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This morning my hands were so full that I left In Rainbows on the kitchen counter by accident. I had to choose a CD on the commute, so I picked one from my case that’s been neglected for weeks: The Shepherd’s Dog, by Iron & Wine. At work I got a tweet from Sholeh. She hadn’t tweeted in over a month. It read, “One year since I came back from Haifa: http://sholeh.calmstorm.net.” I hadn’t been to her blog in months. I read her prose and poetry and realized I hadn’t written in just as long. I was inspired, so I wrote this:
deep in diodes
the world at a stop
my lifeblood pulsed
the same shade
as the light
cast off by electrons
funneling down the rabbit hole
at the moment
providence beamed upon my crown
of the essence of red
now drinking daily
from the only watering hole
the ripples calm
to reveal a change in stripe
is this some new animal
some tender new shoot
or the same heart
sheathed in endless years?
what use is fluttering
in a cage designed
not to confine
wings newly wed
for now they flutter
for ultimate reunion awaits
more powerful than any
in this life
At the exact moment I finished writing, I got a text from Lorenia reading, “New blog post!” I clicked through the link to fresita.org on Sholeh’s blog, read all about psycho kitty (qu’est-ce que c’est?), and promptly posted a comment. The second it posted, I saw that Sholeh had commented at the exact same time, down to the minute.
Ok. So great coincidence, right? Just wait, the braid draws tighter. I was lost in thought on the drive home, Sam Beam
cooing my worries to sleep, when I realized I had just heard The Lovesong of the Buzzard, the song whose meter inspired my last good poem, Alhambra, written about Lorenia. Down the road, I glanced up at the glowing, green traffic light passing overhead, right at the moment Sam sang, “Like stubborn boys with big green eyes.” In fact, I saw it precisely as he said, “green.” It struck me that in the poem I’d just written, I referred to sitting at a red light, staring at the LEDs. Now the light was green, a symbol of hope, and I was moving forward. The song ended, and the very next track was “Boy With a Coin,” which Sholeh had first clued me in to on 07-11-07, while she was in Haifa, the place she wrote about today. Coincidentally, we had one opportunity to launch of STS-127 this week, but a faulty GUCP valve scrubbed it until 07-11-09, exactly two years later. Furthermore, on the poem Alhambra, Sholeh’s comment was, “makes me think of sunsets, for some reason. lovely.” The poem she wrote that inspired me today? It’s entitled, “sunsets always make me miss everyone.”
In searching for where she mentioned that song, I entered “coin” on sliding thoughts and came up with exactly two entries…both about coincidences. In searching on LJ for the same, I found a fitting end to this post.
into my heart’s treasury
i slipped a coin
that time cannot take
nor a thief purloin, –
oh better than the minting
of a gold-crowned king
is the safe-kept memory
of a lovely thing.
I’ve been agonizing over this list since October. The instructions are simple: choose your eleven favorite musical artists, then your favorite song by each, and provide a link so the world can share in the crème de la crème of your musical tastes. This list is probably different than your eleven favorite songs, which is why you choose the artists first. I found this process singularly difficult. I’m tempted to create a second list of honorable mentions, because there is far too much amazing music out there to be content with such a small sampling. Futhermore, when you consider that what makes an artist your favorite is that they have many songs that you love, the exercise in choosing one among their repertoire is made that much more maddening. Still, since this is a meme of my creation, I will adhere strictly to it. I give you: my golden eleven.
11. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Mary Jane’s Last Dance
10. Cake – Opera Singer
9. Metric – Dead Disco
8. Pixies – Hey
7. Spoon – Me and the Bean
6. Zero 7 – Destiny
5. Feist – Gatekeeper
4. Elliott Smith – Independence Day
3. Portishead – Humming
2. Radiohead – Subterranean Homesick Alien
1. Beck – Deadweight
ten thousand headlines
the same sad song
sung seventy ways
lose your head
for looking up
from a paper cup
racing the rats
buying the hype
out an idling pipe
short selling stock
biting the hands
of the ticking clock
a trillion white rabbits
in every direction
a worrisome bulge
at your own midsection
feeding on hearsay
drinking down lies
a rumble of thunder
from menacing skies
see through the smoke
tear down the veil
walk through the fire
break out of jail
challenge the system
jump out of line
swim up the river
dare to be kind
you may own seven cars
but you can only
at a time
Arthur C. Clarke, one of my most exalted heroes, has passed to the next world. There is no way I could ever pay proper respect to his spirit or legacy, so I’ll let him speak for himself.
