Late last night, as I struggled to decide if I could write a poem…an anything, I decided to fold down the sun umbrella on the back porch. It had been an 80 degree day and the night sky was clear. Somehow, we went from having the worst winter in Seattle on the history books (4 feet of rain. Yes, you read that right.), to seemingly skipping Spring altogether, and going straight into Summer.
As the umbrella came down, the sky was revealed, and along with it, an array of constellations looming overhead straight out of a movie. I brought my laptop out, sat on my Mexican falsa blanket, and soon I was joined by my cat who curled up on my lap. She has been needing extra TLC since her surgery last week to remove a mast cell tumor the size of a silver dollar. She has to wear a cone for two weeks as she has an impressive set of stitches…18 to be exact. She’s beat my record of 13 staples. She’s only managed to pull out one stitch…so far.
As she fell asleep into kitty dreamland, I couldn’t move my arm. Well, I could, I just didn’t have the heart. So, I stopped trying to force myself to write and just sat there with her and stargazed. In the distant background, a chirping sound that at first sounded like crickets. “But…we don’t have crickets in this part of Washington. Do we? Could a five minute move north have made that much of a difference?” I thought to myself. The longer I sat, the more clear it became that they were frogs chirping their spring mating call at 11pm at night. I guess that’s a popular time for them, too.
Above me, Ursa Major, the bear constellation from which the Big Dipper comes. Behind me, Cassiopeia. To my left: Jupiter as bright as a small sun, on an upward trajectory passing through a neighbors pine tree, shining still, like a spotlight. As I watched a plane come from over the Puget Sound and pass by, I spotted a satellite. You can always tell by their predictable and steady line and velocity. I wondered what data might it be transmitting and receiving. Could it see me?
In my eyes, a huge shooting star fell from the sky. In my ear, I was listening to Chris Cornell’s album “Songbook” from 2011, a compilation put together of live acoustic versions of his music spanning his career. I only just bought it yesterday. I kick myself for not catching up with more of his recent work in these last several years. This particular album is a work of art. What people may not know is that not only did he have “that voice,” but he could play one mean guitar. The two of them alone together is pure magic.
Do yourself a favor and give a listen to this album sometime. I promise you, you will be transported in its transcendency. If you only remember “Black Hole Sun,” whether by generational gap, distance, location, musical taste, then expectedly, you can not fully know the level, the depth of this man’s musical brilliance and talent and poetic beauty. Hell, I’m still discovering him in new ways, at age 40, having grown up with him in Seattle.
Right now…I live five minutes north of Chris’s elementary school, and five minutes south of his high school. This is within my very personal sphere of existence. I can feel him here. I routinely pass areas they were known to be inspired by, to write about, to sing and to film videos:
In Magnolia, Discovery Park is the site of the Temple of the Dog video “Hunger Strike.” At Magnuson Park, the sculpture they named themselves after, “A Sound Garden,” features tall pipes that turn in the wind and make sound. I was just there last summer. At Volunteer Park, the sculpture “Black Sun” inspired their “Black Hole Sun.” The list goes on.
When I was in high school, I recorded my high school jazz band album at Bad Animals Studio in Belltown two months before Soundgarden recorded their Grammy-winning album Superunknown in the same studio. Crazy, right?
Seattle is one large neighborhood, as one speaker — at the packed and incredibly moving impromptu KEXP memorial — noted in his speech. At least…it used to feel that way back in those days. With the overtake of tech workers eating up the city, we struggle to recognize the soul of Seattle now. That is why being a local here is something uncommonly special. It is why it was hard to be at the fountain with my flowers and only see a dozen or so others who trickled by over the course of the day show up with theirs. With Kurt’s death, we had hundreds. Those who were not here during Chris’s time cannot have the emotional connection we do. It’s not a sleight, it’s just the truth.
This is why this is personal to me, to this city, to the people who have lived here with his music in their blood, his lyrics in their bones, who shared the view of a gray sky and ocean waves with him, who watched him explode into the spotlight. He should be known, we want(ed) to share him, his voice is both alternately angelic and dark, whatever he needed to be, whatever we needed — he was.
On the day the news broke of his death, I went to my favorite record store and bought the vinyl for Superunknown and Temple of the Dog, two albums that have been on my must-buy list since recently coming back to owning a turntable. Somewhere, in a packed box, I have my tapes and CDs of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Mudhoney; all of which had been in heavy rotation in my bedroom of my childhood home.
