it injures. The picture becomes static and the corners become knives that extend to the deepest part of her and rip her in two. What’s it like to watch the world live? First, you have to die, and second you can never come back to life again. What’s more cruel is that you’re still alive. A voice echoes in her mind, ‘but you’re really dead, right? How else can you see what others miss because they’re too busy living?’

Waking up is easy. The battle is the thoughts that spring out like soldiers from a foxhole, all clamoring to be fed, to be looked at with their rifles, their grenades stuffed in their pockets. When they are not fed, they launch every weapon, every bullet flies towards her but they don’t hurt, instead they remind her how she’s alive but can’t really die a real death. Strange, but in some poets mouths a beautiful nightmare. We die half deaths to mourn a life we can never touch, or something like that, she thinks. The voice echoes again, ‘it is like that, how else can you live?’

What the poets don’t dare write about is how poor one becomes when one cannot provide for themselves, when they are in the fits of sadness, or depression, that’s the proper way to say it, yes? Fits of sadness sounds mild, depression sounds a bit stark, what kind of name can you give whatever takes hold? What kind of name can encompass the shit show that becomes your life when you’re running on no fuel, no energy because it’s being spent on keeping yourself alive while aggressively fighting the desire to die? She accepts help from the government, unless she makes a bit of money from freelancing and then they take that away not aware that sometimes not moving is not an option she wants, it just happens. The kindness of relatives is only extended briefly and then the frustration of helping an empty flesh bag of a person that cannot provide for themselves when the tools are readily there for the taking becomes too much. Then they stop visiting. Who wants to throw money at carrion anyway?

Today is a mild day. No frontline of thoughts coming to assault her today. The window frames a quiet morning, a waft of freshly baked bread comes through. She changes into proper clothes and sits by the laptop, a mug of coffee with milk waiting to be attended to. She flips the laptop open but does not turn it on. She picks up the mug and drinks the hot liquid in sips. She takes a deep breath and stretches her arms, and they softly land on her knees. She begins to cry. Not the type of depressive wails that comes from the frustration of not being able to adapt to every stressor of living a normal life, not the type of cry that comes after fighting for too long, not the type of sobs that come forth after being able to place the words with the feelings, no not those. It’s the silent tears that fall from eyes that have not been able to close all night, it’s the tears that fall after a sunny day, a hot summer day pierced by grey clouds, a small shower to refresh the heated pavement. It is the gentle cry of a warrior in repose, sitting after walking for too long to a destination she’s not sure even exists, and offering her face to the sky, rejoicing in a moment of solitude that is hers, one not afforded in the battle with one’s own demons.

She breathes deeply as they waterfall slowly, catching some in her mouth, tasting the saltiness, a nourishment she has yet to give a name to. She squeezes her knees, she sits back watching her reflection on the laptop screen. She makes a gun with her hand, she pulls the trigger and laughs. The voice echoes, ‘but we are already dead, what would be the point?’ “To end the suffering”, she responds. But the voice says nothing. “We are not suffering” she says, “I am mourning a life I cannot live”.

On The Edge

I was singing along to the huff of the heater
the vapor rushing from the bell
an alarm dragged itself to my feet
a chill swept the dust away so quick
I blinked too slow
and did not take notice
of the balloons rushing out the open window

I wonder what it feels like to be this house
to be open
to close
to have locks
and to lose everything
every time it’s emptied

I am just flesh
refilled consistently by a red sea
I have heat that does not hum
but rushes in waves

I will never be a house that empties on a whim
or filled for the sake of another’s desire
so I carefully sit on my own shores
at the edge of my skin
with only the pleasures of being

New Year’s Eve: Reflections and Goals.

I look back at 2018 as being a very strange time, but whatever my disappointments were, I ball it all into a scrap piece of paper and throw it in the garbage. It’s time to start anew, but in a different way this time. I go into 2019 knowing full well what I want, even if it means I won’t get it. I think that the journey, as I settle in my makeshift boat and watch the waters below me, has been enough so far. As a writer one always hopes to be read, but that doesn’t happen very often, at least as one would like. I’m here figuring out what this urgency to write means and now just now enjoying it as some would say as a hobby, a past time, something you say dismissively to someone at a party, a strange affair with the self I suppose, wanting and loving it so much, and sometimes in secret, scolding yourself later for giving out more information then needed. Ah, yes me, the pen, and paper- the only relationship that has lasted so long.

