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BEING THE ADVENTURES OF A SEMI-NOMADIC POLYMATH ARTIST, MUSICIAN & WRITER
WANDERING THESE UNITED STATES IN AN ONGOING QUEST FOR PERFECT MOMENTS

 

Essays, poems, and collected ruminations are being collated and compiled in a parallel journal at Dragoncave. I never know what I'm going to write about next, so if you desire to keep up with what I'm writing and thinking about, you really need to read both journals. Some overlap may occur without prior warning; sorry about that.

Remember that everything happens in the present moment, right here, right now, and that nothing lingers.

This is only a record of changes.

 




866. 2 August 2008, Beloit, WI

disturbed dreams
shift into waking daylight—
which is more solid

the rock emotions of dream
or the sun’s hard searchlight



I’m not writing a lot of poetry still, and I’m okay with that. Still, every so often I shed haiku and tanka in my wake, like leaves falling off the back of a wagon, even though I’m not writing anything else. There never seems to be any limit to making haiku; they just arise, even when everything is silent. Things I meant to say as prose suddenly take on this form, and become more highlighted, more sharp-edged, more profound. This morning, feeling wraith-driven by disturbing dreams, I meant just to note that; instead, it comes out as a pretty good tanka.






865. 30 July 2008, Beloit, WI

I am unable to avoid the Warrior archetype right now. It’s in my face, with lots of reminders about the existential state of the Warrior.

When I was driving home from Florida, I heard one of those radio sermons by a preacher on the FM band, but because he was Scots, with an Edinburgh accent, I paused to listen for a bit, rather than skip on as I normally do. He was talking about the Bible story of Gideon, the reluctant Warrior. I then passed by the town of Warrior, Alabama. Subtle, huh?

Today I went and saw the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight. A dark film, asking a lot of moral questions. Familiar terrain in many ways. There were reminders of the isolation of the warrior, how his mission and his person are often misunderstood and vilified. Even right actions are often not known, until later, if ever, so people often try to stop him when they don’t really know what’s going on.

I also walked out of the movie and went to the grocery store, realizing that I was experiencing hyperawareness in the moment: aware of every person around me at all times. There were no gaps in my awareness. Not hypervigilance, not flight or flight, not even suspicion or defensiveness, just the alertness and preparedness that many years of martial arts training will give you, plus the innate awareness I’ve always derived from the Warrior archetype.

It hurts when I am misunderstood, and taken to be something I am not. But it’s an all too familiar ache, one I am used to if never comfortable with. The gods know every gay man and woman knows this feeling of being alienated for being different; we all grew up with these feelings of isolation and alienation. But the problem with carrying the Warrior archetype is not that you’re expected to be able to take it, but that you CAN. I don’t like it, but I can take it. The reason the Warrior often ends up alone is because the people around him or her cannot take it, but he or she can. It’s an isolating archetype.

I don’t like thinking that I will always be alone the rest of this lifetime. I don’t like thinking that I’ll never find someone who understands and accepts me, including the Warrior and the Shaman archetypes. It’s scared away more than one lover, after all. But I can take it. I’m not happy about it. But then, happiness and I are distant friends right now, anyway, with everything else that’s been going on. People expect me to start being cheerful again, post-funeral, post-closure, but I’m not there yet. Actually, at the moment I can’t imagine that I ever will be, ever again, but even I know to wait and see, and let time answer that question.

I need to sit with all this a bit longer. But it’s up in my face, right now, so I’m meditating on it.






864. 30 July 2008, Beloit, WI

My sleep schedule is all whacked. I went to bed early and woke at dawn, then slept another two hours. I’m feeling a little better today, after the walking zombie mood of the past two days. I guess it takes time to recover from a long drive, now. Signs of mortality and age. I feel a little more present, now. Perhaps there’s truth to that old tribal idea that if you travel too fast, you have to wait for your soul to catch up to you, when you’ve left it too far behind. Being still in one place is both good and makes me restless, as if I’m still not here. I get easily frustrated by little things. I’m still very emotional, and probably will be for some time to come. It’s a process without a time limit on it.






863. 29 July 2008, Beloit, WI

In this new open and vulnerable emotional reality I seem to be inhabiting, can I make love with relative strangers? Or am I too boundaryless now for that? What if I burst into tears with emotion, as I have been doing all these past several days? I can’t control how this emotion comes back to me, and I’m not going to try. Do I dare to be intimate?



Washed my swim shorts by taking them into the shower with me today, then hang-drying them. Get all the last salt out of them; salt of sea, and salt of sweat. Don’t want to run them through the laundry.

Haven’t had an appetite or energy today. A few chores, some necessary phone calls. Not much else.

I’m back.






862. 28 July 2008, Beloit, WI

Arriving home.
I don’t believe it. Two days ago
I was in Florida. Now I’m back.
Disorienting.

My intuition has gotten really accurate
and easy to read during this trip.
More reliable than it’s ever been.
Maybe I’m just too tired
to get in my own way. Or second-guess.








861. 28 July 2008, on the road, southern IL

Later, thinking about it all as I drive, and listening to a book on CD about self-esteem, I find some comfort. I find the truth of my life affirmed, even if the truth isn’t very soothing.

Sitting here in a small town restaurant in a no-name town off the interstate, surrounded by locals immersed in their own lives and individual concerns, thinking my own deep thoughts while surrounded by chatter, it all seems a bit silly.

This close to Kentucky, the southern accents still predominate. But this is not the deep south. Driving across Alabama, seeing all the hard-core Bible-belt roadside billboards threatening damnation, was a reminder that I don’t fit in, there, and never will. Even less than I do anywhere else. When you see several glad-waving billboards that all cry out, “America—Love it or leave it!”—which is a message intended to shut down dissent, and cannot understand a distinction between nihilism and constructive criticism—you remember that the Founders did not mean THIS, this shallow and hateful jingoism. They wanted dissent. Such a billboard is anti-democratic in its intent and its emotionalism. People who put up such signs only support free speech for themselves, not for everyone. In the deep south, such political AND religious imposition is everywhere, and it’s oppressive to the spirit.



On this trip I was not able to go everywhere I had planned. I captured some good images and video. That has to be enough, because I could do no more.

I’m feeling very lonely this afternoon, and tired. It weighs on my spirit. But what can I? What else can I do but keep going on? Keep driving? Keep looking for the new life?

Forward momentum.



I’ve been kicked out of a few groups over the years. Mostly for being honest, and authentically myself. Or for being a prophet, a Cassandra. Some groups pay lip service to the ideals of honesty and authenticity, but they don’t really mean it; as soon as you dispute something, honestly, you’re out. A couple of times I’ve been ejected from groups because I was walking the talk of the group’s own ideals; I was putting into practice the very things I had learned from the group, which just goes to show that many groups have problems implementing their own ideals.



Yesterday at Gulf Islands, lizards and butterflies were everywhere. There were butterflies all over Land Between the Lakes, today, as well. Yesterday I saw a couple of blue skinks, skittering away, so very fast, from any disturbance or threat.



Veriditas

butterflies everywhere butterfly gold flower blue black band of wing shadow sun greenlight orchid scent purity of water flowing slough cedar foot and mangrove

green lake mirror in gold sun set windless birch bosque

spring treefrog peeper on bamboo

green heron wing cup curl into shadow over koi pond ocean shore river night

whisper trees whisper long sigh in afternoon sun breeze over all and air over all settling branches in high crown bent over bowing to sky earth every earth one

flank cedar on dolomite spear up to sun as in Greece where cedar soar on white dolomite cliff this place like the other merging one becoming same place same time same light Greek light dolomite crown of swaying spear branch and feather

slow sludge stagnant pond algae choke solid mat algae grown together wings of flies

sentinel sagebrush on mountain south slope bright sun alkaline soil hard pan pack think crust sage brush in wind tumbling

and butterflies everywhere luna green moth butterfly eye of heaven eye of earth eye wing sun antenna questing nectar sungold honey nectar sweet fragrance juniper sage cedar sweetgrass earth loam earth ascending earth one green one green man gold sun blue heaven and all rise merge to one green karst of mind








860. 28 July 2008, Trace Road, Land Between the Lakes, KY

This morning, after setting out, I stopped for awhile at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, in western Kentucky, on the Tennessee border. I started this trip with a visit to Kentucky, and I’m finishing it the same way. I like Kentucky; there’s a lot here that I like, the land, and many of the people. I could cheerfully spend a lot more time here.



LBL is a mountainous area between the lakes made by hydrology. When the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers were impounded to create Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley, an inland peninsula was formed. So the area is like an inland peninsula, never far from water, although it contains dense forests and open prairies, and lovely rolling hills. I drove along the spine of the land, heading north towards home, and spent a few hours here.

There were once settlers here, before the land was claimed for national park use. Some of the land is still cultivated. There are still some preserved homesteads with historical and educational interest, and a few old cemeteries. I toured one of these, and soon realized that the families of those who once lived year still used these graveyards. There was a fresh grave that I saw; I seemed like a veteran’s grave; I wondered if the grave was for someone’s son or daughter who had just died in Iraq.

