My Summer Vacation…

It is a beautiful paradox that the patron saint of soldiers was a conscientious objector. Since his father was a pagan army man, St. Martin’s namesake is the god of war, Mars himself.  And yet, it is reported that St. Martin refused to fight, offered to stand unarmed at the front, and that before his commander could jail him for insubordination or cowardice, the enemy approached to negotiate peace.

The famous story of St. Martin is that he cut in half his soldier’s cloak to clothe a naked beggar, who it is said later revealed himself in a dream to have been Christ.

A heart of peace and forgiveness melts all armaments, eventually.

And I venture that, given a few more days on the beach in St. Martin, the last ramparts of my heart and muscular fortifications might well have melted in the benevolent swathing of  sun and sea.

St. Martin is also the patron saint of horses. Didn’t see a single equine citizen while there, only a couple of distant donkeys. But galloping through the clear water with all four limbs, walking on sand not only unshod but unclothed, put me back in touch with an embodied ease, certainty and power not so accessible at higher altitudes.

Just a whirlwind trip. But luckily no whirlwinds accosted us while there. We were into hurricane season, so it was steadily windy and the surf perpetually choppy, but the sun was an attentive host and the water an embracing (rather than bracing) temperature: liquid crystal, clear and salty.

We arrived on a Saturday evening, just before 9 local time, carrying long days of travel in our muscles and pores.  As we watched the license plate—St. Martin, The Friendly Island—of our kindly taxi recede, we dumped our bags and barefooted it along white sandy paths to the beach, having arrived only enough to know this was not Kansas, nor Santa Fe, nor Boise, New Orleans, Chicago nor Seoul. We were walking in a dream where the lights hadn’t come on yet. But the ocean between our toes told us that this was a fully functional holo-deck. So we retired and awaited morning’s glory.IMG_0326

Upon rising, I continued reeling myself back into my body with yoga and Qi Gong on the lawn outside our little cabin, on grass so short and wiry that we had suspected it was astro-turf the night before. It felt good, but it was different from the previous morning, when, alone in Miami, I had sought out a nearby park and practiced in lush, soft grass and in humidity thick enough to hold me aloft in standing balancing poses, resting my leg parallel to the turf on a blanket of swollen air. Then I meditated under a wonderful shade tree whose species I couldn’t even guess, but who spoke a universal dialect of Tree, and we understood each-other beautifully. I watched an elderly gentleman practicing the Five Tibetan Rites on a concrete slab, curious about his preference for this over grass.

I had stayed that night in the biggest Days Inn I’ve encountered. The layover between check out and my flight was hours, and I did not want to spend them inside the airport. But I shuttled to the airport, where I was told I could catch a train to downtown Miami and a little shuttle to the Bayside.  The coordination of these conveyances was not favorable for the venture, however, and so I waited on outdoor platforms, grateful for the breeze and unfamiliar, if urban, vistas, and rode the train downtown and back. I amused myself taking selfies against a glass wall,

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…but I didn’t take a shot of the Dade County Children’s Courthouse. Children’s Courthouse: as big or bigger than the adult one.  I didn’t care to contemplate all that this discovery told, but I could only suspect it was not good news that the Miami’s children required their own courthouse; but if they did require one, I’m glad the investment was made to accommodate the need.

I met up with my friend Jack for the Miami-St. Martin leg, and I watched the clouds playing out the airplane window jealously until it was too dark to see them.

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Cameras aren’t allowed on nudist beaches. So, I reserved my photographic pursuits for the few times we left the resort in our civvies, or for a few snaps around the house—of the little iguana who spent his days upon a bird-nest outside our window,

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or of the charming towel topiary that greeted us after every maid’s visit,

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or of the view through the cabin’s door screen,

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or around sunset and sunrise, when surreptitious snaps at the beach were possible.

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And after all, I have a tradition to uphold: the imperative shot of my tanned feet contentedly encrusted with bone-white sand, to bookend the white toes dipped in the volcanic black silica of Kare Kare beach, in New Zealand. Lucky girl; happy feet.

