not fighting Mercury in Retrograde

Recently, while watching a program on the mysteries of the Universe, I began to wonder…

…when is the next Mercury in Retrograde period?

The scientists on that program would certainly say: Mercury in Retrograde is bunk.  During those three-week periods, the planet Mercury only appears to be going backward.  In truth, by following astrology, you’re the one going backward—back to Medieval times.

In response, I’d quote a line once sung by Bobby Fuller:

“I fought the law and the law won.”*

In the past, I’ve fought Mercury in Retrograde and lost.  Miserably so, on occasion.  Projects begun during that time fizzled and flopped.  New moves seemed to hit invisible roadblocks.  Connections made never lasted.  Mere coincidence?  Maybe.  Does Mercury in Retrograde defy scientific logic?  Definitely.  Nonetheless…

…from July 7th to July 31st, I will not push ahead with any new plan, major or minor.  No, I’ll take a step back: I’ll organize, I’ll throw out the old and make way for the new.

I say: what if the scientists are right?  What if Mercury in Retrograde is just superstitious hogwash?  Isn’t it still wise to step back occasionally?  To take a few days to regroup…reconnoiter …reassess our goals…

…to clean house—both literally and figuratively?

We can use this time to gather our forces together.  Then, when we again sally forth, we’ll go with renewed strength and clarity of mind.

So I’m keeping Mercury in Retrograde in my toolbox of beliefs.  And not just for purely mundane purposes…

By accepting Mercury in Retrograde as real, I accept the idea that there’s a grand pattern in our collective human existence.  An idea that boggles my mind—that lifts me up, while keeping me humble.

Ironically, that’s why I watched that program on the mysteries of the Universe—I needed that type of boggling.

(* From “I Fought the Law” by Sonny Curtis.  A hit for The Bobby Fuller Four in 1966.)

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry

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fable of the angel, the ship, and the big step

An hour before departure, I stood gazing up at that monumental ship—that grand silver tower—knowing it would deliver me to new worlds…faraway lands…beyond old borders…

This voyage of exploration would expand my mind, my perspective in ways I couldn’t conceive.  Oh, I felt such joy.  The joy of the naïve child.

But then, as I lifted my foot to take a ceremonial first step onto the walkway…

…a flash of light shocked my eyes.  Stunned, I stepped back.

An angel stood before me, its glowing white form defined by lines of turquoise blue.  The halo hummed with gold light.  Such strange energy!—the power of a stone monolith emanated from what appeared so ethereal.

Its blue eyes gazed down upon me with a kindness I could feel through my whole being.  I was helpless–awed and confused.

“Before you take that step, I will warn you of the hardship to be endured on this trip,” the angel said in a voice both stern and empathic.

“You’ll travel through hazards and calamities beyond imagining.  Spiraling storms will spin your mind into states of wild uncontrollable vertigo.

“Without the anchor of the old familiar, you’ll feel adrift, untethered.  Your own face will appear strange to you.  The home you wanted to escape will seem like a paradise lost.

“However, when you finally do return, old comforts won’t give much comfort.  Everything will seem so alien.  Worse yet: you’ll carry the suffering of your dark journey with you wherever you go, whatever you do.

“Only a long painful process of catharsis will heal your pain.  Hard work that, in truth, will never really be complete.

“So…you still want to board this ship?” the angel asked in conclusion.

I felt weak with disappointment.  I’d imagined a happy adventure.  This voyage was supposed to launch me into a glorious new life.

Well, if I stayed behind, I could take the initiative and create that glorious life on my own.  Instead of being pushed by circumstances beyond my control, I’d take control of my life and push myself.

I wanted to love that idea.  But it left me feeling cowardly.  Mediocre.

I realized I still wanted to board that ship.  Staying behind was a wish of the mind; going ahead was a desire of the spirit.  Yes–I actually wanted hardship.  I wanted to go through hell and come out the other side and then put myself back together again.

Yes, I’d be pushed by outside forces beyond my control.  But I’d have to use great self-control in order to deal with those forces.  I’d have to push myself beyond instinctive terror.

“I’m getting on board, angel,” I said.  “No matter how much pain this voyage brings, the worse pain would be the regret of having stopped because of fear.

“But before I take that step, I’d like to thank you…

“You gave me the chance to choose in full awareness of the consequences.  Now, when the ride gets a little bumpy, I won’t bemoan my decision.  Braced for the worst, I’ll do a better job of coping.

