Thursday, July 26, 2007

Haunted by Waters

photo by Steve Kye

"But when I am alone in the half light of the canyon all existence seems to fade to a being with my soul and memories. And the sounds of the Big Black Foot River and a four count rhythm and the hope that a fish will rise. Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters."
from Norman Maclean's beautiful book, A River Runs Through It

"My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things - trout as well as eternal salvation - came by grace; and grace comes by art; and art does not come easy."

"Reverend Maclean: Each one of us today will at one time in our lives look upon a loved one who is in need and ask the same question: We are willing to help, but what, if anything, is needed? For it is true we can seldom help those closest to us. Either we don't know what part of ourselves to give or, more often than not, the part we have to give is not wanted. And so it those we live with and should know who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding."

A River Runs Through It

My friend Steve went fly fishing in Arkansas on a side trip from work. Ever read Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It (1976)? Maybe you saw the film directed by Robert Redford, with a truly boyish Brad Pitt, Craig Sheffer, and more very able actors. I highly recommend both. Both gave me a new appreciation of the poetry in wading in water and knowing fish.

There is true beauty in water that runs so cold and clear and strong. Think of it: fingers twisting flies, the whir of the line in air and radiant with light, the dance of light across the river, a silence surrounding and enveloping and carrying all molecules of water and fins with it.

I see a man squatting by the river's edge, smooth stones in his pocket, his cuffed pants wet and long. He is crouching with the weight of a caravan on his back, memories of gaunt-eyed faces peering through windows that rattled. Greek gods people his dreams when he watches running river water, and their every form appears - thunder, lightning, serpent, quail. So much became about ravishing and conquest, the beliefs in fates like a moody wind. Here, the water removes the chaos he associates with air, since he left that burning house so many years ago. Firemen had carried him out, while he called for his sister, Sophie. Her face was black with ash, but he never heard a cough sound so good.

When he thinks of her, he smiles, and those years between disappear, faint as dust. He puts his palms in the water and feels the current against his skin. He closes his eyes and listens: crackling of leaves somewhere, birds chirping, the slight sound of heavy water moving. The stones in his pocket are from that driveway. They've been around.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One of Many Leaves

“Behind a pointed tip, the minuscule embryo of a potential tree waited, backed up by enough protein and starch to generate a first root, a tiny stem, and its first four leaves. Yet, for all the promise of this crop of acorns, life would be sparingly given; fewer than one in ten thousand would ever develop into an oak tree. “ (Biography of a Tree, 5)

Georgette and I walked by the lake once as a blue sailboat went by, gently enough as though it were not real but only a painting that had changed my life. She turned to me with those lilting looks, those deep-set eyes that had no end, and she was without sentimentality, only full of the memory of those moments gone by.

I used to move my hands that way, as though I was conducting music, and I was lost in my own world. What does this mean, to be “lost in our own world”? When I opened my eyes, I saw clouds then, and the blue of sky was the ocean that covered the world.

There were no endings, no real beginnings. I was a boy in her hands, then a man. She was a young girl in mine, then a woman, a mother. Then I became the child with curls, the girl seeking her mother-love, the girl giggling and sad, the girl with dirty hands, and a loud voice.

The sailboat continued by, tranquil. We continued walking. We held hands. The sun was bright. I breathed it all in, and the sparks and salt that flew from the sun and clouds were like stars in the brightest dark sky. The trees reached for me as they do. To disappear into green had been my dream. Now the green came from me, one of many leaves.

Kid Sparrow Loves

Last night we watched La Vie En Rose, a film about the life of Edith Piaf, in the Varsity Theater across from UNC. The Franklin Street theater is small, with an air of lots of use over years, though not stale. Upstairs leading to the restrooms are a few seats, a smart set-up with bright colors that say retro fresh. My friend had a lemon-mint ice cream combination that was a taste burst of sweet-fresh brighter than the theater itself. Seeing the film brought back memories of grad. School when my friend Tom and I would listen to Edith Piaf sing as we sat in his dark living room. Jacques Brel, old theater set pieces, were conjured up by some of these listenings, and the drama of them lingered in the air. “The Little Sparrow” had lung power and a voice that championed little girls, “little people,” common ground, the force of being alive – very early on, after many had heard her for the first time and were astonished and pleased, an artist admirer told her, You are an immense artist” (en Francais), and she answered, amid the New Year’s hubbub and laughter, “I’m wearing high heels.” Her face and gestures became so distinctively part of her presence that they seem sometimes exaggerated. Those stunning blue eyes seem both purely direct in their gaze and wide open as an ocean, to the vulnerabilities of life and all the winds that blow. What a presence, what a life, what a look, what a voice she had. Moments linger, such as when she first sang, at 9 years old when her father, a “contortionist” was trying to make money for them by twisting up his limbs for passers-by in the street, and the lingerers wondered what talent she had. Her father prodded her to act, so the audience wouldn’t leave, and she stepped up and opened her mouth to sing the French anthem with a sound and strength that brought slow smiles and claps from the gathering listeners. As they sat on a beach an interviewer asked her – what would you tell a woman, a child, any advice – Love, she answered. “Je ne regrette rien,” she sang, at the end.

