I am now podcasting excerpts from the Road Journal. This is a new project that will grow over time.
CCCXX. 24 November 2005, Portland, OR
Yesterdays long drive was exhausting, but I stopped several times to take photos and video. At least one or two useful sequences for the ongoing DVD project; and several excellent photos. I had a cup of tea, seated by the fires warmth, as the fog thickened and a light drizzle began, feeling suddenly tired. I went to bed soon after, putting off any more chores till the next morning, and slept long and deep in the quiet. Taking down the tent, shaking water droplets off the canopy, rolling up the muddied ground tarp. Packed up and out by 9am.
The morning began in thick fog, and the fog and occasional rain continued for hours, till at last in Oregon the sky began to clear. Still, the sky kept its clouds till sunset, when the sun came through as the curtain raised.
The thick fog and low clouds in the Redwoods area made for some stunning lighting effects through the trees. I stopped more than once to take photos, leaving the park, then again in the section of national forest in the hills just south of Crescent City. I got some amazing photos: the record of spirit moving in the light and air.
Driving, I saw three or four hawks, a couple of ravens, and lots of redwing blackbirds. One hawk, seated on a fencepost, facing the road, its throat russet. Another, high on a telephone pole, back turned, scanning the fields for unwary voles. Yesterday, in the dusk, a herd of elk munching on a lawn by the road; lots of tourist cars stopped to watch them: herd watching herds, it looked like.
When the sky cleared for awhile, that stretch of the Oregon coast below Port Orford that is so wild and beautiful was magical. I stopped to photograph a small waterfall by the roadside. I strode up to take photos as the indifferent traffic whizzed by.
I stopped at sunset at Moolack Beach, just south of Depoe Bay, in Oregon. Theres a stream outflow there, which is littered with polished stones, and sand on either side of the channel.
I stopped there to photograph the drama of the sun going down red and gold behind offshore clouds. As it darkened towards dusk, and the light turned blue, I started to look down at the polished stones. Stones of all sizes and colors, rounded, pitted, basalts, cherts, green serpentines, sandstones and shells. And I found first one, then three dreamstones.
I had an intuition I might find some there, as the conditions are right. And there they were. I plan to stop back there on the drive down the coast, in the light, and see what I find.
CCCXIX. 22 November 2005, Prairie Creek State park, northern CA
I sit here writing by firelight. The fog is thick and heavy. Im staying warm after setting up the tent in the dark and wet, and making dinner.
Last night, I met a Radical Faerie friend from back in Minnesota, who wanted to get the Reiki III attunement from me. So, we did that, and spent several good hours talking and training. Earlier that same morning, I had been called in to do a photo shoot at the printing press that I used to work at part-time. Ended the day with a little extra cash, which will help with the current stage of the journey.
I left Pinole by 10:30am, stopping first at the post office, bank, and to fill up the gas tank, That afternoon, I had gotten an oil change and changed the trucks transmission fluid, preparations for this journey.
The afternoons drive up Hwy. 101 was easy, the sunlight warming and calming me. At one point, tired from lack of sleep the night before, I pulled over and napped in the sun for a short while, then drove on, revived.
As I got to Eureka, there were the usual fogs and clouds. I kept driving. Ive heard it said this is the second-foggiest place on the planet. It really affected my mood, as I drove on through it. Driving up into the hills, the road becomes enveloped in a thick pea-souper you can barely see through to navigate. Then, at the top of one hill, I pulled over to watch the fog move through the valleys below, The sky was pink and blue, just after sunset, and the white streamers of fog flowed like fast white molasses through the valleys. The sky darkened more.
Driving down into the valleys, I decided I didnt want to try to drive through the fog after dark, and the fog was getting thicker and heavier. So, I pulled off Hwy. 101 at the first State Park sign that included camping, and ended up here, after a 7-mile drive down a cathedral corridor of mist-wrapped redwoods. Now Im camped at the edge of an open meadow, a prairie field between redwood stands. The campfire warms me before I bed down for the night. I made steak and pan-friend potatoes for dinner; now Im drinking hot, sweet tea.
Tired enough to sleep now. Maybe get up and write more later. Or get an early morning start.
A few other campers around. But its peaceful enough, quiet enough. Dark and quiet enough for my sleeptime ease.
CCCXVIII. 19 November 2005, Pinole, CA
Took the day and Did Nothing, to the best of my ability. Went to brunch with two of J.s friends, with a great discussion over good food in Berkeley. Then, we drove to the beach at San Gregorio. It felt lovely to strip off my clothes and walk naked in the warm sunlight, with just a hint of breeze coming off the calm ocean. We stayed till sunset, then had a good dinner at a little restaurant in Woodside on the way back.
I made a couple of small landscape art pieces at waters edge, then ran down to the archway as the light was turning golden and brilliant. I really liked the water reflecting on the shallow wet sands. The brown sands a smooth backdrop for spiral and waterline.
The cliffs were russet, reflected in the lingering waters of the beach sand, making a perfect mirror. I walked around the deep water, immersing myself, to the other side of the archways tunnel, and walked back through it, photographing all the way.
The beach was crowded with naked people today, but it was very friendly; I had quick conversations with several couples, and said hello to individuals; much more friendly and open than it sometimes is, when its more of a gay cruising scene than it was today. The weather was so nice, it drew out all kinds of people.
Hurrying back, I paused to take another photo or two of the sunset, and the spiral I had made earlier, now changed in color by the setting sun.
CCCXVII. 17 November 2005, Chicago-Midway Airport, Chicago, IL
I am not making entertainment: I do not want a passive audience. I want an engaged audience, active listeners and viewers. Its the shamanic art thing again: as Janet Dallett wrote:
Some art is shamanic in function. Formed from collective unconscious material, it activates the unconscious of its audience and mobilizes the psyche's self-healing capacities. It opens the door to a different reality, the world of dreams and imagination, and "spirits" silently pass into the world of every day, affecting people in unexpected ways.
Rob Breszny: Performance is life. Entertainment is death.
Hakim Bey: Against the reproduction of death.
Maybe its the recent full moon, hyper-energizing me. Whatever it is, I still cant sleep. I am still in creative overdrive. I got up again and made some design sketch notes. I itch. All over, and not on the skin, inside, where you cant scratch. I never itch like this, and its an energetic thing, no physical issues at all. Its really distracting and annoyingand not a little funny. Oh well. Maybe Im supposed to be this over-energized, to get everything done. I might have to take a nap later, and I can always sleep on the plane. But meanwhile, Ill just go till I drop, I guess.
(The night of the full moon, I got almost no sleepI was in creative overdrive, and accomplished a lot of new workand my body itched. There was nothing wrong, no rashes, no chemicals, no allergies: I just ITCHED. It was biting electricity, on my skin, and under it; no scratching relieved it)
Safe Journey, Safe Home
Assessment: I did not get everything done this past week that I had hoped to get done, creatively; perhaps I was being overly ambitious. But what I did get done, I think was very good. Late last night, abandoning all attempts to add more content to the new DVD, I decided it was just fine as it was, and adding less than wonderful new content wouldnt add anything to the overall project. So, I burned it with the three films completed. I will revise it a little later, and add to it. (I need to tweak the introduction and the menu. Still learning how to handle Sony Architect.) When I have more time, I am going to make the Waves film as good as any of the others, or better; but that wasnt going to happen this time. Perhaps as soon as next month, if I come back to Wisconsin for Christmas, then I could add to it. The introduction needs smoothing out, and so does the main menu. They are certainly good enough for now; and they can be improved upon, given a little more time to work on them.
I allowed myself to get a little panic-stressed yesterday, trying to get too much done, adding to my stress by worrying too much about flying. You know: the usual. I seem to always get like this before starting a long journey; I almost always lose sleep the night before a departure. This is such a self-indulgent habit. I am going to break it. (Which I know, means it will be in face till I do.)
When my Stick went through the airport security x-ray machine today, the look on the womans face was priceless: the classic What is that thing?! look. I said, Its called a Stick. Its a musical instrument. She was really cool about it, and asked a couple of questions. Then, my bass guitar went throughmy Steinberger 5-string, which has been languishing in Wisconsin, and which I now want with me againshe said, Now, that instrument I recognize. I had to laugh at myself. I guess Ive gotten so used to thinking of the Stick as normal, that my 5-string basswhich is an innovative-looking instrument, toowas what I assumed would appear the weirder of the two, and be questioned. I guess it all depends on what youre comfortable and familiar with.
In the rush to get everything done before leaving today, I forgot to make any food to take with me. So, I got myself a pizza slice at the airport food court, after getting through security. I was just about to sit down when another man asked me if I was leaving. I said, Just sitting down, but Im happy to share the table. So he and his friend and I had a pleasant conversation. He asked me if I was a musician, from my two instrument cases, and when I told him it was a Stick, he said, My friend plays one of those! Hes from Providence, flying back there, and I guess he has a friend back there whos a Stickista; mostly plays bass, but is adding more Stick to his band sounds. (Sorry, I cant recall the name.)
So, we all had a real pleasant conversation about music, creativity, the working life, and flying Southwest, while we all ate our mini-meals. (Im not that hungry, so a slice of pizza seemed like a lot. Im really short on sleep, still.)
Overall, this has been a good trip. A lot of good things happened in Chicago, with promise for more in future. Al and Andy and I spent a good deal of time talking about future projects, and ideas for how to continue to generate income from our creativity. We have several ideas under discussion, and a promise to keep those doors open and churning. Is this the start of something that might move towards manifesting my dreams? I do not even dare to hope.
As I sit here, gathering my thoughts, staring out the big windows at the taxiing planes and baggage carts on the tarmac, a huge raptor flies by, as though coming in to land. Passing through. Its either an eagle or a very large hawk, based on size and coloration. And then its gone. A Messenger, even here, this asphalt and steel wasteland. Well, its true: There is no place on this earth that is not part of nature.
Both directions on this journey by air, I have carried my spare SE50 inn my backpack carryon, because I was just two or three pounds overweight on the luggage weight limit, when I brought my suitcase to the check-in counter. No prob. I had it worked out; I just opened my suitcase and transferred the SE50 to my carryon.
I shipped several boxes of material to myself, this trip. Things I needed back West, including a couple more musical instruments. But also, some new clothes, papers, CDs, and so forth. All things I will want to have with me, eventually, as I continue on this nomadic journey. None of them too bulky or awkward. More baggage to haul around the countryside, I know. But who knows where Ill be next, or when? It seems less clear than ever; to me, at least. I might as well at least have my tools with me, to keep feeding the creative life, and building it towards future projects and dreams. At the very least, it will keep me busy with good things to do, while I wait for what comes next, while I work to make ready for it to happen.
Eventually, the dream is that it will keep me off the streets, and on the roads.
