Tuesday, August 25, 2009

"The Inspired Heart" - Audio Book Now Available

NEW
Audio Book
By Wetware Media
Listen to excerpt
HERE
$15.00 (includes shipping and handling)
Order the CD HERE ...
... and the download HERE
The audio book Includes 4 bonus chapters not found in the original book.

A heart shaped stone. A memory wafted in the scent of a summer breeze. A tune you hum without thinking. These are just some of the mystical ways Jerry's stories carry themselves. Jerry speaks from the place where the magical and holy intersect with the practical and everyday. The name of that intersection? It is, "transformation."
- Mary anne Radmacher, author/artist -

About the Audio Book

The Inspired Heart by Jerry Wennstrom is a uniquely creative recording produced by Wetware Media. The main text of the audiobook is read by the author and is interspersed with interesting voices reading the different parts of the book. Thomas Moore's foreword is read by voice professional Kendall Hubbard, the Chapter titles are read by Marilyn Strong, Rainer Maria Rilke's poem, situated at the end of the book, is read by Bernd Label in Rilke's regional accent and the uniquely original music that subtly weaves its' way throughout the recording is by musician, poet Steven Roues.



You may recall, Steven Roues "Mud" is co-author of the book, Landscape of the Misty Eye and contributes poetry for the monthly articles Jerry writes for Inferential Focus.

Mud plays with a group "Upsouth Twisters"
Mud plays base and harmonica and his brother Billy is on guitar.
Here's an Early Video with the group Broadcasters - "Down in the Trenches,"



Steven (Muddy Roues) playing with B. B. King at the Monterey Jazz Festival




Sunday, July 26, 2009

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Book, and DVD published by www.sentientpublications.com and the Audio Book by Wetware Media

CLICK ON IMAGE TO READ TEXT
ORIGINAL PARABOLA DVD BOOKLET



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A New Film



Jerry's early paintings and more recent sculptures are featured in Mythic Journeys a new film by Imaginal Cells Inc.

There are some interesting artists on board -- Alan Lee (Lord of the Rings) and Brian and Wendy Froud (creators of Yoda in “Star Wars.”) Miniatures of Jerry’s large interactive sculptures are being created by project artists and will be used in a “stop-motion” animation process to illustrate “The King and the Corpse” as told by Joseph Campbell.


You can watch the updated trailer to the film HERE.

And see some of the art work HERE.

Produced & Directed by STEVEN & WHITNEY BOE visiting Jerry's studio.

FEATURING THE VOICES OF:

TIM CURRY
LANCE HENRIKSEN
MARK HAMILL

INTERVIEWS WITH :

Best Selling Author
DEEPAK CHOPRA

President, Joseph Campbell Foundation
ROBERT WALTER

Author & Healer
SOBONFU SOME

Professor & Author
JEAN SHINODA BOLEN

Church of Religious Science
REV. TRICIA KLINK

Academy Award Nominee
TESS HARPER
ORIGINAL STOP-MOTION CHARACTERS BY:
Award-Winning Artists, Labryinth, Dark Crystal BRIAN & WENDY FROUD

ARTWORK BY:
Academy Award Winner, Lord of the Rings
ALAN LEE

Award-Winning Artist, Stardust
CHARLES VESS

Stop-Motion Animator
MICHAEL GRANBERRY

Story Animator
Emmy Award Winner
RON NOBLE

Director of Photography
ARMANDO SALAS

ARTWORK CONTRIBUTED BY:
JAN DEYLTH
MICHEAL GREEN
STU JENKS
VIRGINIA LEE
JERRY WENNSTROM
C.J. BLOOMER
& Many others coming soon!

VOICE-OVER DIRECTOR :
Emmy Award Winner & Animation Director CHARLIE ADLER

PRODUCTION ADVISOR:
Producer of Borat, Zoolander, Dodgeball
MONICA LEVINSON

ALSO FEATURING
Steven AizenstatPsychologist, President of Pacifica Graduate Institute
Chungliang Al HuangPresident of the Living Tao Foundation and Director of the International Lan Ting Institute
Coleman Barks, PhD.Poet and Professor Emeritus of English, University of Georgia
Ari Berk, PhD.Professor at Central Michigan University
Tom Blue WolfFounder and President of EarthKeepers, International
Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D.Author and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, University of California Medical Center
Andres BotranSecretary of Food and Nutrition, Guatemala
Duncan CampbellHost of Living Dialogues
Deepak Chopra, M.D.Founder of The Chopra Center, Director of The Alliance for a New Humanity
William Doty, PhD.Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Religious Studies, University of Alabama
James Flannery, PhD.Winship Professor of Arts and Humanities, Emory University
Betty Sue Flowers, PhD.Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
Honora FoahCo-President and Creative Director, Mythic Imagination Institute
Maren Tonder HansenFounding Member, Pacifica Graduate Institute; Board Member, Joseph Campbell Foundation
Lorin HollanderWorld Renowned concert pianist
Michael KarlinFounder and Co-President, Mythic Imagination Institute
Lynne KaufmanAuthor, Playwright, Associate of the Joseph Campbell Foundation
Rev. Tricia KlinkMinister, Church of Religious Science
Ellen KushnerHost of WGBH Radio’s Sound & Spirit, Co-Founder of the Interstitial Arts Movement
Michael Meade, PhD.Author, Founder and Director of the MOSAIC Multicultural Foundation
Michelle NunnCo-Founder and CEO, Hands on Atlanta
George RoschClinical Psychologist, Pacifica Graduate Institute
Arsenio RodriguezSecretary General, Alliance for a New Humanity
Sobonfu SomeAuthor, Founder of Ancestors Wisdom Spring
Robert WalterExecutive Director, Joseph Campbell Foundation


Mythic Passages Ezine also features many of the articles Jerry writes for Inferential Focus, a NYC think tank/consulting firm. You can read those articled as well as the interview Jerry did with Brenda Sutton HERE.


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Radical Change Group: Ideas for Transformation
Jerry's Artistic Journey
Video Narration by David Whyte



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The Middle of Nowhere

A poem by Mud (Steven Weitzman) - Co-Author, Landscape of the Misty Eye. Mud is a long time friend of Jerry Wennstrom's from New York. Mud offers a poetic description of a chance encounter, where he ran into Jerry on the street. The piece defines something of the mood of Jerry's early wanderings, after destroying his art and giving all he owned away. Mud plays upright base and harmonica with "Upsouth Twisters". See Mud and his brother Billy Roues music video - "Down in the Trenches."

The Middle Of Nowhere

I asked him, what’s happening?

He replied,

"God."

"God is happening."

Then he was silent.

After a few moments, I said,
"So then, how are you doing?"

He did not reply.

We stood there together,
on the narrow asphalt sidewalk,
leaning against a bent up guard rail,
only a foot or two from the road,
cars speeding by kicking up dust
and stirring the still-born air.
Behind us was a large empty parking lot
and in the distance,
a building with a sign that read, Shoppers Paradise;
an old run-down place that once served
this small, dilapidated
Hudson Valley town.
Across the street was a car dealer,
shiny automobiles behind a metal fence,
baking in the sun and a Mexican restaurant.
Every once in a while the smell
of melting cheese or burning beef
would waft silently over us,
growing out of the dark asphalt like the
remnants of two trees in a place where
the forest had burned.

