Seeing in the Dark

Beneath the blue skies and cows of Schoharie County, New York lies a deep vast cavity, a cavern, named Howe. I’ve met other caves, with more expressive names like Mammoth, Wind, or Jewel. They were remarkable, but Howe Cavern holds a place in my childhood mythology. On the impetus of children two generations forward, I went there again.

A journey in the deep underground is like a stroll through your subconscious on catwalks. 

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We are creatures originally designed for the horizontal paradigm. Moving vertically feels different, it requires machinery, it requires trust. A bit of vertical venturing, like a bit of adrenalin, sharpens the senses, opening the mind to abandon limits of gravity and time. Remember your first view from 10,000 feet? Yes, human beings can fly.

Our group of 30 explorers represented most of the ambulatory human life stages. The elevator squeaked open and multiple three-generation family groups, and a twenty-something couple shuffled into the small space. “She” and a child squished in the back between two bellies, giggled as we landed at the bottom of the shaft with a delicate “thud.”

Our sticky tribe of humans and a cloud of upland humidity exited the shiny silver elevator as if a single entity.  We squinted into the dimness, collectively feeling our way forward into the cool rocky vestibule.  Once adjusted to the close proximity of strangers, chilly dampness, and low light, we shuffled down a gentle grade to form an awkward body of souls at the mouth of the cave.

Our elevator operator slid around shivering children and elders in tightly laced sneakers. Reaching the edge of light and darkness, the recent High School graduate turned to face us, identifying herself as our tour guide. There was no doubt. Her pale skin and light blonde hair were a reflection of where she spent her summer days; 200 feet underground in 58 degrees. With the flat A’s, and nasal tones of Central New York she greeted us.

Welcome to Howe’s Cavern”

I intended to listen but something in the deep darkness beckoned. I was attracted to a sound. A single drip of water spoke in the velvet blackness behind me. Nothing is so dark as the inside of a cave. Breath aligned with the water’s cadence, and a well-practiced response of relaxation and expansiveness dropped into place. I sensed a movement and a gentle migration of air.  It was as if we had landed inside the great chest cavity of a great snoozing deity. I stifled a giggle.

The group began to move.  I stepped out of the reverie in time to follow the group down the path, as the lights clicked off behind me. The guide looked over her shoulder at me. Wielding all the power of her position she shot a stern, silent warning in my direction to “keep up.”  She addressed the group before turning on her heel and continuing around a rocky corner.

“Don’t touch anything, stay together, follow me.” She said.

The rules of visiting this alternative reality were simple. The path that followed along the tallest side of the cave wall was lined with iron handrails. Warnings about defiling the cave were dire.  It was enough to know that our worldly breath and the lights for safe passage had caused small patches of green moss to grow on the walls. Taller trekkers might have to duck here and there, but it was as easy as a stone path through a formal garden.

 Spring water: a term that has lost its magic.

It is alive and well and living under the earth. In her practiced patter, the guide explained that it was water that carved this open space, it was water that rearranged the limestone into round smooth assemblages across years with six or seven zeros. Lest we think this system is always a quiet trickle, she pointed out the high water mark a good 20 feet over our heads.

A small trail of pristine clear water traced the crevice along the irregular stone edge of the walkway. The sound of the water romping with small pebbles erased the chatter and footsteps around me. I imagined my relative position underground with all that dirt and rock between me and the sun. A sense of childlike joy and excitement welled up in my chest with clarity and memory trotting along just behind. I turned to speak to the person behind me and found the space empty, and the darkness full of “life.” I shrugged off a minor Déjà vu moment and padded along behind our group.

Caves are surprising.

About midway through the cave, the cool moist air became an animated interactive participant this 90-minute “Walking Meditation.” Each breath seemed to “high five” on the inhale as it flooded my bloodstream and cells with its own unique Mantra. Standing in this singular place, my busy mind stalled and rolled to a stop. I stood in the present, and the physical part of eternity turned her face to me and smiled.

Not everyone was dazzled. School children rubbed against their boundaries and irked their elders. A few visitors checked cell phones, chafing under the unexpected silence of “no service.” The guide led us along the red brick path to where two wide boats waited on the now substantial river of water.  The tiny capillaries had rejoined; this must be the Carotid of the cave.  We floated toward the sound of a waterfall, water flowing black ink at the sides of the boat.

Keep your hands in the boat!”

