Confessions of Hermes 5: The BandonTheater

The young James Version

bandon_streetscene-1947       My Father, Mason B. Moore Summerville, ran The Bandon Theater during The Great Depression.  He used to say, “I  would look in the mirror upstairs in that little bathroom in the projection booth and wonder, ‘my God will this ever end’?  When the war [WWII]  came…well, I was glad to go.  I never had it so good–clothes, money, and hot meals.  I was happy.”  Dad was the youngest of four children, the only boy.  His father was killed by a widow-maker(a dead branch that falls from a perch high in the branches, just waiting for the right breeze–“silent,” Dad would say} when he was twelve.  He told stories of being rejected at the general store, humiliated when sent home by the clerk.  Money loomed large in is mind.  To become an officer, he told me, like myself, was for “only the lucky with good eyesight.”  Education, he…

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Confessions of Hermes 5: The BandonTheater

bandon_streetscene-1947       My Father, Mason B. Moore Summerville, ran The Bandon Theater during The Great Depression.  He used to say, “I  would look in the mirror upstairs in that little bathroom in the projection booth and wonder, ‘my God will this ever end’?  When the war [WWII]  came…well, I was glad to go.  I never had it so good–clothes, money, and hot meals.  I was happy.”  Dad was the youngest of four children, the only boy.  His father was killed by a widow-maker(a dead branch that falls from a perch high in the branches, just waiting for the right breeze–“silent,” Dad would say} when he was twelve.  He told stories of being rejected at the general store, humiliated when sent home by the clerk.  Money loomed large in is mind.  To become an officer, he told me, like myself, was for “only the lucky with good eyesight.”  Education, he would say, was impossible. He also said that “the movies” were his “education,” that he “knew all the actors without turning around,  simply by their voices.”   He said he “learned about the world outside of this remote, isolated place,” that he  knew more was going on in the world than his life here.”  Indeed, his hero was Clark Gable, and Dad adopted that quick staccato manner of speaking, the dramatic last word in the one-liner, and he believed in Hollywood endings, that life conformed to the narrative structure of fictional elements:  beginning, middle, endings, and the rising action lead to some climax, usually a good one.  In a way, we all buy a sense of narrative about our lives, and we believe in The Will to get us through.

 It could be said that in the projection booth, Dad absorbed, with a high degree of conviction, that fictional principle stated by Coleridge of the “willing suspension of disbelief,” not only in the booth, but in real life as well.  In other words, Pop, like most of us, withheld his skepticism and trusted the story to be an accurate expression of how reality works. Naturally, the writers of movies, most often, are aware of those archetypal forces that move people unconsciously and write the script with those principles applied; further, the story is designed to fit expectations of our belief systems and models of mind and heart, and thereby boost the feeling of identity with the fiction as real and produce entertainment.  Psychologically, as my grandmother used to say when I was too identified with the inappropriate dramas she took my brother and I to at the movies, “it’s only make-believe,” she said repeatedly.  It did not abate my fear one iota.  I believed.  My emotional base was always hooked in the enchantment of the interior of the theater.  Now, if you will permit me, I like to apply the Buddhist notion of “pure awareness” as the energy that burns in that blinding bulb in the projector.  Our lives become the film in the can.  We believe.  My father was always proudly explaining how he could “change projectors,” using the dots in the film as guides, so that “nobody could ever notice” the change of reels.  We enjoy the show, the tragic and the ecstatic, an interesting comment on the actual footage of our lives.  Certainly, my beginning began in the projection booth, for my father told me I was conceived there.  He was fond of reminiscing about his days as a young stud with the “usherettes,” and my mother was one of them.  Three days later, according to his version of the story of my mother, Rita Rosalie Huber,ran off.  It was many years later that Vic educated me on the actual falsehoods of family myth-making and the realities of each person’s version.  In short, the act of giving up someone may be one of the greatest acts of love.  In any event, Dad used to quote my mother in court when she told the judge concerning custody, “Anybody could raise them better than I.”  It all seems very dramatic,  an impression, which suits my drama queen act just fine.

 And, now that I have witnessed the death of a loved one first hand, up close and personal, I think about the film in the can for Vic, and myself, and people.  We have these fictional narratives that move us, that we are one with, that we, in other words, fashion an identity around.  I can look back and see in one life various incarnations of quite a few movies that take me through the stages of life–from back on the farm beginning, the home front in a small town, the jet pilot, the householder, the teacher, the old fool,  the old man,– each, of course, with short reels of documentaries of various little stories between these lives within a life.  When I watched Vic approach her death, and then, witnessed the actual passing, I could see her lives spinning into the smoke of the invisible, her becoming the pure awareness that lit the projector of her incarnation for this round and took her to the other side after she dropped the body.  And, now, as I age, read the saints and sages, I become somewhat comforted with the moving toward a final reel, the act of dying myself when the last picture show comes up with The End.  True, I just finished the inscriptions on Vic’s gravestone, her actual dates,  Nov. 6 – Nov 17, and her years, 1955 – 2014, and that hyphen in stone standing for the entire life between birth and death has me feeling, of course, the mortal coil, as they say, before it, too, unwinds.  As I see myself, like my father, my life understood as a movie, produced by myself insofar as I was conscious and could make an heroic dent, and, too, run on autonomously insofar as I was unconscious, and therefore pushed around by psyche’s dynamics out of my conscious sight.  Many strings appear to tie the various narratives together, but a dominant theme, is–as one would expect, given the cold hold of disconnect I have always felt–the original abandonment, rightly or wrongly, of the mother experience.  In all the films I have ran through in the stages of life, this dominant drives the plot forward.  I read a good Jungian quote the other day:  “It frequently happens that when a person with whom one was intimate dies, either one is oneself drawn into the death, so to speak, or else, this burden has the opposite effect of a task that has to be fulfilled in real life.”  Vic gave me the task and said to tell my stories, trying to get a good one each day, as I indicated in an earlier blog.  One thing is for sure in the mother-wife department–unconditional love emerges, forgiveness of anything and everything grows up in the story, and in that space between earth narratives lived out and the connection to the spiritual other side, one’s personal spirit joins the fray in this mess we call life, and the ego’s run at it all get in the films that get into the can–all begin to be watched over and connected in a soul’s perspective, that eternal awareness I am so fond of expressing in the Latin[sub specie aeternitatis],  a viewpoint, that sort of connects the dots of various roles and movies one has starred in,  a more total perspective that increases and provides some solid ground like a walk in the park during business hours with the traffic of busy lives whizzing by in the vehicles that express each person’s way of being and going.