At the moment I’m pulled over, having a rest and a snack, and enjoying the silence. The cicadas are loud in the woods, and the day is bright and clear. Except for the occasional solitary passing car, I’m alone for the moment. I’m taking in one last hour of silence in nature, before I continue the long drive home. I need to keep these silences with me, to bolster and feed me, when I return home. Even a small town can be very loud at times. I love this silence. The loud insect noises only deepen it. And the cicadas also remind me of the recent vision in the mineral spring waters; that deep place is never far away, when I hear this sound, and I can walk into it relatively easily.



I give my loyalty to individuals, not groups. I have never yet been a part of a group that hasn’t ended by kicking me out, or myself being forced to leave by life circumstances. Sometimes I’ve moved on. Perhaps all groups have only a limited usefulness, or a limited period of time in which they function at peak, after which they come apart. Perhaps there’s a natural half-life, a normal cycle of birth and death and regathering elsewhere. But I have never yet found a group that I haven’t eventually had to leave, for one reason or another. Am I meant to be solitary? Is it my choice, or is it something more purposeful?

I don’t feel that I’m a Radical Faerie anymore. Maybe I never was one. I am a queer shaman. (How many shaman throughout history have been queer? Anthropological evidence suggests a possible majority. Or at least pansexuality, if not actual queerness.) The Queer Shaman Gathering at Zuni is the only Gathering I feel like attending, anymore. I don’t feel welcome anywhere, nor wanted, nor desired. The traditional wisdom is that the shaman often lives outside the village. I can stand knowing that I’m always meant to be alone; but don’t tease me about it, and don’t fuck with me about it.

Don’t dangle before me the prospect of a long-term loving relationship, then withdraw it. It’s no wonder I have problems trusting anyone anymore, because that’s what keeps happening. Nothing has ever worked out, or not for very long.

I guess it’s time to move on, and Do The Next Thing.

Whatever that is. I haven’t a clue.






859. 28 July 2008, a motel just north of Nashville, TN

Dreams of gathering together teams of people with powers to fight an impending natural disaster, and also to fight other people with powers who would take advantage during the disaster.

The morning is still humid, but it hasn’t heated up yet. I’m setting off early, although part of me feels like I slept too late and has a sense of urgency. I just want to be home, already.








858. 27 July 2008, a motel just north of Nashville, TN

It’s late at night, the air still thick and hot and humid, after a long day of driving. I’m spent, but I’m also unable to go to sleep. I guess I’m too wired from the stress of the long drive. It reached into the mid-90s again today, and was sunny much of the day, so humid that at sunset mists began to form in the low-lying areas beside the highway. It’s cooled off a little now, into the 70s, but it’s still humid.

I spent most of the day wearing only my swim shorts—another polite form of naked—throwing on a shirt when I needed to go in to a store or restaurant. I wasn't the only one; every time I stopped, at a highway rest stop for example, most people were only wearing minimal clothing in this extended heat wave. I’ve mostly worn sandals instead of shoes for several weeks now. I spent most of the day covered in my own sweat, till I arrived here and showered off. And I found some lingering Gulf sand and seawater dried on my skin, from when I had sat down while walking nude in the woods this morning, and in my shorts. Sand gets into every crack and crevice, and you have to work to get it all out, afterwards.

I hope to get back to Beloit tomorrow night. So it will no doubt be another very long day of punishing driving. It’s hot enough, in this late summer heat wave, that I just don’t care about clothes. But I’ll wear the swim shorts again tomorrow. Our culture is so weird and screwed up around nudity and sexuality. you just get tired of the stupidity, especially when it’s this hot and humid, but you have to go along with the local mores if only to avoid having to deal with the stupidity. Most people don’t look good naked—the advertising and marketing images we get presented with all the time to the contrary—but it does not and should not matter. When it’s this hot, people should just undress: it’s healthier, and safer for them, and no one should care about it. The whole thing is ridiculous.

I feel like I have made many good new photos on this trip. It’s been successful artistically, if personally punishing and hard. The photos of the live-oaks this morning I think will be very good. The photos from the past few days, all the beach landscapes, and of people at the beach, have all been very good. Probably some of the best photos of hte entire trip.








857. 27 July 2008, Pensacola, FL

Local jargon: They ask you when if you want your iced tea sweetened or unsweetened; you get a choice, not a default. And you can get your hash browns “scattered on the grill” as an option; it makes them crispier, which I like.

I’m at a little breakfast-anytime restaurant on the north side of Pensacola, pausing to eat on the way north. Eating has been a real problem on this trip. There have been several days where I didn’t eat right, or well, because I couldn’t find the right kind of food, and I didn't bring enough with me.



I spent the last two nights with very good family friends in Navarre. We had a good visit, a lot of good talks, good meals, and they drove me around the region, gave me a little tour or the area. I like this area. It’s a good part of Florida.



This was a good visit. I needed to visit with good friends, to rest and recharge. We had several good conversations. The first evening after I arrived, they drove me out onto Santa Rosa Island, which is the barrier island along this stretch of coast, and over to Navarre Beach.



I got some great sunset video, with the sun setting behind beach grass at the crest of a dune. With storm clouds coming in, the sky over the ocean was dark, but to the west along the barrier island there were gaps in the clouds that made for dramatic lighting.



There are signs everywhere of the devastation left by Hurricane Ira in 2004: empty lots on Navarre Beach where there used to be homes; an ocean pier that is still unrepaired, left standing with gaps in its boardwalk and pylons missing; parts of Santa Rosa Island where the road was washed out and is still not replaced. There have been other major storms through here in the years since Ira, too. It’s been hard for them to get it all back together, in the face of continuous devastation. It is a big lesson in human hubris, perhaps, trying to live in a place like this, that is prone to major and destructive storms. I note how the beach grass on the dunes endure, and the live-oaks endure, and even though some rows of trees were torn down, others were not. Life will find a way.



The next morning we drove into Pensacola, which is a seaport with considerable history to it. The downtown historic district is beautiful and idyllic. There are many home with historic plaques on them, some dating back 200 years, still lived in, lovingly restored and preserved. Pensacola was founded in 1559, and has been under five different governments in its time. There are old Spanish haciendas here, and archaeological digs in the middles of city parks. Some of the homes in the old district near the shore remind me of the homes in Key West; very similar small buildings, a definite style.



At the edge of town, overlooking the bay, there is a large Veterans Memorial Park with memorials to every war the USA has fought. Some of the memorials are typical “state art” monuments, big and ugly. But two or three others are very creative and interesting. The submarine memorial was very beautiful, even unique. And there is a small-scale replica of the Vietnam Wall from Washington D.C. I enjoyed my visit to these memorials, and as I walked I kept thinking how much Dad would have enjoyed seeing these, with his love of history and his knowledge of it; although even he would have been pleasantly surprised at some of these memorials. Any history buff passing through this area would enjoy stopping here for a visit.



On the way back to Navarre, we stopped in at Pensacola Beach, which is a developed resort beach with umbrellas dotting the sand. But it’s a smaller, more pleasant place. I walked out to the surf and back, taking photos along the way.



The sun was hot and intense on the sand, and I took my shoes off to walk barefoot, occasionally scorching my soles. I got lots of great photos of people and the ocean vista here. These are the best candid people photos of this whole trip, probably.



The dress is casual everywhere: lots of swimsuits and naked torsos. Swimsuits are only a polite form of nudity, after all.



We also ate lunch at a pirate-themed restaurant on the barrier island; I had delicious grilled grouper with lemon and blackened spices, and a glass of light white wine.





Before departing this morning, I spent an hour or two walking and photographing in the Naval Live Oaks unit of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, which is nestled up next to Penscacola, and across the barrier island bay from Pensacola Beach. Live-oaks were transplanted from Louisiana here, and grown to be ship-masts, timbers, and joining parts. The wood was prized for its resistance to weather and sea corrosion. There are numerous trails in this park, including a long one that loops through the live-oak grove. There the trees are hung with Spanish moss, reminding me of Walt Whitman’s poem from Calamus:

I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there
without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it and
twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana
solitary in a wide in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.



The trees here are a grove, though, not alone. Although I was alone; except for one other person met on the trails early on in my walk I was alone the whole time. It was incredibly hot this morning, and I was soon soaked with sweat.



I saw only one or two other people the entire hour or so I spent in these woods, so at one point I took off my clothes and walked nude, sweating in the filtered sunlight and humid air.



Now I am going to being the long drive north towards home. The plan is to push hard and get home in two days. It will be good to get back and be at home for awhile. I decided not to try to continue on to Durham or Detroit, this trip. I’m already tired, beat to hell, emotionally unstable, and ready to stop for awhile. I just can’t sustain more travel right now. I need to be home. I need to be in my home. I’ll make those other visits another time.



