Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Self-cleaning

Imagine you had the power to create worlds. You could design planets that were gardens, frozen spheres, furnaces, or even desolate rocks. The gardens would need tending, so you could hire or even create caretakers for your garden world. But should they fail to care for it, or worse exploit and poison the garden, would you not build in some sort of self-cleaning mechanism, a sort of re-start button?

I wondered, what if the self-cleaning mechanism for our world has been activated? Could all the storms and climate changes be our own world attempting to "reset" or "reboot?" Not being the Creator of our world, I could not comprehend His mind, but in my own limited fashion I present one possibility...

Mick

Self-cleaning

I stood upon a bridge that spanned the sky,
And surveyed all the world that turned below.
I cast my gaze from pole to pole, and I
Despaired that what I'd planted did not grow.
My garden wasn't simply choked with weeds,
Weeds had joined the trees and seas in dying.
My caretakers had filled only their needs,
The toxic mess they left had me crying.
The gift I gave them, a priceless treasure,
Needed only careful, loving tending.
Greedily they'd wasted the full measure,
Of resources now reaching their ending.
Reluctantly, I flipped a switch, meaning
I'd started the cycle of self-cleaning...

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day 2011

Memorial Day was never just a day off work for my family, because so many members of my family were in the service...all but me, actually. Medical and health issues kept me from service, but never diminished the pride I feel for those who served.

This year, we're in Rochester, MN, at Mayo Clinic, and I cannot be with my family. We attended the Memorial Day ceremonies at Soldiers Field Veterans Memorial, and I found it moving and reassuring to see a community give honor and recognition to its veterans, both the living and the lost. The memorial is a beautiful structure of granite walls, etched with battle scenes from all major U.S. wars. The memorial was packed, so I stood outside, peering over a wall, with several hundred other visitors and veterans. Their solemnity and pride made this a special Memorial Day.

Mick

Memorial Day 2011

I watched them march, peering over the wall,
The proud veterans and their families.
They were gathered together, one and all,
For music, and singing, and homilies,
Recounting the valor and sacrifice,
And the giving of the last full measure,
By their sons and daughters, in the service
Of their country's freedom, timeless treasure
Requiring constant vigilance as cost.
Their faces, unsmiling, were filled with pride,
Through speeches focused on those that were lost,
In wars where their young neighbors fought and died.
I stood and I watched, an unremarked guest,
As they remembered their brightest and best.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Silent Smile

Did you ever watch someone read a letter and try guess the contents from the expression on his or her face? For some messages, the general nature of the contents is readily apparent -- especially strong emotions. Good news brings a grin, a chuckle, or a laugh. Bad news can show as anger or sadness. The one I like best, I call the silent smile.

Reading a letter from a friend that touches your heart and makes you feel warm and loved evokes a joy in your soul and an uplift to your spirit that softens the aspect of your face, and nearly always brings about a tender look in the eyes and uplift at the corners of the mouth...the silent smile.

Mick

Silent Smile

I watched her read a letter from a friend,
Her eyes moved back and forth at quickened pace.
I wondered if before she reached the end,
The contents could be read upon her face.
Sometimes her eyes would backtrack and re-read,
A word or passage slowly, carefully,
Or jump ahead with incredible speed,
To stop and gaze at something thoroughly.
Her face relaxed a little as she read,
And gentle tenderness filled her brown eyes,
To silently back what her soft smile said.
And though each fleeting aspect often hies,
A loving look will linger for awhile;
Knowing you're loved begets a silent smile.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Ordinary Day

I suppose everyone dreams of a utopia or a special place, where the wrongs of our own world either do not exist or can be resolved by magic or just by caring friends and family. Mine always seems to include images from my favorite books, especially the fantasy works of Tolkien, Lewis, and Brooks; all mixed up with peace and plenty for all.

The images of an "ordinary" day in that wonderful place, I keep in a corner of my mind, as a refuge or redoubt -- a retreat from some of life's harsh realities. It is my special place, where I go when a procedure is painful, or I need a few moments to collect the ragged end of my emotions, frayed by an unexpected challenge or grand disappointment. Fear and anxiety cannot exist there, and once free of that pair, I can think freely and put things in perspective -- and that is on an ordinary day...