He was waiting for a bus.
I was waiting for my car to be repaired.
We were friends.
I was a musician and a poet.
He was an artist.
He had destroyed all of his work.
Some people said, they thought he was
“out of it.”
I did not think so.

For a long time,
whenever anyone asked me
What was happening,
I wanted to say, “God.”
I never did.
I guess God is one of those things
that happens to you when you least expect it;
like when you aren’t looking
and suddenly someone is standing at your side,
asking, “what’s happening?”

I don’t remember how we parted.
It was a hot day and we were both
just standing there,
together,
in the middle of nowhere.

Mud *

"Mud" (Steve Weitzman)
of the band "Upsouth Twisters"

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Hands of Alchemy an Interview with Jerry Wennstrom by Judith Campanaro

Judith Campanaro- The ability to trust the mystery that surrounds us is an amazing gift. Do you think this is a gift that everyone can realize?

Jerry Wennstrom - Yes I do. Personal access to the mystery is the birthright of anyone willing to trust and remain open to life’s full adventure. However, many of us are too busy focusing on other things. The first step to accessing the mystery is valuing it enough to begin to develop a dialogue. You know the biblical statement, “Ask and you shall receive?” Well how many of us are actually asking – and more importantly, listening? Most of us are too busy playing god by constantly hustling our material reality to bother with anything else. We don’t make very good gods however. Most of us, generally, get what we want in the end. Yet when we look back later in life, we feel unfulfilled, without a deeper sense of purpose, wondering what it has all been about. To try and salvage some scrap of meaning in the fear-based creation we may have settled into, we seek justification through our children -- hoping they will live our unlived life and fearing that possibility at the same time! This legacy gets passed along for generations if someone doesn’t courageously step forward and break the pattern. Breaking family and social patterning is a scary and lonely business. Others may inspire us, but we must set off alone to establish a one-on-one relationship with the mystery. The fruit of this relationship is what defines our true and creative individuality in the world.

JC- What is the real self? Who am I?

JW- The real self is our true and creative individuality. It is our unique expression of God. There is a saying, “There is no other God but all of us together.” The only real accomplishment in life comes in realizing and expressing in the world our unique expression of that totality we call God.

JC- Peace of mind. What is the true bottom line?

JW- Peace of mind comes to us as a gift of grace when we have done our best to do all that we can do, and discover that our efforts have their limitations. At this juncture we must surrender into the unknowing we are inevitably faced with. It is a complete surrender to the metaphorical death experience, which brings about peace of mind and comes to us as an element of grace. The Christian concept of “Eternal Life” embodies this principal. One must experience the defeat of one’s will and effort to receive this grace. In the cyclical nature of our lives, once the template has been struck, grace (peace of mind) comes to us over and over again (eternal) at the point of death. So “death” becomes a gift and a point of renewal, rather than the dreaded experience it is for most of us.

JC- What lies behind the search for self-development?

JW- What lies behind the search for self-development is the quest for God and perhaps the fear of death. Either way the initial impulse keeps us moving forward even with an occasional step back. It is important for us, especially as we grow older, not to loose sight of the possibility of receiving the final gift of our “self-development.” What we once called “enlightenment” was reserved for the mystics. Now, however, it is a requirement of our time and more available than ever before. I would even go so far as to say, we must each take full responsibility for our enlightenment at this time because there is no escaping the power of its current demand on us. It is a collective requirement! If there is anything that is going to save us and save all that we love about our world, it will be our surrender at this very special place in the cycle where we are collectively experiencing a larger, metaphoric death.

JC- Letting go. How do you let it happen?

JW- It happens for most of us “kicking and screaming as we go!" The universe is in perfect order and we all create the conditions that will teach us the things that we need to learn. Most of us do not pursue the kind of deeper understanding that helps us see the value of letting go and we may even come to see it as a defeat and something to be resisted (and it is a defeat of the ego.) As a result, many of us unconsciously create the conditions where our lives come undone and we are forced to let go. This undoing comes when everything that we strategically and intelligently mapped-out as our identity becomes too small a container to hold the larger creation coming through our lives. For many of us this can be a place of enormous suffering if we cannot let go and surrender to the power of the new creation. The suffering we may be experiencing can ultimately be transformed into something resembling the original dream we held for ourselves, if we can stay with the difficulty, grief and work that we are thrown into.

However, this is not the only option in the process of letting go. We can also become conscious, willing participant in a way that might be described as the “Hero’s Journey.” We will still have to go through the death of our ego-identity, which remains difficult, but our involvement in the process becomes more consciously tended and deliberate. In this scenario we courageously take the risks we are compelled to take, let go where we have to and remain open to the emerging new awareness. In this case, we live out the experience more like a warrior than a victim. Deep listening and a courageous, appropriate response to the moment's calling can eliminate self-created, useless suffering for anyone.

JC- How can we be more fully in the present moment?

JW- By paying attention, experimenting and discovering for ourselves the power that comes through our actions when we can remain present with the demands of the moment. What we discover is that remaining fully present gives us access to all that we need to live our lives beautifully and in the most efficient way possible. If we are busy elsewhere, with the past or the future, we miss the creative potential that is most potently available here and now. When we come to see that there is no viable alternative, we make the now our priority and avoid the unnecessary tension and chaos created by a delayed or dissipated response to life.

JC- How do you hear the "whispers along the way"? How do you draw on the wisdom within?

JW- Reverence is the key. When we see that we live in a conscious, mysterious and celebratory universe, and approach life with the innocent unknowing required of such a universe; we begin to hear the whispers, respond creatively and eventually join the celebration. It is no more difficult than that. Celebration is celebration – at the grand party everyone has a place, is cared and provided for. Most of us, however, live in fear of non-existence. We must listen, see and trust that our place is held under any circumstances and not be distracted by petty fears and doubts.

JC- Why is the global crisis a crisis of consciousness?

JW- The more conscious we become, the more we begin to see the interconnectedness of all things. As we learn to value and tend the natural balance of our inner lives, that same balance begins to extend outward to include balance in our world. With a sense of balance, we begin to clearly see that if even one sentient being is unaccounted for, in the larger scheme of things, we are all lost. With balance come beauty and the need to cultivate and apply that sense of beauty to all aspects of life. Caring and a balanced sense of beauty can solve any global crisis!

JC- When a person's old identity no longer serves them how can they create and focus in new directions?

JW- There is something self-maintaining about the epic event that brings about the loss of a tired, old identity. All we need do is trust the process and be fully present with what comes. The first step is letting go of that which no longer serves our lives but we are too afraid to release. There is something about the open hand, as it lets go of that which it has been clinging to, that is both exciting and terrifying for most of us. Yet, if we cannot make the sacrifice and be with the unknowing of an open hand, something new and exciting can never enter and be held. The meaning of sacrifice is “to make sacred.” I find that the gods are very efficient beings-- all that we have invested our hopes and dreams into, and have placed on the altar with a willingness to let them go, have a way of being sanctified and returned to us in ways unimaginable. In closing, I will share a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that speaks to this:

Dann bete du, wei es dich dieser lehrt

(To that younger brother)

Now pray,

as I who came back from the same confusion

Learn to pray.

