I am now podcasting excerpts from the Road Journal. This is a new project that will grow over time.
CCXL. 9 July 2005, Pinole, CA
Hedonism: eating homemade key lime pie naked in the morning while the tea kettle brews, in an empty house on a cool morning, no one around so who cares if you get dressed. Hot sweet tea.
Yesterday, left work an hour early, after a full work week on my own. J. took the train down to San Leandro, and we headed off the to beach together. Went to the clothing optional beach at San Gregorio. It had been sunny over the Bay, it was cloudy and misty in the hills and down at the shore. But it was still warm. We walked a long way along the waterside, and it was warm enough, even nude, to break a sweat.
Left our clothes hanging on a driftwood tree at surfs edge. J. walked a lot further on than I, and I could see her off in the distance, having a quiet solitary time of just being with the sea and air, no one else around. I sat for awhile on driftwood by the cliffs, but mostly I made some art there, and took photographs of it.
I made some art again, as is becoming my habit. Or rather, the habit is becoming that I give in to the urge to make ephemeral sculptures by the water, out of the materials at hand; I give in rather than resisting the urge. And then I photograph things. I made two lines of stones, Waterlines.
I also found three new dreamstones there at San Gregorio, in a new place, unexpectedly. J. actually found the first one, and I found a couple more. They are carved by the waves in a spot where the beach edge drops off more deeply to green water; they appear to be basalt, but are soft fine-grained sedimentary rocks, dark gray in color, probably siltstones. I have chert stones, and sandstone ones, and a few other exotics, from the mélange that is the Franciscan Formation hereabouts.
On the way back, driving again through the mists on the hills, stopping at a biker bar in La Hondo to ask for directions to a good local eatery, the woman behind hte bar friendly and open, the clientele leathery and not so open. Ended up at The Little Store restaurant in Woodside, an old general store now a restaurant. Had a very good meal, and excellent dessert: the perefect meal to end a relaxing, unwinding afternoon.
CCXXXIX. 6 July 2005, on the morning train, CA
Well, no BART strike after all, at least not this week. So, Im on the train instead of driving. I was fully prepared to drive to work, if need be.
This morning, thinking of art again, I think once more of the lie that you can only do one art form or media, well. It is a lie, and Ive been resisting it all my life. People indulge celebrities more than they should, and give them more slack than they usually deserve, but there is a small group of professional, grounded famous people who actually do art in more than one genre, and do it well: Joni Mitchell is a gifted painter; Tony Bennett is also an excellent painter; Lance Henrikson, I recently discovered, makes a unique kind of decorative pottery. Ive seen their work, and its more than dabbling, its actually good art. More evidence against the lie that you can only do one thing well.
Last nights Fuse band jam helped make up for last weeks painful one, by actually being good. There was some nuance, some variance; it wasnt just all one wall of sound with everybody playing all the time, and nobody listening. We all actually shut up at moments, and let the other guys stand out. You have to leave gaps, leave room, for the other musicians, in a setting like this. Less is more. And there was more of that last night than last week, so that helped my attitude. I didnt say anything about it, as I thought I might; rather, I just took charge, jumped in when I wanted to, did the stepping instead of being stepped on, and even did some visual cues to the other guys. I took the role of band-leader, whether or not it was offered, whether or not anybody objected (no one did that I know of); and I conducted with cues. Thats one way to give it shape and form: just direct traffic sometimes. Seemed to work okay, too.
CCXXXVIII. 5 July 2005, on the morning train, CA
I confess, with some chagrin, because one must, that I fucked up yesterday. I hit an edge, and had an emotional crisis day. I ran right into some of my most challenging issues. Ive been out of integrity, and while I hate airing my dirty laundry like this, its necessary so that the Shadow doesnt rule it. I know this is my Shadow showing its face. I know that I have to look into it, because what pisses you off is usually something you dislike in yourself. So, I am looking into it.
There are two things, in relationship, that are guaranteed to provoke me: 1. saying youll do something and then never doing it; that is, not walking your talk; and 2. making me wait by the phone for you to make up your mind what you want to do. I know better; I know it provokes me; and I still get caught in it sometimes. So, instead of going to the beach on the glorious sunny afternoon that it was yesterday, I spent most of it in anger and resentment, indoors, waiting on other people. Eventually, I ended up doing some clearing and releasing work, then was falling asleep on my couch afterwards. Constant irritations, repeated over and over during the day, getting under my skin, pushing me off-center and off-balance. Just goes to show, Im still addicted to my personal dramaor at least, unable to overcome it all the time. It still catches me up, sometimes.
So, I know this is all shadow-mirroring: things in myself that are being reflected back to me by the world. What you project out, comes back mirrored. The way to live consciously is to notice what is being mirrored back at you, then look within for the same things. This is how the Shadow makes itself known.
We ended up going to the fireworks in San Francisco, on Pier 39. Now I can say Ive done it, and dont have to do it again. It was so crowded I couldnt use the tripod, so all my fireworks photographs are hand-held, which means only some of them are any good. One or two good ones, perhaps. We also walked to and from Embarcadero, which by the time I got home, my feet were very tired. I collapsed into bed right away; I havent looked at the photos yet. Im stiff and sore today. My feet hurt, and Im limping. Between the walking and the physical drain of the emotional crisis yesterday, and todays cold, damp weather, my bad knee is complaining the worst it has in awhile. Well, its supposed to be clear by afternoon, again. The summer cycle of weather here, I gather: foggy morning, sunny afternoon.
Ive been reading Jungs Selected Letters. I feel a deep kinship with the aged Jung of his last, mostly solitary years. In the letters from those years, he often writes directly and forcefully about the worlds problems, his own life, and the problems of developing an ethic. It is interesting to see how close our opinions are in some matters. I always get a lot from reading Jung, even when its tough going or I disagree. I dont disagree very often, and most of what I disagree about is generational: we are both of our times, and it could not be any other way. He was the son of a preacher, I am the son of a doctor. I feel a kinship with him, beyond the intellectual, and am amazed to see how often he feels he was misunderstood during his lifetime. (Perhaps this is the root of his late-life comment, Thank God I am Jung and not a Jungian.) Whats amazing to me is how much sense his work makes to me, even the later, difficult, more poetic books such Aion and the works on alchemy. Well, never let it be said that I am a stupid or uninformed reader. When Jung surprises me with a new insight, I learn from it. The rest of the time, I find that his thinking is so close to my own, that I cant tell with which of us it originated. Of course, this is my second time reading through the Collected Works, and I am getting a great deal more out of them than when I first read through them in my twenties. (I am tempted to pull a John Cage, and do something along the lines of Cages Writing Through Finnegans Wake for the Second Time. Cage was a literary innovator as well, not only a musical one.) When I read through Jungs letter from 1960 in which he discusses modern art, and particularly Joyce and Picasso, I find myself reflected in his ideas, again.
I have had several visions of the Void in my life. Each time has left a deep, life-changing impression on me. They were pivotal experiences, both the terrifying visions, and the sublime.
I am led to remember these experiences as I read some remarks by modern Theravada Buddhist near-fundamentalists, who would have us feel disgust for all life (all maya), and seek only the Void. This is the mistake the Theravada make: they dont go far enough. They dont complete the pattern, represented in both the Ten Oxherding Pictures of Mahayana Zen, and the Via Transformativa of creation-centered mysticism in the West: the return to the marketplace. We are meant to bring back what we have learned, and continue with life from within our new perspective. The Mahayana developed the Vow of the Bodhisattva, in which an enlightened being chooses to put off her personal liberation in order to remain and assist other sentient beings towards realizing their own, individual liberations. The Theravada stop at personal liberation. This is valid, and original, and rooted in the original Pali canon of early Buddhism. (It is the dominant form of Buddhism found in Southeast Asia.) And the Mahayana and Vajrayana go further, take the next step, and bring it back to the marketplace. The Buddha himself, after all, taught after his enlightenment: he did not simply vanish. If he had, paradoxically, we would know nothing of his teachings, yet this immediate vanishing is what the Theravada emphasize. I find that ironic.
I understand the desire to run, to flee, to escape. Several times in the past couple of weeks I have longed for the open road; ready to just pack it in, pack it up, hit the road again. It could all still fall apart at any time, after all: clinging to what is, or what might be, is, as the Buddha said, the root of suffering. So, I do my best not to cling, and remember that its all transitory, even as I participate in it. (Again, thats the key point where the Theravada and the others disagree: what you do after enlightenment. I find myself wanting to participate again, as the Tantra and others suggest. Not that I claim in any way to be enlightened.)
At one point yesterday, driving through the worst of the personal drama, I felt again that sense of not caring if I lived or died. Had a truck killed me just then, I wouldnt have cared. Thats a feeling I know all too well from my time in the desert. Its not even really despair, but something deeper. Its certainly not depression. And it doesnt last as long as it used to, so I resist calling it acedia.
The lessons of this particular crisis: patience; slow down; do less; stop beating myself up for not doing everything perfectly. In other words, the same old shit. Nothing new here. Just another episode. At least these crises last hours and days now, thank the godz, rather than weeks or months. I feel the emotional hangover todayand this gloomy, cold, windy morning only underlines itand I also know Im okay today. Another storm survived, and another opportunity taken to clear and release more while in the midst of it. Stop and clear and release; when its in your face, theres no better time to release it. Thats the challenge: face it, feel, go through it, release it, move on.
CCXXXVII. 2 July 2005, Pinole, CA
Yesterday, I humped on a bunch of jobs at work, and by afternoon was caught up, sleepy, tired, and trying not to fall asleep at the desk. So, made art on the puter, did a little writing, a little bit of this and that. None of it very important, at the moment. Towards the end of the day, in the typical 3pm job rush, just when youre ready to check out, a flood of tasks comes in, and I ended up staying overtime. Not a problem, just humorously predictable.
Last night went and saw the movie Crash (by Paul Haggis) with Joe. I liked the film more than I thought I would. One thing I liked about it especially was the lack of an ending that tied up all the threads into a big meaningful knot; rather, the film just stopped, with implications that life goes on for all the characters, who intersected and randomly crashed into each other during the film. Rather like life: some things just stop, and you go on. The acting, by the way, was superb on all fronts. Even characters who didnt have a lot of screen time, you got a sense of who they were as individuals, more than just as types. Difficult emotions at times. It seems were all capable of both good and evil. Again, just like life.
Contemplative this morning. Writing emails, trying to catch up on those things I need to do. Feeling clarity on what I want, and realistic that you cant always get it exactly the way you want it. Where does creativity lie? In when and how you do it. I dont care right now if anybody likes me, Im still going to reach out. Sometimes it takes years for it to come to fruition. Sometimes its instantaneous. Creativity lies in how you approach it, and what you do with it.
CCXXXVI. 1 July 2005, on the morning train, CA
On the other hand, last nights poetry improv gig with the Al-I Nahfs was effortless, except of course for having to schlep gear around. I was exhausted all day, and a little crabby because I was tired. Its been a week of lack of sleep. I feel a little scattered and ungrounded still, although today at least I have no huge commitments, and I slept like a log. Just the workday to get through, which is enough.
One dream of a woman turning a package wrapped in red foil paper over and over in her hands. Her expression is meditative. Whats in the package? A book of law? A gift of grace?
This gig was a familiar setting and familiar event, in a new place and with a different band. An art gallery opening with musicians and artists creating improvised responses to the visual art. The show is called Eye of the Beholder, and its based around the artworks being untitled, and the viewers responding by inventing titles and interpretations. Heres a bit from their statement of purpose and call for artists:
We are creating a very special live entertainment, interactive art experience for our patrons and performers! Poets will improvise poems based on a viewers interpretation of the artwork by utilizing cards that will designate a title, sentence, or word for the poet to use as a starting off point and roll from there. Poets will also be accompanied by an improvisational jazz band that will match their music to the flow of the poet's own rhythm---a beautiful chain of interpretation!
There are several good pieces of visual art in the show. There is a memorable faux-Lichtenstein painting of a nun toking on a doobie; evoking Berninis The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, stoner culture, and pop art, all at once. Nicely done. Another piece is a montage of TV screen captures arranged into a wall-sized mural of small images. Do they add up to anything? The viewer has to decide. One or two other good paintings, and a few forgettable abstract oils. Abstract expressionism used to mean something; now its often just another decorative feature, a spot of wild color on a blank white wall. The triumph of design over artistry, the ultimate sameness of everything.
Onstage, here was a projection of various of the artworks, with a live artist drawing responses to the performers also onstage, with the musicians in the middle. The bands that preceded us were mixed. Actually, the first two sucked. Although if youre into hillbilly music accompanying rap, go for it. I generally like bluegrass hybrids, but I like them to be well-played, too. Then there was a troupe of comedy improv folks, also responding to the arts. There were moments when the energy in the room went slack, but then they rallied and got quite inventive and funny towards the end of their set. The Legal Briefs, theyre called. We were on last, and did a couple of music-only pieces, then a segment with a poet from Monterey. This is so comfortable a way of performing for me, after over a decade with Dangerous Odds, that I could do it and have done it in my sleep. The pieces with the poet were fun; I was able to do one of those walking bass lines in no particular key that are so fun to do, and some dark ambient worldbeat grooves.
A satisfying performance, which I acknowledge that I anchored. And I had the looper in the rack, of course, so I was even able to do a couple of distorted solos over bass grooves. Made up for feeling stepped on musically the night before. The lineup was Stick, guitar, trumpet and mellophone, and sax. We could go worldbeat, ambient, and film noir, and did all those at one moment or another.
I reject none of what I wrote yesterday, because it was in the moment, and venting. And as one might imagine, I am in a different place today. I feel more swung towards neutral, letting go of none of this new determination, that sometimes I have to get pushed to the wall to recover in myself, but less verbal about it. I still feel a little scattered, and more determined than ever to stand up for myself, act on what I feel needs to be done, and keep moving on. Forward momentum.
Last night, driving home after the gig, rays of golden light striking through the fog rolling through the Golden Gate. El Cerrito and Berkeley veiled like white ghost towns, tendrils of fog and ground-cloud hanging over the slopes, and the tops of the hills still in the golden sunset light. And back in Pinole, clear skies and a cool breeze. Licorice and aspen. Thyme and raisins. Smells are memory. I made myself a big hot meal of organic chicken soup, to which I added a bunch more chicken I stir-fried up with oil and lemon and curry. Comfort food, and good for my throat and allergy-stressed sinuses. Also picked up some antihistamines and ice cream on the way home. My sinuses are now the happiest theyve been all week.
