In birth I felt the grip of those before me,
Their Highland valor beating in my chest,
If ever I would wonder where is for me,
In dreams I glimpsed the glens ‘round Inverness.
In life I’ve passed my rites’ initiations,
Withstood tough trials that few could ever bear,
Had friends who’ve honored me, my name, and nation
Who were, in my darkest fights, my saving care.
In death I’ll be forgiven, I’ll have no pain,
As Fraser Ghosts come to me from Strathfarrar,
To lift me on a bed of plaid through Heaven’s rain,
Return to God my grateful Highland Heart –BDF, 2002
This book is for my Mother, Mary Jane Fraser
Je Suis Prest (I Am Ready)
-Clan Fraser Motto
From a naked wee bairn I was shaped & hewn by elders of exceptional character and heroic proportion, to their measure of grit, panache, and ancestral solidarity. Transmitting and fusing their silvery traits into my consciousness with the gutsy, soul soothing tales of our forebears. These luminous legends thrived and grew through the refinery of generations, kept alive and flowing from the mouths of the raconteurs and orators of each era.
Countless drizzly nights by cozy wood-fire warmth laid the setting for this purposeful duty delivered to a tot’s ears, that was Clan tradition from the beginning. They branded me in the bold history of Scottish life in our wet homeland in the Highlands of ancient Alba (bonnie Scotland), giving me placement in our living, breathing saga. It taught me how by multiplying, cultivating, soldiering, striving, enterprising and winning (but not by too conspicuous a margin), my kith and kin had made the journey that landed me on this earth.
I learned of their struggles and suffering too, with the great number of Gaels in the cultural destruction following the failed ‘45 uprising and the Battle of Culloden. With numbers as great they left our historic origins in Inverness-shire and ‘The Aird’, Stratherrick, Strathfarrar, and Strathglass to a sustainable living in Edinburgh, Lanark, Liverpool, Keith, Glasgow, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Montana, Washington and California.
The braveries of their trek uncovered an inborn devotion to the “blood of my blood” and “bone of my bone”. Sooner than I could speak I was gripped with a passion for my blood home, and brought to the fore was a bond to it I carried into this life. I’ve never not felt, deep down under my toenails, that stamp that blessed and built me with a rich, rare sense of place, unknown to many.
I haven’t found family passion of depth or height like this in other people, save for very few. It’s a love affair for our souls’ true home, a flood of that blood bond with which I’ve since entered every fight and fray.
But with that, throughout my tender youth, my elders imparted an axiom (a law) that I only wrestled into my mental grasp under the dominating, demoralizing consequences of my self-gratifying years. They tempered with this: “Whenever you think to find fault or inferiority in others, remember that the majority of this world do not have comparable favor of the family, history, and privilege you have… so, your growth & improvement are compulsory.
I’m called to raise myself up again now to seek the recovery of losses, of family principles and good favor, life skills and social codes with which I’d been gifted from the start. I rise up again to hunt down my self respect and earn the respect of others, rebuild trust, walk with liberty, heal within my family, but most of all break open the willingness to love freely again… even after manufacturing wreckage in a life I will have scattered far from those valuable properties, for whys and wherefores I couldn’t catch or comprehend until this late in the game… even after episodes of explosion and implosion that nearly cost me, again, everything I love and live for.
But in this battle, equipped with new purposed bravado and audacity, (though shaky at first) I begin a fresh contract with integrity, humility and esteem for myself, my family, my strength and purpose. I resolve to fight well, honestly and fairly, cultivating and inspiring good mood, good will, passion and fire for life, loving openly, gratitude, kindness, helpfulness, devotion, compassion and generally walking in the sunlight of the spirit. I have no aim to change anyone, win over the cynical, nor my detractors to my side of this world, but all should be aware that anyone near me will be hearing much about the GOOD in everything.
It’s the unquieted voice of that ignited fire in me with which I’ll tell you my tales as they’re written and rewritten, and the magic and miracle of truths shared with all my beloved. Hopefully it will compliment what gave birth and rise to all of it.. or I end up revealing all of my worser deeds in a stark, rigorously truthful telling of everything about me I’d rather you not learn if I could help it.
