Sunday, September 20, 2009

Returning from Elsewhere: Resolutions

Traveling again. Leaving home for non-home, this time dislocation from home more poignant. This time there are shadows on the road, deep trenches one may plummet into if unaware or taking the road for granted. The world is so fragile sometimes. The world is made of glass.

I need to travel. I have to travel. At least some days out of every few weeks. Even if I just go away for two days, no further than a day's drive and back again. I stagnate and putrefy in my own juices if I am stuck at home for too long. I learned that the hard way last winter, when I stayed home for a full six months. I should at least have gone out to California in the depth of winter, to get warm, to change my scenery. I won't make that mistake again, and this winter I already plan to head out West come late January. Sometimes the photography is the reason for travel, sometimes it's just an excuse.

This time the reason for traveling is horrific family problems, inherently dark and stressful material, another round of dying and endarkening. This time leaving I feel resentment for having to put my life on hold again just as I beginning to get it back from oblivion. This time I will not give in and take care of others before myself. This time I am traveling and none of it so far has been sublime.

Pacem In Terris, near Warwick, NY

Except for some portion of an hour at Pacem In Terris this afternoon, when I sat zazen beside Frederick Franck's gravesite there in the sculpture garden behind the house. Before I set out I planned to stop in, and spend an afternoon there. A way of soaking up some spiritual succor, tranquility, and support, before being gravitationally impelled into the latest family black hole. Yesterday it came into my mind's eye to see myself sitting there by his grave, companionably, weeping. Which I did, today. It also came to me to ask the spirit of this man, this longtime mentor to my spirit, for advice. And in my mind's eye, he smiled from behind his grave, and said, You already have all you need. I knew that was true. Even if I wanted more, even though there was no more that I needed to hear. He said as little as possible to me, with a smile to remind me that I already knew all this, of course, so go on and let me sleep.

And so when I sat crosslegged by his grave, this afternoon, meditating, watching the light change and the breeze flicker the trees above us, all was silent. He was silent, my heart was silent, and I managed at least a few minutes of no-mind. The silence was a balm, even the non-silence of people wandering through the grounds. Some might have even taken a photo of me meditating there next to Dr. Franck's grave; I don't know, I had my eyes downturned, sometimes closed. I suppose I was for a moment an icon among the icons, for part of this afternoon. The grounds were busy; there was a concert about to happen, and the concertgoers were wandering the grounds.

After awhile, I laid my left hand on the ground. I felt everything dark flow out of me, absorbed into Mother Earth to be cleansed and returned as living energy, the way tree-roots exchange molecules and worms churn the topsoil, cleansing everything. It's a wonderful truth that everything in the soil that we use for our flowers and vegetable patches has been through a worm's gullet, one or more times. Compost is the end-result of death and destruction. I formulated it to myself many years ago, and wrote it on a drawing I made: Shit and blood grow healthy roses. I felt my hand being pulled down further. It seemed as if the grave of the human man next to me was in league with the earth, both cleansing, both recycling the spirit to the pull of light. We are compost, we are starlight, we are the essence of exploding suns, we are dirt. Everything gold is supernova shit.

Eventually, I felt done. I rose and wandered through the gardens as before. I spent a long time looking at each of my favorite sculptures—he called them icons, or images—before deciding whether or not to take a photo. The light was very dramatic, and I made some photos that are unique. Even the previously-published photos of these icons, in his own books, don't look quite like what I saw and captured today. The light on the icons changed their meanings subtly, deepening and resonating. St. Francis' birds were more in flight than ever.

I thought about attending the concert, but I was called instead to spend more time amongst the icons. This was the right choice, because it led to me being all alone in the gardens for another hour, in near-silence but for the natural sounds of cicadas, birds, and wind, and the typing of the traffic. I spent a lot of time waiting for the shadows of the trees to move across the faces of the icons, just to get the right feeling in the photograph, the right blend of natural light and shadow on the steel and stone and glass of each natural face. I will look at those photos tomorrow night, not before.

The Unkillable Human, by Frederick Franck, at Pacem In Terris

This time out on the road I am destined to arrive wearily and warily at the home of my relatives, who are dying and losing their minds. This time there may be nothing I can do, or anything I can learn that will help us learn what to do. This time I already accept my helplessness in the face of willful denial of mortality; I'll just nod my head and pretend to play along and agree, and do what I choose to do, what I need to do. This time I have license to be the Trickster.

This time I have the rare license to use my vast powers for manipulation and management and grey eminence control. This time I can use those powers because they serve the highest good of all concerned. I rarely have such permission. We all have abilities and powers we choose to use seldom if at all; just because we carry them around with our wheel of archetypes doesn't mean we're to use them. This time I have license to watch the vampire's eyes. These are powers I've known I've had for a very long time; but I almost never use them. I am capable of many things: I am capability. Even less often do I get such permission. These things have to be handled the right way, by right action, even when right action uses patterns and tricks usually considered of the dark.

This time I will have to struggle to remember to treat my relatives as fully human. It's hard right now. This time I will have to retain some kind of discipline to get my own projects done in the midst of all this chaos and denial. This time I must keep myself centered despite all odds. To be human against all odds. To remember also to be gentle with myself. Dead deer by the roadside, the smell of a skunk, a possum laying by the highway rail, looking dead, but who knows with possums. The animal voices talking to me all day, in the clear light. This time to listen is to remember what I trust, and what I don't. To venture out from what we trust, remembering always to carry them within us, and to return home to them.

This time I will be happy to go home again, many journeys later.


  1. Excelent text man, I feel in love with it, it is classy, not corny or chease at all, I love it. It is also grim, dark, doomed probably as soon as it began. I love this gray atmosphere you depecit with your words, I like what you tell also. There are some real truth and some not.

    A brief note to finish, I went to study to LA, and I did not know possums existed, so I was walking towards the local pub my second day there, when this creature frozed, but I thought he was going to attack me, i spent more than an hour waiting for him to stop staring and loosen his body to sleep. We do not even have a translation for it, can you belive it?
    Stay in touch, I write like shit but sometimes about interesting things, you might like to see:

    and maybe:
    Glad to meet you, pal. If you like it please let me know what you think. Cheers!

  2. Hi, Mariana—

    Thanks very much for your comments here, and everything you had to say. I do look forward to further dialogue. I'll visit your writings later this week, definitely.