Spring Awakening

Spring – I never thought it would get here. Feels almost like summer today. But a few months ago, our house and land was covered with snow as far as the eye could see. I wrote a song for something called February Album Writing Month (FAWM) inspired by this Tundra called “Winter Turn To Spring.” The title is taken from a 13th century writing by a Japanese Buddhist Monk called Nichiren. The entire quote reads, “The believer in the Lotus Sutra is as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring.” Nichiren, a Buddhist reformer who declared that chanting this Sutra’s title alone could bring one enlightenment, regularly encouraged his disciples to endure and overcome any hardship faced in (and brought about by) this practice.
At this time in my life, I was as if in winter – literally. Me, my girlfriend and her two daughters, plus our dog and cat, were completely snowed in inside our rented house that sat on an acre and a half of land that was covered in at least two feet of snow – three in some places. We didn’t have any shovels because I lost the key to the shed behind the house that had them in it. We were snowed in for five days before we were able to get a kind snowplow owner to do our driveway at half the cost most people were charging. (I fashioned a makeshift shovel to get us from the walk to the driveway.) During this time, as in several winters past, I felt a sense of powerlessness, of being buried under the thick of it, and that it would be an aeon until it all melted away. My girlfriend and I were also going through a rough patch, and there’s a line in there that speaks to that feeling: “Despite the deeper layers/Our hearts must be a place/We can’t let freeze.” The struggle wasn’t just to dig ourselves out, but to stay warm and positive within as well.
So many times I have seen my environment reflect my life-state EXACTLY – and have felt it change when I determine a new direction to win over my present circumstances. Nichiren’s Buddhism talks about “Life-conditions” – ten worlds which we inhabit at any given moment, here and alive on this Earth. They include Hell, Hunger, Anger, Joy, Tranquility, Learning and Realization. The highest ones are Bodhisattva and Buddhahood – two conditions that are everlasting and not affected by the lower ones. Nichiren also taught that each world is possessed in the other ten – so Buddhahood, for example, inhabits all of them. It’s a hard concept to grasp – that Buddhahood is innate, that we “reveal” rather than “earn” it – but eternally hopeful. There’s kind of a “fake-it-til-you-make it” stage in the beginning but after that it gets better.
This May, I am in a new house in a new neighborhood in the City, with music and art happening all the time, and I’ve just busted out my guitar and started to feel the call of the muse again. The snow has melted, Spring has returned. But the Spring in our hearts is the most important. Seeing all that snow, one can feel discouraged, or immediately run out and build a snowman. Summer can be outside and one can still be huddled under blankets. Seasons are just as much conditions of life as they are of our environment – which, after all, are interconnected. I am excited to be here, and out of the wintry feeling inside. It is a constant struggle, but thank goodness I have Nichiren’s words to revisit and the title of the Lotus Sutra (Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo) to chant.

Being Marke


So, hey there! I’ve never had me one of these website-thingies before, and I see I’ve got this bloggie thing that I oughta start using. The site’s not quite active yet so I’m just blogging to imaginary friends at this point. But soon, I will have a real, live audience at my disposal, and I’ll have to entertain them with some semblance of wit and wisdom. Or at least a good string of smart-assed jokes. I’ve got those in spades-somewhat.

Well, as with my songs, my journal and “blogging” has stayed mostly hidden; a feeling of an underlying inability to capture and sustain and audience lies at the core of my body of work. And it’s a sizeable one, as bodies go. If a song is sung on the internet and there’s no one being driven to your page, did it make a sound? That’s some profound metaphorical mularkey right there. I could care more or less if someone hears my things while passing through; but I err on the side of the former. I’ve been writing these songs of heartache, remorse, frustration and revolution for some twenty years, and I hope you all get to hear them the way I first did in my head. I have been hesitant to recruit a band because I’m afraid they won’t capture what I hear in my head, but more so what I hear, or have a sense of, in my heart. I feel nature, I feel the desert, I feel the ocean breeze, in my music and lyrics. I feel the abandoned, cavernous places I would love to play alone to, opening up the echo of sound to the spaces of my imagination, but I would also like an audience to feel it. To be there, and not be there. That’s my dichotomy.

This year, I do intend to be much more than a tree falling in the forest. I want to be the bulldozer that knocked down that tree, the tree being diseased and manifested with bugs and dead roots, and opened up the fresh ground to new life and freshly opened minds sharing their unheard concepts with the world. I want to be a divining rod for ideas, thought, and wonderful sound. So, I write this in anticipation of getting this “out there” for you all to enjoy.

But for right now, I’m enjoying blasting my Marshall stack to the canyons, as it were.