Mick


An Ordinary Day

I dreamed that I was in a wondrous land,
Where wizards cured diseases with a spell,
Or healers might, with a touch of their hand,
And a secret draught, make anyone well.
The rulers of the land were fair and wise;
The people were content and lived in peace.
The countryside was easy on the eyes,
And errant knights were the only police.
I moved from place to place with just a thought:
From room to room, or far as I could see.
Folks said it was a myth that wars were fought,
And none had ever heard of cruelty.
We celebrated life in ev'ry way,
And that was just an ordinary day...

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dream Canvas

I was blessed with the heart of an artist and the hands of a farmer with arthritis and a rusty bucket in which I cannot carry a tune. Entire symphonies, layered and deep intrude upon my musings and my sleep, but I have not the talent or training to write them down, nor the voice to bring them to life.

However, the world of words, not sundered from my life by any physical limitations, becomes the brush in my unsteady hand, the myriad colors upon my palette, the orchestra in my mind, and the chorus of my dream choir. I treasure the moments I am allowed to walk in that dream world, and find the mysteries waiting there for eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to embrace.

Mick

Dream Canvas

If I could write the music in my head,
And paint my words until they light the way,
Then dance unfettered, touching sky instead
Of letting all that beauty wash away.
If I could gather all the love I see,
I'd pour its essence deep upon the page,
So that the words alive inside of me,
Would live forever on the paper stage.
If I could sing an aria, profound
Enough to open all the wounded hearts
And souls, and share its loving healing sound,
I'd mend each broken spirit's fractured parts.
And though, my palette has but words, it seems
I'll paint upon that canvas in my dreams.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Train

How often I have heard folks tell me that, life is a journey and I should enjoy the ride. I suppose, like most Type A's early on, I was just like the people who built the expressways and superhighways across America. My focus was on the destination, not on the journey to the destination. Then, I got my first motorcycle and I learned quickly two very important lessons. First I learned that I did not like riding a small motorcycle on the expressway. Second, that it is important to enjoy the ride.

I no longer ride a motorcycle, but I have learned to enjoy the ride. All of life is a journey and I want my life to be that journey, punctuated with the spice and bitters of destinations along the way. If my life were just about destinations, more than half of it would be missing. Life is a journey. Enjoy the ride.

Mick


Train

I slept, and dreamt that I was on a train.
The coach in which I rode had no window.
I could not tell the weather, sun or rain,
Had no idea where the train would go.
The coach was larger, ever than I thought,
And it held more people than I could see.
All held tickets just like the one I bought,
Some were short, some were long, and none like me.
Folks got on and got off, I know not where,
And so, to pass the time, I made some friends,
Yet, when I turned around, they were not there.
So, I often asked when the journey ends.
They said I'd know, I'd feel it, deep inside,
In the meantime, I should enjoy the ride.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Blossom

Blossoms in the wind, dancing and dodging, wobbling about with every little gust, seem so delicate and frail they should simply break apart and scatter their petals upon the gale. Yet, they bend with the pressure, bending and shaking, nearly breaking, and rebound to display their beauty. Rooted firmly in good soil and lovingly cared for, it offers the joy of its presence and the reassurance of the tenacity of life.

Planting and cultivating a friendship, especially one that will be tried and tested again and again by life's stormy gales, requires a loving hand, careful watering and tending, and occasionally a little manure -- applied judiciously and spread very thinly. For those lucky spirits upon this ancient planet, who in the course of their lives have known true friends, I grant you may be the richest souls alive.

Mick

Blossom

A flower, pale, bright, dancing in the wind,
Chancing its petals upon whirling air,
An offer of beauty it can't rescind,
From root, it endures, bravely standing there.
Its life delicately touches my eye.
Its sweet, simple promise touches my soul.
Its honest spirit makes me want to try,
To capture its essence, to keep it whole.
A treasure because it’s so very rare.
Its seed so tiny it defies eyesight,
And cultivating it requires such care,
That few of us manage to do it right.
Yet, with hard work and lots of love to spend,
We can blossom, and become a true friend.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fun Park

When the evening shadows grow long, and the day has worked its frustrations and challenges out on my brain, I relax and let my mind drift a little on the evening breeze, a single seed from from a old maple tree -- spinning away -- a helicopter without purpose, drifting on the winds of twilight.

Ideas, dreams, visions, and images all spin away as quickly as they surface. Imperfect, partially formed, hazy, and indistinct, they dash away to play among the facts and realities of the world, until they come home to dance and relax, mix and mingle, in the 24/7 fun park of my subconscious mind. Sometimes, they come out and play, and a poem is born...

