OF PEACEFUL CONVERSATION

This is really weird, but the other night Pam and I had almost the exact same dream but with a different cast of characters . The essence of the dream was being in the middle of a group of our friends, feeling like outsiders, trying to belong…but ultimately, feeling alone.

It brought me back to thoughts of Bismarck, North Dakota and a famous cultural shrine, a drive in called the Big Boy on the east side of town. Since 1954, it made its mark on Main Street as a great place to eat and a fun meeting place.

Their pizza burger flying style
was the epicurean centerpiece of teenage fine cuisine, and the drink of choice was a Hot n’ Tot made with cinnamon and coke. Also on the menu were specialty shakes and malts like the Calypso, Brown Cow and the familiar standbys as well.

There was a car line that usually stretched along Main Street, crossing a a railroad track that took you thru a drive thru lane to a little speaker box where you placed your order. Another favorite menu item for me was a foot-long hotdog with pickles, onions, mustard and ketsup. A lot of kids liked ordering gravy so they could dip their fries in it. After you pulled up to the pick-up window to pay and get your food, you drove on to the big parking lot in back.

With evening came a moonlit stage
and a blended scent of English Leather, Aqua Net, the exhaust from cars, the deep fryer and grill fans of the kitchen and the smoke from a Winston or an occasional Swisher Sweet.

There usually were couples on a date, a carload full of screaming girls, or guys suffering the effects of full blown testosterone awkwardly saying the wrong things to impress, while others sat on the hood of their cars spooning their cherry marshmallow snows, talking and laughing til the lights in the parking lot were turned off.

We had a sense of safety there with few cares and a fledgling freedom to drive a car and stay out late. In the parking lot we knew most everyone. In some obscure way, we were becoming then the people we’ve become…with some grand moments in life along with chapters we wish had never been written. Nevertheless, life continues on.

I have to admit I was so immature that I always felt like a participant who didn’t belong in the circus I was in the middle of. So with that dream, Pam and I realized this feeling has been resident in us both, most of our lives. But I guess, everyone has a little catch in their psyche in some respect. It’s just one of those human things.

Was it the place or people that our smiles and memories share…. or beauty of the sentiment that came from just being there. Is that the Pavlovian potion that keeps us returning to the scene of the times?

We were comrades facing the future, our fears and the unknown, but it was okay, because we were in it together. We had peaceful conversations for the most part. I miss that in the conversation today. Of course I can’t live in the past, but there sure are times I wish I could.

I’m feeling like an Alpine burger just now.

ALONG MISSOURI BANKS

When I was younger, I took a trip on the river from Washburn, North Dakota to the shores of Bismarck near the Memorial Bridge. This is a reflection of that experience.

ALONG MISSOURI BANKS

An eerie calm as I canoed
the wide Missouri drifts
A breeze fed
the odiferous blend
of rotting moss and fish

But suddenly my spirit soared
all nature spoke out loud
I sensed the ones who walked this land
their legends and the sounds

Arikara and Mandan here
the proud Hidatsa too
Hunkpapa tribe and Sitting Bull
of the Lakota Sioux

I heard the Pow Wow celebrate
with drums their beating heart
and felt the dance of culture thru
the windblown trees and clouds

Then I recalled my mom was raised
at Indian training school
assimilating native kids
replete with white man’s rules

I never thought to ask her once
what living there was like
or if she’d known the methods used
to purge their way of life

I thought of Conrad Hairychin
my friend in junior high
presented tough when he was pushed
and not afraid to fight

Yet walking home from
school with him
along Old Highway 10
I saw a different side that seemed
more vulnerable and sad

This native born American
told how his life was spent
In daily living bigotry
I couldn’t comprehend

O that was then and later on
I moved to Tennessee
Whose Andrew Jackson president
had fought at New Orleans

But endless twenty dollar bills
on which his face appears
won’t be enough to pay for lives
lost on his Trail of Tears

I see that all throughout my life
I’ve eased on so secure
but how I need to understand
the pain that some endured

That’s why that river ride I took
was rich and I give thanks
for seeing more of what God sees
along Missouri banks

A poem by Greg Nelson
© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

SAPLING YEARS

O there are times I will escape
for just a little while
and I can muse on days that were
of war and flower child

And just by chance the other night
They had a 60s dance
remnants of some local bands
together once again

This seasoned crew thru rusted strain
recalled their glory days
and still their shake and rattle rock
Had never rolled away

They brought me back to draggin’ main
with radio blaring strong
My reckless voice sang every word
of Byrds and Beatles songs

With each verse I came of age
the titles spoke the year
in painful tunes
of love I lost
and dreams
that never were

So here’s to music memories
of puppy love
and fears
and tunes I played on
forty fives
back in the sapling years

A poem by Greg Nelson
© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

THE WOUND HEALER

The story of CS Lewis and poet, Joy Davidman, “Shadowlands” has been told in film and on stage. The film version summary is far different than the stage play. The film reckons the pain we feel in old age is payment for the good times we had in our youth. The stage play maintains that the pain we feel in life is God chipping away at us.
Well God is chipping away at me.

