At the farm

I was up at a friend’s farm for a week.

It’s such a treat to

a) get out of the city, get out of the traffic and construction and virus cases going up fast fast fast, and

b) hang out with friends around a dinner table and the fire at night and the coffee in the morning, and be social and silly for hours and even days on end without worrying about corona the way we do in the city.

Each morning I’d try to slip out the side door and go for a walk, past the hungry barn cats, down the dirt road to the fields to catch some early morning light –

 Startling the horses, startling the cows…

There was a fair bit of rain, but that only gave way to dramatic clouds and even rainbows, adding to the magic of time OUTSIDE.

After my walk I’d do my morning meditation behind the house under this silver maple, so massive I couldn’t even fit it in the frame – 

From there I might wander out back to the garden, full of giant zucchinis and squash and kale and sunflowers that towered above me.

If there wasn’t too much rain, we’d head out to the back cabin, back away from the highway, with just the river and crickets and frogs and this old tree stump that made me think of a menhir.

I took pictures of it again and again, trying to find what it was that made it so majestic and mysterious.

One night we even spent the night out in that back cabin, and the moon, growing fuller on its way to the Harvest Moon, danced over the river…

Lens Artists Photo Walk

New Teach

Truth is, though I continue to add new teachers, I’m never finished with the old ones – just always growing a bigger roster.

* * *

Back in May I went to a workshop with a teacher I’d had my eye on. She’s based in the UK, and there was no fast and easy way I was going to make it to one of her weekend workshops there, so when she announced a workshop in the States, I jumped on the bus heading south with bells on.

The trip was through a part of the States I love – the Mohawk Valley, and the beautiful little historical towns of upstate New York, on into Massachusetts.

There was a rather hilarious moment with a ride-share, where Sharon had agreed to pick me up at the Albany bus station to drive together along highway 2 into rural Massachusetts. She opened her arms to me at the bus station with a big hug, and we clambered happily into her car, where she started with: “So, how do you know Rabbi Jill?”

Well, I knew nothing about Rabbi Jill, and she knew nothing about shamanic teacher Manda Scott, but as we soon found out over the weekend at the conference centre in the woods, there was plenty of overlap and love between the various groups sharing the space.

There are stories I could tell about the weekend itself – about details and insights and the way one weekend in the woods can seem more important than several months on either side of it, but…

… at this point I will focus on the fact that there were so many things about Manda that were very appealing to me – her fierce intelligence, her life as a creative (she’s an author – more known in Britain than over here), the way she had navigated learning shamanic practice and then building her own way with it, the excitement she brought with her about Extinction Rebellion (a much bigger movement in the UK than here), and the seriousness with which she took her role as teacher and guide to more novice travellers.

So when she and her partner, Faith, launched a new venture in December – around the time of the equinox, moving into the new year – I signed up right away, without even really knowing what it was.

Turns out, it’s a series of offerings, and you can follow the podcast for free, or you can sign up for the paid membership version of the whole thing. Aside from the (fascinating, brilliant) podcast (where Rabbi Jill makes an appearance!), there’s an online discussion board, and my favourite part – a series of guided meditations and visualizations connecting with the elements (water, fire, air, earth, and so on).

The project it proposes – of believing in a new world, of imagining a new world, rather than being locked into the narrow vision of modern life as it is currently known – has been an anchor of optimism for me. It was an anchor of optimism even before the mammoth towering shadow of a global pandemic, so I mention it to you, just in case.

Just in case it is of interest to even one someone…

Scrambling home, sheltering in place

Each family, each group of friends suddenly scrambling to be in a particular place, their country, their home.

On facebook I watched over several days as a friend’s beautiful haunting photos of Italian countryside turned to desperation as there are no masks, there are no flights, and the government help line is forever busy.

Photo by: EF

My dad, a snowbird lounging by the pool in Palms Springs, brushed off with insouciance the increasingly frantic pleas from us, his adult children, to come home, while simultaneously trying to convince me that a trip I had planned to the Laurentians in Québec was “too dangerous”.