“Yes, life will seem painfully strange, both before and after.  But with that shift, I’ll see the world and my own self anew.  I’m not just exploring unknown lands, I’m exploring myself…exploring this human life.

“Later, if I can express just one iota of what I learn, I might help humankind.”

With that declaration, I again felt joy—the joy of the trailblazing knight.  I finally took that step forward.

In a flash, the angel vanished.  As my eyes adjusted to the sudden absence of light, a subtle misty energy lightly dusted my arms and face.  Then nothing.  The way lay clear ahead.

Had I hallucinated an angel?  I didn’t know…

…but I could still feel that infusion of loving kindness.  A blessing–that feeling became a stone to hold during my wild wonderful horrific journey.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: an ebook

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fable of the little bird who died happy

One afternoon, a fledgling bird, fresh from the nest and still unsure of its wings, came to rest on a wire strung between two tenement buildings…

As the bird took a breath, it suddenly felt an odd stirring in the pit of its stomach…

This energy rose, stretching the tiny chest ’til the bird thought it would burst.

Then suddenly the impulse shot up the bird’s throat like a geyser blast, forcing its beak wide open.  That impulse was song—yes, for the first time in its young life, the bird began to sing.

“What a relief!” the bird thought.  “I don’t know what I’m doing but it feels like something I should be doing.  Anyway, I’m not sure if I have much choice.”

Initially, it produced just a screechy weak warble

But each new day of song both loosened and strengthened its vocal cords.  Soon, as if by miracle, graceful playful melodies flowed from the bird.  As the little musician listened to itself, it was astonished at the variety of sound.  “There must be more to me than I imagine,” our singer mused.  “I always felt so dumb and clumsy before.”

As the bird’s lung capacity expanded, the decibel level increased.  In short time, its incessant song notes became a distinctive presence within the cacophony bouncing between the two buildings.

High up in one of those tenement apartments, a working man liked to listen to opera on the radio every Saturday afternoon while sitting naked in his sofa chair…

He had long ago adapted to the ruckus of noise coming through his window.  But as he sat back in his chair on this particular Saturday, the bird’s song registered as a new unfamiliar intrusion.  It prickled his ears.  A small irritation, yes, but perceived as a threat by someone overly-tense after a week of hard labor.

And so, the hairy fellow felt justified in hurling a hard sharp object at the bird.

The object missed the mark—but not by much.  The little bird saw the flash and felt the rush of air.  Shocked, it leapt off its perch and fluttered to the ground.

The man then shouted from his window, “Shut the hell up or I’ll kill you.  Next time I’ll be on target.”

No, the bird didn’t understand human words, but it could feel the animosity behind what the man said—it got the message.

The bird then tried to lower its voice…

…but experienced a choking tightness in its throat.  Before, it’d known its strength.  Now it felt diminished—less than itself.

“I can not—will not—squelch my song,” the bird decided.  “I know what—I’ll look for a new neighborhood!

“But no, that idea’s no good—wherever I went, I’d likely draw the ire of another crazed human.

“But what about that place spoken of in stories—a place where many birds live and very few humans?  A place of trees instead of buildings.  Why not go to that free land and sing in peace?  I’ll search until I find that paradise of song.”

Then, as it prepared to take flight, the bird thought again.  “I’m letting that angry man dictate my life.  Yeah, he might eventually kill me if I stay—him or someone else.  But if I’m not doing what I want where I want in the way I want, can I ever be truly happy?  No, I won’t let anyone drive me from my home.  No one has the right to stop my song!”

And so, the bird continued to sing from its perch on the wire every afternoon.

Yes, sometimes the opera man responded by hurling an object.  A few others also threw at the bird.  Usually rocks.  Occasionally, a crushed can.  Once or twice, a shoe.

The bird did try to keep one eye open.  But it often forgot as it became lost in song—completely lost—loving the feeling that filled its being.  An ecstasy that overwhelmed and yet, was never enough.

But despite being frequently lost in ecstasy, the bird survived through the summer…

Then one chilly fall afternoon, it finally paid the price that many have paid because they chose to sing out.

Again, the bird was lost in song—again overwhelmed by that feeling.

As a result, our winged hero did not see the hard sharp object whirling through the air, aimed with the intent of destruction.

