Choose Your Resources Wisely

It was misty on the big thumb that is Clearwater Florida this morning.  We live on the inside curve of the Clearwater-St Petersburg peninsula.  In the armpit, if you will, of “old Tampa Bay.”  The bay is beautiful. Shades of watery blue beneath whitecaps and the shadows of Great Blue Heron wings. A clam pot for birds, a safe passage for kayak and paddleboard the Bay lacks the primordial punch of the great womb that is the Gulf of Mexico.

We drove North and then West to the causeway at Dunedin.  We passed through the gate and maneuvered into a parking lot for 100 with 98 spaces left. The thick fog of a bottom-heavy steel gray cloud was just rising as we kicked off our shoes on flour white sand. Bands of blue green water snaked through the opaque ashen waves as the rising sun topped the palms at the edge of the beach. If you want to have color, you have to have light. Without illumination, life is just shades of gray.

 

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Those that show up at the beach on a morning like this didn’t come with sunscreen and a People magazine.  We come to the edge to restore and rejoice, or to soak up “beach time”, before the vacation runs out. Some stand ankle deep in salty water to reclaim dreams, or discover new journeys. Some come to petition the deities of great bodies of water for their divine assistance. Today I wasn’t clear who was doing what, except for one of us.

I saw them coming.  The two women walked slowly towards us wearing ultramarine blue t-shirts in different sizes. The older woman walked on the left. The deep lines of her face framed her expression of deep gratitude.  Clearly this was an extraordinary day for her. She radiated joy; to be walking on this land between the waters, on this March day, with this young woman.  The older woman held her worn-well Keds in her hand as they walked barefoot near the water. She leaned in, listening attentively to the words that flowed from her companion. Neither seemed to feel the sharp shell rubble or notice the few passersby.  They were intent, focused.

Indeed! They were pregnant with change. The younger woman was supremely pregnant, probably beyond pregnant and well into “overdue.”  She walked strong, straight but with great care, balancing a belly that looked as if it might burst open at any moment.

 

“You came to the right place,”

I thought, thinking of the saltwater that filled that belly. Then I realized,

We are always in the right place,”

The young woman spoke fervently, passionately. Her words caught on the wind, tumbling across the top of the water. Her arm movements animated her story and the old women with the wrinkles smiled a quiet smile. We passed unseen.

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It is my practice to stand at the edge of earth and water to check my trajectory and clear the emotional flotsam. Placing my thoughts in fragile shells, I create a shrine of temporal impermanence that holds my concerns and hopes for this day. The Gulf is my resource for reflection on the mud and miracles that happen daily. I imagine the Nereids float silently nearby, offering illuminating advice that wordlessly seeps into mind and heart through the souls of our feet stuck deep in the moving sands.  Their whispered encouragements float down from Tern’s wing,

 “Be brave! Be strong! Live! Live!”

Standing in sunlight and blue water one moment, and chilly wind of storm clouds the next, it’s all here, and it’s all good.

“Look at the sea, She lives there,

and She knows how it works,”

was my silent reassurance.

I walked up the beach a bit and found a message scratched in the sand by a sure hand on a sturdy stick.  It was addressed to the Sea and the Wisdom herein,

“I am ready now

I am ready now Baby”

March 19, 2018

She chose her Resources wisely I thought, as I wrote,

Godspeed!

in the sand with my toe. We are all in this together.

 

(http://www.theoi.com/Pontios/Nereides.html)

Photos: Carol Martell, Honeymoon State Park, Dunedin Florida

The Muse

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New growth at Kilauea

January 18 2018   Clearwater Florida

I spilled coffee all over the blue sheets. I reached for the cup, but hand and spirit were not occupying the same space.  I had just that moment come from a place both far away and as close as my skin.  Such infinite dichotomies make it had to juggle coffee cups with unenlightened fingers.

I had sat with my mother in the dusty sand.  She squatted close to the ground with the flexibility of a small child.  Her soft white hair in curls hide her face but there was no mistake. It was her voice and mannerisms, and-her hurts. She easily dug a hole in the ground the size of my coffee cup with her hand.  I watched the sand and the small pebbles pour out of her hands with a movement not of our time and space. The pebbles rolled soundlessly across a frictionless surface.

“Does being here make you happy or sad, Mom?”

“Sad.” She scooped the earth a bit deeper.

It was a “deep dream.” The rules of time and matter, life and death, are needless partitions in this realm of psyche.  I replayed the dream in my mind.  A faulty bit of rewinding to be sure. Information from this level tarnishes instantly in the light of ego.

I sat at a long dark wood table, not unlike those in the furniture stores I had frequented yesterday.  This one was as long as it needed to be to seat all the family that assembled.  The longer the dream, the longer the table. I stood with a gaggle of relatives in a vast open space.

“How about here?”

I had said, pointing to a flat area beside a cliff with no obstructions to the scenery.