 My Dad never tired of referring to his days in The Bandon Theater, from 1936, and right after he returned from The War until  another movie of the blended family began with Ruby Rose O’Dell.  Later, his interest in film surfaced with his private 16 mm camera and projector, and the home movies began.  Yes, there is an experience that is the “terror of the passing moment,” and there is also, the “terror of emptiness” when one is confronted with an ego death, especially when you are still alive.  Pop had his NDE during his second bypass operation.  He waited until I visited him in California before he spoke of it.  He said that he knew I’d understand because, as he put it “You and your Aunt Olivia got that supernatural streak in spades.”  His was classic, from the various bright colors, to the tunnel, to reaching, in his case, the brightest light, high on the curved horizon of the world, and, as he put it, “he knew better than to go any further or he’d never get back,” and at that thought, was zapped back in the body.  He showed me the red mark on his back where he had been pulled.  He said that in the tunnel, he asked for Jesus, and the voice came on, “That will come later.”  Dad assured me that the voice, the person, “was not mad or anything.”  Vic, on the other hand, always lived with much of her personal spirit in the invisible world before birth.  It may have been her Dad’s death during her late childhood that kept her inside herself.  Her passing was experienced more like a welcome return to the home place.  Her mother called her several times, I think I have mentioned.  Moving from one life to another, whether in egoic living within one life, acting in narratives through the ages and stages, or preparing for another incarnation, as her Visitation attested, her  moving  onward and upward, on to the next, to be honest, was never a problem for Vicki.  Her life’s gravestone now matches the others and rests next to her mother’s.  It is an abandoned theater in the setting of The Old Home Place of her ancestors.  Her film is in the can.  She was not one to dwell in the past.  Her soul, I am sure, is not resting.  I miss her.  She was my love reflector, and through her I felt the love that radiates through humanity.  Too, though, the love experienced is now out of the can, beyond just our movie.   My Dad always called me lucky, and because of her leaving, the task of sorting out the happy in life, for myself and everybody else, has yielded some results.  The stillness required to listen to the heart does not come easy for me.  I know my Dad is probably looking down with Vic, amused that anything could shut me up.  Of course, that is another narrative.

Confessions of Hermes 4: The Projection Booth

It has been five months since Vic passed that night, that physical fact of her death that I made myself experience as much as I could. I have written no blog since “Solo,” the funeral..   I did write about the night to a friend.  I like to wait until something jells, the poetic dominant of some experience floats up and remains in place long enough to form some kind of understanding, some pattern, however dim at first, then gaining in some clarity.  My letter is in the most revealing and intimate voice, of course.  The entry follows:  “There is something in the raw truth, more than naked–unprocessed, virtual, stark, stunning, and organic.  Kiddo, I made myself walk along behind the gurney that night, right after Vic took the 4th Bardo, the moment right after death, the emergence on the other side.  She had turned off pale, whitish-gray, pale or skim milk, bleached–ash, is the color, like the switch off in the proverbial light bulb.  Her face drained to the cold, lifeless gray of light bulb glass with no current.  That took only moments to change.

An hour later the ambulance guy arrived.  He fixed and covered, all very ceremoniously.  I stood right behind the headboard like the literal wooden Indian (like the one at the cigar store when we met at the beginning), in shock I am sure, a little heat around my head.  Then, I walked behind the gurney.  Her super nurse daughter and the hospice helper took one end, and the guy took the other, and they went down the steps from the back porch to the ambulance.  I picked up a small, light brown blanket, and like Chief Joseph in Canada when he surrendered, or a mother in the presence of tragedy and death, I raised it over my head for some reason, like a shawl, and holding it went out to the cold, at the top of the steps at the end of the walk behind the ambulance in the back yard.  I watched them in a rigid stare, jiggling, juggling along, and the board Vic was on bouncing stiffly.  Then, they went inside, and the guy opened the back doors, and like the bread salesman at Mason’s Food Mart behind the store at the back of their trucks, , slid the board with Vic’s corpse into the back of the ambulance, a little like the sliding out from under the flag aboard ship during the funeral at sea.  He closed the double doors and came back where I stood in the higher ground of my backyard and stopped as if he thought I wanted more time or something.  He asked me in a low voice if there was anything else he could do.  I could hardly speak and just shook my head and mumbled something about “no, no…just taking it in….”  He seemed puzzled, of course, then went around, got in, and drove her off.  I had one image, her bouncing inside that two-door truck, going out of the yard, at night, like in our old 40 Ford Delivery truck, a van with “Free Delivery” in white letters  that Dad had painted on the doors–the end of her life.  I spoke in a low voice, “Well, was it worth it, Vic?”  Then, the truck went down the slope of my driveway, up the other side in the street, stopped at the intersection, then crossed, and the driver turned on his lights, red, blue, white, all blazing, a block away, disappearing down the tunnel of dark trees.  I cried a bunch there outside, sitting on a stump, rubbing my face.

But I would not have missed it for the world.  It was a necessary experiencing, the raw reality of death, at least in the American Way.  I’m telling you, Kiddo, when her face drained within a few moments of ceasing breathing, it was quite apparent that “Elvis had left the building,” the turning to ash, even her open-mouthed teeth showing gray and mottled, dry.  I read that the soul guide in one of the cases of hypnotherapy regressions that the guide asked the recently born on the other side two questions:  was it worth it, and did you get done what you wanted (came in for)?  I guess that was what I asked Vic when I pictured her death mask her bouncing beneath the blanket in the truck, going out from the backyard, right in our common, ordinary reality–the reality just passed, the one that seemed so close and alive, the daily life with her in the world, and now, cut short, ended, over, the lamp in the projector for her movie gone out, period.  And, me there, waiting in the darkened theater of the backyard, right up in the last row of the balcony below the light that shoots from the slit of the projection booth, me there left standing still in the circle driveway of my house, left with the experience of passing.  In the common dark of night.”