I won’t describe the carnage out of respect for that master of song…

I’ll simply say: as the final high note hung in the air, the blue feathers floated down to the ground like the last leaves of autumn.

A tragedy?  Certainly not!  After all, the bird had long accepted the inevitability of that ending.  It knew that what gave it life would probably be its death.  But it also knew: having answered its deepest desire, it would die happy.

So let’s celebrate the little bird!  And remember…

…though it did irritate some with its singing…

…many more in that neighborhood loved its deep song.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

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Icarus & Daedalus, revisited

We know the story of Icarus well…

We know how the boy flew too close to the sun…

…which caused the wax on his wings to melt…

…which caused the feathers to drop off…

…rendering his wings useless.

And so, he fell into the ocean and drowned, as his father, Daedalus, watched in horror.

A poignant story, yes.  But I believe a less familiar version serves us better…

Just as he does in the first version, Icarus flies too close to the sun.  But when he begins to fall, his father feels compelled to act.  Risking his life, Daedalus dives sharply down and grabs Icarus by the tunic as his toes graze the water.

The boy clutches to his father, wrapping his arms so tightly around the man’s midsection, Daedalus has to gulp hard for air.

Nonetheless, he keeps working his wings and manages to ascend and then continue his flight—not too close to the sun, not too close to the water.

When the two finally reach the safety of Sicily, Daedalus flops down on the beach, exhausted in body and mind.

Icarus, on the other hand, bounces to his feet and standing with arms akimbo, beams down at his father.  He feels joyous and grateful in survival.

The older man still lacks the wind to speak, but the glint in his eyes clearly says, “I’ll deal with you later.”

Yes, I prefer this second version.  Maybe I’m trying to avoid the sadness of tragedy…

…but why should Icarus die for a single moment of folly?  We all make youthful mistakes—and usually survive them.  How can Icarus learn from his mistake if he’s dead?

Daedalus knows he may die if he attempts to rescue Icarus.  A little water is all it takes to ruin his wings.  “No matter,” says Daedalus in this version.  “I’d rather try and perish than live with the shame of abandoning my son.”

With that decision, Daedalus becomes a true hero.

I myself was saved, more than once, from youthful folly.  But the Daedalus who rescued me was actually myself—some wiser part of myself.  Some part behind the foolish conscious me.

Fortunately, the fool eventually became wise enough to realize the danger of his folly…

…and acted on what he saw.  Here‘s the irony: to save yourself—to change your life—requires risk.

The second version of the Icarus story says: there are good risks and bad.  As I see it, we’ve flown too close to the sun.  So now, will we risk in order to save ourselves?  Will we risk in order to save our world, our future?  Or will we continue the folly of our ways?

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
sky rope poetry blog

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fable of the mouse who lived as a rat

A poor street mouse, desperately looking for a home in the cold rain…

…found the backstage door to a theater open.  There, under the facade of a house front propped against the wall, a mother rat nursed her litter.  The baby rats squirmed against each other and tugged at the teats.  Since there were so many, the street mouse managed to snuggle in amongst them undetected.

Later, when the mother finally noticed him, she just assumed she’d miscounted during the delivery.  Easy enough to do.

But as the rat babies grew, the street mouse, being an adult, remained the same size.  “Must be the runt of the litter,” the rat mother thought.  So she gave him extra attention—extra milk, extra scraps from the garbage can in the alley, extra loving care.

“No more starving in the cold—I’ve landed in heaven!” the street mouse told himself.  “Yes, the others are now much bigger than me.  But obviously, I’m her favorite.  So I should be safe.”

But when he still didn’t grow, the rat mother saw the runt as a lost cause and pushed him away in frustration.  No more milk, no more scraps, no more loving care.

“Well, it was good while it lasted.  Time to be traveling on,” the street mouse decided.

But when he turned to leave, he found the rat children blocking the way.  They all bared their sharp teeth—showing the same evil smile.  Their mother had neglected them while tending to the mouse.  Now, they’d enjoy some revenge.

Seeing no way out, the street mouse wanted to get in a little dig at them before he departed this life.  “Imagine that—fooled by a little ol’ mouse,” he sneered.  “Well, you’re just a bunch of hypocrites!  You all would’ve done the same as I did.  From what I’ve seen, you rats will do damn near anything to survive.  Admit it.”