Excuses ruin authentic apology, and I only get one chance at that, because with all subsequent regrets, the voracity of my remorse is suspect. In short, people have a difficult time trusting my vacillating word.

I’m highly excitable, and when on a subject for which I have great feeling, my passion is a bane, self control becomes abated and there is emotional debris. The fruit of the Spirit is sullied, tremendous shame follows and it’s at that point I understand my spiritual condition. What is lost? Well, I lose once vibrant relationships, I lose self respect, and lose a measure of communication with my Creator.

But pain is a wound healer that obliterates the frivolous and does the deep spiritual cleaning that is so needed.

Now for the Good News.

God lifts me to safety, comforts me in all of my struggles, compassionately gives me overflowing hope and won’t ever leave me. This is the Christmas story, a message of redemption, forgiveness and promise from God’s heart to ours, through the Holy Spirit and accomplished by a baby in a manger who is Christ the Lord, Emmanuel…God with us.

Merry Christmas!

THE LIVING POOR

How desperate those who run aground

of hope and basic needs

When all our cares and want are met

it’s hard for us to see

Our duty eased in partial truth

that God will care for them

and then with comfort’s callousness

dismiss their humanness

When we avail the vulnerable

We lend unto the Lord

for He is close to broken hearts

the crushed and ones forlorn

The question then when penury

attends these struggling souls

Would thought of kind solicitude

complacency withhold

The poor will always be with us

as care of widowed wives

and orphaned ones in faith described

as pure and undefiled

Do unto others as yourself

the golden rule implores

This ageless truth remains with us

as do the living poor

A poem by Greg Nelson

© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

THE PLEASURES THAT WE HEAR

O music the transcendent gift
our minds it’s soulful wings
that soar throughout the intertwine
of pain and lovely things

We cannot comprehend but feel
the treasure that it is
This human passion that conveys
in ways words can’t express

For notes on page are soon transformed
into the beauty played
on canvases of quietness
with lines musicians paint

The anguished chords of love and grief
impassioned melodies
Find in rest the irony
that silence louder speaks

And too the voice of romance lost
and feelings that we feel
A calendar of memories
with joys that are still real

For music knows no cruelty
to blame or to forgive
But the pleasures that we hear
yes only God could give

THINGS MADE NEW

The last of fall now whisks away
with autumn’s final breath
Fluttering like butterflies
leaves take their final rest

These desiccated lie in state
on combed quiescent grass
then burned in piles like funeral pyres
and left to smoldering ash

But nature has sweet aspirant dreams
like buds of fall on branch
in wait before the maiden snow
with hope to flower again

Yet they will face dark freezing nights
that dead of winter brings
But one day these will burst to life
as blossoms in the Spring

What meaning does this hold for me
There’s questions left to ask
How were we made and when we die
Is there a second chance

Ageless words say dust to dust
We each have our own view
But in my heart I hold this truth
God makes the flower bloom

A poem by Greg Nelson
© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

SOME ROADS

What mystery the North Star beam

That guides on thru the night

Clearly shines it’s brilliant flame

Deep rooted in the sky

With Ursa Minor diamonds lit

Ablaze the scintillant dunes

It burns as midnight slips away

nigh soft the milken moon

Before the myths of Ancient Greece

or Adam begged a breath

Polaris sparkling pendant fired

above the firmament

Close to the north celestial pole

of all the stars to pick

It’s been the ages truest guide

For vagabonds and ships

but now some notion better ways

of finding paths preferred

No want to trust the starlit way

to navigate this earth

Though Sirius more radiant

within the heaven’s spill

Yet North Star far off distant dwarf

each year grows brighter still

this lodestar does not rise or set

and never really changes

a guarantor much safer than

some roads that I have taken

A poem by Greg Nelson

© 2020 by Poppie’s Hallel (BMI. Admin. by Amplified Administration)

GRATEFULNESS

Ever wonder how you ended up doing what you do for a living? You know, like where did that “want to” come from. It struck me that I’m unable to explain to others how that happened for me. I certainly didn’t, in my wildest imagination, dream that I would end up a producer and writer.