CCXXXV. 29 June 2005, Pinole, CA
A very unsatisfying Fuse band rehearsal this evening. I was already tired going in, and Im even more tired now, and have a gig in SF to do tomorrow with my other group, which I probably should have just saved my energy for. So I wont throw the baby out with the bathwater, just yet, even though Im frustrated and pissed off. And, with the addition of this fourth person, a guitarist, it seems to me we are at that point where everyone is playing all the time, and its just a wall of sound. I really thought everyone was overplaying. Several times I just stopped playing for several long seconds, looking to find something that might fit with what was going on; in each case, it ended up being something atmospheric and background in nature. I tried several times to indicate that I wanted to take a short lead solo, but no one caught it; to play a solo, the other guys need to leave a little room at times, listen, pay attention, and then come back in later. There wasnt enough listening for me tonight. I found myself playing rhythm guitar or keyboard parts a lot tonight, and frankly thats boring. If thats all Im going to be doing, Id rather not bother. Its not interesting enough for me to put all this energy into it, especially when my energy is borderline exhaustion already. Lifes too short, and I have plenty of other musical outlets available to me, in plenty of other styles. I am willing to trade off roles, but everyone else also has to be willing to do that, too. Nor are these musicians I can throw charts in front of, like with the Barbaric Yawps, all of whom could read and work off notation.
This is why I cant stand guitarists in general, although individual musicians are great people and have been good to work with: but in general, they dont listen; they step all over all the other musicians; they dont leave gaps because they never stop playing; they dont trade off, and they dont respect other musicians, except other guitarists. There are exceptions, great guitarists who are listening musicians first, who just happen to play guitar. Ive worked with some of them. I cant even get that angry with the average run of guitarists, theres no point. Its not even malicious; its just clueless.
Very simple general rule for improvised music groups: Play Less.
You know whats really boring? Repetition. Thinking inside the box. Wanting to play like something youve already heard, instead of something youve never heard before. Trying to imitate the past. Following familiar paths.
Ive been feeling increasingly isolated and cut-off all week. Like, you know, the usual: no one has the time to be bothered. Im tired of reaching out, right now, and Im tired of going out of my way, once invited to participate in something, only to get slammed later with either someones crap or just plain getting rejected. Im tired of everyone elses agendas being more important than mine. Im tired of feeling rejected, and Im too tired right now to want to deal with it; what I dont want to deal with is not the rejection, but the wasted effort. Im down to my edges right now, tired and feeling overwhelmed.
Ive let myself go off-balance. Ive gone out of my way too may times lately, been too easy-going, too open, too inviting. I need some time for myself, and for my own paths and agendas. I need to feel like everybody I know gives my needs the same respect that they give their own; and, lately, I havent been feeling that at all. Well, call me when you feel like it; I wont be calling anyone for a few days.
I expect nothing.
This is not fucking being selfish, no matter how people label it, or me. This is setting my boundaries, and requiring that others respect them. This isnt being prickly, or touchy, or whatever fucking label you want to give it: this is demanding respect, and receiving my due. The Dragon is very close to the surface right now, so be warned: you might get burned.
There are plenty of people in my life that I no longer expect to have a clue about this. I just know that they dont get it, and I dont expect them to. I expect nothing. When theyre around, its good in the Now, the present moment, and I choose to not look for more than that. Nonetheless, its also not my job alone to sustain any relationships. I need to be pursued as much as I choose to pursue others. Call me when you want to hang out; meanwhile, dont be offended if my calendar fills up and doesnt have room for anybody anymore. I may or may not accommodate anyone else, if it doesnt mean giving up my time for me.
Nor do I claim to be perfect at the other side of relationships, either; there are people I ought to have called weeks ago, and Ive been drowning under other stuff, and havent called them, either. I never said it was one-sided. It is, however, off-balance and off-center at present. Not even going to try to adjust it, except for myself. Yall can go play over there for awhile.
I am now reading the latest Reclaiming Trad book, Twelve Wild Swans, by Starhawk and Hilary Valentine. Its a breath of fresh air, right now. Reclaiming is the first Wiccan trad I got involved with, decades ago; and one of the two trads I am initiated in. Its both an archetypal mythopoetic book of stories and tales, and a practical manual for ritual managers, teachers, and wise ones. About time someone put into print some of those things weve all learned through hard experience.
CCXXXIV. 28 June 2005, Pinole, CA
More on Poetry
Ive been having a genteel argument with a friend or two about what sort of books are useful for a poet to read. I dont think the usual reference books, which are all about form and structure and grammar, are that useful. I think reading poetry itself is the best guide. Here are some excerpts from the dialogue that detail, for my part, my position:
I don't find reference books useful in general, largely because I absorbed most of that as a kid and it's still stuck in there. I also don't deal with poetic form much; I do own two books cataloguing poetic forms from around the world and across the ages, but I've never actually consulted them. I own several dictionaries, which I maybe consult once a year. I have big books of quotations, which I actually do use; my favorite is the big old 1950s Oxford quotations book, which is indexed by author rather than topic, so it's more fun to browse in. I have several thesauri, and other general purpose writing books. I also got rid of several of these before hitting the nomad road last year, and kept only the best. I honestly don't find "how to write" books at all useful; if anything, I think they do more harm than good. (In the same way Joni Mitchell's initial ignorance about playing and writing music led her to innovate in ways uniquely her own, for which I am terribly grateful. I also think she's a kick-ass poet; one of the few "folk singer-songwriters" who genuinely IS a poet. Look at the forms of her lyrics on "Hejira"--amazingly developed poetry, that.)
My aunt gave me for Christmas when I was a very young Dragon, The Reader's Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary, which was actually a damn good dictionary, that I used all the way from elementary school through college; I was a geek, though, and read it for simple fun when in 5th and 6th grade. Since I remember almost everything I read, now you know the source of my ostentatiously loquacious vocabulary.
As for a library of what poets to read, to learn the art of poetry, I defer to Basho: Do not imitate the old masters. Seek what they sought. That's how it works for me, basically. Seeking the experiences that lead to the poems, rather than trying to write like anybody.
So, those poets I read to appreciate their brilliance I guess you might also consider those I read to learn from. The list includes: Basho, Rilke, Rumi, George Mackay Brown, Rukeyser, Sarton, Paz, Neruda, Lorca, Elytis, Cavafy, Seferis, Jean Valentine, Angelos Sikelianos, many Chinese, Japanese, and ancient Indian poets, Judith Wright, some Jane Hirshfield, several others I can probably think of later.
Now, having said all that, I'm going to amend it to include one genre of poet-related books that I do find useful: poet's journals; books about the art of writing; books about books. I read book about books for pleasure, since I'm an incurable bibliophile, although I justify it under the rubric of being a part-time professional book designer and typographer. For example:
One of the best of these poet's writing compilations is The Poet's Work: Twenty Nine Masters of Twentieth Century Poetry on the Origins and Practice of Their Art ed. by Reginald Gibbons. Poets who have kept journals or written essays about their creative work are represented here in both long and short excerpts. There's an "aha!" on almost every page. My favorites include the entries by René Char, Eugenio Montale, George Seferis, Lorcas essay on the duende, Wendell Berry, Robert Duncan, and Gary Snyder. Very highly recommended.
Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Possibly the best essay on the subject ever written. Applicable to poetry, visual art, music, design, and all the rest.
Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch. A must-read for all artists. Very eloquently describes the states of being artists inhabit when they are creating, and how to get there. This is one of those books I almost always have an extra copy on hand, to give away to someone who needs to read it.
Federico Garcia Lorca's essays on The Duende and Deep Song are essential.
I find reading Borges and Cage on the creative process to be inspirational: they get me going and making and writing.
Every time I read Coleman Barks' lucid translations of Rumi, I write at least one poem in response.
All of these books still fall under Basho's dictate to "seek what they sought," I suppose. In every case, what I get from the poet is a sense of what they were thinking at the time, how they think about writing. Method and purpose.
All this sounds more intellectual than it actually is, as a process. In fact, it's more a case of absorbing the environment, the mood, the setting, the tale, as if by osmosis. Seek what they sought. I do this not by imitating what they wrote, but by visiting the places they were when they wrote what they wrote. Greece and Orkney are on the pilgrimage list, for someday. So is Australia.
Many of those titles in a how-to-write poetry-writing reference library will never teach us how to engage, engage, engage. And neither will most poetry workshops or classes. I still lack evidence that workshops or reference books mean a damn thing. Based on the evidence, it seems to me that those with some talent already present will benefit from the workshops by polishing their rough talents; but no amount of workshops or classes will ever help those with no talent to do anything more than learn to emulate the forms and skills. They can't provide inspiration or creativity. They can provide craft, but not the ability to engage.
I come back to reading poetry as the first and last thing to do. This is how we learn how the poems engage, or fail to.
Why do I take this stance? Because if there was one thing I learned in music school, where I was a composition major, it was that they couldn't teach composition or inspiration or creativity. So they loaded us down with music theory requirements, approximately 6 times as much per volume. How much of that acquired music theory training do I actually use in my creative life? About .5 percent. They can teach technique and craft, but they cant teach inspiration and creativity. They can teach you how to harness your creativity, but they cant substitute craft for it.
The reference books teach us structural mechanics. You can't substitute structural mechanics for elegance or inspiration. But all too often, post-workshop poets nowadays think we can. There is no substitution for duende; but seeking a substitute is a very common mistake. A dryness of spirit cannot be dressed up in bows and ribbons and be presented as a living bride when it remains just a mannequin. Until the poet finds their own passion, their own root level and best work, no amount of poetic craft can compensate for dryness of spirit.
I recommend Makoto Ueda's Matsuo Basho as an introductory critical biography. It's still one of the better biographies of Basho, and contains many quotes of Basho writing and thinking about his art, which to my mind is as valuable a reference as Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, which I think is an essential text for any creative person to read.
Here are two other books that are essential references for haiku:
The Essential Basho, translated by Sam Hamill
Kobayashi Issa, The Spring of My Life, and selected haiku also translated by Sam Hamill
Both of these contain long introductory essays by the translator that are very useful as a reference for the student of the spirit of haiku. Both essays contain quotes from the poets, discussing what they were looking for as poets. Again, as Basho said, in regard to the poet masters, Seek what they sought.
Hamill assumes the reader already knows the technical formal aspects of haiku, so these are best read if you already know the mechanics of haiku. Both of these translations focus on the haibun form, the artful narrative-with-haiku. Basho's Narrow Road to the Interior is a masterpiece of literature in any era, in any language, in my opinion. Of the two dozen or so translations of Narrow Road to the Interior my two favorites are Hamill's and Donald Keane's, because both capture the introspective mood throughout. Japanese schoolchildren are still taught this book as an exemplar of the highest levels of literature.
CCXXXIII. 28 June 2005, Pinole, CA
Thinking some more today about what I witnessed at Pride, and after. During the day, the sun warming us all at last, the mood of the crowd was peaceful, celebratory, very positive. Cliquish at times, to be sure, but mutually supportive overall. Afterwards, driving home through the City, on the way out, witnessing that the mental walls came back up very quickly: gay couples walking down the street hard-faced and hidden again. A long line of Castro clones outside a Folsom St. bar where, no doubt, there would be an after-Pride party into the wee hours, all lined up, with attitude and hard edges again. No softnesses there, no celebrations. Back to the grind. I felt saddened by all this, this return to attitude. Do we need so much fucking attitude? Is it really necessary?
Today I have been continuously challenged by someone on the gay mystics list who wants to be right about what he believes, and for me to be wrong. He wont let go, although I have ceased to engage in his desired debate. I stated in my last post, sometimes its wise to step back and ask oneself why one is so invested in being right. I really push buttons sometimes, I know, but then, its my job. Catalyst disturber proton, thats me. I even presented the mirror for projections, and talked about it openly, and it totally went past him, like nothing; he didnt even notice it. I feel sadness, and pity. I cannot waste any more energy on his healing, not right now; he has to come to grips with it, himself.
I am no assimilationist. I do not care if we are ever accepted by mainstream culture, politically, and I dont care if we ever blend in, sociallywhich is the goal of the assimilationists, except for the all-important what we do in the bedroom. I dont care. My path is beauty, and terror, and war and peace. A path for the warriors for peace. Its a solitary path, not a social one.
All these attacks that want to knock me off center today. My way, the Warriors way, the weirding way, if you will, I feel a little lonely, even as I accept my path for being what it is; I could wish, should I wish to waste my energy, to be better understood, less isolated, less alone, on this path. I have given up my need to be understood, except sometimes it creeps back in as that shadow need to be loved, which dates from very early childhood abandonment fears. The return home from India as a boy, where we came home and I got dropped immediately into public school, the weather was cold, I saw snow and television for the first time each. And what is happening now? My parents and I are in fact abandoning each other now. For my part, I need this distance, to rebuild my life, from them; and in my mothers case, her Alzheimers as it progresses, is as gradual and painful an abandonment as having my heart fail in my chest, day by day, cell by slow cell. Its excruciating, and I cant deal with it. Pam and David are visiting Beloit this summer, as usual, but only for a week, and Dad wonders if its because they cant deal with Mom any longer than that. I hear his loneliness and need to be supported in that plaint, and theres little I can do to assuage it.
I do not reject this path that I am now on. I cannot. Friends try to give me solace, by telling me I am not alone; I tell them: I know. Thank you.
I know Im not alone. I never can be alone. I never have been. That was all illusion and dark night. And just now, just for an hour or two, I need to feel the dark separation, again, to remind me that this path I walk is fraught with solitude, and solitary vision. Dangerous visions, to some. Because not comforting, not tidy, not nice, not ignoring the shadow. I do myself no favor by grasping at companionship only because I am lonely; so, just for tonight, this insomniac night with the wind stirring the rosebushes outside my window, I permit myself to feel the loneliness, the isolation. The truth is, I have few I can actually talk to about my path: who even comprehend it, its turns and challenges; who can share the secret ways; who are my peers. Most do not know, and there is no reason for them to know. It doesnt matter, and it will pass by morning.
CCXXXII. 26 June 2005, Pinole, CA
Went to Gay Pride again today. The sun came out in the mid-afternoon, finally emerging from the low clouds as a balm and blessing. Pride was enormous today, loud and crowded. I wandered about, stopped in at a few interesting booths, had a snack, but mostly spent my time people-watching and taking stealth photos. I guess most of Pride happens on Parade day, or Sunday. A couple of times I have come close to buying a Utilikilt. How can you beat a kilt with pockets? Their booth was doing a brisk business, and I saw numerous kilts during ghte day. I missed the Parade, didnt arrive till 2pm or so, but I stayed till after 6. After walking around most of the afternoon, at last I found the Radical Faeries play area, which is actually a huge anarchist free TAZ over in a corner, a little park-like area. Nudity, DJs on a mini-stage, pot, it was all happening. I met up with Joe there, after spending most of the day alone. No coincidences. I also bought a rainbow flag sarong to wear just before meeting up with him. The real fun part of it was meeting a couple of my Faerie friends, Silverfang, and later, Topsoil. People Ive been wanting to see and meet up with. Get reconnected with the local Fae community. That was fun. I guess theres a weekly Fae coffee still happening in the City, too, which Ill go to sometime soon.