The rats dropped their grins and looked at one another for a long moment.  Then an old male with a pointy nose stepped forward.  He lifted his lip—light twinkled on an needle-like incisor.  “Yes, you were born a mouse, but you obviously have the mind of a rat.  Consider the facts…

“You lie.  You cheat.  You steal.  Then make excuses for your behavior.  You think like a rat and act like a rat.  My son, you’re one of us.  Welcome to the pack.”

With that, he laughed and walked away.  The others then began to laugh as well—a rather malicious-sounding mirth.  They hooted and jeered until they fell on their backs.  Their laughter was their revenge!  Those pink bellies jiggled with convulsions.

The street mouse saw his chance.  He bolted for the side exit and shot down the alley.  Back to the wet cold city streets.  Back to freedom.

“Dining well and sleeping warm and being protected is all really swell,” he said to himself.  “Really swell…unless you have to live as a rat.”

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

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the fable of Bill & Edna’s ark

We know about Noah’s ark, but not about Bill and Edna’s…

…though their boat was just as big as his.

Like Noah, Bill and his wife listened when God spoke and obeyed his command.

After studying the fundamentals of shipbuilding, they collected the necessary materials…

…then sawed the wood and hammered the planks together to create a strong seagoing vessel—

—an ark that could accommodate even more animals than Noah’s.

The day after its completion, Bill and Edna, along with their kids and extended family, said a short prayer and then began loading the creatures into the craft.  When all were aboard, the heavens opened and down came the rain…

By next morning, the waters had risen high enough to lift the ship off its blocks.  At the same time, Noah’s boat also unmoored—but on the opposite side of the world.

Yes, Noah faced some tempestuous seas…

But his journey was mild compared to what Bill and Edna endured.  That couple and their family team continually battled whirlwinds, whirlpools, squalls, and gales.

Then, on the morning on the fortieth day, after a night of relative calm…

…they woke find their ark had entered the blinding gray blur of a raging hurricane.  A storm of massive girth and force.  Their worst foe yet.

All through that day, the team worked together with unrelenting effort, refusing to admit defeat…

But then a great wave—a monstrous mountain—rose suddenly to shadow the ship.  After a long teetering moment of uncertainly, an avalanche of water toppled from the crest and slammed down upon the boat, pushing it completely underwater.

Then all was strangely quiet—the ocean rocked to and fro, seeming to doze for a spell…

But in an abrupt instant, another big wave leapt up, throwing bits of wreckage to the sky—a merciless child tossing high a handful of toys.

Drifting loose amid the litter of broken boards, the animals and humans seemed so helpless, so trivial, so ridiculous, so forlorn.  An updraft held this spectacle aloft for a suspended moment…

…then it all came raining down.  In a blink, that cornucopia of life disappeared into the waves, causing barely a ripple.

Sometimes you get everything right, yet still fail.

But it seems indecent to call Bill and Edna failures.  They took on a monumental task outside their range of experience and never considered giving up.  Though often afraid, they refused to be governed by their fear.  What strength they showed!

I see them as heroes—though they’d probably reject that label, self-critical as they were.  Nonetheless, they apparently felt some pride of accomplishment, even when confronted by the loss of all.

I base that statement on what the birds said…

You see, two creatures did survive the sinking of that ark.  A male and female parrot.

Fortunately for them, the ocean calmed after the storm of forty nights and forty days.  So the pair were able to ride a busted chunk of the bow until the waters began to recede.

The couple then took flight and glided on wind currents until they spotted another ark—Noah’s—held snuggly between two stout peaks.

Noah had no parrots in his menagerie, so he welcomed these talkative birds.  But then they told him about the other ark.  Bill and Edna’s.

“At the very end, they stood together on the deck under the shadow of that towering wave,” the female bird said.

“And as she looked at him, he looked at her, and they said to each other, ‘At least we did our best’.”  When the parrots repeated this last line together, their voices grew raspy with raw grief.

A sad story, yes…

…but I think to die without doubt or shame is to die in peace.

Unfortunately, Noah went to the grave without such comfort of mind…

Shocked by the news of the sunken ark, he felt a deep sense of guilt.  “What’d I do to deserve a better fate than those people?” Noah asked himself.  “Why was I blessed with favorable winds and currents, while they had to battle storm after storm?”

As he wrestled with this dilemma, the parrots began to talk again—wishing to explain the situation.

But Noah, now in an irritable mood, shouted, “Shut up—you’ve said enough!  Keep your stupid theories to yourself or I’ll cut your tongues out.  Don’t mention that couple or their damn ark to me ever again.”