It’s my defining aspiration, fueled by my heart’s core knowledge of a grail of sorts awaiting, with a loving, golden spirit. Something calls more distinctly every time it’s heard, from among infinite blessings and various victories ahead on my horizon. There’s little to say more about who or what I am than that I yearn to bring healing such as my experience may produce to bear upon this apocalyptic saga of love, liberty and life. The grail of which I write today carries a higher meaning now, that in greater alignment with God and my fellows I might aid suffering souls to suffer less.
What parts of myself are inseparable and eternally unified are where my fight for love is most alive… It’s been made clear how I’d hung it in the balance, in peril, under attack or ambush by the diabolical soul destruction of the true enemies living and fighting to rule inside me.
I had to be cracked open, broken down and to descend to the dungeon to unchain the better self I had masked for so long with regret, “justified” anger, resentment, fear, guilt, shame, and self pity. If I am to walk a free man and live in the dream of a unified life made to exist for a greater good, I must shed the lot of them.
Hadn’t I always found my way home? Hadn’t there always been a light in my shadows? And hadn’t I always landed back on my feet? Wasn’t there always serendipity, unexpected riches & triumphant comebacks? And, hadn’t I, when I recalled our ancient truths, always had that love? Had I simply been a lucky man? Or maybe instead, might I remember, that I too had always been loved?
At the bottom line this is a dance I must do alone if I’m to escape this prison cell of my own making in heart and mind, but when my fight becomes about something bigger than me, and better than me, serving the good of love, family, or the bigger picture. When my work turns from “have to” to “get to”, and duty becomes privilege is when I’m back in the game. That’s when the more skilled play begins.
The Declaration of Arbroath in 1320 still lends me the most articulate guideline; “…It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that I am fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself”.
Skies that pour all day with tears, from God’s grey hollow till it clears, for just a second, short & then, it starts to rain & rain again, The pine & fir forest’s muddy floor, the mountain’s rising rocky door, The seas of teal & jade that spill to frigid shores when winters kill. I’m one of many northwest winds, blowing blessings, expiring sins, a son of silky skies that pour, the misty blood I’ve bled before
–27 June, 2011, Bellingham, Washington
I break from sleeping stillness like amber candle light from darkness, as the Rainman lets last drops sprinkle sparsely to tree branches and hang on, hang on, then let loose, plummeting eventually like jumpers to death. I’ve been shot out of a seething, pulsing dream tunnel, like blood from a sliced artery, spitting me back into a rusty consciousness and instant panic, sweat, anxiety and fear.
I too am dripping beads and pieces of myself by the second; the sopping shreds of veiled truths, falling to a mudded, treed pathway within, as late spring leaves turn down with water to leak it to the brown fallen duff, the long dead. Some rise and put on a masquerade of living, inspired with a short wind, shooting around in twirling gusts, then littering the base of softly lighted tall trunks I scan from the opened windows of my room, serving up my own reflection.
My dry alcoholic mind mirrors the spinning subtle chaos under the trees, at first bare, but filling up with questions and demands, and rapid creations and re-creations of fevered, fantastical scenes in fast forward, play, break, repeat, shake, stop, scatter, repeat, play, the inevitable desperate vision in which I’m seen clawing through whatever bottles there may be all the way up those heaving stairs, to serve up a strong dose of the medicinal solution central to my horrific obsession and spiritual ache.