At my end there were still so few cases in Canada, was still no mandate from government to avoid travel between the provinces, and I knew the visit with trees and birds and snow, devoid of humans except for my Montreal buddy, would be about as safe as you could get…

Back home after traveling the newly-sanitized trains, I returned to a roommate who had joined me in mid-February to be close to her pregnant daughter, due to give birth – a first grandchild. The plan had been a month or two to help the new parents in the early days. She is frail, older, but can still cook and consult and be of comfort.

But as the emergency decrees descended, she too got imploring calls from sisters and the other daughters back in Vancouver – “come home now, while you still can!”

One look at the state of the airports on late night television made her decision for her –

People travelling from all over the world jammed in with no masks, no gloves… the WORST possible scenario. For now she is “sheltering in place”, which is my place.

Since I had been on trains, exposed to travellers, and since I continue to go to the grocery store and my studio, we decided to be cautious. We are maintaining (mostly) 6 feet apart in the home, and wipe down all faucets, door handles, counters, and light switches just in case.

The invisible enemy…

All work that was potentially on the horizon has vanished. No travel, no shoot. No shoot, no edit. But I have the great good fortune of being in an artists’ co-op of sorts, full of community-minded folks, in the great, safe country of Canada where we have this thing called universal health care.

And you, Nose Followers? Any recent travel and scrapes along the way? Are you happily sheltering in place, or stir crazy already? What news of this strange new reality we are living?

Magicians

I am staying at Rh’s house. Or not in the house proper, but in a kind of separate guest house / basement suite that she uses, leaving the main house empty.

A man comes in. He wears a balaclava over his face and chases me around, trying to rape me. I am terrified, I do NOT want this to happen. Rh chuckles, watching the action. She has planned this.

There is a pause, and the man pulls off the ski mask. He is, in fact, a kind of goofy guy, and a magician. There is no threat after all.

* * *

This dream stayed with me for a while – as the frightening part was heart-stoppingly terrifying, and the idea of a goofy magician underneath the mask totally piqued my curiosity.

A few days later I found myself at a workshop in Owen Sound with the Toltec teacher, Sergio Magaña –

We learned a “manifesting technique” that, in its series of movements, reminded me for all the world of the Magician card in the tarot deck – reaching up to the sky above, and down below to the earth in the process of creation…

What a way to begin the summer…

We stayed just outside of Owen Sound on my friends’ farm where they had some new horses, and Sauble beach is just a hop skip and jump away –

And there is a sense of buoyant optimism in the sensation of creation from this practice… It’s a technique that is done for a number of days in a row, the repetition reinforcing the sense of creative magician… even my dream world has been increasingly busy (and occasionally magical) with this practice.

* * *

On Facebook I belong to various dream groups, and recently someone posted some collages she was doing from her dreams.

They had the structure of a series of comic book frames, allowing for the shifts in the narrative from scene to scene – a technique she said she learned from a workshop with Jeremy Taylor.

We got into a bit of a conversation about working from a dream, and how sometimes later, when you look back at the original entry in your dream journal, the details can appear to be quite different from what you’ve been accentuating or extrapolating as you make art, or even have conversations about the dream.

For example, from the dream above at Rh’s house, I’d been remembering the most vivid bits of the fear and of the unexpected revelation of a magician.

Yet when I looked back to my dream journal I found that I’d had several other forgotten magician dreams before this, and within the original entry on this dream, there was a detail that “this is a game or a challenge Rh and I have”. So the chuckling Rh seems less evil in this context, and my character is then also not so much a victim as a co-creator.

Interesting.

* * *

There was a dream I had maybe 2 years ago of 6 dead bulls in a parking lot.

It was a terrible dream, with the stench of death in it, and the sense of tragedy of these 6 massive powerful creatures dying a lonely unceremonious death in a parking lot at night.

At the time I had no place to talk about dreams, but I can always make art, so I did painting after painting of bulls, dead or dying, wondering what the heck the dream was about.

At some point I happened on a free webinar given by some people in Vermont, and I told them the dream of the 6 bulls. They were so lovely, they listened so well, and at some point Sue said, “how do you know they were dead?”.

The possibility of seeing the dream story as a more fluid entity, of not taking the narrative as a finished, absolute, unchangeable reality ROCKED my world.