Rest in peace, Mr. Clarke, immersed in everlasting joy and assured in your new, infinite knowledge that all your wishes are true, and will come true for us.
You like coincidences? Check out my most recent flickr photo, which I posted before leaving for Mexico and have left up for nearly a week. I have read 2001: A Space Odyssey, and 2010: Odyssey Two, but until today I did not know that the second sequel was entitled 2061: Odyssey Three. Third book’s the chardm, as they say.
P.S. This is my third visit to Mexico.
I am not making this up.
When you finish reading this, I want you to tell me, honestly, if these sorts of things ever happen to you. I want you to tell me if you think I’m reading into this, or conjuring something out of thin air. If you think it means something, tell me what it means. If you have a salient point to share or harbor some related knowledge or you discern something I’m missing, tell me. Even if you don’t normally comment. I need help deciphering these recent experiences.
I’m going to try to weave together a story for you that includes all the important threads, but considering that every one connects to some other event, it’s impossible for me to capture the totality of meaning in one short essay. I hope it’s still cohesive.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Most of you know my friend Sholeh. In fact, I’d be surprised if you didn’t, considering the fact that, at 83, we share the most friends in common of anyone I know. Sholeh has been serving at the Baha’i World Center in Haifa for over a year now, on an 18-month term. She recently moved to a new apartment there, and shares this flat with Maryam and Laily. Maryam grew up in the Baha’i community in Orlando with many of my friends here in central Florida. In fact, I have heard nothing but glowing reports about her from Fere, Shezel, Sarah, and many others. Maryam has been serving in Haifa for over a year, and will be there for at least 16 more months. She has also spent time in Texas, so not only does she know most of my Florida friends, but she knows the Kouroshes and my Texas peeps, and everyone that I know in Haifa. We may not have as many friends in common as Sholeh and I, but I’ve been eager to meet this girl for as long as I’ve known about her. Imagine my excitement when I learned she was in the United States for two weeks and was passing through Florida.
Sarah sent out an invite on Monday, January 7th, inviting us to Maryam’s Dad’s house for a get together that Friday so we could “have dance” and enjoy “poisonous snaks.” On Thursday, January 10th, I was driving back from the Hot Hot Heat concert in Orlando with Uncle Billy. We got out earlier than usual, and after only a few minutes in the car he remarked,
“Oh look, 11:11pm.”
“That’s funny,” I said, “Why would you point that out?”
“Oh, no reason, just that my family would freak out when they saw something like that. It doesn’t mean anything to me, though.”
For the record, before I go any further, up to this point 11:11 has had no special meaning to me, and I harbor no preconceived notions about its significance. Also for the record, Bill is an atheist, has zero superstitions, is skeptical of coincidences and omens, and has never pointed out anything remotely like that to me before.
Within 24 hours, though, on Friday, January 11th, I found myself standing at the door to Maryam’s father’s house, about to meet her for the first time. There, in big, bold brass numbers was his address on **** Drive:
You know that apprehension that comes from meeting someone the first time, especially if they’re someone you’ve heard a lot about? I never feel awkward, as a rule, but I’m always on high alert to pick up the subtle metalanguage someone gives off upon being introduced. I was fully prepared to shake Maryam’s hand when I met her, but hold onto it and make sure she knew how happy I was to finally meet her and how many amazing things I’d heard about her. Her uncle opened the door, I said Allah’u’Abha, and something just clicked between him and I. We hugged three times. Right there on the threshold. It was like meeting an old friend. Strangest thing. Perhaps that broke the ice for all the Persians in the household (and trust me, it was all Persians, every person, and I felt completely at home to the point of not noticing it…I even felt Persian). Maryam was sitting with her back to me, but turned around facing the door. As I strode toward her she stood up and met me halfway. I didn’t even have time to reach my hand out when she wrapped me in a giant bear hug and said, “That’s from Sholeh.”
