Fly Away…

Word comes that Olivia Newton-John has passed on.  I re-publish below a post I wrote four years ago, April 2018, when I learned that her cancer had returned. (The breast cancer that had returned in 2013 had now settled in the spine.)

Beyond the more physical sensations of gratitude and grief, for her life and my own, I have few words to add today to what I wrote in tribute (below) a few years ago. My only lament is that I don’t have any of her music on hand to steep in this evening.  In spite of the critical dismissal of the movie, I confess I’m jonesing for a dose of Xanadu!

Despite the same two or three hits featured in the quick reminiscences of every news outlet today, the song that rose readily from the history for me with today’s news was the song she contributed to for John Denver…A selection more fitting than ever today, as he welcomes her through the gates of Rock-n-Roll Heaven.  I am so grateful for both those gentle souls, whose radiant smiles still light my heart. I bow in thanks who they were in the world and their unique stellar signatures in my own firmament.

For a tribute video of Fly Away, click here.

For the original footage of them performing it “together,” in John’s 1976 Holiday special, which I remember well savoring live click: Fly Away.

And here is my (unedited) 2018 tribute, A Guilt-Free Pleasure: I Honestly Love Her .

From time to time I post a blog in tribute of some luminary who has passed out of our world.   Sunday I learned that the cancer that Olivia Newton John kept in remission for a quarter century has reprised. She may have years more in the world, but I was  inspired not to wait.

Julianna Hatfield has just released a tribute to ONJ, who, though you mightn’t know it from Hatfield’s music, was a beloved influence.  Olivia Newton John’s long string of hits in the 70s and 80s were pillars of my own youth. I loved them and I sang to them best I could, usually in falsetto, or harmonizing an octave lower. Because, as many have heard me say in my low register, I was hitting the notes of Barry Manilow, sometimes even Neil Diamond, when my peers were singing at the other end of the keyboard with Olivia.

Julianna Hatfield, who describes herself as a scrappy vocalist, rather than a true singer like Olivia, really has as little business as I do covering those songs. But love ain’t always pretty.  In her interview, she and I choked up at the same time as the discussion brushed against our gratitude for, our celebration of, this woman’s voice, her songs, her grace and probably for her extra 25 years (and counting) of Life.

Catchy as it was, I confess I didn’t care for Olivia’s last big hit, “Let’s get Physical” when it came out; but soon after, both our paths were getting more outwardly spiritual. And I remember being glad to see this one of a certain angelic beauty walking a path of some spiritual substance as well, and having these years’ remission to grow in that,  to deepen and share it with the world.

I admired the dynamic range of her voice– from the mellifluous, almost meek whispers of “I Honestly Love You” to the expressive potential of “Hopelessly Devoted to you” and the penetrating belting of “Let Me Be There” and “…Physical.”

Her voice carried a power beyond volume, even beyond the melody. It seemed to flow with a certain truth and goodness, even in a song like “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease.  Her acting lacked the dynamic range of her singing, but there was still a sweet naturalness in her delivery that made it forgivable somehow– for me, anyway, at least in the kindness of hindsight.

I am just so grateful that she exists, that she lived and filled that place in pop culture with her song. I still feel her voice in my heart, and I know the world is a friendlier place for her contribution, as it echoes, audibly and inaudibly, through the years and through the ethers, even now. She is still here, and according to Juliana Hatfield, she still hits the high notes at the end of “Xanadu.”

I encourage everyone who appreciated her to take a moment and savor that now. And if mention of her songs inspires you to pick up her greatest hits, mission accomplished.

If you didn’t appreciate her, my condolences. I mean, what’s the matter with you? Have you Never Been Mellow? It’s not too late.

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Happily, I’m now acclimated to the New Mexico life and bandwidth again after the Colorado “honeymoon.” Time and a new moon helped ease the re-entry squeeze.

After a long, rare day in New Mexico’s big (Albuquerque) yesterday, today was a day of resting and fasting. Rain was predicted, but when it hadn’t come by 3pm, I heeded the call to Grasshopper Canyon, about which you’ll find two fairly recent posts.

Just a gentle walk; I wasn’t sure that I’d even reach the terminus.

As I arrived, I noticed the truck of my fellow Grasshopper Canyon frequent-flyer, Spence. Since I’d mentioned next time we met up there, I’d have a calling card; I made sure my fanny pack was stocked and headed in behind the stone curtain that blocks out the manic roar of 1-25 with blessed swiftness.

I’d not been here in several weeks. It was quickly apparent that the monsoons had been rearranging the furniture in my absence. Water flash flooding through gullies and canyons is oft-under-estimated force.

The mild mannered stream meandering through this canyon most days had clearly enjoyed some steroidal moments in recent weeks, and while the established trails were mostly still passable, in places that already had two parallel branches established (from the creek’s many previous course changes), sometimes only one was discernible; and stilt, downed trees and other flattened botanicals were blocking or re-sculpting the path. All testimony to impressive force.

I’d never bothered to count the creek crossings here before. Even if I had, I imagined that the number would likely be different today. Since Dawn and I had counted the crossings at the beloved Ann White trail in Boulder, I took on that mission here today. My count lapsed once going in, so I recounted going out. Today, my route had 25 yummy, heel-cooling crossings.

I fully expect that number could change by next time I come. The monsoons are not finished.

I met Spence a ways in and delivered my card, as he reported having seen his first rattle snake here in all his years walking this canyon. We swapped rattlesnake stories and then parted company.

