Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My grandmother was also skilled at growing things. Her handiwork could be seen in the mad jumble of flowers that engulfed the borders of her front yard - a triangle of grass graced by a towering flagpole in the center, and a scattering of white Adirondack chairs that gleamed in the summer sun. Family members swore Nanny could stick a dead twig in the ground and in no time it would sprout green leaves. Also, legendary was the St. Francis-like effect she had on animals. I once saw a vicious dog that would attack anyone in sight, roll on its back in front of Nanny, waiting for her to rub its belly. And then there was the rag tag band of cats that haunted my grandmother's property. I used to love seeing Nanny step outside the front porch door to feed them. Strands of her long, silver-white hair - escapees of her tortoise shell combs - would flutter in the breeze as she cried: "Ki dee. Ki dee. Ki dee. Ki dee." Upon hearing her, cats of every description would swarm her feet, and curl around her legs, as they waited anxiously for her to lower the bowl of cat food and table scraps. No creature ever went hungry if Nanny was around.
After my grandmother's death, when the family was dividing up the more valuable items in her estate, I asked if I could have just one thing of hers - a fluted, green, glass jar with a soft metal lid in which Nanny used to store her coffee. As I sit here writing, that same jar stands on a shelf in the window above my left shoulder. It's a symbol of the treasured times we shared. As a child I spent many weeks during the summers living in my grandmother's cheerful, sunlit house - the exact opposite of the dysfunctional, and often scary home of my parents. Each morning after waking to the crowing of the rooster, I'd push aside the brown rock that kept the bedroom door from sliding open, and enter the kitchen. As always, my grandmother was already up sitting with her back to the big iron stove with the emerald green, and creamy white, ceramic finish. I didn't have to be told what to do next. I knew the drill. I went straight to the sink, retrieved the green jar, and brought it to my grandmother. She'd then scoop up several spoonfuls of the fragrant grounds, and deposit them in the basket of the coffee pot. From my side of the kitchen table I could see the amber liquid pulsing up and down in the little glass knob in the lid. While the coffee perked, Nanny and I would eat out favorite cereal -Wheat Chex. A heartier breakfast followed at mid morning after we'd worked up an appetite outdoors.
On one such morning as she was pouring cereal into her bowl, my grandmother said something that demonstrated to me just how aware she was of our kindred natures. She said:
"You know, Glen. You're just like me. You have to live alone, because, when you live by yourself, you get up when you want to get up, you eat when you want to eat, and you go to bed when you want to go to bed."
How prescient were her words. In her simple, direct way she spoke volumes about my core being. Perhaps if I had heeded her advice I might have been spared a lot of drama in my life. As it turned out, all of my live-in relationships were stormy, to say the least. Although I'm a faithful, and loyal person, I understand how challenging it can be to live with my personality. My contemplative mystic, and exuberant artist sides can be difficult for one person to accommodate. I've often joked that if I wanted to achieve domestic success I'd need a different compatible lover for each of my two halves - one for the maniac, and another for the monk.
I should explain here that my grandmother lived independently for a long period of time - bringing up her three daughters without the support of a spouse. The man I referred to as Poppy was my step grandfather. My grandmother's first husband died when their daughters were very young. By all accounts, my biological grandfather was an abusive man who drank heavily, and gambled away the family's money. Nanny didn't remarry until her girls were all in their early twenties, and did so, only after Poppy had courted her relentlessly for many years. Although I have no doubts that she loved Poppy very much, I know a part of my grandmother sometimes craved the quiet, uncomplicated life of a single person. Nevertheless, I'm very happy Nanny remarried. Otherwise, I would never have known Poppy - a kind, hard working man who adored Nanny, and greatly enriched the lives of her daughters and grandchildren.
In addition to our shared love of independence, my grandmother and I had something else in common. Like me, Nanny had one one foot planted firmly in the spiritual world at all times. Exactly sixty days after his death, [the period of time prescribed by family tradition], my grandfather visited my grandmother. She said he came to her bedroom window, in what she described as 'flowing' colors, and said goodbye three times. That moment was supposed to signal the completion of Poppy's passage into the spirit world, but ,by no means, did it mark the end of his visits. Several months after my grandfather's colorful farewell, my sister Susan was cleaning my grandmother's bedroom when Poppy made his presence known. While Susan was dusting the furniture she heard a sharp "Ping!". She looked up and saw that one of my grandfather's mandolins that sat on top of an armoire, popped a string. My grandmother, who had been sitting just outside the bedroom door saying her afternoon prayers, [Nanny was religious, but not in a dogmatic, or overbearing way], peered into her room, looked at Susan without commenting, and went back to her prayers. A moment later a second string broke. Again, Nanny looked at Susan, said nothing, and resumed her prayers. When a third string popped, Nanny said to Susan:
"The mandolin is yours. Poppy wants you to have it."
The day my grandfather died I was at home in a place I was renting on the beach in South Wellfleet, Ma. My roommate, who knew my family well, and was very fond of my grandparents, sensed I was feeling sad, and said to me - out of the blue - "Do you want to go home to your family?" Without a further thought we left the house and headed down a long sandy road that ran beside a tidal creek next to where we lived. From there we made our way across open marshland, and through a moonlit forest of scrub oak that led on to the highway. At the time there was only one bus on the extreme end of the Cape. It came and went just twice a day - once in the early morning and again at night. We set foot on the highway just in time to hail down the last bus that could have taken us to Connecticut that day. My roommate and I decided to make a quick stop in Hartford first, in order to visit my sister Marie. It was bitter cold when we left the bus station and walked the mile or so to my sister's house. When we showed up on her doorstep Marie was shocked to see us because it was late, and neither my roommate nor I had thought to warn her about our arrival. After visiting for a couple of hours we were driven to the bus station where we boarded a New York bound bus that stopped in my home town. When we got to my parents' home, before we even had a chance to take off out coats, the telephone rang. My uncle phoned to tell us that Poppy had been taken to the hospital in an ambulance. A few minutes later a second call informed us that Poppy had been pronounced dead on arrival. I found out at his funeral, that my grandfather had made the rounds of the family the night before he died. He appeared in several peoples' dreams, and was seen by my Uncle John running down the staircase in his home. The day after the funeral, Nanny gave me Poppy's pocket knife, for which, (according to custom), I had to pay her a penny before receiving it. She also gave me his gold signet ring, which I wear to this day.
I was the last family member to occupy my grandmother's house before it was sold. I'm embarrassed to say I did everything I could to discourage the sale of the property. When prospective buyers would come around I would point out all of the defects - even hinting that the house might be structurally unsound. My aunt who was the executor of my grandmother's estate got wind of what I was doing, and I was forced to stop.
Finally, the dreaded day arrived. It was the tail end of autumn, and the air was piercing cold. I had decided the night before that this would be the day when I would end my occupancy. In less than a week strangers were set to move into my grandmother's house. Awakening at the dusk of dawn, I snapped open the shade of Nanny's bedroom. The sight that greeted me was breathtaking. There was white frost on the lawn, and sunrise was just a heartbeat away. Thinking it was the first snowfall of the year, I reverted to a childhood practice, and walked outdoors in my bare feet. Delighted by the crunching of the stiff, and glistening grass, I waited for the magic I knew was soon to come. And there is was. In the distance, beyond the huge Chinese elm, where the rounded edge of the lawn sloped downward, following the path of the tree-lined drive, the sun burst over the horizon. In a flash, a blast of gold lit up the frosted grass, igniting countless dewdrops into blazing diamonds. It was a sight I will never forget.