Postscript: Since then, the psychology in the path to maintaining some balance has preoccupied me. Next, I am going to yak about the dominants that have arisen. To give Vic the last word, I recall when we left the hospital that fateful, warm evening. We pulled into a gas station, and a young man was leaning against the wall beside the entrance with his guitar case open, and he was making some music. Before I could even get stopped, Vic yelled out to me, “Give that man some money.” I think I said something about having just a few dollars and some change in the car cup. “I don’t care how much it is, give it.” She grabbed it all up, opened the door, and immediately, without any hesitation, as if pulled by an inner urgency, dumped it all out in his case. She returned to the car. I just smiled, wondering at her ferocity, her sudden impulse. Yes, she was always generous like that, but this time, it was Katy bar the door. Now, with some time passed, I now have realized that suffering brings out the unity of humankind behind the visible world, the oneness, like the tornado that hit our hometown right before her diagnosis. Everybody helped everybody else, and there were no strangers–water, food, clothing, tarps, you name it–help cleaning up, everyone in and out of the yards, and in the debris, all was one. Vic left the hospital in the max suffering, of course, and this placed her in the service of helping all who suffer, the shared place that comes out in the face of pain, tragedy, and loss. FDR learned this one, as have so many others. Since then, at the Kum & Go, I have experienced the same impulse, a sort of automatic response. Naturally, in reading and exploring, much could be said about oneness, and is, but, for me, Vic’s story at the filling station pretty much says it all.


Confessions of Hermes 3: Vic’s Visitation Dream

From my Son, Blake (a licensed Doctor of Souls, as opposed to the DIY type of Young James). The following is Blake’s words:  “I was up at 4:30 AM and listened to music for about an hour and a half.  Around 6 I went straight into a dream in which Vicky appeared. The dream began like this:

I was in Dad’s Baxter house. I was standing behind where Vicky’s hospital bed was when she died. I suddenly am in charge of carrying her body out of the house directly after she died.  Her body felt about as heavy as it would in real life.  She was covered in a blanket that was made of some deep metal or iron [probably chain mail] , like the stuff an old soldier would wear under a helmet.  As I began to walk for the backdoor, the entire body began to move like a fish would move.  Then, I saw the head area under the blanket move from side to side like she was either playing around or just simply trying to poke her head out.  As she sat up, like you would do a sit up, the blanket dropped and she appeared.

I carried her to an island[stainless steel] in the kitchen and set her down.  She was wearing a large, very comfortable, peach sweatshirt.  She had blond hair at just above the shoulder, and she looked vibrant and about 30.  The first thing she did was take a giant breath and laugh.  We then had a conversation, but I do not remember the order or what was said.  I know one of the first things was I said, “What have you been doing?”  She looked right at me and said, “Wel, I’ve been doing what you do here, I’ve been meeting people, mostly family (On the “family” spoken line, the expression on her face was rather territorial in which she gave me a look like “Family First”), and rebuilding.  I’m putting it all back together and getting ready to build.”  I also asked her if she had seen or been to heaven.  She thought about it for a second and flatly said, “NO.”  I also told her that Dad was doing okay, and she said, “I know.”  She said this in such a way that I asked her “Can you see us?” and she again said flatly, “NO.”  Again, she was in a very jubilant mood but would give these very straight answers.  She then remarked about the house and told me a couple of things about the backyard, which I honestly can’t remember.  I asked her about Goddesses (intending a double entendre, her goddess friends here and on her side now) and she laughed big heartedly again and said, “Yes, we have goddesses.”

I have no idea how this dream ended.  I knew while the dream was happening that this was a visitation dream.  I felt it during the time sleeping and felt it immediately after.  I woke up thinking, “Man, I have to tell Dad right now.”  But, I didn’t call him because I wanted to tell him when I saw him.  It’s funy, because he texted around the time of the dream to say “good morning.”  The only other image I can remember from the dream is that Vicky had an unusually large blue eye on the left side.  She showed it to me and was rather proud of it.  I do not remember any comments about it.

Inasmuch as one of my major interests in life is the study of dreams, Blake and I had a discussion about it.  The dream, it seemed to me, had a fine narrative to it.  It rewrote the physical death into  not only the spiritual birth moment on the other side, but also the beginning of her occupation during what we would call deathtime looking from our side.   The covering of armor that protects the person’s identity around the ego life dropped away, and instead, as it happened the night of her passing, she did not go out the backdoor, but instead, whooshed into the kitchen, the place of processing life’s supporting stuff, if nothing else.  Her responses, once born into the life on the other side, were text book in the terms written so much about in the last forty years by hypnotherapists and NDE researches.  The process of evaluating the past performance during the last lifetime and “building,” as she stated, the next life, and by extension, the new life to be, is, indeed, what has been reported by thousands who study the life between lives and is found in the literature–classic.  Her short answers are rather typical of the responses one gets when going to a different place and asking questions.  One asks questions from their own point of view, and the person who is in the new land, simply answers with a shortness of already knowing that the common idea of the place is a flat “no, not like that.”  I must say here that it is altogether fitting that Vic should appear to my son, Blake, because she always put faith in his understanding, for as most know, just because sons love their fathers, they may well be in touch with the difficult, rough spots [blind], and the wife oftentimes shares this little conspiracy–she trusted him, in short, and communication with him would be less complicated by personal expectations, wishes, or compensatory issues between us, without the superfluous, unfinished business[ that is, in fact, now finished as a problem between us] in other words, “neutral,” as Sharon, who attended her until death with Kay and I, expressed Vic’s place, a location, which indicated her  choice to appear with Blake.  It was in our house, a quick looksee and return, to the old locale, a nod to “us,”–one thinks of Emily in Our Town; in any case, the house where Vic and I lived together at the last.  Her upbeat, energetic being was present certainly in her enthusiasm, showed in the humor over the Goddesses, and Blake said she caught the double entendre.  Indeed, the exchange was not a time of working old issues of an old life, certainly not together, but solo now.  With Blake, the energy spent in sitting on the stainless steel countertop, the only place I have made any change in this house since Vic passed, the stainless steel carts and tables in the kitchen!  There she sat, in peachy, comfortable, and glowing spirits, tending to what needed communicated, nothing more.  As it should be:  she acted out(dramatized) the spiritual birth, took care of the business, what she’s doing, can she see us (message about connection–not about observing), who’s there with her, and then the large blue eye.