While we were chatting, my phone had squawked with one of those emergency alerts that blare through even if the phone is silenced. I ignored it, of course, until I next pulled out the phone to snap a photo (a main reason to bring it). I glimpsed only enough words to assess that it was a flash flood warning. Even if I’d been inclined, without glasses, I couldn’t make out the rest.

However, the warning was duly noted. Near the end I encountered a woman who had also seen the rattler; she too warned me. Hikers here are a neighborly bunch.

Spence had informed me that the “bridge,” which serves as a ramp to the final meters leading to the deep pool at the end, had washed away; and today he wasn’t inclined to rebuild it until monsoons were over.

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Since I was fasting, and I now registered that torrential action was expected somewhere, I didn’t linger long to sit and bliss out, nor to rebuild the ramp (even if the logs had still been nearby). It might already be raining up stream, for all I knew.

So, I contented myself to stride steadily back the way I came, counting and splashing merrily through every crossing, pausing here and there to document the reeds and trees combed flat by recent gully washers.

Yesterday, in the third of five Divination class sessions I’ve been leading on Zoom, one of the HerbCrafter Tarot cards drawn for the session was Horsetail. So, when I came to stretches where that strong and ancient reed was flattened to the mud, looking like beaded curtains dragged along the banks, I had to stop and pay my respects.

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I emerged from the canyon tired but without incident—and I assume that the gentlemen hiking in as I hiked out did too. I had cheerfully alerted them to both the rattler sighting and flash flood possibilities, then bid them “Enjoy!” as I turned on my way.  I heard them laugh, probably registering my enjoinder as an ironic or glib chaser to the warnings.

Just being neighborly.

Auto-Zikr Ziggurat

Here, as promised (or warned), follows a brief ancillary photo essay from the travels summarized in preceding posts.

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The final night of my journey was spent in grateful mountainside solitude, just me, the trees, Spanish Creek and its attendant mosquitos. I slept only lightly, but I was gifted with a healing dream. I woke from that knowing sleep time was complete. I whispered my prayers to the dawn and rose early.

There is always construction going on in Crestone, tucked away among the piñon trees. Houses go up in increments, over time, as money is available, on property folks bought years ago, before Crestone was discovered, when it was still inexpensive. So, along most stretches of road you’ll see at least one port-o-potty. I’d scoped out two before dark, one a very short, convenient walk from the little nook beside the creek, where I’d backed in to enjoy a last night’s sibilant serenade.

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I watched the impulse coalesce to take my morning prayer walk to the Ziggurat. So, off I went. I was content to walk the road in, rather than risk bottoming out the Honda on any of prize-winning ruts that two wheel track tends to cultivate.

 

It was a perfect, watching the mountain retract its shadow across the valley and up the foothills. I stood halfway up to the Ziggurat and waited for the sun to crest the mountain behind me and illuminate the spiraling saffron nipple sleeping atop the hill before me.

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You can walk right up the spiral ramp of the structure, inhabit the whirling of dervish earth, auger toward heaven.  

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The brief 360 agree climb offers a view of Sand Dunes (National Monument)…

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and the mountains…

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And as I stood at the top, I rooted for some Qigong and continued the spiral…

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My summer vacation 2022, chapter 2

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I began writing this second travelogue chapter July 18, one week after the first and one week ago today. While you’re in it, it’s about living more than documenting, and I floated steadily with the stream of days, as rivers, creeks, highways and laughter ran through my travels. Time is the underground river we ride so everything doesn’t happen at once.

The Sunday following the poetry reading was a contentedly drifty rest day, culminating, I recall, with a late afternoon confection of homemade, vegan, cherry vanilla ice cream. Among a number of opportunities to mess it up, and we took a couple of those detours from perfection, but the simple ingredients made it blessedly hard to fail, and it was a delicious endeavor.

Monday I was to have a much anticipated lunch date with my stepmother, whom I haven’t seen for several years. Alas, she wasn’t feeling well. So, my mind and the day went strangely blank. It was predicted to be 99F degrees. I hear we exceeded that, so, small wonder that Dawn accompanied me on a spontaneous venture to Boulder Creek. A good chunk of Boulder had the same idea. But it was still lovely to walk the lush over-grown paths I’ve visited in all seasons over the years, and to dunk myself into the cool river.

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That evening, I lucked into a cancellation with my old friend David, a shiatsu and neuromuscular therapist and fellow alum of Boulder Psychic Institute. He shared a number of impressions he’d gotten in the session. I can’t recall all of them now, but I was struck how he seemed to have picked up Anubis in my field, an Egyptian deity with whom I seem to have an affinity, although David had no name for what he described, only descriptors enough to clue me in. Anubis is often called the god of the underworld, but there is more to it than that. I see him as the Guide for journeying souls. My desktop picture is painting of Anubis, from a divination deck called the Anubis Oracle.

I enjoyed the validation and synchronicity in this, since I was to facilitate my second in a series of five zoom classes on divination the following afternoon. The same picture heads the posting for that class.

Tuesday morning I rose early, but not early enough to escape the heat for a prayer walk around Wonderland Lake. As I huffed up a ridge at 7:37am, the sun was already strong and the day steamy. This trail, steep to climb and steeped in nostalgia, was another I would frequent when I first came to Boulder, recuperating from one and then a second health crash. The trails were a workout then, and that was 25 years ago or more. Today, I took it slow, but still felt spent long before I returned to the car.