I like the Florida Panhandle. Except for Destin, which is disgustingly overdeveloped and one continuous traffic jam, this part of Florida is quieter and less crowded. Maybe my visit here was made smoother by the presence of “local guides” in the form of my friends—but I liked it here anyway. I have obviously lingered for this entire morning before being ready to depart. Pensacola is lovely, and Navarre Beach is simply gorgeous.








856. 24 July 2008, on the road somewhere northwest of Gainesville, FL

An afternoon of hell driving. Still raining when I left St. Petersburg, then gradually clearing and becoming very hot later in the afternoon.

I’ve decided to cancel the rest of my plans for this road trip, and head directly home. Everything has been taking too long, and I’m running out of time, energy, and money. I’m exhausted. I seriously miscalculated Florida’s size, and how long it takes to drive between points of interest. The drives between those points have been frequently frustrating, dull, and ugly.

I’m feeling a welter of emotions today. I’ve been feeling attacked and picked on and screwed with for hours. My sunglasses have disappeared, I have no idea how or where. My cellphone is acting badly. I just can’t take any more. And I’m back to hating Florida again; it can be a very annoying place to be.



Well, you can take everything from me, you can steal my health and my time, and now my sunglasses, but you can’t take my visions from me. You can screw with me all you want, and try to destroy my mood, and you can even force me to give in, break me down, wear me out. But you can’t take away the visions themselves.



Weird shit 24/7, that’s me. I even have a button that I can wear that says that. No one I can even talk to when I feel attacked like this. No one ever believes it. It’s irrational, it’s weird, it’s outside their experience, it’s a big mystery that they can’t fit into their rational-positivist worldview so they dismiss with extreme prejudice. I suppose it’s designed to keep me isolated and alienated—a solitary shaman who does not live in the village—and it succeeds. But it hurts, and it upsets me. It will force me to end up alone and bitter.

Well, so be it. I’m too tired for social graces, just now. People can be way too much work, especially in this state of diminished capacity I’ve been experiencing for months of late. I’m brittle; I’m vulnerable; I have no reserves; I’m easily knocked off my center; I get upset at the least little setback; I feel like I have no shields anymore; and so on. Vulnerable, fragile, susceptible, unable to cope.

Since the explosion of energy I felt in the mineral springs yesterday, I haven’t been able to feel the energy moving through my palms when I do Reiki. I don’t think there’s anything wrong; it’s just strange and unusual not to be able to feel the energy moving. I knew a few Reiki practitioners who said they never felt the energy moving, but could only feel the results; I never understood that, it was outside my experience. I’ve continued to do Reiki on myself, but I can’t feel it, so I’ve been having to take it on faith. (This is one thing I do have faith in, though.) Maybe I overloaded those channels yesterday, and they’re just blown out and need time to return to normal; maybe I downloaded an upgrade, and it needs time to integrate. I cannot tell, although that latter possibility seems likely. I’m just very aware right now that I can’t so easily tell anymore, so I’m uncertain and in doubt. But then, everything is in doubt, right now. That’s when faith matters. My whole world has been ripped to shreds, spun around and spit out, and I just have no clue anymore how to proceed, or how to sort it out. I doubt myself constantly. I’m having to take a lot on faith, these days.

I have no idea where to go next, or how.








855. 24 July 2008, St. Petersburg, FL

I just toured the Salvador Dali Museum here. It was an interesting experience, on several levels.



I packed up camp this morning in the wind and threat of rain. It didn’t actually start raining till I got over here to St. Pete’s. I packed up and went over to North Beach one more time.



This time I parked a little further down the beach and walked out. It didn’t like it was going to be good for video, so I left the gear in the truck and just took my still camera. I did record some of the gentle Atlantic surf in the almost windless morning.



The sky was still overcast, steel gray and dark, with a storm over the Gulf off in the distance. There were only a few people out on the beach, so it was very peaceful and meditative. I spent some time there before heading over to town.



It was raining hard as I went into the Museum, and I got a little wet, and it was raining lightly as I came out. The Museum is right next to a marina, and I stopped to take some photos of the boats in the mist and rain.

Dali, as a person, was not a nice man. He used people, and his world centered around his own needs. That doesn’t make him bad, or different from many other artists, but he wasn’t nice. Let me state that more forcefully, just to be clear: As a person, he was not nice, not good, and his theories about art and psychology are bunk—but man could he paint! After looking at a building full of Dali’s paintings, you come back out into the world, and your perceptions have changed. You see things differently. The nature of reality is changed, and you can see through to what rises all the time from the unconscious that we normally ignore or dismiss. His paintings have the power to change how you look at the world. That is his remarkable legacy.



I came out into the parking lot, still in the rain, and I saw the rainwater circling around a square drain in the parking lot. The image was striking, and I doubt I would have noticed it before looking at the paintings.

geometry of drainwater
silver marina in the rain
liquid chromed

Your perception’s changed. The simplistic explanations that were given on extensive notecards by each painting don’t matter. For the most part, they’re Freudian, abstract, and are guesswork. A lot the placards by the paintings tried to explain the images and iconography in the paintings. Far too often, they quoted the artist. But the artist is a classically unreliable witness, in Dali’s case. There’s every reason to believe that he made up his explanations on the spot, and didn’t know what the hell he was doing at times. There’s no reason to credit all his explanations, or take his word for them. He could be deliberately obscure when he chose.

After awhile, while I just kept looking at and absorbing the artwork, I stopped reading all the explanatory notes. They actually marred the experience, rather than enhancing it. That’s one of the few times I can say that about a curated museum experience.

The artist’s explanations of what arises from the unconscious are no more valid than anyone else’s. Particularly in the case of this artist. He lived his life as though it were a performance—and it was a brilliant performance—but the theories he created were part of the performance, and may or may not be reliable or true. As part of his life’s performance, they might well be fiction, another level of the artwork he was creating; and as such, should not be taken at face value. Clearly the curators of the Dali Museum paid far too much attention to what Dali said and wrote about his own art. It’s a fabulous Museum, and it has one of the best museum gift shops I’ve ever visited; but don’t read the placards. Just look at the art, and let it change you, silently, form within. The paintings are liminal, and they activate the unconscious.

This is why they succeed, as art, and need no verbal interpretations. Sure, the theories are available to be read: but they’re not necessary. The art itself is what’s necessary.

Any art for which explanations are necessary probably can't succeed, as art. Except of course for that kind of art that is self-referential, a performance about itself, in which the explanations are part of the art, and often are red herrings. At times I think Dali knew this, and that his theories were his way of playing a vast game with the art historians and art critics; he was pulling a fast one over on them. Even when he seemed to be completely serious, it’s impossible to say if he wasn’t doing a performance instead.

So, go to the Dali Museum. I absolutely recommend it as an experience that can change how you see the world, can activate your own unconscious, and can take you to amazing and magical places. But this is one place where the lie is given to every poet and writer who thinks that words can lead you to the truth; this is a place where words cannot be trusted, and should not be.








854. 23 July 2008, on the road somewhere near the Gulf of Mexico, FL

No wind today. Driving, all the rivers and ponds are mirror-smooth, mirror-calm. It’s mostly overcast. The stillness of the earth, reflecting deep time.

I am shifting into that extended-travel mood, that is curious to see what’s there, what’s next. Exploring with no fixed agenda or time-frame or destination. Trusting that wherever I end up will be where I’m supposed to be, and when. After yesterday’s gushing rivers of tears and emotion, I am having a quieter day. But I feel like something has opened, too. People expect me to be happy now, with some kind of closure, but I’m not there yet. To be honest, I just don’t feel like wasting energy on pretending to any emotion I’m not feeling—positive or negative. I feel calm, quiet, neutral today.

So far. No promises.

I don’t hate Florida as much today. I’m not as irritated by it today.

I’ve been eating better today. I stopped at a restaurant after driving on from the mineral springs, and had a hearty breakfast. Sitting in the restaurant wasn’t unpleasant, although I was hyperaware of everything and everyone around me. Still in an altered state.

I’ve got a bad cough now, a consumptive cough that comes and goes. I think it comes from all this humidity in this heat, and mold in the air, and minor allergies to something or other that aggravates it.



suspended over
depthless green-black void, we float—
warm mineral springs





At the springs, there were one or two lifeguards or monitors wandering around. One man walked past me and into the hut nearby. There was a man lying on the grass nearby, his bright blue speedo swimsuit his only covering. He stretched and flexed a few times without getting up, then went back to lying there; he looked like he was trying to tan, even with the sun behind clouds.

near-naked man lying
on grass, stretches arms and neck:
skimpy blue swimsuit

he knows he’s being watched by
all the women, and some men








853. 23 July 2008, Warm Mineral Springs, FL

This has been an opening. An awakening. A visionary experience. An experience that life hinges on, the hinge between before and after. I just had a genuine mystical experience here. I feel totally changed, at least temporarily, and just as one feels exalted after such an experience, I am lingering with the feeling, keeping it wrapped around me like a blanket, for as long as it lasts. Eventually, all such visions fall away, and we revert back to normal, our rundown entropic states, but the exaltation does last for awhile, and afterwards we at least have the memory of Timeheart, of that exalted place where everything has been made right, for just awhile, to hold onto, even as well fall back into our usual selves, and our usual everyday worries.