A sense of familiarity settled around my shoulders as we moved through the dim tunnel. A pale ethereal finger sifted through life experiences filed under “deep in the ground” and the smell of “wet limestone. Because the sense of smell has no use for the fine filter of ego, it remembers “all.” Back on the path, I spotted a hint of the original path. Old slippery bricks leading to a too small rock opening now barricaded by the lack of illumination. When lantern toting adventurers gave way to paunchy tourists with spending money, it needed to be an easier trek. The slick wet rock floor had been redesigned to modern expectations, but the old steps were still visible to those who knew they were there.

It came as a short movie; one elevator with a rusty gate, creaking down through rock with a small cadre of schoolchildren transported in batches. Someplace between handpicks and hydraulics, I had been here before. The 3-foot pillar formation rose out of the floor with a rakish tilt like a small tower of Pisa. The water glistened on the outside, not nearly enough to form a drop, never dreaming of a rivulet. The guide droned the words with the modulations of a hundred times said,

“It takes hundreds, maybe thousands of years to create each inch of stalagmite.”

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The cool damp fingers of the moist cave air wrapped gently around the back of my neck. It was all here; in the smell of the wet rocks, and the muted echoes of children’s voices just ahead. The memory was inserted back into my conscious like a coin in slot machine.  I felt “her” as clearly as I remembered the square, sticky red tokens we purchased to buy milk at Goodrich school.  “I,” or “me” became multiple choice answers with a lifetime of editions. Holograms of earlier versions of myself tapped at my shoulder and winked at me as they touched the forbidden stalactite forms with their invisible fingers.

I had stood exactly here; in front of the stalagmite named “Chinese Pagoda;” when I was 12, and before that at maybe 8. Fifty years had passed, “up there.” Most of my lifetime was already listed as “past experience.” Down here? Same old, same old. In the land of Quantum Physics, how fast does a rock vibrate?

My sixth grade “self” came forward then. Did I bring her or was she here in the cave the whole time? She leaned forward and I saw her curly brown hair and wide plastic headband. I looked down at my feet expecting to see the turquoise Keds and white socks of 1967.  She seemed unaware of me as she reached out- almost daring to touch the forbidden rock formation, but pulling her hand back in at the last minute. I saw her look over her shoulder as if she felt something, someone who couldn’t be seen. I couldn’t mistake the movement; I had done the same around the last bend.  She was looking for what she felt.  Looking for validation of what her more subtle senses knew:

“There is someone here with me.”

The thought of an older wiser version of myself following the “child me” down the cave path made me smile, then giggle, then laugh out loud. Nesting dolls and onions and artichokes!  The universe has a sense of humor.  There is no “back then” or “will be” there is only Now.  We are all here together.  What a hoot!  Images of all of us, countless iterations of “me” turning our heads simultaneously when asked,

“What’s so funny??”

If you would like to experience a bit of personal eternity and there is no cave nearby, there is a process for seeing through the partitions past and future.  It involves laying in the Earth, like a child on the beach. You could cover yourself with a cloth, some sand or earth. Stay there until all the doubts and illusions have migrated out like earthworms to the damp darkness and you can arise again reborn.

Reborn into the knowledge of who you really are.

You will find yourself renewed with the understanding that life is not a permanent condition and one had better get on with it.

Let’s Get Real

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Each day begins here with a parade of ten feet,

straight to the back door.

Standing in bathrobe and bare feet, I pulled the curtain and clicked open the lock on the sliding glass door. The dogs bounded outside, animated with unbridled enthusiasm for the smells of a new day. This is our morning ritual. I open the door, and they rush to experience the day in the “here and now.” On this morning, I stood behind the glass, reading very tiny letters that scrolled across my phone, ignoring the magnitude of the direct revelation that lie just outside this half-opened doorway.

Dogs are pragmatic and opportunistic, especially in the morning. There were two activities afoot; parallel purposes of equal importance.  The first: find what is “different.” What has changed in my universe since I passed here last? WHAT is NEW? Novelty is a powerful stimulus.

“Rabbit was here, …..ugh, that squirrel, Blast him!

Yup, Possum passed by… what is … THIS!”

 His nose dusted a pile of sultry pellets with the smell of Kale from the garden. He froze in perfect “Retriever” posture, pointing to the Hawk overhead. The hawk screeched out his protest at the indignity of being “run off” by the gang of blackbirds nesting on the swampy edges of the open field next door.  The dog’s interests lie mainly in waterfowl, retrieving a raptor isn’t part of his genetic programming. He moved on. Each novel sensation analyzed, swift judgements noted, their astute observations filed  within the canine collective wisdom under “What I know,” or “I’ll pretend I didn’t smell that.”