I returned to paint upon the altars

those old holy forms,

but they shone differently,

fierce in their beauty.

So now my prayer is this:

You my own deep soul,

trust me. I will not betray you.

My blood is alive with the many voices

telling me I am made of longing.

What mystery breaks over me now?

In its shadow I come to life.

For the first time I am alone with you—

You, my power to feel.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

From Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God,
Translated by Anita Burrows and Joanna Macy.
(Permission granted to Jerry Wennstrom by translators.)

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The Inspired Heart: An Interview with Artist Jerry Wennstrom
By Dawn Baumann Brunke (Editor)

Sacred Marriage by Jerry Wennsrom

In 1979, New York artist Jerry Wennstrom destroyed all the art he had created, gave away most everything he owned, and began to consciously empty himself of his identity. Why would anyone do such a thing?

For Wennstrom, it was to open to the energy of life itself. In releasing the structure of daily habits and routines, he learned to trust and appreciate the significance of each moment. This entailed relying on intuition, listening keenly to the deeper nature of feelings, and wisely observing the ways in which our inner world reflects the outer, and vice versa.

Wennstrom’s journey was one of evocative transformation—not only for himself, but for all of us. As he shares in his 2002 book, The Inspired Heart: “We are at a rare time in the history of our world. Consciousness is attempting to come through the spirit of our lives. It brings with it all that we need to live out its gift. At the same time, our old ways of being on the planet are beginning to fail. Our social forms and structures are radically changing and breaking down. Our mother, the Earth, is ailing! We are truly in uncharted territory.”

DAWN: Let’s talk more about consciousness “attempting to come through the spirit of our lives.” Do you still feel this as strongly now as when you wrote the book? And, how are you personally working with consciousness expressing itself through the spirit of your art?

JERRY: Yes, I feel consciousness is coming through more than ever. What was once a whisper has become a scream. If we are listening, we hear the quieter whisper of emerging consciousness, give ourselves to the transition at hand and avoid useless suffering associated with denying the inevitable. If we cannot give ourselves to transformation grace-fully, circumstances move us along kicking and screaming.

You can see this lack of grace playing itself out in our current administration. America is going through the death of an old identity. It is a metaphoric death, which we are perfectly capable of transitioning through. However, when we hold on to an idea of ourselves that no longer serves the collective whole, we experience the death literally, as an external threat. It is clear to those of us who have dealt with the metaphor internally what must be done politically. For whatever reason, our government does not see the metaphor and is choosing to focus instead on the literal projection. The only literal way to maintain a dying identity that has pushed beyond creation, into destruction, is through aggression, which is where we are at as a country.

In relation to my art—it is in retrospect that I see how, for example, one of my sarcophagus-like sculptures translates the death/life metaphor. Someone I met in St Louis recently visited my studio for the first time and said, “You know, if someone were not in a very good state of mind they might be a little frightened by your art!” Initially, some people experience my sculptures as death-like. Paradoxically, these sculptures also dispense gifts, are whimsical, playful and life affirming. Those who can get beyond their fear and remain open walk away inspired, bearing gifts. This is also true about the way we approach and perceive the challenging metaphors of our day. We can either approach with courage and faith and grow larger, or we can shrink back, adding power to an ever-increasing shadow of fear. I am not alone in this understanding, for this experience is expressed in many disciplines: spiritual, psychological, artistic and otherwise.

DAWN: What do you think is the biggest fear humans hold these days? And, do you feel that your art is an encouragement to the growth of the psyche in the sense of recognizing and transitioning through this fear?

JERRY: Ultimately the core fear is what it has always been: fear of our demise, whether literal or metaphoric, as in the death of our ego identity.

My only intent as an artist is to remain open to what comes through the spirit of the moment, hopefully without bias. My creative/spiritual journey has been about personal and collective transformation. The most effective means to this end has been to remain as fearlessly present as possible. Generally speaking, some of the more powerful breakthroughs have come to me through questioning and facing personal/collective fears. Naturally, the essence of this exploration is reflected in the overall expression of my artwork.

If an artist’s intent does anything more than hints at the ineffable, the work is reduced to what Joseph Campbell calls “propaganda” (art with an agenda.) What inspires, liberates and empowers the artist will do the same for the world—if the artist has risked everything for one radically, creative breakthrough. To do this, one has to face a level of fear and loneliness so large and culturally ingrained that the risk would deliver either everything or less than nothing! For us to experience liberation, on any front, this same, fearless confrontation with the Mystery is required.

DAWN: I recently watched “In the Hands of Alchemy”, a DVD about your art and life. I was impressed by a comment your wife, Marilyn Strong, made about you: “Wherever you go, transformation follows.” How do you see yourself and your art as agents of transformation, especially in the larger context of collective transformation?

JERRY: When one has gone through a personal transformation, which is connected in spirit to the zeitgeist, one cannot do other than be an agent for the transformational process. I tend to the requirements of transformation in all situations—art and life. Knowing the gift and the inevitability of the transition we are currently living through, I am simply present with others in a way that defines and supports their/our deepest collective longing, in joy and in suffering. This same intuitive sensibility comes through my art in ways that continue to surprise me.

One cannot take any of this “personally” however. The best any of us can do with the mystery of the transformational process we are experiencing is to be a willing participant in something largely unavoidable. The end result of our participation will more resemble a quantum leap than a conscious, deliberate “accomplishment.” If we are honest with ourselves, any freedom, joy or good that comes with our involvement would have to be held with humility and gratitude and seen as an element of Grace.

DAWN: Another key subject in your work, and life, is surrender—or, more precisely, “being open to where surrender leads.” Can you tell us more about that in connection with found objects (another theme that provides the material for much of your work) and how this is consciously integrated into daily life?

JERRY: Surrender is the final act within the context and limits of human effort. It is the defeat of self-determined, unconscious will—‘defeat’ only if that will is attempting to push beyond its natural capacity for meaningful action. Ultimately, surrender is the acceptance of ‘What Is’ in the face of an absolute void of possibility. The end-place of surrender can easily be overlooked, ignored or missed completely—as Lao Tsu warns, “Most people fail at the end.” If, however, one is conscious enough to make a timely surrender, the results can be miraculous. The end becomes the place where a quantum leap carries limited reality over into unlimited new expressions of freedom and remembering.

Surrender is the holy defeat that brings into our lives at our moment of “death” (metaphoric or literal) what has come to be called “Eternity” or “Eternal Life.” This final gift comes to us through grace and could not occur without the prerequisite event of our timely surrender. In the cyclical nature of our lives, we must re-experience that death in ever-changing ways, and allow the grace we originally received to carry us through anew. Eventually, grace becomes our most cherished ally and we become adept at the discipline of surrender, realizing it is the only viable path to freedom and joy we can cultivate.