Later (back in Pinole, CA):
Had a brief tense moment when I got onto the plane itself, as it was completely full. The stewardess wanted me to check the Stick, but I said Id like to try to fit it in the overheads first. She said to give it a try, and let her know if it wouldnt work. I was calm and confident on the outside. All the way at the back of the plane, there was just enough space left in the last two overheads to hold the Stick and the bass. So, that was a relief. I was prepared to make a polite-but-firm scene, but instead I could just smile and express my gratitude. I was about the last person to sit down, though, and the flight was not exactly comfortable. Still, even those middle seats are a little wider again, than theyve been in recent years; so, Im back. We stopped for dinner on the way back, which is good, because I had forgotten to prepare myself food before leaving Chicago, so I was pretty worn down and tired, sore, and hungry at this point. I craved steak and lemonade, but was satisfied with a good burger and pink lemonade at Outback. (What, they make pink lemons now, too? Just kidding.)
Im back now, exhausted, hands sore from carrying my case, and what greets me but a brand-new Stick gig bag sent from Stick Enterprises. What a pleasant way to arrive home. Id forgotten all about it, actually, in the flurry of the past few days. My boxes sent form Beloit are also arrived. Next week, more stuff shipped from Chicago should arrive. And also next week, I drive up to Portland for Thanksgiving.
Lessons learned: Always, always, always get an early boarding pass. You get to pick your seat better, and theres less hassle with the music gear. I think this largely happened mainly because I was one of the last few onto the plane itself. And it all worked out in the end anyway.
CCCXVI. 15 November 2005, Chicago, IL
I can see that it rained last night. My dreams full of water imagery: I am part of a staff protecting and maintaining a giant lighthouse; it is on an offshore artificial island; violent sea-surges threaten to come over the breakwater and inundate the base of the tower, which is below sea-level; there is construction equipment, big earth-movers and trucks, gathered at the courtyard of the lighthouse; its precarious, the water always ready to spill over the edge of the parapet; later, were all inside when violent booms shake the tower from the east, as waves crash over the barrier and onto the side of the tower; I go below to check out the structural integrity. Other dreams with water and liquid images, too; that was the most memorable. All these images of the sea, of dreamstones, of waves, of my landscape art at the ocean shore: I spent most of yesterday dealing with water, moving water.
Violent surge and crash of the ocean of the unconscious, waves breaking upon the shore. I wake suddenly, to the days gray light, music and booming wave crashes still ringing inside me. Still half in Dreamtime, I sit to write, to be silent, and contemplate, before beginning the day. Out of this space: music; poetry; vision; silence.
No routine. Every day of this dive into the ocean of the unconscious is different. Today I crave breakfast, which I usually dont. Last nights dreams become pools of maple syrup and melted butter, comfort food, warmth within. I am satisfied by toast from homemade bread, with orange marmalade.
Is that the name for this video DVD music poetry compilation: Dreamtime Ocean? From dreams, my inspiration, and knowledge. From my own underwater depths, the source of so much of my creative work. Not hte first time my dreams have named a work; nor, likely, the last.
Its winter sunset time, around 4:30pm, and I just finished the Dreamstone video piece. (I tracked two different kinds of Stick bass parts, added a touch or two here and there, and double-tracked a Stick lead line, in stereo, that is the emotional climax of the piece, at least for me.) It is more, not less, than I had hoped for. Suddenly everything comes together and synergizes into a whole greater than the sum of its parts. Its magic when this happens: like it is meant to work out this way.
(How do I know it works? Because re-viewing the piece is making me, the author, get all shivery. Me, who is closer to it than anybody, and has seen it a dozen times by now. Not that thats any guarantee. But I note it as data.)
This is my visual art at the next level: the imagery moves, the text moves. This is more than a music video: its music-poetry video art. It owes something in spirit to video artists I have admiredBill Viola, Dan Reeves, a few others over the yearswhile still being entirely my own.
The images in Waterline, the landscape art piece I finished last night, are iconic. They seem to emerge directly from the unconscious; its what makes this art shamanic art: the images are numinous, liminal. Some pieces even sketch an outline of the Threshold, that place between worlds, that you step across when you move from this world to the next, and back again. The images in Dreamstone go even further, because everything is animated, dancing; at times, youd think the images originally were video, not animated still, it all converges so serendipitously.
Showing the completed videos to my studio recording studio hosts here, they thought they were terrific. I do feel like technically I have hit a higher level; some of that is learning to go deeper into the tools, and then build my concepts around what I can do, rather than what I cant. This whole trip has enabled me to go deeper into my creativity, because of their facilitating my access to tools.
Its also a changed attitude that feeds the creative work, now: no more starving artists. Thats total bullshit. Starting artists is a better paradigm, and accomplished or thriving artists is even better. I have two favorite four-letter words: DONE and NEXT.
Something I did not know: apparently this portfolio website of mine is getting huge numbers of hits per day, mostly on the Podcast and Road Journal pages. Thats amazing. I feel overwhelmed Im not even sure how to integrate that data, although its very supportive and exciting: I must be doing something right, to draw this much traffic. People out there really do care: Im not just shouting into a well. When you get an echo back from the well, like this, it can sustain your creative momentum for a long time. It inspires me to keep going, as it proves that people actually are listening, and do want to see the creative work that I produce. Thats encouraging to me in a way that is so much more real than other kinds of encouragement, as valuable as those have been, for example, the moral support from friends: because its tangible, because its actual numbers. (Not that I'm going to collapse into it, and use it as an excuse to be lazy! I need to keep going as if it didn't exist; but I have the numbers on hand, as a resource to show to people, if necessary; say, when meeting a prospective client.) Maybe this the start of actually finding my audience? Careful, though: don't ever get complacent about this. Keep on going, regardless.
Still Later (nightwatch):
It happens sometimes that I cant sleep. I wake up in the early pre-dawn hours and cant get back to sleep. At such times, Ive learned that its futile to toss and turn; I might as well get up, boot up the computer and make something. I have made more than one of my original fonts at such times. Eventually, sometimes an hour or less later, I finish whatever little creative project I can get done at such times, and having tired myself out, go back to sleep easily and deeply, content.
Tonight is one of those nights. I had such a nose to grindstone day, such a creative production day, followed by a good talk about future artistic projects, after it all, that I am too wired to sleep. Now its the early pre-dawn hours, and Im awake enough to write this. Im rendering off the DVD files for the first three completed films. Andy and Al had no changes or additions to suggest on these films, which is rare: its a sign that Im on the right path, because these two studio artists, who come from very different approaches, can almost always find something that could be improved.
CCCXV. 14 November 2005, Chicago, IL
In my dream last night, I stop for an oil change in small-town California; sunstruck, poor but pretty; named Prody; no idea if it really exists or not, and I havent tried to find out; the mechanic who looks my truck over is a tall, thin, bearded man who looks like a 50-ish Alan Watts; the place Im stopped doesnt actually do oil changes; a tow-truck subcontractor pulls up, and starts to do the change, then Im walking behind the truck and hit the trunk switch, thinking it needs to be opened, but its open and closes, missing the tow-truck guys hands by feet; he gets spooked and leaves, leaving me nowhere; when I get annoyed, the tall mechanic comes out and calms me down; he asks to see me move; he gives me a bokken, and I do the eight-directions kata; we recognize each other as fellow Aikikai, and talk about that and many other spiritual things; it seems this little town in the middle of nowhere is a spiritual haven; we are walking out to the street when a siren goes off; he stops to listen; a particular pattern means the local volunteer emergency search and rescue squad is being called to assemble; he is one of them; theres a bus that comes to pick them up here; I offer to give him a ride to the station if he missed the bus. The dream goes on from there in other directions, but that was a nice meeting. An older man, more mature and fit than me: an older Self, perhaps, my own self as senex, more settled with himself, more confident about what to do in all kinds of situations. Just respond, dont go looking for trouble.
I continue to experiment. In the past two evenings, I have finished two short films. The first one was a test-film, to remember or learn how to use all the software for making DVDs that is available to me here: Sonys Acid, SoundForge, Vegas, and Architect. Of course, Ive used SoundForge for over a decade, its like an old friend with new clothes. Vegas continues to astound me with how much it can do, and how quickly and easily. Im actually 80 percent of the work in Vegas, all the tracking and mixing. Mixing video is just like mixing audio; the same techniques apply.
Im contemplating extending my stay here one or two days, Im being so productive. The list of projects Id like to accomplish continues to lengthen, every time I think of a new one. I guess to set a limit, sometime. But I feel like Im doing stuff here, getting a lot done, and dont really have much to go back to, right now. I applied for an artists residency program, but thats unlikely to happen, because theyre a non-profit and need their resident artists to pay rent; its beyond my financial means, which is too bad, because it sounds like an ideal opportunity for me.
I toyed with the idea of extending my stay here, and getting more done. Everyone supports the idea, but unfortunately to change my plane ticket would cost me too much money, so Im going to waste it. I get done what I get done, before I go. I am tempted to think I wasted too many hours today thinking about this, but its not waste: it was research. Now, having settled the issue, I can set it aside and get back to work on the creative projects, for the rest of tonight and tomorrow. A little food, a little more tea, and back to work.
I just mostly completed the Dreamstone video piece from this series of short, experimental art films. I am being even more visionary, going even further with shamanic video effects, transformative movements and images that seek to move the viewer towards an altered state. Ive done a simple drum groove with long sustained sounds: very trancelike. Tomorrow I will track a bass and ISFS-melody part on Stick. I need to stop now, and rest for the night.
I also got part of the big Waves piece done. That one may take several days before it all falls together. I am pushing myself to go even further than before, be even more adventurous artistically, and push my own boundaries. I am astounded at how it all comes to manifest, after months of gestation, and days of preparation. Now, the smooth-going work begins, of compiling, editing, placing, mixing, mastering. I took only my best dreamstone images for this piece, and kept it simple and powerful. I cant wait to show it to people!
The big piece I had been planning to do, Waves, may in fact be too much to handle this trip. If I had another week, no problem. But Ive felt stuck on it all day, even though I was in creative overdrive otherwise, and got two other short films finished today. I may switch gears tomorrow, and focus on a gallery portfolio piece instead: the artwork in the newer, monochrome gallery, that has come into focus this past year. That film alone can stand as a presentation piece to galleries and other art sales venues. I can use it as a DVD calling card. I will have to work up a memorable marketing presentation for it, but it could open the door. Thats a design project to also focus on, as soon as I get back to California. No rest for the weary! No time! Too much to do!
CCCXIV. 12 November 2005, Chicago, IL
And heres how my own Saboteur archetype works: It keeps me from calling clients back; from finishing projects that I should have finished a week or more ago; from following up with clients; and so forth. Because my own Saboteur is constellated around money, my core issue, it interferes with my ability to run a business, earn an income, keep me financially healthy. Instead, I become lazy or distracted, financially dependentalthough there is more going there than just self-sabotageand at zero-sum income.
The financial dependence is also part of the Trust game with the Powers That Be: it is not only my own issue. It is Trust that, no matter what, I will be taken care of; it is repayment for some of the work I undertake for Them, that keeps my occupied away from more standard sources of income; it is also a means that I am to allow myself to be taken care of, to learn to receive with Grace, as well as give; it is also a continuous test of my self-esteem, to recognize that I am worthy of receiving an energy-exchange for fair value, for what I put out into the Universe, in terms of my creativity, healing work, and where they overlap.