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What is there to report really? I didn’t write much while there. It was more a time to experience easeful embodiment rather than to reduce the experience to mere words.  It was a time of resting, of romancing the sand, of sunning, of snoozing and of Snorkeling! Now that was a dream come true long over due.  This was my first opportunity to snorkel, and I could easily make that a way of life. What a consummate meditation, surreal and world-melding, hypnotic and sense-heightening. Body floating on water, mind floating on the sound of the breath, eyes feasting on another world. All rhythms at once independent and synchronized.

When I had trouble with my mask (and some other misadventures that chased away my peace) and felt a storm of confusion and infantile emotion tangling my faculties– like the plastic that litters our oceans and strangles our sea-fowl– I gratefully gave up all effort to reason my way out of it; I just gave myself back to the water, letting the swirl of surf, reeds and fishes untangle all trace of snarled self.

It was not at one of the world’s most lauded reefs; It was simply 20 meters from Pedro’s beach-side grill and massage hut. Yet that offered up plenty for this newbie to savor: flat fish, long fish, wide fish, solid and striped fish, of silver, copper, gold, yellow, blue, orange and, even only three meters from shore, a school of white angel fish (with tasteful grey tabby trim), each about the dimensions of my hand.

I also saw, despite his best efforts to hide, a lobster. He simply could not conceal his pinchers and antenna in the grotto he was backed into, try as he might while my shadow hovered persistently!

And I saw a meaty brick-brown starfish on the sandy floor, whom I so wanted to reach out and interlace my fingers with. But he, along with many alluring conch shells, loomed farther out of reach than they looked.

Be as a child to enter the kingdom of heaven. It would seem snorkeling can take you through the needle’s eye.

In the evening, we would get out the guitar and sing as many songs as the mosquitos would allow. And then we would leave those skeeters to the happily chirping bats slolamming about among the palm trees.

Rain was predicted for our last full day. So, the day before it, despite having already had our quota of sun, we took a taxi to hike up Pic Paradis, the highest point on the small island (nearly 1500 feet). The taxi could not take us very far up the steep, winding, one lane, cobble-brick, road leading to the trailhead. So we trudged up the road. It was hot, and we were surrounded not so much by lush greenery, but by very thirsty hedges, some wilting. This wasn’t the desert, to be assured, and there was still much thriving tropical flora, but (our cab driver informed us) it had rained far too little for six months, and the hills were brown, and clearly not accustomed to being so. There had, in fact, been a fire upon on the pic two nights before, possibly a lightning strike—not certain.  We did not get far enough to see the fresh burn, but we saw a hill that had clearly seen fire recently.

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We did not know how far it really was to the peak. I, who had not been feeling well, had to wrestle with my Capricorn, when the steepness and the heat called the wisdom of continuing into question. Body was saying: Not Kind. Capricorn was saying: So What?  Sissy!  Eventually we turned around and enjoyed the downhill return along the path bejeweled with bougainvillea, oleander, bird-of-paradise, and a tree with bright orange bloom-clusters probably called Royal Poinciana (or Flamboyana).

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Back at our Orient Bay beach, the waves tended to flow along the shore toward the northwest, more parallel than perpendicular. Ocean waves entered the bay at an angle from the southeast, breaking over a reef a distance out, into more manageable waves.

The Thursday saved for rain turned out to be the clearest, sunniest day all week. So, after our morning’s drift from one end of our sanctioned waters to the other, riding the current on our pool noodles, we decided to walk up the beach beyond the “No Naturistes beyond this point” signs, disguised as clothed tourists, which we were.

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I haven’t mentioned that although folks generally speak some assortment of French, Dutch, and Creole, near everyone on St. Martin speaks English. And if we wanted to speak French, we had to initiate in French. This was ironic on French soil. I’d just been in Miami, USA, where one might assume the default language was English. But the most common language I encountered was Spanish. My shuttle drivers spoke minimal English, and, in the airport, I actually encountered a uniformed, official-looking gentleman, to whom I directed a question, who replied in Spanish that he didn’t speak English.