Now then, the eye traditionally is the place one looks to see the soul of another.  Further, as in in the Egyptian eye of Horus, or eye on the dollar bill, if the eye is anything, it certainly encompasses the spiritual point of view.   Her eye was blue like the sky–vast, unlimited, and far-seeing, infinite.  This perspective comes from the “left” side of matters, the other side, and it is a big view, much larger than the human view.  Naturally, as anyone, Vic was proud she’d got that far, acquiring her new perspective!   And, the literature confirms, the point of view from the other side is spiritual in the sense of experiencing everything, and evaluating everything,  from one’s own life to future plans, all from the point of view in the spirit of learning, much like going through the hoops from grade school to graduate school.  One size never fits all, but the program is Universe University.   It’s all about, according to the research, written and studied, soul evolution, no matter where we are.  Thus, the transformation from her death, her birth on the other side, her present business, and her enthusiasm, told this short story in the dream body.  A fine narrative.  The gift of a fine visitation.

Confessions of Hermes 2: The Broken Cup

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In Buddhist teaching, an old monk explains to a young disciple that he enjoys his tea in some cup, apparently quite a lovely one.  The monk goes on to say that while the cup appears complete and whole–it catches the morning light, reflects the blue of the sky with smooth sides, and, perhaps, (I’ll add here using my favorite coffee cup), has a rounded lip that feels good to the mouth when taking a sip–while, as I was saying, the cup seems whole and complete right now, it might be, as I did the other day, dropped in the sink, knocked off by an elbow–something to to break it to pieces–and, because the monk knows this, he tells his pupil that “the cup is already broken.”  Naturally, the monk, as monks do, is aiming at an understanding of profound implications.  One association with the telling about the cup is that eventually everything gets broken, worn out, or dissolves in one way or the other.  The lesson is impermanence here.  The use of the vignette is made more real for me in the next line that the monk offered:  because I know the cup (and, by extension, the cup of life) will not last, I enjoy its apparent wholeness right now even more, the precious existence of the cup now.  Of course, this is the notion, in part, that emphasizes the present, the now of life, the moving into a realization of moment to moment awareness as opposed to living in the past or future too much.

Naturally, as most people know, the death of a loved one stirs up some deep feelings in most everyone.  I recall the dynamics exploding in the house as we all tended Vic.  Sometimes it was like a hand-grenade had gone off with the strong emotion and conflict that arose.  We were walking around like broken cups, so to speak.  Our sense of our own wholeness was shaky, and in a larger sense, was shown, rather painfully at times, to be an illusion, our fine face we turn to the world, slapped up the side of the head with the presence of dying.  In my case, of course, I have whined quite a bit about my own worry and fearfulness at going solo.  I can’t help recalling in this lesson of enjoying the precious cup while it lasts, of the ride Vic and I took right after getting out of the hospital.  There, as I told it, we went face to face with the “sweet spot” of life, the enjoyment of the presence of each other, and, I emphasize, without any condition attached to it, other than, as my brother Will LaSalle would say,”breathing air and taking up space.”  Not to sound too “new age,” but it was, indeed an emphatic reminder of the enjoyment of being without any conditional notions of how to be or make or modify our experience.  Indeed, as I was reading the other day, there’s nothing like the focus on death to bring one into the focus on life, to feel  truly the preciousness of being alive.  In the house, the broken cup fell to rather negative groundings; on our ride, Vic and I experienced, I would have to guess, a deeper sense of being in the world that was fragile, at the time, but more positive.  With us, it had to do with touching the love I do imagine (Love being the only lasting quality without conditions).  Certainly, when I returned to the empty house the day of the funeral, I was placed next to the notion that my own happy…self was up to me, that going solo at 72, meant that I was to a large extent out of conditional images of life, that my past approach of postponing happiness (provisional life,a bit out of reality) in order to get to someplace called Happy Land, that in order to arrive at a more satisfied life in general, was as Ruby O’Dell would have put it, “kaput!”  One thing was for sure, my participation in that ready-made excuse too many spouses have, that is, holding the other responsible for one’s own unhappiness, had passed with Vic.  I acknowledge that physical disappearance does not always make the psychology of blame and the placing of responsibility outside of ourselves go away, and, indeed, it lives on too often.

But, in my case the emotional role of the either personal victim in my immediate life, or the collective victim from living into another generation’s world, beyond (what Hemingway expressed as “in our time’), that is,  living beyond my own time as center front on the world’s stage–the emotional tide of my importance and role had passed, and it was now the time to step out free from victimhood.   As I noted in teaching, each year I felt my importance moving from the podium, center stage, to the seats in the audience, until finally, I was high up in the back of the darkened balcony, backed up to the wall below the projection booth, with the stage far below, lighted up with the drama of what was happening now in life with my own sons and the generations I was teaching.  This push off the stage of the affairs of life can make one feel a bit unimportant, perhaps, heaven forbid, marginalized, and my behavior and protest from the lack of appreciation for my own presence got expressed.  My feelings of anger and frustration on the collective stage of service counters, check stands, drive-through windows, credit card phone recordings, insurance companies, contractors, banks, and, well,  Here Comes Everybody, and all the assorted hoop-jumping one is required to do in the present world–my protest got expressed in my feelings that took over in an obsessive discontent experienced in thoughts that wouldn’t stop and bitch sessions too often repeated, however seemingly reasonable.  A good way to explain the attitude is that the world was doing wrong, and if they would only listen to me, matters would be set straight.  However, as Ruby would say, “Nobody cares.”  My childish protest sometimes heard in what I call the “adult whine” could be heard in the too often depth analysis in the shortcomings of the organization that hired the poor girl at the check-out stand who failed to smile, who probably either just got dumped or crapped on by her husband, or worse yet, was kept broke because of her kids, or kicked in the emotional can by her boss.   Undercover boss replaced my fascination with Bait Car on TV. I finally reached the stage of development in moving to a solution to all this dissatisfaction, called “fed-up” with myself, and this made my mantra, “I gotta do better than this” (hacked all the time).  My goal of “Happy Presence” appeared on my personal horizon as a boat to take in transitioning to old age.  Naturally, in fits and starts, I am only marginally successful, but the more I move to that position, the better life is, of course, as most anyone would advise.  The tornado and its sequela provided ample opportunity for the practice of patience, compassion, and empathetic relating.   The Academy standard of “No Excuses” may be high, but I believe it for myself.