When I returned indoors I began the painful process of gathering up my belongings. This would be my final departure from the place that had been my childhood sanctuary when I needed to escape from the unhappiness at home. After I finished packing I decided to lie down down on my grandmother's bed and take a short nap. I fell asleep briefly, and was awakened by the sound of heavy footsteps in the attic overhead. Intuitively, I knew it was Poppy. Deciding to investigate, I went into a tiny closet off the parlor where a skinny ladder led to trapdoor in the ceiling. I mounted the stairs, and threw open the hatch. It was pitch dark up there. I climbed a little higher until my shoulders cleared the attic floor, and began feeling around the perimeter of the hatchway. Suddenly, my hand struck an object, and I heard the resonant sound of strings vibrating. Even before I grabbed hold of it I knew it was my grandfather's other mandolin. Clearly, Poppy wanted me to have it. I hope some day to honor his memory by learning to play it.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I don't recall the exact moment when I began to practice the art of 'flowing', but I do know the system began to take shape during the spring and summer I spent in Widow's Walk. Using the art of 'flowing' I was able to manifest the simple things I needed for my daily survival. The best way to explain the process is to describe the way in which I practiced it in my everyday life. For example, let's say, one day I decided I needed a new pair of shoes, but I couldn't afford to buy them. I'd wait until bedtime, and when I was lying there preparing for sleep, I'd tell myself that I was going to receive a new pair of shoes the following day. I didn't ask, or pray for them. I simply stated, as a matter of fact, that I would receive them the next day. I should add here that everything I sought back then was a basic necessity - nothing grandiose - except for one thing that had to do with a certain love interest. That wish came true, but, ultimately, was a disaster for me. It was thus that I learned the wisdom of the old saying: "Be careful what you wish for".
The day after my bedtime declaration is when I would implement the second component of 'flowing' - something I called: "Following the Line of Least Resistance". This entailed going about my daily business in as smooth, and stress-free manner as possible. For example, if I began to do something and it didn't feel quite right, I would pause - center myself - and proceed according to the dictates of my inner voice. At times, this could mean changing the direction in which I was walking, at other times it might mean scrapping an item on my agenda, and doing something else, instead.
As I navigated through my workaday world, I imagined that the path I was on was a tree, and that I was climbing it. The main trunk of the tree represented my core - the place where I paused to receive guidance from my intuition. The less I strayed from my core, the more likely I was of having my needs met by the universe.
The branches of the tree, which symbolized the intuitive choices I made regarding the direction I took, or the changes in my agenda, etc., were never directly across from one another, but were staggered at identical intervals. If I were on a branch to the left of the trunk, and my intuition told me everything was okay, I stayed where I was. If not, I moved up to the next branch on my right. However, if I continued to move in a certain direction despite having reservations, it was because something inside me told me it would be beneficial to do so. In such instances, interpreting those inner signals could be tricky because I had to make the subtle distinction between cautionary anxiety that was meant to steer me in a new direction, and a kind of excitement I feel when fate is prompting me to take a leap of faith. In my mind, climbing straight up to the branch above me constituted a leap of faith. This kind of movement was more rare, and scarier, because the distance to the branch directly above was twice as far as the branch to the left or right. Such leaps were risky, but the potential rewards were great.
In Part 6, I'll continue with the third component of 'flowing', which involves spending time alone in nature.
One day when I was threading my way through the serpentine paths of the tidal creeks at low tide, I had a transcendental experience. Rounding the soft curves of the narrow channel I felt myself becoming one with sensuous pattern of its contours. I observed the marsh grass blowing in the wind, and noted that the blades were bending in the same direction as the scudding clouds above. Everything around me, including myself, seemed to be part of a larger, dynamic unity. Then, a remarkable thing happened. I looked down at the sandy bottom of the creek, and was shocked to see a stream of glistening energy - the ghostly residue of the water that had been there just a few hours earlier. The energy was rushing along in the same pattern as that of the other elements in the landscape. If that weren't enough, I looked at the back of my hand, which I had bent to mimic the curve of the channel, and saw the blood coursing through my veins. The blood was moving in the same direction as the grass, and the clouds, and the phantom water in the channel.
I'm going to end this episode with an example of how the art of 'flowing' worked its magic in my life. Once, when the summer season had come to an end, I found myself dangerously low on money and food. That night, on the eve of sleep, I told myself that when tomorrow came I was going to find a good job, and have a delicious meal. The next day, a fellow shopkeeper who had made a couple of big sales that afternoon, invited me to go out to dinner with him to celebrate his good fortune - his treat. The restaurant he chose was one I had always wanted to go to but couldn't afford. As I was eating, someone I met earlier that week spotted me through the restaurant window, and walked in to where I was seated. A mutual friend had told the man I was an excellent cook. It turns out he had just opened up a restaurant in town and needed a chef. He asked me if I wanted the job, and I accepted. It ended up being one of the most enjoyable work experiences of my life.
This story illustrates just one of numerous times when practicing the art of 'flowing' allowed me to tap into the power of the universe. Here is a recap of the steps involved in flowing: First, figure out what it is you desire. Next, tell yourself succinctly, and with authority, that you will obtain such and such. Follow this up by spending meaningful time alone in nature - navigating, intuitively, and allowing yourself to merge with rhythms of the earth. Then, all that is left to do is to continue to follow the line of least resistance as you go about your daily business. If you don't have easy access to nature, substitute meditation and/or yoga. If you really want a kick-ass experience, try all three: nature, meditation, and yoga, and combine them with the other steps. I have, and the results have been astounding.
'Flowing' is a process that can work for everyone. Give it a try. You just might be pleasantly surprised by the results. Until next time, good luck, and stay in the flow. Glen
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
1."It is possible that our civilization is the result of a long struggle to obtain from machines the powers that primitive man possessed, enabling him to communicate from a distance, to rise into the air, to liberate the energy of matter, abolish gravitation, etc. It is also possible that we may ultimately discover that these powers can be exercised with an equipment so simple that the word "machine" will acquire a different meaning. If this happens, we shall have gone from mind to machine and from machine to mind, and certain remote civilizations will appear to us to be less remote."
2."The cybernetics technicians have perfected electronic machines which function first arithmetically and then analogically. These machines are used to decipher codes. But scientists generally are so constituted that they refuse to believe that what Man has made he can also be. Strange humility!"
*Jasques Bergier is a distinguished nuclear physicist and chemical engineer.
1.Louis Pauwells and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians, (New York: Avon Books, October, 1968),166.
Friday, September 12, 2008
On one of my hooky playing days, I spent the afternoon at the beach with some people I'd just met, from Long Island. When I returned home, I found the door to my apartment locked, [something I never did], and there was a big bag filled with all my earthly possessions, in front of it. I'd been a tad behind in my rent, and now I was out on the street. Although I hadn't been given the required thirty days notice, something told me to just let it go. Besides, I didn't feel right about arguing with my landlord, since I knew I was entirely, at fault. Eventually, I did pay the balance of the rent due. Motivated by guilt, and the necessity of not making an enemy in a town where everyone knew everyone else, I paid the landlord with money I earned cooking in a restaurant that winter.