Mick

Fun Park

The westering sun left me in its wake,
Adrift in the cool blue ocean of sky,
An evening breeze then gave me a shake,
And let slip my thoughts to randomly fly;
Darting and dashing a firefly's track,
Among those creatures that live in the air,
So quickly, as though they're not coming back,
But they always come home, sometime, same where.
When the sky grows indigo, velvet dark,
And the air is pierced with diamond starlight,
My thoughts gather swiftly at the fun park,
To dance, and to sing, and cavort all night.
The park where my thoughts come home to unwind,
Is open all night: my subconscious mind.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dozer

Falling asleep in an easy chair sounds like an every day occurrence, but this has not always been so for me. I rarely napped, and while taking steroid medications in the last month and a half, I required chemical help just to get my eyes closed at night. Today, for some reason, I need help propping up my eyelids.

"Catching up on lost sleep," seems a favorite reason for snoozers worldwide to explain extra hours spent in bed or a long afternoon nap on a comfortable sofa. I don't know if I can catch up on over sixty years of sleeping only four to five hours a night, but I do know that I'd rather not start just now.

Mick


Dozer

I thought that sleep lost, was lost forever,
A leaf on the river gone to the sea.
That doesn't stop my body, however,
From trying to find the slumber for me.
Despite my best efforts to stay awake,
Though snugly ensconced in my easy chair,
I then come back to myself with a shake,
And realize I have been snoozing there.
At first this left me annoyed and upset,
Nodding right off, at the drop of a hat.
It seems, I need all the sleep I can get;
I guess I'll just have to get used to that.
The body has simple wisdom to share:
When tired, find rest, any time, anywhere.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cloudburst

I truly enjoy listening to rain tapping on the roof, especially when I don't have to go out into the wet weather. Walking along in the rain, when there is no wind, and you have an umbrella, can be an enjoyable experience -- but how often does that happen? At home, in the Keweenaw, I most often see rain moving sideways, being driven by a storm wind, and fighting an umbrella under those circumstances adds frustration to the whole soggy experience.

Today started with a slow, but steady rain, and I decided to try driving my car for the first time since January. All was fine until the return trip to the Gift of Life Transplant House, when the sky opened up and let loose a torrent which made vision near impossible in downtown Rochester traffic. However, I passed the test. Five minutes after I parked the car, the rain stopped and the sun came out. I like rain, I really do...but it can be overdone.

Mick


Cloudburst

I love to quietly listen to rain,
Tapping softly on our roof when falling.
The natural rhythms sky tears sustain,
To the music in my heart is calling.
And when in sync, the flow is powerful,
To make a pewter-gray day a jewel;
Instead of the dreary, drab, and hour-full,
Tests of patience so many find cruel.

To walk in a light rain is a pleasure,
If there's no wind, and you've an umbrella.
A bubble of dryness is a treasure,
To a slightly damp, but happy fella;
Not because the other walkers are damp,
From each dripping head to each soggy shoe,
As through falling sky-dew they're forced to tramp.
But then again, I smile -- maybe that's true...

Still there are times I find rain abhorrent,
Especially when I am caught outside,
And unzipped clouds pour forth in a torrent:
A deluge leaving me no place to hide!
I trudge along, taking a cold shower
In my clothes, but that may not be the worst;
Try driving a car, through traffic's power,
When near blinded by a sudden cloudburst.

In other words, I really love the rain;
But when overdone, it can be a pain.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Senescence

I've been thinking about growing older, a subject not in vogue for most of the last year, considering the challenges and uncertainty of those twelve months. However, it appears that, with the aid of modern medical chemistry and the application of multiple layers of paranoia about germs, I must consider getting older a possible outcome of the transplant process.

I've noticed changes that track very closely with those experienced by the older members of my family and some of my friends. Some nights, like a broken toy doll, if you sit me up my eyes close. If you lay me down, my eyes open. Ambient temperature has finally become a factor in my life, and I cannot determine why my eyebrows are reaching out from my face, as though to grab something. Always a dependable friend in the past, stairways have become my nemesis, for the steps appear to be propagating.

Maybe it's just me and my radical, new, senescent perspective on the world around me.