So, as in my last installment of COH, how did my original cup of innocent wholeness get broken in the first place?  I always felt, as my reader must know for sure by now, that I was sharing the fate of most people, walking around with some kind of wounding buried in the formative past–good psych.  Yes, my formula for how to live and experience myself coagulated around the time of The Farm Forties.  In my story of the Summerville Saga (following the advice to people who grow old–write your memoirs), we left young Jimmy and his brother on the farm.  This was, of course, the time of our childhood experience, from one to six, and my psychologist son tells me, very important.  Herbert Huber and wife, Maggie, took us, on our maternal mother’s side, Rita Huber.  The farm was in the gorgeous farm country of Old Oregon, near the coast bordering the old rain forest of The State.  Mason, my Dad, you will recall, said that The Hubers had it pretty good during the war (WWII) because the dairy farm business was good, and he sent them money from the Philippines.  Telling incidents that present auguries of fate abound in our beginning years.   My brother, Art, explains his pondering of euthanasia when Blackie, one of Grandad’s dogs got run over by his flat-bed International truck.  Art became a doctor, and the best he’s confessed to is standing on the oxygen hose (he’s kidding), or “taking his time” with someone who is missing half his brain from a motorcycle accident.  I apparently bounced off my shaken-babyhood with the squealing act.  My protesting apparently had the effect, according to Dad, of Art protecting me occasionally, by bringing me along when I was  called in order to avoid a whipping by Pop.  Mason also said, “the Hubers were too permissive and let you have your way just to shut you up.”  My father’s intolerance of matters helped me a great deal to form my own sense of intolerance, copying his shadow, which, to some extent, of course, led to a sometimes good, but mostly neurotic connection to seeking perfection, a fear of doing wrong, and a unreasonable fear of the resulting guilt–as is the fate of too many of us.  I am told, without memory, that my aunts took care of us a great deal.   The feeling I got when I heard my aunt’s voice many years later engendered an upsurge of pleasurable sensation of safety and “on base,” like some angel had appeared in my presence, or I had just heard the clear, easy gong of a bell.  I observed here that one carries the illusion of a whole cup that is already broken like thinking all the pieces of the puzzle are in the box to make the picture on the top, when, in fact,  the whole cup cannot be assembled because of the missing pieces that are not known to be missing.  My memories of the farm life are clouded by later memories; however, one dominant impression stands out.  When Dad married Ruby, following his return from The War, I recall vividly the night of departure from The Farm when Ruby, now Ruby Summerville, told me that they could find another headboard decal in our new home to match the one I had grown attached to.  The headboard upstairs on the farmhouse had three decals of a bucking horse and rider across the top.  I recall that I felt something new in her interest in my problem as she kept her gaze on me.  I remember placing my finger on it and saying, “No, it won’t be the same, and it won’t be this one.  Can’t I take it with us?”  In 1948, such indulgences were impractical.  The bed remained on the farm, and my severence from the “bucking horse and rider of my dreams,” symbolically my ego riding on the instinct of a rough go, followed me psychologically into life.  An intimacy or safety of connection was lost in some way.  Later, on our infrequent visits to the farm, Art and I would agree, especially in the morning, “There’s no place on earth that smells like this.”  I can recall when coming for a visit, how my emotional atmosphere,  what I can only describe as my emotional well-being was lifted into a sort of “safe at home,” not completely euphoric, but into that calmness one has when there is enough, a feeling of secure and belonging, like some translucent plasma surrounded me, and, now, what I would describe as the Garden of Eden before The Fall, that is, before I split into my ego versus my unremembered past, my conscious versus my unconscious; then, I was experiencing a sense of completeness, probably much owed to an unconditional love from all The Hubers.  Dad said he couldn’t understand why we loved our grandfather so much, and Art always said, Grandma Huber “was a saint.”   And, as I said, our aunts were full of love and care.  Much, much later in life, Art said, “They should have left us on the farm.”   Naturally, at the time he said it, I was really surprised.  My version of our psychological reality did not include that judgment, for I had, as Art put it, “Bought their [blended family] version of how things are.”  Art never bonded with step-mother Ruby, to say the least.  In the new family of The Forties, my step-brother, Will was Ruby’s own, her one and only, and Art, as we’ve heard, Dad’s favorite, which, of course, even though I was the youngest, left me in the position of the forgotten, middle-child syndrome–meaning, with nobody who would first defend you when you made a mistake, but rather, in the shadow dance that I learned much later in life, would hold you hostage for your mistakes, not the least of which would be a rather unforgiving, as it was said, in The Fifties, guilt trip.  A fine internalization of these images followed as a matter of course, as people’s lives do.

Thus, when Art went to school, we had been taken off the farm.  After a short time, we moved inland, to the Valleys of the Totem River in a town called Eden Hill, the one that is the largest of the surrounding small, rural towns, the one with the bigger schools, the place, as Ruby put it, “where the boys can grow up to amount to something instead of wallowing in the cowshit up to their armpits.”  Will and I would agree that much of our worldly success is owed in large part to Ruby.   She was of Irish descent, lived in a cabin on top of a mountain in Montana; she and her sisters went it alone with her mother after her drunk father abandoned them.  Mason called her “Toughie O’Dell” on many occasion.  But the upwardly mobile, cultural value of bettering oneself and “improving their lot” was ingrained in her.   All three sons benefited from this.  Will listened to her, and he pulled himself higher than he probably ever dreamed of when he was hot-rodding the streets and pumping gas through high school at Bartrum’s Texaco.  This locale was the center of the logging industry, settled in the foothills and river valleys of Cascade County, a place I naturally, as many do with respect to their adolescent years, relate to as the most poetic and beautiful place on earth, certainly where not a few of the burning issues of the heart took place, both inside and outside the home.  This became our setting for The Fifties, a rather unique time in the Flowering of America that many have written about.  Of course, there were black marks on the period’s historical record and reality, but from our little corner of the world, The Summervilles had a fine life, as Mason would say, “in the upper-middle class,” always giving the economic factor primary consideration as the ultimate measure of success.  Art, as the favorite, of course, enjoyed the confidence of disagreeing with the family’s materialism, and he had no problem standing up to the family’s value system.  I guess his self-worth had a little leg up on me, because I bought it, for better in many ways, and worse in some.

