My Realizations The Autobiography of Julian Lee  /  COPYRIGHT 2009 JULIAN LEE
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The log, the fence, and the rose rush

It was just a log that dad hadn't gotten rid of yet, laying against the fence. And it was just a bare rose bush with a few leaves and flowers. Really calling it a "bush" is too much. It was just a couple of long, thorny rose stems. You couldn't really be invisible there. But it did have a few leaves at this time, and flowers. So there I went, to at least begin to hide and be by myself, to feel that I was in a different place away from the rest, and to sense some purity of nature. Later as an adult my happiest moments were encountering "unkempt" lawns of old houses that were returning to the natural state.

A Baby Girl Comes To Our House

When I saw my baby sister Cathy I was smitten. I crawled into the crib and say beside her, holding her. If I had not been institutionalized starting at five, and had the family not broken up, and had I not been a distracted and somewhat selfish character chasing too many obsessions, I believe I could have ended up close to both of my sisters.

I Enter The Garden Of Eden

It was just a back yard that had been "neglected" and overgrown. The place was probably against the city code and zoning laws and likely was soon to get a citation and fine by the city. I had entered into it by happenstance, in a rare event where I crossed the street and investigated the doings of my wider-ranging brothers. 
The moment when I encountered the laden apple tree, plus an apricot tree, plus grape vines long ago planted by some white man in a wild and overgrown field -- was one of the best moments in my life. I was probably three. But it was only because of that, of that moment of epiphany seeing the laden apple tree amongst the tall grasses, that I understood it all when our second grade nun began to tell us about The Garden of Eden. The painting to right is roughly how I remembered it, except it was better than that. Because it was informed by the soul of a child.

I went back there a few months later and the tall grasses had all been mowed and the trees all cut down. However, there were other neglected yards available in Des Moines that helped me to keep unbroken the thread of that memory.
 
Dodging rocks: The race war in our neighborhood


I was about three going on four. Soon there were rocks flying our way. At the T-opening to our dead-end street many black males appeared, and were lobbing whatever they could lob, the full block's length and they were landing explosion-like around us. Rocks whizzed by me and crashed against the fir tree or hit the concrete driveway into Doc's house. I was too young to realize the danger of a flying rock. I was not sure if this was play or what, but I was immediately swept up in the excitement of it. This is battle!
I remember having a smile on my face and I felt fully Awake. Life is happening! Looking back, this was one of my first experiences of "distinct bliss." As I aged I found out battle-brings-me-bliss. My brothers and I started to throw them back. It was almost as though it was a thrill simply to have some sort of interaction with neighbors. I didn't really believe anybody would try to seriously hurt us. Somebody called us in, probably mother, and my brothers being more aware of the danger, began to head into the house and I followed.

I get kidnapped and tortured by two older black girls

My brothers never talked about blacks in any negative way or used slurs. But we would be persecuted by blacks whenever they happened upon us in the neighborhood. Callanan had become the 'black high school' by this time, though it had likely not started that way. There was a brick cookout structure behind the school having a grill and a chimney. How different school must have been for Whites in those days, that they employed an outdoor barbecue and chimney!

The black girl grabbed me and climbed up onto the top of the structure, pulling me along, up and up to the top. So did her friend. She then pulled my arm behind my back, and up. When she perceived me struggling, though I didn't, she pulled it up further till it hurt. She told my brothers, "You go, leave! If you don't we'll break his arm." My brothers looked frightened and they walked away toward home. I don't know how long I was up there. They finally let go and ran off, and I walked home fast. They never said this, but I think it was likely the increasing number of blacks in the area -- and such incidents with their children -- that sharply motivated my mom and dad to move away from Rollins to Ingersoll Avenue. This plus to put us closer to Saint Augustine's school for easier walking. The walk to and from school, as it was, took an hour and there was too much that could go wrong.

Mother confiscates my found treasure; I learn "I'm not a money-getter"

It was just a weeping willow tree that my dad had planted. But it changed the yard, especially when it got larger. Even in the winter when it was bare, the tree made that corner of the yard different. It was a reference. Once sitting beneath it I noticed the ground there was disturbed. I dug around and immediately large silver coins appeared. There were a great many silver dollars buried there! I gathered them all and brought them into my mother, in wonder. She did not say much at all, but simply took them and I never heard about them again.