Deer graze here unperturbed on the hillsides as walkers walk, joggers jog, and leashed dogs gawp by along the thin dirt threads that meander up and down the foothills. I miss encountering deer so frequently and nonchalantly. The first I encountered this day did raise her head and monitor my movement, because I wasn’t just moving, I was sounding. And she watched, curious. “You talkin’ to me?”

The deer photo standing in here for that moment was actually snapped two morning’s later in Lyon’s Colorado, as I made my respectfully muted prayer walk around a neighborhood in which few warm blooded creatures were up yet, except me and this fetching couple:

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Wonderland Lake, snapped from the high trail:

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Dawn’s household is vegan. Since, given all my metabolic anomalies and food sensitivities, I’ve never found a way to survive long term on a vegetarian diet, I would occasionally indulge my less efficient constitution with some contraband flesh protein, in the least obtrusive way possible. Dawn’s home is very comfortable, and I felt safe, welcome, and blessed in the environment. This was far from rustic camping, so it was a sweet amusement bringing my camper’s pack-it-in, pack-it-out, leave-no-trace sensibilities to the endeavor. Just another loving mindfulness opportunity. I was equipped; for those meals I used my own utensils, bowl, sponge, etc., and sat on the front porch to enjoy the meal and let its distinct odors dissipate among the happy bees, trees and lavender plants.

It’s a sweet little front yard, densely shaded by a catalpa, mulberry and maple tree. As I practiced qigong under their canopy in the mornings, I would be enjoy the squirrels chasing among the mulberry branches, gorging on the ripe fruit. One of them proved equally amused by me the first morning, as I danced quietly through the thick air below him. He would scramble to this branch, then that branch, then the other to take in this swimming statue from all angles. He’d hold my gaze as long as I cared to hold his, a current of curiosity and intimacy crackling between us; and my body always moving, steady and slow.

Wednesday, I prepared myself to leave the bright and easy kinship of Dawn and Dave. My visit to Boulder had been so quietly lovely, although several of the visits I expected to punctuate the trip did not happen. Circumstances did not smile upon my planned in-person meeting with my step-mother; nor on visiting with a semi-shut-in friend or helping him get Cranial-Sacral therapy to integrate a recent surgery; nor on spending quality catch up time with my dear old friend and former housemate, Steve. We only had time for a hug and a few words at my poetry reading. The invitations hovered through the trip, but these birds did not land. None of us seemed inclined (or able) to push the river. Yet never was All not Well. Things felt complete as I packed up my van.

The day would hold one more amusing adventure at Dawn’s, however. We were sitting to meditate in the morning, in their newly finished basement, and we barely heard the door bell. It was workmen come to install one of the final touches. So, a couple of fellows, doused in cologne as they so often are, trouped down the stairs with their wares and we retreated upstairs and included their sounds (and smells) in our meditation. Not long after, another set of workman arrived and deposited a new refrigerator on the porch. To them, this qualified as “in-home” delivery. Dave differed. He had not paid for “installation;” he could do the hooking up himself. But had not planned on hauling the appliance down the basement stairs.

After some negotiation, they helped get it in the door, soon after which it became obvious that, as it was, this fridge was not going to fit through the basement door. Dave, however, was not prepared to accept defeat. He wasn’t quite convinced, and we found ourselves given to a pretty amusing, incremental dismantlement of first the outer anatomy of the fridge (doors, backing, etc.), and then bits of the house (door, and even a small section of the door frame).

This lasted well into the afternoon. It appeared Dave had finally conceded defeat and was regrouping, looking at smaller fridges on line, when it was suggested that if he removed a few inches of the door frame, the bump where the power cord passed into the appliance, it might just fit through. And so he did. It was well after 3pm, I think, when we succeeded in sliding the empty shell of the fridge down those blessedly carpeted stairs to the basement floor. Delight and self-congratulatory euphoria followed, until Dave discovered that the door hinge hardware, usually reversible so that it can either open toward the left or right, was not properly threaded to be reversable. D’oh!

Screen Shot 2022-07-20 at 4.01.07 PMApparently Dave would succeed there, too, although I would not be there for the final happy ending. After Dawn and I sat on her porch swing together for a weekly zoom meeting we’d been attending from different zip codes for a couple of years, I packed up final items, shared hugs, and directed my van north toward Lyons, to begin my mostly southward journey toward Santa fe.

I arrived home to Calista’s in Lyons before she did, but hers is a most welcoming and riotous garden to pass the time in. Plenty of edibles lurking among the greenery and an exploding rainbow of Queen Anne’s lace, sunflowers, day lilies, and more, which wraps around most of the house.

After dinner, we took a walk to the creek in the company of dogs, thunder and a (mostly) light rain.A few years back, much their neighborhood block—and a great swath of Lyons—was washed away in a great flood. Their house somehow survived. All the homes across the street are gone, leaving open access to the St. Vrain river a few yards beyond. It’s sort of an unofficial recreation area now. I noticed I was not the only one sleeping in my van there that night, floating on the steady sound of the rushing river.

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Next morning I returned to the river and meditated on a rock at its edge, sometimes attuned to the rivers of life, blood and thought within my person, sometimes to the steady flow of water before me. I was perched at a little step falls, a place where a volume of glassy water poured into and tucked beneath a churning froth, and I found it an amusing illustration of the mind itself, the simultaneous perpetuity of surface thought froth and the quiet, coherent depth beneath.