I need to write this all down, so I’m sitting in the truck, with door open, wearing nothing but my swimsuit, back in the cool humid air of the day after being in the mineral springs water. I am powerfully aware of the pen on the paper of my journal, of every sound, of every movement around me. I can feel every living thing dancing in fields of light, all around me, for miles in any direction. I know the impressions won’t last, so I have to write them down, right now, before it all fades. But then, this vision came on me while I was conscious and aware, today, and I will remember most of it for as long as I live. The images conjure the kinesthetic memory, too, and the sounds and smells and touch of it all. I won’t forget it, but I still want to write it all down in detail, right now, before I get back on the road, and drive on north up the coast.

Warm Mineral Springs is an ancient natural spring, laden with complex mineral content. It’s been here a long time. It used to be a cave, now it’s a major upwelling. No one knows how deep it really is.



The Springs is a 1930s Lido style spa, built around the circular spring it self. The buildings are old and crumbling, kind of tacky yet charming, with the old dressing rooms and murals and decorative touches mostly untouched from the 1930s. Lawn chairs and stands of trees, and the crowd is mostly elderly Europeans. In Europe there’s a tradition of taking the waters, especially waters believed to be healing, or promoting longevity, which these waters have a reputation for.

When I arrive mid-morning, it’s overcast and not too hot, although the weather is still humid and it could heat up a lot later. I got into my swimsuit before coming here, so I all I do is drop my shorts and shirt and sandals, to get into the water. There is a water aerobics class going for the elderly Europeans, it seems like mostly Germans and Slavs, led by a relentlessly cheerful woman. I mean, she’s so loud and cheerful, as the loud music plays, in leading the exercises, that I swear she’s not human, she’s some kind of android. The music is loud, and ranges from German polkas to Dean Martin standards, all over the pops map, and mostly hilariously mediocre. I drop my towel and other clothes and sandals under a spreading live-oak tree covered with Spanish moss, and get into the water. There are ramps and steps at various places around the circumference of the springs. The pool is brimming with warm green-tan water, opaque water, and covers the size of a football field, more or less; it’s a huge oval pool.

I walk in past where the inner line of demarcation is, and the bottom drops off quickly to be deeper and deeper, till you can’t stand or walk on the bottom anymore. I float out to the center, where I can feel underneath me the deep abyss in the earth. I feel like I am floating in space, as much as in water. I stretch out my arms and hang vertically over the pool’s center. The human noise and the music all drop away from my perception, and I can hear only the loud chorus of continuous cicada throb coming from the shore, coming from all directions on the shore. The cicada thrum and throb covers all other sounds. I can feel the energy of this place. A well of deep time, deep power. (Try as they might to cover it over with fun spa events, this is a deep place, that has drawn power to itself, and people, for a very long time.)

I hang suspended over the abyss, and I feel myself shapechange. I am become a marine mammal. It morphs between different forms, never quite settling on one. I see an image of a great beast rising from the deep waters to the surface, where the sunlight sparkles through the wavelet ripples. A manatee, or an orca; or something very much older, unnamed, and ancient. And very large and powerful. Ancient flippered forms, as old as time, older than humanity.

The sun hovers high between hazy clouds over the springs. But a beam of light breaks through the thinnest part of the clouds to illuminate this entire oval pool.

My hands turn upwards, in supplication, in prayer. I think of St. Francis, his communion with nature, with his God within nature. There have been people living around this mineral spring for a very long time. I feel their echoes here, their timeshadows, and I feel like I am hardly the first to have a vision here in this place.

I go into a throbbing and deep silence. A white light of void. The sun filling the sky with white light, the sea sparkling, everything else falling away.

I rest there for an eternity.

My mind goes white and wordless. Silently, eyes closed, feeling the sun brighter within than with eyes open, wordlessly I ask for healing, for release, for a long and healthy life for this body. If there is healing to be found in this waters, then let some of it be healing for me.

After my time in the center of the pool, I moved out to the side, near the markers. I found a rock to stand on, and connect my feet back to the bedrock ground beneath.

There was a slight circular current, pushing me to the side. As I moved my arms in the water to keep my place, sweeping them in front of me, I felt my hands become talons, hawks’ or eagle’s talons, my fingers curling in and taking on sharp points at their ends. My arms trailed long wakes of light through the water, like long wing feathers trailing after my movements like bird feathers in the wind.

I cupped my hands near each other, and huge balls of energy appeared between them, crackling and full of bright light.

I asked for healing, health, a long healthy life.

This was another shape-changing moment, this time becoming an avian form. Swimming in air, the way a graceful heron glides and floats.

As I leave the waters, I go over to my pile of clothes, and sit for awhile. I feel energized, infused, but also like nothing new has changed. The world goes silent. Even the cicadas are still. I’m seeing things. Flickers of light. Timeshadows and spirit moves. Their ancient glittering eyes.

At the chair under the moss-draped tree, I sit for awhile, absorbing the vision. A feisty squirrel comes right up to my feet, unafraid, no doubt looking for a handout which many visitors have given him before. We converse briefly.

Now I’m very tired and hungry. I need to drive on up the highway and find a meal. But I’m sitting in the truck writing this all out, before I go. I don’t want to shower, I want the minerals on my skin to stay on my skin till tonight, or maybe later, to wear off naturally, to be absorbed. I can feel a little coating of mineral salts all over me, and it feels good; sensuous, slick sliding, sensual. My swimsuit feels very silky and sexy on me right now, but I don’t feel erotic, just incredibly aware of my body. I am very much in my body right now.

There was something else in that vision: A presence looking back at me, as I stared into the void, as I let the void take me in and down, sinking and cooling. A presence speaks through the voices of cicadas and trees, and all the human interference falls away. (How many others have had visions here? You can sense a few who must have; old shamans, ancient ones who could feel the power here as well.) That vast throbbing hum that is the void’s silence. That noise that empties all others away. (Many have heard this throb. It turns up in stories and art about sacred places.) You could step through into other worlds, here, through gateways. Silent, unexplained.

Some mysteries exist without caring what we think about them: They just are. Indifferent gaze of the infinite. The void looking back at you.






852. 22 July 2008, Naples, FL

At a restaurant in Naples. My intuition told me I’d find an eatery like this here. (It’s been a good day for very accurate intuition, and I’ve been listening.) I’m having a hearty dinner, then planning to drive on into the evening. If I can find a place to stop, following my intuition again, I’ll film the sunset. If not, or even so, I’ll go on, to find a hotel. It looks like there might not be a sunset anyway, as gray clouds are everywhere, and they’re getting dark and pregnant with more rain. A hotel will probably be too expensive, like everything else here in Florida, but I don’t want to camp tonight, and I wouldn’t know where to, anyway. This region is too overbuilt, there are almost no gaps for nature in between the miles and miles of strip malls and hotels.

Just sitting here, I could weep. Maybe I’m just exhausted. But I think it’s more than that. Driving through the monsoon rains, I felt alive, I felt good. I was doing survival-level driving, and I never once got scared, I was on top of it all. The only things that really scare in those kind of driving conditions are other drivers, who don’t know what they’re doing, and might do something dangerous around me, but I was alone out there, and felt okay. It was exciting and tiring at the same time. Now, near day’s end, I feel run down and beat up and weepy. But it’s also about Mom and Dad, and not just the day.



I’ve been thinking about how much I liked Key West.

I’m not at all in the mood for “gay culture moments.” The idea of going to gay bar, to get a date, or just get drunk, makes me ill, and the idea of a bathhouse or nude gay hotel just feels like an invitation to get set up for more rejection and alienation. Why do it? I’m too raw these days. I can’t take the cattiness, the viciousness, the ugly corrosive emotions. I’m too raw. Vulnerable. Exposed. My nerve-ends are right out there, getting scraped all the time.

Whatever.

But I did really enjoy Key West. I’d find it very easy to live there. Too bad it’s in Florida, at the end of all that resort crap on Hwy. One, and you have to drive through that relentless commercialism to get in and out. Oh well. I guess it’s not meant to be. I would have liked to sit at a quiet bar and have a mojito with a friend, though. Maybe some other time.



Hard lines of rain clouds, then clear skies, then clouds again. Clean-edged sea-squalls sweeping through. Moving across the peninsula.

Will there even be a sunset to watch tonight? Perhaps not.

It suits my inner weather to have it reflected by the outer weather. I feel stormy inside. Maybe I should have camped in panther country after all. The world is being very literal today, though. It makes you wonder.



I’ve been more and more a morning person this trip. Waking early, having a full day, stopping soon after dark. Some nights I haven’t slept well, or couldn’t get to sleep, and I’ve been short of sleep. In Miami, I had appointments, rehearsals, meetings, etc.—reasons to wake early. I thought about seeing the dawn again this morning, but instead I slept an extra two hours, after resetting the alarm. Once I’m up, I tend to be up, and stay up. The campground neighbors last night were annoying; they woke me twice in the middle of the night last night, with their noise, during designated quiet hours.