Now, my adult mind later analyzed it out and the likelihood is that one of my older brothers, Mark or Victor but most likely Victor, had found dad's silver dollars in his middle desk drawer and had stolen them to hide them later for himself. Victor was the numismatic type who took note of coins, their provenances, and their dates and he was also fond of secreting things in hidden places. He later proved to be a very good pack rat and acquirer of valuables. Mother was probably not very pleased when I brought them to her, and her mind was saying, "Oh no, which one of my sons did this bad thing and stole father's rare coins?" She wasn't thinking "big" or aware of how small things influence the character of children. The better approach would have been to make some theater out of it just for me, such as: "My Goodness! Look what you have found! You are a treasure-finder for our family! This will help us all."

Such words as those, alone, would have given me motivation lifelong to be a money-maker, to believe that I could find treasure and assist my family, perhaps trying to "please my mother" till my dying day. But her reaction of wordlessly confiscating them taught me unfortunate lessons: "I am not supposed to have money," "I am not a treasure-finder," "Lucky things don't happen to me," "I can't bring home bounty for my family," and "I don't have much to do with money or wealth."

Thus began a weak relationship with money and the prosperity idea. Indeed, to elaborate on other possibilities, a mother might have said: "With this we will be able to have a good dinner tonight and all week" (even if she was simply putting them back in dad's desk). Then she might have supplied me with a few quarters or a 50-cent piece, tricking me to think these were also among my find, just cleaned up. Then she might have said, "Take this and go down and ask the butcher at Hy-Vee for a 5 pound roast." Or something. Then I would have been actively involved with the "hunter" and "provider" experience. To top it off she might have let me keep two quarters and said, "And this is for you to do what you like."

Chances are good, though, that she herself did not even have any quarters to give me. On the other hand, maybe she did. Even saying, "I think these belong to your father, they are very valuable, and they must be returned to him" -- would have been a superior lesson. Sometimes honesty is the best gift, with these things to learn: "Things get stolen." "Things should be returned." "Somebody around here's devious." "My father has some valuable things." As it was, I never knew how much dad made, what a good salary was, what things cost, what the house payment was -- nothing. I ended up completely inept and incompetent with money by adulthood simply because my parents never talked about the reality of money. And this early experience, I am certain, gave me a self-identity of "I am not a guy who gets lucky with money or is even supposed to be associated with money."

This broaches the idea that small events and parental treatments in childhood can be watershed moments and have a seeming influence on character and life outcome. Yet on the other hand, I know now that this was just my own chart, projecting outward, creating false and transitory world-pictures. For my Iowa locational/natal chart had a negative, weak "money house." No matter how hard I worked I never made much money there. So my mother's confiscation of the silver dollars was really just an early sign of that situation. In like manner, one's mother and father -- themselves -- and all their qualities are "just you" -- just an emanation of your own 4th house, your moon, your Saturn, etc. Consciousness and karma are the only real causes of the various good and bad experiences. I see this now.

Music

Besides my own inner childhood mind, music was the only transcendental thing, the only real magic in my life till the age of six. My father always had the radio on. I was spiritually fed by the songs I heard. The languid voice of the woman who sang "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" was like a distant aunt or supplementary mother figure to me. This wandering song entered my heart so that I could look to the west as it played and visualize far away places, woods, and wandering people. There was "King of the Road." Later I ended up writing a few "wandering" songs. When I listen to some of my own songs, I hear strains of those late 50's and early 60's wandering songs.

There were many happy songs featuring strong male choruses interplayed with female choruses. I realized years later that my dad's generation loved this music because it hearkened to life with the men in the war, how the men would sing marching songs together in strong male voices. The women of America, during the war, were very attuned to their men and supportive. Their voices, in these choruses, evoked their support, and the natural ideals both held for marriage and conjugal happiness. Basically it was the sound of moms and dads happily singing to each other. I saw a movie where the actor Tom Hanks was playing a manager to an early 60's band. He had himself penned a song that went "I love you lots and lots and lots." When I heard it, I realized that Hanks had grown up with the same kind of music. The hearty male chorus drenched in reverb, the female chorus answering back. The song is a worthy attempt to recreate the choral effect, the male-female principle, and the basic innocence of these songs that my mom and dad so loved.

One song that really fanned my imagination was "Downtown" by Petula Clark. We lived on a quiet dead-end street and there was no traffic. But sometimes my mother would pass through more urban areas of Des Moines in the car. I could feel in that song the excitement of the city life, and it's lights, as she sang. I would relate it's sophisticated mood to the street scenes I had just seen with my mother and the world became magic. Her voice was so clean, and sincere, and I really registered female empathy as she sang, "And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you. Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to guide them along." The lyrics suggested that the world outside was full of beautiful and sophisticated young men and women who were also kind. In the 1950's and early '60's as I'd see wholesome young men hoofing past me on the way to college in the Drake University, pleasantly smiling at children in a natural, big-brotherly way I think it was true. At least truer than today.

