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Archive for April, 2020

Installment 121

April 4 to April 9, 2020

Beloved,

I have started many conversations with you – so many that I can’t count them – only to discard them as being too “ranty” and too immersed in the anxiety and fear that has overtaken much of the world and which I have already discussed with you in several conversations. Now, in addition to the political chaos engendered by an incompetent administration in this country, we are also in the middle of an international pandemic which is sweeping across the planet and causing major panic and dread with cases in every country, on every continent as the death toll reaches alarming numbers.

Entire nations are recommending that their citizens (excluding essential and health care workers) stay at home to limit exposure; hospital capacity is stretched to its limits in almost every nation; restaurants are offering only drive through or carry out service; schools are closed; nearly every country has ground to a halt. I have never seen such a thing in all my seventy years of life – freeways are devoid of traffic in Los Angeles (a thing I never expected to see) and New York’s Times Square is empty of passersby. Even the polio epidemic in the 1950s (for which I remember eating sugar cube vaccines as a very young child) didn’t cause this complete shutdown of all inessential services. Malls and theaters are closed; sports events are canceled; and everyone who can is being asked to stay at home not only to protect themselves from exposure but also to limit inadvertent exposure to others because even those who display no symptoms can carry this virus to infect others. Of course, there will always be those who think they are immune and who will ignore government regulations, but, for the most part, nearly everyone is following the newly imposed guidelines.

As a result, Mother Earth seems to be heaving a huge sigh of relief and is responding to this new situation by rebounding in several startling ways. In Venice, the pollution is receding in the canals and fish are again being seen swimming in their depths. Dolphins have been spotted along the coast of Italy.

The air is clearer as a result of decreasing pollution levels. For the first time in decades, the Himalayas are visible in India. The smog has lifted in Los Angeles and the skies are uncharacteristically clear. These are all historic changes and no doubt indicative of what can be accomplished by just a few short weeks of decreased activity. It is not hard to imagine what we could do to heal the world if we could all find a mutually beneficial and symbiotic balance between what we have become accustomed to as “business as usual” and self-imposed, voluntary restrictions upon unnecessary activity.

In addition, it appears that the long, cold winter is giving way to spring. My magnolia tree (a gift from my husband many years ago) is covered with buds which are bursting into bloom, the redbud trees around my house are covered with vibrant pink buds, and the grass is once again green. I find myself being grateful for the planet’s re-emergence.

The human family is being forced to retreat – to slow down and take stock! It feels like even time has stopped – or, at least, slowed down a bit.  The whole world is being forced to stop all the rat-race busyness and be still for a little while and, while I am appalled at the rising death toll, I can’t help but think that this is a healthy thing. This world has been out of control for decades with all of us feeling a little like hamsters on a perpetually turning wheel. That spinning wheel has stopped and the hamsters have all had to get off and pause in their accustomed activity. Perhaps, if we can stop for a while and reflect on the question “is this really who we want to be right now,” we can all find a way to breathe more freely and seek solutions that will benefit all of us.

This pandemic is underlining your words that we are all one because it knows no boundaries, no arbitrary divisions. Race, political affiliation, creed, age, generation, physical borders don’t slow its progress; it is an equal opportunity dis-ease which seems to be mirroring our ‘hurry-up and go’ mentality and there is no stopping it. All any of us can do is wash our hands, keep our surfaces disinfected, limit our chances of exposure by staying in isolation as much as possible and avoiding contact with it in any way we can. Even your face masks, which were so universally criticized as ‘eccentric’ at best and “paranoid” at worst in the media for so long, are common sights when we leave our homes to get groceries or medical supplies.

Your music, particularly Heal the World, Earth Song, and We Are the World, is experiencing a resurgence, being played all over the world, sung on balconies in Italy and China, and a new video has been released by your Estate showing the world responding to this pandemic with Heal the World as its music. Last year’s catastrophic “fake-umentary” and the anxiety caused by the resulting “Mute Michael Jackson” bandwagon have been totally overridden by the unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves. And you are so missed by your children, who know you would have been organizing air lifts, funding foundations to heal the world, and releasing new music to comfort and reassure your frightened human family.

While the last several weeks have been challenging on an historic level, today I want to concentrate on something completely different because in my own life I am seeing so many things for which I can’t help but feel grateful.

