N a p a l m H e a l t h S p a : R e p o r t 2 0 0 8
How to Compose
Q. Can I borrow the music
when I no longer hear it?
A. To write your way out of darkness is possible.
First, set yourself on fire.
Then, as whatever can be destroyed is burned away,
search for the spareness and brevity that remains,
the way moonlight pierces curtains.
Give up effort entirely,
languish, the way my fingers
radiate from my palm
yet remain embedded in my hand.
Or how without effort when I lift my hand
there remains an imprint,
an echo on the page
of something generated in another world.
Miles Davis's First Memory
I saw that blue flame [of a gas stove] and felt Š fear, real fear, for the first time in my
lifeŠ. The fear I had was almost like an irritation, a challenge to go forward into
something I knew nothing about. That's where I think my personal philosophy of life and
my commitment to everything started, with that moment. -Miles Davis
Who knows how these things come to be
but in a dream I came across a youth,
I saw him as I see you now.
He was wondering where he came from
where he was going
and so forth.
It was as if he was descending
a dark staircase into a darker
and deepening darkness.
I could follow him down,
going back to where I was before
or I could follow another route very near
the stairway he was on-one that rose into the sky
on the wings of chansons and so forth.
And then I just stepped over.
Music is coming through
the walls. The musician is dead,
and his music travels from the other room
to where it's headed-the melody simple,
the touch certain, the notes precise,
the nuances like pennants
hung upon a line, or stones dropped into a pond-
the melody a rope tossed across the incomprehensible,
the light in a black wind that blows toward us,
an envelope steamed open and a letter stained in red,
a school of incandescent fish,
a hillside of parrots in panicked flight
granite sculptures of naked women,
their faces the grey of marble columns,
the voice in your head that's not your own-
but of course that's what
any artist does-gives us hymns
so beautiful we almost believe
because they're as real
as only a lie can be-
and then fourteen extraordinary lines
before he pauses halfway through the chorus,
as if to suggest that in two years he'd be dead.
Nothing is ever
what it seems so I
just go blindly into it-
that has always somehow
to just go blindly into it.
Non compos mentis (no power of mind)
There is nothing
to be done it just
goes on and on-for
instance, what are we to
make of these blossoms
like a cloud of bees
by which the flowergirl
hands us beauty?
Hiking the Talus Slope to Notchtop Mountain
Golden sunlight on schist.
Long's Peak a block of granite
four miles high.
In avalanche areas the aspens
bend downhill. When an elk
chews on aspen bark it grows bitter
and will never be chewed on again.
The branches of the firs and spruce
shed snow and so are the only trees
that survive in areas of heavy snowfall.
If you sit long enough, wildlife
will surround you.
Walking into the Crater
Looking back, I realize I prepared myself, consciously and unconsciously, for everything
that was about to happen. What launched it all was an impulse to act, as if someone or
something was pushing me, waking me, urging me to hurry.
But whatever pushed me soon stalled. I wasn't ready and the effort became an obstacle.
This setback allowed me to build the strength and resources I needed to eventually
succeed. There is an alpine lily that gathers energy for nineteen summers and on the
twentieth summer blooms and dies. Just so I gathered whatever strength I could and
entered the forest, not in ignorance but in confidence.
Success is beginner's luck-random events accomplished with the assistance of unseen
powers and guides. I owe my lucky escapes to those who made them possible, to those
who lifted me out of my own way and dragged me against my will whenever I decided to
abandon the adventure.
Once inside the forest I met a woman who led me into the lower world, where I lost
everything. I lost my loved ones, I lost my money, I lost my health, I lost my grasp of
the adventure. Still, I maintained faith in the future even though everything was going
wrong. I waited for the storm to pass because I knew that was what I had to do. By doing
nothing, by not struggling against what was happening even when it was undeserved and
unfair, I learned to listen better and to wait for what was about to happen.
And then I was betrayed. Good luck turned away. The magic that had brought me this far
was broken or lost. Nothing was as it seemed to be when I first started out. In an effort to
save myself I betrayed another version of my self, my next self. I broke promises, I
abandoned my principles. I got my hands dirty, I behaved shamefully. I believed I was in
danger but it was like something that was happening to me. I realized I was being hunted
and had only one desire-to escape.
Then darkness set in. In darkness I found what it was I was looking for. I found my
ideals, my goals, my life's purpose. But, immersed in darkness, someone had to pull the
curtains open to fill my eyes with light. After that, I moved forward under my own
On the journey back, I was guided by what I remembered of what the elders had told me
back when I had no way of understanding what they were talking about. I understood
what had come before and what was about to happen.
I returned to ordinary life, but with a piece of magic in my pocket. Every moment is
different from all the others because in every moment of brilliance a darkness has been
Now I know what to do. I travel through my days and hand a little piece of magic to
those who are unknowing, to those who will need it later on.