It never ends. It keeps going. The sun rises. The moon sets Waves crash and roll. A gajillion stars made this night sky The moon haunts the Earth’s shadow. My breath hangs as the air chills for snow. This year ends.
This particular one will pass with the whimper of losses. The rages of fires still burning on all the parched places. Our helpless actions. Witness. Willingness. Hands dropped to the side looking at the ground. Wondering…
Some waiting in lines for beer to celebrate and others food to feed themselves. Still we walk forward to another cycle. Another day. Week. Month. Year.
Each breath a gift. Our bodies filled and temporarily satisfied. The mind darts into the folded spaces Reevaluating life and death choices. Navigating the shifting moments that tumble forward. Rhythmically passing into the next revealing A mystery materializing while exhaling. Only to be drawn in with the next breath To scribble some more on the dreams still waiting. Hoping. A new year begins again. An unphased continuum of greater and lesser things. Life without end. Amen
This year ends as strangely as it began. From almost opening up and the expansion back into normalcy we’ve have collapsed back down into this place of isolation and uncertainty. We seem to be in this cultural societal unmooring of our normal traditions. We are grappling with a new way of being in the world. A new way of being with each other, new ways of communicating and interacting. There’s a strange awkwardness to this as we kind of navigate and discover. Building the skills and language of what was once( taken for granted) normal family and friends events and traditions.
Wi-Fi and the internet have become the new portals to old traditions, memories, greetings, and gatherings. Engaging in the physical world with our family and friends has become a tangle of protocols and questions. What is safe? What is possible? How do we create inclusiveness when there are clearly risks and dangers to each person’s individual decisions about covid and how they want to be in the world with it. The New normal is unsettling and even unsatisfying. It doesn’t meet our needs and also prolongs our isolation. Our ability to find ways to meet those needs is also a perilous tangle information and uncertainty with shifting mandates and suggestions. What we can and can’t do.
So in the middle of all of this…. at this odd junction. At this normal holiday season, my message is we have to adapt. Adaptation is evolution and sometimes if done right it’s revolution. I think the gift of what is happening now is that we can build on to make the world to be different. Change is not easy These things don’t come because they are easy. They come because we want something different through a process of awareness. The last two years have given us this gift. We want a world that offers us safety. We want a world where we feel like our wages meet our needs. A world where we can all find safe affordable housing. A world that is not being torn apart by war. A world where the food supply and the food chain is both sustainable and healthy. Nobody goes hungry. Every one has access to to medicine and education. We have these tools in our modern world that allow us to continue these conversations and to discover and brainstorm. Maybe even Barn raise the next generation of traditions that mark not just the grief of what we will lose because of what we’re going through but will in fact uplift us into a better vision for us, for the planet and beyond.
May the Holidays gift you with grace and the magic to inspire you into exploring the possibilities of next year
Over the last year or so many of the elders in spiritual communities that I have worked with over the years have fallen on some truly hard times. And it is with the grace of each community we support them through these hard times and hopefully to a safe landing on the other side.
I’m writing today because even though I see the goodness in this work of taking care of, triaging crisis and trauma it seems driven by a doctrine of neglect and poverty.
I look at the root as to why these women ( and men) get here and why they are left in this time of their lives with nothing. There are long winded manifestos of their gifts and selfless offerings to make the community, ceremony, festival, gathering as magical experiences. To encourage fundraisers and donations. And yet many of them have been living in sub par conditions, suffering from health issues and financially broke for years.
If they are so valued, WHY?
One of the first responses to this question is: They chose to live their life this way. They chose to renounce the real world. They chose to renounce the values of a society that didn’t value them and their work in the world. Hearing it from them, the saged wisdom keepers we flock to seems legit. This being their personal choice seems very noble, powerful and empowering.
Yet the reality of the conditions of their lives seems(to me) to be the very thing they claim they are not getting from normal social structures. To me the denial and disconnect is obvious.
I can’t help to wonder if really what they are doing is trying to fit into alternative social structure that help them justify their lack of skills to navigate in the real world (This can be do to mental illness, addictions, family/social trauma… Etc… ) It’s really easy to create uniqueness/eccentricities and be empowered by that (or expected fit into that role ) to justify isolation or feeling valued. This seems to be the way many communities are setting a precedent to glorify the inability to manage one’s self in normal society. It also cultivates a mind set of being spiritually moral or a more evolved human through accepting deprivation and poverty as lofty
A similar example are artists and other ceatives. They have digressed along these lines which is why the art world (the business of art) makes a tremendous amount of money off the artist while boxing the artist into an exploited situation.It is then this perception of the person that is used as a wedge between them and the very things they need from a community.
