Inseparable, A Song for Natalie Cole

Natalie Cole Collage“Inseparable.” If you ask me, that’s Natalie Cole’s signature piece.

She had other songs as popular: “This Will Be,” “Unforgettable,” “Take a Look,” to name a few. Those songs are memorable in their own rights. But for my taste, INSEPARABLE, released in 1975, satisfies an all too naive yet reassuring belief that two truly can remain as one.

More than a sentimental love song, INSEPARABLE is a prayer, a hope, an invocation offered up at countless wedding ceremonies throughout the 70s, into the 80s and beyond. It’s the expression of an ideal that often enough outlasts those who dare invoke it.


That’s how we’ll always be


Just you and me

It’s so wonderful

To know you’ll always be around me.♫

How could a love run so deep that it literally renders two people indivisible. How does love become elemental?

 ♪We’re like a flower to a tree

Like words to a melody of love

There’s no way we could break up

No words that could make us blow our thing.♪

 Today, we’ve become accustomed to separation, to break ups, to disappearing and releasing once love’s immediacy evaporates. Surely, Natalie must’ve known as well – even as she breathed life into this timeless literature – that for far too many, endless love ends. Yet her splendid incantation transfixes us just long enough to believe this: Even as others fail our love will stand the test of time.


For the rest of our years

It’s so wonderful

To know you’ll always be around.♫

And though now Natalie is spirited away from us, we agree she’ll always be around.

© Copyright Jonathan Clarke, 2015, All Rights Reserved

Starting the New Year with a Splash

Someone asked this morning whether I was ready for the new year. I reflexively replied, “Yes.” After all, I added, 2016 will arrive regardless of my state of readiness. So, I’m as ready as can be. On second thought, I’d guess the opposite is closer to accurate; I’m not so ready. Honestly, I’m not convinced anyone can truly ready themselves for all that new years tend to, without warning, dump into our laps and mock, “Deal with it.”

 JC blog splash

Being “ready” for the new year is something like waiting in a carnival’s dunk tank. From your perch inside, you root against every contestant who pitches balls at the tank’s target. The longer they miss, the longer you stay dry. But, inevitably, along comes a ringer who pitched for his college baseball team, and who squarely places the ball on the bullseye — once, twice, again and again.

Clank. Splash!

Much more than “ready,” I’m anticipatory. I sit atop the perch enjoying the day’s sunlight, all along expecting life to hurl things at my target and to occasionally strike the bullseye and dislodge me from my perch. I expect the brisk shock of cold water to splash about as life rocks me from my comfortable place.

You enter the tank hoping to stay dry, but knowing that soaking wetness awaits. That’s the nature of entering the tank. It’s what we agree to when we sign onto this project called life.

So, we prepare.

Preparation and readiness, while similar, aren’t entirely the same. Preparation equips you to handle those events you readily expect will come. You make provision for the unexpected. Then, when the doorbell rings, or the alarm sounds or the phone vibrates you’re ready.

Sort of.

No amount of preparation readies you for the actual moment of surprise — that millisecond between the initial ball strike and the inevitable slide into the waiting tank basin.

In 2015, I wasn’t necessarily ready for the sting of betrayal, or the disruption of strong friendships, or the regret of love denied or the disappointment of failures and countless self-inflicted wounds. I expected events would surface because I’ve learned eventualities exist. In that way I properly predicted that life is consistently inconsistent.

All the same, I wasn’t either ready for the many unexpected rewards the past year sat upon my doorstep. The gift that evolved how I understood and grew food, the companionship that blossomed out of the blue, the business opportunities that emerged through no real effort of mine, the unpredictable resolution of a long standing obstacle, the compliments and encouragements from admirers I didn’t see watching and – in between it all – the successes and accomplishments that came in spite of me were too in the mix.

That is life as well. Sometimes, the splash we feel is God’s angels dousing us with an exhilarating bucket of ice-cold Gatorade to celebrate our victories. All splashes aren’t created equal. Some are actually enjoyable.