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My eyes did see the midnight blue Morning Glories. I heard the Sparrow call his mate from the garden fence, but my mind, my distracted, busy mind was attentive only to what I had chosen to see.   I was engrossed in a research article concerning the benefits of children spending time in NATURE.

That’s NATURE in capital letters,The evidence based therapeutic NATURE comes with trained professionals and private funding. It is not the “garden variety” cavalcade of Nature that lives in my house, under my house, and all around all of us.  That Nature is so richly accessible here that I need to wipe it off my feet before coming into the house.

Meanwhile, in the yard, the dogs had moved on to the second agenda; finding the best place to squat and eliminate that which was indigestible from the day before. It seems that a bit of visceral adrenalin helps in satisfying this task as well. A good bark, a growling offensive at the Woodchuck through the fence and viola! whatever didn’t serve yesterday is gone. Could it actually be that easy to discard the unusable “stuff” of life and start fresh?

Mammals enjoy watching a good “fight for survival,”

keeps us regular.

A soft breeze carrying the fragrance of wet willows blew by me as I stood at the open door. It cajoled my attention away from the incendiary news headlines, Facebook posts, and late summer LAST DAY sales that clogged my Inbox, I saw a tiny movement halfway across the yard.  It was just visible above the grass as long as a week of rainy days. Two black wing tips fluttered open, then closed again.

I stepped out the door, off the deck, and settled bare feet into wet grass, all the while watching the slow cadence of the wings, without drawing the dog’s attention. A few good breaths and I was “in it,” back in Nature as a participant instead of an observer.  We are after all, also THAT.

Moving closer soundlessly, I could see the black wingtips of a Swallowtail Butterfly.  I saw the velevt softness of her wings, decorated with sky blue dots, and false eye spots that could fool a nearsighted potential predator. Her perfectly articulated “swallow tail” wings echoed the barn swallows that swooped overhead, feasting on post rain mosquitoes. Silent wings opened and closed to her own music as she extended her proboscis to partake of what this world had to offer.

Zinnia Abundance all around and you choose this…?

This is late July in the short Operetta that is a northern NY summer.  On this patch of land, on my watch, the people get paths and the wild things get everything else. The Milkweed is for the Monarchs,  the red clover, and Queen Anne’s lace bring in bees and bugs of all sizes. There was a pot of vermillion Geraniums on the deck and a galvanized bucket of summer Zinnias in Crayola colors next to the tree, a yard away.  The tall Phlox are just blooming, and even the Spring-time Wisteria has a few late entries nearby. For a Butterfly in July here there is so much to feast on.

Despite all the “Healthy Choices,” this beautiful creature, product of astounding feats of adaptation and evolution was sitting on yesterday’s dog food indigestibles, yes, she was enthralled and enthroned on a pile of yesterday’s rain soaked dog feces.  And what’s worst, she looked quite pleased about her find.  I checked back in an hour and she was still there, apparently fascinated with this pile of dung. This sad scene was reminiscent of my intended 2-minute email check that becomes an hour-long romp through Pinterest and beyond.  Hours dissolve while a weedy garden waits, and good books go unread. The metaphor slapped me in the face, and I am taking this to heart.

The extraordinary devices of connection and communications are merely tools and not wise Oracles. Are someone else’s selections and their advertising sidekicks worth that much space in my life? Second hand emotions and pre-digested opinions are no equal to direct experience. I will take my Nature straight, and I don’t need a battery.

Maybe I’ll get a watch.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Peeking Behind the Gossamer Curtain

Three years ago on this day, on a silent clear night in northern New York, we stood quietly around the suddenly still body of our amazing Mother. She died there in the wee hours, in a gentle handoff from the physical folk to the ethereal extended family. It seemed to me then that she somehow exhaled herself into the next realm. Her arrival was planned, practiced and practical; her fragile body was beginning to deteriorate. Once she could no longer walk in the woods or kayak the edges of water, it was time to move out.

Her Spirit died into the next world while the moon was overhead. Her earthly remains left her 14th story “tree house” for the last time in the mid-afternoon of that same day. Lovingly tended by her daughters, just as our Grandmothers would have done, she appeared little changed.  It seemed she was just finding her new abilities, illuminated, but just so much happier. Dressed in her favorite gown, itself a shiny beige veteran of two grandchildren’s weddings, with warm socks, she held tightly curled fern fronds and flowers from a Spring that hadn’t yet arrived.  She had gone on: “To my next adventure.”