Many spiritual communities use this very practice as a means to exploit those who are socially unskilled or incapable of being socially skilled in a way that benefits the community or people who are in the upper echelons of those communities. This is a power dynamic that is acceptable in many of these kinds of groups. So entrained are these structures within these groups that questioning it will get you ostracized. When it is very cult-ish and abusive.
There are plenty of things about modern society that I can critique. There are many things about how money is used and misused. How resources are used and misused that I feel have led us to damaging the planet and damaging our society. But I’m also seeing within spiritual communities a way in which we say we value our elders but we do not even give them the resources to allow them to live a quality of life that is reflected back to them in what they offer. If they get sick they can make choices to get the best treatments and medicine.Where we make sure they have safe spaces to live. Communities often take from them and then value the sacrifice not the person. This misplaced value deprives them of asking for what they really need. It a dangerous immoral by-passing. It says their humanity is not important. It devalues them from having a life that is safe and secure.
As we are living through this time of catharsis, change and reevaluating our social structures/ spiritual structures, I think this is one of those moments where we really need to look at and come up with solutions that support the people we value in our society to know a vibrant thriving life.
Journeys begin sometimes with a dream. The dream for me started late summer 1999 at the end of a workshop I was taking. It was the end of the weekend and we were all laying down. We were doing the last meditation to kind of bring it all to closure.
As the drumming filled the air I went to a spontaneous relaxed vision…. but it wasn’t just a vision it was a full sensory experience. It was incredibly lucid. In the dream or vision I was flying amongst these beautiful cumulus clouds that had turned slightly pink from the setting Sun. I could feel the coldness of the air as I was flying through them and the sky was blue and the sun was setting. I heard a voice tell me to look down. I looked down and saw snow covered tops of pine trees sticking up through deep snow. Really deep snow. I flew over it I was completely transfixed by what I was seeing. The perspective from above was jarring. It was a cold frozen world. The very edge of the tree line before it becomes too cold for trees to grow.
The voice said people will survive who go here. This is where it will begin again. I flew around for a while longer taking in this experience. I continued to feel this cold wind in my face and the stinging in my nose and then the drumming ended and I woke up.
At that time in the real world, I was not someone who thought fondly of the cold weather. In fact winter was my least favorite season. Thought of going north to survive some apocalyptic something was kind of off-putting to me. Intriguing because everyone was looking to the equator for answers among the indegenous communities. I didn’t really understand the nuance of my vision but I knew it was important to remember and write down.
Fast forward several years and there was a series that came out called Planet Earth and I rented it from the library. I popped in the first DVD and I was blown away because what I saw was the exact same image I had seen in my vision years before. The camera was flying over trees covered in thick layers of white snow poking out of deep drifts of snow the end of the boreal forests where the tree line ends the frozen tundra. The edge of life and death.
Fast forward again to December 2019 and I am making my way across the country. This is the third time that year crossing the country. My travels this trip are to end with me teaching in California at the end January. I would be making stops along the way the most important was in the southern deserts of Arizona to listen. My destination was Organ Pipe National Monument which is about 17 miles from the Mexican border. I’m going there to experience the desert to listen to the sound of the Earth. To be out in the wilds to understand what the Earth is trying to tell us about how we need to be on the planet and what we need to do to survive the changes that are happening.
I spent 6 days out there. Amazed at the diversity and life force. The vastness of the stars. They were so bright they lit up the sky without the moon. You felt you were standing in them… In the universe. The extremes of the ecology that expressed a wide diversity of life forms. It is sufficed to say my experience in the desert was deep and profound. I left there altered by what I experienced. At some point I will write more about that but for now it ties into the next phase of what would happen.
I don’t think anyone was prepared for the pandemic or for a virus to overtake the United States but when I left California I knew something was changing I knew a shift was happening. The very last thing I saw when I left the coast was a pod of humpback whales as I drove down route 1. I would stop and watch them come into view. Watching them until disappeared and then I’ll get back in my car and I drove further south. Then I’d stop and I’d watch the pod reappear and I did this several times before I made that left hand turn onto route 127 to head East towards the Mojave desert.
Without getting into the whole sort of journey of avoiding covid and learning to live with a plague as a reality. My life got weird and strange. It went from bad to worse to bad and then it began to improve and somehow through the miraculous magic of believing and having faith and trust in myself and in others I ended up landing in New Hampshire to live.
A few months ago I was looking on the internet one day thinking about planning a trip to Iceland after the world got better. In the mystery of the great Google up popped this listing for the Arctic Circle Grail in Greenland. And I was really intrigued. It is not the edge of the Boreal forest but it is kind of the end of the Earth. It’s one of the farthest reaches of Northern landmass you can go. It’s as close to the Arctic as I’m probably ever going to get and I want to hear what the Earth says there.