So, we walked up the beach in search of a good lunch and some snacks for the next day’s long plane-rides. We lighted at KAKAO, an open-air beachside restaurant haunted by buxom wooden piratesses and understandably grumpy looking pirates missing some combination of extremities.  And they gazed through the shade-palms with the far off look of those who scan the horizon all day looking for better days or a wayward limb…and who are made of wood.IMG_0320 IMG_0327

Basically a Tropical-themed, family-friendly Hooters.

Typical of the French, though, the meal was beautiful enough to take a picture of, but we were too hungry by the time it came. I did snap a picture of the oh-so-continental looking water service.

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Then the pomme frites came and, tasty as they were, eclipsed any consideration of food as art.  The waitresses were as happy to practice their English as Jack was to practice his French; mostly I listened from the neutral zone, throwing out about equal number of utterances in each language—between mouthfuls— to keep the score even.

The final day, we rose before 4:30 a.m. to avoid Jack’s alarm, and Jack was off on his taxi ride to Princess Julianna International Airport, on the Dutch side of the island (less than 30 minutes cab ride through town) by 5:30.  Our taxi driver, Marcel, would come back for me at 9:30. I had four more precious hours. I meandered out to the beach and watched the sunrise over the mist-bank on the horizon.  A photo of that is found on my preceding blog “Last day at the Beach.” It was only hours later that I checked my email at an airport and learned that today’s word from dictionary.com was “Fogdog”  —uncannily apt:

\FOG-dawg\

noun

  1. a bright spot sometimes seen in a fog bank.

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It was at this point, once Jack left again, that a quorum of my writer finally arrived, and the above-mentioned, preceding blog emerged as a morning’s open-eyed meditation. I logged mundane observations made significant by their being the last. The moments before an ending or death slow down, become more vivid and sacred. So I cobbled those together as a tribute to the trip, not sure whether an extended travelogue piece would ever emerge.IMG_0273

As I’ve lingered too long on the computer to produce one, recollecting the recent days buffeted on sea and sky, I find I am now swimmy again, feeling myself— or the room —rocking, as if I were again far from solid ground.  And, as I look out at the sea of waving grass in this unseasonably rain-fed Santa Fe summer-scape, who can be sure?

 

Last day at the beach

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Last Day at the Beach

Lounging on the sound of the surf.   Gazing over sand encrusted toes at longue chairs floating on a sea of bone-white silica and then the rolling aqua sea beyond…

Knowing that when the beads of water upon my legs disappear it will be time to leave, to walk away from this home always open, this bosom always breathing, beckoning, and ready to embrace, and feeling the lingering salt clinging to me like a child who, knowing she owns me, never completely lets go.

What is most days cloying, as I climb back onto the solid bone and gravity of dry land and adulthood, and which compels me to shower as pores gasp for air, today is a sweet and crispy comfort, muscles flexing taut skin in the breeze.

Ten Drops Left.

The boats nod acknowledgement, masts wave a demure farewell, Frothy liquid lace licks the sand, and the sun beams a little harder to tempt me back into the sea.   The attendants plant their daily orchard of yellow umbrellas: a ballet of pinwheels tilting at the sun, fluttering Mikado trills.

Seven drops now.

I gaze upon the juiciest one, knowing it will be the last one left… Lamenting not… I can only taste a prayer of praise on my tingling tongue. This tongue that speaks more of life in that soundless tingle than in all the words it may form as I walk anew in the landlocked world, among my mind-locked brethren who quiz me about my sojourn in paradise.

Three drops left.

Paradise is inside, though. I carry it with me. Everyday is a dream. Adam went to sleep and has not wakened. And as he sleeps we are all still in paradise. And as we dream with him, we paint a world of endless color and texture. I savor this one before the palate dries and I turn the page.