Found out that theres an Oakland and East Bay Gay Mens Chorus. They were all very friendly at their booth, much more welcoming and, dare I say it, less snooty than the SF Chorus folks I had met the day before. In general, if not in all specific cases.
All in all, it was a great Pride day for me, a good day, a good way to spend the day. The mood of the crowd was celebratory, mostly patient with one another, tolerant if not pleased with the odd Christian proselytizer wandering the crowd. Im glad I went back in to Pride after all, even though my original plans for the weekend hadnt happened as intended. Whatever. It was actually good to be on my own for most of the day, as I could do what I wanted, stalk who I wanted to stalk, practice my shields and invisibility and grounding, and my random moments of people-watching and quasi photojournalism. The best part of it was the beautiful people. The worst part of it was the sheer volume of sound coming from all the stages, echoing in the city building canyons. The rest of it? Thats a longer list. Maybe Ill write about it some other time; or not. By days end, a little overwhelming, and definitely more than a little overstimulating.
CCXXXI. 25 June 2005, Pinole, CA
Random Paragraphs from the Deep:
My dreams last night vivid, whirling, intense, although I cant recall details. Spinning icons and mandalas, in part.
A dream of blue lights and lines, moving.
Key limes are dusky, dirty yellow, not green.
Joe spent the night last night here, although I guess I snored, keeping him awake. In the morning, quiet warm touch of skin to skin. I am greedy for all of it, everything, all those things that come with the beginning phase of a relationship. We took the BART into SF today and wandered around SF Gay Pride, down by the City Hall area. It was surprisingly sedate and small. Much smaller than the Twin Cities annual event. Overcast skies, but I took stealth photos anyway, people-watching, On the main stage, the SF Gay Mens Chorus singing a song I had done within the past year in Minneapolis with the Twin Cities Chorus. I checked out some booths, got some flyers. Tomorrow, if the weathers nice, Ill go in and photograph the Parade. Im not taat into Pride this year, but Ive never seen it in SF before, and you have to do that once in your life. The supposed Gay Mecca and all.
Yesterday afternoon, I went on a photo shoot at San Gregorio and Pescadero with a young man who was willing to model nude for me. I got the best photos of a model I have ever gotten. I had him do many poses that Ive wanted for Spiral Dance. I made a loincloth the night before, out of fabric I had bought earlier this week; he said it was very comfortable to wear. We worked with the water, and with the rocks, emerging, going back into the earth. At the Pescadero arch, he went in and did some more poses for me, that are excellent, iconic, shamanic. His body is perfect, tan skin, all an even brown, the same color as the loincloth, and he looked primal, shamanic, in the photos. Since we were at the nude beach, I got nude too, and was actually sweating in the humidity and heat as we moved from location to location, even though the sun was hidden, and the clouds were making perfect, even, cloudy-bright light. Perfect conditions, perfect light, perfect location, perfect model. He told me on the drive home that, in all his recent modeling experiences with gay artists, I was the first to ever get naked, too. He also said the photos were the best anyones ever taken of him; he was reassessing his body self-image as we looked them over on the drive back to town. I will give him copies of them all, as I had promised to do, when we work together again next week, at least one more time. harvesting of images for Spiral Dance, but also for nude erotic images in nature. He liked being nude in the natural settings, and liked the photos because of that, especially as compared to indoor studio lighting. Score one more for outdoor photographers.
CCXXX. 24 June 2005, on the BART train, CA
A second morning enveloped by low clouds, fog on the hills, the sun a blank disk behind a grey veil, and cold winds. I under-dress, knowing it will warm up this afternoon. This afternoon, since Im only working a half-day, I plan to do a photo shoot with a man I met at the nude beach; hes willing to model nude, and I have some tribal clothing ideas, too, like loincloth and sarong. I went fabric shopping a few days ago, and found with J.s assistance, a few bolts of fabric that are unique, appropriate, and beautiful. I could really get into fabric, if I let myself. I am ready to do another materials CD like I did a few years ago, where I scanned fabrics, leaves, and papers at high-res, for backgrounds and source materials.
I thought to myself, lying in bed this morning, that I feel awake and alive. I look back on the previous parts of my life, and I look to myself back then as passive and asleep. This is not a judgment, but an assessment. Perhaps I continue to be a really late bloomer, as many introspective types are. And I look at how passive I often was towards life and circumstances; this allowed me to be the Victim and the Wounded Child, two archetypes I dont want to be anymore, and to yell at fate and the godz whenever I felt victimized. I still do some of that, but my attitudes and positions have changed, in a fundamental, almost unnoticeable way, towards deeper understanding and self-reliance. Perhaps it was all the time in the desert that did it; when, even though I had almost nothing at hand, I still had to do it all myself, and I wanted to.
I was asleep, and now I am awake. At least part of the time. I was passive and even passive-aggressive, and now I am more aggressive towards going after those things I want, and desire, and need. No one else will do it for you, so you might as well jump in and do it yourself. If its worth doing, that is. I note that some things I have let go of as thinking they are worth doing, or must be done, or have to be done to be loved. I let them go, now and again. Well, I feel loved, just for who I am, right now, no strings. That has been creeping up on me for at least a couple of years, since I first met Alex, and our relationship deepened, and I began to feel committed to the long haul with Alex. Now, too, with Joe, there is another potential for a long-term relationship, no matter form it eventually evolves into, or whatever happens, or wherever we go from here. I find myself able, knowing that I am loved, to not have to worry about it. Its not that I dont care, its that I am letting go of expectations in the certainty of knowing and fear that I am loved.
Does this solve anything, for the long haul? I dont know. What I do know is that the reasons I came out herelove, career, beauty, open sexuality and open heartare all coming true. I cannot imagine this having happened when I was, in those earlier years, asleep. Did it take me this long to wake up for a reason, such as, lessons to be learned? Certainly. Although you stop learning, well, never. For I saw as a child sees, and now I am a man. Does it matter that I was asleep before, and now I am awake? No. It was necessary. It was part of the process. Even Chuang Tzu slept, and dreamt of butterflies and men. I feel awake now; or, this is the most lucid dream a person can have, and still have a body.
Im comfortable with myself, and people notice it. I can be sassy, fun, and passionate, and be honest with both my feelings and the power under life, and people notice that, too. I can tell a man I like him, I like being with him, and mean it. Every man I have had sex with, since Ive been awake, I have loved; genuinely loved, even if only for a day. I still have to love someone in order to be able to make love to them, with them. You worship the rampant god, the manifestation of Shiva and Dionysus and Pan and Priapus and Eros, with every man you engage with. The feeling of life-energy coursing through you, the ekstasis of abandoning yourself to be taken by the god, to be the Beloved, to be fucked as well as to fuck, to be a woman and a man at the same time, the river of light and ecstasy, so like the sun in the sky, so beyond it like the sun behind the sun, all this, everything alive, everything that there is, is alive with lifelove, and you cannot separate any of it anymore, even if you wanted to. I am no ones ideal of the gay mens stereotype of the Greek god physique, although I am the image of a Hindu god or two, which is good, as I resonate more with that ineluctable and fluid pantheon far more, anyway. I note these things about myself, in myself, and do not call them hubris but rather self-assessment. I feel awake, now. I may not be many peoples image of male body, but I am nonetheless an image of beauty. And I get to photograph male beauty, and just beauty. All men are beautiful (as are all women), all ages, all shapes, all forms and sizes and colors and types. There is nothing that is not beautiful. Even the ugly is beautiful, in a certain light. Because everything is part of the whole, and God is part of everything, and is everything, and is whole. When I make love to you, I am worshipping. Prayers during sex are entirely appropriate and entirely fitting. Even just a horny fuck session is sacred, and worshipful. Every kind of intimacy is love. I know this for myself, now, not theoretically, although I have always believed it, or something similar, but from direct personal experience. And there is no better way towards God, than direct experience, unmediated, unkempt, crazy, wild, loving, unfettered, insane. Amour fou is always illegal, whether its disguised as a marriage or a boy scout troop.
CCXXIX. 22 June 2005, Pinole, CA
eucalyptus leaves bat the fog
a scrawl of calligraphic air swirls
writing on hill and sky
Morning fog hovers over the Berkeley hills. Sun spots. Full moon the past few nights. Joe spent the night last night; we just parted on the train. An hour of lying together in the hot tub last night, kissing, and more. The sky bright with moon. White ring of stars opening onto another season.
Last week, just to be specific about it, in the space of 24 hours, I had a flat tire on the truck, got toxic-gassed at work, where there was a damaged pipe, eroded by photo chemicals over the years, that required a jackhammer to get at, making dust, etc., and then, just before going to a band practice with Fuse, I was cleaning out a candle scnonce and the knife slipped and jabbed into the back of left thumb, right behind the knuckle. I felt it hit bone, knew it was bad, then it started to bleed. Had to yell for help. Jane stodd there and put Neosporin on gauze while I held the wound pinched closed. Took us two or three tries, with a fair bit of of me cursing my own stupidity throughout, to get it covered with gauze and then wrapped tight with two layers of medical tape. The bandage held all night, then I put a fresh one on the morning, with more antibiotic. It had stopped bleeding by the end of the day. Thank the godz no trip to the ER for stitches. Now, days later, I have this big gaping-grin scar on the back of the thumb, a deep canyon scab that is slowly filling in as it heals.
So, last week. Oh yeah, an annoying client who pissed me off on Friday. I decided to immortalize them in a new font. Here it is:
Download Mac version (PostScript and TrueType)
Download Windows versions (TrueType)
A Fucqu(TM) Badthumb Knucklescar font. You cant make my life miserable, Ill just make a font about you. Hah. Badthumb will be my next little production company; I invent a new one about every year, and do all the identity system, just for fun, even if it never gets any further than that. I find myself venting my hostility and frustration this way, creatively, is a good thing. Someday maybe i'll collect all these pieces and make t-shirts or card designs and market them. Joe came up with Knucklescar as the punk music label under Badthumb. Hah. Making art is the best revenge, along with art that mocks the pretentious, the asinine, and the problem children of the printing world.
morning fog tendrils caress hands and face
sun wakes us, warm in the blankets
hot skin touching, sweat, salt taste of morning flesh
eros of everyday life, pull of tide and blanket down
warmth pulling at heat, pulling back down, down to sleep
sleep again, a few minutes between alarms, for things to harden
hardening, rising, waking, stretch of skin over flesh, awake, alive
kiss of sun on skin, kiss of skin on sun, kiss, skin, sun, morning
Whats wonderful is that its so comfortable. It feels natural. Holding hands. Sitting together. Talking, or not. Its physically satisfying to me in a way I rarely have had; satisfying touch, satisfying contact, hand-holding, kissing, skin on skin. Its just satisfying. Fearless public handholding. Discrete gropes. Walking by the waterside in the wind, hanging on for dear life.
CCXXVIII. 18 June 2005, Pinole, CA
Last weekend, I met a young man. Maybe the young man Ive been wanting to meet all these years. I am afraid to say the word love, or to dare to pursue definitions and labels too much, as it is too wonderful and beautiful to shatter or rush into: I am afraid to build up expectations. I want to see him again, soon. Our lovemaking was everything I desired, and more. Surprised by an hour or more of just kissing. Touch and more touch. At more than one point, I almost left my body, I was in such a delirium of eros, beside myself with ekstasis and intensity. Almost too powerful to bear. I was dizzy, lost in the stars, almost not in my body, where I wanted to be in my body more than ever, to experience everything as it was happening. Sacred love, religious lovemaking, all heart and skin.
He spent the night, and we slept together. The next day, we braved the traffic and the high winds to spend a few more hours naked together on the beach. An infinite sky. We took refuge in one of those driftwood edifices people build on the beaches, to shelter from the wind. More touch, and kissing, and lovemaking. Its rare, and maybe a signal of something, and we came together at almost the same moment.
Afterwards, a walk in the sand and the wind. The water was freezing cold, I only waded in a little.
I want to do this all again. Beauty is the beginning of terror, as Rilke said.
Im a poet, a bard. Why am I afraid to use certain words in talking about this? Because I know the strength and weakness of words. Because I dont want to skew this into something it is not, dont want to fence it in with labels. I want it to be real, to be just what it is, without expectation or distortion or need. Just let it become what it is meant to become.
CCXXVII. 18 June 2005, Pinole, CA
I admit it: at root, part of me is a folkie. Simplicity and sincerity, no frills necessary.
So, I went into the record store in El Cerrito last weekend, and picked up an anthology of some of the music I've been listening to for a long time. I first discovered Gordon Bok's music circa 1979; it had the magic and mystery of the Atlantic Ocean in it, up there in Maine and Canada. (Why so many great singer-songwriters from Canada? You have to do something to combat the yearly darknesses, I guess.) So, I picked up a few old friends, finally making the voyage from vinyl to CD.
Two anthologies by the trio of Gordon Bok, Anne Mayo Muir, and Ed Trickett, a total of 31 favorite songs, The First Fifteen Years, Volumes 1 and 2. There's Dark Old Waters, the first Bok tune I learned, a lullaby the shipwright sings to the boat just completed, wondering where its journeys across the dark old waters will take it. There's Eric Bogle's WW I lamentation, No Man's Land, as sung by Ed, the most powerful anti-war song I've ever heard. The last verse:
Can't help but wondering, poor William McBride,
Did all those who die here know just why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you The Cause?
Did you really believe that the war would end wars?
On, the suffering and the sorrow and the glory and the shame,
The killing and the dying, was all done in vain.
For, William McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
There's also Julian of Norwich, sung by Ann, about the 14th century English anchorite and mystic. All shall be well again, and all manner of things shall be well. Julian. I admit it, I had a rough week, between the flat tire and the toxic gases and accidentally stabbing a knife through my thumb; so when I heard Ann sing out "All shall be well again," I burst into tears of relief and unexpected joy.
There's also a rollicking folk arrangement of Sonny Rollins' tune St. Thomas. And a silly song, led by Ann and sung with a live audience, Waltzing With Bears, that makes me think of my Faerie best friend, Two Bears. A big man with a big heart and a little girls giggle.
I also picked up a similar anthology of old Bok tunes, gathered from his more solo albums, called North Wind's Clearing. This has one of his signature narrative-plus-music stories, that he calls "tellings," the one called Peter Kagan and the Wind. It's a story about a fisherman who marries one of the seal people; then one day, after they've been married for awhile, he gets lost at sea, during a sudden late-year storm, and she comes across the waves to rescue him, at peril to her own life.
So, what I guess I really gotta say is: Sometimes I have to go back to the music with heart and soul. As technological and forward-looking as I usually am, it's good to get re-grounded in the roots that support it all: good songs and stories, ordinary people, and the wildness of the sea and the land.