Yesterday afternoon, two boys playing a rough game of back alley basketball near dusk. This unseasonable warmth continues here in the Midwest; both boys were wearing t-shirts, their jackets laid over the backyard fence.
This morning, sunlight filtered by high, thin clouds, the light diffuse, the air still warm. Fallen leaves rustle in the breeze. Sirens in the distance. Welcome to autumn, a season that lasts only a day in California.
I sit by the back window before starting my day, wanting to contemplate few things before getting onto the computers. I drink my tea, and write. Last night, I revised some of those poem fragments Id been writing while traveling up and down the California and Oregon costs, realizing they were one long poem; something evolved and eroded between Joshua Tree, Pescadero, and southwestern Oregon. Not sure its a good poem yet, but its moving towards coherence, at least.
aspect of violet: morning-glory vine blooms. stretching fence.
new roof for an old tire: at play, two crows. shelters vector of sun.
squirrel parks on a branch. moves across, the sunny sill. rodent wife.
constant rustle of paper leaves. autumns books.
somewhere overhead, a god screams: across the sky.
Dont hold back. Be a child, a crow, an animal: give it all you have. Life every moment to its ultimate limit. Dont restrain yourself. Dont edit. Full commitment to every feeling, every expression, every play, every conception, every game, every strife. Full-on tilt towards the windmills. No holding back. Feel it with every fiber of being. Every dark or light moment, fully-felt. Then let go of, released, melting into the next moment. Dont hold back from anything, and dont hold on to anything. Its all melting, anyway. Let it melt. Let it dissolve. Let it become the next thing. Be fully awake, fully aware, fully alive. No processed passageways between emotions, no artificial boundaries, illusory gates. Children are like this. Wild animals are like this. They mean exactly what they say and do, in the moment. No editing. They have to be taught to hide, to suppress, to repress, to restrain: the process of taming, of domesticating, of civilizing. Out of fear, usually: fear of what is wild within ourselves. Cultured measurement of self and other: tableaux of binding. Its all about Control, but Control is an illusion. The wild bird sits in the palm of the Buddha, a nest of flesh, its natural state. The wise ones can become so still, the artificial separations between nature and person dissolve; the birds and animals recognize this, and are safe in their presence, and rest with them; and so we burn these wise ones at the stake for being connected to a thing we fear and hate, and yearn for. Paradox of civilization and separation is that there is none. Paradox of form and formlessness: dynamic balance of oppositions, the sacred marriage, the union of opposites.
Build up a head of steam: become spontaneous. Get past those editing selves. In this state of being, there is no sabotage, no self-consciousness, no self-restraint. We use the tools to make what we make, and it emerges self-complete, spontaneous, an improvised life. Growth at the root. I grow a life, and the life I grow is at the root the real work of living: not career, nor job, nor worry, just Being. In this state, I can do anything. Nothing to accomplish, no rewards to be sought and reaped: just Being.
late autumn morning,
frost on the morning-glories
stretching fence, I pull
CCCXIII. 11 November 2005, Chicago, IL
Back after five days in Beloit. Stressed-out, exhausted, wiped out, burned, in pain, beat up, numbed, fried: what Im feeling now. Its not that I dont love my family, its that its really, really stressful these days, with Moms Alzheimers, and Dads responses to that. I got back here, and a wave of sudden emotion hit, that I must have been repressing the past few days. I even had an emotional bad night a couple of nights ago, then felt okay for a day. Now this. I never had a spare moment to write. I was constantly having to do stuff. Not all bad, mind you, just all of it intense.
Granted, some stress I laid on myself, trying to organize and sort through my chattels. Drove up to Madison one afternoon to sell of six bags of books; not much money for them, this time, but theyre at least gone. Cashflow issues. No branches of my bank around here, so I have to wait to get back to CA to cash the cheque I got last week for the recording sessions. I had to pull together some stuff to ship back to myself in CA; and some still to be shipped, even. What I most needed and wanted, so I could get back to some forms of creative work, there. Hard decisions. Still too much stuff there. Part of me wants to abandon all of it; part of me clings to me. So, I give myself undue stress by tearing myself in all ways, all directions, with all this.
I cant really deal with it. I need to travel light, and still be nomadic. Things remain uncertain, unsettled, and veiled. Theres no point moving out too much of my stuff yet. I may actually wait till something happens, and we have to close up the house in Beloit; someday, that will happen, and Ill have to deal with all of it, then, anyway. If I can put it off, thats okay. Only small pieces, only what I can handle.
Meanwhile, I have sent myself enough material to keep working on projects, and generating new ones, as I go: to keep busy, artistically, is essential. Music to work on, artwork to assemble, things to weave. (Spider: Weaver: I began to weave my first dreamcatcher project; in hindsight, I probably had to wait till this new Yearwheel, to start all that, anyway. Now, I am literally learning to weave, while each piece also is a Symbolic piece, a magickal weaving, a magickal object woven with intention, with power set into it by my hands and will. Of course, I have no idea what Im doing yet, in terms of weaving skills and techniques. That will come, in time.)
So, I mailed myself only one box of books, but two of CDs and various other things, and one of cassettes: mostly radiopieces from yesteryear, and also some masters of compositions, performances, and other things, all with the intention to digitize them, transfer them to my computers, and put them up on the website, make new CDs, etc. A lot of these are catch-up projects Ive meant to work on for literally years. All put on hold for over a year, now, as I have traveled and roamed. Now, maybe, while I wait for the Powers That Be to set up the next thing, I can get some of this other stuff done, at last.
Even though Ive basically taken a night off, Ive gotten a lot of grunt work done. I made a drum track in Acid. I also got started on the DVD project, and am doing the grunt work of converting AVI files to the proper format for Vegas. I made a pizza for dinner, and had a glass of wine; chocolate ice cream for dessert. I also started printing up a bunch of artwork on the color laser printer. Its slow, but it makes beautiful prints. I will put a bunch in the queue before bed, and let it churn.
CCCXII. 4 November 2005, Chicago, IL
Recording Session Two:
After dinner in a local Irish Pub, the Celtic Crown, where we fed the jukebox full of change to dominate the listening (Steely Dan, Peter Gabriel, etc.), back at it.
This evening, we accomplished only one piece, but it was a compose-as-you-go piece, and watching it develop and take shape was worth it. I laid down rhythm tracks and Stick feedback solos, after the bass tracks had been assembled, the overall structure built, and the temp drum tracks filled in, to give it all shape and feel. Some extra tracking on my part, too, to give some options for mixing it all down later.
So, two nights in a row of working from 7pm till after 2am, then unwinding till 4am: typical studio hours. And then, getting paid for it all was also very nice. I have a rough mix CD to listen to, but its not a developed mix, so Im not going to share it around. I made some suggestions as to where to go with it. I got to wear my co-producers hat a lot more tonight, than last night: just a shift in roles, really, but also fulfilling. I also felt like I contributed to the writing and shaping of this piece, although its more like I helped arrange and produce it, rather than compose it.
Tomorrow, up to Beloit for four days of family gathering. Mixed feelings. Heres the truth: Im wary, but also loving. The Sacred Heart is going to be interesting to deal with, there, to say the least.
CCCXI. 3 November 2005, Chicago, IL
Recording Session One:
The first recording session was last night. No donuts, but Chinese food did precede affairs; there's a local Chinese place near here that delivers, and has excellent non-MSG food. We worked on two already existing compositions, the first a space-ambient drone piece to which I added several Stick layers,
My "rig" consisted of SE-50 into Vortex into the board. I brought my second SE-50, into which I had copied all my usual patches via MIDI dump. The studio here has a Lexicon Vortex, so I didn't need to bring mine, this time. I sat in the control room and played, layering over the existing bass and synthesizer tracks. I got heavily into using the Stick's volume controls to do reverb and delay-drenched swells. This kind of music is all about shape, gesture and sound. My job is provide a narrative, to develop something fairly static into a piece that builds and releases a story.
Then it was time to set up the Infinite Sustain Feedback System, which is the real reason I'm here. We set up a Fender BandMaster, one of several the studio has. C'mon, you knew there would be a tube amp involved in this, didn't you? Seated in the control room, twiddling the Vortex and SE-50 knobs on my right, while on my left, seated on another chair, the BandMaster. The Infinite Sustain is basically an acoustically-coupled feedback system for my Stick. I have a contact driver mounted on the back of my polycarb Stick, behind the sixth fret, more or less. From the board, we patch my combined output signal, the composite signal coming from the SE-50 and Vortex, and cable it to the BandMaster. The contact driver is basically a speaker core with an attached speaker wire; the driver's jack is plugged into the speaker jack of the BandMaster. I "play" the ISFS on the BandMaster by holding down a note on the fretboard, then twiddling with the volume and tone controls on the amp. The cool thing about the ISFS is that you get this monster feedback coming out of the Stick, but at room volume levels; no earplugs required, no standing in front of a cranked-up amp. The BandMaster is a perfect amp for driving the ISFS, at 50 watts, with the tube sustain you get for this kind of feedback having a warm, rich tone.
The second piece was based around a 3-bar pattern in f-minor. A simple idea which we shaped into a piece that builds to a climax, by dropping gaps into the pattern, and building on it. Very prog-rock. It's fun to compose as you go, and I also got to share the producer's hat, making suggestions about shaping the piece, and going from there. I came up with a groovy bassline that starts minimal and builds and builds; but we didn't end up using it, as we coached the composer-bassist into developing a very different kind of bassline. No groove goes to waste, though, and I'm sure I'll use the idea elsewhere.
I ended up tracking: a layer of Adrian Belew-type 8-note patterning, beginning about halfway through the piece, as it starts to climb up towards its peak, on a complementary chord pattern with C, Bb, F chords cycling in the bass; the pattern is three bars long, in 4/4, or 12 beats total; another punctuation layer of clean Stick chords at certain key gestural moments; and a screaming feedback solo over the top. The piece is around 7 minutes long, but it "feels" shorter, because of the narrative shape of the piece.
Some very nice Makers Mark whiskey, I might add, followed up affairs, as we listened to rough-mix playback. Being half-Irish meself, I can only say that the whiskey flowed into puns, then listening to stranger musics from my personal stash of odd musics gathered over the years, and a fair bit of merriment.
Session two tonight, once the living have been restored to the dead, or vice versa. Session two is planned to be around new, collaborative material. I guess it's evolving towards my role being somewhat more than a session guy, which is great fun for me.
CCCX. 2 November 2005, Chicago, IL
They had one last chance to hassle me, as I boarded the plane with Stick case in hand, but nobody commented, nobody prevented, nobody even said anything, except the usual warning about contents of the overhead compartments shifting during transit, so please be careful when you open them after we arrive.