Thus, ended the Farm Forties, and since “there is no sense of time in the unconscious,” or put another way, “the timeless” feeling of the farm receded from my conscious sight.  I did not carry into life what the psychologists call “full presence,” but rather, as my son explains, I took “re-enactment” of my basic structure from the product of abandonment, sort of “partial birth,” into the world,  and life after the farm–a little mad, packing high emotion, defensiveness, a drive to prove my self-worth beyond reasonable bounds, and a compensation package that included the dangerous  positioning of the desire and propensity for planning a future that is captured in the phrase, “going to be great someday.”  It was much later in life Mason advised me to give up the dream of “the great blonde with an understanding heart.”   At this time, much later in life, I wondered how he even knew of this heart’s desire. Naturally, a teasing of the feeling of the collapse and catastrophe in which a world I knew would come to a sudden and dramatic end had gained a foothold.  Over time, however, a working identity sorted itself out, and Ruby called me “high strung,” peering at me with her knowing, blue eyes, and sometimes, quipping, “you’re a fit of misery!”  The basic question was always, “why are you so unhappy,” because “you’ve got everything.”   Seen in hindsight, understanding in mind is far easier than suffering the reconnection of the heart that is necessary to reexperience oneself and transform in an emotional mixing of the child and adult.  For me, it has taken all my life, and, as this Confessions of Hermes expresses, not at all yet complete.  During the first half of life, one is getting into the drama, going into life, not reconnecting with the past or going within to have his “dark night of the soul,” or in another, perhaps, more collective expression of the inner trip, “the night sea journey.”  During our first efforts of going into life,  the dragons of the world lay before us, and the business of what is popularly called “becoming whole” or revisiting childhood for the completion of unfinished business is going in the wrong direction.  To turn inward is most probably for most of us, a long journey, and I add “to let loose the terrors of childhood” as Carl Jung has written, is not an inviting prospect or suspected inward journey for transformation;  I did take the “night sea journey,” the trip to Hades, because the decision to do so was made over my head, and today,  I still can feel a chill in the stirrings of that fear at the bottom of my original being like some cold draft from a hole I might just fall through, dropped by a trap door into some kind of annihilation, that “awful-awful,” as Ruby used to express the shock of the unacceptable–and, as I was saying can feel a blind sense of the bogeyman in the dark in my daily relationship to going completely solo, without the duality of someone like Vic to carry the projection of safety, either real or imagined.  But, to make a daily report, when asked now how I am doing, I answer, “Better than I expected,” although I don’t trust it.  And, I hasten to add here, a lack of trust is one of the number one characteristics of the negative-mother complex.  My personal, basic position seems to be that if I end up alone, I’ve done something wrong, or a feeling of guilt, perhaps, defeat, but while I can do alone, I don’t feel the natural, default position with the surround sound of safety with it.  This, of course, is in stark contrast to the positive-mother complex, where, as my brother Will would say to anyone who criticized him, “your taste is all in your mouth;”  in other words, his default position is that he’s always okay.   And, as Vonnegut wrote so well, “So it goes.”

Postscript:  I must let Vic have the last word, as I like to do.  During the illness, at the beginning, when we both speculated on how “it”[life with cancer] would be, Vic insisted during a shopping outing that I buy this sign.  Obviously, now I am realizing her great intuition.  Yes, I am a broken cup, but appreciating the whole cup of life now more.  I know with greater emphasis that “the cup is already broken,” or as Ruby would say, “life’s short,” and as Ruby aged, “life’s too short,” she would say in answer to too much regretful monologue or expressed worry.  Vic directed me in the living room in front of her friends when she still had energy enough to be up and around, participating–directed me to hang this sign among a grouping of other signs with sayings and photos on the wall.  As usual she was dialed into life in ways that still had myself very much in the dark.  The sign read:  “Make each day a story worth telling.”  She was absolutely adamant that I buy it.  When I bought it, she said, “There, it gives you something to blog about.”

Confessions of Hermes 1 : The Hat


In the beginning…back on the farm beginning….This is my traditional poetic line to reenter childhood life.   Recently, of course, in the narrative of Vic’s cancer, I have brought myself to the place that is captured in the expression:  my return from the graveyard.  This is my physical location in life; however, I like to place myself in the psychological locale.   My response to the question, “How are you doing?” is usually (to rather intimates only) “little jimmy on the farm shall probably make his appearance.”  This refers to, as it is known in pop psych as “the inner child.”  In my case, the babe, according to my father (and the family myth), was abandoned.  I always like to say, in my fictional version of my life, that I was born in a “bandon,” because Bandon, Oregon is one foot above sea level, as it is known, Bandon by the Sea, a wind-swept small seacoast town.  To push the symbolism a bit, one rises out of the vast unconscious sea into being and pops up on the dry land of this world, and, like my Dad, Mason B. Summerville, said, “You’re mother ran off three days after you were born and got drunk and never came back.”   He further added, in comments loosely made through the years, “I had to take you out of your mother’s arms–she was shaking you so badly, I thought she was going to throw you against the wall!”  Naturally, I consciously remember none of this drama.   There is no inner video of memory, as is oftentimes the case.  Thus, my Dad had to fill in the blanks.  He said, “when you were born, they had to tape your fingernails up because you were scratching your face so much–you were red-faced and mad!”  This, I think accounts for my instant love of nicotine when I was younger.  I have a brother he compared me to, a very understated sentence, as sibling rivalry in families plays such a part:  “she [mother] behaved herself pretty well when Art was born, but when you came along, well–” he said, shaking his head, “she was through.”  Later, of course, in the victimization department, Dad could not help favoring Art because he was the “fair-haired first born,”  “something he could love,” I think is how he put it years later.  My step-mother’s phrase, “what am I?  Chopped liver?” always seemed appropriate.