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After a morning walk with Calista at Hall’s Ranch and my first non-vegetarian breakfast in a week or so, I began the incremental drive south.

I landed for the night with dear old friend’s Shirley and Jim in Indian Hills. Their last name is Self, and realizing we’d never actually taken a Selfie, we did our best to capture one worthy of the name.

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I’ve spent countless nights over the years on the porch bed where I now sat typing this, among other sites on their magical property. The title poem and picture from my last poetry book were born on their front deck. These friends and this place sheltered me through some very difficult passages. For that I bathe in gratitude. I let myself linger long in my van bed among the familiar sounds and sensations that morning.

I stayed until noon, letting the monsoon clouds catch up to provide more cover for my drive south as far IMG_2785as Crestone. I cradled my laptop on my knees, catching on the week’s doings and beings (mostly beings) and listening to my old friends, lifelong companions, cajoling each other with laughter through the discomfiting peculiarities of old age.

I’m quite sure I’ve forgotten to memorialize many of the most impressive moments in the steady river of this journey so far. But each moment offers more than can be captured in words, and they are all of a piece as I rest back into the consciousness that is creating and inhabiting each one, from behind and before these eyes.

Digression here: When I was in college, I appropriated the subject of a Pink Floyd song as my signature/trademark. I even made a Mockumentary (Porkumentary, actually) about the mythical creature, the Pig on the Wing, explaining that it was not a mere winged pig, not a pig at all, actually. (Like a Koala is not a bear, a Butterfly is not a fly, etc.). The relatives couldn’t quite grock that, though, and they all latched on to the notion inscrutable Michou liked pigs, and, suddenly more easily giftable, I received no end of pig knicknacks over the next years. Occasionally, though, some were clued in enough to at least find winged-pig things. I appreciated the effort.

In the three years since my last visit, someone had added to the roadside attractions along Parmalee Gulch Road (between Shirley’s and the Highway) a lovely winged pig on a stick. It was magnificent enough, I dare say, to be a folksy approximation of a gen-u-wine Pig on the Wing. I had to stop and snap a shot of such sublime and lofty Porcinity.

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While I’ve been on this beatific journey, the housemate I left in Santa Fe has made two whirlwind trips to the Denver area, on a very different sort of adventure with her beau, now confirmed to have cancer. He was undergoing surgery as I wrote this, maybe 20 miles away. I have asked often that the winds of Grace blow his way from where-ever I am, on the wings of pigs, angels or any other miraculous creatures.

I’ve always enjoyed the drive along Highway 285, now a corridor from the Blue zone of Boulder to the Blue zone of Crestone through what have become much more ostentatiously red-zones between. A long stretch of the highway flies Old Glory about every 50 feet. That’s new since I last passed through in 2019. I managed to snap a shot between flags of the lovely globular formations along the banana belt between Buena Vista and Nathrop, before anymore “Democrats Suck” signs besmirch the view.  So far, the land is still so beautiful, no matter the mischief of man.

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I was granted my wish of considerable cloud cover muting the big hard sun, and the drive to Crestone was beautiful, if still long enough to be waring. Upon arrival, I drove straight to Cottonwood Creek for cooling ablutions, offering all the stress to the welcoming water. Before Covid, I’d have hastened to the Ashram for evening Aarati, which would be starting about then. But, not remembering if the service would be open to the public (Covid restrictions), I lingered and paid my respects right where I was, sitting on a stump next to a shrine, singing a grateful song, surrounded by prayers flags riding the wind. All sincere prayers find their way to the same place anyway… and find their way back to the Heart they never left.

I will pause this chapter here, covering my remaining time in Crestone in a separate post.

Here I will tack on a closing epi-travelogue.

I mentioned earlier in these vacation posts that my first overnight in Crestone had blessed me with vital replenishment and validating downloads…insights, wisdoms and knowings from a higher, clearer realm than the personal mind. These were serving to remind me of a bigger picture, reassure me I was on my path, and that, tough as it was, my mission in New Mexico was purposeful and not quite finished.

I was reminded of something Dr. Dan Matthews had said to me years ago, as we hugged good bye at the end of one of his then bi-annual group healing visits to New Mexico. He said “I’m so glad you’re in New Mexico, Michou.” In the moment it seemed to come out of nowhere, but even in my more chronically vexed state at that time, I recognized deeper message in the statement, more than I would attempt to convey here.

Now, these years later, although I’d envisioned myself arriving back in New Mexico on Sunday, things naturally flowed to land me back Saturday evening, in decent physical and psychic condition. By Sunday morning, as mentioned in a preceding post, the compressions of this place, or my alchemical relationship with its Kryptonite, resumed, and they built through the morning.

Once I was already on course to arrive Saturday evening, I received a reminder that Dr Dan was doing one of his now teleconferenced group healing Sunday afternoon. Now clued in, I suspected that part of what I was feeling was the build up to that. It was clear to me that my “early” arrival had been orchestrated so that I could attend. Sure enough, it was a doozy. Intense. But once the dust cleared, we all felt a bit lighter.

I’m gratefully replenished and re-tuned now for the New Mexico mission, AND welcoming whatever next assignment may present. I don’t get the advance chapters very far ahead these days. Stay tuned.