This is all music I sing along with. It's music I brought with me on my voyage across the country last year, on cassette, Peter Kagen and a sampling of other songs. I found myself singing along in the truck today, as I went about my errands and my shopping, and on the way home. And the heavy traffic, and the city stress, and the hurried people all around me, could not touch this peaceful joy, or break me down, this time. All shall be well again, I know.
CCXXVI. 13 June 2005, Pinole, CA
The sun hot and hard, like summer in New Mexico. I can still love that land, without being able to live there. Ill go back, some day, to finish my time in the desert. Meanwhile, the heat and sun greet me here.
I read Rudolfo Anayas mystery novel Zia Summer. Ive read Anaya several times before, starting with his classic Bless Me, Ultima. His books are full of the old culture, the old ways, the brujeria ways. The living heart of Nuevo Mexicana Latino culture, hot chile and cool nights.
In his novel, there are three characters tied to the old ways, the ways of the land and sun, that pre-date Christianity. One of them, the elderly Don Eliseo, guides our main detective character, Sonny Baca, towards knowledge of his own sacred self, even while Sonny is searching for a killer. There is a beautiful scene in the novel, that reminds me of my own long-time ritual of greeting the morning, dating all the way back to when I lived in Wisconsin. I would go out in the early morning light, and face east, and give prayers, and offer tobacco, when I had some around. (I dont smoke, but I sometimes have tobacco around for offerings.)
Here is the passage about the morning prayer, the dawn magic, the daily arrival of the Lords and Ladies of the Light:
The first rays of the sun peeked over Sandia Crest, filling the valley with a dazzling light. Dawn shadows scattered as the brightness exploded.
A stillness filled the air as the first moments of scintillating light filled the valley, then the leaves of the cottonwoods quivered as the playful light came racing across the treetops and dropped to glisten on the leaves of corn. The entire valley seemed to fill with a presence, something Sonny thought he could reach out and touch.
Los Señores y las Señoras, Sonny whispered, and held his breath.
The old man had told him about the Lords and Ladies of the Light who came with the sun, but Sonny had never been up early enough to share the event with don Eliseo. Now as the dance of light sparkled on the dew and the green plants, he felt the magical moment.
Sí, don Eliseo replied. Grandfather Sun is rising to bless all of life, and he sends los Señores and las Señoras down to earth. See how they come dancing across the treetops, on the corn, on the chile plants, everywhere .
You pray to the Señores y Señoras? Sonny asked.
Yes, just as I pray to the kachinas and the santos. When my wide was alive, I went to church with her. Every Sunday we went to mass together. You know what I found out? In all those fifty years of going to church, not a single priest ever knew about los Señores y las Señoras de la Luz. Old priests, young priests, they came and went at our parish, but not one knew about this. They knew about Tata Dios, but they didnt understand that Grandfather Sun is the giver of life. The light enters our soul and gives us clarity.
The sun had cleared the crest of the mountain now, fully risen, and the play of light reached a climax that created the essence of a living presence around them.
See the light shining on the leaves of the Alamos, the maize, the grass, my wifes roses. Everything they touch is alive!
My mother used to pray: Quién llena esta casa de luz? Jesus. Quién la llena de alegria? Maria. Que claro se ve, teniendo en el corazón, a Jesus, Maria, y José . Something like that.
The prayer is to fill the house with light, don Eliseo said. Every day one opens the window and doors and fills the house with the new light of day. All the Señores y la Señoras de la Luz to also enter your soul
Rudolfo Anaya, Zia Summer
It is very much like that. I have seen many California dawns just like this one, since I started getting up at dawn to go to work. Now, I find myself awaking at dawn to greet the sun, even on cloudy days, even on days I dont have to go to work. I may go back to bed for awhile, but I greet the dawn. I especially love lying in bed and filling the sunlight caress my skin in the cool mornings, waking me, blessing me, coaxing me, on those days it will become an anvil of heat and light by midday.
CCXXV. 12 June 2005, Pinole, CA
After an intense 24 hours exploring the shores of passion, affinity, commonality and relationships, I went to bed early last night, exhausted, and woke early this morning, as sunlight struck the bed. I have been waking at dawn, even on those days I dont need to. I find myself adrift on changing time, no longer knowing what my habits or even preferences are, with regard to waking and sleeping. Many times these past few weeks I have found myself collapsing into bed well before midnight, and waking early. I dont know yet if this is a habit or a change of style, or neither of those.
So, I wake at dawn, and read in Borges Selected Nonfictions about Burtons translation of The Thousand and One Nights, and of the intentions and secret structures of Dante, who is more like Odysseus than one might normally guess.
I wrote this two days ago, before this adventure into lovemaking began:
Consciousness and lust want to be embodied. The rituals of time and magick are not separate from sex, lust, good food, wine, and sacrament. A perfect meal is a celebration and creates an altered state of consciousness cleaner than any artificial drug. And all the designer addictive drugs these days are artificial.
For more on this, I refer you to the inspiration for this paragraph, a re-reading on my part of Hakim Beys text on Sorcery. He writes: The incremental openings of perception gradually banish the false selves, our cacophonous ghoststhe black magic of envy & vendetta backfires because Desire cannot be forced. . He is using deliberately provocative, inciteful language; the same urge and expression also fall under the ancient Greek words eros and ekstasis, and have been brilliantly engaged by modern Greek poets such as Odysseas Elytis and (in a quieter way) Constantine Cavafy. It is living with ones skin off, being engaged with the world and the embodied
I spent the previous night and yesterday morning in bed, following an hours interlude in the hot tub, but not sleeping; or, not much. And when I slept, there was warm skin next to mine the whole night. I constantly asked myself in wonder, can this be happening, have I found what I have been looking for, how do I proceed without clipping the birds wings. No answers to these eternal questions; I realize the best course is to wait and see, and take it day to day. I can find no other languages to describe my feelings than either the explicitly erotic or the oblique and labyrinthine. I incline towards the latter at the moment, but will no doubt resort to the former in other venues.
Yesterday afternoon, driving to and from the beach, where we spent a few hours in the sun, we held hands in the car most of the way. I have finally experienced a satisfying amount of touching, something I have previously craved more than received. Eros is not orgasm, or not only orgasm; it is too often misunderstood by the uninitiated as being a goal, a technique of production, a result; but it is not. Eros is a state of being, an altered state of consciousness, which the self and body inhabit outside of time, or caring about time. It can compress forever into a day, an hour, a momentary brush of hands or thighs.
I loudly and obliquely announce that I may have found the One I have been searching for, the fit good, the mutual interests overlapping and endless, new surprises that seem like things youve always known as soon as theyre revealed. Well see where it goes. The suspense is as good as the discovery. Whether it turns out to be love or just limerance is irrelevant: this heart is opening an awakening, and that itself is good.
I think it was Rilke who wrote: Beauty is the beginning of terror. I am experiencing such beauty in this, and it is terrifying. This intimacy, this expression. This joy.
CCXXIV. 7 June 2005, Pinole, CA
On a little hidden cove beach, south of Russian River, that my friend D. introduced me to yesterday, that not many people go to because its not labeled at the road, we sat and ate lunch, then stared at the waves for awhile. I felt like this was the meditation the last two days had led me to. A gull sat with us for awhile, awaiting scraps.
Theres a stream that comes down to the steeply-sloped beach, filled with boulders and rounded stones of various sizes. Some people had built menhirs here by placing rounded rocks on end onto the large red exotics there at rivers mouth. I felt moved to make a henge of rounded stones, with a stack of circular stones in the center. Everything is circles, intertwined, embedded. Wheels within wheels. Something of a pattern with my work, I know. Circles everywhere.
Later, driving up the coast, gifted with a symbol that really hit me hard: an eagle flew right by the truck, carrying a snake. Thats a divine symbol that goes way back, with so many layers, Ill have to look it up. It appears on ancient Greek coins, in Native American creation stories, in ancient Rome, and a lot of other places. The Feathered Serpent is related to this, too.
I went shopping today for another art portfolio book in Berkeley, found the one I wanted. Ended up at Pegasus Books, where I found two thick volumes of Jorge Luis Borges, one of my favorite writers and inspirations: Collected Fiction and Selected Nonfiction. Hours and days of reading, mixed with the delicate illusions of text and sound. Nothing could be more erotic right now. I love getting lost in his libraries that may never have existed, reading books that probably didnt.
Also on the plate, that I picked up within the last week, mostly at Goodwill: Re/Search #13: Angry Women; Kazantzakis: Symposium, an early philosophical dialogue, written around the same time as Saviors of God; Jean Cocteau: Appogiatures/Grace Notes; Rudolfo Anaya: Zia Summer, a detective novel set in Albuquerque; a few other things, more or less esoteric.
CCXXIII. 6 June 2005, on the train, CA
The end of life comes too quickly for us to concern ourselves with it, or with anything else. Its a sudden, lingering falling towards an abyss we already know, we have already plumbed in our darkest hours, our times when we have nothing left to lose. As the Japanese ronin knew, when you are about to die, you can do anything. Anything.
I found a book of Jungs Selected Letters, 19091961. I open the page to a letter he wrote to Miguel Serrano, Chilean diplomat and author of some small works of mysticism that I highly recommend, especially The Serpent of Paradise and The Ultimate Flower; he was also a friend of Hermann Hesse, and an acquaintance of Neruda. Jung writes to Serrano, in March 1960:
I quite agree with you that those people in our world who have insight and good will enough should concern themselves with their own souls more than with preaching to the masses or trying to find out the best way for them. They only do that because they dont know themselves. But alas, it is a sad truth that usually those who know nothing for themselves take to teaching others, in spite of the fact that they know the best method of education is the good example.
Surely modern art is trying its best to make man acquainted with a world full of darkness, but alas, the artists themselves are unconscious of what they are doing.
The very thought that mankind ought to make a step forward and extend and refine consciousness of the human being seems to be so difficult that nobody can understand it, or so abhorrent that nobody can pluck up his courage. All steps forward in the improvement of the human psyche have been paid for by blood. . . .
Meanwhile everybody teaches everybody, and nobody seems to realize the necessity that the way to improvement begins right in himself. It is almost too simple a truth. Everybody is on the lookout for organizations and techniques where one can follow the other and where things can be done safely in company.
To lead by example is the best way to create the ripple effect of change. This is what Gandhi did as well. I used to be an activist, going out on the streets and talking in schools. Nowadays, I find my activism to be much deeper and more profoundand its effects more lastingwhen I put it into my art, my writing, and my music. The changes we can all effect, to make the world a finer place, can be small and add to up to much more.
CCXXII. 5 June 2005, on the train, CA
A recurring image in my dreams last night: a mother scorpion crossing a road, from east to west, with her young riding on her back; deadly beauty, grace, and fierce tenderness; at first I am sitting in a roadside café, under an awning shielding us from the desert sun, looking out across the flat hot expanse of the desert noonday, when I see a scorpion crossing the two-lane highway; then in later dreams, the image kept getting larger and closer.
I wake just after dawn and open the curtains, then lie back down. I lie in bed, with the sun warming my body directly, and listen to the silence: a small breeze occasionally stirring the rosebushes outside my window; little traffic in the distance, the calmness of a Sunday morning with nothing to do. The sun warms my body, but I lie half in shadow, feeling both cool and warm at the same time, very sensual.
CCXXI. 2 June 2005, on the train, CA
I find myself responding to others pain in ways that are new to me. Mostly with compassion, but also with occasional impatience. Impatient that they get it and move on. I find myself not telling people what to do, but telling them what Ive been through. Everyone has to make their own roadmaps; I can share mine, but I cant dictate theirs for them. It doesnt work that way. I am less and less willing to intervene, or comment, or help. You cant help people anyway, unless they want to be helped. They simply wont let it in. If they come to you, asking for help, thats one thing; but its a very different thing to try to help them beyond what they will accept and receive. There are no set rules to this, but there are some guidelines.
I really have nothing to say here. I am just saying.
To find my center, I come back to observing. Simply being still and noticing. Whats going on around me. Whats in my thoughts. My feelings. My surroundings. The reflections and mirrors of things inside projected outside. Noticing.
I am riding on the train, recording the ambient sounds of the train. Around me there are other riders. One man is a developmentally disabled man who talks to everyone, himself, hjis crayons, himself. A couple of punkers. Some elderly commuters, reading their novels. I type as we ride, on the laptop, and the warmth of the machine on my thighs is like the warmth of the sunlight streaming in the windows, those times we are above ground. We go up, we go down. Noticing. None of this means anything. It just is.
Just is. Just being. Not even doing. I am just being, here, now, just now, just now. The light on the world outside the window. Everything I do is light. All my art is based on light. Cell phones ring, then get cut off when the train dives underground. Then when we emerge again, the voicemail messages kick in.
I record. It sustains. I sustain. I notice. There is no eye. Nothing to be done. Just being.
Nothing. No thing. Just. Is.
CCXX. 31 May 2005, Pinole, CA
I couldnt get anyone to drive to the beach with me today, and I was feeling tired from the previous weekends excursions, so I decided instead to take an Art Day, and make art, and work on creative projects. I went out for a short while to do some shopping, mostly art-related. Now Im back, and feeling like making dinner in a little bit. Perhaps I can sustain this art-making day into the evening, one way or another.
The sprits talking so strongly over the weekend: the catalogue is a long one, with many close encounters with animal familiars, all of whom came very close to me, or let me get close to them.
At the end of Tomales Bay, in the elk preserve, at the top of those hills, it was like being in Scotland or northern Canada, running with the caribou: gray cloud mist everywhere, and chill wind, very damp. Back down by the seashore, sun peaking through. The contrasts vivid and strong. Elk; redwing blackbird that let me get as close as 4 feet to it; a garter snake slipping under a frond near my foot; a falcon dive-bombed the truck, and flew over the hood right in front of me; ravens pacing us, swooping near and clucking; a red starfish in the tidal rocks at the beach; goats climbing on top of hills and trucks alike; everywhere birds; the birds singing in the scrub growth by the ocean, as we walk out to a point we never arrive at, that just seems to recede no matter how far you walk; the white and yellow points of flowers, poppies half-open by the trail; I wonder if anyone ever notices these; from the top of the hill you can see the feathered bottom edge of the clouds, and the sunlight glittering harshly on the waves beyond; an endless procession of spirits, talking to me, visiting us, passing close by, all the time pulling me into Vision. Not clear there was a message to any of this: more of a hello, where have you been, weve missed you. Sometimes the magickal erupts into the everyday, for no reason; or for deeper reasons, such as balance. I dont push it away, I let it in, and do my best to pay attention. Its wonderful to be this blessed, to be able to accept it as nothing unusual, and as my due. I give up reticence and concealment, and come in from the cold.