Perhaps that explains my instinctive, initial response. When it comes down to it, I expect 2016 to do what each new year does and has done since day one: fill my days with moments of exuberance and joy and wonder in between the events that knock me from my perch. If I can’t BE ready for that, at a minimum I can GET ready.

© Copyright Jonathan Clarke, 2015, All Rights Reserved

Hospital Gown Wisdom: Clear Thinking In an Unclear Moment

Our lives consist of a series of negotiations made between us and others or sometimes simply within ourselves. The latter variety, the ones we make within the confines of our inner selves, provide operational space for us to accomplish tasks, cope with circumstance, make sense of senseless events or pass through life cloaked, undetected and unscathed. We agree in that last instance, for example, to hide away in a lockbox the uncertainties of day-to-day existence along with the someday certainty of non-existence — what we call mortality.

Peek-a-booing our way from one moment to the next, we convince ourselves that what is out of sight truly is out of mind and that all that matters is the temporal, those things we can presently touch and see. But, just as in that age old child’s game, the thing from which we hide waits for us just beyond covered eyes. And every now and again the most healthy play is to uncover and look around to see plainly what’s in view.

My moment of uncovering came a week ago in a hospital ER while waiting for doctors to explain my unexpected visit there. Moments before, I’d arrived in the back of an ambulance which brought me from home after things “just didn’t feel right.”

Fortunately, now I’m well; everything tested normally. But, in those brief moments while you wait for physicians to return with test results, nothing is certain and the broad spectrum of what-ifs that we negotiate from our daily existence become enduring possibilities. Those moments of waiting with an IV start taped to one arm, a BP cuff on the other and diodes all about provide an opportunity to reflect and recapture perspective.
Here are some things I realized as I waited.

1. You don’t realize, until you need to, just how little we say “I love you.” Even for those like me who say it often enough, it’s still never enough.

2. You don’t realize, until you must, just how little say you actually have in the matter until the matter abruptly and definitively thunderbolts into view and reminds you so.

3. You don’t realize how little most things matter until the stuff that truly does pulls up to your driveway with red and blue lights flashing. Precious little rises to the level of urgency and priority we often assign it. Most of those occurrences we daily escalate to matters of life and death truly aren’t that at all. True life and death matters need no announcement card.

4. Why do we so often get so worked up over so little?

5. We live, we learn, we love and then what? Where does the living and loving go when the living and loving are gone?


6. Whatever belief system you adopt, or whether you adhere to one at all, you’d better be not just comfortable in your beliefs but INFINITELY SO. Don’t merely believe something for the sake of saying you do or convincing others of that capacity, but believe it deeply. How much of what you proclaim are you willing to bet your life on in a moment’s notice?

7. The door steps to heaven or hell are down the block, not down the freeway.

8. Any day you can walk out of a hospital is a good day. Any day you stay out is a better one.

Just some random thoughts from a guy in a gown.

What You See is What You Get

Jonathan VisionIt has been said: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. In fact, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the vision to see the journey.

To imagine yourself being elsewhere in another time is essential if you at all intend to step out onto the vast and move forward. Even the sightless among us requires a target, otherwise we’d consider that individual aimless.

In most instances, the motivation to do something, essentially centers on us seeing ourselves accomplishing that thing we set out to do. Seeing yourself cross the finish line is why you run the race. Seeing you 10 sizes smaller is why you start the diet and do the exercises. Seeing her slip the ring onto her finger as you drop to your knee is why you first ask her out. Seeing you beneath that palm tree at the water’s edge is why you work and sweat and save.

It all starts with a vision of successful outcomes and results.

In the absence of vision, there is blindness and inertia and death. We sit in the dark place waiting for the one who will save us and we starve. Even scripture warns us that where vision is missing, people perish.

And so, I challenge you to imagine great things, to see new worlds, to capture the unimaginable in your mind’s eye. And then, I urge you to step and take that journey and arrive in the place you saw.

I’ll see you when you get there.

(C) Copyright 2016, Jonathan Clarke, All rights reserved