The apartment I was leaving behind would always be my favorite. I refer to it as the Widow's Walk because it had a cupola on the roof where you could look out on the sparkling waters of the harbor. During the time I spent in that place I experienced the first major growth spurt of my spiritual development. The central lesson I learned there, was how to surrender to the universe. In fact, I learned that lesson so well, that when I was standing outside my locked apartment thinking about my impending homelessness, my inner dialogue went something like this: "Hmm. What to do?....I know. I'll go to a party." The people I'd met earlier that day had invited me to a party on the deck of Brittany House, the guest house where they were lodged. Leaving my sack of stuff just where I'd found it, [Why lug it around town?], I headed for the guest house whose second floor I could see above the tree tops on the hill behind me.
The so-called party was a pretty sleepy affair, one of those wine, and cheese things. However, the view from the deck was spectacular - almost as good as the one from my Widows Walk, down below. I'd only been there a brief time when an elderly woman, who I would soon get to know very well, emerged from the house with a platter of cheese and crackers. The woman's name was Catherine - a charming, seventy-five year old, with a thick French-Canadian accent, and an eye for the boys, especially a freckle-faced, redhead, named Brian. Whenever she saw him she would press her hand to her bosom and coo: "Ooh! dat Brian. He give me a trill." Later, when a joint being passed around had gotten too small to handle, Catherine came to our rescue by teaching us how to use a safety pin as a roach clip. Needless to say, I was instantly smitten by the old girl.
Catherine grew up in Montreal, where she spent the better part of her adult life caring for her invalid mother, her drunken husband, and her only child, Richard. Richard, now a grown man, had been a very, successful antiques dealer, before becoming an art history professor in Boston. He and his mother had pooled their money to buy Brittany House. Catherine's life had been one of self-sacrifice, and constant scrimping to make ends meet - a fact, evidenced by her extreme frugality. She never wasted anything - especially, leftover food. If there were even the remotest indication that something was still edible, it was sure to find its way to the dinner table that evening. I know because I lived in Brittany House that fall, and part of the winter. When I told Catherine I was looking for a cheap place to live, - without a moment's hesitation - she said: "Don't worry. Yer gonna live here, wid us." At the time I met Catherine, Richard was away in Boston.
That evening, when all the guests had gone up to their beds, Catherine and I were alone in the downstairs kitchen. Outside, the air already had a slight autumnal chill, and the scent of mint tumbling over the garden wall, wafted in through the screen door. Retrieving a tattered pack of playing cards from her apron pocket, Catherine surprised me when she announced, abruptly: "I'm gonna read yer future."
Catherine's method of reading was straightforward, and simple. She used only the sevens to the aces, (inclusive), discarding the lower numbers. The cards were laid out three times. The first layout represented the past, the second - the present, and the third - the future. I don't remember most of the reading. It was quite a while ago. I do know she made a couple predictions that came true the following summer, just as she had described them. She also told me things about my family that were so detailed and accurate, that, had I been a die hard sceptic, I'm sure I would have become a believer.
The whole time Catherine had been reading for me, she kept looking furtively, from one to the other of the three doorways that opened on to the kitchen. At one point after I'd laid down the cards for the third time, there was a sound like a footfall. Catherine scooped up the cards in a flash, and whispered: "Richard's home." We waited a while, but it turned out to be a false alarm. Why she was afraid her son would catch her reading, puzzled me - especially, when I found out later, that Richard was a student of the Occult. As I was getting up to leave, Catherine handed me the deck of cards and said: "You keep dem."
When I got to my room on the second floor, I spread the cards out on the bed. Seeing them had a hypnotic effect on me. In a matter of seconds, my mind was awash in streaming imagery, triggered, sometimes by individual cards, and at other times by clusters of them. As the energy around the cards continued to shift, I began weaving a narrative from the passing scenes - stitching them together into a story that I recognized as my own, but from an unfamiliar perspective - a prospect from which the larger patterns of my life were highlighted, and not just those of my past, but those that appeared to be, their logical extension into the future.
From that day forward, for several years, I carried the cards wherever I went. More than anything else, I used the them as a personal form of meditation. You see, it wasn't the prophetic aspect of card reading that fueled my interest. Instead, it was the simple, repetitive, act of doing it. The practice soothed me, and helped to keep my mind receptive to a bigger reality. If, however, the cards afforded me an occasional glimpse of magic - so much the better.
During the following week, I got the chance to explore the old house while trying to make myself as useful as possible. I didn't know the exact age of the place, but I recognized architectural details from the early nineteenth century. Richard had filled every nook and cranny with his collection of antiques - all a bit grandiose for my taste - items such as silver, Rococo wall sconces, and painted Venetian chairs from the Renaissance. The lavish furnishings made me curious about their owner, but I didn't get to meet him until the next weekend because he had remained in Boston on school-related business.
As the week progressed, guests started trickling into the house in time for the weekend - the last hurrah for the summer tourists. When Saturday arrived the weather took a turn for the worse. A storm brought torrential rain, and near, gale force winds that flooded the center of town. Rather than brave the elements, the guests hung out in the adjoining parlors downstairs. Sprawled out on the oriental carpeting, some played card games, while other sipped wine, and chatted amicably with one another. I sat on the floor playing checkers with a personable young man named Michael, the only guest close to my own age.
Around the middle of the afternoon, a motley foursome, who I later found out were sharing a small room with only one double size bed, wandered into the front parlor. The group - all of whom appeared to be in their early thirties - consisted of two women: one tall and beautiful with a great body, one short, fat, and mousy, and two men: one tall, nearly bald, and anorexic looking, and lastly - the one who appeared to be their leader - a man of average height, stocky, but not fat, with black, slicked back hair, and eyes that scared the hell out of me. Abnormally large, round, and bulging, his eyes were bloodshot, with large red veins where the whites would be, normally. One might have attributed their menacing quality to a disease of some sort, except that the characteristics already described, weren't nearly as frightening as the way in which the black, void-like irises seemed to track, and trap everything in the room. I had the impression it wasn't he who was peering out through those eyes, but a dispassionate, predatory, creature - one who had taken over his body, and was searching out the frailties of anyone locked in its gaze.
The four roomies formed a tight little knot as the snaked through the room. Stepping outside their huddle, the emaciated one walked up to an elaborate, bamboo cage filled with canaries that occupied the entire wall behind me, and, in a piping voice with a foreign-sounding accent, said: "Such pretty little birds." Then, as if responding to some secret cue, the four of them turned as a single unit, and filed out of the room.
That night, when the house was quiet, I left the library - my makeshift bedroom when the guest rooms were full - and went to the kitchen hoping to find Catherine still awake. Sitting at the table with Catherine was Michael, the guy I'd played cards with earlier. Before I had a chance to sit, Michael blurted out: "Did you see that man with the eyes? He was staring at me the whole time." To which I replied: "I thought he was staring at me the whole time." Then, Catherine, who often had premonitions about guests, even before they called for reservations, said: "Last week I dreamed a man wid terrible eyes was gonna stay here. His name was Artur."