One Drop Left…

…In no hurry to join the air, just like me, in no hurry to join the airborne citizens of the world with nine hours to come in a metal cylinder, in which the only potable water is trapped in a still smaller one. All is white now: the sky, the sand, the salt… even my skin, in comparison to the beautiful brown brothers who get to stay here, beyond the life of this droplet, to arrange the furniture and plant new rows of parasols and flash again their smiles of bright ivory, which purify my heart.   The drying sand is dropping off my toes now, and yet the last droplet holds. In it the sum of my six days at the sea.

July 17, 2015
St. Martin

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Joyeux Adversaire

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We’re staring at each other,

like the banks of a river,

and we can’t get any closer,

but we form a life between us.

Must be the different directions we’re facing….

–From “A Life Between Us,” Finn Brothers

Cancer opposes Capricorn in the zodiac; in a way they are like mirrors… .

Becca, a Cancer to whom I paid tribute on her birthday four days ago, used to speak of the “Dual.” (She pronounced it Du-all.) The concept seemed clear enough—in a way it was one’s match, well beyond the romantic sense– but her source for the term now eludes me, and I’ve not found another reference to it since—except in mathematics.

I don’t even know how it was spelled.

But the language of the mathematical definition (lifted here from Wikipedia) is relevant:

dual (not comparable)

  • Exhibiting duality
  • Acting as a counterpart.
  • Double

My sense is that the Dual is a mirror, can be a partner for duet and for duel, whatever is required: a particular sort of soul-mate with whom the weave of common fabric is so strong it can withstand the frictive heat when the Dual must take the part of adversarial ally. Given the wiggly, inscrutable multi-dimensionality of things, it could be that we can encounter more than one in a life. But one can be plenty, when we are lucky enough to meet them, and, more, to actually recognize them.

And this Capricorn, born January 5, has seen the awesome Grace of meeting her Dual, born July 5.

Today I pay tribute to that.

I bow to him, my brother of the other shore, and I wish him a Happy Birthday, sending him more love than either of us can fathom.   

But I pay tribute to the life between us: that river conducts a lot of juice—the Love so big no banks contain it–and maintains the magnetic tension of all duality.

There is more I could say, but why? It’s all there, between the words, between the breastbone and the Big Bang. The Gentle Hum in the Deafening Silence. I get glimpses of this, which overflows the banks of the finite mind:

“…still as unknown as ever… .”

The banks of a river are made of the same earth, and are contiguous under the water, the mirror that seems to separate them.

And this is true of everything in this world of duality. Each Dual is thus teacher to the other, these shores whom the river seems to keep separate, while at once nourishing and dissolving them, until, moment by moment, cell by cell, it carries them home to the sea.

*All Italicized black bits are lyrics by one Finn or another.