Southwest Airlines makes me laugh out loud. This time, the stewardess led off the usual flight preparedness speech with, Please pretend to pay attention while we tell you about the operation of this Boringer, Boeing 707 aircraft. And we were off and running. I like Southwest: they dont mind musical instruments, and they make me laugh out loud. A little later in the standard speech, those oxygen masks that drop down if the cabin depressurizes were referred to as Martha Stewart jello cups, serving nitrous oxide you wish! Sorry, folks, just plain oxygen.
It was a good, smooth, fast flight; we even arrived a little early. There was some nasty wind shear and turbulence as we were landing, but otherwise it was smooth flying. I read, and listened to iPod music, and took photos of the Basin & Range that we flew over, till it was concealed by clouds, and the sun went down. I love flying into the Earths shadow: the terminator line is so clear and midnight blue, at altitude.
Now, Im here, a few days after Halloween, and it looks and sounds and feels like Halloween ought to: dead leaves blanketing the ground, the leaves left in the trees whooshing in the breeze, the night humid and cool, crisply fresh rather than chilly. If I can, I will try to record some wind sounds tonight, before I totally collapse. I am brewing some tea, to sit up and write for awhile, and get used to being here, before I collapse for the night.
CCCIX. 2 November 2005, Oakland International Airport, CA
A hassle-free pass through security, so I have hours to kill. It seems like that happens to me, when I Trust. I found myself willing to Trust today, and only slightly anxious about anything. I overdressed, just for fun. Im wearing a shirt and tie, and an elegant sweater. I also have my winter coat, of course, not the big wool one, but my modern coat. Chicago weather will be what it will be.
P. dropped me off at BART, and I took the train down to Oakland, where a shuttle bus commutes between the Oakland Coliseum BART station and the Oakland airport. I like smaller airports, like Oakland, and Chicago Midway, and I like the smaller airlines that service them, like Southwest. The last time I flew Southwest, last January, the stewardess on the airplane told me stories about flying musicians in and out of Nashville all the time, and encouraged me to use the hard case nest time. A hard case for a hardcase. She said that one time she had had three guitars in hard shell cases in the overhead compartments; my Stick case will easily fit, its much shorter than a guitars. I also printed out three copies of that TSA letter from 2003 that requires airlines to let musical instruments onto the planes, in addition to carry-on bags; one copy is with my boarding pass, another in the Stick case itself, and the third in the suitcase, which also has some music gear in it. My SE-50 is in my backpack, which Im carrying on, and my VF-1 is in the suitcase. Redundant backups.
I got off the shuttle, checked my suitcase at the counter, and went through the security checkpoint.. Except for having to take off my belt and boots, then put them back on, it was effortless and quick. No one even commented on the Stick, or its case. Everyone very polite and helpful. Now, Im sitting here, laptop plugged into the wall socket, casually taking my time. I have food, I have water, I dont have much of an appetite yet today, and things I can do while I wait. The only hassle is I have to keep everything with me; theres no lockers here to check my coat and carry-ons into, so I could wander. But oh well. There is WiFi here at the airport, but you have to pay for it. If I get really bored, I will, but not right now. I remember the free WiFi at ABQ Sunport, and I did my email and updated the Road Journal right there, waiting for my plane, last year. Talk about civilized!
Actually, the only awkward moment was that my suitcase was a few pounds over the weight limit. I had thought ahead for that, though, and prepared by putting another little shoulder bag in the suitcase; the attendants were very cool with it, as I pulled a few things out of the case, which I am now carrying on; then they checked the case, and it was at exactly 50 pounds. I knew it was going to be close, and it was. But, no worries, and no extra weight fee, either.
I had thought about going into San Francisco on Samhain, to go to Castro to see the annual wild Halloween festivities that spill out onto the street there every year. As the day wore on, though, I felt too tired to deal with 4 or 5 hours it would have taken, including travel time on the BART train to and from. So, I stayed in Pinole, and did a small, private, quiet ritual for myself, after everyone else was asleep. I remember doing this on many Samhains, with just a few friends in a small Circle, or by myself. It was completely silent during my time in sacred space, silent and calm. I did some meditation, dedicated some new tools, and, as I do every turn of the Yearwheel, to see what new energies I will be dealing with in the coming year, I drew a Medicine Card: Spider. The Weaver. The developer of written language. The Grandmother. The guide to manifestation. Its particularly appropriate as I am actually getting into literal weaving now, with making these dreamcatchers. Ive brought the tools I need to weave with me on this trip, in the suitcase. I also brought some gifts, books, and other art-making things, most of which I wont be bringing back with me; lightening the load. I will be bringing some things back, but I intend to ship them, for the most part.
Last week at Goodwill I found 4 paperbacks by Spider Robinson, from his Callahans Place series. Three of them Id never read before, even though I've been a fan of the series since it began. One of them, The Callahan Touch, actually has a paragraph in it that is a paean to the Chapman Stick, my instrument. It takes place during the week-long party and jam at the re-opening of the bar (long storythe original Callahans Place was destroyed by a pocket nuke) in Long Island. Now, along with the usual time-travelers, talking dogs, heartache and healing that goes on at Callahan's, one of the key features of Callahans stories is that they contain puns. Many puns. Awful puns. Horrible puns. Outrageous puns. And then it gets really serious, and puns really begin. So, if it's possible to overdose on puns, I have. I am Sally-ciously saturated, I have been fully pun-ished. Not that this is a bad thing; its not. The upside is that I feel honed. My deadpan is practiced, my verbal agility is polished, and my brain is thinking sideways. Just the way we like it.
And none too soon. In fact, the timing was just right. As Bonnie Raitt almost said, Just in the Mick of Time.
CCCVIII. 30 October 2005, Pinole, CA
Ive been pounding away at the list of things to do before flying to Chicago. Im getting through the list, but Im feeling anxious about it. I have too much material to go through for making the new DVD, and Im bound to forget some of it, or leave it behind, or just not have to get through it. Ive been going back over the photos Ive taken in the past 10 months, plus those I took in New Mexico, and that California loop trip I did exactly a year ago, and its just overwhelming. Objectively, I have a lot of good material there. Im trying to organize it by topic and theme, and also pack, and a zillion other things. I feel like Im juggling thirty full wine glasses in midair.
One big worry off my mind, though: a friend sent me some emergency money, so I have enough now to get errands done, shop for roadfood, travel expenses like getting to the airport and back, and so forth, and still have some left over.
Too much to do! Running out of energy tonight, though. So I make a list of errands for tomorrow, and wind down to sleep. Still remembering the silence under the redwood trees: a touchstone for me to carry with me throughout my travels over the next few weeks.
CCCVII. 29 October 2005, Pinole, CA
I have been working on personal projects tonight; making gifts to give; little crafts projects, things like that. Also been doing some reading and archiving. I generated lots of photos over the past few days. A great deal to sort through. Plus, the music for the silent film we did last night, which I recorded on the laptop.
At some point, maybe tomorrow, this trip to Chicago will come to seem real, and Ill start packing. I gathered materials together today and tonight. I am going to mail some of it there, rather than try to carry it. I need to pick a suitcase out of my stash, to see what works best for traveling. I will hopefully be returning with more than what I left with. I need to get my other computer here somehow, so I can do audio multitracking again. The laptop works great, but that machine is a dedicated studio computer, with other software for making music and art also loaded. Fractals, too. Things to do, not enough time. I work my way down the list, knowing its probably futile to imagine Ill get it all done. Details, details.
The effort of making peace, of wanting to be grounded and calm in the face of spiritual madness, sought amongst the silence and darkness of the redwoods, lingers with me today. I have one or two small turbulences, but overall a day I managed to stay calm and centered, and detached. Keep it up. With practice, who knows, maybe I actually have a shot at this faith, trust, and surrender gig. Who knows.
CCCVI. 28 October 2005, Pescadero State Park, CA
It was almost totally silent, almost totally dark, under the redwoods all last night. I slept deep, and dreamed richly, the most satisfying sleep I have had in months. I love silence and dark when I sleep outdoors; I sleep better this way than I ever do in the city, or even small towns where they still light the streets too brightly all night, and I wake more rested whenever I can sleep like this. Night is meant to be dark; if you have light all night, and never see the stars, the light is unbalanced against the dark; if you never let the dark in, you cannot be complete. The dark and silence were so soothing, all night long, I wanted the sun to come up later than it actually did, so that I could have more hours of blessed silence and darkness. I finally got out and made tea as I broke camp, as the sun reached down through the tall trees and touched the tent, very much more rested than usual of late.
All night long, there were only a few, intermittent voices in the trees. An owl, or other night predator, high above. The crackling of my fire. Just before I drove out, all packed up and ready to go, the wind made some gentle comments, high in the branches above. Fresh air like no other. The scent everywhere of cedar, pine, natural incense. I made morning tea with the last of my firewood, while I packed up the gear and loaded up the truck. I stayed bottomless, wearing just a shirt again, till I left, only putting on my pants just before driving out. By then, wearing pants felt novel, sensual in itself. Being nude is sensual, first and foremost. If I had been able to, here in this silent park, where it is still mostly silent under the trees, I would have been completely nude the whole time; you wear a shirt so as not to alarm other people.
I drove out of the shaded valley, the darkness under the redwood canopy, into a bright sunny morning. It was warm all morning, even in the wind off the ocean, till the clouds rolled in, in the early afternoon, and it got cooler. I was hoping, if it stayed sunny, to reward myself by spending some time at the nude beach at San Gregorio, before heading back into the metro; but it got too chilly.
At Pescadero, in the morning, I spent time down at the archway. The sands have been laid in so thick, now, that the archway is more than half-filled with sand, and the marsh lagoon is completely blocked off from the ocean. The high tide line is broken along the beach by a cliff-edge of piled sand. I watched and photographed the amazing Pacific Ocean rollers come crashing against the rocks and sand. I took off my shirt for awhile, in the warmth of the sun, with no one around, and just stood there, feeling emptied and tranquil. Seagulls, caves, waves, arches, breaking spray at my feet, glare of silver light off the waves in the sun.
I found one or two more new dreamstones, and did some photographs with them balanced on the rocks near the surf.
I went back up to the truck, and ate cold leftovers of last nights chicken cooked over the campfire. Food still tastes better to me cooked over a wood fire.
Later, Pinole, CA:
I drove into Half Moon Bay to fill up the gas tank, then, because I still had a few hours before I had to drive back to the Bay, and a performance that night at Stanfordanother silent movie performance with The Al-I NahfsI drove back down to San Gregorio. It was cool and grey now, heavily overcast and windy. I walked down to the caves in the cliffside, and did more photography. I scattered the gulls resting at waters edge by walking through them; they wheel up, complaining, then circle around and settle down again, a thick flock of them, up or down the beach. High, strong waves come crashing in. The sky had some moments of drama, rays of sunlight striking through, silvering the oceans surface. When I had had enough, I walked back up the beach, took some last photos, and headed in.
When I got back to the truck, the truck was surrounded by a flock of redwing blackbirds on the ground. They stayed there as I came up to the truck, and watched calmly as I opened the doors and knocked the sand out of my boots. Old friends of mine; redwings and I have had a long relationship. At some point, they all flew away, but not because I scared them off; they just chose to leave. The sentinel songbirds, with their sergeants shoulder patches.