Clicking go the sounds of breaking twigs and picking birds. Early summer rain fancies no particular tree, giving equal ratios of moisture to nature’s otherwise perfect symphony of being born and dying. Even the least imposing sounds seem to irritate my ears, ringing like an endless scream. Clicking, clicking, ticking, ticking, I throw off the comforter with an exasperation, inhale, prop myself up and spill my weight forward to take me from the bed to teetering footsteps in sync with the echoing beat, on to the stairs and begin the climb, arms and hands outstretched in case I will have to drop to all fours and dog it upwards. I slide shuffle across the wooden floor to the dining room liquor cabinet, and muster all the control of my shaking that I can wield, to pilfer a hefty single malt whisky bottle tucked back behind others and lift it without clinking its neighbors, also reaching in my left hand to glide it right over the tops of the others. These savior bottles almost never get removed from their placements, no one here ever drinks or pays enough attention to their visible measures. Strange people. I quietly spin off the cap, hoist up to salivated lips and chug a long pull. I consider not so much what amount would by some long shot be noticed, but more to be sure to get enough in me to warm and relieve my avalanching brain, my aching frame. Enough that will endure the coming hours. My gut twists to try to send it back up but I squelch my breath and freeze, hold, wait for the reflex to subside and the stomach to accept the marriage to my prescribed poison, to seep right to the bloodstream through the its lining. I breathe out, releasing, calmed like a babe, with the comfort that it’s settling over me in right time. Yes, first relief. Amen.
Slipping the bottle back into its resting place, a fearful voice shouts out immediately that I should have taken more, but I must be wary of waking my sister, bringing on the discovery of me in the ugly throes of my plague. All of my movements, even just standing, heart beating, breathing, with the vibrating collections of molecules placed about; sofas, paintings, table and chairs and plants humming in amplified frequency to my lying ears. I don’t know what noise level I’m truly generating, or not.
I breathe back into a more workable perception. It’s quiet now. It feels like an eternity that I stood there. I collect and console myself that there is a just as full bottle of vodka waiting back there as I tiger step away more smoothly than I arrived. I’m measuring already the way in which I will re-approach the medicine later, playwriting it in my tuned up mind, with the visualized exactness that only a singular, crystalline obsession can paint. I recede, carefully getting away like the sole witness to a bloody crime.
I’m steady on the pathway back to my comfy bedroom with a feeling of solidity and the assuredness of being held in a place of grace. I am well known here. Known by the spirits in these rooms, the home, the trees, the welcoming town, the history in and out of time, running in lines as deep as the sea that ebbs away and rises up along its harbor.
This town is Bellingham, Washington, not my place of birth, but the most of home I’ve known given the nomadic conditioning that came to be me. The home to which I’ve returned to reckon with the call of endings in myself. Home to charge my heart to begin anew, on the less traveled leg of my journey. I’ll spend only a few days here piecing a sought rebirth with hands not my own holding the humming power to reboot the game in the matrix, dump the cache, so it forgets all lost games past in a God blink. That I may saunter onto the pitted moor laid out in anticipation of the dragon cave, with 7 new lives… Or so my companion voices have said in chorus, deflecting my ego’s doubtful ways. Where better to be reborn than the home of Mother? Though, sadly, she’s away at a diametric pole point in China.
I’ve skillfully crafted aloneness as my one man show. I, to the naked eye, my own audience. But, ah, if one could only see the soiree of mechanics backstage. The hands managing ropes, pulleys, trap doors, false partitions, facades, curtains, costumes and masks. The heaven and the pit, the orchestra and all the ethereal, co-witnessing, co-starring players’ faces that blink into visible existence most when the house lights are brought down and my willful play begins, flashing winks and grins in waves, particles and stardust.
And, well, there will be my compassionate sister too, observing when and where she can. Not much gets by her, one can be assured. She’s there when she’s not there, she sees the hidden. I do so appreciate an audience, of any or all, size is relative, especially those familiar enough with my act to expect better and keep me sharp.
So, The first morning has been an alcoholic success as compared to how I came into it. Got all fixed up in a flurry of motion now remembered as a sweeping, bountiful roll of the dice ending me up back in the comfy wrapping of covers in bed.
As I lay watching out the window, rays of golden dawn overtake clouds, illuminating my room, my personal effects, my awakened face and my resting thoughts. My sight slowly surveys the clarty coziness of this chamber, piece by piece, as I do what I’ve been doing in customary fashion through the closing months of my last seasons at Shilshole Bay, before breaking or ripping myself away just a day ago.