It was our job as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, neighbors and friends to wave good-bye, preferably smiling. If you couldn’t muster that, no worries, she was going anyway. In her last gaze I think she saw all, understood all, felt all, everything that everyone did was all- O.K. in her book. Had she been alive, she would have taken just the tiniest nibble from those ferns, …just because they were so beautiful.

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Fern Carol Martell 2010

“I am ready for my next adventure”

These were the words she used to explain why she was ready to die, and why she would go willingly. I believe she was still smiling when her “earth skin” was slipped into the plain pine box of her own choosing. It was Amish plain pine, freshly sanded and unfinished. By necessity it stood overnight in a funeral home surrounded by gilded guilt and the heavy décor of regretful sadness.

Her casket; if you would call it that, stood proud and simple. Had she still been there she would have remarked about the grain of the wood, caressed it with her hand, her long arthritic fingers seeking the lifeforce, reminiscent of ET’s heart touching scene. Wood grains were a passion with her! She would have found the rough place I remember seeing. That sticky knot that made me wonder if this pine box was still planks when she died?

I remember we opened the dark shades in the “room of sadness.” We opened the top of her box to tuck in bits of memory; tiny flowers and the secret missives from her favorite fans. I recall a flash of future déjà Vu that I would recall that exact moment in the future, which is today.

“My Angels Were Here”

My Mom was unusual in that she welcomed death into her life with curiosity, anticipation and a smile. While others may choose to clutch and cling to their life with the last drug and surgery, she opened the door to the next life with intention. She made her path clear of medical interventions, she asked for comfort and respect, and not much else.

She entertained the angels of transit into the next life quite regularly. She left notes to this effect, found later tucked into “must read” books and under cushions that we would move, “after.” I imagine she offered her visitors a keen interest in the subject of afterlife, and a cup of herbal tea. They seemed to stop in frequently, in her dreams, and at the edge of sleep; appearing from behind what she described as “gossamer curtains.” Those words always accompanied by a graceful arm movement that denoted her feeling the fabric and a subtle sense of the sound of bells.

They came to gently welcome her to her new existence, we mused. It was not unusual in the months before she passed to see her eyes shine in anticipation for her path, and in compassion for ours, as it was revealed. She kept it mostly to herself except when my path crossed theirs at her front door and the mystical mist still lingered about her.

Three years later I have grown skin back over the wound of loss. This is not a victim place, it is the work of grieving. Grief is love that echoes back at us when its target can’t be found. It takes a bit of time before we can scratch out the old address for our loved ones and forward our thoughts to:

Mom, Your Next Adventure, Somewhere in the Ethers, 87503

Now I can look at her transformation with appropriate joy. I can appreciate what a renegade she was; a consummate explorer in the unknown realms. Or did she know exactly where she was going because she had already been there?

Whatever the case, from my current position of safety and observation I can ask:

Where is it written that death must be faced with fear and pain, angst and anguish? At the end of a life, one could choose acceptance. I believe there is another paradigm that exists in parallel to the no hope “Grim Reaper” cheat death scenario. I want to take the Angel option; beautiful beings providing whatever you need for a sweet transition “Into your next adventure.”

Loving conductors, great music and sweet peace? Interested? Ask them.

I think my Mother works there, her name is Gloria.

Know in Your Bones-Solstice 2015

Harvest Moon George Innes 1891

“Harvest Moon,” by George Inness

Here we are in the land of real winter.

Four p.m. and the sun is setting over my field of dried Goldenrod. The plant kingdom outside my window is playing the Madrigal of “darkness into light.” Having read the darkening days, the plants have surrendered into the season, dropping down into the underworld to rest and recover after three busy Quarters of generativity. I have watched green turn to brown, leaf into root, the spirit of each moving out of the light, away from the touch of cold. To the square cell folk, darkness means relief for a while, of the burden of “growing and expanding.” Yes, green things are dying all around us. December in the north end of the Northern Hemisphere is all about dying back, dying into the whole.

“In nature, darkness is neither good nor bad but simply a neutral condition in which things rest, take root and grow.”

Thom Cavalli, author of Alchemical Psychology

It would seem such a tragic loss, but we know in our bones that the light will come again. I wonder as I watch, “What did we as humans loose when we forgot how to sit in the dark?”

