I’m in one of my sappy why can’t we just get along moods this morning, why can’t we let go and love each other freely, without the shackles. I take a breath.

There are times when I’m shackled by the fear that I came up short so many times. That I didn’t love Melinda enough, or the even more difficult, didn’t love my father enough. Okay, he whispers to himself. What is enough—

I sip my coffee. I relax into being who I am, someone who perhaps doesn’t love enough, but someone who loves nevertheless. Enough, enough—more than enough, les than enough. You say the word over and over and it begins to sound like gibberish—like any word, as if by repeating it, it loses its already fragile connection with the thing we call reality.

I understand there is always something pecking my ear, wanting my attention, diverting me—convincing me that all this good I want to feel is just a silly shit notion, fluff and cotton candy, no real substance—that failure and death lurk just around the corner, that I am a man naked in a public place, barefoot.  John Lennon walks into a gun outside The Dakota, all that give peace a chance blown away. I am shot, he says. My old preacher friend couldn’t stand my talking about Lennon—squirmed when I talked hippie peace and love nonsense. He loved war movies, loved it when the good guys blew away the bad guys, when the bad guys were grabbed by demons in the movie “Ghosts.” God is a gunslinger. Maybe, sometimes, the poet says. Who am I to limit God.

I sip my coffee. Take a breath. A YouTube guided meditation leads me to the top of the world’s tallest mountain. I am told to take in the sky. But I am barefoot in the snow. Breathe in the clean air, my guide tells me. Never mind the oxygen is hardly enough—there’s the word again. But I came off the mountain feeling more grounded. I am part of the earth, part of the air, part of the galaxy. Stardust, Joni sings, million year old carbon. Imagine the color of your muscles, your bones, your skin—a luminous green for me.  And pain is an off red worm. I remove the worm from my ankle and gaze at it. It transforms into a butterfly and flutters away. Butterflies fluttering from my body. All imagined, all feeling very real.

We are stardust, Joni sings. Melinda dreamed she had turned into a butterfly, floating between Earth and heaven, looking over the people she loved, and took it as a vision, as something she would do. Life is for learning, Joni sings. I believe this.

So what have you learned, the voice pecking at my ear. That I don’t know shit, the poet answers, knowing he is stealing the line from the old Greek. That my toenails have turned gnarly. My hair is thinned to nothing. My muscles—but that the narrative matters. That each story is etched in the molecules of air, that there is a kind of DNA we don’t understand that glues us all together. You know this, the pecking voice says. It mocks. I thought you didn’t know shit. I don’t, the poet grins.