I made and ate dinner while watching Andy Goldsworthy: Rivers and Tides. I am thinking more of how art is a Way, a legitimate spiritual practice. Much of the territory Goldsworthy gets into is shamanic, because it spiritually rooted to the land. He talks about energy flows a lot. He also talked about how his photography started as a way to record and explain his pieces to his teachers in art school; but how sometimes he doesnt know what he has until he photographs it, and the photos explain it to him. I know this feeling intimately: not knowing what you have till later: the contemplative phase of the art-making process.
My subject in much of my art is the way light falls on things. Not so much about the things themselves, corners of rooms or objects, but the way the light changes them, illuminates them, transforms them. And the light itself a subject, its play and patterns, in the night photography. I almost bought a tripod today, to replace my old, broken one; but I decided to wait one or two more days. Its on the list for the next paycheck, though; I will need it soon. Just more tool replacement.
The hills around here are already going brown in the summer-like heat of the past week. Just a month ago, they were verdant and tropical green. Now, they are the desert encroaching. The range of energy and colors here is extreme, and powerful.
There is something egotistical and self-conscious, still, about art-making here. I go to visit an artists colony area like Point Reyes, and I feel a vibe of competitiveness there, just under the surface. It happens when artists must make a living from their art, and make it into a business, and establish themselves as commercial entities. Sometimes the naïve, less-polished, less self-conscious art feels wholesome and more grounded by comparison. This is an ongoing dilemma of being an artist in a society that reveres monetary wealth as the be-all and end-all of how we define success. I understand why this is, and I respect those who are engaged with it, and I dont really want to participate in it. I dont think it has to be competitive. I dont think it has to be limited in any way, as though there was some lack of art-buying public. I think the best way to go ahead is to just keep making the art, and if the money is there, following what you love, all to the good. If not, then maybe you have to do something to support the art-making. But just be clear about it: the jobs I get, now and in future, are all to support the art-making, and never will replace it. It cant, nor is it intended to.
What Goldsworthy, Rauschenberg, and Uelsmann all give me are ways of looking at things, especially natural spaces, and their interactions with humans, who after all are a part of nature, as we often forget we are.
Part of this evening, this art day, has had to be refueling. I am finding, as I record the early chapters of this Road Journal for podcast, that I am having to relive some of those old feelings. It seems like a long time ago, although it was only last Septemberhave I really changed that much? Recording the dark days of last Septembers entries, I felt fear of being sucked back into those darknesses, those nightmares. But not really. If theres one thing Ive learned, since then, its how much my own attitude influences outcomes; the camper wreck, and everything that followed, drove that homeif a little too literally at times. I am not that person anymore, lost and lonely in the desert. I am relieved of much of those burdens now, and freer than ever before to choose to do it differently. I choose to keep going with these difficult, dark readings, for the sake of getting through them to the light that comes after. I never expected making these podcast recordings to be so difficult, though: to being it up again, in order to finally release it, once and for all, back into the nothingness from which it arose, and to be replaced by infinite layers of white light, and be healed.
This was all threatening to shut me down for the night, make me go to bed early. So, I finally got out and watched those DVDs or Joni Mitchell, both concert and biography. An artist who truly inspires me, and is sometimes my muse. Not afraid of shadows, not clinging to the light. Her laser ability to see into people, and cut through the hypocrisy; a knife-edged honesty I respect, emulate, and value wherever I find it.
CCXIX. 31 May 2005, Pinole, CA
For the past three days, Ive ended up at Point Reyes, driving around Marin and Sonoma, spending part of the day at Goat Rock beach at where the Russian River arrives at the ocean. And every day, for a few seconds, or for much longer, Ive felt pulled into that shamanic semi-trance where the spirit-voices come forward to get your attention.
Multiple encounters with animal spirits, of many kinds; more than Ive had for weeks now. Spirits talking. The weather has been fine all weekend, warm and sunny, except theres been low-clouds covering the tops of the coastal hills at times. And yesterday we drove up into the hills at the very end of Tomales Bay, and discovered there are elk there. I have now driven the very length of both sides of Tomales Bay, and seen a great deal of beautiful, remote, rural land. Much of it cattle ranch, but some of it nature preserves and state parks.
Nina Swentzell (Tewa-Santa Clara Pueblo):
Artists today are so self-consciousthey go into their studios with these big plans in their heads about what they're going to do and how they're going to do it and it's all very rational, very self-conscious. Art today is a very deliberate act. I feel, however, that art comes from a deeper source somewhereit's part of the act of just living: you know, let's put on the beans and get the clay out.
I open up my old journal, dream-hunting, and read this quote, that I copied into it a few years ago. A reminder, timely, to just do the work, and quit thinking about doing it.
I feel more and more often moved to just arrange natural objects, found littering the beach or the woods, in patterns that will not last, that will be swept away. Maybe no one will ever see these artful arrangements. I photograph them, which may be the only record that they were ever there. I make circles with broken twigs in the sand; I make henges out of sticks, lined up with the natural arches in the cliffs and rocks offshore; secret alignments that point towards the Spirit, if only you look within; I arrange polished quartzite pebbles into Zen gardens the size of hands. If there's a garden, and no one there to meditate in it, is it really there? And I discover circular voids in rocks and trees, and photograph them in alignments that have significance on some archetypal levels I can't really explain, verbally, but can only illuminate.
CCXVIII. 28 May 2005, Point Reyes Station, CA
Random Thoughts & Gleanings
Im here in Point Reyes to do Tarot readings, as part of a benefit for community radio station here KWMR-FM. I got the gig through the Whim Agency in San Rafael. Ive done four readings so far, so I feel good about not getting skunked, which is what I had expected to start with. There were several miscommunications about this, and getting it set up, that didnt get resolved till the day before the event. But here I am, and feeling cheerful. Even if I had done no readings, I would take the time for still time, and do my inner work, which has been lagging behind in the hurly-burly of working life lately. I also did a little work on arranging my portfolio, which I brought along, too.
I am sitting in a small corner of a gallery in the general store on the main drag, surrounded by Tarot images made by local artists. The images are gathered together and published as an art card deck, too, which is just beautiful. Makes me want to work on Spiral Dance. I also brought along my computer speakersthose little Michael Graves eggsand am playing CDs of my own meditative music as I sit here. A couple of folks have already complimented me on it. Ive played Trance, Labyrinth, Wind, Sand & Stars, and now am playing my sampler of journey pieces I made for driving across the desert.
Now, one question, which I have already answered, but which is humorous enough to relate regardless: yes, Im a cybershaman, but would working on the laptop in this space, surrounded as I am by Tarot art, and here to read Tarot, be a faux pas? Lots of people have strange expectations that keep their spirituality compartmentalized from their daily lives. So maybe Ill be discrete; but maybe not.
On a whim, I brought along my handwritten journal, which I havent been writing in that much since I started this Road Journal. The last entry was last fall, in Taos. I am reading through this journal, today, and I am mostly noticing the dreams I wrote down since winter of 2001, when this volume begins. So, I thought I would copy over some of these older dreams and thoughts from the past. I will date them, to show some evolutionary process, if thats at all interesting. This is an intuitive sample, by the way, not at all exhaustive.
Undated: Measurementa card for Spiral Dance
The measurer is also surrounded by what he measures.
The rulers and tools in the foreground represent the tools of measuring, which are analytical, left-brain processes. The spiral and fireworks represent the uplifting Eureka! of the intuitive insight that lifts us out and transcends ordinary analysis. The right-brain intuitive understanding. The left brain and right brain approaches are ideally working in tandem, supporting and complimenting each other. The sea in the background represents the Boundless Mystery, the infinite Unknown, which we do not know and perhaps cannot know.
Reversed: You are letting your habits of analytical thinking trap you into rigid thought-patterns. Break out into the wider sea.
brass spine uncurling. unspoken saxophone.
eyes of those born under war-sirens.
crystal cup launched at the moon.
white stones, black olives, hard bread: making it home.
silver-leafed wind. lands change, we remain the same.
12/28/01: Empowerment dreams: winning an 8-part test/initiation/race; excelling at solo and team tasks; quiet total self-confidence and self-esteem.
Undercover security operative at a huge mall store, with my ability to fly; dream starts out in conflict and drama; ends with literal soaring as high as I can, much faster and more easily than I ever have before; and also, soaring mostly unseen by others; an element throughout the dream of secrecy, of undercover work, of stealth, of secrets kept and only carefully and appropriately revealed.
1.6.02: powerful dreams last night, all vivid and emotionally present; woken by a bout of anger; clearing it, then I dream again, the last dream before waking:
semi-drafted for an elite fighting force, because Ive already fought and won against the enemy, who is non-human and hard to defeat; a huge parade through the park and countryside, where we are cheered by millions; I am wearing the new red and black uniform; I am strong and healthy, in my late teens or early 20s; I run off by myself and up the stairs of a hilltop castle, where I am out of sight, although I can still see the reviewing stand with the leaders giving amplified pledges and speeches; it bothers that even my own original team of warriors, those who fought beside me earlier, are apparently buying into the days patriotic jingoism; I know that I need to rejoin the parade, so I run down the hill through the sunlight to rejoin the string of the parade; the fighting force are all holding knots on a rope with one hand as they march, symbolically binding us together to a common purpose; but running towards me, leaping the string, is another red and black uniformed youth, who cuts me off, and we run to the side, a shaded area, where we pace along with the parade; he starts to talk about the job ahead, the battles to come, as though he wants me to join him in denouncing the jingoism; but I keep my own counsel; I sense that this slim, dark-haired, attractive person is not to be trusted; that he is perhaps an undercover political officer who is trying to get me to denounce the leadership and the cause; so I stay silent; I wonder who I will be able to trust, feeling alone even with my old comrades I have known for some time.
1.25.02: Last dream before waking: out three ships escaping from a huge city-sized station hung in the Void, a grey nothingness; but then, as the viewpoint pulls back from the station, we discover its not a void, its cloud, which begin to clear, revealing a gigantic night-lit circular city below the station (itself in the shape of a circle); at the citys center is a huge pillar of light that rises towards the stars; the building from which the light beams upwards is the same lobed circular shape as the station, which hovers not above the light pillar but a mile or so off to the side; immense bright city, dwarfing the station, which itself is the size of a large city; sense of scale; knowledge revealed; wheels within wheels.
2.15.02: presenting a new composition to a Renaissance-era lord and clerical leader (a cardinal and a Grand Duke; the High Priest and the Hierophant, and the Emperor); the first page of my piece is chant-like, calm; very mystical and filed with silence; the second page is more dense and narrative, about the disillusionment of a kings armsman; its in dense harmony, and I hear it sung by a small male choir (like the Hilliard Ensemble); its a dark night and I hear a silence after the piece is done; but eventually I am commissioned to have it publicly performed; the people need reminders of humility and mortality.
5.7.02: a parka-wearing Inuit shaman standing on a low ridge before a vibrant sunset sky, holding a carved walrus tusk in his left hand; he is bundled against the cold, with mittens; the walrus tusk is carved with detailed patterns and images; they seem to move in the twilight; his face is split in a wide grin.
6.3.02: Dreams of earthquakes, tsunamis, cathedrals, candlelit chapels: In a glassed-in restaurant overlooking the sea; an earthquake tilts everything; then a big green wave streams in the windows and swamps everything; as the wave recedes, I am immediately on my feet, guiding everyone to leave quietly and calmly (and I never did get to eat my meal); outside, uphill, I leave my family and friends there and walk up the hill, down the coast, to the cathedral; they felt the quake, but theres no damage; theres been a huge undersea quake, though, in the Indian Ocean, and all of North Island in New Zealand, and the north coast of Australia, are endangered; where we are, down the coast, seems safe, but I tell people to go inland, to the mountains, for safety; anything below 300 feet above sea level is potentially at risk.
What I find interesting about this dream, at the time, is my natural, unquestioned assumption of authority in the midst of crisis; I keep a level head.
What I find interesting, now, years later, re-reading this, is that the epicenter of the quake in the dream is almost exactly where the epicenter of the quake was in December 2004, that swept a tsunami across India and the surrounding areas.
CCXVII. 28 May 2005, Pinole, CA
Dream: in a house on a cliff overlooking a bay and the river estuary that feeds the bay, on some purpose not clear in the dream. The sky is clear but storm-fed waters are rushing down the river. As the dream progresses, the waters get deeper and more powerful, an impressively huge black wall of water no longer in its banks but flooding over that last embankment and drowning the houses built on the low floodplain at the bays edge. The black waters threaten to destroy that part of town. I watch from the windows, impressed. The roar of the waters is beautiful as well as dangerous. The water is black with soil and silt, the color of coal.
The pattern repeats, of a few days of bleak and alienated existential crises, or depression is you have to label it as that, followed by a couple days of ecstasy and revelation. I feel a little embarrassed by this pattern, although I am working on just noticing and accepting without judging. The embarrassment comes from feeling like a fool, the days after the drama days; like I need to apologize to whoever heard me have a bad day. Like its shameful to be that honest, in semi-public, about this roller-coaster I am riding.
Working on accepting that, just sitting with the feelings and being present with them, and not letting them influence my actions.
Today I go read Tarot all day at Point Reyes, at an art gallery, for their community radio station. I am also interested in their station, and doing radio again, someday; this might be the way back into that world. Who knows. There was miscommunication drama around getting this to actually happen, but whether or not thats resolved, I will be there today.
I am feeling a little unfocused and uncertain today, not on top of things, feeling like I could spend the day in bed reading. And Im going out anyway. The warriors discipline for me, at the moment, is to not collapse back into self-sabotaging actions like crawling back into the cave and hiding. Yes, the world can be cold and scary; but Im not alone in it. Just deal. Impatient with my own entropy, I am.
CCXVI. 26 May 2005, Pinole, CA
J. met me at the BART station in El Cerrito after work, and she planned and we executed some anti-Bad Thursday countermeasures, all of which were effective.
Once again, I am proved, if I only wait for it, and get through the dark times, that people do care, and will do what they can to help. I also got two emails just now from people I had given up on ever seeing again, or hearing from again, and another from one of my oldest, best friends I hadnt seen since last Xmas time in Madison, WI.
J. took me out to dinner at a neat Indian restaurant in Richmond, a Punjabi place. I had the chicken korma with naan (bread) and basmati rice; sublime indeed. Afterwards, we went to the El Cerrito Plaza shopping mall, where the Barnes & Noble is having a buy two DVDs, get one free sale. I acquired the set of six musical movies, Inspired by Bach featuring Yo-Yo Ma playing the Cello Suites; Peter Greenaways film about calligraphy and sexuality, The Pillow Book; and a DVD about one of my favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy, Rivers and Tides. Then, since she had taken us out for dinner, I took us out for desert. Might take me awhile to catch up on my arts video watching, now. Especially after I acquire, as I plan to a little later on, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the second season of MilleniuM.