My main goal is to keep posting, keep reading others works and being inspired as I tip toe this very new land I find myself seriously venturing into for the first time. But I have specific reading goals, and books I’ve been meaning to read but never really do. I plan on reading James Joyce’s Ulysses for the month of January. It was a banned book, seems difficult to grasp-which intrigues me and I’m curious to see if I would get it on the first round of reading.

I would also like to achieve Crow Pose for my yoga practice, to be able to balance my weight on my two arms would be a beautiful moment. A nice little chapter to say: I can truly hold myself up even as I face the ground, to be able to hold one’s weight in the world, to know I can, to know I can succeed even as it feels as though I can no longer balance myself against the strong winds of the changing times and moods of the world.

Happy 2019 to all, may it serve everyone well!

Rumi’s Little Book of Life

I have made this little book into an oracle of sorts. If I feel lost or a sadness has come to visit me a while and I no longer have the patience to host this visitor, I take the little book, close my eyes and flip to a page, and there will be my antidote, the elixir to help me on my way.

Rumi will always move me, even if some days I feel like a statue. Reading even a couple of lines softens me and reminds me of my humanity. He always feel like a hand on my shoulder letting me know to always look for the Divine. And the Divine is the confirmation that our soul is light and will lead us in the right direction, to love.

Love is an attribute of God wanting nothing
repentance is an attribute of man, it is a worm
to Love’s dragon, absurd in God’s presence.
Love for anything but Him is unreal
for that which is not Him is a gilded object
shining outside yet empty inside,
light and golden on the outside yet dark within.
The moment divine light disappears
darkness is revealed and unreal love
is extinguished like a candle,
the body is discarded and beauty returns to its source.
The moonlight goes back to the moon
and its reflection disappears from the black wall.
Divine love is the sun of perfection
the Divine Word is its Light
and the creatures are its shadow.

From, “Part Two: Garden of the Heart”.
Rumi’s Little Book of Life. Translated By: Maryam Mafi and Azima Melita Kolin.

Short Story: Wymuth

“What am I looking at?”, he chuckles to himself. He watches it scamper about and then waddling like a penguin to a rock, little arms stretched out until they grab it. “Oh my goodness, why am I not…” and he reaches around for his camera but as soon as he turns it on, fixes his view on the little thing, it vanishes.

Wymuth is too old to go after a leprechaun or was it a fairy? Either way the sun was getting up there ready for its shiny, noon display. The terrible, majestic sun and its pinpoint heat ray. He had his wide, brimmed hat on and had no fear of a little heat this summer.

Wymuth is an old coot. Too picky to find someone to settle down with and too grumpy for the city that birthed him. After taking his savings, and a deposit of his pension in his debit account monthly, he set off into the woods. He bought a piece of land, made a small cabin to his liking and set a wide patch for vegetables and fruit.

On his rocking chair he settles, feeling his sore bones and muscles relaxing against the cushions. Back and forth he goes, slowly closing and opening his eyes, his lids scratching the dryness until they close with calmness. His mouth still not wanting food, his belly still content from a feast of warm oatmeal and strawberries fresh from picking in the early dawn. Something in his mind pokes around in his heart. Like a vagabond, the thought hitchhikes across the highway of his brain, swimming down past his throat, and landing in the ocean that seems too alive, and yet too tired to consider this traveler of sorts. What did this thought want? The defenses were picking their teeth, not caring or thinking it a threat. The thought, waving around its arms and saying, ‘I feel so empty’. The defenses just smack their mouth together just to say, ‘that’s just you, we’re fine here, we got everything we need’. It wasn’t enough for the vagabond now stomping its feet, ‘but I need something, I am missing something!’. The defenses did not want to get up from their comfortable spot, but they did anyway, took out a shiv and killed the thought until the blood spilled out like a fountain. The clean up crew came along, sweeping the carrion and flushing it down. To Wymuth, it was just a fart. He happily tilts to one side and let it rip. He chuckles and snorts until he’s awake again and a little hungry.

Frying some eggs, that the hens laid, he carefully transfers it to the awaiting slice of bread. He places a pinch of salt, a piece of a leafy green lettuce, and a couple slices of an heirloom tomato. He tops it off with another slice, that he smeared with pesto. Upon taking a bite, “this is what I’ve been missing”. As he chews, he goes back outside hoping to see the little creature. He could only see the thick, trunked trees standing tall, with green lush branches swaying slowly from a passing breeze. The little creature is probably shuffling away between the bushes. He concludes, “I scared the thing, look at me, a big fleshy creature just wandering where he shouldn’t”.

Drinking orange juice, he waters some herbs lining the back part of his cabin. He adjusts the green sheet he made into a roof over the delicate herbs to make sure they don’t burn under the sun.