Integrating found objects into my work is a way of tending the requirements of the moment and surrendering into that which presents itself. I do this by paying attention to what calls and by working reverently with each piece to reveal meaning and beauty. Some of the objects I use are given to me and some are found in junk shops and recycle centers. Clearly, everything is not for everyone or our lives would be filled with an excess of meaningless junk (and some lives are!). Certain objects seem to call attention to themselves or shimmer with possibility.

There is a kind of Alchemy involved in recognizing and allowing spirit in matter to come alive in relation to the larger whole of a complex work of art. Synchronicities come into play and deeper mysteries reveal themselves in unexpected ways. Seemingly meaningless objects become empowered and transformed into the gold of a complete expression in the world. And cultivating this Alchemy to include all aspects of our lives will turn everything into gold.


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Journeys by Brian Alger - An Interview with Jerry
&

Creative Process: Tension - Artists of the Living
(David Whyte, Jerry Wennstrom, Thomas Moore)

www.handsofalchemy.com


“One” by Jerry Katz - Features chapter on art written by Jerry




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"Holy Personal" by Laura Chester is a book featuring a chapter on Marilyn Strong and Jerry Wennstrom’s story and the tower Jerry built on his land on Whidbey Island.

Read Chapter

www.laurachester.com


A Wonderful New Book By Laura Chester

"Hi Laura, Thank you so much for sending us your new book. I picked it up from the PO on my way into Seattle with Marilyn, began reading it and couldn't put it down! Just love it *AND* the wonderful artwork. It is so minimal and effective as image to your text. The whole feel of the book is just magic -- A Beautiful Creation! Love, Jerry"

(Jerry's response to receiving the gift of Rancho Weirdo from Laura)

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Edgewalkers: People and Organizations That Take Risks, Build Bridges, and Break New Ground
(Sights Jerry Wennstrom as an example)



FRIENDS
CREATIONS

We met our dear and long time friend Clair Dunne at the Parabola office in NYC when we were there for for Parabola's "Cinema of the Spirit Film Festival." We were privileged to be there and share her joy when the first copy of her book "CG Jung Wounded Healer of the Soul" was handed to her -- hot off the press! You can see a picture of Claire in our "Pictures of Life" section of the blog.


"Beautifully written and flagrantly creative, Loving by Remy Benoit is a compassionate look at what is most deeply human in the lives of the warriors and their loved ones.
Loving does not judge war, nor does it judge the warrior. Instead, it gives a clear and realistic view of the fragility of the human heart in relation to the untenable conditions of war.
Reading this book, one is left with the certainty that innocence is the inherent condition of the heart and the heart's essential longing comes fiercely alive under the constant threat of death. Loving offers the reader the opportunity to hold this sacred paradox."
Artist, author Jerry Wennstrom


Mud's Book of Poetry - Landscape of the Misty Eye

Landscape of the Misty Eye
by Mud (Steve Weitzman) and Len Solo



"The shadow of our humanity glows redeemed in Way-Marks. Rusty Moe’s poetry lifts us above the tension and angst of paradox and grounds us in the reverent simplicity of surrender." Cover endorsement by Jerry Wennstrom For More Information - http://www.rustymoe.com/

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Oil and Water: Reflections on Nature, Madness and Psyche - a film by Corwin Fergus

Filmed before and after the Exon Valdez oil spill, Oil and Water is a portrait of Prince Williams Sound, as seen by a man in a kayak. It is a love song to nature, a mourning cry for the wounded natural world and an attempt to navigate despair. The film explores our relationship to the earth and why we are so destructive, as we struggle to evolve.

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Day in the Life
Reflections on Saturn, Youth and an Encounter

An Alchemical Treatise of Sorts
By Wayword Ho (Corwin Fergus)

Within the cycling of my cyclothymia, I have a lot of bad days. By mid-morning if not sooner I usually know that the day is one to simply get through, doing only what I must or menial tasks that require little of me, any ambitious agendas leading invariably to frustration. Every so often I am blessed with a magical day. I once had the image of rolling such days into beads and stringing them together to make a necklace.
Sometimes on a really good day I’ll yearn to share my experience of it with some distant one or few who are dear to me. I’ll imagine this typically as a film or as a familiar presence accompanying me. This recurrent fantasy, along with the desire to nurture a particular experience, gave rise to the following narrative, a bead on the necklace. Another factor I realized only while writing, involves compensation for the loss of the satisfying contemplative experience of letter writing. An experience mostly fallen prey to the seductions of convenient cheap long distance and email. The exception being my correspondence with dear Gary,