I drove back over the coastal range hills, and into the Bay, directly to Palo Alto, and Stanford. I recorded the music we made for the silent film, all 90 minutes of it: Fritz Langs second film, Destiny, a film I quite like, with a metaphysical subject and magic-realist cinematography. Then, after the work of playing music, even as satisfying as it was, I drove all the way back to Pinole, tired but content with the last two days efforts.
The silence, the darkness, under the trees, still echoing inside the peaceful void within.
CCCV. 27 October 2005, Butano State Park, CA
This pocket park, tucked in a valley bedecked with redwoods, just south and inland from Pescadero, is a real find. I had decided a week or so ago, that I needed to come down to Pescadero for a serious amount of time, before flying back to the Midwest. It would help me stay centered, give me a long memory of peace and calm and magic, to fall back on if and when things got turbulent. Just one night camping, and a day or two of time spent next to the ocean, in the light and air, the surf drowning out the usual sounds. I have been feeling called to this place for days, wanting to be here, knowing I needed to be here before departing for Chicago next week.
And Butano was the perfect idea, in retrospect. It is so silent here, among the trees; just the occasional human sound that I make or that other campers, far off across the campgrounds make; I can see their firelight reflecting off the cathedral trees, as does mine.
One tree in this campsite, number 9, has a hollow at its base: s small cave in the wood, a portal, a doorway, a place spirits, the memory of bark and xylem and rising sap. In the night dark, I placed a light in there, tonight, as a shrine, an offering; took some time-lapse photos of it, too.
I drove to the park, registered for my site, set up the tent, and then drove the short 4 miles to the ocean at Pescadero. This time I went to the southernmost of the three parking areas here, to explore a beach I hadnt walked before. I climbed down the rocks past a couple of picnic sites, then onto a beach where large pebbles and small boulders are gathered in the sand; when the waves strike, they roll uphill, then as each wave retreats they make the sounds of rocks clanging together, a rattle and chatter like bones thrown in a jar, with the hiss of water falling through. I took my sandals off and walked the sands for awhile, getting my calves wet, looking for dreamstones. I have gathered some materials for making dreamcatchers; I needed one last element, though, some small dreamstones, suitable for weaving into the matrix. This beach gave me only a few larger stones, rocks of unusual shapes that I felt moved to harvest.
There is a spit of upthrusting crag at this south parking lot, that is broken in the middle of its line out to sea. At its feet, thin layers of rock fold and separate, and thrust vertically into the light, gathering pools of water, bluely reflecting the sky. I walked out onto the spit of land, taking photos. (I have been taking video as well as photos all day, hopefully for use in a second DVD project I have allotted time to develop while in Chicago. At least one short film idea has come to me, from this visit to the ocean: a piece about waves, gathered from many waters I have known, from here to Lake Superior.) I looked down onto the boulders clustered at the foot of this pier, hugging its south side, and saw hundreds, even thousands , of rocks with the telltale holes weathered into them and through, the sand-carved porous marks of dreamstones. It was getting late, and I wondered if I should go down there tomorrow, but I looked at the cliff edge and realized clambering down was no big deal, and I already had my backpack with me.
So, I climbed down and started looking. I found dozens, hundreds, even thousands of rocks there, most with holes only partially weathered. I found several stones of unusual form and beauty, all the while in my mind thinking about needing little stones, small enough to weave into jewelry, make necklaces out of, weave into the dreamcatchers with yarn. And then I saw first one, then two, three, more, of just the exact size stones I wanted. Several times in the past year, I have found dreamstones for myself, to build a collectionperhaps to someday use them in a garden or fountain of my design; perhaps even to make a more permanent piece of land art for myself, wherever I end up being locatedbut these stones, here today, are mostly to give away; to make art with, or rather incorporate into arts and crafts projects; to potlatch. After filling the pockets of my shorts with so many stones that they were about to slide off, I went back to my pack and sorted the rocks into bags; then I stood for awhile, listening to the waves, thinking nothing, giving thanks. A great giving, gratefully received.
Towards sunset I drove up to the archway area. The marsh lagoon is, for the first time Ive seen it, completely blocked off from the ocean. Thick heavy drifts of beach sand have blocked the rivermouth, which hugs the cliffs and fades to nothing yards away from the surfline. I didnt climb down to the arch, I stayed on top of the cliff, to photograph the sunset, and more waves in the gathering gloom. The air and sea turned blue. On the spit of weathering sandstone above the archway itself, a heron perched; that golden eye, the great wings, folded, the beak sharp as its gaze. I came closeit let meto capture its portrait, then I moved away slowly. I was all alone here, although cars went past in both directions on Highway 1, traffic up and down the coast road. I just let myself go, for awhile, in silence.
Walking back, when it was time to go back to camp, I spontaneously took my pants off and carried them with my tripod back to the truck. I was still wearing a long shirt, that covers me to mid-thigh, and my photographer's vest. So, I walked bottomless to the truck, and drove all the way back to my campsite, still bottomless. There are only three or four other groups or people here at the campgrounds, and so I haven't bothered to put my pants back on, here in the dark. It feels good to be nude, or rather semi-nude, doing ordinary things. I built a big campfire, and while it settles to coals, and because I'm not hungry for dinner yet, I am heating water for tea over the flames, and I am downloading today's photos, sitting naked inn the tent, writing this. I like being nude in nature; it feels open, and relaxed. Nudity isn't always sexual, though it often can be.
It is almost silent under the redwoods here in the park, and it stays moist even on hot days. The climate under the trees, Ive been told, moderates the weather in this small valley; so its the same, summer or winter, always moderate. I watch the fire, which hisses and crackles. A screech owl passes through, or some other voice high in the trees; this is the only animal noise I can hear; there are no mosquitoes that I can detect. I'll make dinner soon, but I want to relax for awhile, then make food a bit later. I bet I can get away with wearing just my shirt, throughout camp tonight, even walking up to the toilets. It seems quiet and private enough here, tonight.
CCCIV. 24 October 2005, Pinole, CA
I reserve the right to expel toxins as necessary, even if it risks alienating, contaminating, or recycling my surroundings. There is a limit to what I can absorb and ground, without collapsing or suppressing. This human vessel cannot contain more than it needs to. So, I reserve the right to vent, spew, bitch, whine, and dump, as needed. Hopefully, not too often.
I try to avoid putting out more negativity into the Universe, and yet, I cannot suppress it or deny it at the expense of my health. Believe me, Im only showing the surface of it, here. But this, too, is part of the Sacred Heart practice: finding that balance between expression and grounding; between what is genuinely mine, and what is only symptomatically mine, a part of a bigger field; between whats local and whats global.
I read again, having just re-acquired it in hardcover used, from Aphrodite: A memoir of the senses by Isabel Allende, a treasure trove book of folklore, recipes, research, and stories about food and sex. The sensual body, the sensual appetites. The lexicography of desire.
I took a day off, today. A needed respite. And I did nothing but read and write a little, and watch some TV, and make a fine dinner, with a sensual glass of celebratory white wine. I plan to go camping for a night later this week, and I did a little prep work for that. I had at one point thought of driving down to LA for Halloween, to be some pagan friends for that night, but it looks increasingly daunting and exhausting, in the face of all that I need to get done before flying to Chicago for two weeks of recording, and other creative projects. I dont know how far behind the curve I can fall without undoing myself; this head cold retreats into my sinuses and makes more pain happen. It was freezing cold all day today, never got above 60, and Ive been chilled and shivering all day, and coughing at times. Now, I find myself sleepless yet tired, wanting to write a little, compile some recent proto-essay thoughts, at random, in the manner of haibun and zuihitsu. Even that is taxing my strength, tonight. A little soothing sound to fall asleep to, and Im done for the day. Tomorrow, we start over again.
CCCIII. 22 October 2005, Pinole, CA
People can pretty much go fuck themselves right now. Im tired of doing my best to be helpful, only to have it thrown back in my face by some overly-sensitive, defensive asshole who is probably defensive for reasons having nothing to do with our interactions; who knows, maybe he just hates the fact that I dont share his religion. Well, yall get fucked now, yhear?
The world can just go fuck itself. Im tired of it. Im sick to death of being rejected every time I try to help someone out. Im bored with it. There is nothing more dismissive in my emotional range than yawning indifference. And it is yawning indifference I lack-of-fell towards everyone and everything right now. Im tired of pleasing everyone but myself. Im tired of telling people what they ask me for, then dont like when they get it. Then dont fucking ask. Im tired of everyones total lack of follow-through. Im sick and tired of being dependent on the whims and timing of others, in order to get anywhere or do anything. Im tired of being the one who has to do all the work of reaching out and making things happen.
Thats it. No more!
I fucking quit.
So piss off!
People have lied to me all my life. People have told that anger is a bad thing, a destructive thing, a negative thing. This is a lie. It is also empowering, enlivening, and life-saving. People have told me they dont want to see me angry. This is a lie. What they dont want to see is anything that frightens them, upsets them, or makes them realize what they contain within themselves.
There is a healing power in anger. There is a way to enlightenment in all negative emotions, which after all are all just energy to be harnessed. There is a liberation in just feeling what youre feeling, without repressing it, without apology, and without giving a damn if people love you for it or run away. Most people run away. Even those who are your friends will run away, most of the time. Nobody wants to deal with it. Oh no, fuck no, dont touch it, you might contaminate me with something akin to authentic feeling! Godz forbid your dreambody should tell you, clue by clue, that youre out of integrity or not acting in congruence with your polite social mask. Oh no, cant have that! Well, fuck you, Im a goddamn prophet, and Ill speak the fucking truth whether or not anyone ever wants to hear it. So be it.
People lie. There is no honesty in polite social masks. There is only deception, cowardice, and appeals to the lowest form of venal sin, the lie of self-preservation. Better you should kill yourself, than lie to save your own skin.
Lies are boring. Anger is an energy. No more, no less.
CCCII. 21 October 2005, Pinole, CA
Today I organized and sorted materials for crafts projects. Yarn, beads, papers, fabrics. Did a little more shopping along these lines, as well. I am making more gifts than buying them, because the personal touch is good, and frankly, its cheaper. Coming up with little projects is rarely a problem, although following through can be sometimes; I get a little scattered, especially when I feel stressed out or sick to begin with.
At Thrift Town today I found another lava lamp, for four bucks totalwhich means I now have four lamps. I envision a row of them, illuminating my creative workspace, somewhere down the road. A pagan friend of mine suggests that now I can call the circle using lava lamps for the four cardinal directions. Now that might be worth a photo session. A mod Summoning. Although I draw the line at paisley for an altar cloth. There are SOME limits, after all.
I do feel scattered today, and a little ungrounded. Im thinking about actually going to Faerie Coffee in the City tomorrow. Well see.
CCCI. 19 October 2005, Pinole, CA
I dont know how to overcome yesterdays inertia and despair, except to keep making, keep moving, keep on working at it. Persistenceits an utter cliché, but contains a truth. I have no idea if it means anything, or is a waste of time; and it gives me something to do.