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I arrived last night back in New Mexico. I will soon assemble and post a photo essay or two recapping the latter chapters of my blessed sojourn in Colorado.  Here, I offer fresh impressions of re-entry into the atmosphere of the Land of Enchantment: 

I’m in the uncomfortable acclimation to New Mexico. I  years past, coming from Arizona, I’ve noticed shortly after crossing into NM, a cold, abysmal drain, an undertow of hopelessness, an infiltration of Kryptonite. This time I was resourced and equanimous enough from my replenishment in CO to get home and get unpacked, without succumbing any encroaching shadow, and to get a night’s sleep, as a rain finally relieve the pressure of heat and humidity.

As soon as I rose, however, I was acutely aware of an unshakable irritability, a muted, deep-reaching rage.

As we arrived in Crestone (CO) from New Mexico (NM) on this trip, I had the sense that the Elephant long seated upon the Anaconda long wrapped around the tight fist in the center of my body had been lifted off, the cinching snake relaxed, the fist looser. I still had the pressure in my spine from it all when upright for too long, but the pressure differential was different enough in Colorado that I experienced an at times blissful ease.

This morning after my return, it was back, the implosive pressure, the turning of the screw. The ambient peace of my being was still here, but the sensations demanded attention, like an unconsolable child, and the baseline level of anxiety I’d become inured to in NM, which had faded tremendously in Colorado, induced a sort of Gethseme mood: Take this cup.

That first morning in Crestone, I’d bathed in the euphoric relief, as if a circuit long shorting had been connected. There seemed to be a conductivity that promoted download after download, as if my angels and higher wisdom had been pouring them over me all along, and I was only now able to receive. I was resting in an atmosphere of Wholeness, of ALL IS WELL and as it should be, and in among the intelligence of the message was the knowing that all the compression and torsion of conditions in NM were part of a greater healing and strengthening, maybe not of the body, but of the soul. I even drew the Wazifa, Al Mani, that morning that confirmed this.

Also was the message, that it was still in process, I was closer, but I was not finished in NM. Sigh.

In that sumptuous, supportive bath of Grace, this was easy enough to accept and re-up for. But, as I sat in meditation upon return this morning, it was a harder mission to abide. The sureness nibbled at by the kryptonite, the ease intruded upon by the torsion, the knowing cluttered by the thought-forms of scarcity, anger, indignance in the ambient atmosphere, working on those sanskara in my own personhood.

I was reminded of a friend’s account of his near death experience. He was lifted into the light, shown the perfection of it all, and, bathing in this coherency, easily assented to return. And then followed his sense of plunging into a swamp of shit as he returned to the karmic sludge and higher impedance of his embodiment… and the sleep of forgetfulness (a waking nightmare).

Yup. Kinda like that.

As I rose from meditation, my thought went to needing to eventually eat breakfast. The cupboard was bare, of course, and I could not bring myself to consider buying or eating any of my normal fare. There was some aversion to eating at all, especially anything harkening to life here before I left. As if that would be a concession to remaining here, or returning to how it was.

I was reminded of the story of Persephone, daughter of Earth Goddess Demeter (and Zeus). She was abducted by Hades. Demeter went to the underworld to rescue her, but before she could, Hades tricked Persephone into eating of a native pomegranate, which bound her to the place. (The myth goes on to explain that an agreement was reached, which allowed Persephone to be with her mother half the year, and required her be with Hades the other part. Demeter’s grief during her daughter’s annual absence is the reason for winter.)

Anyway. Yep, kinda like that. Something here seemed didn’t want to partake of the New Mexico fruit. Take this cup of pomegranate juice. But it seems I imbibed a long time ago.

I surrendered best I could, relaxed back into the one here who watches it all without offense, and did my best to witness with compassion and dispassion as the uncomfortable child of man squirmed and grieved.

And I got up to meet a day as Holy as I allowed it to be, with full permission to grieve…and also to laugh.

Post-script

Heads up. I have added a number of photos to the previous travelogue post since its original posting yesterday. Turns out I didn’t have to wait long for shots taken by others to reach me. So I have filled in some gaps. Enjoy.

My summer vacation, part 1

When I lived in Crestone, I used to walk by the Earth Knack property, wondering admiringly about the goings on there, where I knew they practiced and taught others primitive living skills that I yearned to have myself. And Lo, these many years later, my traveling companion had booked us in a little AirBnB cottage on the property. He’d sent me a link in advance with photos of the interior, but it was only as we started honing in on its location that I made the connection. The little cottage, located aptly on Rarity Way, was predictably eclectic, whimsically decorated in Quaint and Cluttered style. It offers, er, mature versions of most amenities of modern life, except WIFI.

The lifestyle practiced here promotes being prepared, so the fridge in our kitchen was packed full of someone’s stored food. Just room to slot in my cooler ices, an easy game of Tetris for a Capricorn.  The sign on the fridge says, Love People…Cook them good food. Amen, just leave plenty of time, because the stove has only low flame “simmer” burners.

While there is little in the way of tech connectivity on the property, as soon as we arrived, I felt more home than I have in years, connected to deeper earth, and to more of my self. The land and mountains of Crestone breathe… and they breathed me back to life, re-awakening me both to the frog in a skillet soul death of life in the city (even Santa Fe) and the bigger picture spaciousness to accept and forgive it all.

I slept in my van to, giving my much-travelled companion the bedroom to himself, for deep sleep and open mouth breathing, and giving me undiluted immediacy to the nourishing nature around us. The creek rushed nearby. The air was alive and pristine. Great gifts of Grace filled me through the first night, rich dreams in sleeping and downloads in waking. I was bathed in beauty, beatitude and gratitude always available, but not so clearly and robustly felt for far too long.