I tend to think of Good Friday as Not so Good Friday. Over the years my Easter weekends have often synched up with the basic story arc. I was not formally brought up Christian, but being of a sensitive or at least susceptible nature and of the western world, I’ve tended to feel not so good on Friday, then a rather liminaly disoriented malaise on Saturday and reinvigorated Sunday. Not every year by any means, but the pattern has repeated a number of times.
On this Good Friday however I woke up feeling pretty good. Perhaps I was buoyed by having passed a prostate exam the day before, though typically my mood seems to have little to do with events. It had been a busy work week, I was feeling a bit tired and as usual not looking forward to my once every few weeks computer lesson that day with my biker-dike-mac-techie. Sure enough various cyber stuff misbehaved, the rule not the exception for me, the result of some mysterious techno karma and/or my generally bad attitude toward that realm. It was as usual maddeningly frustrating, but my geek guru is very patient and the 3 hours went by without my even really wanting to smash things.
I then plowed through ‘to dos’ piled up from the week and by mid-late afternoon I was ready to set off for a hike into the region of unstructured time and inside-out experience. I was initially disappointed that the forecasted afternoon sunshine had not appeared and changed plans to do a forest hike to Fragrance Lake. I prefer cloudy days for walking in the woods, especially if it begins to rain. I love the sound of the rain on the canopy and if it’s not coming down too hard, it takes a few hours before the rain begins to drip through much.
Halfway up the trail I stopped at a favorite spot amongst a cluster of mossy erratics and smoked some of a joint in an armchair of old exposed roots. Walking again it occurred to me that given my general doldrums of late with nothing much happening in my inner life, I might as well take things to the next level and focus on the void. It didn’t seem like there was much to lose as paying attention to my mind was getting pretty boring and hopefully the bottom might fall out by taking nothing seriously.
After a few empty switchbacks, with attention on my footfalls and breath, I sensed something beginning to inhabit my movement that felt a bit erotic. I wondered, how did she get in, via breath or perhaps through one of those spots just behind the balls of the feet or through my eyes while I wasn’t looking? I recalled recently seeing the elegant sliver of a new moon conjoined with Venus in the twilight from the bottom of Hell’s Canyon, and upon emerging the woman with the dreds and the scar shooting pool in the bar, Lulu, who became Zaza in my dream. A brief kaleidoscope of feminine figures ensued until I remembered that I was walking and upon release, the images morphed back to sensations.
When it’s mostly about motion, I think of these gals as dancing girls. I like to engage them, but I know from experience that dancing girls don’t talk much so I returned my attention to the paths shaping of steps, breathe, a diffuse gaze and the nowhere she came from. Instead of emptying my mind however, I was thinking of emptying my mind, likely her influence. I found myself thinking in astrological terms about the void, having recently had an astrology reading, the first in a long while.
I was born with Jupiter, the patron saint of expansiveness, going retrograde in the 12th house in Pisces – the dark depths times three. He’s not alone, the moon is there too. Perhaps she, as the recently arrived dancing girl, is largely responsible for his all too easily aroused enthusiasm for the void.
If this weren’t already trouble enough, Saturn, that old leaden god of gloom, is in natal opposition to Jupiter. Thus what could be, in its better moments a recipe for mystery, has a tendency towards playing out in doomsday scenarios.
In current astro time, Saturn is parading though three tightly packed planets of the origin scenario, right before the finish line of his second lap. So Saturn is up for me, or rather coming down on me. At any rate, I’m operating under the influence.
The first time Saturn came back around, while no picnic, was at least interesting. And that prolonged agony of forced self-discovery had the secondary bennie of clarifying vocation and launching a career path. This time around, however, I feel all too familiar with the same ole, same ole me, as limitations, inabilities and short comings take center stage in a melodrama of endings and conclusions as fade outs.
I was hoping that my progressed Scorpio sun, now in Capricorn, Saturn’s earthy hood, might scope the territory and get a lay of the land, perhaps forge some alliances or at least operate as an undercover agent while out of its element. But mostly I’ve just been feeling curmudgeonly.
In my musings, it occurred to me that I might be taking Saturn’s visitation too personally. This is a god after all. An old fertility god, scythe in hand, somehow at some point exiled to the sky – maybe as the rupturing birth of self awareness blew up the foundations of Eden.
So I tried to surreptitiously ease past my array of little dramas, returning to the original theme, following breath into void. And sure enough things gradually began to feel more spacious, the senses heightened, breath took awareness to the heart drum, and I let it drop into the tan tien (just south and in from the belly button) for balance and then to yong guan, the bubbling spring (those spots behind the balls of the feet) where energy enters and one feels the pulse of the earth herself. This sort of thing tends to arouse the dancing girls and it occurred to me that caressing the earth with the soles of my feet might be kindredly pleasing to the old fertility god who surely did his share of fondling back in the day. Perhaps channeling such sensual delights with his old flame could spare me some of his exile rage. Anyway it’s usually a good idea to form worshipful practice from what one likes to do already.
I’m thinking I might be on to something when something else, perhaps the old coot himself, reminds me that in my life’s astro-floorplan, Saturn is an air sign. Is he destined to ever haunt my mind? Just as I’m getting depressed all over again, a stealth raindrop slips through the canopy and hits my forehead like an einfal or gnam (Good German and Nepalese words for something between a good idea and a revelation). Who knows where these things come from, perhaps out of the blue, but I generally like to attribute them to the dancing girls, as they, like everyone, like to be appreciated and I like it when they stick around.
I recalled that Capricorn, the European mountain goat, Saturn’s familiar, is also a familiar of mine. For several summers right after the initiation of Saturn’s first lap, I hung out with these marvelous creatures as I wandered the Alps. Living where the earth seems almost made of sky or aspiring to become it, these beings seemed of both worlds to me, so kindred and so arrestingly other at each and every encounter. Even when unseen, they were present as guides. Wherever a mountain goat track went down a shoot, I knew I could make it too, if often just barely and occasionally with a fright. They are of course more nimble, but I have hands.
Feeling buoyed and rooted in my reverie, I arrived, as if guided by stars, on the path, at the lake. Fragrance Lake is a jewel nestled in a surround of forested hillsides. A trail winds its way around the fairly circular lake. The Asians, who really like to circumambulate things, always go clockwise, no doubt to sync with the movement of the heavenly bodies. I chose to go counterclockwise in honor of the days retrograde theme and to save my favorite spot till toward the end.
The spot is on a ledge the trail traverses, about 20% of the way up a few hundred foot cliff wall. The ledge is strewn with cottage size boulders fallen from the wall. A few of these are remarkably head shaped with distinct facial features. I have an ongoing photo study of such phenomena. The study is a facet of an inquiry into the animate nature of the so called inanimate world. I particularly like to see eyes in the world, to be seen by the world. Eyes are the portholes, awareness streaming out to inhabit the contextual ground of our instincts, returning refreshed.
Sitting in my spot, I soon fell into the hypnotic whisperings of the light rain on the still lake. The drops expanding circles erasing tree reflections and crashing into each other like Van Gogh stars.
I love the rain. Sure the soggy aftermath as temperatures drop is kind of like a hangover, damp bones feeling the ache of age as the low northern winter sun proves not much of an antidote to the persistent wet. But as the air fills, as the thirsty earth drinks and rivulets come to life, grow, merge, tumble and laugh, as if one’s blood were singing… This softening of distinctions, the release of falling, mosses, mushrooms and goblins, the relaxation of exhaling into life’s continuity….
A guy arrives with his dog where the trail meets the lake. Until now I’ve had the lake to myself. I can’t see them from my perch. He’s like a cheerleader. The dog jumps in and swims. The cycle repeats and repeats. I like the sound of the dog swimming if the guy would just shut up. The repetitive motivational commands seem demeaning. Ok, animals often respond positively, most creatures like attention, but I think they prefer the dignity accorded by thoughtful speech, as well as enjoying the musicality of our vocal range attempting to honor language’s nuisances.
