Dark Waters

Some weeks ago, on a still bright evening, I was out at the waterfront with a friend, and a couple of women with youngish kids full of beans were just behind us as we leaned out to get a closer look at the water. There is no tall guardrail or anything at the lip of the boardwalk – quite easy to fall in, really, if you aren’t paying attention – so when one of the kids came up closer beside us for a good lean over the water, his mom snapped at him to step back, saying to us, “dark waters – those are dark waters”.

So true! I remember the light blue of the water at Cayo Coco, Cuba – you know that Caribbean thing with the impossible white of the beaches and then the transparent turquoise of the water, and it’s so clear you can see pretty multi-coloured fish from a distance, gorgeous and brilliant, swimming around…

No, no – up here it’s the great lakes, the water is deep and very dark, and we’re on the edge of a harbour where recently a fisherman pulled up a muskie he didn’t expect to find.

Just walking along the waterfront, you can see the flicker of a shiny belly sometimes. Right now most of the geese have left, but there’s still a few mallard ducks and a number of cormorants who dive and sometimes will suddenly appear on the surface after a long deep search, but there are other obviously scaled bellies that will flicker up above the surface for a moment… mysterious large prehistoric looking fish.

I’ve been thinking a lot about elements lately, as I recently signed up for a seminar about “energy medicine”. It’s something I’ve checked out a bit in the past and loved, but then in the chaos and sweep of other life things got distracted from. But the last few years I’ve had this little health thingy developing that has been demanding some attention, and I have to admit, a visit to the doctor sometimes seems to cause more problems than it solves, so checking out what else is out there, available, and potentially helpful strikes me as worthwhile.

Just this week someone posted this quite spectacular paragraph from Virginia Woolf about the, ahem, “journey” into dark waters health issues can take us on –

Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to light, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us in the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist’s arm chair and confused his ‘Rinse the mouth—rinse the mouth’ with the greeting of the Deity stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us—when we think of this and infinitely more, as we are so frequently force to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love, battle, and jealousy among the prime themes of literature.

~ Virgina Woolf

So, since I seem to have found myself with a need to learn more – or maybe it’s a need to learn something different – about how to take care of my health, I’d signed up for this workshop. It’s stuff that borrows a lot from Chinese Medicine – meridians and such – but has been kind of synthesized and reshaped by some California white women types who have turned it into a bit of their own thing.

And gosh, Saturday morning of the webinar, just doing some of their very simple exercises was feeling so awesome, and they are little things that are so easily integrated into anything else you might be into – yoga or dance or whatever – and I was feeling better minute by minute, and was so excited to be reminded of how much I enjoy this practice, when the webinar went to lunch break, and some music was put on for the break period –

Did you hit play there? Did you check out the level of insipid swill?

If so, I’m taking a gander you’ll understand how every cynical bone in my body was triggered into overdrive, that all the goodwill and trust I’d been feeling towards this teaching retreated, the faint hint of bile could be felt in the back of my throat in reaction to the sacharine insipidity, the kind of tune you’d expect to hear on Romper Room or Mr Rogers.

Okay, okay, maybe I’m being harsh, but you know, I came up on tunes like this –

And even now the kind of thing I listen to is better reflected by a local track I can’t get enough of – that speaks to me partly cause it feels like it represents the kids in the city where I live (so much talent, so much class), and then also cause the video is shot just around the corner from our building, just down Cherry St, with a bunch of epic shots in the parking lot where the grain towers are, and you can see the condos across from us in the background…

Both White Riot and 24 are such full-bodied tracks – different schools of music, different cultural references, but they are genuine and rockin’ and don’t have an insipid bone in their bodies.

Anyways, I’d had such a visceral reaction to the musical soundtrack from this workshop that I played it for a friend when she was over. “Oh! The worst of America!” she gasped. So, okay, maybe not quite America, all things considered, but perhaps some of the worst of California.

Werner Herzog – a highly original artist / human in both his films and in his person – has got to be the best at taking the piss out of all things California (where he lives!) –

Of course, California is also where some of humanity’s most astonishing stupidities started, like the hippie movement, New Age babble, stretch limos, pyramid energy, plastic surgery, yoga classes for children, vitamins and marijuana smoking… There are a lot of well-educated people doing very silly things in Los Angeles, like a man in my neighbourhood who one day casually mentioned his cat was in some sort of a frenzy, so he called the cat psychic. He put the receiver to his pet’s ear and for $200 the animal’s problems were solved. 

~ Werner Herzog

Okay, personally I adore both yoga and marijuana (neither of which were invented in California) and find hippies and New Age babble to be pretty full of potential, but given the degree of the woo people can take things to, yes, I feel the same derisory snorts at the story of the pet’s psychic.

But here’s the thing – I do feel a distinct positive gain from doing the “energy medicine” stuff these California ladies are teaching.

So is it just – “take what you like and leave the rest”?

Art installation by Elwood Jimmy

Cause I’m not sure if maybe I feel another question poking out of the corners of my consciousness as well, and I think that is :

How much change, or which change, is necessary to heal what is out of balance?

How deep and how far reaching does the change need to be?

Art installation by Elwood Jimmy

The Sun Came Out

The last few days the weather in Toronto has been increasingly amazing. Each day warmer and sunnier than the last. Gorgeous. Record breaking.

As a Brazilian friend once said: It must be hard for Canadians to be against climate change…

Oh yeah. When you get September style weather in November – how many people have I seen in shorts the last couple of days?