“That’s where Mom lives, let’s sit here.”

I said, pointing to the white mountains to the west.

The view was extraordinary.  Across miles of high desert vista were a trio of mountain edges.  The front row of hills lay low and rounded in a dark blue grey tone.  The back layer was all sharp edges. Ragged rocky peaks that would cut skin, all wrapped in mist and clouds sitting unreachable and unwavering in the background.

The soft white mountains rose up from behind the foreground and before the background.  These were higher than the front range and smoother than then rough crags behind. The white mountains had lived in the world.  Their sharpness had been polished by what had been given, and what had been given up. Pieces and chucks broken off and sanded down by experience, resilience and love.

Even from our far away perspective, I could see that light emanated from this mountain range. The high soft edges illuminated as a glow from a far-away window on a cold, dark night. The lofty elevations sought the sky.  These are ascents too high and too steep for human feet. I imagined it was the light of the spirits who dwelled here.  I imagined my Mother lived there too. Until, that is, I found her crouched right there by our family table in the ethers.

“I keep doing this.”

She said, as she dropped an effigy of herself and another of a divine being into the hole,  covering it with dirt. Moments later as I watched, the sand and pebbles moved back and the statues were once again in her hand, and untouched by their journey into the ground.  I watched this three times before I had to turn away.  I was so profoundly sad that she would spend her days this way.

The trouble with light is that everything is illuminated and it is easy to lose focus on what is important. Suddenly, I was seated at the table with my siblings and other family members too numerous to be counted. It was a long table.  I can tell you it was a walnut table with rustic finish because looking for furniture is “up” in my life right now. Maintaining focus is tenuous.

A drama was unfolding in subtle hues around the “dream table.” Some people seated there were actors in this life scene, others spectators, some critics. We were all quickly consumed by Act II of Human Behavior and Group Dynamics. The beautiful white mountain was glowing a harmonious pink shade of possibility and here at our table, we are hunkered down making big judgements about small points.

I was observer and actor in a vignette of my own life. It was an algorithm of souls dancing with constant variables.  The date changes, the generations mix different equations but the product is the same.  I witnessed the scene with an omniscient perspective.  It was daunting.  It was an invitation to destroy inherited and created coveted constructs of “life’s purpose.” It was a plea to create a life of freedom and creativity, while I can.

Is my Mother really stuck in that enactment of repeating bygones?

bygone /ˈbaɪˌɡɒn/
adjective

1. (usually prenominal) past; former noun
2. (often pl) a past occurrence
3. (often pl) an artefact, implement, etc, of former domestic or industrial use, now often collected for interest
4. let bygones be bygones, to agree to forget past quarrels
Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

The constant burying and unearthing of people and events that should be dead, gone and composted. Is that her holy grail? I hope not.  If so that is hers to sort out and she is more than up for the challenge. After writing this I am sure she came to remind me and I am grateful.

“To thine own self be true”-William Shakespeare

Today, these words of Polonius are pearls of wisdom by Shakespeare on living a good and balanced life.
Meaning of To Thine Own Self Be True
The Elizabethan era audience of Shakespeare was well aware of the meaning of his words, though in modern age, words like “Self” and “True” have different. In fact, this phrase implies multiplicity of meanings. The first meaning is that someone can better judge himself if he has done what he should or could have done. The second meaning is that one must be honest in his ways and relations. The third meaning is that one must always do the right thing. Finally, keeping in view the character of Polonius in the play, many scholars are of the opinion that ‘True’ meant beneficial; therefore, his advice to his son meant that he must think of his own benefit first

https://literarydevices.net/to-thine-own-self-be-true/To thine own self be true

Photo Credit: Carol Martell, Kilauea Hawaii

 

Master Yourself

Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power. Lao Tzu


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Gordon Beach, Tel Aviv Israel

Relaxing in the fine deep white sand, I watched as the last light of this day eased into the Mediterranean. The glowing sun reflected off the clouds, staining the edges of an unexpected thunderhead, to the color of pomegranates. I had just caught site of a stab of lightening in the dark cloud.

“Must be Zeus!” I thought.

The hot “land air” of the day rushed between the buildings. It blew my hair into my face, moving past me to collide with the cool air sliding along the top of the sea. Squinting against the last streaks of red, I saw a silhouette of a tall young man appear over the top of the jetty. He was frenetically paddling some kind of craft still hidden behind the rocks.

Even at this distance I could see his broad shoulders were hunched with the tension of his great effort. The paddle looked meager against the size of the surf. The fast choppy sweep of his arms propelled his unseen vessel amazingly fast against the moving currents. His head rose above the jetty with each wave, dropping from view as the swells crashed against the rocks. The cusp of sunset is tricky, evening time calls out the darkness. Sea air and land air change places, creating circular winds that move water into rolling underwater cyclones. And what about this strange cloud overhead? Here in the cradle of great myths and even greater divinities: anything is possible.

