“Somewhere the sky touches the earth…

and the name of that place is the end.”

-Kamba tribe (Ukambani)



Perhaps you’ve noticed that some of the most joyous people on the planet are also among those most afflicted. They understand what it means to be grateful, perhaps…having had something or everything taken from them. Living often means surviving daily on the hard crust of hand outs, so…the attitude of joy seems to bring out a kind of counterpoint… in shining examples.

Humility is too often linked with deprivation.

Paul Peña was blind, and had no reason to be in a good mood…but almost always was. Paul was a bass player/singer/songwriter…out of work mostly, and on the dole. He remembered people by their sound…their speech, the shuffle and beat of their walk, how they breathed and moved in invisible ways. He and his wife Babe, were both blind, both addicts…and lived on a slow drip of methadone provided by the city of San Francisco.

His apartment was arranged with wide pathways between the furniture; neat and uncluttered so that everything was continually in its’ place…like a sheet of music without a false note. He would walk through the room with his hands barely brushing the sides of objects that had not been moved in twenty years from their appointed spot.

They navigated the unrelieved darkness with their fingertips.

I loved to listen to his honeyed voice, layered with a creole accent that would vibrate on the low register of deep and mellow. His laugh was easy, generous, and rolled from him in waves of booming mirth. I would pepper him with questions just to hear him talk, and one day asked him to tell me about the last time he could remember seeing anything,

With a broad and happy grin, he said:

I was riding a tractor…ohhh, I was real tiny…in Massachusetts, maybe seven years old.”

 “My Daddy was workin’ in the fields, and  he’d take me out and put me on it; and just let the machine go…slowly, you know, like in gear…and he tied the steering wheel so it idled in big lazy circles. He tied me to the seat, so I couldn’t reach no pedals…but out there…there was nothin’to hit.”

I watched his face in the mirror, as it took on the wide-eyed wonder of a child.

“I remember laughin’ my head off”,

and he laughed his deep booming laugh as he remembered…

“…and a bright green light all around.”


“You know you got to go through hell to get to heaven.”

                  -Paul Peña (Jet Airliner)




~ by theoxherd on September 16, 2016.

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