Since then there has been a large painting in the works of some very alive bulls, and even a small sculpture is in the works.

And you, Dear Reader…?

Have you found your relationship or understanding of certain dreams changes over time?

Female Fates

(This voyage happened a little while ago –
Got a bit too busy to complete and post it at the time, but here it is now…)

Montreal again.

Time for the Foire papier and I’ve signed up for a hooked-up tour to see all kinds of hot shows and behind-the-scenes tours with curators and fun stuff.

In the morning on my way to the train station, rushing late onto the commuter train platform, I see a familiar face amongst the crowd – my sister!

Such a treat, such a surprise, and a chance to chat about travel plans, kids, family this and that, our 2 bashful waspy selves happily delighted at the unexpected intimacy.

Some hours later, early evening in a crowded vernissage in Old Montreal, mind blown already by the totally rad exhibit by Bharti Kher, hinting at things deeply feminine, reproductive, migratory, a cross between exquisite sensuality and mass production…

We are milling around by the bar, people-watching the funked-out Montreal artists in psychedelic shades and storm trooper boots, when across the room again I see a familiar face…
My sister-out-of-law! Another most adored human!

Not quite officially related (she is my son’s aunt, but my ex and I never married), it is wonderful to see her after some years of missing each other in passing, and there is news of new cousins in the mix, and tell me, tell me, how are all the kids?

It feels awfully apropos to be surrounded by spermatazoid specks and female shapes on this day of family, tribe, migrations and reconnections.

* * *

Next day, another 12 or 14 exhibits, but my favourite is this one, yet another amazing female artist, Elly Strik – new to me, very drawing based –

This entire room is called the “dream room”, with a huge drawing on one wall of Freud’s couch, and many smaller drawings of more intimate details on the surrounding walls.

The major portion of the show is comprised of these massive mysterious female almost-portraits… beautiful yet unknowable, huge and yet tender.

And you, Gentle Reader?

Seen any good Art lately?

Spring Smile


Out beyond the place where we lived – a restaurant, a home, a gathering place – there was a stretch of landscape, deep ice and snow, a river and pathways still in the clutch of winter’s deep freeze.
There I found Gerald’s body.
As I stood there, feeling the violence inflicted on First Nations people again and again, he began to rise up – an ascension, a resurrection.
His back was towards me as he floated up into clouds and sky.

* * *

I turned over in bed, the disoriented waking of the morning, all identity and story still clinging to the whispers of strange images, oblique narratives, and there amongst the sheets I found a small slip of paper, the size of the paper fortune from a Chinese fortune cookie.

How sweet!
Where could it have come from?
Perhaps the library book disheveled in one corner of the bed?
Which would mean some sweet inspired soul had written it on a piece of paper and slid it in the book to be found by strangers…

* * *

It seems I’ve been in a deeper hibernation than usual this past winter – a number of people have been in touch asking: Where the heck are you? Are you still there???

On the one hand I’ve been intensely quiet, burrowed down inside like a bear in winter, reluctant to venture outside now that I’ve set up my studio at home…

And with a bit of a breather on the work front, just one slow-moving independent film job on my plate for the moment has meant there are not too many obligations around town…

Yet on the other hand there have been a number of planes, trains, and automobiles – a few wee winter adventures, opening up horizons and yielding the nurturing influx of friendship and art –

One, a retreat with my beloved dream teachers in Vermont

Another, a week puttering around NYC with a friend, a place I haven’t been in far too long, exploring the great city in all its glory and looking at as much art as we could…

Louise Bourgeouis @ the MOMA

And then a packed full long weekend in Montreal with dinner parties, vernissages, and the unfortunate news of the loss of an old dear friend made bearable in the bosom of so much love and creativity…

I’m hoping this very quiet stretch is almost over, and like a caterpillar that has been naught but a gooey cocoon for months, I’ll emerge resplendent and colourful with the coming spring, posting up a storm about dreams and painting and, with any luck, a little more travel…

We will see 🙂

Chestnut – Work In Progress

Weekly Photo Challenge – Smile

Call of The Fox

She turned to me, her blue eyes faintly distant, mysterious and said:
I had a dream of a fox.
But when I asked the fox what he wanted, he said:

I am here for Kat.
I have a message for Kat.