And then you get to a point where your own feelings of being upset start to feel silly. And then you remember: “There is no spoon.” (I thought of that because, cutting my steak just now, I bent the fork. Sometimes the world is so fragile.)



Later, in a hotel:

The entire stretch of Hwy. 41 between Naples and Fort Myers is one long continuous series of strip malls. And there’s also a Holocaust Museum; I guess so many New York Jews retire down here, they need such a thing. Who knew? But it’s the last place I need to visit, just now. My own world has come to an end; you go take care of yours, and don’t bother me about mine.



All day long I’ve listened to my intuition. And it’s been dramatically clear. I wonder if this is a new level of intuition, or a return. I would like to reclaim some of my old sensitivities, that I’ve been feeling were lost or drowned under all the necessities of the recent months and years. I’d like to get some of that back. Of course it will all be different now: I’ve changed, so has everything else. So those old sensitivities would only come back in a new form, in new meanings. I wonder if today’s intuition is a door opening, like that, into a new way of being. It feels like more than just one day’s fluke. It feels like it could be permanent.

I shifted over from Hwy. 41 to the interstate, Hwy. 75, and drove on into the night. The sunset was just a red glow below the edges of the clouds, and it was raining the whole time, off in the distance. Totally hidden by the weather. I got off at the last Fort Myers exit, because none of the others Felt right, and I so I ended up here, in this very nice hotel, content and clean and warm for the night.








851. 22 July 2008, Big Cypress National Swamp, FL

Driving up the highway, away from the Keys, overcast at times, then clear, with high clouds. Driving into the Everglades and the sky is building towards oncoming storms. Intermixed grey clouds and blue skies.

At the Everglades, hot in the sun again, and drinking lots of water. I walked through one of the smaller trail loops, not wanting to spend the time taking a long planned bus or airboat ride into the outback. Also don’t want to spend the money on it. Feeling like being alone. Having an emotional meltdown day.

People assume you have more closure than you really do, right after burying your parents’ ashes in Michigan, then three days later, heading south down here to the Florida cultural wastes. But who’s had time for closure. The wheel keeps spinning. People think you have more closure than you really do, only because the rituals are now all done. The house is done, the burials are done. But it’s not the end. It’s only the end of one phase. Now the real grieving begins.

There are butterflies everywhere, and dragonflies. (And killer mosquitoes.) Transformation and illusion. (And bloodsuckers.) A butterfly leads me down the trail, overgrown and the trees closed in overhead, down into Big Otter Hammock, leading me out, leading me to peace and my own sense of transformation. I burst into tears again, as I have been all day.



I drive through Big Cypress, getting off the main highway and onto the unpaved Big Cypress Loop Road. This is panther country. At a campsite area where you can camp for free in the open meadows and glades, there are warning signs about how to avoid having your pets and children eaten by the big cats; no one is camping there, it’s completely empty.



I stop for awhile to film and photograph at a roadside overlook into the edge of the big swamp. A giant grasshopper swims, actually swims, across the water’s surface and parks on a leaf, just in time for me to film it. Heavy drops of rain fall, sparsely, evenly spaced out, making water-drop sounds into the moving slough. The reflections of the trees into the tannin-colored water are silver on brown. There is a stillness here, not a silence but a stillness before the oncoming storm. Clouds are starting to look darker to the west. There’s a lot of subtle, quiet movement and sound here, just at the edge of silence, making the quiet deeper.



Just as the pavement ends, the skies open wide and the monsoon rain comes down, hard and heavy, blinding the windshield even with the wipers going full tilt. Puddles of water on the road, you can’t tell how deep, are light brown on the darker brown of the packed road. You can see the ruts and holes just in time to avoid them, if you don’t go too fast. At least I’m alone on the road. Terrible visibility for driving, but I’m okay. I’m used to this, I’ve been in these conditions lots of times.

This is just like back in India, when Dad would drive the Jeep to the train station, me in the passenger seat, to pick up my sister and mother from the hill train, and we’d go down to a low area and the pale muddy water would start to come in the floorboards, up to the tops of the tires, till we’d go up a small rise in the fields and come out of the water, and it would flow back out of the Jeep, I’d open the door and let the water out, then we’d go on, the engine of the Jeep never dying because it was up high and had a snorkel to get air even when mostly submerged.



It’s good that I’m alone on the road at the moment, though, because I’m constantly dodging between lanes to avoid holes and ruts and deeper potholes. Eventually the worst of the rain subsides, and I can pick up speed a little bit, and see more clearly. Now there’s a few more cars. I usually just wait for them to go by, as I’m stopping for photos a lot. Rain off and on again, and heavy rolling thunder, but not like before. A deer crosses the road, the back again. A few miles further on, in some heavy thickets over a bank that slides down into the water, an alligator crosses, then sits by the road, finally flopping into the waterside. I don’t get any photos, and I don’t get out. I don’t like feeling like prey.

There are open grasslands near the end of the loop road, another group of great white herons off in the distance, contrasting with the browns and greens of the land. You see so many beautiful white birds in Florida, they become commonplace and you start to ignore them, till you see them in a dramatic setting like this, and pay attention again. The white birds ghost off through the cypress.





Driving

This is land is beautiful, but it’s not my place.
I have a consumptive cough, maybe from the humidity.

A gator floating like a log
in the middle of a roadside canal.
Never so near, always close by, never so far.

More rains.
Great white herons in the tall grass
and the sun comes out to backlight them,
white on green, blue sky and wind,
the clouds like a hard-edged curtain
now moving on.

I’m happy to be out in the wilderness today, alone.
Humanity in Florida is such an assault.
New condos far from anywhere
built in the cypress swamps.








850. 22 July 2008, John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo, FL

You discover moments of grace.

For example: The Hideout Restaurant breakfast special in Key Largo. A little resort restaurant not far from the state park, that mostly the locals and some tourists know about. Across the parking lot is a hotel consisting of houseboats. On another occasion, I might have stayed here; a unique place, great food, and a funky setting. And one of the roads right here is named Transylvania Ave.



I didn’t sleep well—noisy neighbors who pulled in, in the evening—and a slower start to my day. I’m starting slow, and we’ll see where the day goes. I’m tired of driving up and down the Keys. The lasting impression of Florida is of sun-baked relentless commercialism, blocking most of the views of the ocean. Florida is very over-developed. Then you discover a moment of grace. Some nice people. A chatty park ranger with tips for where to go to make photographs. A funky little local restaurant, right on the water, on Transylvania Ave., nest to a house “House Botel”—a hotel whose rooms are docked houseboats.

The Atlantic is not “my” ocean as much as the Pacific. It doesn’t call me the same way. Perhaps a different music.





Yesterday I drove down to Key West and spent most of the day there.













I spent a long time at the Hemingway House. I called P. from there, standing on the second-floor verandah, and had a great conversation about India and humidity and Hemingway; it was quite a coup on my part. The clerk in the gift shop appreciated that I liked their mission statement, and that I was a Michigan boy.





Later in the day I spent another long time at the Butterfly and Nature Conservancy on the bottom end of Duval St., down by the southernmost point; that was great, I got some of the best close-up butterfly photos ever. The Key West Used Book Store was also terrific. Another good conversation with the store clerk.

Later in the day, I stopped in Bahia Honda State Park for a couple of hours. Another very beautiful state park; some of the best places in Florida are the various parks. The campsites are right on the water, and there are exotic shorebirds everywhere around, not far from you. The beaches were full of humans slowly roasting red and brown in the heat and humidity.



I haven’t been in the ocean much here, except to wade in barefoot occasionally. I doubt I’ll actually swim or immerse myself. Unless I can find that nude beach supposed to be down the Keys; I’ve had no luck so far. I tried yesterday, and met with no success. As for swimming in the ocean, I don’t want to have to deal with washing clothes later, so it’s nude beach or nothing, probably. My clothes are already getting ripe, because this heat and humidity is so intense. No need to make it worse.

The ocean here does have lots of colors to it, because it’s so shallow. Greens, blues, brown sea plant beds; the color all depends on what lies beneath.

I’ve been feeling sour. Disappointed by Florida, although I like Key West very much.

I am dealing with waves and waves of intense emotion. A lot of these are emotions that I never had time to deal with, from when Mom and Dad were alive, and I had to make decisions, and be clinical, and be on top of things. When you’re in constant crisis mode and have so much to deal with, you don’t have time for meltdowns. I didn’t suppress those feelings; I set them aside for later, because I just didn’t have time for them. They went into a wormhole, to re-emerge later.

Well, later is now. They’re beginning to return.





I’m sitting writing this out in the tent, this morning, as the day begins to heat up again. I’m going to take a slower day today. And eat better than I have been lately. I really overdid it yesterday, driving a lot then walking all over Key West; I’m tired and sore. I didn’t eat much, no real meals; but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money there, which they expect you to do. I bought a few souvenirs, and walked around a lot, that’s all.