(Earlier in the week, I also acquired a DVD on Astor Piazzolla that is excellent. Astor Piazzolla: In Portrait. Interviews, concert and performance footage, restored and released for the first time, along with new recordings and interviewed musicians and friends and collaborators. Simply sublime. The Bach of the tango bandoneon.)
I went into the office today still locked into that existential crisis. Starting the day with a growl may have helped, as the technology for the first time ever since I started the job there, worked properly and efficiently all day long, with no problems. No problems came up that I couldnt solve, and I decided not to care about not getting all the way through the job cue for the day, and leaving work actually on-time for once.
This breaks the Bad Thursday pattern. Maybe not forever, maybe not once and for all, but this time proves that the pattern can be broken, and can be overcome.
I see in my minds eye again the dead monarch butterfly at the train station, lying on the aluminum fairing. The merging of organism, spent after a full life, and the relative permanence of the constructed. What is this metaphor? It is about impermanence, striving, climbing up to the light, and the memory of permanence embracing the ephemeral.
As long as I can remember that I am not alone in this, that other do care about me, I can get through it. Meaning and purpose may have to come later, if at all. For now, its enough to just get through the day with joy rather than sorrow.
CCXV. 26 May 2005, on the train
A monarch butterfly corpse on the escalator railing at the train station. Going up, everyone.
Last night and this morning I am having an existential crisis. Work was better today than other Thursdays, somewhat breaking that pattern; still I spend much time in semi-bitter contemplations.
Here I am, working at a job. I hate working. I hate working just to live and pay bills. This is no kind of life. If this is the only reason to have a job, why bother? To work all day, and come home so exhausted that one gets nothing of ones own artwork done, or housecleaning or anything else. Whats the point to that? Arriving home too tired to do the real work, is too much like spinning the wheels and not getting anywhere.
It felt too much like just marking time. No progression, no evolution, no development. Just marking time. That is not living a life, that is the little death that kills most people before they die. I will not suffer and die that way.
I really felt like packing it all in and going back to the desert. You might as well, when there is no point or purpose to staying here. Marketplace and desert, city and wilderness, sea and desert and city, the braided situations of the enchafed flood. (Back to that Auden book, again.)
The solution is to find a purpose and meaning that can encompass having a job. Again, if the only reason to have a job is to make money to just stay afloat, there is no point to it, and you might as well not do it at all. The solution is not to quit the jobat least not today; I make no promises for the futurebut rather find some point and purpose to doing the job, that feeds everything else in life that matters more, that IS the real purpose and meaning of life. My true purpose is to change the world. I do this when I change myself, by going to places like Devils Lake or Pescadero: places of power and magic, that heal me, which healing then ripples outwards from me when I go back to town.
A butterfly corpse on the escalator railing at the train station. Going down, everyone.
butterflies nest in the beards of palms: gravel of wing on green hand.
dawn covers the hill mists, a blanket of sleep. everywhere, the worlds wake.
take on form, out of ocean and nautilus and tunnel and cave: heart of shore and island.
anguish of night beach. crying walls, cascade stonefall skylight. above, the walker.
camp where tarnished feet condense. eyes fire. graveyard of hejira and vine.
CCXIV. 25 May 2005, on the BART heading north after work, CA
Last night I felt like getting in the car and just driving again. Driving away, moving on. A momentary nomadic urge. I noted how I was feeling trapped, sometimes, in this job/work world, this urban calamity and excitement, this way of living that makes assumptions about how you must live, and what you must do to live. Not all of them useful to actually living. These past few days so remarkably sunny and warm, and me trapped indoors with the computers and the chemicals. No one seems to realize how unnatural that is.
How to escape: how to live free: how to live unencumbered by necessity: I still dream of living a more nomadic life, a life traveling for months of the years, driving across the country, camping wherever, making photos and art along the way. I looked over some of my desert Southwest photos today, and felt some yearning there, for the clean, open, empty, deadly spaces. When you are reduced to nothing, actions are clean and clear. When you know you are going to die, you can do anything.
I get a little frustrated with the abundance, as I learn how to deal with it. It goes in waves; some nights are just as dark and lonely as ever, and others I am flooded with connections, opportunities, and contacts. There is no pattern to it, no rhyme. Except that I notice that my mood is all about manifestation: when I am thinking positively, free and open and trusting, it all flows, it all converges, and the abundance is almost too much to juggle. When I am feeling down, or the need for solitude, I get that, too. I guess its instant manifestation of whatever it is I desire: you being to notice this after awhile, on this spiritual path, how quickly things are made manifest. In short, my attitude powers this speedy manifestation. The godz really do listen, and they really do respond to my desires and needs, and so quickly. This is a neutral issue: they will give you whatever you ask forso be very careful and very clear what it is you are asking for. Be specific, or dont bitch about it. Dont imagine that they wont reply immediately to ones requests: they do so, most quickly.
Is it that they pay better attention when you reach a certain point on your path? No; its that we have changed, and are noticing it more because were paying attention. It was always like this, always; we just didnt know it or believe it or have the awareness of its continuous process. This is all part of learning to live consciously; it is all part of the journey. I am just noticing it today, is all.
When I dream of driving across the burning desert, still warm under a brilliant night sky, I know its time to take a trip. Even if I only drive an hour out past the city, and into the hills, or to the beach. Even a short trip is a balm and a pleasure. I am feeling its lack today, as I was called into work yesterday even though I had been planning to spend the day at the beach. So, my feet are anxious for the wind and the sun. I want to go there now. I want to run in the wind, and dive off a sand cliff into the waves. I want to be free of all this. And my work week is not over. How do I cope with this? How do I deal with it? I dont know yet: Im still learning this.
The anxiousness to run away and be irresponsible feels almost overwhelming this evening.
CCXIII. 21 May 2005, Pinole, CA
My good friend Two Bears mailed me a few quotes on fear, which I repeat here, for the sake of remembrance and inclusion:
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering. Yoda
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. Frank Herbert, Dune
All of us are born with a set of instinctive fears--of falling, of the dark, of lobsters, of falling on lobsters in the dark, or speaking before a Rotary Club, and of the words "Some Assembly Required." Dave Barry
I drove to Palo Alto today to play music with the Al-I Nahfs this afternoon, for the first annual cultural festival put on by the Muslim students association at Stanford. It was an event designed to increase cross-cultural understanding. Our lineup today was Dave Giovacchini on trumpet with electronics (in the Jon Hassell or Mils Petter Molvaer tradition), beats and samples, and MIDI guitar, his son Leo on saxophones, me on Stick and loops, frame drums (riq and bodhran standing in for tar) and suling degung, and Ninos Oshanana on oud. I thought it was a terrific gig, and I had a great time.
I really enjoy playing multicultural world beat fusion techno music like this. It makes me happy to play what I call the blender school of ethnomusicology: just throw all the elements into a blender and see what emerges. We did some really good moments, actually. One or two that made my spine tingle with the magick of the music. I live for gigs like this.
For me, some of the fun is getting the Stick into these settings, and showing how versatile it is and how well it fits in. Not only was I string-bending a lot, to match the ouds Middle Eastern tunings, but I was doing it while playing two-handed bass grooves. Skanky, snaky, sliding bass grooves in non-Western tunings. The Stick was a real natural for that.
We started with an oud solo, which he played in rubato tempo at first, then kicked a beat in, which I matched on the bodhran and held down while everyone jammed; and that was the first piece. Somewhere in the middle of it all, we got quiet and ambient. I had set up a high-range chordal loop on Stick, which was playing. Everyone took turns doing solos and duos over the floating seas of the music root notes. Then while the oud was playing a really mournful turn of phrase, I felt called to pick up the suling and quietly fade in. Later, some folks thought it was a ney, the Persian reed flute. Close, actually. (Suling is end-blwon bamboo flute from Indonesia.) I faded in and we did a duet, then I faded out. The whole ambient structure lasted maybe ten minutes of playing.
At least two other times, we had very good techno grooves, but inspired by Gnawa or Moroccan music, and I did some of those very low-range sliding bass grooves.
I never tire of the Sticks possibilities for low-end grooves. Unlike some other gigs I do regularly, this one I mostly played bass lines, two-handed. (In that other new band Im in, Fuse, which is a trio of Stick bass and drums playing high-energy improvised fusion music, I mostly take the guitarist role.) I admit it: I am at least as interested in the ensemble possibilities of Stick as I am in the solo performance possibilities. Although its origin and chief proponents largely view it and play it as a full-range soloist instrument, with bass, chords, and melody all done by a single player, I think the Stick has a lot more going for it than just being a solo instrument. I admit it: my goal is entire musical world domination via Stick. Whenever I play one of these beloved out of the mental box world fusion gigs, it just underlines for me how open-ended the Stick is.
Just added, as an update: Two samples from this performance can be heard here.
CCXII. 20 May 2005, San Leandro, CA
Re-reading Janet Dalletts When the Spirits Come Back this morninga book I thought I had lost, till it turned up behind my seat in the truck; how Symbolic is that?I read about the difference between perfection and wholeness, as she describes it:
Perfection, not wholeness, is the explicit or implicit goal or many spiritual systems as well as most approaches to psychotherapy. Work with the unconscious moves in quite different directions. To reclaim the unconscious parts of oneself, including what is unacceptable, serves wholeness rather than perfection. A person may appear to darken as a result of this process, becoming less perfect but more real, more substantial and human.
Why would anyone want to look flawed? The personal reason is that human beings ARE flawed, and denial does not change the facts. On the contrary, trying to preserve an unreal image amounts to an identification with the gods that merely gives the shadow license to do its dirty work in hidden ways. When we can see and claim the darkness that belongs to us instead of letting it affect the world around us unconsciously, we preserve the dignity of the human condition.
From a social perspective, anyone who fails to carry her rightful portion of the psyche leaves it for someone else. In a given environment, some people may look like paragons while others are unconsciously delegated to carry the shadow. If you closely at someone whose image is unusually bright, you may discover that he is surrounded by scapegoats, shadow carriers who appear to be responsible for the problems in his life . . .
Many of our worst social ills result from the failure to carry shadow consciously. For instance, as nations and races we give away shadow to other nations and races, then go to war against them in a futile attempt to murder the characteristics we cannot bear to see in ourselves. A random mass shooting has a related but somewhat different dynamic, when some unfortunate shadow carrier acts out the unacknowledged murderer in the hearts of a whole community. Such a person lacks even a sense of what compels him to begin shooting. Janet O. Dallett, When the Spirits Come Back (Toronto: Inner City Books, 1988)
I view myself at times as a recovering perfectionist. Someone who has a fear-based innate tendency to want to make everything perfect and shiny and impossibly Just So. I have been coping with this a lot in this new job I have, wherein a big part of the job consists of troubleshooting and fixing other peoples fairly stupid mistakes. Its hard not to be judgmental at times; trust me, though, I have seen first-hand some of those urban myths about people doing stupid things with computers. Youd be amazed. I also have a hard time dealing with my own need to please everyone, and be perfect in their eyes. When I run into a problem I just cant solve, I feel stupid. I am not neither stupid nor experienced, but I miss things because I am also flawed and limited, as are we all.
Getting over myself, and my perfectionism, has been a long process. I still lapse back at times. As I said, the new job has pushed these buttons numerous times this past month or so. The first truly important lesson of the recovering perfectionist: It is actually liberating to get past the fear of loss of Control and making everything Just So. It is freeing, because in fact in this imperfect world nothing can ever be perfect anyway. So, one can drive oneself crazy trying to achieve an impossible perfection, or one can see the freedom in doing ones best, and then letting go of the outcome. I find it liberating to be able to let go of all this perfectionism. And it releases a great deal of pent-up psychic energy, which then becomes available for creativity.
And there is also the Japanese aesthetic principle of wabi-sabi, which I have taken to heart. Wabi-sabi has been translated as the necessary flaw in made things. This is why a tea bowl used for the way of the tea ceremony is often considered priceless when it is earthy, flawed, imperfect, even a little asymmetric. This is a subtle aesthetic principle that would take a great deal of time to go into here. Suffice to say, it is an aesthetic principle of imperfection that is also a spiritual principle of great depth and refinement.
Navajo blanket-weavers intentionally make a mistake in the pattern, or the lightning path, and never make a blanket perfect. Only the gods can make things perfect, so the Navajo view it as unseemly and hubristic to try to make a perfect thing, in arrogant imitation of the gods. Sand paintings made for healing rituals are made to perfection, it is true, but they are also ephemeral, and destroyed after the ceremony. Tibetan Buddhist sand paintings are very similar in intent and aesthetic, as well.
I think about the contradictions in myself, as representative of the truth that I would rather be whole than perfect. Perfection is a kind of frozen death; it is too rigid, too absolute. Those who seek perfection are often equally rigid in that they believe they have the correct answer now. A living paradox is more representative of actual life, and as it has been said, the Divine lives at the point of paradox. For example, I love old and new things both. I am very much a progressive and (post)modernist thinker, a fan of space exploration, and someone who believes we must evolve or die. But I am also a reader of history, and have a deep appreciation for old and archaic technologies. I love my small collection of antique typewriters; I have an Underwood, a couple of portable Smith Coronas and Royals in their wooden and leather travel cases. I love my cutting-edge computers, and I make new typefaces using digital technology. Both typewriters and computers are tools I love. I revere tradition but I am also irreverent about it. This is represented, I realize this morning, by that typeface I made a year or so ago, Smith &Wesson Corona, which is both an homage to old typewritten typography and an irreverent joke about its demise. Both are valid responses to life and art.
CCXI. 18 May 2005, Pinole, CA
A long talk with Sage tonight, about mysticism, spirituality, shamanism, relationship, the way of the spiritual warrior, and many other things. A good talk, well worth it, even though there were other things Id been planning to do tonight, and didnt get done. No regrets. Many lessons learned on all fronts, and things heard and said as if for the first time. And received.
And out of it all, a few reminders to myself:
God wants nothing more than to shower love continuously on everyone and everything. What saddens God is when we refuse; and yet the flow of Love never ceases. There is no judgment here, no reward, no punishment. The idea that we deserve or dont deserve love is human thinking, not Divine thinking. God showers love on us whether we think we deserve it or not; it is all God wants to do, is love us. This never ceases.
The sense of accomplishment you get when you finish some difficult passage in life, such as school or a job or a major project, is an anodyne against self-sabotage. It is the sense of self-confidence and self-esteem you get from knowing you finished something difficult, and did your best throughout. There is no try. Trying is a lie. You either do it, or dont do it. But dont lie by saying youll try, knowing full well you wont. Try is a word that lets us off the hook, so that we can fail ourselves and collapse back into non-life. Try is death. Do and be are life.