The guy and the dog thankfully leave. I feel something ease a bit, nothing like when a distant chainsaw ceases, but still. The rain refills the soundscape but doesn’t recapture me as deeply in its spell as I notice the light is waning and think I should probably get going.
I’m most of the way down and it’s getting quite dark. This isn’t a problem as the well used path is wide and smooth and I’m headed west so with the lingering twilight I can easily make out where the trail goes. I’m a stride past a medium sized tree trunk when I receive a bonk on the top of my head. This is what I am writing to tell you of.
I spin around and see nothing. When I have time to think, a big pine cone seems to fit the sensation. But there aren’t any here, so logically it must have been a branch. That doesn’t feel right, and there’s no wind. I look on the ground for a suspect. Nothing, though it’s hard to see much. I think I ought to be somehow concerned but I feel bemused and curious. I hang out for a few minutes as if waiting for something to be revealed. Finally that seems silly and I proceed down the trail.
I’d gone maybe 20 feet when from behind my head is firmly brushed by an incredible softness, the belly of an owl. Its wings lightly brush the sides of my face and shoulders and I watch it swoop up and away. I’m awed and enraptured. Everything seems more vivid. I feel blessed and grateful. Time stands still or maybe it’s me, at any rate it? opens.
I can almost feel the moment, touch/sight/impressions, searing itself upon memory like an inner tattoo, like the physical scars I so cherished through childhood, like a photo in a developer bath. I thought about how easily I come to view my actions as so crucial, meaning seemingly hanging in the balance of my attempts to craft it, when really in its profound forms it simply arrives like a gift. I give thanks.
I had seen the owl disappear behind a conifer maybe 20 feet up and 30 feet in front of me. I was pretty certain it landed there, otherwise I would have seen its silhouette against the sky between the tree branches, if it had flown further. With my gaze still glued to the spot where I thought the owl was, I walked down the path pausing at each new angle, trying to see through the tree. I stopped 20 or so feet past the tree, fairly sure I was looking right at the owl. But now I was facing east up the hill and I really couldn’t see much at all. At one point I began to speak to the owl. Curiously I can’t remember anything I said, I guess I was hoping to coax it into some movement. Then I decided to be as still as it was.
Quickly things began to feel a bit eerie, as I realized the owl was likely staring at me. What was it seeing something I was missing? I thought about the bonk, my sense of being chosen began to mingle with being stalked. I imagined the owl dive bombing me with talons out when I walked again. It occurred to me that I was already late for my “around dark” meet up with Cynthia in town and should get going. To be safe, I decided to put my hat on, certainly it would significantly cushion any blow. Without moving my eyes I fished around in my backpack but the hat wasn’t there! I figured I’d left it somewhere along the trail. I was very annoyed with myself as it was my favorite hat, a beautiful cashmere hat, a gift from Cynthia. To my relief I soon found it in my pocket, but in the meantime I’d lost the razor sharp presence of the moment.
I put the hat on, distractedly hoisted my back pack, turned and took a few steps down the path. The owl silently swooped down and deftly plucked the hat off my head, flew to the west with it across a clearing and landed high in a big conifer about 100 feet away. I laughed and kept laughing.
Now I’m thinking shaman counting coo on me. I’ve studied these folks some and known a few. From time immemorial the particularly gifted among them have favored animal forms for their shape shifting. While this is curiously absent from nearly all field guides, it is well documented in lore. I scrolled though mental lists of mercurial friends, foes, colleagues, ex-lovers and trickterish ancestors as I watched the creature on its perch, silhouetted against faint lingering light in the western sky.
In enchanted realms, symbols and likenesses are the principle currencies of exchange. I figured hat contains head which houses mind – so what of mine had been swiped? Hopefully some of the plethora of junk – irrelevant obsessions, lazy habits, compensatory fantasies, etc. Or maybe it was being held hostage. I began to bargain, “Ok nice move, ya got me, drop it and I promise never to fall prey to the rationalistic-reductive-materialistic paradigm again.” It occurred to me that I’d made this vow before, well intentioned but invariably seduced by the downside of mysticism’s questioning openness, a vulnerability to mass mind’s collective undertow. Anyway, it didn’t work and I thought maybe I’m taking this too personally, probably it just wants a cozy cashmere sofa for its nook abode. And perhaps I’m attributing too much to this creature, psychic powers, trans-species intelligence and great taste in hats - I guess we tend to think highly of those who take an interest in us. Probably since its nesting time the owl, likely a barred owl, was simply being territorial.
The owl takes a couple steps on the branch, if I hadn’t seen this before I would have assumed it just shape shifted into a feline form. In my mind’s eye I’m back at the lake remembering the kinetic tapestry of raindrop circles and shimmering forest reflections. I feel a soothing relaxation spread through me. Then I notice my reverie has acquired a sound track before realizing the rustling in the canopy is actually rain, the sound registering first as visual memory, then as physical sensation, and I return to my theory of being the recipient of shamanic mischief.
It occurred to me that I was probably close enough to the trail head to have cell phone coverage and it would be good to call Cynthia. The owl took off at the exact moment she answered. I could make out its silhouette off and on for a couple hundred yards as it flew west high in the canopy. I thought at least I know it isn’t Cynthia since she’s on the phone. But then it occurred to me that such space-time coordinates were inconclusive for this kind of thing. If anything the coincidence of her answering and the takeoff moved her up the suspect list. I should have asked her if it was windy. If she were simultaneously flying here she might mistake it as wind in the dimension where she was on the phone. But such astute logic often fails me at such moments in spite of all my psychological training. Instead I simply told her I had a story to tell and we picked a meet up spot.
Looking down at the trail, I couldn’t really see much of anything at all. I began to feel my way along, a curved arm floating before me, swerving back onto the trail whenever a footfall landed on duff or sticks along the trails edge, the owl possibly amused if still watching.
Walking at night in the forest I sometimes think of cougar. In one fantasy, at the instant before jaws snap my neck, I am taken so intensely into the moment that time cracks open and I transit to an otherwise inaccessible dimension. In reality, on the cusp of the extremely remote possibility of being dinner, I would probable shit my pants spoiling the moment for each of us. The imagined presence of cougar however invariably adds an edge to the dark.
I got down quickly and uneventfully and drove into town. Cynthia at first didn’t believe my story, thinking it a tall tale about losing my hat. I expected this as I lose a lot of stuff, occasionally to the point of accusing the stuff of initiating its disappearance. But I was counting on our connection to convey that I was genuinely moved. When it did she was deeply appreciative, being herself quite a nocturnal wanderer.
The live music we were in town to hear was billed to start at 8:00. Apparently that’s when the venue’s doors opened to the bar. When we arrived at 8:40 the place was deserted with no signs of life at all on the stage. The door guy said 9:30. This was fine with me as I was starving. Cynthia had already eaten and went off to join a friend she’d ran into earlier. She mentioned she’d just seen friends of ours going into the restaurant I was headed for.
Michael and Susan were with a guy I didn’t know. I was hesitant to barge in on them, plus it was really bright and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be indoors, much less talk. But I really like Michael and Susan and the empty fourth chair seemed to be beckoning. The Alchemical Maxim of Maria Prophetissa, a sort of condensed creation myth, popped into my head – “one becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.”
It’s hard to imagine that all the way up through the 17th Century numbers were more important as symbols than as markers of quantity. Old Jung was obsessed with the transition from three, the triangle of motion and becoming, to four the squaring of the primal circle, a state of being where differentiated consciousness and the mystery of unity are no longer so at odds. He saw this passage as the collective opus of our time, i.e., shedding the progress myth of bigger, faster, further and reorienting our ingenuity within the realities of our earthly limitations. I took it as a sign to join the party.