Arthur and his companions were the only guests staying on the first floor. They were directly across from the library where I was sleeping. The distance between our rooms was no more than eight feet. Their room had a solid wooden door. Mine had the flimsy, shutter type that folds open in the middle. In my temporary sleeping quarters was a small, wooden chest that was always kept locked. Inside it was Richard's collection of rare esoterica. One of the books was a copy of the Cabala, which I assumed was written in Hebrew, since Richard later told me he'd been translating it over the previous six months. These details will seem trivial until you learn what happened later that night.
An hour or so after Catherine, and Michael went to bed, I was still hanging out in the front parlor, watching the last flickering embers in the wood-burning stove. Suddenly, I felt a wave of nausea come over me, just as Arthur was entering the room by way of the library. He walked up to a long, floor to ceiling bookcase to my right, and placed his hand on the spine of a book. Turning toward me, he observed me for several seconds without speaking. Then, in a tone that sounded both cordial, and threatening at the same time, he said: "I'm borrowing this book on Egypt." Once again, he stood there in silence, staring at me with those awful eyes. The cliche simile of the rodent, paralyzed with fear, before the cobra, poised to strike, fit my situation, perfectly. Unnerved, I averted my eyes, and when I did, Arthur snatched up the book, and slinked out of the room.
Shortly after that I went to bed. But before settling in, I secured the tiny latch on the shuttered doors. It wasn't much protection. A toddler leaning against it would have broken through. Still, it was better than nothing.
That night I had a dream in which I was lying in bed in the library, and Arthur was in his room transmitting some kind of negative energy to me. The energy, which looked like a red, laser beam, was shooting through a crack in the shutters, hitting the upper part of the window next to the door, and ricocheting off of there, and into my chest. As the beam was penetrating my chest it was making beeping sounds. Somehow, I knew my only salvation was to yell for help, but every time I tried, no sound came out. Finally, after many attempts, I found my voice, and yelled out loud: "Help!"
As discretely, as if he were a butler, come to announce the serving of tea, Richard, who I had not yet met, and who had just returned from Boston, stepped from the parlor on to the threshold of the library. For reasons unknown to me, I sprang to a seated position, and gaping at the silhouetted figure in the doorway, whispered:
"You know about him?" In a matter of fact tone, he replied: "Yes, he has some power." And then, without my mentioning the references Arthur had made to Egypt, or anything else that had happened that day, Richard said: "Now, lie down." And - instructing me to imitate his gestures - folded his arms across his chest, and said: "This is the pose used by the ancient Egyptians to protect themselves from evil spirits." Then he lay down on the floor beside my bed with his arms positioned the same as mine. I fell asleep, instantly, and slept soundly through the night. When I awoke, Richard was gone. I looked for him, and found him asleep in his bed. Arthur and company were gone, too. They had checked out at the crack of dawn. I never saw Arthur, or his friends, again. The rest of my stay at Brittany House proved most interesting.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
The idea to save the knoll came one day when I was standing on the top of a nearby mountain, and noticed that the knoll was the last natural buffer between the inner, and outer city. I thought it was important to preserve this unspoiled survivor, so I mentioned it to the land trust. They took up the cause, and ultimately, secured an agreement with the hospital to save the knoll. Land trust members cleared a trail through the trees, and one member constructed, and installed a beautiful bench with a tiled, mosaic seat.
A few weeks ago, the hospital destroyed a huge part of the hill - including, all of our trail - to make room for additional parking spaces. To make matters worse, the hospital could have chosen other options that wouldn't have impacted the knoll.
Since the day the excavation began, a part of me simply refused to accept that the knoll had been destroyed. I just numbed out. But, today, as I was riding by the site, my protective screens collapsed, and, suddenly, I apprehended fully what had been done. The knoll had been desecrated. The hospital had broken its promise to the land trust, and the city. Prior to this they had also broken other promises made to the neighborhood. I suppose we should have known better. When it comes to big business, an agreement that isn't in writing, is as good as non-existent.
This morning, I as I stood staring at the devastation, I saw , to my right, a red-tailed hawk flying off in the direction of the mountain on which I had first recognized the importance of the knoll. I thanked hawk for averting my glance from the destruction, and placing my attention on that beautiful mountain. At least, the mountain was something that would never be taken away - something that our small band of activists had been instrumental in saving for all times.
The winter before the hospital was to be built, I sat on the knoll, in a *snowstorm, knowing it would be the last time I would see the field below in its natural state. That field was particularly dear to me. You see, that was the same grassy field in which I had glimpsed the magical rabbit that I talked about in my series, "Rabbit In The Grass". I wrote this piece because I felt it was necessary to mark the loss of the knoll. It's my way of honoring one of the countless, little, miracles of nature that disappear from our sentient world every day. More often than not, the disappearance of these precious entities barely raises an eyebrow.
As I was nearing the completion of this article I had a surprising revelation. I realized the reason I chose the rabbit story as the topic for the first installment of my series dealing with the magical side of life, was precisely, because the knoll's demise had been tucked in the back of my mind during these last weeks. This was also the reason why I named the series after that same incident. I could have chosen any one of a hundred other stories that were equally magical in nature. That none of this occurred to me until now is a stunning example of the power of denial.
Well, it's time I wrapped this up. I plan to spend the remainder of the day alone in the woods, licking my wounds. In Part 3, I hope to tell you about a spooky experience I had in a most unusual guest house. Until then stay in the flow. Glen
*If you'd like to see a painting inspired by that moment when I was standing in the snow above the field, click on the picture above "YouTube" on the sidebar of my blog: amomoi.blogspot.com. The painting is called "Snowman". It's the last picture on the slideshow, and the only black and white piece.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Sunday, August 31, 2008
When I began this venture, I took a casual tally of all the mystical experiences I've had, and the knowledge I've gained about navigating in the spiritual realm, and I soon realized I had a lot of material. So much, in fact, that I wondered if my mundane life were ,merely, a footnote on my spiritual life, and not the other way around.
Rabbit In The Grass refers to one of my childhood past times. When I was around ten years old I used to spend whole afternoons exploring a huge field of tall grass across the street from my home. One day while I was threading my way through grass as tall as me, I spotted a rabbit. It was in a little, circular clearing - a grass-less oasis, created by a shallow outcropping of rock. Every day, thereafter, I set off in pursuit of that rabbit, which, to my child's mind, was a mysterious being from a world about which I had no knowledge. What I didn't know at the time, was that I was really chasing my magical self. The story I'm going to tell you, took place twelve years later, during the first year I lived on Cape Cod. (Again - This is not fiction. It really happened.)
During summers on the Cape you work your butt off. When winter comes, there's no work available, so you have plenty of time to drift, and dream. I developed the habit of getting up in time to catch the sunrise over the bay, and with only a little cloth sack filled with nuts and dried fruit, set off from there on a day long trek. My journey encompassed the entire town at its outermost points. The area through which I walked is called the Provincelands. It's comprised of vast stretches of sand dunes, dotted with sunken forests, that have small, fresh water ponds, where turtles clamber over floating logs. Along the way, the sea is visible from the tops of the taller dunes.
One warm sunny day in late September, after the tourists had gone home, I was out in the middle of the dunes, when I spotted some rabbit tracks. Falling back into my childhood habit, I decided I would find the rabbit to whom the tracks belonged. As I climbed up and down the sun bleached dunes, under a brilliant blue sky, I had the odd sensation that I was connecting with a part of me that had once lived in ancient Greece. [That connection to ancient Greece is something I'll discuss in future blogs.] Suffice it to say, that day on the dunes, I knew I was on a spirit quest.