Greenland is an interesting place. We know it from our Western history is being the place where the Vikings landed, tried to and failed to establish colonies. We know it as avglacier covered large island. We know it is right now the epicenter of watching our climate disintegrate before our eyes. It has a history of indegenous shamanism that sing ancient songs about the trees that grew all over Greenland in a warmer time. It’s a place fill with secrets. It represents a whole lot in regards to where the planet is going and what could happen.
I want to go and listen. Like I did in the desert in Arizona. I want to hear what that northern extreme place has to say. In my journey over the last 30 years of discovering my humanity and what that really means in relationship to other people, to places and with the Earth. I’ve come to realize that listening and observing is one of my best teachers. I’m hoping that if I make the journey. Put in the sweat to reach these places that the Earth has something to share with me. Something to teach that I can bring back and use in a way that helps to realize the changes that we all have to make so we can participate on the earth in a healthier sustainable thriving way.
My social media feed has blown up in the last few days with all sorts of anti-Thanksgiving, anti -holiday, anti-white colonialism, trauma triggering, day of grief and every other thing in between. Yeah, it’s a terrible capitalist funnel of a holiday based on a the bunch of lies written into a colonizer’s mythology that perpetuated some really horrible things against humanity… hundreds of years later, millions of lives exploited and lands ravaged we still press on and argue about this fictional event that tries to create an air of humanity and cooperation that never really existed.
At the time of this so called feast the story speaks of coming together to honor the shared hope of cooperation. In reality the early years of people coming to this country was pretty dire. Disease. Death. Starvation. Lack of resources to know how navigate the climate and environment. Couldn’t leave. Fear. Lots of fear. God really wasn’t helping them much. This isn’t an excuse for colonization it does point to the fact that people do desperate things to survive… And like most historical story telling of events of this sort, it is more about a moral teaching ( they were Christians). The written history of the event was probably made up to give some lightness to the terrible condition of living at that time and like lies do this myth rolled forward like a drunken snowball and crushed truth until it crashed into reality and fell apart.
So fast forward and this National Holiday is now a poster child for everything we can hate and fight about as this country tries to find its way and identity…. again….
My feelings on this are if it’s really that horrible let’s stop doing it. I’m all for simple affective action.
Of course nothing is simple when it comes to human beings. Humans hate change even if it is for a good reason. We seem to fight tooth and nail for traditions we know are exploiting , racist and such. All in the name of “identity” Some people can’t think it through or the media poisons reason with fear. Power and politics get involved… and from there it rolls into the dark crevasses of stupidity and violence.
Then there is the years and years of trauma that need to be reconciled and acknowledged. The perpetrators need to be vilified. Reparations need to be made. Reconciliation will take years and many generations to heal… It needs to be done. It will take awhile with a lot of being real and dropping the denial.
Let’s start some place…. like realizing we are not the story we have been told. We are not the history that has defined us. We can start today and use it to make a better/different world for everyone. We each have the capacity to make changes that are part of solutions no matter how great or small they are
Be kind. Be grateful. Nothing is guaranteed for anyone. We can spend our time beating up the choices of the past or being traumatized by the consequences that are fouling the future. The other way is to live each moment in service to making the changes needed for a better world.
Today with climate changes, population, depleted resources etc…. the road ahead is paved with migration and the diaspora of people to new places for resources and survival. If the past serves as a lesson then we can figure out how to do it differently… creating a real story of hope, cooperation and humanitarianism.
Happy Reconciliation in Action Day. May we all be graced.
Up here now in New Hampshire the day ends at 5pm. With a darkness that lengthens the night and puts frost on everything when the Sun returns at dawn. The leaves have fallen except for the oak and beech trees. The dry yellow grasses and weeds are dressed in tiny crystals of of frozen water that melt with the warmth and light.
All these familiar New England things are the gate keepers to the long nights and wintery days. The air fills with the scent of snow and the mountains in the notch are covered in whitness. Rime ice forms with the wind on tree branches…. The world drops into a monochromatic slumber of plans for the Spring. Archaic dreams that seep up from the subconscious and haunt the idleness on cold nights. The mind wrestling with regrets and unfinished novels to be written.
Or…. the renewed passion to start projects and finish that pile of books on the night stand. Wrapped in woolen fabrics that insulate the chill while sipping warm beverages. Cloistered in the cozy places with a view framing the day light passing.