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Had an ancient canoe come around that rocky point, it would not be unexpected.

He jabbed at the water with the paddle designed for a gentle drift along the surface. The paddle board glided through the water between the great piles of rough boulders built to keep beach, and swimmers, safe from the powerful undertow. The wind was strongest, just above the water. He was pitched off his board many times, he leapt back up to paddling, as if spit out of the sea by Amphitrite herself. I felt a maternal “swipe of the brow” as he finally reached the beach. He ran by me headed towards the hotels at the edge of the sand. After witnessing his efforts in the water, I marveled at his effortless sprint through the deep sand.

I heaved a sigh of relaxation from where I was planted. I settled into a yoga-esque “easy pose,” seated comfortably in the still warm sand. I had come out to attend the setting of the sun. The movements of the sun are always sacred. In this place, people order their lives around this daily, pivitol event. Mine was a “sit in the sand, commune with the water, and thanks for the day “sun salutation” of my own design. I was feeling gratitude for the opportunity to be in this place.

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In another place, for another athlete, that workout would have been enough. But this is Israel, and that was just a warm-up.

Looking like the perfect powerful figures from a 3,000-year-old Greek pot, he thundered by me in the opposite direction. He reached the water in three strides. Three more times he paddled out against the wind, circumnavigating the long jetties, charging top speed out into the open water, amidst the crashing waves. Falling into the water, leaping back out in half a breath’s time, he ran his board aground to sprint at top speed, up the beach, circle the palms and back to the water, three more times.

I ground my own feet a bit deeper in the sand, listened for the voices of the present day volleyball players behind me. It was getting dark. There was only one other observer, meditating on a damp towel. Had I been dropped into some ancient arena? Was this a Perseus polishing up his Andromeda rescue skills? That is after all, Jaffa, or Joppa just down the beach. “Is Everyone seeing this??”

On the fourth circuit, I thought, “Certainly he must be done?”

He dropped to the beach, and performed  gut wrenching, core building isometrics. It was these maneuvers that seemed to finally blast out any remaining remnants of being a “mere human.” Then and only then did he stop, to face the dying sun and quietly paddle his board back to the marina. I have never witnessed such endurance. Maybe it’s the water, or maybe the hummus.

There is great strength here.

 

 

Magic Beings and Other Myths

“Everything seemed possible, when I looked through they eyes of a child. 
And every once in a while; I remember, 
I still have the chance to be that wild.”
― Nikki Rowe

buildingI have a theory about travel to an unfamiliar place. Dropping unprepared into another culture is therapeutic.

When nothing is familiar and communication isn’t easy, other resources drop into place, forgotten resources. Get vulnerable and our precious procedures for being a competent adult in the world go tumbling, never to be aligned exactly in the same order again. Seems to me that on these occasions childhood wisdom comes flying out from hidden recesses.

These previously discarded possibilities are scattered about my feet like bright marbles on a wet floor. In a scramble for equilibrium, I might make a grab for this flotsam before they hit the light of day, before I have to acknowledge their existence. But here in my “adult deprivation state,” devoid of proper purpose, language and regular food, the child is faster. A single idea explodes into a 100 yellow butterflies, and I am along for the ride.

I believe in magic, I know it exists. Yes, there is a piece of bright color behind those ferns and overgrown vines in the back corner of my psyche, and right there in the center of my brain. There is a meter tall door painted in outrageous Vermillion where my inner child waits in sneakers and play clothes for an opportunity to learn about the world, from the beginning, again. This trip I have found my psyche falling back to the innocent and open part of my life when I didn’t have all the answers, but I had lots of questions.

“Why do they do that? Can I go there? Can I touch that? Why not?

What is that smell?”

Yes, this phenomenon has revealed itself this past week. I believe my inner child has been encouraged to giggle by our temporary residence in a foreign hotel with American name. “Adventure” with a safe and familiar place to snooze. I think this bears a remarkable similarity to childhood.

Everything is done for you.

 People who “have to” pick up after you; make your bed, do your laundry, fold your towels. Food is cooked for you. Sometimes you don’t like it, but you have to eat it anyway, because that’s what they have. If you are in Japan all of these tasks have an order, a ritual, a meaning. You don’t now what it is, but you can guess what it isn’t from the gentle polite corrections. Next time you do it their way.

There is written language all around you but you can only read faces.

 Directions for how to make things work, street names, ingredients in food; these require a translator, as a child requires an adult. Childhood stratagem: watch others, figure it out, and ask for help. You will make mistakes and it doesn’t matter if you are polite and willing to take instruction.

Sound familiar?

The plot of this adventure was already written when I set out to explore an area of Nagoya that doesn’t see many American tourists. There is a large Buddhist temple in the center of this community, surrounded by a warren of small shopping streets. Jerusalem-esque with a Japanese sensibility. This temple doesn’t have the esoteric rarified feel of Kyoto; it seems to be more a working person’s temple in a working person’s neighborhood.