I spent the whole day in the Provincelands and didn't find the rabbit. At dusk, I was back in our quaint, little downtown, walking into a health food store. I went there to talk with my friend Jeannie. When I entered the store she was standing on a step ladder with her back to me, reaching for a jar of dried herbs, set on a high shelf. Standing next to me was the customer on whom Jeannie was waiting. She was an exceptionally tall woman. For some reason unknown to me, I never looked up at her face. However, I knew she was a woman, and very tall, because, a.) There was a pocketbook on the counter in front of her. And, b.) When I turned toward her, my nose was even with the bottom of her shoulder.
While I stood there waiting for Jeannie, I saw the woman's hand retrieve something from her pocketbook, and place it on the counter in front of me. She said: "Would you like this?" I picked it up. It was the blank side of a postcard. When I turned it over, I saw a photograph of the famous painting of a rabbit by Albrecht Durer. It's the picture I now use above each installment of this series. I got my rabbit, after all.
I know I should have been awestruck, but I wasn't. I just remember feeling very complacent as I pocketted the picture, and walked out the door. This incident was one of several similar experiences I had that were related to rabbits. I expect I'll talk about them, also, in future installments. You might find it interesting to know what a Native American medicine woman at Lake George had to say about the story I just told you. Well, that's all for now. Until we meet again. Good luck, and stay in the flow. Glen
Saturday, August 30, 2008
There are three vases, or rather, one jelly jar, a pickle jar, and a mustard jar, filled with zinnias - the giant kind - my favorites. They envelop me as I sit here writing at my vintage 1950's kitchen table with its yellow Formica top, and black, stick-like metal legs, splayed out like a giant insectoid robot from Mars.
Bear with me. This morning I am attempting to turn over a new leaf. My plan is to sprinkle happy dust on this page. No darkness - No circuitous meanderings into my subconscious - Not today - Can't do - My mind needs a break.
Oh! lovely, impossibly bright, delightfully garish zinnias. The first time I saw you in blazing sunlight, you seemed so improbable, I mistook you for cheap plastic flowers. But, here, in the half-light of my sun-starved window, the sheen on your petals is soft, and ethereal, like those faces of aging actresses seen through gauze covered lenses. You were definitely worth the bother planting, feeding, and watering throughout the summer. To the rest of your friends who remain out there in the flower bed - unplucked, and attached to the earth: Sorry you're still knee-deep in nettles. I meant to tend to you yesterday. Truthfully, though, if it weren't for my pesky neighbor, I'd leave you to duke it out with the weeds. I actually prefer unchecked, tumultuous growth - in nature, that is. I just wish it wasn't such an apt metaphor for the chaos going on in my head. I'd rather my mind were a nicely plotted out, impeccably groomed garden.
As those last words flowed from me, the scales fell, simultaneously, from my eyes. Suddenly, I see, as if for the first time, the clutter that surrounds me, and consequently, the source of all this blather. How painfully obvious. This place is a dump. The mess is so bad it's comical. Scraps of paper - heaps of them - some folded, some lightly crumpled - threaten to topple down on my writing pad from all sides. And, it's not stuff I can just sweep in the trash bin. No. This is vital information: addresses, phone numbers, receipts, passwords, appointments, flashes of genius hastily written down. The outpourings of pockets, backpacks, fanny packs, wallets, etc. I can't believe it. I'm becoming one of those messy, mental types I've always found so sadly amusing.
Right now, a scene is unfolding in my mind. There are two characters. The first is yours truly in the guise of a slightly, nutty, fussy professor in a herring bone jacket with suede elbow patches. The second character is my sweet tempered wife, played by someone resembling a silver haired Helen Hayes.
The wife enters her husband's study. She is wearing a broad brimmed sun hat, and is carrying a basket containing freshly cut, long stemmed roses. The professorial me is unaware of his wife's presence because, as expected, he is absorbed in scholarly thought. Suddenly, he begins darting about, rummaging wildly through one stack of papers after another, quickly growing frustrated as he is unable to find what he needs among the welter of books and folders.
The wife quietly removes her hat. She is smiling compassionately, as she observes her husband's frantic behavior. Then, with a bemused, tsk, tsking shake of her elegantly coiffed head she says:
Neville, darling. Whatever is the matter?
Neville, his head shooting upward in surprise, peers over the top of his reading glasses, and shouts:
Confound it, Georgina! Must you sneak up on me like that?
Georgina replies, meekly:
I'm sorry darling. I just...
Cutting off her attempt to apologize, Neville rants on:
Was that beastly Mrs. Parker nosing around my study with her feather duster again? Damn! Where's that blasted paper? How could I miss it? It's the size of the Manhattan telephone directory.
Perhaps, I can help, dear. What's the title?
The Tautologies Of George W. Bush, And Their Effect On The Rising Incidence Of Dwarfism In The United States.
With great delicacy, Georgina asks:
Why, what's that in your hand dear?
Looking flustered, Neville replies:
Ah! Of course. There it is.
A pregnant pause. Then, as a tender smile breaks across the face of the professor, crinkling the corners of his eyes, which appear dewy from the glycerin put there when the camera was close up on Georgina, he says softly:
My dearest, darling, Georgina. I'd be lost without you.
To which Georgina, displaying uncharacteristic moxie, replies:
Well, of course you would, dear.
Sweet Jesus! Is that where I'm headed? Well, at least he's a professor - tenured, I'm sure. What's more, he has a devoted mate. Me? I'm penniless, and single. No!No! Don't go there, Glen. Remember. No darkness today. Just look at the zinnias, Glen. LOOK At THE ZINNIAS.
Rachel had a bad night, sleeping in snatches, the intervals charged with the residue of nightmare visions. Now, lying in bed, she chases the fragments of her last dream, doing everything she can to salvage the pieces. She keeps her eyes closed. She lay, as still possible. She even focuses on one image at a time, hoping it will be the link by which the whole chain of the narrative can be retrieved. But, despite her best efforts , all she is able to retain is the abridged, but vivid memory of a single episode. In it, she accompanies a friend to the house of a poet, a woman who Rachel guesses to be about twenty years her senior. Although she feels as if she is only tagging along, when they arrive, it is Rachel who enters first, and her friend, whose identity she no longer recalls, disappears.
Before they even speak to one another, Rachel feels the poet and she will make an important connection. The older woman looks at her knowingly, and from their silent communication, Rachel senses that this person has divined some special use for her. Eccentric in appearance, the poet is like a carry-over from the avante-garde of Berlin in the 1930's. Her hair, which is swept around to one side, is cut in a bizarre Sassoon-like wedge, with a pointy tip that stabs the air when she moves. She speaks to her at length, but Rachel has no sense of what is being said. She only knows that there is something Germanic about her, a certain brusqueness of manner, tempered by a studied graciousness. And, though she is cultured in an Old World style, her body suggests peasant stock.
The word 'art-struck' springs to Rachel's mind as she enters the house. Every wall and bit of floor is adorned with paintings and sculpture, mostly European, from the 19th and early 20th centuries. All of the pieces are first rate, but owing to its placement the most prominent of the decorations is a potted tree. It is an exotic genus resembling a Mimosa, and stands almost in the middle of the main entrance, allowing only a minimun of space to walk around it. The entire length of the tree's slender trunk is pruned clean, except at the top, which is heavy with pendulous foliage, that reaches just below the lintel of the doorway.