Mick

Senescence

I walk outside on a warm, sunny day,
And a sudden breeze make my skin feel cold.
On the sidewalk, I'm always in the way,
And why are all my young friends looking old?
I go to bed and I lie awake, wired;
Yet, ten minutes ago, dozed in a chair.
I sleep for long hours and wake up still tired.
Is my rest leaking out of me somewhere?
The hair on my head very slowly grows,
And stops in certain wide open spaces;
Yet it grows thick and quickly in my nose,
And other very unlikely places.
And though I've seen no construction, I swear,
They've made stairways longer everywhere.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Personal Rapture

When Roger Whittaker sings The First Hello, The Last Goodbye, I am always struck by the line: "They say the moment that you're born, is when you start to die." We forget that life is a temporary job and could lose that job without a lot of notice. Young people seem to have little sense of danger or personal mortality. Older people sometimes seem to simply give up and let their lease expire.

For those threatened by a disease or disaster which could or will end that life, the initial reaction (at least in my case) is fear of losing everything and of dying alone. However, many discover that by living each day as a gift, and as though it may be your last, you can live in the present, the precious present, and not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow is in God's hands and is His present to bestow.

Mick


Personal Rapture

It's so easy to lose track of the fact,
That we all have an expiration date.
Little wonder so many of us act,
As if life and health remain on our plate,
Until we decide that the meal is done.

Invulnerable, we think, in our youth,
Many seek out thrills for life is boring;
And in our old age, though we sense the truth.
We spend a great deal of our time snoring,
Or worse, we end up spending it alone.

For those whose illnesses threaten their lives,
Fragile veils of self-deception shatter.
The loss of children, of husbands, of wives,
Of leaving behind the things that matter,
Fills their hearts with fear for when they are gone.

The precious present, for those who find it.
Is treasure beyond any Earthly store.
Some day they will die, but they don't mind it,
Living each day as if gifted one more,
Loving the gift as though it's the last one.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Crystal Bridges

I have long believed that, when we think about someone we care for, a connection is forged that is untouched and unstained by distance and time. Concern, compassion, and love are powerful emotions that, at least momentarily, change our state of being from internalized thought to a broadcast channel of immense power. The closer we are to each other, the more we can "feel the love," and sense the underlying compassion and concern. A hug can be a life changing event.

Sometimes, when I pray, I can feel a connection with God -- the slightest, ephemeral whisper of a touch, yet overwhelmingly real and profound. Perhaps it is but the yearning of my heart to reach out and touch the face of God, or maybe He simply took my call. And someday, when I am done here, and go home, I am hoping for a universe changing hug.

Mick


Crystal Bridges

In a dream, I saw a bright glowing world,
A crystalline network, arches aglow,
Uncountable brilliant branches unfurled,
Flashing in myriad colors below.
For each glowing soul, the power of light,
Just waited to be given direction.
With each kind thought a crystal bridge took flight,
Forging a momentary connection,
A glistening conduit, bright gleaming,
Unseen, with whomever they thought about;
And a power surge, silently beaming,
Delivered the good they were sending out.
The image that warmed my own heart so much?
Each soul grew brighter with each gleaming touch.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Honoring the Gift

I am a lucky man to have friends and family who care about me at a time when I could spend all my hours feeling sorry for myself. Yet, I do not feel sorry for myself. During and while enduring the challenges of my illness, I learned a valuable life lesson. I have learned to live in the present.

For each new day is for me a gift from God. I strive to make the most of each one and to live each day to the fullest and to honor the gift of each new day.

Mick


Honoring the Gift

The joy of a sunrise near breaks my heart,
As the early light so wan yet pleasant,
Gives me the strength and the power, to start
Planning to make the most of my present.
For that precious present is all I need,
To fire my spirit and blood to rise,
So my tree of life, now a tiny seed,
In a single day can reach to the skies.
And if in that single day I can find,
Another soul in distress or in pain.
And in giving love and compassion, kind,
Offer solace sincere from stress and strain,
Without worry or doubt about short shrift,
I have given honor to God's great gift.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Faith, Love, Music

Sometimes I wake in the wee hours of the morning, my mind churning away on a problem or trying to make sense of the daily nonsense of life. Last night, I was dream-pondering about the relationship between music, faith, and love. Do they exist apart, or are they so entwined with the human heart that to remove one weakens the others? Yes, one could write music with no faith or love in the title or song lyrics, but from where springs the creative spark?