Declaration of Interdependence

Many of us have probably noticed a tendency in cats to eat while you are in the room, and then lose interest in their domestic food until you enter the kitchen again, when they return to their dish and resume eating. I’ve seen this behavior in cats of different temperaments, on a number of occasions.  It seems to betray a confusion between their independence as formerly wild creatures, and their domesticity and recognition of their entanglement with their human stewards.
And I sense an analogy with the confusion between our own wild selves as humans and our entanglement with the greater group (society, community), especially for those of us who have touched and identify strongly with the impersonal and transpersonal realms of reality and human experience.  There is a Wildness inside us, a resonance and an authority that comes directly from our unified and mysterious source, and, depending on our natures and our experiences, it gets more or less tempered (alas, even distorted) by societal conditioning.
I’ve wondered what degree karma and astrology govern the tendency in cats, as I am sure it does in humans. I can only extrapolate from my own experience and the intuitions I’ve perceived when observing cats with the habit I describe. I’ve noticed and mused about this phenomenon in the past, but never opened a journal and pursued the musings.
Then, I was recently talking to a friend about his 18-year-old-feline housemate, with whom I’ve registered his keen psychic/astral entanglement from the first meeting with her. He reports that she will tend to lose interest in her food as soon as he walks away, but will eat it avidly or dutifully if he sits down on the floor with her while she eats.  He wonders if she is eating, and by extension, staying alive, for him.  And he is astute here.   Many a cat knows when they’ve been a reason to get up in the morning, someone safe to give to and receive “love” from.
I don’t insist that they “know” this from that place behind eyes and whiskers whence come their cat-life cognition and strategies, but they know, somewhere in that field of knowing that all sentience arises from. We all have this to some degree, this juggle between our wild and domesticated selves, our independent/separate identities and trajectories, and our identity with the greater self held and generated in the group.
So here I am, one who, astrologically, is wired both to prefer and identify with the impersonal love and the rarified sacred geometry of Creation expressed in Nature, yet who requires engagement with others of my species to exercise my gifts and purpose in the human realm; and I seem unable survive without either or with only one exclusively. 
Yet, like a cat, bred for domesticity in spite of my wildness, I better digest the food of man when among other men, who seem to have the stomach for it; and thus it is that I require their energy to function as one of them now and to exercise my human faculties.
And so it is that we straddle these worlds and accommodate both. If our sustenance seems dependent on our domestic connections, we must remember and stoke the fires of those appetites, in order to feed and be fed in that game; yet, many of us—man and beast– when left to our own devices, drift back, in psyche if not in body, to our simple origins, which dispense with the middlemen of domestic life—the grocer, the television, the priest, social mores and even individuality.
I’m just thinking aloud here, and although I might have been thinking it, I didn’t once employ the word “co-dependency.”
I want you to want me; I need you to need me;
I’d love you to love me; I’m begging you to beg me.    
(Cheap Trick)
As long as we believe that we are separate, what else is there to get up to with these bodies? In my own case, I am aware that I have many gifts with which to serve the world, and there is little juice for “me” on my own these days. I am like a marionette, brought to life when animated by the Great Puppeteer, who plugs me into the greater energy of the group in order to fuel my contribution. But when I am unplugged, there is confusion and collapse, because while creative ideas still flow and impulses to promote a “me” still spark, there is no juice in this isolated instrument to fuel them. So is the ego’s tendency isolate to protect itself thwarted.
Said another way, I no longer have juice for self-promotion unless in company with others, then this greater energy and auspice moves through me in ways that is more profound and useful for the tribe, and nourishing for me. I also crave quiet solitude, and must have it to recharge. Yet if I have that too long, I don’t have seem to have self-propelling energy to fuel body or individual existence. Humans can know their wholeness alone, but as long as we find ourselves in bodies, that seems not enough and must be balanced. It is as if a perception of personhood alone can take us only so far in realizing we are not separate as people. Oneness with everything can be apprehended and sometimes merged with in isolation, in nature. But many of us have become very identified with personhood (even if it is as a person who identifies with the universal), so if we apprehend this one-ness from the perspective of one who is still a person in a body, probably we must then move toward humanness rather than away from it, in order to be free.
When we are alone, especially in nature, the “me” can seem to disappear. But if, once in company, it appears and collides with other “me”s, and all the “me”s focus on the phenomena of our walls colliding, rather than of the limitless life and Spirit—the Wildness– that animates us all, then, when we retreat from the irritation of that friction–the mirrors of our own armor of domestication– those walls still exist and still limit our own connection to our ultimate source and identity.
It is in company, where the collisions occur, that we cultivate the disciplined choice to relate to the Common Life/Love/Self rather than the retaining walls of individuality. And this, ironically, makes it possible to celebrate the kaleidoscope of multiplicity all the more delightfully.
So, where I once looked down upon co-dependency, I’ve learned that I must embrace interdependency. While my bargain may be with the Source common to all, providence comes through the many instruments in Creation’s symphony; and in our world the Wild works plenty through the domestic! And so this cat will prowl many territories alone, yet will kindly bring her body back to the watering hole where the world gathers to share nourishment and compare notes.