My childhood was very uneasy. A musical and scholastic failure in most every way, under a cloud of talented siblings, an annoyance to most people with whom I came into contact, and dealing for a time with an adult who felt that their pleasure was more important than my innocence. I was embarrassed and couldn’t tell anyone…you just didn’t talk about weird stuff like that. It was certainly not a good way to begin my life. I can remember as a 12-year-old boy, sitting on the front lawn of my house at 429 Shirley Street and thinking that I could hardly wait to die because it had to be better than what was happening to me then. There was absolutely no hint of creativity in me whatsoever…not anywhere.

But for an intersection with a living, breathing angel, I have no idea where I would have ended up. It was this teacher, born to be a teacher, who gave me introductory lessons on the cello, and asked me to tell her a little about myself. I didn’t know what to say because my life sucked, and the thought of that struck an emotive chord in me. Upon her asking, I was powerless to conceal the tears welling up in my eyes. I didn’t understand my reaction then, but as I look back now…it is perfectly clear. No one ever had bothered to ask me about me before….but it confirmed in my heart that she actually cared about me. She introduced me to the cello…and I took to it like stink to a skunk. Playing the cello changed my outlook on life and gave me a reason to live…a reason to hope. It is my real friend for life…not that I’m a great player…but my cello is a great friend.

Why do I bring this up when it is all in my book, “Runaway Horse”? Because it’s the foundational background of how I’ve come to view the origin of my creativity. Was I such a brilliant organized thinker who planned out my entire career step by step? Well if you know anyone who really knows me…that ain’t in the realm of possibility. When you have nothing but a vast expanse of nullity in the left side of your brain (except for a little monkey that sits in a lawn chair and eating banana cupcakes all day long) you will understand that my processing skills are in a continued state of lostness out in the hinterlands of Oblivia, and the possibility of ever finding the remotest logical thought …is like hoping to prove the Loch Ness monster is real.

Other choices surrounding the origin of creativity is the thought that it’s all just serendipitous or…or even genetic. In JD Vance’s book, Hillbilly Elegy he talks about living in a backwoods culture. His thought was that when you live in an impoverished setting for a long time, you began to internalize inferiority and surmise that your poverty and lack is in a sense, genetic. I understand that because that was my mindset in the early stages of my development as a child. I was beginning to internalize that nothingness.

Finally…..There was a “turn on a dime” experience. I found someone who was a caring encourager whose gift was the ability to nurture the hopeless. Where do you get that? it changed my life forever …it was like… BOOM….. and a creative spark was lit in me. Long story short…what ensued was unbelievable opportunity, awards, honors and recognition. As a result, my despair was transformed into “what could be “excitement, and so much overwhelming attention I could not possibly grasp it all.

My life became an adventure I could never have planned or remotely imagined. It was like going to the candy store everyday. I never had the inkling that I was working. Bricklayers work….construction workers work….farmers work. I got to make stuff up and make music…that just never struck me as work. I had the thrill of standing on the studio floor with the finest orchestral players in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and London. These are the best American and European musicians you could ever imagine.

I will never be able to adequately convey to you the feeling that rises up through you. You are met with the offering of sum total of these musician’s musical training and experience. The music flows through you in waves of emotion. It is an experience transitioning from rising streams of grandeur reaching a climax surpassing the most epic movie you have ever seen…then melting into moments of tender visceral beauty. As you stand there the beauty overtakes you and you find yourself creating your own sound pictures. Suddenly you’re lost in a vision of something like… a smudgy faced little waif in her colorless torn dress…handing you a drooping dandelion…and the music is so magical that you have to catch yourself almost reaching for her flower. That’s how powerful the experience is to me.

The first time this happened to me was in London and the first of many recording projects at Abbey Road. When the day of recording was complete, I went back to the hotel. As I was lying in bed with my wife, I turned to her and said, “I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this.” It was incomprehensible to me. You see I didn’t graduate from Berklee, Curtis, USC, Julliard, Manhattan School of Music, Miami’s great jazz program, , University of North Texas with they’re great lab bands or Cleveland. Everyone I worked with had….but not me. I remember sitting in the commissary of a studio I was at and everyone was sort of making fun of the other ‘s institution of learning . They were all the schools I just mentioned. As the dialogue continued they asked me, the producer where I studied. I said Mary College in Bismarck, North Dakota. Everything got quiet and they changed the subject.