These singers and artists were really playing the role of lesser gods in this world, and had huge impact on the mind and soul, especially for the young. My mom and dad played such good music around the house, and later it gave me a great respect for melody. As I evolved later into a musician, I had a value that melody was the most important and powerful aspect of songwriting, and labored hard to pull from the skies an original melody. The music of my mom and dad, and later the Beatles, placed a very high bar before me.

Mother feels guilty about me and reads me a few books

Unfortunately it was the nonsensical "Green Eggs and Ham" and a couple of other Dr. Seuss books. Though the period in which mother read to me was very brief -- it happened maybe 3-5 times during age four -- it had a lot of impact. Her heart was not in it. I glean that she heard this would help make me ready for the Great Abandonment that she was planning. Unknown to me she was about to dump me in a government facility to spend all day long, Monday-thru-Friday, & for the rest of my childhood and teens. Soon after that, she would not know me any more and she would be free to pursue her life.
Some teacher type at Hubbell Elementary, during her meeting to get me requisitioned, had probably said "If you don't read to your son we recommend reading to him. It will help him be better prepared." But these rare times of being read to, by my mom, probably helped make me into a reader. On the other hand, I have a good Mercury and Mars-in-Gemini so that would have happened anyway.

I become aware of other kids (of my kind, who didn't throw rocks at me)

One or two days I played with my brothers and the boy named "Denny" who lived behind us. My life and mind seemed revolutionized. He soon moved away and I cried. I never really knew him. I wrote a song later that was keyed from this experience, called "We Never Say Goodbye." It contains the thought that everything repeats, we never really lose anybody, and we will always get to meet our lost friends and relations in some new and better morn. That night after the moving truck pulled out of Denny's family's driveway and I waved goodbye, barely able to see anybody inside the cab, to the boy I'd hoped to know but never did, nobody in my family knew how my heart grieved.

The Train Whistle

At night in my part of Des Moines, while lying in my bed, I often heard the lonesome whistle of the Rock Island Railroad as it passed through town alongside the Raccoon River. In my small, limited life there on the dead-end street of Rollins Avenue, this sound perked up my dreams and enlarged my mind. It made me think, "Oh, there is a big world out there. I could get on that train and ride." Later as I heard the lyrics to certain country songs, especially traveling or rambling songs, that train whistle made me feel I had an insight into their spirit. Sometimes I would walk down by the river and the tracks, with a few friends. Occasionally the train would come along while we were there. Often many of the cars had their side door open. At that time it would move very slowly. I saw how those intent to leave their town or wander could, indeed, jump onto a car and ride away. I couldn't resist the temptation a couple of times to jump onto a car, perhaps wanting to show off to my friends. Luckily I was always good on my feet and never slipped or fell so as to be cut in half on the track. Only my old-man mind many years later saw how dangerous that was! You had to jump pretty high and not miss! But I was always very good on my feet back then, was good at jumping fences, and was confident I could do it. But how many are the times God spared me from disaster in my random-minded youth!

In my old age I found myself re-visualizing my youth and my family. In my ideal, mom and dad would have spent half the year camping, including in town, selecting various parts of sprawling Des Moines, then the rest of the year in several family homes. Had they lived this way I would have grown up to become more competent, worldly-wise, and able instead of living out so much indolence in one house on one little fragment of land. I would have felt free sooner and traveled earlier. I might have had more ambition, even, about homes, houses, and ownership of property. Or I think how I would have refused to go to the dentist when mother wanted to fill all of my teeth -- quite unnecessarily -- with giant Mercury plugs. I would have run away from home in a more serious way, perhaps getting a feel of different parts of town during those safer days.

Something real in me made me jump onto slow moving rail cars while walking along the tracks with my friends. I found that once on the car, you moved away from your friends rather rapidly, thus it was wise to jump out again pretty quickly. The train might start picking up speed and the heart would jump a beat. The landing while the train moved, out on the rough blackened rocks, was a harder thing that the lucky jump-in. Already I'd be a block's length away from my friends. I wonder what might have happened with my life if I had had the nerve, or the foolishness, to stay on that train even 5 minutes more?