Academically, one can separate them, as one separates egg whites from yolks. In my heart and my life experience, faith vibrates in my soul, love soars with the beauty and power of a symphony, and under, around, and within it all is the music of my life. Even this biological shell I inhabit vibrates with electrical discharges and maintains a magnet field of sorts, a wondrous electrochemical entity. The music of the universe, God's music lives in me.

Mick

Faith, Love, Music

Awake in the dark still hours of the night,
I listened to the music in my heart,
And wondered could it possibly be right:
Can faith, love, and music exist apart?
The essence of all that I am says, "No!"
For music is more than notes on a page.
The triumph of song lets my spirit go,
Beyond the borders of illness or age.
For when I love, my spirit simply sings,
Severed from fetters and free to take flight.
Faith touches my soul with warm golden strings,
That resonate with pure love day and night.
Each treasured prayer that I pray is a song;
It lives in my heart, it has all along.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Eye to Eye

I must check carefully in the mirror each morning, to look for signs of changes to report to my doctors. Each morning, I search and each morning I find one unreportable change. I swear there is a different me looking back from the bathroom mirror. Oh, the face changes a bit, brought on by treatment with certain medications, and there is a bit of new beard to remove. But, there is something deeper.

It is in my eyes. Each day my eyes are frighteningly different to me. Having survived another day, and finding that God has granted me yet another day to live, brings a wistfulness and joy simultaneously that somehow deepens the depths of those familiar brown orbs and maybe the light flickering in those depths burns a bit brighter. Maybe I just expect to find fear, anxiety, and deep sadness there, and I don't find them...just the knowledge that I have another day to live.

Mick

Eye to Eye

The image in my mirror keeps changing,
Each morning, I rise to face a new face.
It's not that the parts are rearranging,
Or this morning, my nose found a new place,
Like somewhere behind my left ear to hide...
And yet, they are shocking to realize,
When I focus on the place they reside.
Look past the bright bathroom lights and the glare,
When I stare into the depths of my eyes,
And shiver, for that's not me standing there;
Though he looks like me, the right shape, right size,
But the eyes focus much farther away,
Grown wistful, deeper, and darker each day.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Big Boned

I've heard the phrase "big boned" since I was a lad, to describe most of the members of the paternal side of my family. Most of us (including me) started out skinny and tough as any kid on the block, but later added more than a few unwanted pounds. The whole big boned thing became the inside joke for an out-sized tragedy. We tend to be big people.

Still amazing to me is that I know of no paternal relative who has broken a bone. None. And that's not for lack of trying. I've fallen from icy roofs and off slippery ladders, and received only some nasty bruising. The question remains: Is it the bones or all that soft tissue padding that prevents breakage?

Mick

Big Boned

Wee Geordie, an ancestor must have been,
Or was somehow related to our clan,
For ev'ry male relative I have seen,
Has grown to be a large or burly man.
Skinny growing up, durable as hell --
I've never heard report of broken bone,
It's not we have not slipped or tripped, or fell
Or been dropped off a ladder like a stone.
There have been abrasions and cuts galore,
And nasty bruises when we hit the ground.
Perhaps those big bones let us carry more,
Of that wonderful soft-tissue padding around.
Or maybe that, pound-for-pound, ounce-for-ounce,
Big-boned people have a little more bounce.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011

At the Edge

I saw in the eyes of a fellow BMT patient, the shadow of a place I call the abyss. He is beginning the transplant process, and fearful, was seeking reassurance. We talked for a few minutes, and I told him of my own fears, and how I found living a day at a time, understanding that each new day is a gift from God, overcomes the fear.

It is a dangerous risk we take when we receive a blood and marrow transplant, but the alternative is death. I very nearly died on May 26, 2010 -- the day I was diagnosed with leukemia -- a fast approaching anniversary. For a time, I wandered in the abyss, afraid and feeling very alone. Family and friends gathered quickly around and I discovered I was not alone. Now I can stand at the edge of that abyss and know it is only fear down there, and I can walk away and get on with living each day.

Mick

At the Edge

The abyss is always nearby you know,
Some days I stand and look over the edge.
I peer at the swirling maelstrom below,
And I struggle with unwanted knowledge,
Of what terror that depth-less darkness hides.
For I have beheld with benighted eyes,
The shadowy horror which there resides,
And with hopeless voice my future scries.

It was there I first heard the mouth of fear,
The first soundless sound, just a breath of air,
The first nameless dread whispered in my ear,
First doubts and forebodings encountered there.
Then voice becomes voices, a gallery
Gathers to measure my every flaw,
Free-forming an image to frighten me,
From failures, regrets, and injuries raw.