What else could be said of Wymuth? He likes to wear his soft, brown corduroys every day until they are so dirty, he has to wash them. He prefers cotton button downs than t-shirts, and socks do not agree with him during the summer. He wiggles his toes in his sandals, enjoying the warmth of the sunlight. But what about Wymuth that he does not know of himself? That’s a better question that most people explore about themselves. Not Wymuth, why would he do such a thing? But little does he know, that those thoughts that spring once in awhile come from a heartache he has yet to recognize. He may fart them out once in a while, but some, without his knowing, have cemented themselves between his teeth, lining his callused fingers, and even between the graying hairs on his head. They were about a love he could not have and to him it was all or nothing; if I could not have her then I don’t want no one else, literally. He was not like people who compromise and say: ‘well, love comes in all forms’; ‘we learn to love’; ‘being alone is too sad, I’ll have anyone that can close that void’.

So, who was this woman? She was a ray of light in the dark abyss of humanity. The kind of person God makes every once in a while, when the devil ain’t looking, depositing the soul in a vessel where he can’t reach them. Her calling was higher than the lower realms that we live in and call home. To her, she wanted to heal the world, so he pulled back, let her go and now he’s here. Here, is a clearing in a forest, a piece a land he negotiated and eventually bought. Here, is where he plans to die. Here, is where he’s showing the real God, what his hands can really do.

God is a fickle thought to most people. Actually, a lot of people. They give this God either too much power or no power to the point in where they conclude- they, he, she, whatever it’s called does not exist. But life is funny for some. The way one goes about the world says more than what we wish it did. The things hidden from us aren’t really hidden and the things in clear view aren’t always a buoy to hold on to until something else comes along. Wymuth knows what God is and with certainty what God isn’t. It’s so easy to be swayed by a dangling carrot when one is hungry, especially when one is starved and with eyesight obscured. But when one knows where to find food, and have a clear view of the landscape a carrot doesn’t seem that appetizing now does it?

Wymuth couldn’t sit in the company of other people anymore. The conversations never went where he was trying to get to, and people seemed too enamored with this carrot chasing game. If he tried to tell someone what he found out, they seemed to want it packaged like this; the steps, the how and the why’s and how much do I have to spend until I could achieve what needs to be achieved? Such soulless people, Wymuth would think. Being a preacher was not his calling for sure, he felt his soul die a little with every encounter. To preserve and nurture it, he felt that he needed to go away. His Claire went away to help, but he just couldn’t convince her to take him with her. The heartache? not being with Claire until he dies. But he keeps an altar like she taught him; a wooden shelf, a goblet of water, and a candle burning. He would light the candle and say, “this light I offer to my beloved, so she never gets lost in the dark of someone else’s energy.”

Mornings and nights pass onto each other. Day by day, Wymuth diligently tends to his garden but also goes into the forest. He cleans up the garbage left by careless hikers. He rearranges the fallen branches, and even takes some with him for the upcoming winter. Every morning, he wakes up and kisses the dawn and every night he sends a prayer with the wind for Claire. He gets older each day, but the tinctures, the vegetables, and the walking he does keeps him out of any real danger. His soul makes the defenses to these intrusive thoughts, striking them down, and even squinting their eyes trying to come up with a plan to destroy the origin of their births. Wymuth on the other hand, comes across a strange sight. Small rocks arranged in such a way, it seems irregular for the scenery. He looks about, hoping to spot the furry creature responsible for such a display. Alas, they make no appearance. Wymuth shrugs and walks on, a bag in hand and a picking stick on the other, looking for debris not belonging to the forest.

One morning as he kisses the dawn, eyes lingering at the sun breaking the horizon, a brilliant orange and red staining the clouds, he sees something scamper away from the pumpkin patch. He goes over and makes out the little shoots springing from the dampened earth, and walks about to inspect if any damage was done to the neighboring vegetables and fruits. There were some empty strawberry bushes, but he sighs and hopes that the little creature is as careful as he was now. He doesn’t mind hungry thieves, he would only be upset if the plants were ruined in the process. He says into the shadowy morning, “They should taste really good, the soil here is fertile ya know” and walks back towards his humble abode leaving a, “just don’t rough them up too much or else they won’t sprout nothing good to eat” behind him.

By the candles he lights up in the night, as he eats his dinner, he watches the rain fall too roughly. His defenses have found the source, they urge him to pick the peppermint leaves, to take a few sprigs of rosemary, and to add cloves in a pot of boiling water. He makes the concoction and after eating his dinner he swishes the warm liquid about his mouth and spits it outside. He blows out all the candles with a satisfied sigh.

