Rabbit In The Grass is a new section I'm adding to my blog. It contains gleanings from the magical side of my life - a life, which, until now, I've kept secret from everyone, except my close friends. Rabbit is about true magic - not fantasy. Everything I will write about actually happened, although certain names, and other identifying details will be changed for the sake of privacy. It's important to note that there is an inextricable link between my creativity, and my spiritual life, especially my painting. That connection, however, will not be elaborated on here, but only on the sites where my art is being shown.
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
Sunday, August 31, 2008
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