While the world and time I grew up in had its struggles, trauma, pain, fear…I could count on the big 4 (or 5, if you want to included Alice in Chains) Seattle grunge pioneers, for respite in their lyrics, relief in their screams, tears in their ballads, to do what I couldn’t always do on my own: express my emotions to the people in my life. When others were blind, would not hear, could not feel how I felt…Chris, Kurt, Layne, Eddie…could.
Chris’s impact on music cannot be overestimated. If it weren’t for him, Eddie would not have gotten his start here in Seattle. He nurtured him after Eddie moved here from San Diego, and brought him on to the Temple of the Dog album, his first time recording. And Eddie is not the only one. Chris had a way of inspiring musicians that he knew and those he didn’t. Just as his music has inspired millions of fans on a global scale.
Recently, I read an article with a video link to someone commenting on his passing. In his segment, he mentioned that when artists are at the height of creating, it is usually after a period of time that had emotional significance, not during; that it is in the moments of clarity and reflection where the art is made.
This struck me. I look at my own writing. And while there are moments of venting in the heat of the moment, a majority of the writing I do to process things is after the fact (sometimes years), when there has been silence, down time, deep reflection.
Chris wrote about many dark things. He also wrote about light, fight, and survival. Even the darkness he wrote about had elements of light. People will naturally look for signs in his songs, and of course connections will be made. He struggled and fought depression and addiction. He had been sober for many years. He most likely should not have been allowed to be on something with nasty side effects like Ativan (Dr. Drew also said as much). I am inclined to believe his wife’s statement that he told her he may have taken “an extra Ativan or two,” and was “just tired,” as he slurred to her in his last call.
Ativan can cause severe side effects such as hallucinations and suicide ideation/attempts. I had to take it temporarily in high school during the years my brother’s bipolar episodes were causing emotional trauma. On a low and normal dose, I felt like I couldn’t form words. I hated it. It numbed me out. I can’t imagine what adding two or three times the prescribed dose would do to someone, especially a recovered addict. (Never stop Ativan cold turkey without seeing your doctor for supervision. It must be tapered off gradually with doctor’s permission.) I have no doubt he was not of lucid mind and would never have consciously left his three beautiful children and his wife, whom he loved dearly.
In the week prior to Chris’s death, my own writing was quiet. I have been writing virtually daily for over a year here with barely more than a day of quiet here or there. But, this last week, the brain stalled. Perhaps I sensed something subconsciously.
And then something that cannot be explained, or perhaps it can: on Wednesday night, I had a lengthy, vivid, visceral dream of sobbing uncontrollably for someone who had died. I did not know who this someone was, but while in the dream, I clearly knew. I was reading their words and bawling incessantly.
I woke up disturbed, exhausted in body, in lungs; the kind of dream where you can feel you’ve been acting it out in your sleep. The first thing I did was look at my phone where the notification had popped up overnight of his death. Taken aback, shocked, in disbelief.
I have cried almost every day since. No dream. But life.
And I am merely one example of the kind of reach he had into hearts. Multiply stories like this a million fold, and this is why this man’s departure is so achingly felt.
But, nothing compares to his family’s pain. And if this is what we feel, one cannot presume to know the depths of grief they feel.
His beautiful daughter Toni has been gifted with a voice as well. You can see the love in both of their eyes in this heart melting duet:
Men in red ties decide things behind closed doors,
smiling when they think they have won,
syphoning money into deep bank accounts,
at the expensive expense of those with none.
It’s so easy. Don’t you see? When you don’t care,
simple: just shrug it off in oil-lined jackets dripping cash.
Lip service to constituencies in some vague isolated place
while simultaneously backstabbing their faithful cult herd,
take advantage of their lack of education,
laughing behind every promise.
What is the law? The law is irrelevant when no one will prosecute.
There is no one left that isn’t bought,
no one left that cares enough to stop blatant Democratic carnage.
Individual wealth trumps One-For-All. Every. Time.
Men (with wives and daughters) dictate women’s health
Have their feet walked amidst those suffering?
Along with the poor?
Along with the sick and dying?
Have their ears welcomed views beyond ivory columns and borders?
“Small government” unless it’s
Jail the questioners! Fascism in plain sight. Do they know we know?
Insult our intelligence? Go ahead. Let’s see how that works out in the end.
Hypocrisy is in fashion…after all, the fearful embrace confusion.