Part of me believes: Because of that karmic debt about money, that core issue, because of the sacred contracts involved with that, I may never be financially secure in this lifetime. I may always be dependent on others, and poor. Today, I feel nonattachment about that; if its an outcome I cant do anything about, Im not going to give any energy or attention, and just do my best to live my life Right Now, Right Here. Part of me thinks I am locked into that karma, that it is a burden.
Ah, but that is the heaviness of matter thinking that, not the lightness of spirit. I know for a fact, from the clearing and releasing work Ive learned to do, from some of my teachers, that there is nothing determined at all, and that karma can be completely lifted up and out, by tha action of Grace. So, I choose life, even if I don't know the outcome.
Poetry is the art of letting the primordial word resound through the common word.
Gerhart Hauptmann, cited in C,G. Jung, Symbols of Transformation, paragraph 460
By this definition, the vast majority of modern poetry is not poetry but journal-writing. One notices this regularly.
CCC. 18 October 2005, Pinole, CA
I feel face to face with my Saboteur, and losing. Its very late in life to be starting a career as an artist. Who am I kidding, anyway? I have no contacts, no idea how to make contacts, or even how to present myself. I have no network, and no idea how to break into existing networks. I dont know a thing about marketing my art, really. I cant seem to get my energy up to get connected to anybody. I keep missing opportunities, or let them go by, because Im not organized for them, or cant seem to pull it together to get an entry done on time. Its inertia, and despair. I dont feel like anybody will ever even notice what it is Im trying to do. I cant even articulate what it is Im trying to do. I read artists journals, and diaries, and production notes, and project notes, and I see how formless my concepts are compared to theirs. I work with natural materials partly because I cant afford anything else. The same with digital photography: I cant really afford any more sophisticated equipment. If it werent for the original graphics job that allows me to update my software, I wouldnt even have anything current.
I dont know how to break out of this feeling of already being a failure, of having already failed, of not being able to get up enough energy to even make an attempt because its so exhausting. Inertia and despair. Lots of people tell me they like what I do, artistically, but that its still no way to make a living. Part of me wants to fight this uphill battle, this constant uphill struggle, like a salmon returning upriver to die, until it kills me; and part of me wants to just give it all up and sell out and look for a regular job flipping burgers or something. I dont even know where to begin to look for a regular job, anymore. None of the skills I have seem to matter, no one wants to hire someone whos been unemployed for so long, they might be a jinx or a bad investment, and I dont have the skills to work as unskilled labor. Unskilled, my ass; thats a terrible misnomer. A misleading lie.
So, how do I break myself free of this killing pattern of not following through on art opportunities? I dont know. At the moment, I dont even know how to forgive myself for not already having done it, and for being trapped in it for so longall my life, it feels like. I barely have enough focus, right, to get through a single days necessary tasks. If I didnt have a place to stay, right now, I dont even know where I would be; theres gratitude there, but theres also suspicion that this might also be a source of inertia. I dont know. The freest I have felt, lately, even when I was feeling anger-release, was when I was driving to and from Portland.
I feel so casual about the art I make, like its not even mine. I dont know how to claim enough ownership, without feeling pretentious about it, to allow me to market it, show it around, get people interested in it, work with it, expand it, go from there. Are we back to the days of feudal patronage? It often feels like an old boys network: its who you know that matters, so much more than what you now, or the quality of the work. I see a lot of work that people are buying that, well, is less than wonderful. No, lets be honest: a lot of it is crap. How do you make it as an artist in a place and time where nobody cares? I can get all the amateur shows I want to; a coffeehouse here, a group show there; but it never leads to anything, and never adds up to anything I can build on. Nothing with any of the prestige that gets you in the door at those places where you can actually get noticed as an artist. Its all crap. Who am I kidding, anyway, that anybody cares, or wants anything to do with my art, or even knows it exists? Nobody. Im only kidding myself.
How very strange. Ive been getting a lot of emails and phone calls in the past coupe of weeks, from people I havent had any contact with for, in some cases, years. Suddenly contacting me out of the blue. Its all a little overwhelming. I dont know what to do with it, always realizing that I dont really have to do anything, just be with it. I dont know whats prompted all this. Cleaning house? Clearing out the cosmic communications room? How very, very strange.
Watching Angels In America again tonight, I was inspired to make a bumper sticker and lapel button from a great quote that Prior says at one point in the play:
CCXCIX. 17 October 2005, Pinole, CA
The word authenticity comes up several times today. On the radio, in my thoughts, in what I read. What does it mean, to be authentic? Its interesting that much of American artistic culture places authenticity in such high regard, talking about the real, true, genuine Thang, whatever that is. Be real, but to what? Thats never clarified. Another code, another kind of signifying. As though being encoded made you more authentic; it makes you more occult, more elite, more insular, perhaps.
Authenticity and transformation. The arc of personal growth. People transform, or they stagnate. There is deep consistency in someone who constantly changes, but as in chaos theory, its order at another level then the level that seems to contain only chaos and disorder. But what is authentic about playing a role, wearing a mask, posing? Becoming a mask is becoming a stereotype, and wheres the authenticity in that? I dont see it. When your default state it to be someone who is a mask, are you not hollow? Where is the real you? Who are you, under there? If you dont know, for yourself, thats when possession can enter: as the person who doesnt know who they are, can easily be taken over by forces from within their unconscious selves, where their power resides.
Part of the goal of learning to live consciously is to know, as best one can, who you are. There will always be mysteries, and hidden layers, and depths to fathom; but to integrate as much of it as we can, allows us to master the forces within ourselves, rather than be mastered by them. Authenticity begins in integrity: when you give your word, you keep it. You act in alignment with your values, rather than sending the contradictory messages of someone who says one thing and does something else. (All addicts do this, one way or another.)
And I realize, now, that some aspects of authenticity can only come with maturity; with having lived in ones own skin for long enough to know oneself fairly well.
I am reading a terrific little gay novel I just found, written in the form of a memoir with short sections. Actually, its quite consciously modeled on the Heian-era pillow books of the court ladies of old Japan. It is: Landscape with Traveler: The Pillow Book of Francis Reeves, by Barry Gifford. Its a delight to discover a book like this. The closest analogue to it is Erskine Lanes Game-Texts: A Guatemalan Journal. Both are made of recurring threads that wind together over the length of the book, in a manner reminiscent of zuihitsu, the traditional Japanese mode of random composition. Sei Shonagon wrote the most famous of Pillow Books, and in it she wrote: Everything indigo is exquisite. The pillow book form can include the erotic, of course, but also the erotic aspects of sensual everyday life. This, it seems to me, is an ideal structure for the memoir: almost random, but unified by a single voice; ranging across the lifes story, but not trying to impose a false sense narrative where there may need to be one; divergent, yet looping back on itself repeatedly. The same person will always write about similar concerns.
The central character of Landscape with Traveler, Francis Reeves, gradually reveals himself to be a man who has come to peace with himself: who has found a center for himself and his life, and is content. His diary-like entries range widely, as one might expect, but there is that common thread of his personality and tone, showing through. At one point he writes something that I feel I might have written myself, and so there is a sense of recognition:
A desert island library: If, as usual, only one book is allowed, then it would be a blank book like the one Im writing inthe biggest one I could find. To choose a given small number of books already written would likely give one more regrets than pleasure.
I feel exactly the same way. The largest blank book I could find would be barely enough, at that. Of course, the zuihitsu and pillow book structures remind me explicitly of what I am doing, right now, ongoing, with this Road Journal. It has evolved in that direction, over the past year and more.
CCXCVIII. 17 October 2005, nightwatch, Pinole, CA
I hide under my blankets,
in my bed,
it is my cave,
it is my cave.
I want to sleep in my cave,
like the bear, like the dragon,
the winter sleep of bear,
the long rest of dragon.
In my cave,
in my cave,
I sleep beneath the owl,
the moon is my light,
Went to bed at 2am. Set my alarm for 5am, so I would be awake to see:
In an arc across the heavens: Sirius, Orion, the Pleiades with Mars very close by, and, an hour or two before sunrise, the partial lunar eclipse: moon with a bite out of it; full moon, broken; edged, on the left-hand side, by earthshadow, by the dark omens of the dog swallowing the moon. Sirius, Canis Major, Cerberus, Fenris, the Wolf who swallowed the Moon. I stand in the light, a little bleary, swaying a little with tiredness, and watch with bleak awe the event that sometimes frightened the souls of humans, in the so-called primitive past, and still sometimes does, in the so-called postmodern present. If you look at the celestial charts, and the calculated orbits of the heavens, a predictable fear: its good to know, at least, where your fears are coming from, and when. So mote it be for other, less orderly, less predictable fears.
I crawl back to my cave,
in my bed,
under a red moon,
a red moon.
Theres a burning on the mountain,
blood in the sky,
on the moon,
in the sky.
In my cave,
in the night,
Im restless as the owl,
the moon is being eaten,
the black moon.
Heya, heya, hey,
The blackened moon,
the eaten moon.
Heya, heya, hey,
CCXCVII. 16 October 2005, Pinole, CA
I keep reaching out. For affection, for approval, for contact. I dont always do it in the healthiest of ways. Sometimes I try to get sex via Craigslist.org. Sometimes I send out blanket emails. Sometimes I think to call friends, just to talk, but hold myself back; for no good reason, really. This is how the Saboteur archetype works in us, sometimes: by holding us back from reaching out. By making us numb. By telling us that were disconnected from everyone and everything. Sometimes we are: but sometimes its an act of self-esteem to reach out anyway, and when we get an echo back, we are affirmed. Sometimes, when we get no echo back, we are in endurance, and just have to get through the night.
I know that I can never again think of myself as being completely alone and cut off from life. Its just simply not true. I dont mean human life, necessarily: it is a mark of our self-absorption as a social and socializing species that we often forget about, discount, or just plain overlook our connections to the rest of life, the web of being. No one is really that separate, except inn their minds and hearts: its a thing we do to ourselves.
I know that I can never again have the luxury of self-pity. All negative self-talk, all self-pity, is very much a luxury. Its something you only really have time for if all your basic survival needs are met. Even those moments of high drama, when I felt attacked and picked on by the Universe, I was never really alone. I was never without contacts and resources. I was never really cut off. I did reach out for help, and help was given. Its a web of connection, the helping we give each other; whether or not we do it freely and with no strings attached, or with the unconscious intention to control another, we are still engaged, still connected. Its the intention that makes it clean, or not.
I, I, I. I this, I that. As the saying goes, we are human beings, not human doings. I felt the need to do something today, so I sat in the sunlight outside when I was on the phone with Alex earlier. And I emptied out the trash and recycling. I was thinking about taking the BART to Berkeley, to wander around downtown. After doing the trash and recycling, though, I felt a lack of strength; I am still under the shadow of this headcold. It saps the strength, holds me back from doing, and into being, slows me down, makes me stay home, do my inner work rather than wander, keeps me in place. None of that is a bad thing. I usually dont sick anymore. If I get sick, theres always a Symbolic reason, and it usually, lately, means, Slow Down. Take a week off. Remember to be, not so much do.
