I got out of bed at 4:30 in the morning for some wee-hours playtime. I have a strange relationship with sleep; I joke that I was bitten by a vampire bat as a baby, and I’m only up that early if I haven’t slept yet. On this particular morning, I made my way through the house into my wife’s office and was visited by a mouse.
I glanced up at the early morning sky and saw Sirius for the first time in awhile, and it was accompanied by a shooting star descending past Procyon. It was what Dr. Amen calls a “micro-moment,” or what I call an “enchanted instant.” It’s always a big deal for me when I see Sirius in the sky again after about six months of absence during spring and summer. For me this star is a spiritual beacon with more ancestral meaning than I could communicate in writing, though I’ve tried and have spoken and written about it a lot in the past. In brief, from my personal cosmological standpoint as well as other traditions like the Dogon tribe of people in West Africa, Sirius pinpoints the place of origin and point of entry of all consciousness in this universe and maybe multiverse. It is where we all ultimately came from. Not as physical beings, but as consciousness, energy, light, soul-spirits.
As I looked east straight out from my front porch I saw Orion’s constellation in the sky and felt excited because soon Sirius would be rising through the tops of the pine trees that obscure my view of the horizon. The timing of all of this isn’t subtle as we enter the hottest week of the year in Northern California. It is forecasted that some communities will reach 117 degrees, and it feels to be a time of energetic significance.
Which brings me back to the mouse. I’d never seen one in our house before, and I pursued him out of my wife’s office where he took a sharp turn into the laundry room. I closed the door, ran into the kitchen, and grabbed a plastic bowl. The idea was to capture, cover, carry, and release outside as we do with spiders, and, on rare occasions, with scorpions. I have a somewhat Buddhist bent about killing something, and I don’t unless it’s coming after me like a mosquito. Re-entering the the laundry room, I proceeded to comically chase the small creature, following him into corners, reading into crevices, moving utility items and swiping under the dryer to trap the animal. It started to feel like a Tom & Jerry cartoon, and I laughed at us. I gave up after awhile and closed the laundry door, resolved to find him in the light of day.
The next afternoon my wife found him trapped in the laundry sink. Comparatively that would be like me trying to scale a sheer 20 foot ceramic wall. He tried and slid down several times until conceding defeat and retreated down into the mesh drain cover (thank goodness it was in place!), looking up at me with one big little eye cocked in my direction. I’m glad he made this easy. As I went for another plastic container, contriving a plan to scoop him and the drain cover out, our housekeeper came over and with a compassionate exclamation of “pobrecito!” (poor little thing), captured it in a rag and set it loose outside.
With animal visitations in this world and in others (dreams, underworld, etc.), I sometimes consult the old Jamie Sams & David Carson Medicine Cards book to see what totemic message might be coming with the creature. Something will usually resonate or jibe with what I’m already feeling from the encounter. In this case, certain themes came to the fore that are active in my personal process and need more heed on my part, specifically regrading attention to detail and attuning to myself.
For a few days I have been avoiding the continuation and completion of some vocal tracks I started laying down last week for my rendition of the Tanzanian/Kenyan welcome song, Jambo. One week ago I had a breakthrough session with my creative partner Mars, who records and engineers our pieces. It had been at least two years since I’d sung lead on one of my compositions. Singing is something I do on occasion, but I don’t consider myself a singer and I do not remain in practice, so it is always an effort for me to ramp up to the task after creating a vocal part and challenging myself to deliver vocally what I hear in my imagination. For the most part I did it. It was a successful session and I felt fulfilled with the accomplishment and how it sounded. There were still some things I didn’t pull off and I felt called to work with a wonderful vocal coach who I hadn’t been in contact with in over 20 years named John Fluker. A consummate singer and expert musician, he used to be Gladys Knight’s musical director. John helped me tremendously with vocal stylings on my Global Soul album around 2000.
On Saturday I followed up with John on a Zoom session and it was wonderful. As always he was so helpful with lead stylings and background vocal ideas. The session left me raw. Singing is the most vulnerable thing I think I can do. It’s just me and the sound in my body being expressed through my emotions. The most challenging and scary part, beyond trying to hit notes, runs, pitches and tones correctly, is the vulnerability. I do not like showing my vulnerability, emotion, or being seen as an emotional person. Yet this is exactly what my art demands of me. I’ve taken only one shot at my vocal part since Saturday. I am avoiding and evading where I have to go emotionally to sing these lines.
I think back to my encounter with the mouse, which carried with it the message to pay attention to detail. As poet David Whyte would say, “Start close in…” There are reasons why I am avoiding the vulnerability, not of showing weakness, but the vulnerability of showing my strength. With closeness is tenderness and intimacy. To be this close to my thoughts, feelings, desires and express them artistically out in the open is not easy for me and may be part of the daily eternal struggle of an artist.
The mouse hiding down in the drain was so vulnerable looking up at me. I could have smashed it to death. Of course I would never do that out of my reverence for life and the fact that it touched me in that eye to eye moment. Cute as hell, that thing! But it was completely at my mercy and had no more cover, and that’s the fear I was also feeling: if I let go of my cover I can be smashed. Or deeper than that, if I show myself vulnerably then you’ll see the real me and how beautiful, adorable and lovable I am.
Another part of the mouse’s message for me was to get close in to my vocal task while also remembering the bigger picture and to pull back and see the growth process I’m in. I have expanded to a new place and it is impossible to shrink back down to where I was before even though I’m in momentary contraction. Like a balloon that has had air in it, I cannot return to my old narrow shape. The inspiration of the singing and the inspiriting filling of the breath necessary for me to accomplish what I did made me larger. And even though some of the air has been let out again, some remains. I will expand again, becoming more and more flexible with each expansion and contraction. My capacity to enlarge will increase, and I hope to learn that this is all a part of the process, the journey of evolving myself, my ability, strength, talent, and self realization. That’s the point