# 103:

Human beings
may be the only animals
that wonder.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





Fever




I was about 12 years old and my fever kept rising.

I suppose it was a bad case of the flu. I can’t remember precisely. It may have been mononucleosis. As my temperature rose unchecked, I slipped into a place between life and death, a hallucinatory place. There before me was an immense stone floating impossibly in the air.

After all these years I still have a precise memory of that vision. It was a message that took me many years to understand, something hard to put into words, something about faith, something about a spiritual place, an eternal place where the normal laws of physics do not apply.

A few years ago I put my vision into a poem.

THERE IS WILDNESS HERE

There is wildness here,
Raw and raging
Beneath this exterior,
Pulsing.

There are visions here
Of soaring over lifetimes of leaf-filled trees
And rust-colored hills,
Over yellow fields,
Over oceans.

There is forgetting here
Of the small things people say,
The small things people do.

There is a last angry echo
Of the unheard voice,
The deeper self,
The truer self,
The wilder self
That wearies of all man-made things.

There is a silence here
That grows and infuses,
Like the melancholy tint
Of an old photograph,
An old photograph you walk around in,
Examining with wonder the frozen, yet flowing
Moments of a life.

There is a wildness here
That rises like an immense stone,
Floating impossibly
In the pure blue sky
Of a secret spring.



~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Castle in the Pyrenees by René Magritte
© All Rights Reserved

# 55:

Answers can be found in silence.


~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





Collections


The first things I collected were stuffed animals, but only two of them slept with me at night. Of all my furry friends and playmates, I dearly loved the little gray cat and flop-eared brown dog who slept under the covers and kept me from feeling lonely at bedtime. I sleep with a little calico cat named Sally now who likes to snuggle into the crook of my arm.

I’ve never lived anywhere very long without cats. My grandmother collected stray cats, and so did I, having about a dozen when I lived next to a farm.

I collected small metal cars and loved to drive them around cities I made from colored blocks.

When I was 17 years old I raced my Ford mustang at Irwindale Raceway and won a few trophies.

I collected 45 rpm records, songs I heard on the radio. I listened to them over and over again. Each week when I went to the music store for my trumpet lesson, I bought a new “single” to add to my collection. I pretended I was a disc jockey and would announce each record I played.

One summer I won a contest on radio station KFWB by being the first caller. I talked to disc jockey Gary Owens and he sent me a Gary Owens coloring book and KFWB bumper sticker.

 When I was a newspaper reporter in Newport Beach, California, I also did daily newscasts for a local radio station. Someone told me they heard my broadcast in a supermarket where the station was playing.

 I collected coins and stamps, ordering them from catalogues and putting them into albums. I looked through everyone’s pennies, trying to find  a 1909-S VDB, the rarest of Lincoln pennies. It never turned up. I learned that the reason certain coins and stamps were worth so much money was the same reason I’d never find them.

 As I grew up, my collections shifted from things to experiences. I collected friends, lovers and accomplishments. I collected books I’d read—favorite stories and favorite poems. I collected knowledge and learning. I collected songs and poems I wrote. I collected performances I played as a musician. I collected the talented musicians I played with. After I became a newspaper reporter, I collected my best published stories. I collected every famous and interesting person I met.

I collected family photographs, all the way back to stiffly posed portraits of great-grandparents, arranging them in albums. I collected my family, my parents and grandparents, my sisters and brothers, my wife and the many years of our marriage, the companionship of my sons, the infectious laughter of my blonde-haired, blue-eyed granddaughter.

I collect memories, and as I grow old they reveal meanings I’d never fully understood. I collect the acts of kindness I’ve received and try to pass them on to others. I collect wisdom and continue to learn and relearn the lessons I’ve been taught from those still living and those who have passed on, their words still speaking to me.

I’ve collected my many shortcomings, my failures and my sins, for which I ask forgiveness in my many prayers.

 I collect the joy and the sadness in this world, the tragedies and victories of the spirit, the damnations and the revelations. Sometimes it’s all too much and so I pack some of my collections away in boxes, knowing I can always unpack them if need be, knowing I’ll never look inside some of those boxes again, knowing all things change and life should move forward, mindfully forward.

My house is full of things useful and decorous, impractical and silly, remnants of a long life. I look at these objects and they remind me who I’ve been, who I still am. Someday I’ll leave all my collections behind, passed onto others to forge new meanings, so grateful for having lived here on Earth awhile.



~ Text and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 124:

New is temporary.
Shabby is eternal.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




The Music Of Sound





S ome people are more visual, some more audial. For me, it was always sound that penetrated my senses deeper than anything else.


I love sound, all kinds of sounds. Like young people everywhere, I found emotional refuge in music while I was growing up. Music was a drug that restored the chemical imbalances in my brain. I loved sound so much I even became a musician for a few years.

So many of the sounds in everyday life sound like music to me, even voices, and that caused problems in elementary school. I was never very good at math, but I had the added challenge of a math teacher with a Swedish accent, Mr. Westman. Every word he spoke sounded like a note. His sentences collected into melodies. His classroom lectures were sonatas some days, jazz improvisations other days.

Then, every once in a while my name poked through the melodic line: “Russell! What is the answer?” I didn’t even know the question. And even when he repeated the question, all I could hear was the music of his voice. I shook my head to signal my complete confusion, accompanied by the laughter of my far more attentive classmates.

Near the end of the school year Mr. Westman asked me to meet with him at one of the outdoor wooden lunch tables. “Russell, I’ll be giving you a grade of D on your report card,” he gravely intoned. “I want you to know that this is a gift.” All I could think to say was, “Thanks!”

                                                  ~~~

One of my earliest memories is of the record player at my grandparent’s house next door. It was so tall I had to stand on a chair to turn it on. It was a 78 rpm record player on the top of a large mahogany cabinet that also had a small, black-and-white television and a radio. I managed to turn it on to play the record already on the turntable. The booming sound of the music was magic.

One afternoon I was listening once again to the old scratchy recording of the song,  “New San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. My grandfather was from Texas and the record was one of his favorites. Suddenly the sound slowed down and I thought some kind of monster was emerging from the music. It sounded like the voice of some awful demon accompanied by a train wreck. It was incredibly frightening. That was the day I learned what electricity was, and what could happen if its magic flow was briefly interrupted, for the demon and the train wreck quickly disappeared, and like a movie run backwards, the music reassembled itself and rose again from the darkness of some terrible underworld.
Moon in all your splendor knows only my heart,
Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone,
Lips so sweet and tender like petals fallin' apart,
Speak once again of my love, my own.
Yes, that was the day my grandfather taught me something about electricity. I also learned something very important that day about fear.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

# 65:

At ocean’s edge,
the tide pushes me back,
then pulls me forward.

I try to balance myself
between its inevitable,
contrary motions.



~ Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Tombstones

















When I was eight, I dreamed I was standing outside my school on the grass with my classmates, waiting for my mother to pick me up, when the boys and girls around me began to sink silently into the ground. Where each had stood, a tombstone rose. I was alone, surrounded by tombstones.

Now that I am old, old and older, the tombstones are real.



~ Text and photo by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved