If it is to be

Tonight I drove from Truckee to Sacto, over the Donner Summit. I drove along the dark lake circled by tall trees, the highway climbed further up the forbidding mountains of rock and snow with a heavy blackening sky overhead. 166 years ago the wagon-less, starving, forlorn pioneers of the Donner-Reed Party were building cabins at the far end of the frozen lake, hopelessly cut off from the other side of the summit by twenty foot snow drifts, searing cold, and sheer exhaustion. They were still trapped and in the worst shape possible in April; no one could get over the pass to help them, even if they hadn’t been busy fighting the Mexicans for control of California. It took me two hours to make the trip in my minivan, and the rain fell on small patchy piles of dirty snow.


I am thinking about songwriting these days, as if it were my dog, my best friend, who rightly wandered off to go get his needs met elsewhere while I was lost in myself. I sort of assumed he would always be around, though through my most selfish of days I was secretly grateful for the times he would wander off. He needs a break, I would say to myself. We’re just going through some changes. I’ll spend some good time with him when I come out of this spin, he understands. Next time. I missed our happy best buddy days, endless hours of play and communion, but deep down I was relieved when he wasn’t around – freed from the yoke of responsibility, away from the pangs of guilt that came when our eyes met, when he returned to find me right where I had been when he left. It had been so long since I felt like myself around him. Since I felt like myself at all. I’m not quite sure when the last time I saw him was, but it’s been a while, and I miss him. I’m sorry now, and I wish he would come home.

It is sometimes easier to live in your mind in a world of embellished memories and best case scenarios of future projections. If you are sufficiently detached from reality, the lines between memory and fantasy, goal and desire, blur. Keep the ether coming, and you can stay in that world for a long time – things are amazing, more great things are around the corner, all that is wrong will right itself just because it will. I’ll get everything worked out and my dog will come on back home, tail wagging and eyes sparkling, and we’ll go on to live our glorious future days together. It’ll be like no time had past at all.

Only, now that the fog has lifted, his leash still hangs by the door and it is still quiet in the house. Days and days go by, and I come to my senses. Do I really expect him to just trot up the drive like nothing happened and pick up right where we left off? It has been so long since I have lost all sense of time playing with him, I don’t even really remember how. Would it be the same? If he walked up to me now with a ball in his mouth I’m not sure I would know what to do.. It would be awkward. I would probably flood with messy inconvenient feelings. Would he stay? Would he want to give me another try? Who am I now? How did I not realize how long he had been gone?

I wish I could erase this emptiness, fill it with something, but I can’t. I don’t blame him at all for leaving, I was really the one that left. The only way to truly honor the gift he has been in my life would be to really feel the loss of his presence, become willing to meet him wherever he is at, and make it right, one moment at a time. It took time for our ties to wither, it will take time for them to rejoin. If it is to be. Maybe one day he will return to my house for good, lay on the rug by my chair, and sleep. As we sit by the fire, I’ll know he will be there in the morning, and we will enjoy a new day together. Whatever happens, I will work to accept my life as it is.


It could be worse, I could be stuck and starving in the snow up on the Donner Pass. If I had been born as I am in that time period, I wouldn’t even have lived long enough to be a miserable transgendered alcoholic with a mood disorder, I would have died of the ear infections I had as a child. Nothing like a little history to put your life into context and lighten things up 🙂 I went up the mountain hoping my songwriting would magically reappear, and I came back down with the insight that it is a craft I must re-cultivate. I suppose one’s work cant always be easy and sublime, and a greater degree of fulfillment may lie in its use to the world beyond the worker. It’s time to roll up my sleeves.


8 thoughts on “If it is to be

  1. That world of embellished memories and projections is one that I think so many artists live in. It’s the world that allows you to mourn endlessly, stay stuck without recourse, miss people who are right in front of you, and treat yourself badly as material to work with. But those places aren’t real, that’s the thng. Those places make creativity flow but they are sad, dark places. I feel myself less creative now than when I was younger but I also feel less dark and more present. Maybe that’s the trade, learning to be creative and write without needing to dip yourself into the blackness of addiction (or for me, self-questioning and what ifs). I have always loved my songwriting friends and their ability to create a song out of a moment or a feeling, but I would give those songs back to see their faces happy and healthy and not always looking backwards. I love you. I know I’ll see your face some day. As you told me a long time ago, dont you ever look down.

  2. Thank you Joe. Keeping the feelings alive and awake helps others do the same. Sharing them, ditto.
    Don’t forget to keep breathing. It’s the secret to long life.

  3. (((((Joe))))) I’m sorry for your loss and mourn with you. It may take a while, but it will come back. Songwriting is in your heart and soul. You need not fear, but only be patient as you heal. And you are healing. Don’t give up now. ❤

  4. Well sir, you happen to be one of the nicest transgendered alchoholics with a mood disorder it’s ever been my privilege to know. I suspect that ol’ hound-dog will be back sniffing at the porch door soon enough. Things like that don’t go away, they just get misplaced sometimes when our faith in the universe slips a bit. I’ll tell you this much – If you and I ever found ourselves trapped in a snowy mountain pass, I’d share my BBQ’d frontiersman with you.

    Peace my brother, and lots of love.

  5. As someone who’s lived a little longer than you, I can tell you that dog’ll be back! You are an incredibly gifted writer as well as specifically a songwriter, and I believe the Muse (or the Dog, if you will – and you do know what that spells backwards) is giving you the time and space to find new and different ways to express yourself. This blog is amazing, and I look forward to each installment because your insights and observations are so very keen. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and before you know it, you will find that you have gone somewhere, whether you knew where you were going when you set out or not. You might have a book (or several) in you. Just let yourself be who and how you are, and know that you are much loved. It takes courage to be a transgendered alcoholic with a mood disorder and to tell people about it!

    1. OK, now I have to tell my favorite joke. Did you hear about the dyslexic, agnostic insomniac? He stayed up all night wondering if there really is a Dog. ;o) ;o) ;o) You gotta smile once in a while. :o)

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