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Cutting through an edgy neighborhood, and rounding a shabby corner, the temple gate appeared before me. The bright Vermillion and black buildings, the open square, flower offerings at quiet alters, it was all here. Without the anonymity of the hoards of tourists as in Kyoto, I was feeling exposed. I watched what others did, albeit Japanese others. Walk up the center? Or the side, bow? No bow? I had a sense of who was a “regular” and who was, like me, was coming to see a beautiful 16th century, partially reconstructed Buddhist temple, and maybe do a bit of shopping afterward.

I followed a young “hip” couple up the steep steps. I had hoped the chanting I heard was real monks at their devotions, but as I passed through the temple doorway I realized it was emanating from a 20th century loudspeaker, tucked under the intentionally scary,  protective spirit carved from wood living on the end of the exposed rafter. I entered, hesitating from the quick shift from bright sun to dim interior.

From this vantage point, I could see of the golden Buddha, the offerings of fruit on the alter, the delicate golden filigree that descended from some unknown place above. I stood for a few moments taking in the environment, saying a prayer, taking in the sensations of the smooth wood, burning incense, the chanting and the peace. I put some coins in the box. I watched as a young man reached to ring the bell, pulling on the rope as thick as my arm. I would never pull it myself, but I was happy that someone was, as it’s purpose is to call in the residing sacred being to listen to your prayers.

The man had less enthusiasm than that task required, and the bell only made a weak “Umph,” as if it had been poked in the belly while sleeping. Feeling conspicuous, I followed a petite elderly woman down the stairs and went to stand in the shade of the temple bell building.

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My intentions completed, I passed under the bright Torii gate, and turned right at the next street. Back into the mundane world, the street was mostly empty of people, being an earlier time than the shops would open. I stopped to check my position in the universe via GPS and looked up to see with some surprise what was directly in front of me.

A green space, two huge Gingko trees standing behind a gate made of thick wooden posts, a small building, just right there off the street but somehow appearing far way. I could see a light burning inside, a glow even in the morning sunlight. The sign held names carved in wood in complicated Japanese characters, edged in black, benefactors I guessed and paper prayers tied to a rack.

I realized that I was standing in front of a Shinto Shrine. I stood in front of the washing place, a rectangular concrete water holder with ladles for washing your hands before entering the sacred shrine space. The color of the moss on the rock side was beautiful emerald green. Countless times this rough rock has received the discarded water as people purified their hands, mouth, before continuing with what ever task compelled them to come to this place.

I took a picture with my phone being mindful of standing to the side, as I had read on Google. I took a picture of only the place of “pre-purification,”feeling the shrine was too intimate a space to be photographed by a stranger. The sign, strangely in both Japanese and English told of the entities “enshrined” here for over 800 years; three Goddesses and an ancient Emperor. I don’t know how long I stood there. It was peaceful.

Over my shoulder I heard, spoken in English, heavily accented with soft Japanese,

“Excuse me, can I ask you something?”

Turning I saw an elderly gentleman with an umbrella.

“Of course! “ I said. He tilted his head and walked over to me.

“Why do white people, Americans, like to see our shrines?   Why do you want to see them? What do they mean to you?”

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I told him about being in a busy city all week and finding the quiet, the peacefulness, and the beauty of these places. We talked about our trip to Kyoto, and their trip to Monument Valley in Utah where he went on a tour in a dusty dry April. We talked about animism and the Shinto love of nature as divinity. We talked about belief systems that are shared across the world.

He told me about the shrine and the temple his family has supported for generations, the festivals where their three generations of men and women do rituals to sustain those places. He said they hold both Shinto, native to Japan, and Buddhism that came later. These kept his family and his life….”Good.” We tried to find words in common for vast concepts and succeeded in finding connection. He said, “I haven’t spoken English in a long time, it takes time to find the words, but it is good to do this….”

It was then that I remembered the stone under my feet and the sun on my face, it was time to take leave. We exchanged emails, his being the date of the Equinox in 2009, he suggested we should go visit Nara next time; I would like it very much. His family lived to the south, he mentioned the station stops they would make, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara then home. He asked again,

“Why do you like these places? What do they mean to you?”

I was around the corner and down a bit before I realized the question and understood the magic of meeting an English speaking, learned Buddhist elder with a life-long process of ritual and belief, standing before a shrine, in a nearly closed shopping area in Nagoya Japan, on a Thursday. Only because I was in a child-like state: open and learning did I fulfill my part of the process.

It has been 22 years since I have experienced that method of enquiry; and it took some time to find the experience he referenced, because that’s how it works. I had a painting teacher from Okinawa, a very fine mentor for a Fine Arts degree and a “being true to self” degree. He told us, “Make a mess! Try it out! Take chances!” He never lectured, he only asked questions, in English heavily accented with soft Japanese.