Afternoons would be spent at Valley View Hot Springs. But the first morning, my friend and I walked up to the great Stupa. We’d visited together before, but the place offers expansive views and a rewarding time at the creek after the hike back down.

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7/12

I commented as I drove toward Badger Road in Crestone that I didn’t remember ever seeing a badger in the area. Then, driving home that evening, some dark creature was moseying slow and low to ground across the dusty road ahead. We slowed my Honda (another low rider), and wondered together whether this would be my first (and special delivery) Badger sighting. The critter took a few different identities in our eyes over several sunset-sculpted seconds before solidifying, to the degree a puff-ball pin cushion can, into a porcupine. Briefly, he was as curious about us as we about him, but something I said seemed to prompt him to abruptly pivot and trundle off in what resembled haste. Wish I could recall what I said; always preferable not to offend a porcupine.   (Pictures to come)

It was a perfect day at the hot springs. We had cloud cover much of the day, and we had pools with a view to ourselves for as long as we wanted! In this sacred place where nudity is the norm, devices are not permitted at the pools. When I realized my phone was with me in my backpack, and no one else was there, I got to snap a rare photo of the view.

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7/13

Denver, Bastille day…

This would be a harder day: Too much driving. Too much sun.

It started sweetly. I was up early and we were packed and ready to leave the BnB early, so I began to suspect I was to attend the Paduka Puja at the ashram, a ceremony that preceded the Fire Ceremony I planned to attending. I saw my friend off on his hike up Spanish Creek, and sure enough, I arrived just in time; almost as if they’d been waiting for me. One look in the eyes of Babaji’s photo and I was awash in the knowing that everything was orchestrated. And I was given that gift so as to recognize the less pleasant gifts and teachings as they were delivered later.

I was immediately reminded that not only was this full moon a Super moon, with all kinds of astrological potency, this was also the full moon in July, GuruPurnima, the day when Hindu lineages celebrate their gurus and The Guru. It is customary to wash the feet of the guru. MahaAvatar Babaji is not currently inhabiting a body with washable feet, so it is customary to use a pair of sanctified sandals; and we did. It is a beautiful, tactile ceremony. 

Then we all paraded noisily down to the fire with “Baba,” represented by portrait and sandals. The fire ceremony is another beautiful practice, offering prayers to the fire, the mouth of Mother Earth. Those prayers are offered in the form of sound and tangible substances: purifying water, fragrance, fruit, and a mixture of grains, seeds and dry fruit called samagri. We offer our nourishment in gratitude. It is received and transformed in the fire into the smoke carried into the sky, which brings the rain, which brings the grain, and the cycle continues.

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I accepted the invitation to hold Baba’s umbrella during the Fire Ceremony, a gesture of respect for the Beloved, sheltering his symbolic form from the elements. I appreciated the precision irony and surrender baked into the moment as the one with sun sensitivity stands shading the Guru. 

At the end of the ceremony, I was given the service of distributing prasad (blessed food). I hadn’t done this since Covid, and I didn’t right away clue in to a procedural variation for cleanliness. When I was abruptly corrected by someone, it was inordinately jarring, as a child might feel if jerked by a scolding adult. Waves of disproportionate fear, shame, invalidation of my life and worthiness erupted into my emotional field, which contracted dramatically. I felt altered, addled, and ungrounded for the remainder of my time there. And this echoed on through my field for the rest of the day.

Luckily, those earlier moments of communion and download in the Guru’s gaze during the paduka puja had equipped me with the meta-awareness required to understand what was going on; this episode was a healing gift, uncomfortable and distracting as it seemed.

By the end of our long drive to Colorado Springs in the high mountain afternoon sun, as my composure and stamina were wearing down, the nervous system, along with these activated wounds in my emotional field, were building an overwhelming charge.

I made it clear to my friend that I needed to get out of the sun without delay. He parked in the shade to text his son, whom we would meet for an early dinner before continuing to east Denver. I fled the car to a shady patch of grass, and flopped supine against the ground. Immediately, the earth’s physical and energetic support allowed my body to begin discharging in quiet, steady chuffing contractions of the diaphragm, which if given sound and drama, might qualify as sobs. Only a minute of that and I could collect myself into the car for the short drive to his son’s condo, where I planted my body against another graciously shaded patch of lawn to finish the session.

By the time the son arrived, I’d moved through a gentle yoga practice and was calmly jotting some notes in my journal. Dinner was sweet, in a “healthy” cafe in his climbing gym. He’s a beautiful young man, inside and out. He feels like a nephew to me, and it is heartening to see brilliant youth embracing his world and purpose with gusto and conscience. Yay.

We arrived, at long last, near 8pm at the airport Quality Inn in Denver, conveniently and deafeningly located just off the shore of the roaring river I-70.

Clouds and noise must have obscured the Great Super Moon rising in the east. I don’t recall noticing her until she was well up, and again in the morning as she was setting. Once my friend had caught the shuttle to the airport, I emerged from the building to get oriented and prepare myself and the van for the next leg of the journey. Instead of breakfast, I found grounding and nourishment in letting words flow the old fashioned way, through my arm onto the page….

7/15

A luminous Guru Purnima moon looms in her final super bloom and, blushing, bows, this morning-after, behind the pink and gauzy curtain come to escort her the last few degrees to the horizon.

And the freeway below her belches oblivious ovation, roaring its defiant indignation toward her stillness.