And the Prostitute archetype: what tempts us to sell ourselves for the sake of security and stability? Its always about security. And its always an illusory trade, when we compromise our integrity for false security. Not only women but some men sell their bodies, to be kept safe and secure, but thats only the most obvious level of the Prostitute in action. It is also when we compromise our values for a job, or money, or security, or love. When we conceal some part of who we are so that other people will accept us and love us, thats the Prostitute in action. I know that pattern intimately, its the story of much of my life; and not only mine, but virtually every gay man, and virtually every psychic and shaman in Western culture. We hide a lot of the time. Being in the closet is all about the Prostitute archetype, because its all about suppressing parts of the self for the sake of social acceptance.
I may be broke, and I may be effectively homeless, even though for now I have a roof over my head, and I may have no stable source of income. But I no longer have the luxury of selling myself for security. The very godz conspire against me, if I try to enact that. Sell myself for job security? Take on a job I no longer love to do, for the sake of a stable paycheck? Absolutely! But it never lasts.
The fear I am working with now, the next layer of this, is the fear of not knowing what comes next. I still work with Trust, with giving it over into the hands of the godz, and letting whatever happens happen, knowing its the right thing to have happened. The paradox of predestination versus personal will and choice, as Kant addressed it in his writings, is a divine paradox. Kant comes down on the rational either/or side, over the spiritual side. But mystics leave paradoxes unresolved, they let antinomies remain in dynamic balance, both lemma and dilemma are true, both thesis and antithesis are valid; mystics are both/and, knowing the dynamic of paradox is a living tension, an ecological tension; and thus mystics are of course irrational (not, however anti-rational) because rationalism is always based on either/or rather than both/and. It is the history of the discourse of philosophy of Western culture, over the past three hundred years, that set up this worldview, which we are now overcoming, and which the pagan viewpoint, the creation-centered mystical viewpoint (in the Christian and Buddhist traditions), the shaman-warrior viewpoint, always knew was an illusion of the mind. Living outside the world is what some native peoples have called it, when one lives entirely in the world of ideas, and does not engage with ones senses, ones body, and truly be part of the ecological being of the Universe. Being disengaged, detached, rational, has by now become a problematic cliché: the discourse of rational argument is no longer helpful, when one seeks to engage with the quality of life.
Being in the world, fully engaged with life: When you hold yourself still, the fox will always come to you.
CCXCVI. 15 October 2005, Pinole, CA
A late night. I took a nap earlier today which became a three hour snooze. Now Im up well past midnight, in the nightwatch portion of the late hours, and still awake. I feel the silence outside, and wonder if it was raining earlier, or just the wind. There is need of a glass of water and a small snack before bed. I go to do that now.
I encountered one of those books I might not normally acquire, except that it was a definite intuitive hit that I needed to read this one, soon. It was at that big book sale at a store closing a week or two ago, so I paid only pennies for it, regardless. Now, I open to a certain chapter, and everything I read ties directly into my experience of the Sacred Heart. The book is: Poets, Prophets & Pragmatists: A new challenge to religious life, by Evelyn Woodward. Woodward is a counselor to religious and monastics, both individually and in community, and she lays down a challenge to the traditional cloistered life that is very much in keeping with the challenges to grow and change and evolve laid down by Thom Merton and Matthew Fox. The chapter in question is titled A Spirituality Named Empathy, and in it she makes several comments that relate directly to the Sacred Heart, especially as she is talking about community, compassion, and high-voltage empathy that can take in the whole world. Woodward writes:
The assumption is that empathy is something one does, a sort of low-level helping skill which, when one learns to help more strongly, is subordinated to more confrontative and even coercive skills. A second assumption is that empathy is a weak tactic that smoothes over difficulties, masks hostility, agrees with people and generates a sort of warm, blanketed coziness that lacks genuineness.
Empathy is much more than this. It is a spirituality. I do not deny that there is a level of skill involved in responding to another with accuracy and understanding, but there is more, much more, to it than that. It is not just a therapeutic tool for psychotherapists but a stance toward life that can bond very different people. Neither is it simply an attitude toward other persons. I regard it as a valuing of the whole of life, touching nature, oneself, God and prayer, the environment and other people. It is a lively and appreciative recognition that there lives the freshest deep down things and that the whole of reality is charged with a grandeur of divine origin, over which the Holy Spirit with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. [Quoting Gerard Manley Hopkins, Gods Grandeur]
Empathy is also regarded as a psychic gift, a receptive intuition, the direct experiential sensing of the emotional states of others. I wonder, though, if one is able to truly use that gift for healing without having a spiritual center. Otherwise, it can be a curse, a distraction, and a limitation. The opened heart embraces; the fearful heart pushes the pain and suffering of the world away, unable to confront or contain its own pain as reflected by the world. I used to have a hard time going into hospitals, where I could feel all the suffering around me, and it was oppressive. For years, I was fearful, but it was because for years prior to that I had had no shields, and every person walking down the street was walking right through my head, sending me spinning till I didnt know who I was anymore, and I had no center. When I learned to shield, the second thing I learned, after the techniques of shielding themselves (such as Tower of Light)
With warm breast and ah! bright wings, as Hopkins writes. The warm breast of lovingkindness, compassion, the opened heart. The warmth of the opened heart chakra, melted and released from having been sealed in a block of ice. The bright wings of Spirit.
Spirituality is a movement of the spirit, a stance of the person toward reality, toward life. I regard personhood as holistic; there is no area of life untouched by spirituality. It is an orientation of the spirit-person which emanates in congruent action. All too often religious confuse spiritual exercises with spirituality, and for many the result is an unfortunate dichotomy in which prayer, liturgy, meditation and reflection are placed in a holy or religious box and the rest of life in another. But for the person who sees, nothing is profane.
Nothing is profane: everything is holy. Every action is holy. Failure in the eyes of God is not the same thing that I usually hear it called, failure to live up to the rules, or the expectations we think that Spirit has for us. That is a reward/punishment paradigm that is alien to the idea that nothing is profane. If I dont act this way, think these thoughts, behave this way, do these deeds, God will remove itself from me, punishing me, depriving me. But as Meister Eckhart reminds us: God is at home, it is we who have gone out for a walk. Everything is holy. Every thing, every being, is holy. You cannot maintain hatred, prejudice, and rape in the face of this revelation. You cannot continue to exploit people or things, or the land, in the face of this: the so-called green revolution, the ecological perspective, is a perspective of sanctity and holiness, in which we participate, not separate from it in any way. There is no real failure; we just go for a walk, or make up worlds in our minds, that are not real.
To listen to the cry of the poor, to the quality of anothers experience, means learning . . . a wordless silence. There is no place here for pious reassurance or social bandaging. We must allow ourselves to the seared and singed by the others reality before any action may be discerned as appropriate. This begins in the close-up relationships, with colleagues and partners . . . widening, like the ripples from a stone thrown into a pond, to those about us whom we meet and serve.
We must allow ourselves to be seared: but what life consists of, by what we actually experience. This is not a spirituality of the intellect, not of the head alone, as too much theology is, but of the heart, the guts, the somatic experience of pain and pleasure alike. It is the Buddhas fire sermon: All that is, is fire we burn in. And it ripples outwards, till, with tonglen practice, you breathe in peace and breathe out pain, for the entire world. In fact, Woodwards description exactly parallels the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen.
The word empathy is Greek in origin, derived from pathos meaning a strong or deep feeling, with overtones of suffering, and prefixed by in. Thus, literally, empathy means to feel into. It is often used instead of the word sympathy, to feel with. The distinction is unfortunate but necessary since although the basic meaning of sympathy accurately describes what I mean by empathy, it has gathered a colloquial sense of pity; a meaning that I do not see as germane to empathy. In fact, pity somehow denies the very entering into which is the essence of this exchange. I pity someone from the outside and from a better off position in relation to him or her. I empathize by entering in, by becoming as this person is. Psychologists have a great deal to say about the value of objectivity and of preserving a sense of separateness. I cannot see, however, how we can enter into the experience of another without at least momentarily losing our separateness. Even if immediately thereafter we recover a sense of separateness, something has changed in both of us because of the current of empathy that has passed between us. Jung speaks of the exchange as being like the contact of two chemical substances, each transformed by the other, and claims You can exert no influence if you are not susceptible to influence. . . .
You cant stay aloof and be engaged. You have to wade right in. Get dirty, get messed up, partake, participate. The old anthropological ideal of the objective field observer was never more than an ideal, and never practicable in real fieldwork; the illusion was preserved in what anthropologists wrote and published till only recently, when the literary and personal aspects of ethnography became recognized, and acknowledged, beginning in the 1980s.
I do not believe that empathy is reserved for people. It has its beginnings in an appreciative manner of seeing that takes in sunrises and acorns, gentle breezes and raging hurricanes, rock and surf and flying sand, taste and texture, littleness and greatness, joy and delight. I find myself wishing that we all had that same appreciation of the complexity, beauty, possibility and fluidity of one anothers being-in=process, and appreciation that is far deeper than mere external admiration, springing as it does from touching one anothers experience from within.
This is why the fox will always come to you, if you remain still and receptive enough. We are not separate from each other, not in any real, meaningful way.
One heresy in religious life, in my observation, is that empathy is [understood to be] about pleasing everybody all the time, about generating a false harmony that seems untouched by any breath of disagreement or conflict and which issues in universal liking for everyone. This is nonsense. Empathy is a tough reality that allows me to stand respectfully within the reality of persons anger or hostility toward me in the knowledge that this is the other persons truth at this moment, a truth that is uncomfortable and even frightening to me. Empathy is also a tough reality which, when directed towards me, leaves me vulnerable and exposed.
I remain vulnerable and exposed whenever the heart chakra opens, and I am able to let it remain open, and cave in upon myself out of fear. True strength is not clenched and tight, it flows outward. Aikido literally means, The Way of Love and Harmony. It is a martial art wherein the attack is re-directed and grounded so that neither the attacked nor the attacker is harmed. In my opinion, it is the most loving version of the warriors way that I have yet encountered; and it is terrifically effective, incredibly strong and meaning-bringing. You realize, form practicing techniques on the mat in the dojo, that you can energetically use the same patterns of meeting, merging, deflecting, and re-directing in every aspect of life, verbal, physical, emotional, even spiritual. In Aikido, you do not fight each other, you protect each other from harm. It is a very mindful practice.
CCXCV. 13 October 2005, Pinole, CA
In the past few days, driving down the Pacific coast from Portland to San Francisco, and camping along the way, I had encounters with gulls, sea lions, otters, great horned owl, ravens, numerous finches, crabs, humans and their children and pets, giant redwood trees, Monterey cypresses draped with moss, mushrooms glowing brightly in the dusk, songbirds, jays, sugar maples (just beginning to turn fall colors, so that they are green on the bottom, yellow in the middle, and fire red on top), the overpowering scent of white pine from a logpile at a sawmill, kelp, mussels, bivalve clams, minnows, half-feral cats, deer, more deer (they're always on the move at dusk), redtailed hawk, turkey vulture, brown eagle, koi, willows, spiders the size of thumbnails, banana slugs, pampas grass, and much much more, an incredible richness of encounters.