My nightmare self-portrait subsumes the voices --
Now seated, the conversation must start
At a table filled with endless bad choices,
All interconnected, each breaks my heart.
My spirit, sickened, refuses to choose.
I search through my image's lifeless eyes,
To find only myriad ways to lose.
Only then to finally realize...

I'm facing a mirror within my mind.
The whispering voices are memories,
Of failures, regrets, and acts unkind,
That unlock my fear with self-hidden keys.
With faith and a mere speck of fortitude,
I turn from the table and walk away;
From the fear-soaked darkness and solitude,
To walk in the light, where fear has no sway.

Now I stand here staring at that dark hole.
I smile at the sun shining on my face.
I shiver, once at a chill in my soul,
Remembering still that gloomy, dark place.
I shake off the cold and gathering rime,
Its lure and pull have been made to cease.
For choosing to live one day at a time,
God's daily gift lets me live on in peace.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Subtle Symphonies

I've been known to shut my eyes when listening to beautiful music, the music that quickens the pulse but relaxes the spirit, the music that often brings tears to those closed eyes. From the rhythms of dancing Gypsies along a Romanian river to a waltz of flowers to the soothing sway of a nocturne, music can be subtle as a whisper or bring thunder from the heavens on Bald Mountain.

I've been known to shut my ears when the wondrous beauty of day and night dance with each other. I've watched the golden fire of the sun quenched in Lake Superior, only to see the silver ghost of the moon rise in response, plunging all into blue and indigo, flashing on the waves. Our own attempts at pushing back the night, stars shining up counterpoint the stars twinkling down, and the moving lights of vehicles become a river of stars. Morning sun plunging through the misty forest sings a mighty tune, and the subtle music of the heavens touches my soul. There is music all around to see and to hear, to taste and to smell, and to hold in the palm of your hand.

Mick

Subtle Symphonies

The music of the heavens calls to me,
Although, I'm certain, not to me alone.
Could day and night play such a symphony,
And leave unchanged all human minds but one?
Kaleidoscopic patterns in the night,
Send subtle, lifting, drifting, shifting hues,
In dancing shadowed, brilliant, flashing bright
Layers, all laced with deepest velvet blues.
Silver patinas grace the soft twilight,
As woodwinds, whispering of melodies
To come, infused with brilliant brass so bright.
A golden fanfare strumming through the trees,
Whose softly mellow chords that warm my eyes,
Build satin rhythms, blue and red to see,
The fiery tarantella of sunrise.

Else silver turns to pewter and the strain,
Becomes the rumbling, bumbling beat of drums,
The soaring strings in weeping of the rain,
Flash quicksilver in lightning's brilliant thrums.
The waltz begins, as fanfares clear the skies,
And rainbow chords play complex harmonies.
The sun and clouds weave music for the eyes,
And soothe my soul with subtle symphonies.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Monday, May 09, 2011

My Twilight

Over the past year, since my diagnosis with leukemia, I have begun to doubt that old phrase about "better living, through chemistry." (One of the major chemical companies used it as a slogan on radio and television many years ago.) In the last year, I've had drugs as innocuous as Tylenol and some that would burn a hole through a tile floor pumped into my bloodstream or popped down my pie-hole. A substantial number warn me that they may cause drowsiness, dizziness, stomach upset, sensitivity to sunlight, and a host of other wonderful side-effects.

At times, the compounded effects of these drugs, when hitched to my wagon alongside a healthy dose of fatigue, take me to a twilight state -- not quite awake and not quite asleep. I can hear you, distantly. I can respond to you, but slowly. This is not the comfortable warm fuzziness of day dreaming or the languorous swim back from a nap. This is swimming in Jello with my head below the surface. It is dim world, where I feel connected and detached at the same time. It is not intoxication, it's twilight.

Mick


My Twilight

You sound so yonder when you talk to me,
Your voice, as though descending from a cloud,
Touches my ear as would the distant sea:
Calling, singing, but never very loud.
Heard imperatives, bear no urgency,
Or penetrate my soft, fuzzy cocoon --
In my redoubt from all emergency,
Where nothing needs to happen "very soon."
So, I decide it's best a note to write,
But now my fingers feel so faraway,
And in this growing gloom, I'd need more light
To find a piece of paper anyway.
I will try to remember what you said,
At least, what has not leaked out of my head...