The unidentified writer points to a strange crucifix hanging in the vestibule opposite the tree. Remarkably intricate, it is made of finely wrought silver threads in a folkstyle of indeterminate ethnicity. When Rachel approaches the cross, it begins to undergo a series of subtle transformations. The traverse beam moves down to the center of the upright, and the upright shortens until all four arms are of uniform size. Then the arms become the petals of a flower. The petals, in turn, become the blades of a pinwheel. Still another mutation can be seen morphing up through the surface of the pinwheel . . . a more skeletal form that seems reluctant to emerge.
As the rest of the dream slips back into the fertile void, Rachel opens her eyes, only to find an after-image of the eccentric poet floating in the air before her. It lingers for an instant then disappears as her blonde coiffure melts upward into the white expanse of the ceiling.
Baffled by the dream, Rachel thinks about its meaning. The fact that both the older woman and she are poets seems significant, and she wonders if the dream contains a message about her writing. Although her poetry has been well received, secretly, Rachel feels like an imposter. The cerebral quality of her poems belies the depth of emotion that fuels her creativity. She longs to break through the smart surface of her work, and expose the anonymous source of her passion, but a wall stands between her conciousness, and a mysterious self that seems, forever, to elude her. Unwilling to imitate what she has already written, she has been unable to complete a single line of poetry in months.
Still tired, Rachel contemplates getting out of bed. It is the start of a tug-of-war, a daily ritual in which guilt, and vague threats to her security - should she give up vigilance for sleep - win out. So she gets up, pretending that wakefulness is her personal choice, and that she is free from the dictates of nameless fears.
Her feet hitting the cool floor is a cue that sets her on automatic pilot, and she beats a path to the kitchen to boil water for coffee. The clock over the sink reads 6:37 a.m. She thinks,
How will I weather this day, with so many hours ahead of me, and feeling so ragged?
Waiting for the water to boil, she empties the dishwasher, then wanders outside on the lawn. A line of trees wearing the pale leaves of early spring, screen the house from the busy street. Sleek black crows sweep through the green. One calls out. She counts the caws: one, two, three, four. In her personal system of numerology, it is a warning about the day. It suggests that she should turn inward, and shun the world, and its business. If she does , there is the promise that something of consequence will occur.
To be continued.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
There is something about the word tolerance that starts my antennae twitching, and leaves me feeling slightly ill at ease. I've learned that these twitches are signals telling me that I've stumbled upon a kind of mental mine shaft, (make that,'mind' shaft), leading to a vein rich in intellectual gold. Subtle and fleeting, these feelings are like blips on a radar screen - easy to miss if you're not paying attention. My acquaintance with the blips began when I was taking a philosophy course in college. I think I can speak for most of my classmates when I say we were all a bit shocky from our first encounter with the tortuous windings of philosophical jargon.To make matters worse our professor spoke at a speed approaching Mach 5. This was especially ironic since it was during this same semester that I had a course taught by the slowest speaking instructor I'd ever met. If he were still teaching, I'd recommend that all insomniacs attend his classes, as I'm certain they would find them more beneficial than sleep clinics or drug therapy. But, I digress. Back to blips 101.
One day my philosophy professor was teaching us how to construct a logical argument. At one point in the lesson he said, "Just follow your instincts." I don't know what impact, if any, this seemingly parenthetical remark made on my fellow students, but its effect on me was magical. That evening, under the spell of his words, I concocted my own secret formula for finding contradictions in logic. Here's how I did it. I put myself in a relaxed but attentive state, and began perusing a philosophical argument whose stated purpose was to prove the existence of God. I don't know why, but I knew my instincts were going to send me some kind of signal as I read through the text. When the signal came, it was in the form of a blip - a split second in which I felt vaguely disquieted. Next, I pinpointed the spot where the blip had occured, and placed my focus there. I didn't focus with intensity. Instead, I let my mind play over the words, giving it what amounted to a little mental tickle. Suddenly, tiny stress fractures appeared in what had seemed to be a facade of iron-clad logic. After a little more tickling the whole armature on which those clever words had hung, collapsed. I used this technique over and over again, and it always worked. But, now I was receiving distress signals from a word called tolerance, only this time it had nothing to do with someone else's faulty logic. I wasn't exactly sure what my subconcious was trying to tell me, but I thought I should try to find out. And so - antennae twitching all the way - I crept down into the mind shaft marked tolerance, and did a little psychic prospecting. My method was simple. I just relaxed, cleared my mind, and meditated on the word tolerance.
It's been my experience that blip material doesn't cling tightly to its secrets. If anything, it seems eager to spill its guts. So, I wasn't at all surprised when I hit pay dirt within seconds of being in the mind shaft. Suddenly, I became aware of the reason for my discomfort around the word tolerance. It stemmed form anger. I hadn't realized how angry I was at some of my family and friends for the way in which they had tolerated me when I was growing up. Despite their owtward show of cordiality I knew they had always judged me harshly because of my non-conformity. To them I was the crazy artist, the whacko who didn't play by their rules.
As I continued to focus on my anger I experienced a shift. My anger had morphed into sadness, and I found myself lamenting the fact that I was living in a world in which peoples' differences would continue to make them targets of fear and prejudice, rather than causes for celebration.
I could go on unearthing nuggets of insight, but that is an endless process, and a dreadful bore to the readers, (assuming there are any, and that I'm not speaking out of a black hole in the blogosphere). Besides, this is the perfect moment to turn my attention to the blogger on Tailcast.com who inspired this piece of writing. The inspiratory author said that the only thing she couldn't tolerate was intolerance. She expressed feeling conflicted because she believed her intolerance was at odds with the tenets of the Eastern philosophy to which she subscribed. Reading her comment caused me to examine my own dilemma concerning intolerance.
As a political animal and former activist, I have strong feelings about such issues as social injustice, and environmental degradation. For me, the question of how, or when to exercise tolerance has always been a tricky one. As a result of my recent prospecting, I know that anger was a complicating factor in my activism. I became locked into an adversarial role, which is a very stressful position to maintain, and one that is often more paralyzing than empowering. Injecting a dose of tolerance into my activism might have made me more affective, and less stressed out. However, that wouldn't have been possible then, because at that time I equated tolerance with passivity. Now, from my new perspective, I see that it is possible to successfully combine tolerance with activism. I can be tolerant toward intolerance by refusing to judge it , or engage directly with those who practice intolerance. I can also be an activist by working to create conditions in the world that foster tolerance. Combating evil directly only strengthens it, at the same time that it imbues us with some of its energy. We can rise above evil by becoming advocates rather than adversaries.
I read, or heard recently, that Mother Theresa said she would never attend anti-war rallies, but only peace rallies. Rather than oppose war, she chose to be a proponent of peace. In doing so she rose above the battlefield, and transcended the stalemate of dualism.