I was young then, just 40, it took a very long time to allow myself to take risks and seek a higher creativity. It took a long time to understand that he wasn’t at all curious about the answers; he wanted me to ask them OF myself.

“Do you like that? Is this a good painting? Are you done with it?”

And I heard again:

“Why do you like these places? Why do you come to see them?”

I know the answer now:

Because sometimes the sacred beings come out as humans and speak to those who ask questions.

Because there is magic in the world.

All photos Carol Martell Nagoya 2016
Nikki Rowe Website
Http://www.goodreads.com/nikkirowe, Www.nikkijadecreations.com

Nanzenji

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The polished black taxi turned at the light, weaving a path down the left side of the boulevard, following the tracings of a shallow river.

A single white water bird stood motionless at it’s center, as if plucked out of the gold leaf of a screen painting from a 10th century palace. The silent driver navigated smoothly up the gentle slope towards the pine green mountains.

The quiet Sunday scene unfolded. Two women sat poised on fragile stools at the edge of the narrow rock canal, focused intently on postcard size sketchbooks. Children taking parents on stroller adventures on the narrow walks, a petulant two year old with tilted helmet sprawled in his father’s bicycle basket scenes rolled by our window. Something in the quality of the light, the deep angles of mid October deepened the shadows. We stopped talking about what we saw and just drank it all in silently. This is Kyoto Japan, and we are going to see Nanzenji Temple.

Even a week ago, I did not know I would be here today.

fullsizerenderThe trip was so hastily planned, I had no time to pack any preconceived notions. No room for worriment in our new lighter, sleeker luggage, still dusty from Tel Aviv. Cautious rumination on potentials and possibilities was just too ponderous for this brief window of opportunity. When an unexpected blessing flies in your window, best not to pick up the fly swatter.

Unforeseen adventures have been thrown down before us like shiny pebbles on a path, daring us to follow; demanding our expansion. It is an unexpected pleasure to find myself right here, breathing on the other side of the world. Without question it is the mysterious workings of the divinities on our behalf, ours is not to plan, ours is to accept the challenge.

The seats of the Toyota “COMFORT” were covered in spotless white knit with tatted lace edges.

The white-gloved driver paused at the traffic light waiting for the grandparents and some children on bicycles to pass. With a grand wide arc of a right turn I was jolted out of my “Zen flute” reverie and reminded of the left side drive when a passing car appeared to sport a toddler driver. Differences, opposites, are disconcerting in habitual behaviors like driving, language, customs, and affectations.

Yesterday we galloped across the Japanese landscape at 180 mph on the bullet train, released from urban Nagoya by the un-breach able Japanese standard; a five day work week.

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The first bullet train was invented in 1964 by Hideo Shima from Tokyo, Japan.Its launch occurred in October and coincided with the Tokyo Olympics. Bullet trains travel up to three times the normal speed of a train.(https://www.reference.com › History › Inventions)

I reserved a tour for Saturday afternoon, a useful practice for understanding “the lay of the land” in unknown territory. After an accidental circumnavigation- twice actually-of the Kyoto train station complex and it’s multilevel shopping areas we located our tour bus and cheerful guide.

Five hours later we tumbled out the left hand door, having completed a very brief acquaintance with three magnificent Buddhist Temples. Time was short, but “Hit and Run” tourism is not what we do. It did however solidify our intention on this, our only day here, that we would to find a quiet spot in nature for personal contemplation. To choose one sacred place to welcome into heart and memory was the task. This is Kyoto Japan; there are 1600 Buddhist and Shinto temples and shrines in this ancient city. What began as a choice, became a quest.

When moving north to south the movement of the wind of “un-creation” called “hurricane” changes direction.

Northern hemisphere whirlwinds, be they tornado, hurricane or even “dust devils” spin in a counterclockwise direction. Conversely in the Southern hemisphere, it is clockwise motion that marks a Tropical Cyclone or a Typhoon. I imagine it all balances out on some planetary scale. Otherwise wouldn’t we be moving through the universe like a Catamaran on a breezy day?

I don’t know what reversals of energies might operate on the longitudinal axis. What elemental polarities exist here in the land of the “Rising Sun” that move in the opposite at home. Could it be the frenetic multitasking of the West is an antonym for this culture? There is something different here; a single point focus to the task at hand that seems to generate deep layers of practiced mindfulness.

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In the predawn hours, by the glow of the ipad, I studied the possibilities.

Wading through countless comments and reviews of the “important” temples it became obvious; like faces and cultures, they are all interesting, all beautiful. The survival of these places of worship and understanding across epochs; political upheavals, wars and destruction are a reflection of the devotions of thousands of caretakers, across 100 generations. I choose a Temple, pinned it on my Google map, and went back to sleep.

My plan was to show the taxi driver the map on my phone showing both Japanese characters and English name and address; all potentialities covered. Ditching our overnight bag in a locker, we sprinted the two escalators, across the plaza of a thousand tourists, past the city buses, around the Cube café selling everything with fish in it, and found the Taxi stand. Spotting the curving lines of family cadres waiting for taxis, I assumed I had plenty of time.