I look from this safe harbor to rough seas with anticipation, recalling many storms I’ve pulled through to survive by toughening, grateful that I’ve well learned how to sail them, sometimes in winds and waters knowingly churned up by me alone. There will be another port, but before that I’m to be tossed about by great dark depths, but not go down.
I call to my inward self as is my habit, “Prepare to come about! Loosen the jib, hard lean to the wind”… The mainsail takes care of itself, grabbing gusts coming over my starboard, then to my port side as I’ve made the saving revolution, cutting farther along into another safe slippage to take respite until time comes to face once more the eventual fight of open waters. From port to port, harbor to harbor, a capable Mariner could weather the whole world.
In a certain similar way, maybe more like foxhole to foxhole, I trudge through seaside rituals I’d settled down upon me as the consequence of my darkest, most destructive years. I’ve been long more in the immediate terrors of battle than the tenable cautions of the sea. With this I drift into second sleep.
“Nothing else in nature behaves so consistently and rigidly as a human being in pursuit of hell.”
Pete Townshend, Horse’s Neck
In the first year and a half of my three year return to this corner of the world that stays as wet as I have, being a terror myself, worse than ever I’d been, courting death in a well learned dance with demon forces I gave apparent entry back into the house, and the run of it further than ever before. I no longer feared them, consciously. Mayhem ensued and settled in quite comfortably, dancing me through deeper gateways, more volatile, violent, manipulating, scheming, selfish, thieving, cheating, lying and not bothering much to conceal these from anyone, except when it would pay me something to do so. I had my head clocked and knocked out in crack deals for my smart ass arrogance berating beasts of any size without a thought of it. Ended myself up in jails and hospital beds with a defiance beyond any I had before, printed fake money to stick a fuck back to the likes of dealers known to short, give bunk shit, or take money and split, charting a chosen course to run, a planned circuit around a couple city blocks in the busiest night hours from a point of entry to a point of exit, hitting 5 to 7 of them before any could discover and corroborate with each other who it was or where I’d gone. I continued car driven missions with suspended license, expired tags, pulled over by cops numerous times and let go, dodging justice for whatever reasons, smugly. My roommate and my girlfriend got to the point of hiding the car key, and keeping me stuck in Lawtonwood, away from downtown, no way to get there, mostly broke, constantly. Drinking whatever I could find containing alcohol, from vanilla extract, to perfume or hair spray, rubbing alcohol, hand sanitizer, anything. Every road block and dead end was being put up to fight my drives coming to a day there was no more, with a liquor store too far off for my depleted body to walk, nor could I successfully steal away in the car without discovery, to get downtown to trade transport to dealers to re-up their supplies stored in the outer lying neighborhoods
I’d taken on these spirit fiends in dark rituals and reveries in my aging years, in classic pseudo-spiritual arrogance which held that my powers were special and I could act with impunity. I felt immune to their powers, that I was the decider, not they, that I was their controller, tamer and choosy user of their amusements.
For some time I consciously thought I’d banished them methodically enough in a former period of sobriety to have them gone for good, but they simply lay patiently in wait, with the patience of Job, beyond my inmost sight, chipping, slicing and exacting chunks from my fortified wall as my sly but willful ego would silently contract to let them. Via resentment, masked self pity, envy and greed I invited them back in unwitting denial of such, as I practiced too well the social game of looking good, and not looking good, always confident I behaved only in the former, with a deeply cultured mechanism that hid the latter from me, with only a lip service conscience, employing rationalization, justification, martyrdom and entitlement.
When I took them up again in the year 2000 they settled in with heartily satisfied reclamation and ownership. Still keeping deep in the under-shadow, I can tell now in the clarity shattering consequence can bring, that most every inward and outward movement I have enacted was more their call than mine. I have them now portioned to more distinguishable places of separation from “myself” but that’s in a manner of articulating their aspects, they are all me, as the young man’s continuation of creating several selves as coping tools to disassociate from childhood traumas, stepping outside reality, sublimating the feelings in the way, becoming adept at looking good from the very beginning.