At dinner we had been talking about choices, how and why we make the choices we make, what it means to use our mind as a sense, to live with our senses as the life force of love that we are designed for. “There but for the grace of choice go I,” my friend said, and we laughed at the depth of this thought rippling in the pond of our lives and lifetimes.

We scan for details of a personal nature when we want to know more. When I think of Edith Piaf and her life, as it is depicted, I scan with my mind as fingers the scenes and ripples I feel as I watch and think. Those hands she had to be encouraged to use, that voice which kept her alive. She shouted often, dismissive of many. Yet she loved deeply. Care was there in moments that stood out in that hard-scrabble early life, and the tragedies that followed. She was bent and sedated by the time she died (cancer), still young but also ancient. She was 48.

I have to sing at least one song, she said (or something like it), or I will forever lose faith in myself – this near her death-time, her collapsing, remembering her fondest career moments as every time the curtain rose. Think of it: An actress acting a part written for the “real woman,” characters chosen as the supporting cast, to represent that supporting entourage of hers, faithful friends. We accept these, moved to tears and more, so why do we question our reappearance on stage after stage, in life after life, with supporting casts of our own? A good moment appears when Edith dismisses an orchestra she had kept waiting, and a Radio official, distraught, says, You can’t do that! She plants her palms on her hips and says, Why not? What’s the point of being Edith Piaf if I can’t? It’s a good scene that sounds a resounding chord. We’re so accustomed to operating by rules and regulations as fact that we forget we created them, that they are not Nature’s laws. We choose what we do. The energy we are becomes part of our every environment, as our environment is what we create.

A friend told me she called another to ask him to come over and join their swimming – what? At 8:30am, this early? He said. Is there a rule about that?, she said to me. Her son remarked about not having to mow the lawn. We use this “competition” mode in every way. I see this better now. With every thought I use that way my energy adds to the bucking-horse energy, the bull-rider out of the gate at the rodeo, with the crowd watching and a stopwatch ready. I listen to remarks about ex-wives and husbands, another friend’s refusal to respond to her ex-husband because he is being judgemental or instructive. I understand her forceful defense of not wanting to be criticized. Not being told she is not doing something right, not good enough. Also, her impetus to want to “stand up for herself,” when she feels her own structures of life (marriage) have not held the weight she thought they did for her. When each thought is new, the world is fresh, and there is no stale air in our interactions. We are free to choose. Je ne regrette rien.

Love, Truth and Perception speaks to these changes that free us from these beliefs. “The emotions that we feel for ourself will always be our definition of the love that we feel for another.” (LTP, 175)

“The intellect and ego is judging itself in relationship to its ability to be loved by others. But being loved by another eases the sadness, pain, and longing only temporarily before our loss is again triggered by the soul and spirit mind saying, ‘ you still haven’t found me’ as our soul and spirit seeks to become one with the intellectual mind.” (LTP, 173)

“But we will forever seek to fulfill our unquenchable thirst for the beauty of love, because love is the hidden power of our life. “ (174)

Our knowing that love is essential to our life comes from our soul motivation, which keeps us searching.

“Our perception of love is accepted from the reflection of our self-image that is reflected back to us from the veil of the ego.” (174) We do not perceive that the love which we physically seek is in truth the love of ourself and our life. The vision that we see of ourself is what we will seek. If we see ourself as physical, we will seek physical love.

My reflection was an image of a “strong female,” i.e., equal to a male, a “male in a female body.” Because I did not see myself as a “strong female” - despite all evidence to the contrary, I did not believe there was such a "thing," and did not even know I believed it! What does it mean to be "strong," willful, free? What does it mean to find your own voice?

“For many individuals who have continued their unexplainable search for true love, there is no logical explanation within their mind to explain the motivation for their actions. They simply feel an overwhelming need to continue their search and they follow their sense of ‘need.’” (174) The external love that we seek is the physical symbol of our internal path as our intellect seeks to unite with the love of our spirit.