注文     単純    バランス

 With the efficiency and speed of a Toyota assembly line, the long queue of impeccably dressed Japanese families on outing were dispatched into cabs. We found ourselves almost next up, phone in hand, glasses on nose and my map point was gone! Believing it to be rude to fumble our directions while others are waiting, we panicked, and stepped out of line. As seems to be the custom here, out of the ethers assistance appears. In a person whose sole function is to alleviate whatever congestion may impact the flow, a young uniformed English-speaking avatar of Japanese hospitality stepped up and asked,

“Can I help you?”

Glasses abandoned, my finger pointed to the green swatch on my map, its center marked with a swastika; the symbol for a Buddhist Temple. Yes, it’s the energy reversal thing. Take the reviled symbol, turn it the other direction and align it flat with heaven and earth, it means “All is well”, a symbol of life to Hopi, Celts, Hindus Jainists and yes, Buddhists.

“We would like to go there, would you tell him please?”

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A smile, a bow and we were installed in our white-seated chariot. We had moved beyond the contained clamor of a thousand weekend escapees from Tokyo and Osaka.

Unlike a New York City or Tel Aviv taxi ride, the car was quiet. Our driver’s musical preferences remained a mystery and his cell phone was silent. He was, in fact, doing only one task; taking us to our destination.

I looked down at the map and finding my glasses in my pocket, I came to realize. We were headed someplace else. We were going to a different Temple, a name I didn’t recall seeing. Nanzenji

It too was situated in a green space at the edge of the mountain, marked by a swastika. For a fleeting moment we considered attempting a change mid route and realized the futility of communication. We also realized all that had transpired for the purpose of rerouting our mission.

Nanzenji was chosen for us, the magic had begun.

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Silently we ascended into quiet neighborhoods standing with shy elegance behind their wood gates and stone walls, gliding directly into the waiting arms of ancient the Holy Cedars, Camphors and graceful Pines on the steep side of the mountain. My heart sunk when I saw the parking lot crowded with tour buses and hustling tourists. But our driver didn’t stop there, he moved upward down a small street, and then a lane. He pulled up at the base of a stone walkway and stopped. Pushing his front seat control, the back door opened and we were deposited on the damp street.

We stepped out of the car and climbed the steep rock step, at the gate between the worlds. The sense of stillness was so dense it seemed we could lean into it and not fall down. It was the sound that entered our awareness first. Before even looking up to our destination, there was the sound. The sound of moving water against cut rock.

As we stood on the veranda of this sacred space I heard a quiet whisper, “ In this place there is no sense to struggle for separateness.” As we turned to climb the hill towards the first gate I heard only their grateful sigh, as souls dropped into the sacred patterns of the water element, each ending this journey and beginning another.

And so began the journey.

BWOwl

Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

washing clear the traffic of mind and senses

Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

dressed in a sparkling pattern of diamonds

Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

dancing the song as given, singing the mantra

Water from the mountain, flowing down the cut rock path

order simplicity balance order simplicity balance

                                                                                                                                                               Cak Kyoto 2016

http://www.nanzen.net/index.html

The Goddess Showed Up Today

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Arthur Rackham

The Goddess showed up today in an Empress gown, as did the ecstatic Fool, and the Devil with his beguiling face. The Motley crew of truth rode in on their magnificent horses; Fearless, Freedom and Fun. The trio showed up in full form, squeezing themselves into our tiny nomadic living room through a doorway half their size.

Power of Horse and Archetype permeated the narrow living space so completely that there was no breath to breathe, but their own. They stood heaving their barrel chests, lungs pushing ribs in a rasping pant. Sweaty withers twitched, frothy from their swift charge across rolling green hills and shadowy deep valleys of my still mysterious unconscious. I was there, but unaware. I remained bent over the photos on an ipad, lost in my own soliloquy. I didn’t note their grand entrance or the ringing in my ear.

I was there, but unaware.

Scraping hooves laid deep grooves in the thin linoleum. Nostrils the size of my fist, billowed steamy breath rising to the ceiling. Their collective prana gathered into swirling black thunderheads that roared their own mission through the small, unheated space. Fueled by infinite possibility, the clouds towered upward, ricocheting off the low ceiling, condensing against the cold windows. Mist from the breath of hallucinations purified the atmosphere of worry with sacred rain.

I was there but unaware.  

While our heroes stomped impatient frustration, I remained hunkered down on the small polyester clad dinette. My shoulders bent by the weight of “What if, is it possible, and maybe we shouldn’t”. Trying to create the future without dreaming it first is a wrench. I was there but unaware.

Le Char d'Apollon (Chariot of Apollo), ca. 1910

Le Char d’Apollon (Chariot of Apollo), ca. 1910

Fearless, being the closest, leaned forward with the Devil of Humanness on his back. He stretched his bony finger at a spot between my eyebrows. Water ran down his hand, dripping on my computer.