Distillation of the last half year and then some, fortified with steady whisky, water of life, to stalk through a dark warrior forest, hunting down my self, my ego, my identity, through my waking screams and night panics regarding my creation, quelling terrors in the skewed state of my craving awareness, of myself as sole witness to my own ravaging of heart, mind, spirit, with a hand more powerful than I visibly pushing and pulling into place the pieces I would need to depart.
A low commanding voice not my own, but in me, invoking the conquering wind to send waves in sets of three, carrying its new spells to my cottage shore, nightly transporting my self through fall and winter’s isolated darkness, away from the lifeless body bedded down like a dreaming seed, un-gripping my soul self to do its lucid summons, and take my unconscious mind’s pathway through the dim wood to beckon my necessary soul companions alive beyond the veil, the cunning Urisk who tracks the Fox who will follow the Owl to the spring hunt. We find rest in clearings we create within, rubbing the peelings of my dry mind together like sticks to spark a friction fire for a blind man to see, in this sublime quest the blind man is me, humming mantras from our deep shadowy woods back to the sea.
Over time, the invocations and alignments overtook mere ceremonious drunkenness that lulled me to let go of my ego’s control, let my shadow self conduct the business with its team of spirit animals, talismans and spells. With the achievement of some resulting conscious clarity and direction, they took me from place to place, societal bureaus where I could pay my debts enough to clean my record, to be a citizen adherent to laws of community and road, like real grownups do.
We pared down, packed up and cut away all but the essential for the coming byways and highways to something other. Something different. Something more.
Now I’m grappling with memory. Contemplating the time gone descending, the plans ahead arising, each step that I’m aware has brought me to the conditions of this day, and each stroke that tolls the bell of brighter undertakings & enterprises, stepping to a ticking clock. I’m called to bring new order out of chaos, sense from senselessness, and growth from reduction & absurdity. Sleep is the one state where I shed these thoughts.
“They are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and no great mischief if they fall.”
-General James Wolfe on Highland Soldiers
I’m up. To shower, dress and attend to my morning ritual, which currently consists of collecting & throwing out the empty cans of whatever alcohol I slipped out to pick up from the little roadside general store across from Sudden Valley golf course to drink in the evening to get me to sleep. I’d been putting the empties on top of a dresser in the closet, so they wouldn’t be out in plain view for my sister Carmen to see. She knows I still drink but doesn’t mention it. I don’t like to do it “in her face”, or anyone’s face at this point, though I think she saw the empties last night when she came downstairs to search all the rooms for her cat. It’s been mostly “controlled drinking” in the day hours of the last months while taking care of all the things necessary for my move and road trip; a daily maintenance keeping the volume of psychological chatter turned down, or off…
I have resolved that if “Brent” must still drink until getting to Los Angeles, that “Brent” just could not drink and drive. It’s been said that one of the early signs of schizophrenia is speaking to or of oneself in 3rd person… it’s been quite a habit of mine for a while. I am Brent’s only consistent witness with nowhere else to go.
I calculate the mental deficit incurred by all the energy required in planning days around drinking, like a meter running, ever reminding myself that it will be ending “soon”. Mornings are a little shaky, so it’s good to have some tasks.
I separate and pack the last traveling pieces from those that will remain here in mom’s garage, puzzle piecing them into my ‘75 Chevy Cheyenne pickup truck bed; my magic carpet. I fire the engine to let it warm, mindful that I can’t let the 350 small-block with headers popping out their combustion song go too long without offending neighbors. I eat a green apple and a slice of oat bread while calling out superficial chitchat with sister, as I wander through the home to soak in its resonance. We’ve lived in many different houses throughout the years and each one’s carried lots of the same items that hold memories and emotions of all that time. No matter where the house is, it’s a familiar home, and a gallery of our history.
Mom left me a nice black and blue Hugo Boss high collared, long sleeve over-shirt for Carmen to give me that I’m carrying around unconsciously like a security blanket while I do the final walk-through. I almost cried at her sweet forethought in knowing I’d want the shirt. I don’t buy nice things anymore.
