Tag Archives: escape

It’s Just Music

21 May










It’s Just Music

By L. Stewart Marsden

At the risk of coming across very ego-centered (as opposed to plain ego-centered), sometimes I surprise myself in a good way.

Much of my married life I was told I am dysthymic. For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically means you live just below the surface of the water emotionally. Like Eeyore, Milne’s classic character of Winnie-the-Pooh fame. In fact, my Ender Wife presented me with a stuffed version of Eeyore, which I still have. I let the dog chew on him.

I’ve always thought the hyperbolic ups and downs of some people I’ve observed were good reason to maintain a more steady disposition, albeit just below the water’s surface. How they are able to tolerate the ups and downs of their emotional roller coasters befuddles me.

They are the Hare, and I am the Tortoise in that way. Yup, yup.

In addition to being dysthymic, I’ve been told I’m an avoider, and a procrastinator. But we can get to that later. None of the labels is very heartening, though.

My retreats are basically three-fold:

  1. I play Spider Solitaire and dive into imagined scenarios and conversations during play.
  2. I write and/or research for my writing.
  3. I play my guitar.

That’s it.

I get no personal satisfaction from playing solitaire other than the brief high from winning — which is not very often (I don’t play the easy versions). My mind tends to run the ravines of what I would like to say or do if I only had the courage. It gets a bit tiresome.

Periodically I write something I am somewhat satisfied with, knowing that ninety percent of writing is actually in the editing and cutting of stuff (boring as well as ego-painful). Writing is never complete, like learning.

But, when I pick up my guitar … something happens.

I absolutely lose myself either in a song I am learning and trying to perfect, or in random rifts with slight variations in notes and chords.

When I was a kid, I used to do the same sort of thing, except on the down-sized ebony Mason & Hamlin grand that was in the living room. I could sit and pluck out tunes and chords for hours.

In the flow of the music it matters very little how good I actually play. I don’t criticize myself on those counts. I am too deeply embedded in the song, whether playing my arrangement of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah (Jeff Beckley did not write it); or Georgia on My Mind by Hoagy Charmichael (neither Willie Nelson nor Ray Charles wrote this); or reliving my teen years playing America (Simon & Garfunkel).

I imagine sitting alone on a stage, a single spotlight illuminating a circle on the floor that encompasses me, and all else dark. I can’t see the audience, but I know they are there. I bend notes and gruff out a lyric with an impure voice — gravelly and frayed on the edges. Every line — every word — has meaning. All I’ve ever learnt from love … Other eyes smile tenderly … “Cathy, I’m lost!” I said, though I knew she was sleeping …

It’s not a high. There isn’t any euphoria. But it’s a damn good place for me, and when I emerge from however long I’ve escaped, I am ready to face reality, and being dysthymic, or emotionally frail, isn’t the portentous thunderstorm on the horizon that it once was.

Plus this process is thousands of dollars cheaper than years of counseling, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Do you have an instrument?

Do you have a song?

Do you have a place you can curl into (not a fetal position, mind you) and feel safe and snug? One that allows you to empty yourself and to breathe in renewal?

Sounds Zen, doesn’t it?

But it isn’t.

It’s just music.




The Saga of a Rescued Dog: Chapter Two

21 May



The Saga of a Rescued Dog

Chapter Two: Ain’t Nuthin’ Betterin’ Bacon

by L. Stewart Marsden


Is he up on his shots? I see he has a tag.


Except love, I thought.

Mister Master handed my leash to the other mister, grunted, and walked out of the door and out of my life. He didn’t pet me, or say good-bye, or even look at me once. He just walked out the door, got into his truck, and drove away.

What now? I thought, and watched the other mister come around the counter with my leash in hand.

He bent down to pick me up.


I heard about this scientist that did a lot of experimentation with dogs and dog behavior. Seems we animals get conditioned to respond in certain ways.

If a bell rings, for example, we run to a door and press a button. It opens, and voila — a dog treat!

In my case, I was conditioned by Mister Master — only what I do is definitely not good. When he would come and get me, and when he would stick his face near mine? Sometimes I growled and snapped at him.

He said I had a nasty temper. I say I don’t really know.