One reviewer of Le Vie En Rose wrote, "Piaf's will to live is inspiring even in the face of self-destruction that makes Judy Garland's own battles with alcohol and drugs seem minor in comparison." Marion Cotillard's performance is incredible. She was born in Paris, in 1975. She aged realistically in the film, in hours, through torment, triumph, and with power. Love, Edith said. We are all connected within our spirit consciousness and the spirit never fails to honor that love.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Birds' Eye Views

pic by PIJ (C Buffington)

pic by Dwain Ritchie

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Revelations in Ordinary Things

I do not seek to be obscure, Magritte said. I simply want to be understood via ordinary things, and those ordinary things I choose change with each moment. The “Song of Love” painted in oil by Chirico in 1914 changed my view of how I entered my dreams and how I came into the mornings and afternoons awake, with history intact or broken into fragments with luminescent colors.

I met my Georgette at the fair too, and although I did not know immediately that she was to be the love of my life, I felt the atmosphere change around her when we met. We exchanged words the way others exchange gifts, the ring to signify marriage, joining. That is why I wonder and rasp when I think of the mistreatment we give symbols and how they, as we, are misunderstood. What is real is distorted only our vision. Our education of vision has left us to see umbrellas as only a function of bouncing raindrops back into the air with our heads under them. Once we begin to think of an umbrella, and especially when we see one in the quiet of really looking at it, dry, our minds are full of every form and association that may follow – the last time we ran through rain with a lover, or someone we anticipated loving into an eternity we could not yet foresee but could feel, the way raindrops feel fat and full while they are falling; one view from a late life as we stood on the veranda beneath the eaves listening to the rain as the horizon heaved like a tangible and largely quiet ocean; of jumping into puddles while only 3 feet tall, dragging an umbrella given by our mothers. You see how the images float, fly, make their way? Hasty viewing is as disruptive as conversations cut off by a lost cell phone signal; and to have already forgotten that such signals are new is already to have forgotten a path of history as technology grows.

When did I begin to think of symbols as “symbols”? I shunned this later because I came to know the things themselves as the energy of how I moved them in my mind, the way they and I explored together their meanings, like the treasure chests of old wars, and even the paintings said to be found hidden under bridges and behind locked doors. Wars make us seal up art, and what we knew as art turns into propaganda until we change our seeing. What is propaganda? The mysteries of the visible world suffice to show themselves as our minds move with them through time. I tip my hat to the smooth Greek face that stands giant sentinel over so much silence, so much that is hidden and cold as stone, yet so full of the heart of our mind. The gloves that hang in “The Song of Love” tell their own colorful story.

Georgette, I ask you, was our dance the ferris wheel you remembered? I took your hand one day and remembered the gate through which we passed, and that gate opened into a few years’ absence, then into a lifetime of longing and laughter.

With words I reach to you, knowing yet that the realms in which our world works are beyond this ink, and beyond the turnstiles of any local fair. Subordinating visual images to thought, or vice versa, is nonsense. With you I only aim to make myself more visible, as I am.

"AntiGravity: The 2007 Tour"

When I read Ginia Bellafante's NY Times theater review, "Where Bodies Are Perfect and Not Very Earthbound" (June 29) out of sync with other more recent reviews, I landed on her phrase, "the mood is loose" and stayed there for a while. Nan Melville for The New York Times - “Girl Power,” one of the segments of “AntiGravity: The 2007 Tour.”

She writes that the show bears no narrative, message or commentary, and the director says there is nothing to "figure out," yet there was a great deal she tried to figure out. Then she writes, "I wondered, for instance, how it could be that nearly every female dancer onstage seemed able to contort her body into a vertical split while few people I know can muster the flexibility to pick up a fallen bar of soap in the shower." This is a great description I think of how we think about what is "real" and not, and why. Airbrushing our way through our thoughts and deeds as we present them to ourselves and others for review keeps us from truly appreciating the energy and act of creation itself that is so beautiful.