Bait and switch.
Gaslight the lit.
Fake allegiance. Fake patriotism. Welcome to the American Carnival.
Cowering under the bed of lies, hoping no one will find them
and if they do, at least they are all there! Together.
Removing those who seek the truth
one by one, gone and done.
Funny thing is…you can’t silence it.
Like the shotweed spraying seeds,
it will grow despite your shovel!
You? Will break your back.
and Truth will laugh
in your face
shadowed by the bars of justice.
~ Emily C.
someday it will all make sense
whys will answer their own riddles
hows will pop like dying bulbs
whens will sink like rocks in puddles
whos will appear in polaroid apparitions
memories will be completely rewritten
pain and anger dance like no tomorrow
vindication the dessert sweetening the bitter
clarity assures that mistakes are lessons
foresight comforts the anxious present
knowledge gained through undue shame
lighter step unburdened in new life terrain
~ Emily C.
The next topic for collaboration by The Strix is “Authentic.” Lots of ways to go with this one, as you will see below. Enjoy the mix.
~ The Only You ~
Give me your bold truth
show me your whole face
reveal me your entire heart
peel back your camouflaged layers
tell me your past, your past’s past
feed me your version of facts
open up your naked soul raw
read me no narratives false
underneath the molded mask
lifetimes of crevices and cracks
tears left miles of salty marks
but so did smiles with their spark
creased by giggles, laced with love
every line I kiss, every line adored
~ Emily C.
~ from PoetGirlEm
~ Das eigene Haus – Your Own Home; street photography Berlin, 2016 ~
The meaning of art is slightly different in art than for instance what it means in philosophy. Everything I do is authentic, because it was me who did it. Therefore, all I create is authentic. The photograph I choose for this topic reflects what is, to me, authentic in society nowadays.
I took this photo last summer and it has disturbed me ever since. It shows an impromptu homeless camp under a bridge. The thing is, as sad as it is, that´s not what disturbed me. What did, was the poster that had been recently been added to the wall, although this is a well-known place for the homeless since it´s in good area in the city and thus a bit safer than others.
The poster titles: “Das eigene Haus” – “Your own Home” – an advertisement for an exhibition about housebuilding. I´m still speechless at the thoughtlessness that made those men put it up there… That´s how society is nowadays: the poor and the rich side by side, with the latter mocking the former. That´s what is authentic in society in my mind…
~ from Art Expedition
~ False Or Copy ~
“False or copied?”
“Fake or floppy?”
“Genuine and real?”
“Came from the original seal?”
Authentic antique, my soul is,
Supported by unquestionable evidence,
That is how it goes, that is how it is,
The soul does not lie, it is full of elegance.
I…….it represents its own nature,
A belief that can only be comprehended by me.
To show virtue is to see a little feature
Of what is like to be me.
So you continue asking:
“False or copied, floppy or fake?”
And all I say is “NO, NO and NO” till you see me in my casket.
I almost break,
Just to be like everyone else, but now…….now I just remember the ache.
So I say “Yes to genuine,
Yes to real and yes to my authenticity”
That’s the sign for me to shine,
Indeed, complexity full of simplicity.
~ M. O.
~ from EmotionsOfLife
In a world, in which even leaders are turning to manufactured evidence and try to sell that to us for the truth and/or try to convince us the truth is fake, I really feel we should address the importance of authenticity.
Why is it, we feel we can’t be ourselves any longer; we became scared to be authentic?
The color of your skin, your gender, your sexual preference, being rich or poor should not hold you back in being you. Whatever may have happened to you in the past, or has been inflicted upon you; don’t let it hold you back either, to pursue your dreams. Don’t let anyone convince you, you are unworthy: we ALL matter.
The journey you take usually is more important than the goal you try to achieve, however sometimes the goal itself outshines the path we walk on.
Please, don’t turn away from news-stories, because you are sick of hearing the painful truth about what is happening in our world. It is your world too. Maybe you think what happens for instance in the USA or in Africa doesn’t affect you directly: think again. The world just seems big, it really isn’t.
Reach out to, stand tall together with, support, fight in a non-violent way with, your neighbor at this earth. Listen to each other’s stories, help when asked for, so we all can feel whole again.
As soon as we stop being authentic, stop telling and sharing our real stories and true feelings, authenticity will be lost in shallowness.
~ Patty W.
~ from Mimosa Pudica
Expressions Crossing Continents