So. I thought that was it. Some really awesome coincidences and on the following Saturday night, one of the most intense dreams of my life. I even shared the 11:11 story with a couple of friends. Then I stopped thinking about it. Until I got stopped in my tracks today.
In an interesting overlap, I happened to be perusing Maryam’s Facebook profile on the day I was going to meet her. I noticed that one of the most recent comments on her wall was from someone named Setareh. You may remember me blogging about that name, which in Persian means “star.” I wrote her a quick note to say I liked her name, and that she was the first Setareh I’d ever heard of. We started a conversation. That was on January 11th.
Our topics ranged far and wide over the next few days, from astrophysics to animation, and all was well. I forget if I mentioned Setareh to Maryam the night I met her (I think I did) but at any rate it turns out she’s the sister of one of Maryam’s friends in Haifa. Once again, I didn’t give it another thought.
On January 17th, Setareh mentioned that she had some animations from her university studies posted online if I wanted to check them out. I didn’t immediately have the chance to look at them, but I made a mental note to go back.
As I write this, I was actually just counting the days between January 11th and today, when this new coincidence happened, just to make sure it was eleven. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me, but at the exact moment I confirmed that indeed eleven days have passed, I looked at the clock.
It was 11:11pm.
Today, January 22nd, on the way into work I was listening to a mix CD I just got in the mail from my friend Timmy. It is a compilation of 23 songs unrelated to each other except that each contains hand claps as part of the rhythm. It’s a brilliant concept, and a great mix. On the record he included the Iron & Wine song “Boy with a Coin” from the new album “The Shepherd’s Dog.” I just received my copy of “The Shepherd’s Dog” in the mail this week after ordering it on Amazon. “Boy with a Coin” is a song recommended to me by Sholeh last year on 7/11/07 when the album first came out. I remember her saying she’d had it on repeat all day. This morning I pulled out Timmy’s liner notes to make sure of the song name and something caught my eye: he had also included a song called “Love and War” by Rilo Kiley.
The subtitle to that song is 11/11/46.
I got a message from Setareh this evening about the Messenger probe’s recent flyby of planet Mercury on January 14th. I hadn’t heard about it, so I was glad she took the time to write me. We discussed the awe and wonder of discovery over the course of the next few hours. (Incidentally, in doing my research for this entry, I ran across a discussion on the theme of the unity of science and religion that specifically mentions the planet Mercury). Then, since we’d opened the thread, I saw the link to her animations and decided to take a look.
I stopped cold.
I hadn’t seen the title when I clicked on it, so I won’t tell you until you watch it. But just try to imagine my shock as this one-minute clip rolled.
It’s called Eleven Minutes Past Eleven.
Before I sat down to write this, (and I still haven’t told her anything about these experiences) I asked Setareh if there was any special meaning to the film.
Well 11:11…that would be telling wouldn’t it? Heh, seriously though, it was an idea that came from the fact that I often always spy the clock at 11:11…nearly every day which is so strange. So that alone inspired me to make an animation storyline. For that particular project I had to make a trailer for a potential film that had the theme of an ‘investigative quest’…so the quest this girl goes on takes place after she gets sucked into her cupboard and (leading on from the trailer) is taken to an alternate universe…and that is as far as I got! I am hoping to carry on and make it into a complete animation, but 3D can be tricky for me, so it may take some time!
She later added:
Sorry I forgot to add that in the animation, 11:11 is meant to signify a change, and something strange happening, almost spooky-like. So in the story ‘something’ enters the little girl’s dimension and causes her to get up and take a look…
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Something strange is happening. Something spooky. Perhaps there is a change on the horizon. Perhaps I should get up and take a look.