I know, “Nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so,” as I walk the perimeter of the building, looking for a pleasant place to sit for morning contemplation, and finding none.

Geese drift on a placid pond, as if in another, deaf dimension, while its surface, seeming undisturbed, is animated with the reflected torpedo storm of the interstate, which rattles these ears and denser bones.

Any notion of building a counter roar with a yoga flow of warrior poses on the dubiously green grass are scattered with the guano littering lawn.

I wonder what “Quality” this Inn’s name aspires to, as I walk back to the entrance, the memory of the moon’s unfailing gaze still felt between my shoulder blades, and I hear “Lady of the morning, Sun shines in your eyes…” blaring its praise through tinny speakers from yet another dimension of time/space, and uniting them all. Here Heaven and Hades sprawl on either side of the Styx.

By 9:30, I was in the van, navigating the rapids of I-70 toward Boulder. I stopped at an overlook on approach, to punctuate my appreciation for the welcoming sight of those famous Flatirons.

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I was enthusiastically welcomed by my friend Dawn and her husband, and I was so grateful for friends who offered no resistance when I had to spend a good deal of the day resting in my room. I’d begun to suspect that my discomforts were not just symptoms of sun exposure, fatigue, etc. In the era of COVID, one is tempted to fear the worst.

IMG_2693I resolved to take a home test, as a precaution, and I was grateful when a medical intuitive friend called and offered some counsel. Not Covid, according to his resource, but some kind of viral load. I was dispatched to pick up targeted remedies from the store. And a new adventure offered itself.

I unintentionally went off on the errand without my phone. When the first store did not have what I needed, I discovered I could not call my friend for alternatives. I did my best, but my energy was flagging. As I returned to my friends’ neighborhood, I realized I was not sure of the way. The neighborhood is a notorious maze. I’d found it by happy accident the first time, when I lost reception and therefore my GPS guidance, and only found the street while I was looking for a place to turn around.

This time, I said a prayer or two for help and at first seemed to get more turned around. So, I pulled over and decided to knock on a door and ask for help. I saw two homes with lights on, and though one was closer, I was walking toward the other.

I mounted the porch and, in the seconds between my knocking and the door opening, I was rehearsing what I might say to look least crazy, mask at my chin. Who should open the door but Miwa Mack, whom I’ve probably known for 20 years. She’s founder/director of Boulder Psychic Institute, an alma mater of mine. I immediately heard myself squeal Meewa?!? And I explained I was lost –Ha! Says you, silly mortal!– and that I’d thought I was knocking on the door randomly. The delight and power of such a serendipity was a little hard to take in, so we settled for merriment as she introduced me to the wee one on her hip, Verity; and her nanny (I assume), who was just leaving, plugged my friends’ address into her phone. Then Miwa and I exchanged a hug, and the nanny got in her big white truck (modern day steed), and I followed her through the maze to my destination, dropping wonder-soaked bread crumbs all the way.

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On Saturday morning, Dawn and I got out early to walk trail we both hold very dear. They’ve much improved the Ann White trail since I frequented it, to accommodate more use; and they’ve done it tastefully and respectfully. Some of the stonework makes the dewy place a little more Shire-like.

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The trail meanders through a canyon back and forth across a creek 30 times. We counted. There is an enchantment factor that tends to distract you and muddle your count. I experienced it many times over the years. But in concert, the two of us stayed on count.

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This trail supported me profoundly in recovering from an early health collapse. I would hike in and nap on the earth in this or that grassy clearing. Then I would rise to seated and write. Because it is named for a poet, it tended to lubricate my own poetic currents. There is one early poem I associate most with the place.

Shapeshifting

Walk beyond the fear.

Exhale until constriction turns in upon itself.

Float upon the earth until its essence,

     its weight, its temperature,

Is your own,

And the sky is all that moves,

Above you and within you.

    I called the cat,

    But I did not see her come;

    And, in time, I knew I would not,

    From here behind her eyes.

June 4, 2000, Ann U. White Trail, Colorado

That one appears in my first poetry book; but as tribute and thanks, I knew when we returned home that I would read it that night at a public poetry reading promoting the newer poetry book.  

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I was a sweet gathering intermingling Dawn’s social circle with my own. Dawn read four of her poems, too.  Lovely!

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As satisfying as it can be to make a poetry book and to sell copies, the night demonstrated that there is simply no substitute for hearing a poem read by the person it first issued from, and feeling one’s own poetry land in a other live hearts and minds.   Mission accomplished.

The adventure continues. Stay tuned….

At last the ambivalent sky has delivered the euphoria of a summer rain. Rain was predicted today, yet the sky this morning, while cloudy, looked neither convincing or convinced.  

On waking, I found myself called out to Galisteo Basin–painted desert, wide open sky, far-sighted views. I figured if all I accomplished was to ride out there and get rained in, I’d have done my part for every thirsty acre and creature. 

As it was, the clouds were thinning when I arrived, only mildly muting the fierce sun. My skin could feel it pricking at the thin veneer of sunscreen. Still, as soon as my senses were revived with the spiritual oxygen of the vast views (ending in undulating horizon rather than mid-range trees or the next building), every sight was balm and beauty, and the breeze the very breath of Heaven. 

Words are paltry souvenirs.I prefer the silence between them.  Galisteo Basin is not about one color but  the conversation between many; and not about one season but all of them, present in every moment on ground that has borne them all.

Even without the help of the rain, the colors of the palate here bleed into one another, one giving way to the next underfoot, and coloring the dozens of dusty, dozing lizards flushed from their matching background by our boot-steps. 