My answer to the orgin of creativity is this. I can only reckon that he source of my creativity came not by chance, genetics or the sum total of my life experiences alone. The source of my creative abilities came from a power much greater than myself, and I can only view it as a gift… as heavenly charity. I had no more to do with it than I did the color of my skin……no question…I worked very hard, but I have seen just as many people work as hard but did not have this specific gift.

SO WHAT’S YOUR POINT GREG…GET TO THE POINT!!!!! SHEESH!!!!!!!

I believe that how I answer the question of the origin of my creativity has much to do with the way I view others and the world around me. When I come to the conclusion that I was given a gift, I become very grateful …very grateful indeed. But when I have the notion that I’m solely responsible for my success, there is greater ease or tendency to diminish anything or anyone around me. It’s as easy as a quick judgmental look, name-calling, hateful thought or action, because it’s all about me, what I do and….what I’ve done.

Dr. Steven Stonsny, wrote this in his piece entitled, “Anger In the Age of Entitlement”, “Appreciating you enhances life ….Failure to appreciate you diminishes it.” When I’m grateful for what’s been given to me, I’m exponentially more likely to appreciate the gifts in others and value them in kind. My gratitude does not diminish my significance, but moreover, enhances my life. Even when a gift is received, it can be received in a spirit of thankfulness or with the mentality of entitlement …”I deserved it.”  My choice is the former.

Gratefulness is a positive powerhouse in life. In today’s societal swim, gratefulness is a vibrant thread in our moral weave, the marrow of the backbone our country and one of the most important essential oils nurturing every world culture. Gratefulness for what we have been given offers us tremendous freedom…. and that freedom gives our lives limitless opportunities, opportunities for good,,,, opportunities to make this world a better place for our children when we are long gone.

CLOSE TO YOU

CLOSE TO YOU

I’m especially loving Pam today. I don’t have to have a reason, because just knowing her…just being with her evokes something deeply joyful…something thankful in me. The lyricist, Hal David wrote “on the day that she was born the angels got together and decided to create a dream come true”, but I don’t think any angel made this dream come true… that decision was made by a much greater authority. He surely did sprinkle moon dust in her hair and a starlight in her eyes. She’s so beautiful to me.

I’m listening to “Close To You”with Ron Isley singing David’s lyric on a beautiful bed of Burt Bachrach’s music. I’ve been in music as long as I can remember and I get amazed all over again by its ability to move my heart in ways that are indescribable. With only twelve notes in a scale, used by truly gifted songwriters, composers, arrangers, orchestrators and artists, their passion reaches down into my heart and take me to places I could never visit in the physical. These are special places, deep… soulful places. Regardless of genre, music of every leaning has a way of speaking to me.

I want to honor all musical styles from all over the world. Valuing the music of a others is a healthy way of learning respect for people groups, countries and cultures. It’s great to have an appreciation of a particular style of music that is meaningful to you. Unfortunately some feel it important to talk with distain about music and a culture they don’t really understand. There are those who think their fellows are ignorant who cannot appreciate the music they revere. Leonard Bernstein alarmed the classical purists with his obvious appreciation of various genres, but he understood the cultural relevance of other forms. Music is not a little harbor…but an expansive ocean of styles and conveyance. When you think about it and see it for what it is, expecting people to only appreciate one musical path, it’s actually refusing to allow for different ways humanity views and absorbs the theatre of life. There are many windows of divergent expression, and all reflected in the creative’s pen and voice.

It is the sum of their lives, what they see, where they’re from, what they experience, their families and the way they were raised, their ethnicity and culture, places they’ve lived, the influence of art, music, writing and political outlook. The confluence of all of this forms a lyrical and musical philosophy. What emanates from these artists is reconstituted in their psyche, and emerges as a unique utterance. After the technical discipline is established, the power of any creative artist is in the sum total of their life experiences.

Music resurrects pain and soothes it all in the same breath. It is a combination of conscious and unconscious thought. It says what we can’t. It can cries when we don’t have any tears left…It smiles when we can’t….it can put its loving arm around us and tell us… “it’s going to be okay.”

 

The abilities of great artists and musicians have certainly been finely honed to be sure, but for me…and again I speak just for me…even though the artist is intentional to be excellent and has diligently worked themself to the bone…the marrow of talent is of spiritual content… and that for me is a gift from God.

 “Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near? 
Just like me, they long to be… close to you”

Yep.