The question, have I had any memorable encounters with nature?, sort of boggles my mind, as it seems to assume that "nature" is something separate from "me," which is completely wrong. We are immersed in nature continuously. We are part of nature. Not even "city" is separate from "nature." There are two primary sources of inspiration in my life and writing, nature, and the inward life. These are not separable either, especially if you have encountered Jung's concept of synchronicity. The inner and outer worlds reflect each other. It's always there, perceivable, if we just slow down and pay attention to our surroundings,
I can't possibly pick one "encounter with nature," because (for me anyway) they are continuous, daily, absorbing, ordinary parts of everyday life and events. Nothing special, everything special.
If you hold yourself still, the fox will always come to you.
Is it possible that there are some people who would make the same journey and see nothing at all? I am told it is so, but I can scarcely imagine it. How can we not see what is arrayed before us? If we lived in mirrored eggshells, reflecting back only ourselves to ourselves, dwelling only in our own concernseven then, would not Life break through, a gulls cry, the shadow of a condor touching us, the call of a seal, the simple, rich sound of the waves? Would these not call us out of ourselves, and into something larger, richer, more strange? Perhaps all sin is, is the willful separation of ourselves from the rest of it all; because everything that is, is alive; and everything alive is divine.
I get accused, from time to time, of just writing lists instead of poems. But what else can I do? Every image, every sound, is a living symbol: not of anything meaningful to humans, such arrogance, but of itself. They are not lists so much as sequences of images; the sequence itself is as close to narrative as I can get, sometimes, because there is no action, its all in the timeless Now. So, they tend to be cinematic rather than literary; so what? The core fact of existentialism is not that there is no meaning to our lives, but that we are required to generate meaning for ourselves, and not rely on hand-me-downs. Each image is a symbol of meaning, to itself, in and of itself. It is not a personal secret code, that I write and others must unravel. The symbols stand on their own, as archetypes that are universal, transpersonal. A raven is Raven, in all its complicated, rich detail, supported by observation, science, and myth and folkloreall at once.
Come into Animal Presence
By Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
Come into animal presence
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesnt
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm brush.
What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.
One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection in an eye other than human.
If you hold yourself still, the fox
will always come to you. She moves
silent through dusk, across sudden lawn,
a natural gap between bush and cliff.
She is wary, cautious, nose alert. She skips
lightly, with pauses to flick her tail, then
disappears, streak of red and black.
Theres a waterfall, bitter, cold, she sips
when night pauses; a deep water seep
from between rocks that remember dinosaurs
and birth-cries of ancient volcanoes,
before this beach, this river, were here.
An owl calls, very close overhead, between
meadow and shore, moving towards beach;
she freezes, her tail and belly low-slung to soil,
red blur blending into dusk-toned fireweed,
and waits for owl to pass. If you can shape
yourself into stone, slow-breathing juniper,
your palm cupped to hold rain, and be silent
for endless days, the fox will come to you, and sip
cold water, lapping your lifeline. Dont look at her
direct, be a peripheral vision of your own self,
flicker of red and black in lung, heart, artery;
and she will come, tentative, silent, wary, but
curious. Become moss, become invisible,
become as ancient as the dreams of cliffs.
She will come.
I think we always have to let the fox go, so that she might come and go as she wills. Clinging to an idea, a style, a vision, even clinging to life itself, can choke it, make it mannered, make it stiff. Let the fox remain wild, and she will come back to us. Put her in a cage, and she might die.
I think poetic inspiration is the same way: Let something wild in us remain wild, untamed, "natural" by which we could mean unmannered, unrefined, unfettered, and most importantly uncontrolled, and the wildness will remain in our poetry. It's a wildness we need, even in our cities, if we want to stay in touch with that essential aliveness, that breathes us, the very life-force itself, perhaps.
CCXCIV. 12 October 2005, Humbug Mountain State Park, OR
I slept really well, in the darkness and silence of the countryside. I always sleep well and deeply under those conditions. In the morning, fresh bread smells fill the house, and the dawn sun strikes the breakfast table like a golden benediction. The day starts well.
I drove all day, stopping at times to take photos and even some video, for the new DVD project I want to try to do back in Chicago. I stopped at places with names like Otter Creek and Seal Rocks.
There were indeed otters just offshore at the one place, riding the waves. I found more than one place of magic on the drive, all along the Oregon Dunes shoreline, and amongst the waves.
Intuition told me to keep driving till I reached Port Orford, and then check out the surroundings. The very next State Park south of there is where I spent the night, Humbug Mountain State Park. The campgrounds are in a small valley with a mouth that leads right to the shoreline. Theres a small watershed creek, and huge rounded boulders piled at the outwash. Everywhere whitened driftwood stacked against the cliffs, and a low sandbar the waves wash over gently. I stood and took lots of photos, feeling blessed by the light.
Then things started to go not so well. Its my own fault for being inattentive to planning for camping. My one lighter was out of fuel, and I couldnt start the fire. After struggling with some other means, and a little cursing, I finally swallowed my solitary pride and walked over to the neighboring campsite and asked them to light my candle, so I could carry the flame back, and start the fire. Finally, got it going. By this time is well full dark, and the fire was still slow to get going. Eventually, though, I cooked my steak and rice for dinner, and being too tired to want to write up the days events, I went right to bed.
At dusk, a great horned owl was in the trees right next to me, hooting, as I struggled with lighting the fire. It moved off towards the ocean, slowly, hooting all the way. Mars and the Pleiades were framed in the eastern sky by the notch of the valley inland.
This morning I woke up feeling refreshed and vigorous, last nights chaos and bad temper washed away by a deep sleep, the sounds of the highway, a breeze in the trees, and the waves at the end of the valley all soothing me. I did a lot of Reiki on myself this morning, half-asleep, listening to the land, occasionally unzipping the window-flap so I could see where the sun was; still hidden behind the Mountain itself, this is a deep valley, so the sunlight strikes the northern valley rim, but doesnt make it down here to valley floor this time of year, this time of day. Eventually I crawled out of bed, hoping the Reiki was enough to stave off a head cold. I probably picked it up from Alex this weekend, but oh well, I guess its time to get one, the first Ive had in a few years.
Later, Pinole, CA:
Rather than camp one more night, I decided to drive on through, as I felt like I was definitely coming down with a cold; nothing serious, just annoying. I tried to stop and camp at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and I would have, had there been any firewood for sale. But there wasnt and I didnt want to camp without being able to make tea to soothe my sore throat. I was getting pissed off again, about that, about it all. So, I guess I was meant to drive on through. I made it by 10pm or so, exhausted but not unwilling, too wired to go right to bed, so I sat and drank a couple cups of tea, and watched the movie Hidalgo on TV. I really liked the movie, as it was all about people who are nomads, and takes place mostly in the desert. Very beautiful cinematography. Suited my mood, too.
I did stop for one more long session at photo/video seaside, though, at a beach with an offshore stand of rock with an archway in it. The beach was shallow, and just washed with waves, leaving a coating of water in which everything was reflected: sky, arch, rocks, waves. The last 60 miles or so of Hwy. 101 in southwestern Oregon, coming down the coast, are among the most beautiful seascapes of all. The landforms and shapes are similar to the rest of the Pacific coast, north of here, and also in the northern California, but the scale in this region is monumental, gigantic, archetypal. I saw at least three separate archways today, one of them a designated State park viewing point and hiking area; all of them quite beautiful, quite mysterious.
At the beach I stopped at, the water table was so high that some of the boulders near the road were enveloped by quicksand, sand so saturated with water that it looked dry but the instant you set foot on it, it soaked up and you sank in. There were small rippled dunes along the inland edge of the beach, lacing themselves along at the foot of the ridge below the road. A solitary gull and I shared space for some time, as I let the camera do its visionary work. I found a place at the edge of the waterline where the waves, so violently crashing offshore, were reduced to sluices of slow-moving foam circling around the base of adjoining boulders: a slow wave moving, then a shimmering reflection in the wet sand after the water gently fell back. South down the beach, tall freestanding boulders and islets made a parade of black teeth rising through the sea-mist, singing in the silver sunlight. There were spots of cloud and mist on the long drive today, but most of the day it was clear and bright.
Just south of the Klamath River, I wandered off the highway briefly, heading downriver to the shore, which turned out to be a precipitous one-lane unpaved, rutted road at the edge of a several hundred drop-off onto the shore rocks below. Very primitive, indeed. Havent really driven roads this dangerous since I left New Mexico; I kept thinking of P. driveway back in Arroyo Hondo, the step hill, the rutted dirt road, the sharp cliff at roads edge. If Id had more time, and felt betterat this hour I was still wondering where to spend the nightI might have lingered longer. On the way back to the highway, though, a huge stand of aspen overlooking the watershed, filled with shadows and light, very much alive and breathing.
CCXCIII. 10 October 2005, McMinnville, OR
Yesterday we drove up to the Japanese Garden in Washington Park on the hill behind Alex apartment. Its a huge park, with the Zoo and a center for forestry as part of it. The Japanese Garden is reputed to be one of the best in the USA, and I believe it. Its certainly the best Ive ever visited in North America so far.
We spent a good two hours in the garden, which was doubly beautiful for having been soaked in the rain yesterday, then went to do some shopping for Alex, and ended up going to a few Goodwills around town. I found a few more books and another little copper teapot, perfect for brewing tea when camping. Exactly what Id been looking for. We spent the evening talking and watching some TV. This morning as I prepared to depart, I went and got some groceries at the local Safeway, while Alex painted and drew for art school assignments.
I took my time today, driving slowly to McMinnville, to have dinner and spend the night with a friend from the Stickwire email list. We took a little tour of the lovely downtown here, ate at an excellent Spanish cuisine restaurant, then drove out to their countryside home. The maple trees were just beginning to turn fall colors, and were in that three-color stage that is my favorite of all fall colors: green, yellow, red on the same trees. We plugged in Sticks and played some, talked a lot, exchanged some musical ideas, and so forth. Now, Im winding down to sleep. Nothing to report. This has been a slow day, some time spent in solitude, refreshing.
Tomorrow I begin the drive back to Pinole. I plan to spend at least one night, maybe two, camping, as I drive down the coast towards San Francisco. I am in no hurry. I want to be leisurely. Missing time doesnt matter. I plan to drive until Im tired of it, then find a place to camp near the ocean; another state park or some similar locale. There is no need to hurry. What do I have back there to rush home to? More waiting. Nothing much. Never mind. Its late and Im incoherent.
Song Without Words, 9 October 2005, Japanese Garden, Washington Park, Portland, OR
Optional soundtrack: Honshirabe Kohachiro Miyata, shakuhachi
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