Everything that dies “out there” isn’t abandoned or lost. It is cheerfully chewed on, mopped up, and fully consumed by the hungry creatures of the single cell set. When the light comes back, when the air is warm, when last years achievements have sunk deep into the mud, new growth will appear. We have exempted ourselves from this process. We have no imperative to stay close and warm and dream in the dark. This “quiet time” is healing time. Time and space allows last years hurts to fall away. Was there an ill-conceived branch or a vole-decimated root? No worries! Dream a new dream. All will be used. Ever see a plant landfill?

What if we had this much resolve to utilize our own emotional flotsam? What if we were positive that after a quiet dark time of reflection, our painful emotional escapades would feed our present life with the great vitality of a rich fertilizer? The key here is to know in our bones that the light will come again.

Could it be that healing hurt and tragedy, allowing joy to regenerate us, requires time and the acceptance? If we want to fertilize our psyche with the richness of the experience we call “life,” then we need to acknowledge a time called Winter. We require seasons to process the growing and the healing. My intention for a full lived life would look like this:

“I have used all my tools at least once, I have been on both sides of almost all the major relationship quandaries and have reached the end of my life holding lots of love and not much else.”

I think a bit of naptime might be good for our culture. An improvement certainly over the frazzled, out of sorts, 24 hour a day tantrum that is our Americonsumer Christmas. Never met a 2 year old who didn’t feel so much better after a nap.

Home at Montclair George Innes

Home at Montclair by George Innes

So here we find ourselves knocking at the Solstice door once again. Not so much dark as…quiet presence in stasis. My “well lived life” scenario in the dark times of the year might be:

“I will work a shorter day, sleep more, sit by a fire and allow the rhythms of the season to rock my psyche into balance until the light comes back.”

All made possible because…

We know in our bones that the light will come again.

We all crave alignment to something more ancient than our own most recent manifestation. Nature is beyond the teacher, nature is how it works. Is there a time when we will cease to need the dark in order to describe the light?

That’s a question for the spring!

Wishing everyone a blessed return of Light in whatever form you find most beautiful.

 

 

T.F. Cavalli, Alchemical psychology, Old Recipes for Living in a New World, (New York: Penguin/Putnam, 2002)

George Innes (May 1, 1825 – August 3, 1894) was an influential American landscape painter. His work was influenced, in turn, by that of the old masters, the Hudson River school, the Barbizon school, and, finally, by the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg, whose spiritualism found vivid expression in the work of Inness’ maturity. Often called “the father of American landscape painting,”[1][2][3] Inness is best known for these mature works that not only exemplified the Tonalistmovement but also displayed an original and uniquely American style.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Inness

“Harvest Moon,” by George Inness, oil on canvas, 30 by 44 ½ inches, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., bequest of Mabel Stevens Smithers, The Frances Sydney Smithers Memorial, 1891

“Home at Montclair,” allpaintings.org

 

The Really Big Dream

The imagination is not a state, it is the human existence itself. -William Blake

On a sunny Florida day in February our ‘round the corner neighbor erected a 10-feet tall wooden cross on their pocket sized front lawn. The towering rood mocked the cheerful “Alleluia” of pink plastic tulips lining church parking lot across Nokomis Avenue. Heavy beams tilted at an angle suggesting the bearing of weight. Red paint smeared and dripped from the bent spikes and onto the lawn. The assemblage was illuminated 24/7 against the dark southern spring evening with red rope lights. This was a serious installation, scaled to intimidate the passersby onto a one-way track of strong emotions: Fear Submission Repentance Anger Intolerance, they are all human flavors. What was missing was “Grace.”

killscreendaily.com

killscreendaily.com

When I first saw it standing right there in my temporary ‘hood, a chill of fear washed through my body. “That’s no way to get people to love each other,” I grumbled to myself, wiping sweaty palms on Khaki shorts. I felt bullied. There was more going on than a rapid heart and manipulated anxiety. A wordless wave of recognition swept through in my inner landscape. The first psyche searchers returned  with only garbled bits and thought fragments.

“I have forgotten something important, was it a memory? Was it a task?

No, it was a dream. The far seeing elves of Onus and Obligation were dispatched immediately to the misty corners of my right brain. They mined memories, poked the unprocessed, systematically uncompiling countless bits of dream imagery. Unearthed bushel baskets of half processed emotions stood before soggy cartons of unfinished business.