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Losing Hours

When I was introduced to the finite nature of my residence on this Earth upon hearing the words "you have leukemia," my future collapsed from a panoramic scope to a tiny lens in an instant. On the ambulance ride to the medical center, I faced backwards. There on that gurney, I watched miles slipping by at high speed as though sliding into my past without a view ahead...a rapidly receding past and no future. As I grew up, leukemia was a death sentence, and though I knew it was no longer a certainty, I now had an expiration date.

That was May 26, 2010, an anniversary swiftly approaching, stirring within me both gratitude for God's gift of each new day and trepidation about losing or wasting a second of those precious hours. Despite my best efforts to just accept and fill that time with the best I have to give, I still harbor fear of missing the treasures of hours that somehow fly away. It is a wonder I can sleep at all, and when I wake in the wee hours, sometimes I feel those hours flying away, lost forever...

Mick


Losing Hours

The hours sometimes fail to touch my soul,
To sway aloft on silent silver wings,
Or drift in darkness on wings black as coal,
And abandoned, my earthbound spirit sings.
Slow measure and dark melody, forlorn
Hymns that echo emptiness in their cry,
From my most human breaking heart are torn;
The plainsong of my soul streams to the sky.
In answer, silent wings may swift comply,
To carry me through golden instants bright,
Or lifted on unseen currents to fly,
And leave my spirit stranded in the night.
Although more hours each gifted day contains,
My fear of losing precious time remains.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Friday, May 06, 2011

Erratic Attic

In recent journal entries and e-letters, I have referenced my Erratic Attic. It is a weird and wonderful place, full of images, memoirs, and memories, and it can be difficult to describe. Therefore, I thought it would fun to describe a "first journey of discovery" to that exciting, yet dimly illuminated storage space.

I guess I never bought into the "Nurnberg Funnel" concept of the mind, even as a child I knew that it continued its business while I slept or worked on other things. When I began writing, I learned the value of "sleeping on" an idea, or a particularly tough prose nut to crack. The poem below is simply one little story about how I might have discovered a little darkness and a bit of magic in my Erratic Attic.

Mick

Erratic Attic

I went digging upstairs, in my attic,
Just thinking I might find some treasures rare.
After all, an attic must be static,
And what's put there ought to remain right there.
Yet, somehow my things have propagated;
And you cannot imagine my chagrin,
I found piles of stuff I thought I hated,
Right next to my good stuff, or all mixed in.
And somehow, my attic had grown larger,
I could no longer see its boundaries.
My flashlight was downstairs on the charger,
Yet in the murky gloom I saw with ease:
Boxes, trunks, and bags were cast and scattered,
Folders, files, and photos stacked in between,
And years of dust lay on things that mattered,
I don't know why I thought they would be clean...
Odd thing is, I had no trouble finding,
The things I knew I had recently stored.
As between those stacks my step was winding,
Were piles of dusty items tied with cord.
Was my attic now self-organizing?
And who was moving my old stuff around?
After all, who was I criticizing?
I must have put it all here, I'll be bound.

The first of many mirrors caught my eye,
It shimmered and it shone like liquid glass --
Couldn't touch the surface on my first try,
Somehow I missed on each successive pass.
I moved on to specula more stable,
To older mirrors, some of them with rime --
All reflected me, yet I was able,
To see the me was from another time.
Just beyond, some movement caught my vision,
Just in between the darkness and the light.
There, velvet on velvet, with precision,
Dark shadows danced at the edge of my sight.

I turned to run and stumbled in the gloom.
I fell and somehow landed on my bed.
I woke up from my nap in my bedroom,
And knew I had been visiting my head.
Perhaps the best description I can find:
My dark, erratic attic is my mind.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Shadow Puddles


I was just sitting on a stone pillar, atop Brockway Mountain (near Copper Harbor, MI) on a warm September day, with my camera set and ready to capture fall colors from the forest panorama -- much of it framed by the deep blue of Lake Superior. An artist's sky swung overhead -- brilliant blue with plenty of fluffy, puffy, white clouds moving rather rapidly before the wind. The sun was high, causing the clouds to cast shadows on the forest and on the surface of the big lake, shadows that chased each other through the valley and hills below.