Michael, Susan and their friend were very engaged in speaking of a twenty year old man who had just left that day for the Marines. He is the son of an ex-lover of Michael’s. Michael knew him from ages 4-7 and was his only significant father figure. I just listened, it felt good to be within a field of strong emotion. General banter I realized would have felt diffusing, as would telling the owl story again so soon.
The younger man had joined the Marines he said, because he had no options. As the others spoke of this person I didn’t know I thought of youth without options. Certainly the wild west fantasy of endless possibilities is having a harder and harder time denying the Pacific Ocean, but there is still an infinity of points between any two points. I think of options as youth’s wealth. Youth wastes time to maintain its capital, turning the river of time into a sea to taste eternity.
I like options but I’ve never been very good at wasting time. A bit obsessed with death and under the spell of a work ethic, I try to make each moment count. This can easily backfire, counting capturing one in Chronos’ measured time where what was experienced as abundance becomes cast as missed opportunity as time passes.
The other reason the young man had given for his choice was to be close to his death. While warriors seem so foreign to me, perhaps their way of chaffing at time’s harness is somewhat familiar, invoking death’s proximity to concentrate life vividly into the moment, rupturing successions relentless march, in search of all at once.
I attempted to call forth the 20 year old in me as the others spoke of war. I try to make a practice of not focusing too exclusively on my present chronological self, for really we are an assemblage of all our personal and collective experiences and imaginings all in play despite our tendency to identify with context, roles, personas and appearance, the immediate and the visible limiting our range of being. But the 20 year old me seemed like a creature of another time colored by another incomprehensible war.
I thought of the old poet in Angels Over Berlin who wondered why there weren’t any epics of peace (something about Michael seems to invoke Wim Wenders for me). Perhaps the mystical moments of peace arrive as grace, something that must be bestowed, while we are all too easily in control of creating tragedy to transcend the daily drudgeries.
I mentioned Dispatches (which I can’t think of without seeing through Coppolas’ eyes) and Tomm Jones’ short stories. I felt it was time I said something and I feel it’s important to try to imagine the unimaginable, especially before condemning it. We live so intimately with what we struggle against, probably the warriors understand this better than we who oppose them with flowers and rhetoric.
The time rolled past 9:30 and I excused myself. Dinner had been a somewhat strange experience of feeling quite present and simultaneously elsewhere, just the right interlude I thought, feeling an after glow warmth from Susan and Michael, as the bracing night air quickened the senses with anticipation and suggestion.
Things were under way as I arrived at the club but to my disappointment the band wasn’t Sugar Sugar Sugar. They had been billed 3rd so I figured they would be opening. The guy at the door said Sugar Sugar Sugar would play next. I found Cynthia happily ensconced in a cozy nook with a drink. The band was way too loud to talk over and I didn’t care for the music so I left, happy enough to be back outside.
I like to do impromptu urban anthropology. The youth scene on a Friday night is good fodder for feeling the emergent pulse of culture. I must say I’ve been by and large disappointed by American youth culture for quite a while. This may have a lot to do with exile to outsider status, but in the tradition of the scientific method, I do try to be objective.
When I arrived in Zurich in 1981, nearly every window front on the world’s richest street, The Banhoffstrassa, had been freshly smashed. It was surreal to see all the jewelry, fashion, banking, etc. behind the backlit wildly chaotic exploding patterns. That was a vibrant time in Europe, particularly the early part of the decade in the west, then in the “Wild East” in the late 80’s.
When I returned to the U.S. in 1988, landing in Seattle, I was curious about Seattle’s reputation as a contemporary music Mecca. If youth is the bellwether of culture, music is the herald of youth. I figured my long absence gave me some perspective, so before I became overly immersed within the trance of cultural contextuality, I felt I should do some research.
My forays into the club scene included the good fortune of seeing maiden shows by Rage at the Machine and Southern Culture on the Skids. Otherwise, I was underwhelmed by the music and appalled that nobody danced! Was this the sign that mankind was finally doomed, the tipping point, a disconnection from natural rhythms, such that music failed to set the body in motion?
Ok, I may have been overreacting in inverse proportion to my long held na├»ve notion that youth’s fierce fresh clarity of vision and outrage would eventually bring down the military-industrial- greed- consumerism complex. There was that brief Renaissance moment a decade later at the WTO. Especially that one day in the streets when commerce went into eclipse and as night fell, the city lights and burning dumpsters lit up the tear gas haze and everything glowed a brilliant otherworldly orange. Otherwise things have seemed pretty tamed, as targeted youth marketing’s illusion of an attentive gaze has fostered an allegiance of logo wearing marching billboards and corporate oligarchy has stolen the banner of freedom from democracy.
A few years ago when the state passed a no smoking law, I thought I could reengage my field studies while getting in a few off season fixes for my dancing addiction. Otherwise I had been glorifying necessity by elevating our regions wealth of summer music festivals into religious pilgrimage status, in keeping with my previously outlined strategy of worshipping what one enjoys.
A problematic I hadn’t anticipated may have to do with our town’s having recently developed, if not minor Mecca status, at least some reputation for its live music. Possibly because of this, or to further promote such pretensions, or to keep the presence of old folks from sullying the scene, the music happens later and later in the evenings. The main act typically not even getting on stage till past my bed time.
The last time I was out on the town was Halloween. I hadn’t really felt like it but I’d passed on celebrating one of my very favorite holidays the last couple of years and was feeling pretty lame about that, plus there was a band I like playing in town. So I spent an hour safety pinning big leaf maple leafs to a long black garment and dreadlocks, then painted yellow, orange and brown streaks on my face and headed out.
I thought it was late enough that the opening band would be playing. But like this evening I ended up strolling around town. I was about to call it a night when on my last pass by the bar the music had begun. They turned out to be a pretty good jam band. Quickly folks were up and dancing and with some motion I managed to shed the crumudgeonlyness that had been accompanying me.
Between bands I went out for some fresh air and over to a nearby artist’s cooperative to check out a Halloween show I’d read about. From below, seeping up the stairway pulsed a heavy metalish sound. Not my favorite genre but I seemed to be experiencing something like a gravitational pull. At the bottom of the stairs, beside the back of the stage area, I came upon a small woman wailing away on a drum set as wildly as perhaps anyone I’d ever seen.
Strangely, Twatha DeDanann popped into my mind – legendary early peoples who came to Ireland and over time were absorbed into the landscape becoming mythic spirit beings, the little folk. She seemed possessed or in a zone. I became enchanted, falling under her spell.
Eventually I moved around front to better hear the guitar and bass. Usually one can tell who is playing off who, but the frenzied music seemed to wander or stalk with a mind of its own. It took hold of me and I yielded to dance.
The long song ended, a sax guy came on and they began something quite different, meandering, then more and more hypnotic, then like that mounting restrained urgency of prolonging good sex in that almost tortuous kinda way. Another long song, finally blooming in a feverish crescendo, then it was over.
Heading back to the bar I saw the tall slender young woman who had been dancing between me and the band unlocking her bicycle. I was already in love with her before she turned her beautiful face toward me. I told her I liked her costume, a long green and blue hand-painted dress with lots of green dangles, green and blue streaks on her face and dangles tied to her hair. She said she was kelp and complimented me on my costume. I should have mentioned my love of watching kelp dance in waves and currents. Unfortunately I tend to get tongue tied in the presence of gorgeous women.
All evening I hadn’t seen anyone else dressed as flora. Clearly we were soul mates. I asked her if she knew the name of the band, she said Sugar Sugar Sugar. We spoke admiringly for a couple minutes about the band and their music, then she rode off.