Tribute from a tributary

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On her birthday today, I celebrate Becca Wells, whose body would have turned 59 this year, had she not finished her course and gone home early in 2012. She was a timeless friend.

Her gifts to me were many and monumental.

 In August of 2005, I wrote a letter of recommendation for her, which helped her land a job at Noosa Pengari Steiner School in Denmark, Western Australia.

In December she moved there, for Love.  What else motivated Becca?

I was finally able to visit her there in 2012, motivated by a mysterious compulsion that over-rode my own malaise of mind and body. We spent about five weeks together, grateful, but, still taking much for granted. Within three or four months after my return to the States, she was gone. And there are many miraculous stories around that passage alone.

But today, I need only post the letter I wrote all those years ago.

I would scarcely change a word.

We should all have the gift of a friend who earns these words, the privilege to write them, and the Grace that someone might say such things about us.

To the staff and faculty of Noosa Pengari Steiner School,  regarding applicant Kira Rebecca Wells:

On her birthday this year, I gave Becca Wells a card quoting Rumi: Our friendship is born of being awake. The verity of this statement is cause for deep and perpetual gratitude for me. I have known Becca for a relatively short yet profoundly rich five years. Hers is one of the most meaningful friendships I will know. She is a rare individual who meets all that life presents with noble wakefulness, thoughtful candor and robust passion. Becca certainly bears out my belief that the best friends are teachers; this not in the formal sense, but in that their flexibility, compassion, generosity and honesty provide the space and trust that fosters true growth. My impression, from the parents of her students, is that this applies comparably in her professional as well as personal life! As individuals and comrades, Becca and I share an unrelenting commitment to integrity and realization of Spirit in the human endeavor.  In the way she conducts her life, Becca continues to teach and inspire me. Nearly every interaction, whether with intimates or strangers, demonstrates her sensitivity, clarity, charity and dedication, and, in light of her own journey, a deep faith in the spiritual potential of humanity.  I’m not describing a saint. I am describing a friend who is tenderly human and strong of character; one whose soul reaches deep; whose enthusiasm is infectious; whose intelligence is keen and kind; whose capacity to listen, show up, love and celebrate life, and to let Grace minister through her, is uncommon in this time and culture.        

  I know I will feel her absence poignantly; yet I know her presence has made an indelible impression and will continue to impart its gifts to me. I can only hope my contribution to this friendship approaches equal value to her. I genuinely wish you the blessing of her acquaintance and good service!

Respectfully,

Michou Landon

Boulder, Colorado

August 22, 2005

And as a post script, I also include my only other public writing about Becca. The first three paragraphs of the passage below is excerpted from my contribution to a eulogy read at her wake in Australia. The last paragraph was added for this post. May all be blessed by the essence of this bright and strong Spirit, still serving the world through those who knew her.   

We had been friends a few years when Becca gave me such a profound gift of witnessing and validation that it deepened our friendship instantly and eternally. I was going through one of many dark nights of the soul, blind with depression and confusion. I can’t capture the words precisely anymore, but a couple of stunningly candid and astute sentences dissolved my constipated emotion and self-pity into a gushing flow of relief, astonishment and gratitude.   

As my sobbing subsided and I lay on the floor, processing a swirl of bewilderment and redemption, she glanced at me over her sewing, and with just a hint of a smile, said casually, “It feels good to be seen, doesn’t it?”     

She’d spoken something I’d scarcely even allowed myself to acknowledge about either of us.  The content hardly seems revelatory or relevant now, but, at the time, it was huge, not just what she said, but that I had no idea how much she could see. It blew me open.     In the years since, we would both mature and go far deeper, as sisters and spiritual peers, but that moment was an initiation for me. And she officiated.   Now she is gone, and I carry the torch onward. And I, but a dry leaf on a branch now, live to look up from the grindstone and debris, and offer this witness to you.