I remember the incredible speed of the shadows, which seemed to change pace as they crossed the rugged terrain. Despite the chase, no two shadows connected. They just followed each other out of sight over the next ridge. Sometimes, it feels to me that I am chasing along behind one shadow and leading another, racing over rough terrain or blue water, and never quite connecting with any fellow shadows... leaving no trace of my passage...

Mick

Shadow Puddles

In open field, I sat upon a stone,
As scudding clouds drew shadow puddles, fast
Approaching where I chewed my thoughts alone,
I wondered if I'd feel them when they passed.
Touched cooler, yes, than full sun on my skin,
The shadow puddles played upon the field,
And rushed upon the wind, they raced their kin,
Though none could gain advantage, none would yield.
This playful trifle I might have ignored,
Yet, odd, there on my stone that I should find,
The passing puddles touched a deeper chord,
Played deep within the music in my mind --
A song whose message I could not rescind:
We're shadow puddles driven on the wind.

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Three Characters in Search of Me


In recent months, I've spent a lot of time writing about change and about who I am becoming, both as a result of the blood and marrow transplant and meeting the emotional and spiritual challenges of grappling with Graft vs Host Disease, sudden changes in my condition, and learning to live one day at a time. Throughout those journals of my journey, I ponder and reflect upon that search.

I was put in mind of the three characters or faces of us all: The one we show others, our true character or face, and the one we believe is our true face. I wondered, if I am searching for the real me, which of these characters can help me in my search? It started out as a bit of fun, but brought me to a serious question: Should our three faces be in harmony with each other, and would that mean the face you see really be me?

Mick


Three Characters in Search of Me

Meticulously made, the mask you see,
It's pattern so familiar to my friends --
So difficult to tell where the mask ends,
And where begins the rest of the real me.
How can this character help me find me?

Beneath the public mask, my private face,
A visage carefully long set apart,
And dancing to the music of my heart,
Without concern for vanity or grace.
Can this character help me in my chase?

Behind them all, an aspect, I believe
Exists as one true face that plays no role,
The one that tells the story of my soul,
A face my soaring spirit would conceive.
What can this character help me retrieve?

I'm faced now with this trichotomy:
The countenances may be a disguise,
When viewed by a variety of eyes,
And yet if they were all in harmony --
Would not the face you see be the real me?

Mick McKellar
May 2011

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Glances

Beginning with the gift of life from my brother Kevin, I began sharing my journey through the blood and marrow transplant process. A mailing list given over to sharing my poems, suddenly became a daily journal of challenges, victories, set backs, and lots of memories rushing in to fill the long hours spent waiting, praying, fighting, crying, and shivering against a burning rash. It was not an easy decision to share so much, both because the content could not be more personal and because I feared none would care about such a personal journey into the past, mixed with the daily challenges of the BMT process.

Imagine my surprise when my friends and family asked me to continue! I nearly ran and hid away in my erratic attic -- my dusty, musty mind. However, poking about in there has proven both useful and surprising for me, and sharing some of what I have found has helped clarify my responses to daily challenges and changes. Viewed through the new eyes of a soul that takes each new day as a gift from God, each new breath as a gift from my brother, and each moment as a treasure to be shared -- those bags of dusty old memories and those many mirrors in my mind demand I consider sharing them. This poem, my first in many long months, describes my decision to share.

Mick

Glances

I ran among the mirrors in my mind,
And fearing any inadvertent glance
Would touch my eye, or else that I should find,
Another presence watching me by chance,
So suddenly suspicious and afraid,
Blind panic robbed my reason and my wit;
Until by dusty bags of thoughts delayed,
I chose a smaller one and sat on it...

While sitting on the bag, as still as stone,
I calmed myself down, as I knew I must.
I'd always felt as though I were alone,
When shuffling among cobwebs and dust,
When peeking into mirrors old and new,
When sorting through my musty memories,
When seeking shadows, hoping for a view
Down into why they grow like a disease.

I pondered in the hazy, silent gloom,
What caused me both to startle, and to run
Around within my ancient storage room:
The feeling that a new change had begun!
It happened when I opened up a door,
And shared the contents of my dusty bags.
Then opening some windows, I shared more,
By dusting off my mirrors with old rags.

As I discover memories long sought,
And search among them with a focus small,
Assessing if the recollections caught
Within them should be shared with one and all;
Then having shared so many recently,
Among my family and many friends,
I'll share whatever cleans up decently --
And hope and pray the sharing never ends.

Mick McKellar
May 2011