Wymuth is awoken in the middle of the night by a couple of pots falling from the cabinets. He slowly sits up on his bed, and through the mosquito net, fixes his eye towards the kitchen. He sees the little fella he saw weeks earlier. Its shadowed figure still, wondering what the old man was going to do. It shuffles quietly towards to opened door, and sprints fast away from the cabin. Wymuth laughs, “I wonder what its looking for?”. He falls back to sleep unbothered.

The little creature is sprinting so fast it looks as though it leaves white glitter trailing behind. It makes its way back to its home in a tree. Sitting down, panting a bit, another little creature gets up from its slumber. They don’t look like much; short, stout little things, they’re almost as cute as otters but not hairy enough to be considered one. Their dark eyes shine, and the awoken little thing just sighs and shakes their head. They’ve concluded that the old man is harmless, but his companion just wanted to make sure. He found no weapons, and he just seems like a lonely human doing no harm, which was counterintuitive to him, they’re always up to something, he thought.

In the morning, Wymuth rearranges the pots back into their respective places, as the oatmeal simmers in a pot on the stove. He went out to get the strawberries, putting them in a basket and washing them. He halves the strawberries and arranges them on the oatmeal. Eating directly from the pot, he savors his breakfast; the oatmeal sweetened with cinnamon, a pinch of salt and cloves, paired perfectly with the freshly, washed strawberries. His palate is simple, he does not mind the same breakfast days on end, as long as it is this sweet and this satisfying.

The little creatures took to Wymuth, watching the old man from afar picking up the stuff those people leave behind. Such an inconvenience to them, tripping over these foreign objects as they move quickly about. They made offerings to the forest spirit, going so far as arranging the stones as the spirit likes them. But no avail, the garbage just keeps coming. They would watch these big things walk about, their big feet squishing sometimes the food they eat, how dare they? How dare they come here and step all over their home with their big ugly looking feet?

One creature pointed to the old man’s heart, they saw something else glowing there. It was a different color than the rest of the old man’s light. They grew concerned. One went to the river and fished out from the depths, a translucent, blue stone. They wanted to gift this man, with the odd colored light, with this blue stone, hoping it would help him. They left it inside of a bucket of water by the side of his herb garden.

Wymuth returns home, sweating and feeling hot. He places the bag of garbage on the back of his truck, ready to be placed in the large bin near town. He goes to grab his shower caddy with his soap and sponge, and makes his way to his makeshift shower. He was in the process of making another room for the toilet and bath, but he needs more material. He is hoping to finish before it gets too cold. For now, the outdoor shower was a luxury. The shower’s floor was a patch of smooth stones and moss, surrounded by a tall wooden fence. He retrieves the bucket of water, that he keeps by the herb garden, and the small cup next it. He strips down, not having neighbors to worry about and goes in. He grabs his soap, and splashes some water on him to create the suds. He smiles as it refreshes his skin and creates a soft, sweet minty scent from the soap, enveloping him in a wonderful cool off. As he scrapes the bottom of the bucket, to rinse off the soapy foam, he splashes the water and something hard hits him on the shoulder. With a delicate thud, it falls on a patch of moss. The translucent, blue stone glints off light. He reaches down to grab it, “what a beauty” he says out loud, “where did you come from?”.

He walks back to his cabin, bare feet picking up dirt, which he wipes off on a towel before entering his home. He grabs a hanging towel and places the stone on the table. He gazes at it as he dries off. He goes to his wardrobe and picks out a fresh pair of underwear, puts it on and sits down still staring at the little stone. His soul defenders have figured it out, and whisper to him, ‘place it in the goblet of water that you have for Claire’. He fetches the wide mouth cup, delicately placing it on the table. He gently places the blue stone at the bottom. Soon enough, a blue light blooms and spills over the sides. Wymuth is urged to look inside, as he does he could see Claire reflected in the light and his heart is warmed. He could see her smoking a cigar and blowing the smoke slowly over someone’s head, she then moves about to reach a big, green leaf which she then uses to fan away something dark roaming too close to the person she’s treating. She sees the dark energy and with a rough word it vanishes. A few tears spring from his eyes, and the creatures are watching him outside. They watch curiously, as the strange light dissipates and his own light glows stronger. Wymuth then says, “thank you, I just needed to know if she was okay” knowing somehow, with a nudge from his defenders, that it was the little creatures doing, “thank you” and he softly weeps, a few tears landing on Claire’s reflection. They scurry off leaving a patch of a small, leafy herb behind them.