Since that time, parrots rarely speak of Bill and Edna.  To be safe, they usually just jabber inanities.  By chance, I happened to hear the tale from a drunken macaw in a bar late one night.

But not even that parrot was willing to share what his species understands about life.  Like all parrots, he fears losing his tongue.

And so we humans continue to struggle with the question…

…asking ourselves, as we have for millennia…

…why some receive what seems to be good fortune…

…while others receive what seems to be bad.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

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fable of the woman who went to a “godforsaken” place

The TV news described the place as “godforsaken”…

And who would argue with those bleak images?

Not the woman in the comfortable chair.  She stood up and said, “I’m blessed with a rich life while those poor people suffer.  I must do what I can to ease their pain.”

Upon arrival in that distant land, she found the scene to be even worse than reported.  Poverty…disease…corruption…cruelty.  So many problems—overwhelming!

Nonetheless, our crusader searched every day for ways to improve the lives of those trapped in that godforsaken place…

And hit obstacle after obstacle after obstacle of brutal bureaucracy.

Within a few weeks, this poor woman had switched from bright and light to dim and leaden.

So she went inside.  She closed the door to her room.  She sat down in a hard chair.  Time passed like a train of ants as she pondered her dilemma.

“I just wanted to do my little bit!  But I don’t have the strength to fight all those obstructions,” she told herself.  “I’m a godforsaken person in a godforsaken land.”

But then, after an hour or maybe three, a ruckus outside penetrated the cloud inside her head.  Rising to investigate, she found a circle of young and old in a weedy patch across the street.

A hive of happy commotion!

They sang a rousing chant and clapped their hands in unison.  They jump-stepped to the left, then to the right; they leapt to the center, then leapt back.  A dance.

A group whoop of joy startled her ears.

Why this celebration?  She knew of no special holiday.

Curious, she went back outside to the sun and dust and asked a man watching the group about the fuss.

The weathered fellow simply showed his gold tooth in a smile, then turned back to the circle.  That enigmatic twinkle in his eye seemed to say: look and learn.

“Maybe in all my fury, I’ve missed something about life in this place,” our traveler mused to herself.  “Was I blinded by my preconceptions?  Perhaps I should do as the man says and look again.”

In previous days, she’d gone here and there in the city with defined purpose.  But now, she began to wander.

She roamed through the day and into the night.  No, she didn’t find any more groups dancing and chanting.  But in the mass of human activity, she now realized a grand buzzing dance.  That dance flooded the city, running in rivers down the streets: an overflowing of life—a vital mix of myriad swirling spirits.

She’d never been a religious person.  Never felt the presence of god.  Until now.  Now she said, “I know where god lives.”

Seeing the god spirit of these people, she felt her own spirit brighten again—felt now its deeper life.

No, she did not ignore the hardship all around in the streets.  The sight of a stunted child or a withered hobbled woman still tore her inside.  But in their fight for life, she saw resolute strength.  The obstacles of officialdom feared that strength and so, tried to repress it.

But in order to repress, they had to repress their own god spirit.  They were thieves stealing from themselves.

“In truth, the obstacles are the weak ones,” our traveler said to herself.  “But I am weaker still—too weak to fight them.  I’m too poor of spirit to help the economically poor.  I must help my own poor self.”

During her last remaining days, she continued to wander—going beyond the outskirts of the city and into the countryside…

Let’s be clear: she didn’t see saints, she didn’t see angels.  But she did see people shining with god.  Everywhere she looked.

She dreaded her scheduled return home—to a land of less poverty, less disease, less cruelty, less corruption.  Not an easy life, but an easier life.  A place of less god—or so it seemed to her now.  Perhaps god dies in comfortable chairs.

“Life at home might dull me back down,” she worried aloud.  “Yes—but only if I let it.  As long as I keep in touch with the god I’ve found in myself, I’ll be okay.  I won’t go numb.

“For that matter…maybe home isn’t as godforsaken as it seems.  Maybe there’s god there that I haven’t yet seen.  After all, I didn’t see much god in this place at first.”

Okay…maybe she wasn’t able to improve life in that distant land.  But in the process of trying, she improved her own life…

And as a result, was later able to do a lot to improve life in her own homeland…

…a place which she no longer sees as godforsaken.

© 2019, Michael R. Patton
40 New Fables: ebook

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