The Keys are filled with a lot of leftover hippies and surf jocks, rundown and sunbaked. Casual living year round. I could do that, the casual living part, but I’ve very mixed feelings about Florida itself. Lots of things here have put me off so far. With some moments of grace and natural beauty, too. Genuine, precise beauty.








849. 21 July 2008, John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo, FL

I awoke before dawn. In the dark I walked over to the campground bathhouse and showered off the night sweat. First shower of the day. It’s already humid, and the smell coming out of the mangroves behind the tent is rank, fetid. (I discovered later that it’s the seawater tide in the channel behind the campground making the smell, too.) I filmed the sunrise from the same beach that I filmed the sunset last night. The sun rising golden through clouds over the ocean.







Later:

Driving. Today is my Key West day, I decided. Getting there takes time, and means driving through a lot of relentless commercialism. Maybe catch the sunset somewhere on the way back. Then camp again, and tomorrow do some more shots, and start heading north.

A small bookstore on Marathon Key yields a couple of treasures.








848. 20 July 2008, John Pennekamp State Park, Key Largo, FL

Notes from the Journey

bright stars from behind
slow white clouds

At sunset, filming sunset pink clouds behind palm tree silhouettes. The moon behind palm fronds moving in the wind.

I am camped here in this state park, which is mostly coral reef rather than land in its designated boundaries, with some lovely beaches, naked in my tent, sweating. The entire country is having a heat wave. It was never below 90 degrees and 90 percent humidity today, and hasn’t cooled off much after sunset. I’ve already taken three showers today, and drove shirtless mostly to avoid soaking through yet another shirt. For dinner I cooked chicken and red potatoes on my Coleman propane stove, watching the sun turn golden through the clouds and the trees surrounding the campsite. I also had a glass of pinot grigio.

This morning, I arose at dawn, loaded the truck, checked out of the hotel, and fled Miami and its monetary sinkhole, all in the hot clear morning sunlight. I got on Biscayne Blvd., which is Hwy. 1, and headed south. I got gas somewhere in South Miami. I got to the Florida Keys in only about 90 minutes of driving, checking in at this state park, where I will be camping for two nights.

In the harsh white light of midday, the Keys are not very attractive: nothing but commercial business signs, completely filling both sides of the highway, so you can’t really even see the ocean or the shoreline. Resorts, stores, surfing shops, more resorts, staggered to completely block the view of the ocean from the road, cheap but funky old hotels, and again almost no views of the ocean from the road, except going over the bridges, and in the state parks.

I got here in the morning, waited for my campsite, walked around the boardwalk trails that go through groves of white mangroves, feeling the sun beat on my skin whenever I wasn’t in the shade, then set up camp, In the high midday heat, I set up the tent, sweating hard. I went and took a shower to rinse off, then came back and rested awhile in the tent. Then I got in the truck and drove down the keys a ways, since it was still early enough in the afternoon. The further down the Keys I drove, the nicer the views became, till there was actual roadside parking and beaches on Morecumbe Key.

The tide was out this afternoon. The beaches are bright white, with wet hard sticky coral sand over coral limestone. I am seeing continuous displays of shore birds: great white heron; brown pelican; spoonbill, snowy ibis; white egret; and more herons. There were also lots of near-naked people playing in the shallow low-tide water, and walking out across sandbars, in this hot still day. I took photos of it all.



I stopped at a Winn Dixie on the way back to camp to buy groceries for dinner. I got back, finished setting up camp, went over to the beach in the park where I filmed the sunset. Then I came back and cooked dinner, dancing around biting insects in the twilight. The ones that bite here, whether they’re flies or mosquitoes I can’t see, are vicious, leaving behind stinging welts that itch and run as open sores for a little while. This is as bad as black fly time in the north of Minnesota.



It’s still at night, now. I’ve taken another shower. It’s dark and private enough that I can be naked around the campsite, as long as I use no lights. People are still walking around hot and sweating, shirtless in the dark. I would be able to lose weight if I stayed here awhile, just form sweating. I drank gallons today.

I had a sore throat all day, and a mild headache. Fighting off a flu, maybe. I haven’t tried to sleep in humidity at night like this since I lived in Java for a year. There is a light cool breeze now, And wisely I brought cotton sheets for bedding on this trip, not just the usual blankets. All these campsites have electrical hookups, and a lot of people here are in RVs rather than tents. So I plugged in the computer, and am downloading photos in the tent. I have lots of photos of landscapes and birds; but also lots of photos of beautiful near-naked people in the surf and sun, on the beach, walking the paths in the park, etc.



small crabs scurry everywhere
skittering away from my steps
the whit heron pursues

slim teen boys wearing nothing
but wet swimshorts
digging in the sand

my sunburned shoulders, neck, arms, and face
the salt sea breeze coating
everything with sticky salt sweat






847. 19 July 2008, Miami, FL

Yesterday was more stressful than I knew. I slept poorly. I’m ready for this GALA conference to be over. I’m ready to leave today, although I’ll be leaving tomorrow. I’m done with choral music for a little while. I need to hear some other kinds of music. I don’t care right now if I ever hear another choral gospel song for a long time; I find all that sincere witnessing oppressive. The problem with gospel is that it tells you what to think and believe; it doesn’t invite you, it hammers at you. Especially when one is a listener who shares neither the belief nor the fervency, one wonders if the sheer volume and hallelujah of the music isn’t because they’re all trying so hard to convince themselves that they in fact do believe what they claim to believe.

It’s also strange when you think about LGBT choruses singing gospel music: music of those who often hate and fear us, and who would deny us our rights. Is it some weird reversion to the comforting platitudes of one’s youth? Is it internalized homophobia? Is it sincere witnessing and the demand to be heard, even in the face of oppression? Perhaps all of those; but they all blur together to send a very mixed message.

I’m ready to be back on the clean and open road. I’m ready to be traveling again. I’m beginning to find downtown Miami oppressive, not least because of the relentless commercialism, and because it’s relentlessly expensive to be here. Miami is trying way too hard to convince itself of something; I’m not sure what, but I can tell you that whatever it is, it’s all about wealth and prestige and display. The TV news broadcasts I’ve seen here are among the stupidest I’ve seen in a long time. It’s all trying to convince you of something. News is not neutral.

We continue to hear good comments about the quality of our performance selections. The friendliness is genuine. The supportive comments are nice to get; they’re affirming. There have been many inspirational moments at GALA, that can lead to good and better things down the road. There’s no doubt that this will lead to good new music, and new work. I am inspired to write again for male chorus, and to arrange some pieces I love for chorus. (I’ll need to get a piano this fall, to be able to really get busy with this.)

Still, I’m fried. I’m ready to do something else for awhile, for now.





Later, late night:

I felt better later in the day. The GALA Closing Ceremony was grand and good. So was the SFGMC afterparty. I had several nice chats today with old friends from both of my previous choruses, SFGMC and TCGMC. It was a nice evening.

Some drama in the hotel rooms later, involving some guys getting a little too drunk. Which is unimportant, and will all fall away. I won’t get into the details. I’m just going to go to bed now. It’s not my drama anyway.






846. 18 July 2008, Miami, FL

Can’t say that Miami has left me with a very good impression. Or at least this hotel has not (the Hyatt Miami). Nor has the ridiculous expense of everything here, downtown, the most expensive part of town. During one of the planned gatherings, the restaurant was gouging 12 dollars for a simple hamburger.

I’ve been so focused on GALA that I haven’t really done any sightseeing, gotten to know Miami very much, or found any exceptional restaurants that I would like to experience again.

GALA is over tomorrow, and I admit I’ve had my fill of choral music for awhile. There have been a lot of great musical moments I’ve encounters, but I’m also just exhausted and overstimulated and tired of everything.

The thing I really like about Miami, the heat and humidity, is the one thing everyone else says they hate. But then, this is like India, my tropical childhood, and like Indonesia.

I’ve had several good conversations with chorus friends old and new, renewed some friendships, and made some new friends. Yet I remain fundamentally alone and solitary. Always sitting off to the side of everything. Nothing ever seems to change. I’m just too different, even amongst this group of minorities, of LGBT people who also grew up different. A different different ever those only different. I feel lonely at the moment. Alone when everyone seems not to be. Maybe it’s an illusion, and they’re just as alone as I. Or maybe I’m just not afraid to be alone, while everyone else flees from it.

From here in Miami, I’m going to drive down to the Keys. (The silence and solitude of driving will be welcome.)

I’m sitting writing this on the pool deck at the hotel at midnight, as the hotel has extended the pool hours for tonight’s conference celebration partygoers.



But I also realize that a lot of other people here are feeling exactly the same way(s) I am.

Partly it’s just that I’m ready for this conference experience, as rich as it’s been, to be over. I’m exhausted, I’m overstimulated, I need time to integrate everything that’s happened.

