February 9th, 2022
Write My Epitaph Drunk On The Poems Of Neruda
They found his body near the entrance to the stable. His lungs had filled up with smoke and collapsed. In a catastrophic moment that was the end of it.
I met Nate Dietrich briefly only a week or so before the flames came up around him and the fifty horses that occupied the stalls. He was a curious character. Inquisitive. The first thing he asked me was my last name, then continued to question the significance of its origin. I could tell he was intelligent, in his own way. His demeanor was calm. The round sound of his voice seemed to come up from beneath his tongue. I liked him. He told me about the horses. Knew them all by name. Their character. Temperament. There was more in this young man than the beers and the cigarette smoke. There was love in the way he spoke fondly of the horses. There was kindness and concern. There was patience.
I can picture him now, in the dark, walking the stable at night with the horse heads leaning out of their stalls to greet him. Their hot breath like steam in the cold air. And how he would pet the top of their snouts and call them by name.
I can only imagine the panic and the mind working it out in an instant from his small room with no windows as the flames ate away at the wood and metal of the 300 foot container that housed them all.
How his first thought was of the horses before himself, and how he freed as many as he could before being cut off from the fire and so fell to the ground blanketed by the smoldering heap around him. From what I’ve been told that was the sort of man he was. He gave a damn. It’s a pathos he lived by.
I thought about this last night. After I lit a joint. After I took a couple hits then put the thing out. Extinguished the embers. Watched the smoke rise and then dissipate. Sure there was the initial cliche thoughts about the fragility of life. How quickly it gets stripped from us. How the end comes much sooner than we’d like and that it shouldn’t be taken for granted. The ways we should cherish it and live accordingly to those who seem to get cut down around us might’ve wanted us to live had they a say in the matter.
I thought about who he was to those around him. How they saw him. What he meant to them. I read the articles from the World Herald and KETV and the other small papers out around Elk City and Bennington, none of which described the contents of his life and how much he had fit in the thirty-two years in this place. That they left to his friends and family who mourned him over drinks and their stories of a young man whose heart was bigger than a thoroughbred.
When death is so close at hand it always seems like a good time to take stock.
To question our behavior. Who we are. What we aim to do about all of this. As I sat there I began to do this myself. I began to look in the dark corners of my being. I grabbed the yellow legal pad on my desk and wrote on it Things I do not would like to change about myself:
1. I lie. I’m a liar (Not all the time but I do). I lie because I am unable to bear the consequences of things I have no control over. One of them being the reaction of others from my own actions. I lie because I lack courage and vulnerability. I lie because I hide, not just from others, but from myself.
2. My actions. I haven’t been the best son, brother, lover, friend. I’m a liar. And I’m selfish. I forget birthdays. I drink and make poor decisions. Spend money on things that do not add to the betterment of my life and those around me. I tend to turn toward that which is easiest (Not always but I do). I fail to communicate, to include others into my life. I fail to control my emotional paroxysms. I say mean things to people I care about (Where the hell did I pick up this behavior, and why has it persisted for so long? ((And I’m sure there is more I could find that I would like to change but for now this is a good start)).
I flipped the page. On the next one I wrote Things to remember:
(I could hear the voice of Jordan B. Peterson in my head as I wrote them down). Always speak the truth. No matter the consequences. The voice inside my head responded “Can you handle the consequences?” Yes, I answered. I know I can. “No matter the cost?” Yes. “How can you be sure? Why are you so confident?” My actions will match my words.
My intentions will only be that of goodness.
Trustworthiness. Virtuous. And if they are not then sit in the discomfort. Feel it. Instead of shaming yourself recognize it as an opportunity for growth. As a beautiful human (Gusto, formerly known as Guff) once told me, see it differently. Relax. Drink water. Breathe. It hurts to hurt the ones we love. It hurts to hurt. If I drink, it is only to celebrate (Weddings, birthdays, major accomplishments ((A book or job))).
It is important to look at my own malevolence. Shed light upon it. See the dark creatures lurking. Skulking about. Swear only in writing. Make time for the people who bring joy to my life. Inspires the best in me. Drink more water. Read more. Remember the things that make me laugh, and why. Cry (I hear it has health benefits, and is good for the skin). Be better than I was only a moment ago. Question my heroes. Question those around me. Question myself. Exercise (It’s good for the body and the mind).
It’s okay to do nothing for a time. It’s important to reflect. Remember. Pay attention. Watch cheesy romance movies like Something’s Gotta Give or When a Man Loves a Woman. And most importantly, always have shaving cream in the medicine cabinet. You’ll never know when a personal transformation will occur and its good to make a physical representation in congruence to this metamorphosis, this shedding of old skin.
It takes great courage to turn and face the flames. It takes great courage to reveal the true nature of ones being.
It takes great courage to be humble and kind and loving in spite of the terrible deeds done in this world, our cities, our neighborhoods, our relationships.
It takes a whole hell of a lot to give a damn. This one is for those of you who do.
* When I was done writing all this out, a question came to mind that I will leave with you: is cognitive dissonance the cause, or is it a symptom, of negative thought processes?
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