We were sitting at the breakfast table, the three of us.
A few days together and we’d taken up the habit of sharing dreams while we figured out coffee and food, it feeling a natural, rich way to begin the day.
But this was different – this was A Message.
And the thing was – I hadn’t even told them the story about the fox.

car in barrie

There’d been too much going on – there was that crazy night in Barrie with the lousy car, being saved by our angel Hedy, then appeasing the Goddesses of crossroads out by the car rental joint on the highway and the drive to our place, and days with the urgency to get outside, get hot and get in the water and swim, have a real summer, make great food, drink wine and sit in the dark on the porch looking at stars and watching the bats dive for bugs.

trees blur
So I hadn’t told them the story of the fox.
I mean I’d told them about the place I’d been the weekend before – about the little cabins in the woods, the amazing locally-sourced food, the moon rising over the lake, and singing in the dark of the sauna and diving in the cold night lake, rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, camp songs and show songs and snippets of Tragically Hip songs, all of us trying to remember the words cause it was the night of their final concert and all of Canada was said to be tuning in.

lake wide

Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, your word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, my word
It didn’t come, it doesn’t matter
Courage, it couldn’t come at a worse time

The people were wonderful and strange: the core co-facilitators of the shamanic circle, a bunch of us newbies from various Ontario towns, and a young, fascinating First Nations fellow who, despite his youth, brought what felt like lifetimes of ceremonial experience.
It was the Saturday morning when I overheard him talking to my cabin-mate about a fox. Apparently on her drive up she’d gotten lost and ended up wandering on some back road where she saw a dead fox. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she stopped the car and gathered up the fox and brought it with her.
“I mean I don’t make a habit of picking up roadkill”, she said, still mystified.
That afternoon, the First Nations fellow led us in a ceremony to reactivate a labyrinth on the land, using a massive quartz crystal, tobacco leaves, water from lake Atitlan, and fur from the tip of the dead fox’s tail.
Most of the group circled into the center of the labyrinth, but 4 of us stood menhir-like in the 4 directions.
I stood in the West, my eyes closed while we sang as they danced their way to the middle point of the labyrinth to plant tobacco, quartz, water and fox. As I stood, I felt, saw, experienced the entire event as a spinning, galactic vortex of energy churning up and out into the sky – it felt so powerful, so forceful, I felt I might fall over.

vortex fern

The weekend was full of these kind of Experiences – this one with the fox’s tail at the labyrinth particularly intense.
But I hadn’t told my friends all these particulars before that morning at the breakfast table, before my blue-eyed friend said:
“I dreamt of a fox and he said he’d come for you”.
It all seemed too personal in a way.
Or maybe it was that such a powerful internal experience will never really translate into words, words will always seem dry and inadequate.
Or maybe I thought even to talk about it would dissipate the power in some way, cause it’ll all just sound hokey.
But as the impact of the whole thing began to sink in – that a fox had come to her in a dream to say: “I have a message for Kat” – the three of us looked at each other and wondered…
What message?
What did the fox want?
Why like this?
Why not just come to me directly?

fox drawing bluish

While I can’t speak for the fox, while I wonder if there was more to the message I should be able to fathom somehow, I’ve begun to think that the simplicity of his apparition to her was a message in itself.
It was a way to really REALLY get my attention.
Because it would be so easy for me to say to myself, “Oh, the things I felt that weekend were just my imagination”.
Or, “This whole idea of spirits is all very well, but…”
Repeatedly I’ve heard various teachers on my path say they’d spent months, even years on the path of shamanism, of ceremony and journeying and so on, but STILL they doubted this whole business of “spirits”…
Until something happens that hits them over the head and makes it all so very plain.