I’ve got a lot more than just the conference adventure to integrate, but also everything of the past weeks and months and years. I haven’t had time for any of that, during the conference. It’s all been go go go till it stops, and how that it’s stopped, I no longer know how not to go go go. What’s going to happen? Will I actually have time to stop and reflect now, after all the pushing to get things done? The heavy loads of the recent past are going to take time to learn to release, and let go of.

moonlit swimming pool
quiet conversations in the darkness—
sitting in corners



Earlier today, walking from the tram to the Argentinian steak restaurant where C. and I treated ourselves to one last great meal, there was a homeless man on Biscayne Boulevard, who had taken a safety flag from the road construction going on around here, and was stepping into traffic and directing cars. He was on the edge of getting hit, then he stepped back and flourished his flag with gusto.

homeless man waving
found orange flag at traffic:
Biscayne Boulevard






845. 18 July 2008, Miami, FL

cavewalking:
crickets scurry across wet stone
near the sinkhole falls



miner’s coal-oil light
on tourist children faces—
this shadowed history


trees of stone—
the lamplight flows around,
furtive, careful, lost



On the free downtown electric tram, the Miami Metro Mover:

Cuban darkskinned boy
in white tamktop and tight shorts
with an MP3 player—
lust on the tram






844. 17 July 2008, Miami, FL

The GALA Conference has been very intense. Our concert set went very well, and we’ve been getting good comments all week long. I videotaped our set, or rather, one of our friends di it. It’s been a whirlwind, and endless, so I haven’t had much time for anything but the music. But now my performance commitments are over, at last, and I can focus on just taking in more music. I had my first mojito last night, the famous drink from here, in the hotel bar, with the gang. I chose not to go out to the big group parties, as I am getting so little peace and quiet this trip, that I need to savor it whenever I can. I have been continuously overstimulated, and needed some quiet. So some few of us hung around town, ate out, instead of going off with the mass party.



There’s a Bayfront mall here, just north of downtown, with a food court, and it’s not too far a walk. It overlooks a small marina—who can possibly afford these boats! this place really is all about the money—and a bridge over toe Miami Beach. We sat there in the sunset and ate gelato and watched the light fade over the ocean. The lights under the bridge are purple. Things really are lit by design in Miami, just as you imagine. Lots of neon, but nicely done. I’ve already gotten some good photos, too. The park on the walk here had some palm trees waving in the sea breeze, and I got some photos of them with the full moon, before the clouds covered the moon’s glow.

From my hotel room I can see a canal with a drawbridge and the hotel pool. Ever so often the bridge goes up, and a tub pulls a freight ship through, or a tall-masted pleasure boat sails through. I haven’t even had much time to explore Miami yet. This conference is so focused, and so scheduled, there’s almost no downtime. My time has been locked up with concerts to see, and my own performance commitments, and today is actually my first day free. It’s clear and sunny this morning, although th weather has been very volatile, with both classic sunsets and heavy afternoon rains.

dawn hotel pool
man swimming steady laps
skyscraper-lit








843. 12 July 2008, Miami, FL

Another long day driving, mostly in gray skied monsoon weather. No heavy hurricane-like winds, but lots of rain. But at one point I looked up and it was like I was in the eye of the storm: a circle of blue, with rings of dark ragged clouds all around it below.

It was a tiring, overstimulating day. I drove down Hwy. 75 towards Orlando, then got on the Florida Turnpike pretty much the rest of the way. There were long passages of nothing to see, just surrounded by swamps and marshes and dark clouds overhead. I saw one or two white egrets by the roadside immediately upon entering the state this morning. The Turnpike converges with Hwy. 95 north of downtown Miami, and all I had to do was follow the road way signs, and my instincts, and I emerged from the drive right next to the hotel where I will be staying with the chorus. So, finding my way here was easy. It was just that the drive itself was long and arduous, especially being the second long day’s drive in a row, and not much good food that whole time. Breakfast at Shoney’s in Ashburn actually was very good. So I arrived overstimulated, tired, and hungry.

I got to the hotel lobby and found one of our people, and got checked into my room. I was the first one of my roommates there, which gave me time to shower, sit and write for awhile, and unwind. Eventually had a small meal before the opening ceremonies for the GALA Conference.






842. 12 July 2008, Ashburn, GA

On a midnight stroll to find something to eat, so I could at last take my pills, I notices the palm trees in the hotel courtyard, the first ones I’ve seen this trip. Surprise! I’m back in the sub-tropics, hurrah.

I had a snack of apple juice, corn ships, and lemonade, enough to take pills with.

My stomach is still unsettled and feeling abused this morning, though. I’m having the breakfast buffet at Shoney’s. it’s all delicious except the cured ham, which was too sweet. I’m trying to not overeat and upset my stomach again.

I woke this morning at 7am, after only 6 hours of sleep, but feeling okay and ready to go. The hotel was actually pretty nice. Those two nights of deep slumber at Mammoth Caves must have given me more rest than I knew. But I could easily have stayed there a few more days, I love it there so much. I will have to go back to Kentucky again soon, I’ve come to realize I really like it there.



white egret in a tree,
great heron flies across the highway:
welcome to Florida






841. 11 July 2008, Ashburn, GA

A long hard day of driving. I didn’t get as far as I wanted to. Florida is a longer state than you imagine at first, and getting there has taken two full days of hard driving, and I’m still eighty miles away. There were lots of construction and weather delays, though, and traffic was heavy. Coming through Atlanta took far too long, for example.

I ate poorly all day. Wasn’t very hungry, and honestly could not find a restaurant I wanted to stop at. (There’s a Shoney’s here, which I’ll try out for breakfast.) I drank gallons of water and soda in the hope.

I’m already tired of my own food brought along for camping. I realize that this is the first major trip since the dietary changes, and that it’s a trial run. I also realize that the truth I learned at home the past year or so, that I am not someone who can eat the same kind of food more than two days in a row, is also true when traveling. For future trip planning I need to take all this into account. I’m still learning as I go. Take non-perishables that won’t die if you ignore them for up to a week. Take things that are staples, that I can rely on if I can’t find anything better to eat, as fallbacks. But make sure my fallbacks are interesting, not just nutritional. And all of it gluten-free.

Anyway, nothing appealed to me while I was driving. Not a single restaurant that really seemed interesting. So I grazed out of my cooler and snack bag. I didn’t eat a full meal all day, just grazed. I hadn’t really intended to fast today, and I can tell my digestion and mood are suffering because of it.

Georgia highway driving is unimpressive. Way too many tacky billboards. And once you’re south of Atlanta, it’s all advertising for Florida, anyway. How about the Georgia sights? Any of those? No? Just go on to Florida, is the message.

The weather was hot and humid all day. Chattanooga, TN, has got to be one of the prettiest settings for a river city I’ve seen in a long time: the wide river, wrapped around low round hills, and a huge lake just downstream, with domed round tree-covered islands floating in it like clouds. The city itself in surrounded by valleys and verdant hills, and the big sky over the river valley. Simply gorgeous.

Driving through Atlanta, I was reminded how European this city looks. A lot of twisty roads, a lot of greenery, and a Mediterranean vibe to the landscape. I was tempted to stop in at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial, and pay my respects. But I was already late, and the driving through town was slow and congested. I couldn’t help but think for some hours, though, about what he and his followers stood for, what they accomplished, and what they represented, in those dark days. That message still as relevant as ever.

Around Macon, GA, there were suddenly torrential monsoon rains. Traffic actually stopped. Zero visibility, just sheets of grey rain coming down, and you can’t see more than twenty feet in front of your, even with the wipers going full blast. I pulled onto the shoulder for awhile, as did many others, then when I could resume I had to wait a long time for the traffic to clear. (But hey, the truck looks newly washed now.)

This was exhausting driving that took its toll on me energy level today, and I lost a lot of travel time to this bad weather. It got frustrating. I know how to drive under these conditions, but I don’t trust the other drivers on the road to know how. There was also a lot of road construction. At times there were sheets of yellow and red mud flowing rapidly across the road, eroding quickly from the construction zones. I looked over to the side one time and saw a huge lake of yellow mud just pouring down the embankment and across the road. Everyone slowed down to plunge through the sheeting colors.

There was a lovely sunset. I stopped at a rest stop simply to walk off some of my tension that had accrued during the day, between the heavy traffic and the bad weather driving. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to drive much further, I was too tired. I wasn’t going to make it to Florida tonight, and that was also frustrating. There was more rain after dark, and more construction, too. I decided to find a hotel, spend the night, get started again in the morning. Too tired to make that last 100 or so miles to the border.

And so Georgia looks lovely and verdant, and then there’s a lot of rain, and then you pull into the hotel parking lot here in southern Georgia, and then there’s a palm tree.








840. 11 July 2008, Mammoth Caves campground, KY

I slept deeply and well, the way I do in the dark and quiet outdoors. I was awoken at dawn by another loud and exotic chorus of birdsong. I know that I have crossed into another bio-region from my home in the Great Lakes region because of the verdancy of Kentucky and southern Indiana, and the different plants that are here. Some flowers exotic to me. We’ve had a lot of flooding from the heavy rains in our region, and it looks like there was some in Illinois, too; some flooded fields around Danville.