Father, of course, went to WWII, and told Art and me, “We had to take you to your grandparents.”  This somewhat unsavory picture then, with some rather negative additions by my step-mother to be who also knew my bio-mom, as the recent generations refer to natural mothers, became a part of the family myth.  I use, “myth,” here in the modern sense of “probably, not exactly true.”  Vic, whom you know from my narrative before, took the pictures  that had been sent to me of my “real” mother because my brother and I on a surprise visit to grandma and grandpa’s’ farm around twelve years old, spent some time with her on what can only be termed, an “unauthorized”visit–well, Vic framed and hung the pictures immediately.  She further informed me on the fictional and prejudicial aspects of family myth-making.  Vic, as you know, had a fine sense of justice, not to mention what Jung called, “a searing vision.”  I used to look at the pictures, my brother standing closer to her, myself a bit to the side–look at the pictures along the wall of whatever house Vic put them up in and kinda giggle thinking how my step-mother would have reacted.  This is not to imply, however, that my step-mother, Ruby O’Dell, was not good for me and a good mother in her own right.

All this to note, in answer to the question, how is the emotional positioning of myself going?  Has the scared child of Jimmy on the farm made his appearance?  He blows a little cold wind in the form that one wonders in the solo position about basic identity and significance on this old earth and in life, a coldness in the normal enough sadness, times when I drive a dark road to nobody home, especially.  I call it “the fear wind.”  It is always compared, of course, to the original breakthrough the terrorized child made when I was first divorced, that period of collapse, terror, and walking regression.  Thus, there is this basis of comparison.–divorce versus this death.  People who have this kind of wound most generally carry it an entire life, and it makes its appearance in times of rejection, loss, and change with many variations of intensity, depending.  To know exactly where one is in the changing emotional movement of grieving, or processing any loss, is almost impossible, just as Vic had to process the ultimate change from World A without cancer to the World of B with cancer–the rate of change was a source of worry.  For myself, I feel somewhat confident that the bottom shall not fall out as before during the divorce in my life,  like the “awful-awful” experience so many others have endured as well.  I feel a better footing this go-round, about a foot down in the quicksand.  I can cry in what is called honestly suffering and for short periods, unlike the time before when the uncontrollable crying came in wave on wave because of the triggering event of picking up a few items in the former family house, a Colonial, and returning home to take a shower when Jimmy on the Farm(more correctly, Born in Abandon) made his first, full-blown appearance– peaked out from behind what I call the “pain-wall” (the barrier between now and then (conscious and unconscious), covered in years of time and layered memories and rationalizations and constructs, and conscious-supporting thoughts and feelings, not to mention ego importance, etc) and when the terror hit, it did not go away, pass, or abate in any way–that recovery is a long story of “getting well by inches” lasting in a practical sense, at least three years, an experience, which in part probably helps explain my interest in the Holocaust.

Thus, I feel a little more emotionally safe than that–with slices of a hint of jimmy, but nothing comparable to the first visit to the funny farm on “The Day I Went Crazy.”  Indeed, the mother-complex is a powerful one, and a negative-mother complex is one, as Jung writes, one of the greatest catastrophes to befall the male.  Addictive behaviors and loss of confidence, and the list goes on, a list well-known today in the face of such problems with parents who are forced to be absent because of upbringing and economic influences and factors.  But, with the presence of worry returning from the graveyard, I entered the empty house, and have managed as I have said–as well as could be expected.  But, I must say, as my old childhood friend, “Ragnar,” his nickname from the movie we acted out in play, The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas, he used to say, “you came up here [to Oregon] on the psychological cheeks of your ass.”  Ragnar was a Vietnam Vet in the Hot Warrior Returns tradition and his cool down took decades.

Yesterday, the “sister-aunt,” who tended Vic with Kay and I, called.  It felt reassuring that Vic had seen me out the window gathering firewood into the wheel borrow, and Sharon reported to me that Vic had said she had seen “the hut” I loved(Freudian banana peel there) that is, lived in during my twelve years single, was worried about me, but not to the same point as it was when I got that divorce and lost everything, that I had grown stronger since then.  There was comfort in that message.  Unlike my family removed on the West Coast and removed, of course, from all the former in-laws, when all that went down, Vic was there to witness the truth of all the ins and outs that occur in such warfare.  I met her right before my divorce, in no shape then, of course, to join up.  She went to the great historic town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where I met up with her again, some 12 years later.   I had gone there many times in the interim, but never ran into her.  Then, as it is written in novels, “One fine day,” I was walking along and, like my step-mother advised me once, “one day, you’ll turn, and she’ll be right there,” and like so many things my step-mother said, there she was, in front of the cigar store, right in front of the Wooden Indian where I later formally proposed and gave her the diamond rings.  From that moment, we were joined up.  Vic used to quote me, “guppyed up.”

Postscript:  That day of meeting again in front of the wooden Indian, I had bought a hat, a grey Fedora style–the brim was a little too broad, and I thought I looked as my step-mother would say, “like a toadstool,” but later in the week, Vic e-mailed me saying how nice to see me, ought to have lunch sometime, and then a PS:  “I love the hat.”  Years later, and I hadn’t really ever worn it again, I started to put it on, and Vic said, “I hate that hat.”  I could only laugh.  In the movie, “Stand by Me,”  a young man steals from Gordie, the young boy,  the hat given to him by his protective older brother. who had died in the backstory of the movie.  Gordie never gets his favorite hat back, and this act of theft is symbolic of the danger of moving from childhood into adulthood, another transition, on one’s own, solo.  It was the hat I bought in our beloved town of Eureka Springs, the hat I met her in, and I returned bare-headed from the funeral.  Among other associations, of course,  hats are symbols of protection.  Yes, I perched the gray Fedora on that beautiful matte-brown finish of her coffin sprinkled with all the pixie glitter from The Goddesses.  I am sure she had a laugh.


In true Vicki fashion, her last rites of viewing, church service, and funeral in her family plot, all went swimmingly like her life when she swam in presence, somehow closer to the spirit than to earthly bonds–she had great energy and a big aura.  She had arranged everything, from the instructions of how she should look, to the historic rituals of the Episcopal Church (where it must be noted, among other instructions, her intimates were to told to wear red panties–she wanted humor in the eulogy, and Todd did it perfectly), and she had issued instructions on her last trip to her graveyard.  She was set upon the plot she had selected and visited so many times on two four-by-fours across the grave dug by her uncles, cousins, and grandchildren.