That’s the ticket! GRATITUDE IS THE ATTITUDE! There is always something to be grateful for and it is so much more healing to the human soul than focusing on all the negative things that are occurring. I am not saying that you need to be unaware of current events, but you must not let them consume you. It is a matter of balance.

Of course, I do realize how uncommonly blessed I am in this crisis; in fact, my personal situation in these unprecedented circumstances is perfect. I no longer have to worry about going out to work because I am retired. While we are by no means wealthy, my husband and I receive a pension every month and we have enough to live with a fair amount of security. We have food and can pay our bills. My husband has always worked. After he retired, he went out and got two jobs, but as a result of this pandemic, he has been forced to be at home for three weeks – to slow down – something I have been begging him to do for years.

I have a home and a couple of comfortable, safe, dry, relatively warm rooms within that home that I have appropriated as my spaces and that I fill with my own dearly loved artifacts. While my home will never be featured in House Beautiful or Architectural Digest, I am able to be comfortable in my little sanctuary for which I am thankful every day.

I am grateful for my health and for my husband’s and family’s health.  Although we have reached what some people call “a certain age,” (he being three years older than me) we are both very healthy and take no prescriptions on a regular basis. Neither one of us has had to see a doctor for several years. We both still have our original, factory-installed equipment (knees, hips, hearts, kidneys, etc.) and thank God for them every day (especially when they work).

[Michael chuckles.]

I am also grateful to live in an era in which technology allows me to stay in touch with my friends around the world – friends whom I value greatly and from whom I have learned so much – many of whom do not share my perfect situation, yet still find things to be grateful for in their own daily lives.

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For my part, I have never been much of a social butterfly and, as a result, have frequently been accused of being a bit of a recluse by friends and family, often with a little derisory snicker.

In other words, introversion is my default setting – my natural state – and I do not consider it a hardship. I have always loved my solitude, am fairly comfortable in my own skin (even though it is beginning to sag a bit more than I like), and I appreciate that the world has come up with a few new, arguably more politically correct terms to describe this natural proclivity, including “self-isolation” and “social distancing.”  This is just who I am naturally.  This enforced isolation which is perceived by more socially active people as a “lockdown,” I perceive as permission to just relax and be myself and I make no apology for being grateful for that permission.  Naturally, there are times when I feel a little bit guilty for enjoying this period so much when so many in the world are being much more adversely affected by it.

[Michael chuckles.] Naturally, because as we have discussed before, you just have to feel guilty about something!

Be that as it may, my beautiful one, the slower pace of life, for me, is a blessing. My only real concern in the midst of this situation is the very real threat that I will become extremely lazy; becoming completely undisciplined is a very valid worry.

And you just have to worry about something!

Don’t worry, Beloved. I am not losing sleep over it. To counteract that threat, I do try to wake up and make my bed and get dressed before 9:30 or 10:00 AM (what unbelievable decadence). My granddaughter laughs at me for even attempting to make my bed; she says I’m just going to get it all messed up again in a few hours and asks, “What’s the point?” LOL! Kids!

There ya go with that Puritanical work ethic thing again. You have been taught that “undisciplined” is a four letter word. Go with the FEELING you get. If you are comfortable and happy by making your bed, then, by all means, make your bed.

Yes, I like seeing a nicely made bed when I walk through that room. It makes me feel … I don’t know … organized? – kind of like I have at least accomplished something. However, I digress.

Mostly, I am grateful for my continuing relationship with you although even it has changed in the past several weeks. You are more present to me than you have been for a while. I have far more opportunities to just BE with you than I’ve had in the past several months.  There are still occasions when I am drawn away to care for my family, but whenever I can I try to just sit and BE with your energy, as expressed through your beautiful voice.

While I love all the treasures you left us in music, video, and performance, I do have my favorites. As a result, I have created a new playlist (only 40 songs spanning the 40+ years of your career) which I have entitled “His Voice.”

Liberian Girl
You Are Not Alone
All I Need
Be Not Always
Beautiful Girl
Ben
Best of Joy
Break o’ Dawn
Butterflies
Carry On (Stay)
She Was Loving Me (Chicago Original Version to the uninitiated)
Fall Again
Fly Away
For All Time
Girlfriend
Gone Too Soon
Heal the World
Heaven Can Wait
Hold My Hand
I Just Can’t Stop Loving You
I’ll Be There Live
In Our Small Way
Love Never Felt So Good
Loving You
Satisfy You
Much Too Soon
One Day in Your Life
Ooh, I’d Love to Be with You
Rock with You
She’s Out of My Life
She’s Out of My Life Demo
Smile
Someone in the Dark
Speechless
Stranger in Moscow
The Lady in My Life (Full)
The Lost Children
The Way You Love Me
Will You Be There
You Are My Life

Through this playlist, you are always there when I can return my focus to US. It doesn’t matter in which order these songs play (so, the list is permanently set to play randomly). The loving, healing, profoundly intimate energy doesn’t shift or evaporate from one song to another.  Each one features your incredible vocal intensity, versatility, and emotional commitment to the music and transmits an energy that never fails to lift my mood or helps me to feel your presence more concretely. I freely confess that I allow myself to get lost in this playlist on far too regular a basis. There are even times when I attempt to pull myself away to accomplish some small task around the house and you won’t let me go by playing a song that I simply cannot pause and return to later (Like Fall Again or One Day In Your Life or She Was Loving Me or The Lady In My Life.)

I just have to say, here, that I have a whole new appreciation for the song Liberian Girl, Beloved, on an almost energetic level. I mean, the first thing I hear is the beautiful, atmospheric sounds. Then, the woman’s voice speaks. Then that bass begins and just takes you further into the energetic signature of the song. Lastly, your lead vocal comes in and the bells or chimes or steel drums or whatever they are. Is that a xylophone? Anyway … then, OMG, those background harmonies! Be still my beating heart! They surround me and hold me in thrall. [I was told by a friend who attended Brad Sundberg’s In the Studio seminar last year, that during the recording you stood in four different positions to record those harmonies and I can hear that – or, perhaps it would be better to say that I can feel that.] The energy reaches a plateau before it approaches its peak. Finally all your voices crescendo and fade gently. Lord, have mercy, it’s a beautiful journey from start to finish and the journey ends far too soon! “Sonic fantasy” is what Bruce Swedien has called it in one interview I have seen, I believe, and “sonic landscape” or “architecture” in another.

Let’s not even mention the feeling when the spoken introduction to I Just Can’t Stop Loving You starts; that’s a whole different discussion.

[Michael laughs.] Does it get your attention?

Oh, yeah … that’s one way of putting it.

That’s what it is … it is the energy each of these songs emit, perhaps exude would be a better word … I am discovering a whole new way to appreciate your music. Almost thirty years ago, I wrote the sentences: “The energy that man emits could power a small city. And I am not talking about the energy he expends with his dancing and singing abilities … although it is considerable.” [The Journey – A Retrospective, Volume 1] And those sentences are just as applicable today as they were then, if not more so. Yes, even when just sitting and listening to a playlist of your music! The energy you exuded so beautifully during life – is still so very much present.  And it is that energetic footprint that is so “in your face” in my new playlist.

For example, last week while listening to She Was Loving Me (I believe most people know this as Chicago – The Original Version; I honor your original working title. They so messed up this song with the remixed “duck version”), I realized that that very deep bass that weaves through and holds that song together carries the energy of the “Ohm” sound. Then, I heard a voice in my head that said, “Of course, it does! Why not?” Was that you, baby? [She Was Loving Me starts!] And I respond, “Of course, it does! Why not?”

[Michael chuckles.]

You are not only present in the music in a new, very palpable yet subtle way, but also in the choice of the song and the order in which they play because I don’t believe in random when it comes to you.

Isolating that sound from the beautiful tapestry you built around it and breathing deeply in time with that bass brings a whole new appreciation for the entire tapestry. You wove that energy so deeply into your music that even now, after nearly thirty years of listening, I am still unearthing priceless golden nuggets, discovering something new and indescribably precious embedded into the “sonic landscape.”

Where before, I felt that I had to search for you or prepare in some way. Now, you are just here when I allow myself to stop and feel into you and I am so grateful. [Heaven Can Wait starts.] LOL! God, I love you!