My dreams last night were full of lakes and rivers. Blue reflective mirrors of water, their surfaces undisturbed, their depths dark and mysterious and full of color. Waters of the unconscious rising. Waters rising from out of caves, into the surface light.

I was awakened abruptly by the dawn bird chorus, and I recorded some of it. Then I slept for another hour, and was awakened again by loud birdsong nearby, in the trees right over my tentsite. Once awake, the traffic and noises of humans stirring in the morning meant that I was done sleeping for the night.

I will break up camp now, and do a third cave tour this morning, then drive on.








839. 10 July 2008, Mammoth Caves campground, KY

Started a cookfire, going over maps for the next part of the journey.

neighbors leave woodfire
still burning when they go—
I harvest logs for
dinner fire later—
free firewood, free dinner



I took two cave tours today, and bought some gifts at the gift store. Sore feet from walking all day. It was 90 degrees in the afternoon, and a constant 54 degrees in the cool of the caves. I really enjoyed myself today. I love being in these caves: the absolute silence and darkness. I am comfortable even in the tighter spaces. Earth is an element I am very strong in, after all. And water: and there is water in some of the caves, dripping, forming new flowstone with infinite slowness.



Tomorrow I may choose to make it a long driving day, and stay in a hotel. Or if I can find good camping, I’ll camp.

I am grilling asparagus and chicken over the woodfire. Since I am not driving tonight, I am allowing myself to have a small glass or two of chianti. Dinner is cooking slowly. I am also boiling water for tea. I’m also having some rice left over from my last meal in Beloit, before I left. Tasty!

The deer here are too tame. They wander right through the campsites, looking for handouts.

Very good tea. Cannot beat the setting. Dinner always tastes better when cooked over a woodfire outdoors.



Later:

It’s going to be busier and noisier in the campsites, tonight. People are moving in, right next door. Hopefully they won’t be too loud or annoying.

I guess my silence and darkness just isn’t meant to last forever.

as the sun fades,
still sky pink
the first fireflies
rise under the trees





Later:

A half moon and a planet and circular clouds make a vortex through the open clearing between the trees. Loud cicadas in the trees, and louder humans.

I am unprepared for this journey.
Or perhaps partially prepared.
But it was precipitous, I left suddenly and too soon. Another day of planning would have been good, another day of erranding.
I am not tired enough to sleep
but I have nothing engaging to read,
I brought almost nothing with me.
I will be driving another long day tomorrow.
I want to visit the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral before driving on to Miami, so I hope to get to Florida before stopping for the night.
I wish I’d brought a flute to play in the caves, but I didn’t. And there was no real opportunity to play, anyway. The tours are all on managed time, and move right along.
I’m not yet ready to sleep. The neighbors are not loud, but too loud for me, too distracting. Have I become even more sensitive and hyper-alert? They’re having a boys’ night out camping. Why men remain boys an never truly grow up, especially on camping trips outdoors, is beyond kenning.
I write by bright candlelight, spilling words into a journal.
Maybe I could spend time drawing.
Beautiful images of the moon.
The tall dark trees the sky gapped between them filled with stars and cicadas.
Not too late for people to go home on the main road just behind the campsite.
Amazingly, I get a minimal cellph9one signal here.
It’s been a very distracting day, lots of shirts off in the heat of the hot clear day.

So I called a couple of friends on the cellphone.
The neighbors are talking quietly but everything’s quieted down. I’m going to try some night photos then go to bed. It’s only 10p.m. but I’m tired from cave-walking all day.

voices in the night
from other campfires
talking about faith

after having cut down a tree
to burn it






838. 10 July 2008, Mammoth Caves campground, KY

This morning, the sun came out at first. I slept the night through, a long time, except for getting up once to pee. There’s no one in the campsites to either side of me, so I had my privacy. I had to put on my swim shorts this morning, but the trap shelter I made last night also serves as a privacy screen for changing. I must say, these new shorts are very sensual on my skin; they feel good, I’m glad I got them, and now I can use swimming pools on this trip.

I was a little annoyed at myself last night for forgetting to bring the Really Big Tarp. But what I jury-rigged works fine. It’s okay to have missed a few details, considering how little time I had to prepare for this trip, and all the stress I’ve been under.

morning gift of
neighbor’s unused wood:
hot dinner tonight.

When I was driving yesterday, somewhere I noticed, probably around Danville, IL, that I was in Different Territory. It felt good. Suddenly I had left the familiar behind. (I haven’t driven Hwy. 65 since 2000, so it was both familiar and new.) I was in new territory, and home was behind me, for awhile.

I hadn’t driven through Louisville for years, but it’s still a pretty town, an attractive place I enjoy looking at. It was nice to see it again, even though I didn’t stop.

It’s not the first time I’ve set up a tent in the dark, in the rain. It’s not my favorite way to set up camp, but I made it work.



bright blue shirts
strewn along Kentucky trails:
boy scoot troop

cookfire evening:
shirtless boys pump water
in humid haze








837. 9 July 2008, Mammoth Caves campground, KY

Notes from the Journey

rain on the tent roof,
two moths circle the lantern—
how I miss you!

A long day’s driving, almost nine hours. I got a late start because I couldn’t sleep last night. I often can’t sleep well the night before setting out on a long journey, but this was more than usual. So I had to finish packing in the morning before I left, and finish doing a few chores. It’s hard to leave my new home, now, but it’s also good to be on the road: It’s been far too long.

I drove down US 39 past Rockford to Bloomington, IL, then cut over on US 74 to Indianapolis. A lot of flat farm country, bug skies, clear blue skies today, a few clouds, Then down US 65 from Indy to Louisville and the rest of the way. The driving smooth and easy, the truck seems pleased to be traveling again.

swatting moths with poems
about Zen enlightenment:
the authentic monk

Arrived at the Mammoth Caves campground just at dusk. Deer at the roadsides, fearless, staring, then crossing at will. Other deer herds seen from the highway in the failing light.

As I was driving, I felt a mental shift just as I passed from the familiar and known roads into areas I hadn’t driven through before, or not for a long time. Somewhere after Bloomington, then. It’s as if my mind expanded, and I felt layers of oppression come off my shoulders. I’ve been too long in one place, involved with the intensities and dangers of what I was doing there, for so long. It seems like long years since I’ve been on the road, although it’s really been just over one year.

Set up the tent here just as night fell, and the rains began. It’s been raining steadily ever since. I finished hanging tarps over the tent in the dark, stringing them between the truck and a tree behind the campsite, soaked to the skin. I stripped naked in the train by the truck, lung my shirt and pants over the steering wheel to dry. and slipped into my sandals and swim shorts. Wore nothing else the rest of the night, as I prepared dinner over my smaller campstove. (I bought two before this trip, one a classic Coleman two-burner propane stove, and a small sterno one-burner, which is handy for boiling water for tea.) Fillet mignon wrapped in bacon. Delicious after all the snack food and Pepsi I drank all day to stay awake. The lack of sleep and the long drive added up to arriving tired enough to be shaky.

one handsome man in the neighboring
campsite shirtless in the rain—
me too

I want to talk about my new swim shorts for a minute, as it’s an event. I went shopping for new clothes a few days ago, while preparing for this trip. I found a pair of handsome dark blue swim shorts with Velcro pockets. They look good as shorts, not just as swimwear. They’re made of a light silky material that feels sensual to wear, and is light enough to ignore as clothing. This is the first actual swimsuit I’ve owned in many years. I’ve been skinnydipping in rivers and lakes and the ocean for so long, I hadn’t gone out of my way to buy swimwear for a long time.

I set up the tent behind the truck, with a tarp stretched from the truck to a tree behind the tent. It keeps the tent dry, but it also makes an open dry area to work in, with the truck’s hatch as a work surface. I lit candles, then started dinner on the camp stove. Tomorrow if it’s drier I’ll cook dinner over a wood fire.

I ate in the tarp shelter behind the truck, sitting on one of my plastic milk crates, eating my meal off a plate on the truck’s lowered hatch: a literal tailgate dinner!



Listening to Caroline Myss on CD while driving today, periodically stopping the CD to integrate. Did a major piece of releasing of Child archetype stuff around financial health.

I don’t need an allowance any more, I can earn my own living.



Later:

Sleeping for a few hours, then waking to get up and pee. Then rain has stopped though drops still fall from the trees. Not bothering to get dressed in the dark. Peeing naked, drinking copious amounts of well water naked, eating a piece of chocolate, drinking more water, then getting back into the tent.

tall cedars
on top of dolomite cliffs
rows of green sentinels
looking exactly as they do
in photos of Greece

The trees are still dripping, the air heavy with mist. Light-tracks in the mist from distant lights make cones among the trees. Two sleepless people in a nearby campsite still at their campfire, talking quietly. They don’t see me naked in the night. As I get back into the tent it begins to rain again.

fireflies pulse across the verge
behind the tent
will o’ the wisps
morse code in orgy




 

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