“Move on!” He bellowed. The words rang with crystal clarity, banging a direct hit on the closed door of my solar plexus. The phrase from Sondheim’s song, finally heard and understood. “The choice may be mistaken, the choosing is not!”

“Move On!!” they roared.

“The door is open, the dirt is dark, so go already!”

I remembered the mission, finally linking action with intention. The blessed Aha! Moment. Is it Illumination or illusion? Some might question my counsel. I would not. They have led me too many times in and out of dark pathless places to doubt their motives. An Archetype’s only agenda is truth.

I am here and I am listening.

In Search of…..What? In Search of Who..? Revisited

redonwoodsThe Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I am accustomed to tending my own garden of Psyche daily. I work each morning as a medieval monk tending the medicinal herb garden. It’s solitary work. Strong medicines need quiet voices and patient hands. In this garden of “Know thyself,” and it’s corollary “Know Everyone Else”, the Devas hold the schedule, I hold the hose.

I seek the smallest of keys, the softest of voices whose demands create heaven or hell here on earth. I am a devotee of the siren called Relationship. Without relationship, love is lost, if love is lost, all is lost. The answers to the “good life” quest are all right there, floating in the rich soup of interrelatedness. It is appropriate then to find myself here.  Queries of life should be answered in the field, library research is far too easy, far too clean.  It is a shock to witness the deep clouds of aged aloneness that are all around me.  Their solitary presence as palpable as the gnat that floats in my coffee, right under my nose.

Why do so many fragile elders live out such lonely endings to their “Well-lived” Lives?

These are the superfluous thoughts that I ponder in my garden. In Florida, the hearing is hard and time runs short-endlessly. Thoughts are cheap; connection requires deep attention and careful listening. If I wish to hear them, I will. Once heard, I will have to listen, and I already know the sound is deafening.

 

Deva

MysticalconversationredonIndo-European, Sanskrit word for God, originally thought of as feminine. The modern word Goddess has changed connotations to represent a lesser form of divinity. Deva had the meaning we typically think of as the word God today, however God was thought to be the Great Mother.

In Buddhism Devas are highly evolved beings who inhabit different levels of existence. Devas are commonly associated with great beauty and bliss.

Modern New Age versions of Deva’s are thought of similarly to angels, nature spirits, or fairies.
Pronounced Day-va.

 

Is there anybody there?

In the heat of August, our 1960’s era Florida ‘hood seemed nearly abandoned. Air conditioning and cicadas humming in unison, shades pulled against the relentless sun; we are all hunkered down in our separate oasis. In gentler October, I came to discern the fainter life force: there are many more people here than meet the eye. Empty carport and weekly mowing does not necessarily denote a Michigan snowbird’s empty winter escape. Is it a clever vacation timer changing channels in the late night TV glow across the street? Or is there a gnarled hand on a sticky remobecomingRedonte picking endlessly at the arm of a single recliner in that darkened room?  When I look at the blank face of that picture window, I wonder what looks back at me.

By November, my own lack of critical agenda mixed in the Ethers with the timeless energies and endless ebbing of those in 30-year retirements. Only then did I begin to hear them. I accepted the possibility that hearts too fragile to be “out and about” lived amongst us; close by and yet unseen. Yes, some of our neighbors have been here a very, very long time. Current wisdom calls this “Aging in place.” With enough resources one can stay home until you die, sometimes alone, sometimes leaving another alone for the first time in many years.  Sadness and fear are the concrete reinforcement of loneliness, once hardened, so hard to get free.

How can I help and why don’t I want to?

An opportunity to interact with a silent neighbor arrived via Postal indiscretion. West became East and switched mail brought an impromptu visit from a frail neighbor. I didn’t recognize the Deva in the background right away. She stood no taller than my chin.  Her razor sharp blue eyes shimmered above the optimistic swash of pink cheeks. Our visitor knocked on the door with authority belying her tiny stature. I was surprised by the friendly face; she took that in stride; she needed to sit down. Lowering herself into the nearest chair, she announced herself and her mission. Panting a bit, she noted my painting of wings on the wall nearby and identified herself as a fellow painter and designer.

Had I not been wearing my Florida Fairy foiling earmuffs, I would have identified her immediately as one of the “nature folk” or “little people.” Diminutive in size but powerful in Spirit, these forgotten folk are part of mythology worldwide.  Mythology means “replaced by a different idea,” it doesn’t mean “extinct.” It has been my experience that occasionally one of these Folk will drop into our amplitude to whisper in our ear

oldangelRedonor whack us up the backs of the knees all the while screeching “WAKE UP” directly into our hearts. She had appeared at our doorstep having trekked down a half block on slippered feet to deliver a bulk rate package gone amiss. “He” was just out of the hospital that very afternoon from a hernia operation. The timing of this sortie was just so untimely. I was so taken by this elf in my living room and the stream of wordless language flowing out of her that I forgot myself and offered her whatever help I could.