We enter the dark. The deep long shadows of a Sun passing far south on it’s annual journey. The incremental ticking of time in ratios of light and dark. That alter the cadences of our minds and slows our bodies. Slipping into the in-between that ceremonially has been the place where seeds of ideas are fed the fears of inaction and uncertainty along with inflated potentials to become something…. anything…. in an effort to keep faith in the returning Sun and not be devoured by the night.
The howl is deafening. These winds of change barrel over The dried river beds. Raising dust on fields and blotting out the Sun. No rains come. The particles settle again waiting for the next gust. This dust becomes the equalizer. Everything is covered with it. Everything is colored by it. Browns and orchres. Turning gray with the grime and oils from cities. Dulling the colors of humanity. The poor wash their clothes and the rich play in paradise. Governments argue budgets and timelines…. Earth creaks and stretches. These winds of change blow.
The sun radiates through the near naked branches warming the wet left from the early morning rain. I walk along listening to the sound of my boots as they scrap and crush yellows and reds into the gray gravel of the path. Releasing the sweet decaying scent of leaves dying.
This earth perfume stimulates the memories stored of this fragile sweet time of fiery colors and wool sweaters. The olfactory notes of the season bring forward my awareness of life and death. The cycles of light and dark and the memories of places visited.
The fragrances of oak, maples, birch, poplars, and beech… every year a different batch and measurement of each to fit the experiences that lingered all year with the sun as it now travels south and the snows are soon to come.
The cold will clean the pallette. And these scents and memories will fall back into the dreams and winter sleeping deep in tree roots and the buds waiting for Spring. My boots will crush snow and leave tracks that will vanish into the earth.
This is a bit of a meader through my inner dialogue about this image I and painting. It started as an Instagram post. I though I share it here so I could add more to the ideas that are coming up around this.
Thoughts about this painting…. If Ba’al represents the regional God/diety of storms and rain and the God of the Bible represents all that created the world then it starts to separate and segregated the needs and access to divine intervention and relevancy in these relationships. We can look at it like weather and climate. Each in relation to the other.. So the storms of certain areas are a direct experience of those who live their and what drives that weather might not be anywhere near them. Shifts and changes would have consequences. And if your perspective was only channeled through the immediate circumstances then something like a climate would be mysterious and unimaginable.
If your people pray to the rain God and it doesn’t come then it could seem a failing to appease the diety. Then there would begin a recipe for taboos, rituals, and ultimately dysfunctional fall out of those things…. and conversely if all you knew was the bigger patterns of climate you might be disconnected from the traumas of weather and it conditions that affect people, places and things.
In this image I’m painting there is the simple chemistry of water and the sun. Two parts of what generates weather. The sun heats the surfaces of the planet creating convection and movement … wayer droplets rise into the sky and drift as clouds…. all this becomes the jet stream( I have radically simplified this process here because this is IG)…. as the droplets get heavier, temperature and such they fall to the earth…. for thousands of years people have give these phenomena names and called them Divine beings…
This painting start as just painting a goat and it has opened an box of connections, archetypes, and trying to bring together something ancient with the struggles we are facing today. I choose make this image feel like the alchemical manuals of the 17th century….that weird mix of God, and mysterious, curiosity, and to have that feeling of being a religious icon. As humans we has always clashed in these places…. and we are doing again. As these edges rub together and fray apart the fibers of beliefs and dogma then we might find away out of this.
Art should be in many ways, about documenting a period of time. A reflection of the society’s struggles and triumphs. The individual seeking of identity within a certain period of time. Art is that complex, multi-disciplined many armed tribe of creatures welding materials to define the angst through the architecture of a place and its people. It suffers the peculiarities of the artist’s personal lens who creates it and it is often the historical misunderstanding of real events after the artists are long gone and can’t defend their intent. Perspectives are like beliefs emotionally charged and defined by the sanity, woundedness, and vision of the believer. Perspectives feed on power and myth…. and with the right dosing become the stories that a are told through time.
I started a series of photographs called “What Remains”. It was a way to look as things that have weathered and endured. I photographed dried dead fish as I walked a long the Gulf Coast, drift wood, bones, the skeletons of buildings, Petroglyths, broken glass, etc…. Each image seemed to sit in the present silence of it’s subject. We become the witness in the voyeuristic myth of what it could be…. we make up a story to fill in the gaps…. sometimes we want a meaning that is sensible…. reasonable for what is left.
Humans have a tendency to want to see the ancient as sacred even if what we see today is the scattered dismantling of an entire group of of people by the violence of war. Then there is that romanticism with the exotic a long with comparison to completely different peoples and beliefs….. All very messy and not very good for sorting things out.
While thinking about all these larger philosophical ideas and rhythms I am still looking to find a deeper meaning in my own work. Something that will remain and have hopefully a meaning that carries it beyond what any contemporary perspectives and power seeking.