So, when the mister at the animal shelter bent down to pick me up — I dunno — Mister Master’s face flashed in front of me, and I growled and snapped at him pretty viciously. He dropped me and the leash and backed up and around the counter quickly, grabbing a long pole with a loop made of wire.

In the meantime, I headed for the front door just as a little old lady opened it from the outside. I scooted outside into the parking lot and looked around quickly to see where to hide. Just across the road from the shelter was a big field of corn that had grown maybe a couple of feet high.


Just as the mister ran through the door after me, I dashed for the field. I had one thing on my mind: that corn field.

Hey! Stop pooch! Stop! C’mere!

I heard the word C’mere, which acted like jet fuel in my veins. I just didn’t hear the semi headed down that road.

SWEEEEEEOOOOOOOWWWWW! went the truck, barely clipping the very end of my tail. Dang that stung! I yelped loudly and sped into the corn field, the mister running and calling after me.

In the middle of the field I found a small ditch that had standing water. I lay down in the ditch, careful to douse my hurting tail in the muddy mixture.

I could hear the mister moving off to my left in the field, calling Here doggie! C’mere, doggie! I won’t hurt you, doggie! And he would whistle over and over.

I thought why did I act that way? I knew this mister was not like Mister Master. I could tell by his eyes, and the way he looked at me — sad-like. Why did I do that?

I was too afraid to stand and move — still hurting too much. I would wait the mister out. He would give up. And then what? Where was I going to go? What was I going to do?

The sun was hot, and while I licked at the water, it was very muddy, and there were mosquitos buzzing about. I had heard mosquitos were not good for me.

A pesky fly kept buzzing about my head, and I snapped angrily at it — not sure what I would do if I caught it. What does a fly taste like, anyway? What did I care? It was getting late, and my stomach was growling. I hadn’t eaten all day. Sometimes Mister Master fed me. Sometimes he didn’t.

I lay my head down on the ground and tried to get comfortable. My tail throbbed. The voice of the mister got further and further away, and finally stopped altogether.

I fell asleep.


I was awakened by a loud screech just overhead, and jerked alert in time to see a huge owl swoop by, illumined by the light of the full moon. The owl dipped into the cornfield suddenly, and a few moments later flapped back into the sky, a small mouse twitching in its talons.

My stomach rumbled again. My tail still hurt, but not as much. And now I was really thirsty. The late afternoon heat had dried the puddle I was sleeping in — or maybe my fur soaked it up.

I shook what water and mud had clung to my back legs and body, and looked about. Then I tilted my nose into the air and began to sniff.

Something absolutely incredible wafted into my nose!

Bacon! There was bacon out there — not too far away, in fact! Mister Master had given me small pieces of bacon — back when I was a good dog. When I was a really small puppy. My teeth weren’t too sharp at the time, and I mostly gummed it — but oh, glory be! There ain’t nuthin’ like a good strip of bacon! I could just howl thinking about it!

The problem was, it was coming from the other side of the road. From the animal shelter I had run away from.

Know what? I didn’t care. It would be worth the risk to cross back over for some bacon. Besides, how’d I know there wasn’t some other animal — a raccoon or a possum or a fox or skunk — sniffing out that bacon at the very same time?

As quietly as I could, I retraced my steps back to the road. In my imagination I saw and heard the semi barrel by, brushing my fur with the wind of its passing.

But it wasn’t there.

I looked down the road — first one way and then the other. I listened to hear the sound of tires speeding over asphalt. Or to see oncoming headlights.


Carefully — but not too carefully, remembering all the other critters getting ready to congregate around that bacon — I clicked over the road, my toenails making a snappy sound. Once across, I headed for the cinderblock building.

Sure enough — in a metal bowl on the front stoop of the shelter — was a stack of bacon! And next to that, another bowl filled with water. Just sitting there! God, I thought I had died and gone to heaven!

I moved in quickly, but stealthily, wary of any other animal, or that some kind of trap had been set.

Nobody and no thing. Just slices and slices of bacon stacked up high.

Oh! I dove in with unabandonment. And the taste! The aromas! The crunch of the pan-fried meat! I was inundated in ecstasy — euphoric — totally out of my mind with bliss!

As I wolfed huge bites of bacon down, at the corner of one eye I spied the mister approaching slowly, carefully from around the building with that rod with the wire loop at the end of it.

And you know what?

I did not care one iota.


Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 21 May, 2014