“Oh no, we’re fine. He just isn’t feeling very well.” She said. Another sign of the Wee Folk; reverse hyperbole.

 

Then I heard the Deva, “She wants you to come with her…”

I walked her home, offering first to drive the span of four driveways and a street. She reminded too much of the gentle gray doves we see splayed out on the road because they just won’t hurry. She told me of his stomach pains and his surgery, her cancer and her painting, “He” was installed on the couch when we got back. There would have been surprise on his face as we walked in together, but it would have taken too much strength. He was saving what he had to speak gently to his partner.

Haunted

He told me he came here for the small airport; he was a pilot then. She said they bought the house for the pool; so much fun for his grandchildren. He said, “They are grown now, haven’t been here in such a long time, but they used to like to come.”

There were ghosts of good times watching them; the reapers of regret piling their sheaves high. I sat and listened, learned about life and longing and love. I called on every angel I knew to help them, and to help me know how to leave this house without bundles of baggage that I didn’t pack.

She showed me the pool; vacuum bubbling away on its appointed rounds. When had someone had last jumped into that clear water? Was there ever sand on the floor and food in the fridge? When was there last a child sleeping in the three empty guestrooms with sheets on the beds? My silent questions were sucked into flocked walls and thick carpet and left unanswered. The density in the room dared me to stay longer.

“No food, no wine, no fun!”

She waved at the artwork layered on bookshelves and the cases of small cans of liquid diet stacked in the Formica kitchen. Paints were laid out on a card table in the sun. “Do you paint now?” I asked. She said smiling, “Not inDeathRedon a long time, my back hurts too much.”

I asked if it was hard to not eat food anymore, cancer had taken that too. “No food, no wine, no fun!” she said.

I sat for a while in their living room taking in the dire straits in this home. Health completely gone, mobility quickly disappearing, they were collectively a ship with ravaged sails facing an oncoming storm. I looked for despair but couldn’t find it, neither could I feel anger. It did seem that sadness took up the best part of the couch. The professional part of me asked, “How long could these two support each other and their own disabilities?”

 

The partner part of me knew the real answer: until “Death do they part”, and probably beyond.

I walked home with my bundle of information in a language I didn’t understand. It was heavy and bulky, it smelled a bit rancid. I resented carrying it home, but I did. I put it in my studio room under an unfinished painting. I hoped they would talk between themselves and get back to me on its meaning.

twoinboat

Well they did. It came to me in the form of a recommended article from a dear old friend from my ancient past. A fellow sojourner in the early days of our “We can do more.” Ideas in the Ether, stay in the ether, unless they are processed via focus and form into concretized products. She wrapped love around that article and sent it out. This my friend, is the product of that bundle. Thank you

To our silent neighbors all around

I know you are there, I hear you and I send you love

Addendum

January 20,2016

Not sure why I revisited this story written when we lived in Venice Florida in 2014. Possibly because we will drive down that street in the next few weeks and I need to remember the heart of it and not just the face. It was a good chapter, full of family and fun. I discovered I needed to find my roots again. I did pull my intention out of the Ethers, we are back in my homelands for this part of the journey.

Our tiny sweet lady’s husband died shortly after this was written, she followed, just a bit later.  I heard this from her neighbor, as she was moved to a “higher level of care.” One of the children moved into all those empty bedrooms with a shiny clean pool. Our “across the street” invisible TV watching gentleman also died that winter while we were away for a weekend. Turns out he did have family. Shortly after, I was holding the hose on some parched Gardenias when I saw a young man move away from the foul tempered house emptying cadre filling a dumpster, to sit on the back bumper of an old van. He bent over out of sight of the the others, and sobbed a river of tears into his hands, shoulders heaving; a heartbreaking scene.

All that sadness, anger, depression, whatever the emotions that existed in that living room were all still there. There’s always someone in each family who chooses or is chosen to hold that basket. The house had been foreclosed upon, those that went in didn’t stay long inside. The living conditions inside were just that bad.

I said a prayer for this sad boy and I thought our tiny neighbor from the wee folk was right there next to me. When we were done, she looked up at me with a look that told me, “You don’t understand now…but you will.”She patted my arm, gave a little wink and walked back up the street to her old house.  I was happy to see a bit of Spring in her step now.

The younger 60’s hippie neighbors to the left of him also left quickly, they did it with a rented truck and a friend’s pickup.  We followed a bit later, selling most everything we had gathered there to a picker with a turkey vulture mentality.  On Ground Hog day we will set off to revisit old territory with a new view of our life. It will be wonderful to see family, watch the sunset, walk the beach.  Thank you Florida for the good lessons well learned.

All paintings by Odilon Redon

http://www.odilon-redon.org

http://terrainwalker.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/native-american-little-people/