For a quick visual taste, click Here: IMG_2618

The trailhead has a mascot: a windmill, a working one. This June day, it was hypnotically pumping a trickle of water into its corrugated steel cow basin, whose surface was bejeweled with over a dozen dazzling water lilies. Lakshmi was dancing among them as sunlight, and the windmill blissfully cranked on its praiseful and percussive devotions:

Windmill:

 

with Water:

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As the sky continued its inscrutable debate between sun or storm, I delighted in the disorientation of a little micro-clime of flora around the tank, as I moved, in three gentle steps, from scanning about over dust and stone for rattle snakes and stink-beetles to checking my legs for ticks in the tall, lush grass.

My recent post Heel, Sole, Heal Soul referenced an anecdote from film school promised for another day. Today I dug up the version I typed out some years back and archived with other “memoir fodder” deep in my computer. I think it’s a story better told than written, but I have altered little here except to change the names, since I’m not currently in touch with these dear characters to ask permissions.

During my junior year of film school, I’d been befriended by a senior, [Dan]. I joined some of my peers that spring break to serve as crew on his final film project. During a game of Frisbee between set ups, less than halfway through the week, I injured my foot, simply walking up a driveway to retrieve the disc. I had a hairline fracture in my 5th metatarsal, and I returned to the set in a cast. Luckily, I was mostly script supervisor (continuity) by then, and the shoot had moved into a single bay garage. Much of the action of this film took place inside a car. So, for the duration of the shoot, I sat– very still, already a yogi!– on the hood of the car, propped and prevented from falling off by the body of gaffer.

The film is a dark one, but hilarity reigned among the crew. We’d gather in the evenings and watch other movies. Although I wouldn’t trade all the camaraderie and laughter, I also found myself troubled and lonely in this company, as they would frame advance through the gore of Robocop to try to determine how the effects of dismemberment playing out on screen was accomplished.

Probably the very night I had injured my foot, we were all getting punchy. We had wrapped work for the day and adjourned to the Ruby Tuesdays for dinner. There might have been twelve of us in our prodigiously witty party. Things were uttered that evening that still pounce from the recesses of memory on occasion and break me up laughing!

I can only now remember one when, amid a cascade of rapid-fire banter, [Eric] — or was it [Russ]?– in the middle of his own manic anecdote, asked what you call the thing that hangs from a rooster’s chin, and [Chuck] fired back too quick for considered thought: “The Cocky Dangle!” and we all exploded into laughter.  Maybe you had to be there, but I’m glad I was.

After more hilarity, Dan got up to go to the bathroom, and as he did, he said something to [Thom] in passing that triggered a silly impulse in [hom to grab his steak knife and jab in Dan’s direction… all jokingly… except that Dan had moved unexpectedly and the knife landed, goosing Dan in the butt. He hooted with pain and surprise, but we were all still laughing. Since I had to pee, too, Dan offered to help me, and we made our way to the bathroom, with me leaning on him. As I limped, he complained that his ass really hurt.

When I finished, he wasn’t outside the loo waiting for me. I waited a bit more, wondering if something was amiss or if he’d just returned to the table. Men! I thought, as I limped back to our little impromptu Algonquin Memphis, half-expecting to find him laughing obliviously with the rest. He wasn’t here. So I hobbled back in time to meet him emerging from the men’s room, looking pale and a little green. “We have to go,” he croaked. We returned to the table, with Dan leaning on me this time, and we gathered the troops and returned to his house. The mood was muted, though goofiness would erupt from the crew like solar flares. When we arrived at Dan’s, many of the guys piled into his bedroom. Not long after, all kinds of exclamations issued from the room. Then one of them came out and summoned me. Maybe I already smelled like a healer, but just as likely, this was an excuse to expose me to Dan’s naked butt.

There it was, nestled in his crumpled bedspread, a fine ass… with a rather anomalous dimple where one bun was flayed open, exposing what looked like a crescent moon of roe in marinara sauce. This was where Thom’s spontaneously administered incision was exposing the beads of adipose tissue, tidily stacked in a bloody backdrop. Even then, I was momentarily drawn into this tiny window on a big miracle. The wound was maybe an inch. The guys were suitably grossed out and mostly hanging back against the wall. They wanted [Michou] to fix it.

I asked for various supplies. No one could find what I suggested, so Thom and I ended up venturing to a 24-hour Walgreens. While I limped down the first aid aisle, unsuccessfully hunting for a butterfly bandage, Thom, by then demonstrably anxious about what he’d quite innocently done, approached the pharmacist and began asking questions about the best way to treat this sort of superficial stab wound. I did not yet have a cast, and the pharmacist, who could see I was injured, was eyeing me reservedly as he laconically answered Thom. No telling what he thought. But I tried to cheer Thom up with his possible imaginings as we drove home.

Then, a little like a surgeon in an operating theater under witness of Dan’s posse, I drew the cliffs of the little canyon in Dan’s gluteus back together and affixed them as best I could. I think I gained a new sort of respect from the crew, and we called it a night.

Some days after the shoot had wrapped, Chuck and Thom came to visit, and they half-watched a movie with me (Harold and Maude, maybe?) while they illustrated my cast. It was classic. Somewhere pictures exist of this one-of-a-kind masterwork depicting a burning city-scape along the arches of my foot, and all the way up the leg the scales of the sci-fi monster whose foot was about to squash it flat.