Well, I won't lie to you and say that I've undergone a miraculous transformation. The truth is , I have no idea how successful I'll be at putting my new insights into practice. Then again, maybe I shouldn't try. Maybe everything I learned in the mind shaft - despite its seeming truthfulness - was self-delusion. Is it possible that this piece is nothing but a heaping pile of blog? I'll let you be the judge. Yours with conditions, Glen
Saturday, August 2, 2008
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Jazmin, I hope one day when your surfing the blogosphere you'll stumble upon this message. This blog is for you, my dear mentor, you who used your considerable, feminine, wiles to trick me into doing things I never imagined I could do. It is you and you alone who can take the credit for my third career. (We won't discuss the second career. Those were difficult times. One does what one must do to survive, as you know only too well - GISELA - my comrade in sin.) Ah, ha! You didn't think I'd ever learn your real identity -Did you? You see, I too have connections. So, GISELA, are you still masquerading as Jazmin, or are you using some other alias. There's still much I have to learn about your checkered past, but let me tell you what I do know about you. You were born in Villaneuva de la Jara, Spain - a charming village famous for its mushrooms. Your mother's name is Magdalena del Peso y Henao. When you were two months old your father Fernando, ran away with Miguel, the groom, a brooding twenty-three year old with a gambling addiction. At age fifteen you were given into the care of the Poor Clare Sisters whose convent was in the norther part of Spain. For three long years, you struggled to suppress your lusty impulses. Finally, when you could no longer endure the constraints of convent life, you began to plot your escape. Then, one stormy, moonlit night in December, while gale force winds lashed the ancient walls of the convent, you and Antonio, the dashing, young, Jesuit you defrocked, slipped out of a second story window, and lowered yourselves to the ground on a rope made from the love - stained sheets of your bed. Fulfilling a childhood fantasy, you moved to Java to live at the edge of a lava pit. You and Antonio married there, and had two darling children, Catalina and Javier. Antonio made a good living running a trendy spa whose clientelle consisted mainly of stressed-out, execs working on Wall Street. You, GISELA, became a painter, and a fortune-teller. The accuracy of your prognostications made you something of a local celebrity.
On the last of several visits to your native, Spain, you decided to make the famous, 500 mile pilgrimage known as El Camino de Santiago. As you made your way - one bloody knee at a time - to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, dressed only in a burlap sack tied with a bit of string, you were spotted by a gypsy prince. Unable to erase the image of your smouldering beauty from his mind, he returned in the dead of the night, to the place where you lie sleeping under the stars between Antonio and your beloved children. For hours he watched under cover of darkness - his flaming loins a declaration of love for the dark-eyed GISELA. Then, a miracle occured. It was the chance he had been waiting for. You awoke in the night to answer the call of nature. As you entered some bushes at the edge of your campsite, the prince snuck up behind you. You turned around with a look of surprise, but before you could react the prince held his outstretched palm in front of you, and blew some magical, gypsy powder into your face. In an instant you were rendered unconcious. The gypsy prince then placed you in the back of his gypsy wagon, ( a tour de force of design, and a superb example of gypsy folk art), and sped away through the mountains into France.
Little is known of your life during the years immediately following your abduction, for there the trail went cold. However, I was able to ascertain, with certainty, that you were indeed, the infamous - Min, of Jazmania. As to why the adjective 'infamous' was always affixed to your name, noone can say, or rather, none dared to say. Whenever inquiries were made about you, the people responded by grasping their amulets, and making strange hand gestures which they tried to conceal behind their backs. Apparently, whatever threat you made to the Jazmanian peasants to guarantee their silence, worked. We also know that for a period of roughly two years, you passed yourself off as Min of Minotopia, the charismatic, medicine woman who hid her face behind a black veil. Your specialties were painless midwifery, fertility, and wart removal.
Many gaps remain in your biography, but I know that you eventually made your way back to Java as a stowaway aboard a slow boat returning from China. When you got to Java you learned that Antonio's business had gone bankrupt, and that he was forced to accept work in the United States. A week after arriving in Java, you travelled to Connecticut where you were finally reunited with your family. It was during your first year of living in Connecticut that you and I met at a class you were teaching in gypsy dance. For the next couple of years we were inseparable friends. But, then one day, (I remember the exact date because it was Michaelmas, and I had gotten my second chest hair), I went to visit you at your home. When I got there you and your family were gone. Your entire house was emptied of furnishings. As of today, it is a year and one month since you dropped off the face of the earth. GISELA, what caused you to run away, and why did you conceal your identity? What was the meaning of all those aliases, and why didn't you return, immediately, to your family once you had escaped from the gypsy prince? Most important of all, when my dear, when, if EVER, will you return? GISELA, if God wills that you should find this blog - I beg of you, Please! Please! Contact me.
Your devoted friend, and grateful student,
This morning I woke up with crazy over-the-top energy. To keep from jumping out of my skin I hopped on my ten-speed, and headed for a picturesque, rural highway that begins at the end of my street. Here are some of the things I saw along the way.
I saw a catbird chasing a raven. Next, I saw a raven chasing a red-tailed hawk. Nice symmetry - raven pursued, followed by raven pursuer. Anyway, my next find was a soggy porno magazine with a french title. It was nestled in a patch of my favorite weeds - the lovely Japanese day flower - not to be confused with the very similar Virginia day flower. Being uncompromisingly noble, and chaste of spirit, I resisted the urge to sneak a peek at the cavorting nudies depicted inside the smutty magazine. Still, as I pedalled onward, I found myself feeling oddly distracted. I couldn't stop thinking about that nasty magazine. Finally, I had no choice but to take myself firmly in hand, and give myself a good talking to. In no time at all I had my moral compass pointing in the right direction, and was able to go about my business. About an hour later I stopped for a drink of water in the driveway of a firehouse. On the blacktop nearby some pigeons were picking at a disgarded hamburger bun. Among the garden variety pigeons one stood out from all the rest. He was a fancy specimen with a puffed up ruff that extended from his chin to his belly. The feathers of his ruff reminded me of those Chinese chrysanthemums with the curvy petals. I was certain that this bird had been someone's pet. Clearly he did not belong on the street with the pigeon riff raff. Nevertheless, to his credit, I was unable to detect the slightest bit of attitude on his part - no preening about, no swagger - just the same head-bobbing, herky, jerky gait as the rest of the birds. Likewise, the other pigeons never gave any special treatment to their more glamorous companion. In fact, they seemed oblivious to his superior good looks. I couldn't help but think that we humans would do well to imitate their indifference to appearances.
Returning home, I made one more noteworthy find. I discovered the upper portion of a clown doll impaled on the post of a roadside fence. The clown looked remarkably like Chucky the psycho, knife-weilding doll of movie fame. Lucky for me his eyes had been removed - enucleated, as they say in medicine. Otherwise, I would have convinced myself he was staring at me, trying to memorize my face. If that were the case, and let's say, someday he were to be miraculously reunited with his lower half, he could then find me and chase after me with his stubby legs. Of course, it's unlikely he'd catch me - fleet-footed, chetah that I am. Still, you never know. As I rode away from my bifurcated friend I glanced over my shoulder, and was relieved to find that his head hadn't turned in my direction. The remainder of my ride was uneventful.
Well, there you have it - gentle reader. Those are the things I saw on my morning bike ride. When I returned home I tucked into a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, (easy over with the yolks broken, and a dash of ketchup), home fries, toast and marmalade, and two delicious cups of coffee. Nothing like a little exercise to whet the appetite.