If I had been a few decades younger and/or single, I would have tried my best not to let her get away. The very worst in such situations is the regret over not having asked. Many a poet, particularly the younger ones, have ridden such fleeting loss and prolonged longing on a long way. Not much fun and I for one have certainly done enough of it. It’s a crucial moment that can also go the other way. If accepted as complete in itself, the brush of the mermaids tail like that of the owl’s belly can become a talisman, a thing magically very real, there in your pocket, ready to be rubbed, rather than an ever beckoning distance.
I figured enough time had probably passed to allow the opening band to be winding up their set, so I headed back. A young man hailed me asking for a light. I was about to say I don’t have one when I remembered the remainder of the afternoon’s joint in a matchbook in my pocket and thought I could have a couple tokes before going in. In a lame attempt to convey that my slight hesitation wasn’t a knee jerk dis, I said, “thanks for reminding me I’ve got a joint in my match book”, as I gave him a light. I was figuring I should offer he and his friend some of the joint since I mentioned it, when he offered me his smoke. I gave him a skeptical look and he said something like, “hey, this is good stuff.” It looked like a cigarette-sized cigar. I recalled those chocolate rolling papers from back in the day, figured they were still around and accepted a hit. I managed not to cough on the inhaled cigar smoke as he laughed and said, “different strokes for different folks.” I couldn’t believe this jock kid outside a bar, who looked barely old enough to get in, had counted coo on me, the supposedly wily codger. I gave him a ‘you got me’ nod and went on my way. First the owl, now this kid, I had a laugh at my own expense as I lit my joint while short cutting through an alley.
My timing was good, the first band had just finished. I found Cynthia and we had time to hang out over a drink and compare notes on the day. When Sugar Sugar Sugar was about to begin, we went up just in front of the mixing board. One aspect of the charm of this soulful venue is its old brick walls, which however have their acoustic short comings, so it’s best to be in the middle. Normally I like to dance in the shadows, on the sides or toward the back.
I was glad Cynthia was with me, mostly because she’s fun to dance with and also I don’t have to worry about appearing lecherous. I find it generally quite pathetic to see old guys flailing around amongst younger people, especially when ogling or sidling up to pretty young things. I’m fairly certain I’m much more discreet and a better dancer but one never knows.
And besides, the mere presence of a guy ones father’s age or worse can animate dormant inner authority figures poisoning the atmosphere with specters of calcified structures, judgmentalism, confining responsibilities, diminishing options or other Saturnian Stuff. On the other hand if one can be chill and loose and a bit sage, there are opportunities to suggest hopeful anticipation or even a sense of the unfolding mystery. Actually, the truth is we are virtually invisible here, age a stealth shield, as youth’s radar scans for niches of cool and monitors age appropriate mating possibilities.
Still, in such situations I tend to dance with considerable restraint. Now one might imagine that restraint and abandon are mutually exclusive. Not so. Subtle gesture can channel wild every bit as well as exaggeration and can even get a boost from the magnetism of polarity, paradox distilling expression in alembics of parameters and limitations.
Sugar Sugar Sugar began their set and it wasn’t long before I felt the dark forest enveloping me. Self consciousness faded and sense of self began to transmute from mind/body toward antennae and instrument of expression. The trick at this point is to hand over the controls.
I realized I had been kind of tucking the owl experience away as if keeping it safe. Now in the dark surround of the music I felt the owls caress whenever Sugar Sugar Sugar managed to drop into a zone (in the Tarkovski-NBA sense of the word), sculpting time to bridge dimensions.
Owl’s feathers and down are so impossibly soft to allow their flight to be virtually silent, evolution driven by the predators hunger or perhaps wisdom's imperative to bestow blessing. The forest softens the wind allowing owls wings to release the stiffness needed to negotiate air currents and gusts, freeing adaptation to tune to riding hypnotic nocturnal breezes, in this case music.
Slipping past or shedding ones psychic skin seems like it ought to get easier and easier, the fear factor of dissolution ameliorated by a more and more familiar sense of self, all too ready to recongeal back into its habituations. But that skin grows thicker and thicker as identity is woven from stories, personal and cultural, that become the trances we mostly live within. Ironically, trance can be a way through. There are many such vehicles of passage. Much depends on the moment, on the veil’s thinness, on serendipity and indirectly upon preparations, the practices and reflections to minimize the machinations and recognize opportunities. Opportunities to visit a non-contextual self, a unity mirroring the whole thing, held together and organized somehow beyond our knowing but within the reach of experience, such experience being our deepest knowing.
Music is mostly a mystery to me. I don’t try to understand it, so much as try to develop relationship with it. Try to make myself available when I sense the potential to be moved. Sugar Sugar Sugar teaches me about becoming what’s coming. The songs like my plans are imagination orienting. I love maps, better is the adventure with its variations, ruptures and piercings, departures and returns. Like with the natural world, occasionally what transpires feels essential and things seem to loosen and shift. And as I’m grateful for the nearby magical places that are sanctuary, I’m grateful that Sugar Sugar Sugar is a local source of communion.
The music finished, washing the dance floor tribe onto shore as the lights came up a bit. Cynthia, smiling, satiated, headed home. I was torn, the day felt complete but I wasn’t noticeably tired and was curious about the headliner, a star of the local music scene. I succumbed to attachment to the night and went outside while the band set up. The street scene seemed a bit more hard core and the fresh air scented with that particular lateness of a Friday night musk felt lively.
The band was playing when I went back in. The theatrical intro seemed initially interesting but it soon felt like they had done it a few too many times. I stayed through the end of the first song and beginning of the next, lost interest, then left.
On the way home I stopped at the trail head pull off, listened to the stillness, hooted a couple times and tried to feel the vibe of a presence. I decided to try venturing up the trail. It was pitch dark and I realized after a few steps and a stumble that this was a silly endeavor.
Back home I bundled up, got a beer and went out on the deck to wind down. I wanted to savor the day and anyway I can never go to sleep right after driving. The ancestor spirits seem to get all worked up by car travel, hurtling through space at such speed still a relative novelty. And while intimate wildlife encounters and dance are old hat to them, they still seem to get excited by anything that reminds them of the good ole days.
I was really hoping to hear an owl. But besides a few stray remnants of the early evening frog mating invitation cacophony, things were quiet beneath the cozy overcast. After a while some distant coyotes jammed with the whistle of a freight train rumbling through the flats below, something I always enjoy.
I thought about coyote, then owl, wondering if they are the wilier or wiser for their contact with us. I recalled Levi Strauss concluding toward the end of a lifetime of anthropological study, that as important as animals have been to humans in terms of nourishment, warmth and shelter, they have been far more important to the development of our thinking. And I remembered some North American Indian saying something to the effect of how lonely it would be without the animals.
I began to construct a mental abode for my owl visitor. A nest of associations, images and feelings, perhaps a story, not without reservations that I might be entertaining more mischief and mayhem than inspiration. The refreshing drink from re membering’s spring often entailing significant surprise rearrangings. Meanwhile I imagined the owl lounging in its redecorated nook telling the tale of how he came by his cashmere sofa.

Well I guess that about does it for my report on Good Friday in the ninth year (give or take a few) of the third millennium since the birth of our lord and savior. Actually he was probably just one of the coolest guys around when the notion that had been kicking about in the eastern Mediterranean for at least a century – that God was also a denizen of the human psyche, came into bloom. Gotta watch out for the backslide of such grand ideas, hence Good Friday.
But technically we’re well into the wee hours now, so its actually Saturn’s day, which I guess fittingly brings us full circle. I think of cracking a third beer and toasting the old guy for makin’ it around again, but Saturnian good sense prevails and I turn in.


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Art - Books - Ojai Soul Retreats by Ronda La Rue Contacts:
email -ronda.larue@gmail.com Phone- (805) 746-1657
Web Site - http://www.rondalarue.com/

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