There she rested in the walnut coffin, in this country setting of The Manning Cemetary on the hillside, not too small, not too large, an intimate sanctuary among the trees and wide view up the valley.  The service was timeless, like her 19th Century spirit that she brought to this life–the raw dirt, people standing among the old stones dating before the Civil War.   We formed a loose square from a respectful distance from her dull-brown casket.  After a prayer or two, her Goddess Friends (a Society she created) made a celebration of her greatness in creating friendship, fun, and beautiful things–her talent manifest in her generous spirit for everyone, and they sprinkled glitter all over the casket.  It was upbeat and sparkled, as Vic wished.

And then we sang her request, the people standing about within the old cemetary, the sky with a thin overcast, the centuries present in her beloved setting of The Old Homestead set in the country.  The trees were nearly bare–still, some leaves fell and twirled a little in the breeze.  Kevin led in a clear, tenor voice, “I’ll Fly Away;”  the song was fairly strong in the cool air, echoing about and beyond–a fine sound in this wistful harmony.   The voices trailed out in the soft Fall day; we sailed along in unison, singing  the verse like an old country church choir, and then, I looked up, she had disappeared–Vic was gone for good.

Full Stop

Monday evening Vic hit the Inner Marker on final approach and touched down at 8:30 PM for a full stop.   About twenty minutes  before with everyone gathered to watch her in our vigil, she was breathing in short, easy breaths, and I said quietly, “Vic you need to bring it in for a landing, engine shut-down, and go to debriefing.”   From the end of the bed, she was taking in short, pulsating breaths, little quick intakes, when in a moment, she didn’t take another,  The stillness was immediate.  I stood up, eyes wide, I am sure, and in the stun of that clear emptiness of suspended new reality,  watched her.  She had stopped like the pendulum of  a grandfather’s clock.   She was free.

The Outer Marker


Permit me to explain what’s happening in my own language.  In aviation, the “let-down plate” is the plan for descent from the holding pattern.   Most everyone knows what the holding pattern is, and this is the place Vic has been until yesterday, or the day before.  By yesterday, she hit the “IP,” that is, the “Initial Point” at the corner the holding pattern that begins the trip to the ground, the time and place when you ease off the throttles, make the radio call, and begin your descent–the last major change in the flight.  The rate of descent for Vic is strictly ballpark estimates.  In our analogy for Vic, we  know she’s descending but whether the rate of descent is constant or changing, that is, accelerating, is practically impossible to know, and, more impossible, if the rate changes, how much it is changing (much like the second derivative in calculus).   After some time bringing the aircraft to a prescribed position after descent, one begins Final Approach to the runway.  One is still on instruments, perhaps, a glimpse in high visibility, of the runway in sight.  This position, when changes have been noted, in Vic’s case, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen utilization, and coloration, and other signs, one may make a judgement that the Outer Marker has been reached, that place of Final Approach to the runway has begun.  Here, once again a change in the stages of the landing procedures has begun–a radio call goes to the airport for final control (I have no analogy for this).  From the Outer Marker, one remains on slope, on glide path, and then calls the “Inner Marker,” that position when runway should come into sight very soon, a visual contact made, and Approach Control requests, “Call runway in sight.”  Shortly, like less than a minute, the aircraft comes in over the runway, a flare at the right moment, and touchdown is made, brakes applied, engines reversed (on a jetliner), and the rollout to the taxiway under ground control takes you to the final stop.

Vic, as I write this, is at or approaching the Outer Marker, nearing, or perhaps, on Final Approach–that is,  according to our best observations and educated guesses.  The role of Will Power does play a part in these rather mechanical indicators of dying,  This part of the journey has been the toughest, most wrenching, a change in her flight.  It isn’t that you have to let her land and die and let go–quite the contrary, most everyone is on board with her, hoping for a smooth and easy descent to landing.  The difficulty we discovered is watching the changes that occur physically, as all changes must be processed, i.e., noted, then emotionally felt, the rise of sadness and hurt and pain,  oftentimes like a blue mist rising, then crying, then cycling it, coming back to making the present more normalized and acceptable, and one moves on a little.

Somehow,  this staying in reality, painful but safer than denial, of course, reminds me of Gertrude Stein’s famous quote, the one that poetically recalls the present conventional saying, “it is what it is,”  like the obvious fact that life comes with death and oftentimes with the natural process of a loved one dying.  Stein’s emphasis, as my step-mother would say, “calling a spade a spade,” is in the somewhat softer take in the line, “Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.”





Event Horizon



Like Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality,”  we feel we are all in the space that  “looks through death.”   Vic said her dad came and rubbed her feet.  When she said she had been “in the tunnel,” somebody asked her if she saw the light, and Kay said Vic turned her head on the pillow, cocked it in disbelief with a look on her face like “are you kidding, whatta dumb question, you had to ask?”  Vic reports now and again that her Mother said to come home.  Vic even said she “had a lot to account for.”  She took the watermelon one day and asked for an apple dumpling–each food is the favorite of one of her parents.  Vic reports that “everybody was nice to her” during the tunnel time.

She talked to everyone yesterday, asking for her most intimate, like a gathering of the clan.  Good-byes were in order, and, like so many cases, today is another day like any other day, and Vic seems fairly strong.   I am told in this business that regardless of averages, numbers, or formulas for the patient’s condition, one can “go” at any time, through will power it seems or physical bankruptcy.  We are simply moving into the “event horizon” with the end in sight, but nobody knows, as the mystery should be is what we all feel.

Postscript:  I suppose it is the stress some and some of the relief, but there is some laughter with the tears.  I tell the about the exchange she had with me a couple days ago.  She asked to see me, and I figured it was part of her good-bye regimen in my usual way of missing the point and listening to my own bull.  I talked about our life together, the encouragement and understanding as parts of my empathy for her wishes, and support for her understandable desire to move on, and the usual blah-blah about how tough it is and stuff about how no confessions were needed about anything, that I knew everything I needed to know–and, once realizing that it was I doing all the talking, I shut up, smiling.  Vic just stared back, so I said, picking up my support theme, “Oh, remember how you figured I’d be the one to go first, that you always asked me to wait for you for another life, and so we will, right?  We will meet sooner and have those six kids we always talked about. You will wait for me, right?”   After a few beats, she said, in her new raw truth program she calls “authentic,” “I’ll think about it.”

So much for my illusions–Jung’s line that “wives never consider the husband to be quite the hero he thinks he is”  echoed through my head.  It is funny.