See ya! Glen
Sunday, July 27, 2008
All of us are made up of many 'selves', but other people generally get to see only one of them - our trusty persona. Our persona is the face we present to the world. We're constantly buffing it up to make sure it remains the same. The 'nice guy' must always be seen as nice. Bright kids will dummy down, adopting the persona of their more intellectually challenged schoolmates in order to fit in. Cynics never reveal an iota of faith in humankind lest they be labelled closet Pollyannas.
Frequently, when people try to step out of the boxes they've created around themselves, their friends sabotage their efforts. For example, people who have lost significant amounts of weight report being subtley and/or blatantly rejected by their fat friends. Perhaps they fear they'll be judged for remaining overweight. Or maybe it's just a case of misery loving company.
Several times in my life I've removed myself from my social circle in order to make it easier to reinvent myself. Now, I'm well aware that 'real' change must come from the inside. However, external changes can sometimes make our efforts at personal growth a lot easier. For instance, there was a point in high school when I felt myself becoming more and more alienated from my friends. My interests had broadened. I became more creative - writing and painting - spending more time alone in nature, and focusing on my spiritual journey. Activities such as, hanging out with my pals in our favorite pizza place, and competing to see who could wolf down the most pizza (one friend could actually eat two large pies, and still want more), just weren't doing it for me. As the bond between my cohorts and me lessened, I became increasingly more depressed. One day, acting on a whim, I took the Metro North train from Ct. into Manhattan. For reasons I still don't understand, I began pouring out my angst-ridden soul to the guy sitting next to me. I told him all about my unhappiness at no longer fitting in with my peers. As fate would have it (I really don't believe in accidents) my fellow traveller turned out to be a shrink. Here is a paraphrasing of the simple, but powerful advice he gave to me. He said, "Relax. In a couple of years, fitting in with your current friends will cease to be an issue. Once you,re on your own you'll gather friends around you who share your deeper interests - people who support your emerging self." Being a neurotic adolescent, I didn't assimilate the lesson immediately. Nonetheless, his prediction did come true.
Two years later, I postponed college and became a member of that crazy, diverse, and hyper-creative community at the very tip of Cape Cod. I was never happier. It was a rich, new, life filled with magic - 'real' magic- ( I'll get more into that in future blogs) and mystery. Practically everyone I knew was an artist, writer or musician, and - more importantly - they were focused on inner elightenment.
Summing up the lesson I learned from the commuting shrink: If you want to make a fundamental change in yourself, or maybe just shake things up a bit, consider a change of environment. You could move to a new location, or - if that's not feasible - take a vacation in a place markedly different from where you are now. In the same way that fasting at the onset of a diet can dial-up your metabolism, a different environment - free of old ties, and old patterns - can jump start your process of personal growth. Give it a try. It just might work. Life is all about change. Good Luck! See ya, Glen
Friday, July 18, 2008
Hi! My name is Glen. I'm an artist by profession. Recently, a good friend suggested I start a blog. When I asked her what she thought I should write about, she said to just talk about whatever interests me. Since the scope of my interests is daunting I decided to throw caution to the wind and just go with whatever is circulating in my brain at the moment. It's a trick I use to short circuit my A.D.D. Well, here goes. I hope what I write resonates with someone out there in the blogosphere.
The name of my blog is "AmoMoi". It's a very unscholarly Latin-French hybrid that is meant to translate roughly into "I love myself". "Moi" is actually "me", but the french word for "myself" just didn't flow. I would have chosen straight-forward english, french or latin but all of these were already taken. Despite how it sounds, my reason for choosing AmoMoi wasn't narcissistic, but stemmed from a life-long effort to develop the habit of being kind to myself. More than a few people have told me that I usually do things the hard way. To help remedy this I use the phrase "I love myself" as a mantra. I figure if I repeat it long enough eventually it will stick, and I'll begin to treat myself more kindly. Goofy, New Age crap, you say. Maybe. But I'll give it a shot anyway. I'll try fakin it til I make it.
Most people are better at being good to themselves than I am, and some people really excell at it. I remember hitchhiking with my roommate on Cape Cod. The guy who picked us up was,( to my starving artist's eyes), a very posh fellow, indeed. He was impeccably dressed, and his car was a miracle of comfort. Leaning back deep into the plush, beige upholstery of his Beamer - at an angle I feared was dangerously close to being horizontal - our driver prattled on in his silky smooth voice about the seeming perfection of his summer on the Cape. Working two crumby jobs to pay for an apartment, and a studio, I hated him, instantly. At the time we were picked up my friend and I - armed with a dufflel bag stuffed with dirty clothes - were headed for the nearest Laundromat which was about a half an hour from where we lived.Thinking back, I marvel at the fact that our fancy friend even bothered to pick us up - beggarly sight that we were. Perhaps he was practicing noblesse noblige, or maybe some form of slumming. To be fair, it was probably just plain old human kindness on his part.
Anyway, as I was saying, while my friend and I were headed for the Laundromat, our driver was on his way to a fresh water pond to have a swim. He chose the pond over the bay because, and I quote: "It's just such a bother to rinse off all that sticky salt after swimming in the ocean." Hearing that, my roommate and I exchanged the obligatory, clandestine rolling of our eyeballs.
To this day I picture the guy arriving at his destination. I imagine him spreading out a sumptuous, over-sized beach towell with a thread count exceeding 1,000, after which, he walks down to the water's edge, inserts a newly pedicured big toe, and proceeds to display an uncanny talent for knowing precisely how many degrees plus or minus the temperature varies from his ideal of 72 degrees Celcius.
Despite my sarcasm I have to admit there was something I admired about the guy. He had what I lacked - and I don't mean money. He had the ability to be nice to himself. Now, mind you, I wouldn't want to be him. He was too laid back to suit my somewhat stormy artistic temperament. Also, being a dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, I bridled at what I perceived to be his obsessive pursuit of bodily comfort. Personally, I like being a tad salty. As any good cook will tell you : No salt, no flavor.
All this being said, after a period of reflection, I realized that my encounter with the posh guy in the cushy car had taught me a valuable lesson that I think can apply to anyone. It's simple. If being good to yourself doesn't come naturally, and you haven't a clue as to how, or even, where to begin to do so, start with your own body. Fritz Perls, that self-styled dirty old man, and father of Gestalt Therapy, called it the "contact boundary".You see, the body, unlike the mind, is something concrete. It's something we can apprehend directly with our senses. For instance, if you've made a decision to take a certain course of action, and the course you've chosen elicits a pleasant response from your body, you've probably made a sound choice. However, if your body tenses up, or say you get a hollow feeling in your gut, or maybe you suddenly get inexplicably tired, then stop a moment, and think of other options. As you do so note which ones produce favorable reactions, and choose one of them instead. TRUST THE BOD! It's a genius at knowing which actions best reflect your authentic self. And, one more thing: Remember, feelings are physical, and not to be confused with emotions. Emotions issue from the mind, and are more ephemeral. But, that's another topic, altogether - something best discussed on another day.
Hmmm! Think I'll give myself a little love and take a nice, leisurely bath. I know, I could surround the tub with legions of candles - maybe burn a little incense. How about that CD of Tibetan monks chanting, or the one with the waves lapping against the shore. Sound too much like a New Age cliche? It does, doesn't it? Last one in the tub is a self-loathing, curmudgeon.
See ya! Glen
P.S. Check out Perls' book, "In and Out of the Garbage Pail". It's a classic!