Abandoned Photos

runner, truckThey’ve been sitting in a folder in the basement, old old work prints that never quite got finished, and are here scanned. I’m thinking to join a local photo co-op so I can scan some of the old negatives and revisit them, give them some love, resuscitate them from their state of defunctedness.boy w fridgeThey are moments of abandon, in different meanings of the word – a moment of wild running abandon; an abandoned fridge and perhaps child as well; and losing oneself to the abandon of sleep…sleeperWeekly Photo Challenge – Abandoned

Moons I have seen

In honour of tonight’s full moon and Valentine’s day, a revisit –

A cold full December moon cresting high over the Clinton schoolyard – staid brick building structures back lit with beams of moonlight, a few lone figures with dogs scuffling, breath in clouds in front of them, a faint dusting of white on the frozen ground.

in summertime the bats swoop down over this little round of track and trampled grass and soccer goalposts. In daytime the children shriek happily or protest the small devastating cruelties of their recess torments.

In the night with the moon bright, these daytime activities echo, ghostly.

In this city interior it is sometimes hard to distinguish the moon from a street lamp – a single globe like so many others – hard to believe the number of cultures that created a Moon Goddess out of this small frail lamp – almost an unremarkable phenomenon in the forest of lights.

A brisk February moon over the farm fields of southern Ontario – Ajax, Port Hope, whisking by in the night, the horn of the train calling out forlorn and hopeful at once, coming, coming, we are coming. As fast as the train goes, the moon does not move, the fields and houses are drowsy in her soft light.

A humid March moon low over the small town of shacks by the jungle – powerful single light of the night, illuminating modest wooden lean-to’s for homes, mud streets, the last tired men heading home after the long day to settle in before the monkeys begin to scream from their trees.

Late in the night when the moon is highest, laying a blue light over this little collection of shacks, only the skinny crazy woman is out – the  woman who went mad with grief, losing her child to one of those childhood illnesses afflicting only the countries closest to the equator.  She wanders in the night, sometimes silent, sometimes still wailing her grief to the unblinking moon, her body still young and beautiful under her rags, her tangled hair a glorious matted mane of dark waves. Tragedy incarnate, the beauty, the insanity, the youth, the grief, the potential, the loss.

The big river is not far.

A singular star-effacing June moon over the playas del este just outside of Havana – a beam of clarity on the ruins of dreams and hopes of generations past – rubble that used to be construction, vacant chicken joints that used to be dreams of prosperity, empty lots that once had been valuable property along the beach.  The most undeveloped, unspoiled and unloved stretch of fine white gleaming sand.

We walked, my new love and I, along the beach, my hand in his, contemplating together the empty shadows of lives unfinished, the dreams of futures never realized, the beginnings left hanging, suspended, abandoned.  The moon held us in its light, showing us the path, a way along the dark beach by its light.

A sharp glaring mystical eye of a moon over the October desert mountain stretch – a penetrating gaze in a landscape that offers nowhere to hide. The mountains present themselves stark dark ochre against the dark blue sky like a childrens’s book of cutouts. Pink highways push northward. Whiffs and shadows of the cultures of the plains, the great warriors, the visionaries, people of power, shimmer around the edges of shrubs, speed limit signs and gas pump exits.

A hazy unreliable November moon watching the square and the streets of Coyoacan, nudging its light into the patio and the windows of the casita azul, empty and haunted. Amidst the teeming millions, the frankly frightening overwhelming labyrinthine megacity, still the nights give themselves to the snaking rising mist of the ghosts of the old souls, the departed, the ancients, the history of the city. Even outside the throbbing discotheques, the shining towers of business and industry, the ancient layers of the Aztec breathe out their pustulent breath until the rays of the sun break the spell yet again, and all manners of ordinary activity return.

A massive May supermoon rising engorged and heavy, menacing as it looms over the city, heaving itself above the downtown highrises and slowly propelling itself up into the sky. In the park, people are stopped silent and clustered, staring, pointing, cel phones out taking pictures of the big ball in the sky over downtown.

I wander the paths of the park, alone with my phone, frustrated at the paucity of the images it’s able to capture of this monstrous moon.  Still, I pace back and forth, stalling, biding time, watching the moon climbing up the sky, waiting out the hours with my heart in my hand at the edge of the park, the street, the sirens, the moon, as my love – no longer new, now a fumbling, faltering marriage – is packing his bags, getting his belongings together, and leaving.