There are so many more important things in life than to get upset over minor injuries. After the camper crash, I just cant get upset about my fall off the rocks the other day, into the water. The scrapes and bruises are healing nicely. I didnt tell many folks about it, because they would want to freak out about it, and I am not able to, which would seem weird to them. But it just doesnt seem that big a deal. When one lives with the constant knowledge of death, and the continuous awareness that all of it can be taken away at any time, one is free.
It can all be taken away from me at any timejob, work, belongings, friends, loveand theres nothing I can do about. And it can all be given back to me at any time, and theres nothing I can do about that, either. How wonderful! How liberating! To not be in charge of anything. Things get taken away from us, and it is not a punishment from God; things get given to us, and it is not a reward from God for good behavior. The whole reward and punishment, and fall and redemption paradigm, is a tragic lie, a horrible mistake. God wants only to love us, and to love us in the way that we wish to be loved. So God will love us in whatever way we will accept love. When we are finally free of our expectations and limitations about what we think love is, God is there waiting, saying only, What kept you? Ive been talking to you all this time. I love you.
Prayer is nothing more than communion and conservation with God. You can do this anytime, anywhere, as often as you wish. You dont have to be in a special place, at a special time. God cannot be kept in a white box. God keeps getting out, because after all, God is everything and loves everything. So, theres nothing special about prayer, and no ritual necessary to evoke prayerfulness. All we ever have to do is talk, and listen, to God. Prayer is a conversation. And as Meister Eckhart said, if the only prayer you ever were to pray in your lifetime was Thank You, that would be sufficient.
The energy you put into a system is the energy you get out of the system. If you put out positive attitudenot in a fluffy-bunny, Pollyanna way, Im not talking about thatif you genuinely project positive energy, that is what you will get back. If you ask the Universe to give you something, that is what it will give you. This also means that if you ask for a negative, youll get that, too. You can say, I want to accomplish this simply to do it, because I want to, no other reason. And the Universe will respect that. You can also say, I dont want you to give me this, because I dont like it. But the Universe views that as an invitation to shower you with just that, because secretly you are in your Shadow asking to be given that, and the Universe wants to give you what you want. So, youll get what you dont think you want, but have been asking for on some level all alongtill you get sick of it for good, and get clear and clean with what you are asking for. The process of spiritual growth is not about becoming perfected or pureit is all about getting clear and honest and in integrity about what it is you rally want, and then being ready to accept it when it arrives on your doorstep.
What matters is not what we do, but how we do it. If you don't do it with joy, don't do it at all.
CCX. 17 May 2005, Pinole, CA
An afternoon spent walking and talking amongst flowers, in lush sensual shades you see here and in the tropics but rarely in the Midwest, and sitting in a room wrapped by windows looking out through the trees to Hood Mt., an analogue of Fuji. A hermitage like Mertons, or Gary Snyders evoked fire watch tower in the trees. A serene view, always changing, never static.
Cloudy all day, and a light drizzle of rain as we walked the fields, examining flower after flower, sapient bees. The raindrops on the leaves jewels of enlightenment.
And roses beyond roses.
stones falling: avatar of endless plummet.
foot caught in swirl of tide: tumble headlong, swept away. a cry to catch.
seals call in the river wash and glisten: staid watchers, asking nothing.
after the blue sky and suns heat, room for appreciation. breath of life.
stone held to light, with light passing through stone: celebration of the day.
Yesterday at Pescadero, gathering dreamstones, I left my pack on one side of the arch and clambered across the grass-slick rocks to the other side. The tide gradually rolling in. I was wearing my photographers vest, the green one with all the pockets. I zipped the camera back into the pocket to return, waves now high and strong, and washing my feet, my pockets weighed down with rocks. Crossing the gap on the way back, a sudden high wave swept me off my feet, and I fell into the water, badly bruising and scraping my shin, my shoulder, and my pride. The camera got a little wet, and needed a day to dry out before operating again; but thank the gods seems to be working normally now. I was soaked. I immediately, swearing in pain, moved up to take my back and gingerly move my way back towards a sunlit area, stripped off naked, and stood shivering with shock for a few minutes. I had taken my shirt off beforehand, though, and was wearing just the vest and shorts when I fell; so I got into that, and the sarong I had tucked into my pack that morning. I waited there, in the sun, till I felt gathered enough to climb back up the cliff to the truck, where I laid out the wet things in the afternoon sun for awhile, to dry. Laundered everything when I got home, later. As I stood there, three seals were playing in the river mouth, where the waves washed them in, then the river pushed them out again in between waves. They honked at me, and I waved back. A moment of companionship.
Meantime, seven more dreamstones on my table. I am building power, here, and a Dreaming annex. Making a vortex in my home, of dreaming and of presence.
This fall seems Symbolic of my recent tiredness, flakiness, sense of clumsiness, all of which are new and unusual. I am usually a lot more graceful. I can only interpret this as continued exhaustion, that I need more rest and recovery still. And also that I am still off-balance, in life, in this new job. I am also still adjusting to the new levels of power I have access to now. Its like a clumsy adolescence: what once was graceful seems now wrong. I feel like a klutz all the time, and I drop things, bump into things, fall of cliffs into the sea. I never used to be this clumsy. So: I need an answer here, to assuage my pride, if possible. Is this a phase of adaptation to the new life? Is this Symbolic of feeling off-balance in most areas of my life, lately, and having to find a new balance, a new center, not yet established, not yet stabilized and grounded?
Perhaps all of the above.
Seals are related to Otter, and Otter is female energy. There is also a message about gentleness here: being gentle with myself, not pushing myself beyond my limits, and into calamity. A reminder to return to martial discipline, so that when I am grounded, I stay rooted to the earth. How much easier it would have been to soak the shorts, wading, then to have taken this fall. An honest sacrifice. A moments contemplation would have sufficed, from the Warriors mindset. Oh well: lessons learned.
And no real harm done. I immediately did Reiki on my leg. This evening, a day later, three big scrapes still, and a tender shin, but no major bruising, and the healing has already begun. I felt wiped out much of today, though, and napped in the evening before writing all this down.
Finally, I never told anyone who saw the scrapes just bad it was, just how much it hurt to fall and strike my leg there. Reiki really helps this sort of thing, both physically and emotionally. The thing is, fast-healing kicks in immediately now, and amplifies the recovery speed. And after the campers plummet off the road in New Mexico, my perspective on this was that its only a minor scrape. Not nearly as upsetting to me as to others, and I was not nearly as shocky or scared. It was just one more little scrape among many lately. So, I didnt tell anyone the truth of it. That brush with death I had when the camper came loose and went over the edge was life-changing. Not because it was the destruction of some dreams and plans and expectations; but because now I have a personal referent for existential horroras if the dark night hadnt already caught me up in its grip, but this was gut-level deepand few of lifes little dramas approach that intensity of angst and hopelessness. It just doesnt seem like a big deal to me, this fall, after that trauma I had in New Mexico.
CCIX. 15 May 2005, Pinole, CA
Fear is the pathway to fearlessness.
I recall Frank Herberts Litany Against Fear, from Dune. A very wise book, disguised as a novel.
I spent today shopping, and meeting friends for lunch and wandering and chatting in downtown SF. There was a marathon race going on, too, so the streets were crowded and busy today; the City felt like it was really in motion. And there was no shortage of cute eye candy to ogle, as one waited to meet friends, or just wandered around. I practiced a little stealth photography, as I often do in these situations.
A very fit black man tap-dancing to portable CDs on a wooden platform on the sidewalk right by the Powell Street cable-car turntable, where the cars come down the hill, get turned around, and go back up the hill. His very dark skin covered with a sheen of sweat, his torso a map of muscles and defined planes. Arms moving, feet pounding out the rhythms. I watched him for a good fifteen minutes, he was a great dancer.
Tomorrow I want to head to the beach, even if its not perfect weather. I can feel the stones calling me from Pescadero. I hope for a sunny afternoon, but regardless, I am going. I just need to go. At goals group tomorrow evening I am supposed to present my big life-scale long-term goals; I have mixed feelings. Ive had the same dreams and big goals for years now, so I dont know what good it will do. Well, you never know till you put it out there, and get some feedback. This group has already helped me refine, and redefine my fine arts portfolio, to make it a better presentation, and fine-tune. Im ready to do another redo on it, and tune it even more closely to what I want to market. The sepia monochromes, and the cyanotypes, the antiqued looking photos, as I have already talked about here. Maybe even do a little of that tonight, I feel pretty tired but alert right now.
CCVIII. 14 May 2005, Pinole, CA
News items on the coastal frontier:
One of my favorite ever pieces of software, long abandoned, has been bought out and is going to be re-released: Fontographer. This is the digital standard tool for font creation. Its what I use to make fonts, to convert them, to analyze them, and so forth. Good news for all us font geeks. The full story can be found here.
Friday evening, after work, I felt myself pulled to Goodwill again, as often happens. Not knowing what Id find, as I rarely do beforehand, I obtained one of those self-inflating air mattresses good for camping, the kind with memory foam inside that fills up with air once you open the cock. Then, you can roll it up after you deflate it, and it packs small. Then, I strolled past the furniture and found not one, but two chairs, and bought them. One is a rocking chair that reminded me of the one I had to give away when I left Minnesota, which I got to give to J. for her relaxation room that is short on seating. The other a recycled office chair, the big comfy kind I like. Im sitting in it now, typing away at the desk surface that is now much more comfortable to work at. A nice improvement to my living space here.
Then, also at Goodwill, I found a volume combining three childrens books in a series, the first of which is an all-time favorite of mine: Judith Viorsts Alexander stories. Along with Maurice Sendaks Where the Wild Things Are, the first book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, is one of those books that feeds my basic self, especially in the tough times like Ive been having lately. Little boys who rebel and break out and cut loose with all their might. A feeling I really needed lately; Ive been too hardcore adult lately, time to blow off some steam. Let the wild rumpus begin!
And a memorable pun: Apparently there was a news story about the fact that the barstools on the fabulous yacht owned by gaziollionaire Aristotle Onassis were covered in whale foreskins. I guess the rich really are different. Wait, wait, here it is: A person wrote in, in reply to the news story: Call me Ish-moyle.
Ouch. Lends a whole meaning to the name Moby Dick, too.
Ive been absorbed in the pursuit of men lately. Ive had some good experiences, and taken some great photos. Still on that quest to do more nudes in natural settings. But Ive also been working too hard to find companionship.
I feel a little rejected right now, as all those men Ive been pursuing seem to have evaporated today, and no one is returning any communications. Off getting fucked, or cruising for it, I suppose. Well, whatever. I hate being teased, tantalized, then ignored. Men can be such selfish pricks.
I feel the call of the dreamstones at Pescadero. I need to go there Monday, even if no one else goes with me. Perhaps I need to go alone, regardless. And discover more stones, and more places to just be, instead of all this endless doing. I will not decide for sure tonight, but thats probably what will happen.
As I go back through the Road Journal here, reading it aloud for the sake of recording it for the podcast version, I find myself appreciating where I was, where I am, and where I could be again. A lot of things cycle around again and again, events, people, places, patterns. I have no intention of leaving anything out. I quote where I must.
I just finished reading out loud installment number 21 here, a long essay on the dark night and the dark side of the lightchasers. Not to relive it, or pursue it, but rather to acknowledge it. It is not the longest entry here, but long nonetheless. Will I ever catch up with the writing, in the reading? I hope not. The distance between them is beneficial to my own process.
CCVII. 12 May 2005, Pinole, CA
I came home this evening, feeling like shit again, like I have every Thursday this month. Thursdays I guess are just destined to be rough days. Then I laid down for a nap and woke up just before midnight.
I dont like this imbalance. I dont like this fucking having to work for a living. I dont give a rats ass if its necessary or required, or if everyone has to do it. I dont give a damn. Its a horrific price we pay in this fucked0up culture, and it kills people right and left, and destroys their lives, and I dont know if Im strong enough to do it. This is the hardest thing Ive done in a while, and I dont know if Im up to it.
Self-sabotage. Thats what everything feels like, right now. All of it. It feels like a pit of despair, no better and no worse than being homeless and alone and poor in the desert. The rules are just as constraining. Just as pointless.
The danger of learning to live that life in the desert, by the sea, is that you discover that all conventional wisdom is meaningless and empty. All the rules are arbitrary. The ongoing lesson of the Void, of the existential encounter, of the experience of nothingness: none of it really matters, because all of it is empty. Abundance to lack to abundance: its all just a dance, and none of it means a damn thing, and none of it is worth the emotional roller-coaster of buying into and believing. Oh yeah, lets believe this: this fixes everything. Not.
If there was a monastic community somewhere here that I could buy into, that I really believed in, of a religious affiliation I could follow, Id quit everything and join it in an instant. If there was.
You know, I can't help but notice: How caught up we all are in appearances and forms.
Does it require a name and label to be understood? Do we have to categorize it to understand it? Do we have to shove it to list it to make it real? Are we too intellectually restless to let it remain a Mystery?
Is this not a clear example of the monkey mind in action, that constant chatter that never ceases, all form and no content? Do we see how we fall into this all too easily? None of these are sins, unless the true sin is one of spinning one's wheels, out of fear, instead of evolving by choice.
I cannot help but wonder and wish for, in my own mire and blood, my own nights of despair, my own lacks and wounds, some higher good for all concerned. I do not plea for some sort of cessation of intellect, but rather for intellect to deepen and resolve itself. To become more than it is, even if it in the end is transcended. I recognize it as a cause of far more suffering than is generally realized.
All I can see this week is suffering, and it hurts to watch it unfold. I do not exclude my own. The compassionate heart feels overwhelmed by pain and aching, and does not and must not close and withdraw in reaction. If it hurts too much, open MORE. If you cannot deal with your own suffering, walk into it, be overwhelmed, drown in it despite your fears, and look into its darkest corners. Who you will meet there is your own self, you own long-suffering and abandoned self.
I've recently felt relaxed enough around some relatively new friends to let down my defenses and be completely honest spiritually with them, and just be a channel for intuitive data. They genuinely seemed to want to learn what it was I had to offer, and since I have become aware in the recent past that I seem to be discovering myself more and more in the role of mentor, I acquiesced. I was shocked when I got slammed, as has happened so many times before, for speaking the truth. I felt completely blind-sided. It bothered me more than it should, and I lost some trust there. No one likes getting attacked. Even I am guilty of the horrible sin of wanting to be right about everything. And no one is right about everything, not all the time, not on this plane.
My most suffering belief is that I must always conceal part of who and what I am, that I can never be fully open and relaxed (except with a few rare friends with whom I am blessed), never reveal all of myself, always be somewhat hidden. My second most suffering belief is that I will always end up alone, always be misunderstood, unloved, uncherished, unwanted. There are beliefs on the level of basic-self, not higher-self; events seem to prove them correct. (Emphasis on SEEM. Appearances, again.)