In this well-guarded corner of my psyche they exposed a dream box marked:

Really Big Dream”.

It was there, on a dusty shelf, towards the back of an unconscious cave labeled:

             “Probably Shouldn’t.”

As it came back into the light, I remembered the dream in Technicolor detail. It was a vision really, and we all have them. The revelation caused a small explosion of nervous sweat that gathered about the hairline at the back of my neck. By this time the alarms had sounded in my stodgy, conscientious, yet cautious left-brain. Verbal abilities coming back on line, this regulator of reason announced, “Your revelation could be another’s blaspheme! “

A far distant ancestor unfurled her flag from my DNA to remind, to warn, to encourage. She had such a dream as this one in a far away time. Its beauty was trussed up with stout cord to the memory of toasty toes and the smell of burnt hair. But a dream unspoken is only half dreamt.

In my dream I walked down an empty dirt road and came upon Jesus Christ on the cross. In my dream, he looked exactly like a million crucifixes I have seen; blood, thorns, mutilation, agony, disappointment, pain

… until he looked up with a most beatific smile and said,

 If you take me down and put me back on the ground again we could get something done!

It was a scene plucked right out of Wizard of Oz.

I recall the sensation of illumination; the divine being was rummaging around in my psyche for just the right memory and experience to keep me from ejecting myself out of this modern day Passion Play. Even when the iconic image is deeply embedded in our physical experience and collective mind, there are actions that must come from mortal hands. We must participate; we must step forward in support of divine causes.

So I did. I helped him down off that instrument of torture and he stood beaming with joy, his feet once again on Mother Earth. The rest of the dream was a colorful expression of love and exquisite beauty in all manner of things. Hate, separation, sadness, cruelty all receded like a storm tide: no longer needed.

The high Winds of human conflict and injustice were replaced with gentle waves of acceptance of our ignorance, the offering of wisdom, and endless boundless compassion. Compassion for our lack of evolution, compassion for our wounds. Compassion for our fear. It was beautiful. It was Peaceful. There was no fear.

It was a dream.

In dreamtime, all thoughts are acceptable and miracles are within reach. It’s when the dream drops into the circumspect atmosphere of my “self-conscious” conscious that the bonfire of potentiality is extinguished.

I suppose it is my humanity that shuts down this unreasonable magnificence. Communing with Divinities, and experiencing “Really Big Dreams” must be trimmed to a more manageable size.

There were no rules, no judgments about my worthiness.

It was a dream.

After all, who am I to question 2000 years of belief and dogma intended to explain why we aren’t all personally responsible for creating a loving and just world in this magnificent magical world?

Am I to imagine that I can report,

“We have all been fearfully frozen long enough! Let’s get back to he business of loving and learning see what we really have “under the hood!”

The possibility and potency of this high-octane dream was quite overwhelming. I wrote it down and put it away, for a year, and then another. The first year I was in a transitional place. My parents were now gone from this life, but there was still childhood furniture in my psyche. Rocking the Religion boat felt risky. It has been yet another year and the dream remains untold.

A dream unspoken is only half dreamt.

This dream was about love and acceptance, peace on earth, honoring and acknowledging a divine being. Not so controversial, but I still put it away. Is it easier to express negativity, like a bloody cross, than love and compassion?


    This is the Wizard of Oz paradox.

Hope and pray for something extraordinary.

Receive that gift, (wisher beware: true change is like getting a puppy)

Immediately upon receiving your prayer/wish we then deny its beauty and holler to go home where it’s “safe.”

And all that we, “Send me over the rainbow type” folks, actually require for our safety and sanity in this new reality is a bucket of water, and a wish.

    You will have to figure that one out yourself.


Found on ngv.vic.gov.au

Found on ngv.vic.gov.au

What if Christ, Allah, Buddha are all walking around somewhere? Or everywhere? Or even… together? What if they ARE that child, that old man, that smelly street person?

And wait, where’s the divine women? With rare exception on this planet it requires male and female. Her voice is here, can you hear it?

I can’t imagine that our best shot at peace, beauty, and love was 1000s of years ago.

“Keep your eyes peeled” we used to say, they must be here someplace.

William Blake Biography

 Born: November 28, 1757
London, England
Died: August 12, 1827
London, England

English poet, engraver, and painter

Read more: http://www.notablebiographies.com/Be-Br/Blake-William.html#ixzz3ojtUhTdv

http://www.blakearchive.org/blake/

http://www.philipcoppens.com/blake.html