This fits with what I've read about Sarah Ruhl too, the playwright who is being kept busy these days according to reviews. Her new play "Eurydice" was reviewed by Christopher Isherwood in the Times also in June with a headline of "The Power of Memory to Triumph Over Death." "The fabled creatues of 'Eurydice' may look like people you've seen on the subway, but they speak in images plaucked form the blue sky of their mythic imaginations." Shut up and get used to being dead, the blunt-spoken and familiar chorus of stones keep telling her. Constantly we are reminding ourselves of the power of our memory that transcends each single incident in our life, why the ordinary moments are what create the buoyancy within us as we swim in this ocean that is life. Smart, snappy, simple language, but full of the twists and turns which show the paths we take as we learn to know ourselves and what true love is. Risk and loss are continually painful if we have no knowledge of the true value of memory. I heard that voice in my head for years - "shut up and get used to being dead," even as I felt parts of me were alive. It's a very strange feeling without the knowledge of the classical structure and form that such a life story follows. Without form and structure that is well-defined, myth loses its way and such imagery is merely a forest of what feel like ghosts or guests you'd like to get rid of but don't know how without burning down the house.

Eurydice's quest is the same as mine, the same human quest to truly know who we are and what we want. The perfection Gina I's review reveals, in these wordless bodies, is one more image of appreciation of the simplicity of this beauty. The "why" reveals itself. We just have to know who we are to see it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The One and the Many

At this point in time as in all others we can always assimilate our creation with an other, for if we are not that one, one would suppose we were connected or thinking the same thing at the same moment. As history always shows it is only the one not the many- this too will change as we all invent that which has already been thought of or even brought to fruission- how does one spell that- grammar does not always come along with the knowledge of that subject as someone is always trying to perfect something which has no need for perfection as it is always in the mind of the beholder (GOD, of course). Tennis anyone? That is why technology is sometimes foreign for one drawing on that which we have already conquered or perhaps will have no long term need for- since memory also helps us to see what the future holds for us. (G.L.)

I’m thinking again about what it means to create the present and future from our past – the creativity of the past is obsolete, already gone, “frozen” in time – captured as an image, fixed only in that way. Looking into the picture, its creation, the urges of its inspiration, the beauty of its textures, layers, colors, movement (its energy) opens its infinite experiences, “meanings.” Building upon the past (obsolete) creates for us the circumstances of never being able to go beyond the past. If obsolete means no longer useful, the urge is to create anew, and this is the sense of life eternal, seeds, sprouts, ocean waves. I am gaining a new understanding of independence.

If I relate to all I am, all we have been, as equal, I have no favoritism, no attachment or “possession,” so no need to be envious or try to force one hand or another one way or another. This is the energy of competition and inequality which is the rumbling of war. My urge is to love, to join hands.

To look at all of life energy as one is to know we are one.

When I have felt the jealousy of possessiveness, I know it is because I am crouching before a pebble on the beach, having been drawn by its energy to and within me, and caught with this attention to the one stone and forgetting the roar of the sea, the movement of the tide. The roar and tide continue. The pebble has its markings from sand and tide, a certain shine or trail of dirt.

Friends I have known before have written or spoken fragments of words which make this tide more visible within me, just as my own thoughts and feelings do. The comfort of knowing we were comrades at times, known, unknown – the comfort being the continuity of the stream more than the familiarity of a role. This is the mind-tide turning on the movement and depth of the sea-life rather than a fixation forever on the one pebble, beached, or half hidden in sand. The bond of brotherhood, of “la familia,” with a friend helps me recognize how the sense of “love” was known by its fierce loyalty, this the “unbroken circle.” This is why any sense of “betrayal” was so intensely felt. Rejection, betrayal were unforgivable. They were fixed in stone, forever cast into memory. This is how we create our present and future from the past. So to choose “other than what was” is a betrayal to a “possessed” (ego-controlled) mind. “Other than what was” means change. To know we create each new memory as we live is to know that we are each pioneers, explorers, creators, sharing journeys.

What is true love? Not to cling to the raft of the past, but to know the love within us is real, and infinite, eternal. There is nothing greater. To remember there is a raft and an ocean, over and over, the beauty. This is perhaps where the “greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friend” comes from – the depth of love when we love our neighbor as ourself and have no need to cling to life as on the raft away from a country which oppresses us, not knowing whether we will live or die. The life we cling to is the love that creates and emanates within and from us. This is my true home, and on this plot of land is where I come to know what fertility and growth truly mean.

“Possession” means controlled by something other than ourself. It’s ironic how our definition of possession in one basic historical way is by “demons” – yet it is our beliefs, our dependence and worship, loyalty to those things other than ourself (our perception of Life itself) that define possession, to “own.”

Monday, July 02, 2007

Saturdays at Saxapahaw

The children at the Saturday Saxapahaw Market making their train are fun to watch. I love being able to enjoy the afternoon or early evening there, with fresh produce and treats, music, and this leg-parade dodging little ones as they roll in the clover.