Part of me, in response to all this, wants to say well, fuck you, then, and gather up my marbles and go home. I resist this. (It's a self-fulfilling prophecy about being always alone.) The compassionate answer to this situation is to wait for the other people involved to realize their actions were rooted in fear, and love them anyway, even if I never get the closure I might otherwise crave. To keep my heart open anyway, regardless, despite. Not everything works out the way we'd like it to, and not everything has an answer, much as we might crave it. (Attachment to outcomes is the root of suffering, and the root of fear.)
Maybe they were in the right, and I was being a spiritual asshole. I grant the possibility, and the event has drawn me up short in a period of self-examination. The initial trigger was intuitive data spilling out of my mouth, uncensored, that followed on the heels of a self-realization on their parts, that they then accused me of knowing about and not telling them. That last part is accurate: it WAS indeed an insight that I had had, and not told them about.
And I have learned in my experience as a healer and teacher that you cannot tell people anything they are not ready to hear yet, or not willing to hear yet. And it is not my job to tell everybody how to fix their lives. One can pray for them; one cannot intercede or interfere, though.
This is not a self-justification or rationalization. It's a reminder to myself of what I can affect, and what I cannot. The truth is, I get information about people all the damn time. It's more than I want, and usually more than I can use, and way more than I need, and none of my damn business. It's like dipping into a river of intuitive knowledge, at will. The dark cold water of this black underground river is bracing, and fresh. I wade into it constantly. I always know more than I tell, and let it go. In my early career, this access to knowledge caused me a great deal of pain, till I learned not to cling to the information it brings forward, not to cling to it to try to change the world either, but to let it all go, like water through my fingers. Anything I really need to know, I will know, when I need to know it. I can always hear the water moving through the rock, underground.
You are not responsible for saving the world, just yourself. The ripple effect, the hundredth monkey effect, is a far more powerful form of activism than marching in the streets. When we save ourselves, when we can keep open our compassionate heart, the effect on the world around us is profound.
CCVI. 11 May 2005, Pinole, CA
I open a book first thing this morning, after a restless nights sleep, and read: Fear is the path to fearlessness. This way of the warrior uses everything to reach enlightenment; nothing left out, nothing discarded. A reminder to me of my true path.
When I first began this new job, I wondered about the daily train commute, I thought it was maybe a necessary waste of time. But now I am starting to wish the train ride was longer every day, because it is becoming the time every morning and evening when I can read, meditate, think, get centered, clear and release, check in with myself. My daily morning meditation time, finding its way back into my life after being missing for a few months, having been lost in the turbulence of the passage of change. Not that this is a routine yet, and it is a great opportunity of daily mindfulness practice.
Fear is the pathway to fearlessness.
CCV. 10 May 2005, Pinole, CA
The roses here are in bloom, and the whole front of the house smells rich and sweet. We did some yard work this past weekend, and the lawn looks more managed and less wild. Always more to do. I enjoyed working in the yard, though; the sheer physical labor, the sense of cleaning things up, and also the smell of the wild anise clumps as I mowed them down, the lawn mower smelling like licorice for minutes afterwards.
I am developing some kind of resistance to this artists lounge and gathering on Tuesday nights in Emeryville, that I went to for several weeks, starting in February, and really liked at first. I need to work this out. I meant to go again tonight, but procrastinated myself out of it. I also came home and made dinner, then lingered too long sitting in the setting sunlight, that amber light I love so much. So, instead of actually going to the meeting, I write about it here; and I was beating myself up for not going a little earlier on. Now the night is settling in, and its getting chilly as the clear sky darkens and goes to indigo. I find myself locked in an emotional downwards cycle tonight.
What is this resistance? There are two parts. One is that, as much pleasure as it is to meet other artists, I detect a certain undercurrent, possibly entirely in my own mind, of competition rather than support. I dont think that matters, but its there. The other piece is that Im about the only white person there, which I could care less about, but at least two or three of the other regulars are ministers in their various churches in Oakland, and Im gay, and dont know where they stand on that. I will never go back into the closet; yet I feel scared to out myself in this context, for fear of rejection. Ridiculous; but there it is. Then again, do I really want a gallery show there so much that I am willing to prostitute myself? No. And there are numerous other venues, here in San Francisco, of all places on the planet, for a gay man to show his work. I have to keep reminding myself of the abundance of opportunities here.
I guess what Im really working up to doing is letting the fag out of the bag, as it were, since I could care less what people think of that most of the time, and practice not caring what anybody thinks in this setting. The whole offer of a gallery space could evaporate, if it hasnt already, caused by my difficulty getting there these past few weeks. The truth is, starting the new job has killed my evenings. Ive been too tired to go to these gatherings, and be up-beat and friendly. Schmoozing for me is an unnatural act that requires a great deal of energy and attention. This is why I have never pursued a career in sales. It exhausts me.
I am building a new web subsite, too, to present to galleries. Its a simple showing of all the monochrome work: sepia, cyanotype, black and white, in that style Ive been developing the past few years, using the filters and settings I wrote for myself. I will set this off by itself, and do its own set of business cards. One link back to the main site, but I want to focus on this material to show to galleries. Ive dialed in the portfolio to show this one body of work (among my many bodies of work), and this is the marketing for that. Then, a round of emails and cards, etc.
Is this resistance Im feeling self-sabotage? Im worried about that, and noticing fear about it. Is this just exhaustion? Equally possible. Im not really clear on it. In addition to all this drama, Ive been feeling off-centered the past week or so. Again, maybe its part of the job adjustment, but it might also be something bigger, as others in my circle have been feeling off lately, too. Maybe theres a bunch of stuff coming down the global channel, for everyone to clear and release.
Part of this all is the complicated feelings I have about making a living. My dads insistence on getting a job as the solution to lifes problems; or at least his worries about me. My constant awareness of the trade-off between earning a living this way and my need to make art, and the time management issues involved. Id rather make my living from my art, no matter how good a particular workplace is, or how much fun (or not) the job is. Yet I find it really hard to actually submit my work to galleries, to do the hard work of self-marketing my art. It was easier when I wasnt working, and had a full days energy to devote to it; I suppose thats part of it. Maybe, someday, perhaps, if I can adapt, Ill recover a balance that enables me to do both. Im still just so tired all the time. I feel off-balance a lot lately.
The past few days, Ive been blindsided by some friends lashing out at me. It hurts, and I am more upset about it at the moment than I want to be. Whatever. There may be something going on, on the global channel, as everyone seems on edge. Angrier than usual. More sensitive than usual.
Oh fuck it. Why do I even care? Im hurting, thats all. Another round of feeling like, why should I bother, why should I even care. Well, as of right now, I dont.
Since no one really wants to hear any of the intuitive info they ask me to give them, or they dont like how its delivered (and I stipulate that might be a legitimate complaint), or they blame me for supposedly withholding some data from them when in fact they wouldnt have heard it from anybody until they had discovered it for themselves, Im just going to keep my mouth shut from now on. No one loves you for telling them the truth. The more you know, the less you can say to people. They dont really want to hear it, anyway.
The truth is, my intuition constantly gives me more information about people than I want or care to know, or have any business knowing. Its not my job to tell people how to heal their lives, unless and until they ask me. Ive learned to let go of the constant stream of data; its like a river I can dip into at any time, as it flows by. A black underground river of power laced with knowledge.
But its not my job to rescue or caretake people, or tell them how to heal themselves and their lives. Not unless they ask. In fact, I am supposed to keep silent about itwhich is where I have failed lately. I thought I was good enough friends with folks now, that I didnt have to hide who I was, or pretend anything around them. Guess I was wrong. Feeling pretty isolated and lonely right now. Like thats anything new, or anyone gives a fuck about it.
CCIV. 4 May 2005, Pinole, CA
I have had two déjà vu experiences this past week or so. Both of them the usual small stuff, nothing special, just a moment that I saw a few months ago. Today, at the computer, working in Photoshop with files, I remember I had seen myself doing exactly this months ago. This is the normal déjà vu for me: its never anything shattering or big, but its accurate down to what I was thinking about at the time. What was different about these two prescient experiences, though, was that rather than having been in dreams, this time I had the prescience in waking life; like a daydream, or a demanding memory. So, perhaps this very minor talent of foresight has been evolving, a little. Like I said, though: nothing earth-shattering or very important.
I didnt do anything special for Beltane this year. Although I did get sex twice in the week before, which satisfies the Beltane fertility ritual needs. I have had more sex since coming to California than in the previous several years combined. This really is an amazing place. I really do like it here.
I also took some time at work today, when I was working on the new website, to go through some of my photos and make new art pieces. Some really good things, I think. Some more nudes, but also some collage and visionary work. It felt good to be making art today, after feeling tired and stressed the previous few days. This is something I can do during slack times, when theres not much else going on. It keeps me going, and at the very least it helps me to be making art every day. Making something, that daily creative need and urge and requirement.
CCIII. 4 May 2005, San Leandro, CA
You Know Youre In California When:
You notice, riding on the morning train, that, unlike in airports, where people on planes and waiting for planes are mostly reading junklit best-sellersentertainment to pass the timepeople on the train here are reading self-h4elp books and real literature. And not just students, but office workers going in from the East Bay to the City for their days of desk labor in the financial district.
Youre driving through a nice subdivision or on the two-lane highway. The houses are pretty uniform, maybe a little funky. The trees are oaks or maples or other deciduous trees, the lawns are lawns, with the occasional stone garden. You could be anywhere in the Midwest in summertime. Driving through the hills, you could be in verdant southern Kentucky, or the Driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin. The sun is coming through the leaves, the fences are covered with lush vines, or are just fences. The houses look like houses anywhere in the suburban or near-rural areas of any big city in the lush wetlands of the Mississippi watershed.
And then you turn a corner, and theres a palm tree. Or several palm trees.
Its still shocking. It still surprises me.
My last dream before waking this morning: very high in emotional content, and disturbed me for a while past waking. I am on my bed or palette; its an open public dorm situation, or something with a lot of people passing through, some friends, some strangers. Suddenly one of my friends says Oh Wow, and points to the floor. One of my sacred quartz crystals has fallen off the shelf, and has shattered into a hundred pieces. The pieces are like beautiful glass, catching the light, as we gather them up and scoop them onto the bed. The crystal was bigger than my fist, so its a lot of material. Some of the shards are themselves perfect quartz points.
Someone says, Its fine, it will be fine. And I am suddenly furious, and find myself yelling at them in near-rage, Its not fine, stop saying its fine, and stop telling me when I can be angry and when I cant. Ill be angry if and when I want to be.
I want people to stop telling me it will be fine. Maybe it will, maybe it wont. I dont really care either way. After the experiences of hitting those edges in New Mexico, Im not going to collapse into getting attached to either. But stop telling me everythings okay, just to make yourself feel better. I reserve the right to feel bad, when I feel bad, and to feel good when I feel good. I demand the right to be honest with my emotions, and neither stuff them or pretend everything is okay, when it isnt.
I am a little concerned about the symbolism of the sacred crystal shattering: if I am betraying a sacred purpose by having to focus on surviving a job right now. (Probably not, the PTB havent said anything about it, and if They really want me to move on, They will make it happen in no uncertain terms.) I take it as a reminder to not let the sacred, shamanic parts of my life get dropped to the floor while Im just surviving, or trying to cope with the mundane. The mundane is really in my face right now, as I negotiate this adjustment back to working life. (Dad doesnt get it; to him, its always been about having a job, and not much else. I dont hate him for that, because he means well; and he doesnt understand how much stress and angst that contributed to my situation the past few years, and how much emotional damage it did me to always hear him talking about little else.)
This adjustment to work is the hardest thing Ive done in awhile. Im tired all the time. The one thing I hate about working is the same thing I always disliked about it: you have no energy left over for other things. You come home exhausted. You blow off art projects, because youre too tired. Some nights, Im too tired to even cook. Which leads to bad food, convenience food, and non-nutrition.
If anything, the weekends I exercise myself to tiredness, even if Im gathering photos in the process that might take me weeks to review, Im still outdoors, Im physically activeand I sleep better. Im more rested. Im still figuring this all out, okay? So, just stop telling me its all fine. Ill decide when its fine, and Ill decide when its not.
Im still in transition. This is going to take some time. I am studying patience to the best of my ability. What gets me through is simply living day to day: the same discipline that I have learned to use in the desert and when unemployed. It was a big lesson, and I can say Ive gotten better at it; I wont claim to have fully learned it, though, as you never fully learn anything, theres always more to know and experience.
CCII. 3 May 2005, San Leandro, CA
Three Essays Towards a Spiritual Autobiography
I wrote these little essays (in the original sense of the word) recently, prompted by the desire to respond to ideas brought forward by the related experiences of other gay mystics on their own paths. Perhaps these are core segments for a book of teachings I will someday compile. (Not write, but compile from the lessons I have learned in life, most of which are hardly original; ask any mystic.) Regardless, I include them here to remind myself of the same teachings I have been passing on to others. To remind myself, as often as I need it, which is often, that I am neither alone on this path, nor the first to walk it. (Well, mostly not the first to walk it.)
Because of their combined length, Im placing them on a parallel page, linked here. You can always skip them or come back to them later.
CCI. 3 May 2005, San Leandro, CA
As seems to be becoming a pattern since I was in the desert, a day of anxiety, fear, and not being able to cope is followed by a day of near-exaltation. Ive noticed this pattern before. Maybe its just that stuff has to rise to the surface to be released. A bad day followed by a good day. No special deep significance to this. Just a regular part of the process, now.
The license renewal for the truck arrived yesterday, so thats covered. I get paid again in a few days, and have some purchases budgeted for. Work flows no easier than before, but my attitude is less frustrated, more focused. Also, less deferential, more willing to stand up for my viewpoint when I deem it necessary. I choose to be heard rather than to stuff my ideas down a well. This doesnt always win you points, but I wonder if maybe I have finally found a place where it will.
Regardless, a quieter day. Should I go back to that Tuesday evening artists gathering in Emeryville? I went for awhile, but I have been so tired and in need of rest lately, I havent been more than once in the past month. It was easier before the job began. I confess I have mixed feelings, wondering if it will lead to anything. There is an undercurrent of competition there, which may not be a bad thing, but its there. I also wonder, too, about coming out to these people. They are upper crust, and even in the Bay Area, I wonder about the art-buying audience, which is largely conservative everywhere you go, because they art-buyers in this day and age are largely from the monied classes: which means, often, conservative business folk. I can just be myself, but will that open doors, or close them. Some nice people, though. Everybody seems to like everyone elses art, most of the time. I just have doubts that this will really lead to anything. Well, maybe Ill go briefly, then leave early. I am tired enough to not want to be up late again tonight. I had no down time before bed last night, and I can feel it in the way I lag this afternoon.
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