However, the week was still a bit tense as the entire world watched the slow election results in the States, and here on the backside of the lakefront, there is endless construction, so it’s never exactly peaceful … I swear in 10 years this neighbourhood will be the bomb, but right now…

And then suddenly it’s a Saturday and it’s warm and sunny and since first thing at daybreak droves of cyclists have been out on the bike path. I take a few minutes to wash down the balcony, cause all the construction dust, not to mention all the bird poo that’s been piling up since I started putting food out for the birds…

And it’s shaping up to be just a fantastic Saturday already when they finally announce Joe Biden as the winner of the election, and BOOM

Everyone’s outside. Up and down the boardwalk.

It’s just so much good all at once, all of a sudden.

Through the happy active walkers, one guy rides by on his e-bike, a boom box blasting…

A woman in the park dances free and expressive, a tiny creative figure all on her own….

Passing the family on the next bench, a little girl sings Twinkle twinkle, little star…

And rounding the next corner a few guys have set up one heck of a powerful sound system on one of the picnic tables and are clearly intent on starting a party… deep house mix…

Each group of people rounding the corner lights up as they land into the sound bubble of booming tunes. A little girl appears, claps, skips, and makes a b-line for the music, her grandma trailing behind…

Back home I put out new food for the birds, turn up the tunes, and dance on the balcony as the sun sets on a fabulous Saturday …

Lens Artists – The Sun Will Come Out

Sun’s up

Sun’s up, uuh huh, looks okay
The world survives into another day
And I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

It came on the radio a couple of days ago as I was puttering around the studio,
an old favourite from way way back in the day –

I had another dream about lions at the door
They weren’t half as frightening as they were before
But I’m thinking about eternity
Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me

I looked around and chuckled –

I’m surrounded by them these days, the lions.
And yes, they were there at the door, in a dream,
and not half as frightening…
In fact they were lolling on the landing,
rolling on their backs, showing their tummies,
as if asking for a belly rub.

The big cats have been frequent dream visitors for some years now, so I pay attention, I work with them.
Not in any fancy complicated way,
more just in a way of being with them, of staying with them,
hangin’ with them, feeling them, and drawing them…

Recently The Shift Network had a “Dreamwork Summit” and gathered a bunch of interesting contemporary thinkers on dreaming to each give a talk and present their methods.
A few of my faves who I’ve worked with were there – Robert Moss and Toko-pa Turner, Sandra Ingerman and Sergio Magaña and Charlie Morley –
but I found I was especially drawn to a couple of guys whose work I’ve only read in books –
Robert Bosnak and Rodger Kamenetz.
Both of them talked about the phenomenology of dreaming.

Bosnak elaborates in Tracks in the Wilderness of Dreaming,

The dream story is not the dream itself.
The dream itself is a texture woven of space and time inside which we find ourselves.
During the dream we believe we are awake, in the same way that we believe we are awake when we truly are…
This is one of the few laws of human experience that hold true the world over.
The ‘I’ in the dream lives inside the dreamworld with the unshakable conviction that the surrounding reality is, indeed, utterly real.
Each dream arouses within us the conviction that we are in our waking lives.
~Robert Bosnak

With this unshakable conviction,
believing utterly and truly that it was happening as it happened,
I had a dream a couple of months ago – a nightmare, really.
In the dream, I (an I that was not entirely me, but somewhat somehow)
had been designated contaminated, or contagious, or faulty in some way,
and was given a bomb to hold against my soft belly.
And I lay there waiting for it to explode,
praying only that death would be fast.

Not a fun dream to take to the studio.
Not a fun dream in any way.
But as I let myself live with it,
as I looked long and hard at my day-to-day life,
it proved very instructive.

Kamenetz writes in The History of Last Night’s Dream

The dream wants to show us inner space.
It shows our predicament, how we really live.
But you have to be willing to feel something about your predicament, because there’s no other way in…
The special language of dreams is forceful, poetic, metaphorical…
You have to learn what causes your predicament and overcome it.
~ Rodger Kamenetz

And so I began to make a few changes.
Obvious things – started removing some unhealthy habits and initiating healthier ones.
But with these subtle changes came a surprisingly enormous emotional shift,
an energy and optimism and buoyancy I thought had fled forever with the onset of middle age.
And then I came across a quote from Sergio

Often when we die in a dream
it denotes favourable changes in our life,
even if the death occurs in a violent manner
and our conditioning leads us to interpret the dream in a negative way.
~Sergio Magaña

This reminded me of the interpretations of the Death card in tarot decks,
a frightening card to see in a reading,
that is usually not entirely what it seems –

Death is necessary for new life.
Without the old growth dying and decomposing into the soil through fall and winter, the new buds could not sprout in the spring.
Without death, nothing could change.
~Rachel Pollack

Or even more radically –

Initiation rites always led up to a simulated death and rebirth.
The initiate is led to believe that he or she is actually about to die.
Everything is done to make this death as real as possible so that the ego will be tricked and in fact experience that dreaded dissolution.
Then, when the initiate is ‘reborn’ he or she experiences a new maturity and a new freedom of energy.
~Rachel Pollack

Now this thought I love –
That the dreams contain their own processes of rites of initiation,
their own shamanic rituals,
their own journeys to power animals.

And to leave you with some of that buoyancy and optimism I’ve been feelin’,
do yourself a favour and have a listen –

And in case you’re wanting some more of that – 

Happy 2019!!!