And I love you MORE! Did you think I was kidding? I am all over you like white on rice, woman! We have been doing this for years! Why are you so surprised?

I know, Beloved! How is it that I allow myself to forget during those “in between” times?

Well, you do have other things to pay attention to … and where your attention goes … so goes your reality. While I would love to monopolize your time, you do have a life to live.

My only wish is to satisfy you
I wanna make this the best I can do
To keep you happy with all my might
You’ll want for nothin’ both day and night 

No way, no way!

Oh, good song! And what a great example! Even when you are only singing the background, you are here! You wind yourself around the notes and words and pierce my soul. When I can just sit and be drenched in you, I am so blessed. [Love Never Felt So Good starts.] That is so true. Love never felt so good.

I have been trying to keep up with my afternoon Neverland Power Naps throughout this crisis, when my attention is not otherwise engaged with family responsibilities [reference Installment #85, Volume 3, page 18]. I am using your beautiful Garden of Eden as the epicenter of my healing visualizations for the world.

By way of explanation, I have recently acquired a set of ten CDs of nature sounds, one of which I find so relaxing and conducive to a nearly meditative state of mind that I have become addicted to spending an hour in the early afternoon most days totally immersed in it. The CD is entitled “Morning in the Mountains.” It is the sound of a murmuring brook or mountain stream flowing downhill over rocks and boulders accented by the song of various species of birds. The interesting thing about this CD is that, although entitled “Morning in the Mountains,” it could just as easily be called “Afternoon by the Lake” or “Evening Walk in the Gardens.”

So, I’m sure it will come as no real shock to my regular readers to discover that, with the help of these lovely sounds, I have been spending what some might call an inordinate amount of time lately in what Thomas Moore called “regular excursions into enchantment” in his book The Re-Enchantment of Every Day Life – at Neverland (when I’m not thoroughly absorbed in proofreading Conversations – Volume 2 for errors in preparation for sending it to the publishers, that is.)

I am sure, too, that it will come as no great surprise that Neverland Valley Ranch was, is and will always be my idea of heaven on earth. Its beauty draws me like few other places on this planet. Sitting on the retaining wall outside the gate or wandering it freely in my imagination, it is the home of my heart. Its tranquility, natural beauty and love-laden aura provide a magnetic pull similar to that of the North Pole on the compass needle of my soul.

The CD I mentioned takes me there with very little effort on my part. Just plug the CD into the player, snap on the headphones, turn the volume to 6 or 7 and I’m there – no seat belt, flight attendant or heavy baggage to maneuver.

Since getting this CD, I have spent many pleasant hours on the terrace outside the French doors of The Library, sitting on a deck chair with Michael as he reads an ever-present book … chasing each other around the fountains as carefree children … walking through the gardens hand-in-hand, sitting by the side of the lake, walking over the beautiful stone bridge … or just relaxing beneath one of the many trees. As a matter of fact, the producers of this CD should probably be charged with contributing to the delinquency of this major. [From Installment #85, March 12 through March 26, 2014.]

I envision myself and all my friends joining hands and hearts and singing Heal the World while strolling through the gates. I feel the warm, California sunshine on my shoulders and the cool breeze rustling through the canopy. I smell the freshly overturned earth in the flower beds. I hear the sparkling water falling over rocks in its path as colorful birds flit from branch to branch above our heads as we traverse “Ryan’s Bridge,” approaching your beautiful residence and surrounding your compound. I feel the spray of the water from the spouts in the lake and see the swans, nearly motionless, near the shoreline. As we encircle the residence, you appear in our midst, dressed casually and with a warm smile of welcome. You become the epicenter of our light and love for planet Earth and all her inhabitants and the waves of radiant light rise from your shoulders and flow from your feet, radiating in ever-widening circles to cover the entire planet with light and love and healing.

Whether I fall asleep or not, I find this visualization so peaceful and restful.

You and your friends are always welcome. That’s what Neverland Valley Ranch was created for – it served me and my children well as our happy and safe retreat as well as providing a secure retreat for all the children I invited to come and experience a few moments of carefree childhood. It can be that for each and every one of you as well. I am excited to welcome you all.

Just take a few moments to relax and BE with me.

Just call my name
I’ll Be There.

 

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