Hugs and loving exchanges of little words & looks between Carmen and me say more than words would do. Luckily time doesn’t allow what a genuine parting conversation would require for us to have resolution or understanding about everything of my life she has witnessed more closely the last few years. I’m a little “raw” at this point. I put on the long sleeve; armored.
Into my warmed-up truck, I tug the gear shifter down to R, wave to sister on the porch, click on my portable Goodwill $1.99 wind up radio, and back away from this wet wooded setting. As I pull off from the house, tooling up and down narrow avenues, I take account of the tree lined lanes & mossy houses, toys left soaking in front yards, bits of open sky flashing like slide shows above my head, winding down to the main road, bigger, more purposeful, calling up thoughts again of what I have done, what happened, and what pilgrimage I go to do now.
I adjust the blinker switch to indicate a right turn, check for on-comers and pull onto Sudden Valley Road, into its blind turns, past the aforementioned golf course & general store, gripping so tightly to the wheel I could crush it, hands are sweating, my head saying everything it can to get me to pull in and gas up there, and just have one morning tall boy to take the edge off, but no, I can’t break my rule, at least not from the very start. I can’t afford the consequences, so I admonish myself the gas costs a fortune there and I’ll wait to get to the station right near the freeway – catastrophe averted – I may fail my resolve and drink one of these sojourn mornings, but not this morning.
I calm a bit and center again while navigating the back woods road maze that leads to the last chance fuel stop.
Inside I get coffee to go, as the pump draws premium grade from their underground reservoir and walk back to the truck to top it off. Throttling out of the petrol station, over the Freeway to the southward on-ramp . . . I pull off to the dirt shoulder . . . I take a breath, hold, exhale . . . visualize my whole endeavor.
I’ve been working my way to this trip and wrenching on this old Chevy I adore for about four months, aided by numerous friends, loved ones; angels. What remains of my entire life is tucked in the bed under a tarp, where I’ll sleep and camp my way down the coast. She’s road ready and we’ll be off in the wind, from the trouble I’ve got myself in, commanding this chariot from the remote corner of Washington State, to drive, drive & drive, all the way back to Southern California, exiting the emptiness & smallness I’ve deconstructed my life to be, led by a building sense of actual departure and new discovery. I go to reclaim something that lay there. I go by Faith not by sight; the evidence of all I don’t have yet. I roll the window down & turn up the radio with Stevie Nicks landing her own “landslide” directly on or into me –
…Mirror in the sky, what is love? Can the child within my heart rise above? Can I sail through the changing ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing, ‘Cause I’ve built my life around you, But time makes you bolder, Even children get older, and I’m getting older too…
I REV the engine, kiss the inside of my right hand, smack it on the dash, leaving a stamp, drop the shifter down to D, wheels spit gravel & chirp grabbing pavement, I gun it onto the Freeway, laugh & humm…
And so it begins. And so it IS…
Even with recent surrenders bringing blessings, inspiration, determination, fire, some restored confidence, cleaned legal record, my trusty truck, my career experience, and a few dollars more, I feel I’m up against far more highly stacked odds than way back when, but going after it feels to be the only thing to do. If I didn’t go, I’d never know. I don’t know what will happen if I do it, but I know what won’t happen if I don’t. I can’t abide that decision any longer, I just can’t. Throw the runes. Roll the dice. Pitch and toss. The great dealer in the sky still has some cards for you, so shut up and let him deal.
When I went down this road more than twenty years ago, I had no sordid past, just a glowing fire, utterly bold confidence, and a naiveté that always seemed to endear me to the world, not bar me from its blessings. Though only somewhat consciously (and probably poorly) calculated, it was still a pure, decent, great dream… as well as a crafted avoidance of consequences, and a downright, bright light/good night 7/11 crapshoot. I rolled sevens & elevens for a long run, on gut feelings, hunches & intuition alone. Come along on the back-story road with me briefly, about my “boulevard of broken dreams”…