Photo note – usually I use my own photos, but most of these (save the one immediately above) are found from various places on the internet.  However as they were largely not credited where I found them, I have left them without credits here with apologies.

Grand Animal

The taxi driver refused to go any further.
In the dream I was staying in a hotel on Spadina near College and wanted to go shopping further down towards Dundas, in the deep and winding medieval streets, but the driver turned the car around and let me out, saying “most people don’t want to go down there – it’s too dangerous”.
It was like one of those neighbourhoods in Mexico City – Colonia Doctores or Ciudad Neza way back when – where all taxi drivers refuse to enter, cause everyone knows anything could happen.
So I walked.
The streets were deserted, dark, until I got down near the very bottom, almost to the waterfront, where the sky was wide and the road opened up into a kind of rock quarry, reminiscent of Teotihuacan –
quarry1teotihuacan b&wAnd still walking, I ventured into the rocks, strolling happily until I sensed movement in the steps and mounds of the quarry. And as I looked, these creatures took shape.
They were lions – stone lions.
They were living animals – their large bodies moving and rummaging about – but they were made of stone, the same stone of the the quarry.
placcid lionsnarling lionAt just the moment that it registered in my mind what I was seeing, the danger I was in, a large lion sensed me too, the hint of movement in his peripheral vision, and his head snapped up in a snarl.
Then the pounce, the running jump of the massive creature coming after me.
Suddenly I had a large plywood board in my hands which I lay underneath in a crevice in the rocks, pulling the board flat on top of me, effectively disappearing into the ground.
big biting lionThe lion lumbered heavily over me, not finding me, scrambling over and away, somewhere beyond where I lay hidden.
The fear was so real, the terror so palpable – one of those nightmares that wakes you up in a sweat, blinking in the dark of the bedroom.
The next morning I was out walking, and turning the corner to where the new second-hand bookstore is, the guy who sells old National Geographic magazines for a buck a piece, I noticed several had big spreads on lions.
nat geo running lionI brought them home and began to draw.
When the dream is so vivid, so strong, and yet so cryptic, there is nothing for it but to spend more time with the imagery…
running lion

Unexpected Angels

Last weekend I saw a Medicine Woman / healer.
A friend in Owen Sound had called me up and insisted I needed to come see this super-talented, up-and-coming, currently bargain-basement healer from the local reserve, quick, while the getting was good, before she becomes famous and unaffordable.
She was indeed magnificent – fun and funny and the most radiant, loving human being.
At the end of a long and powerful session, back upstairs in the kitchen, she asked me to pick a card from a divination deck. The one I chose said something about the protection of angels – a soft pale image, yellows and pinks, an image of light, illumination and feathers. As gentle and delicate and full of light and love as the image was, I felt resistance – I’m just not into angels. They have never appealed to my sensibility – they feel to me like princesses and unicorns and other girly fantasy-land entities. My own inexplicable prejudices – I try to hide it, but there it is.
So the Medicine Woman wrestled with me a bit over just accepting the concept, the idea of the angel image, as protective gentleness, as divine serendipitous light, synchronistic interventions, then had me do a 9-card spread from Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards deck – all animal cards, much more my speed.
Of course I got a whack of cats – no surprise there, I am KAT, after all…
3 cat cardsThe next day I took the bus back to Toronto and, loaded down with many heavy bags, grabbed a cab at the corner. I had this idea of killing 2 taxi birds with one stone, and before going home, asked the driver to take me out to the art supplies store, the really big one with lots of cheap deals on paints and the big sizes of watercolour paper, cause when I go there I always have to take a cab home anyway.
When I explained to him, First I want to go here and then I want to go there, he pressed down hard on the gas, and called out, Whatever you want to do, we will do it! I laughed and glanced at his eyes in the mirror – they were small with the years, not a young man. Accent African, English not first language. As his face turned slightly with a right turn, I could see several thin scars on his cheek, as if he’d been slashed across the face by a very large cat.
Huh.
He was a chatty fellow, and we talked about this and that on the way to the art supplies store – Why did I only have one child, for example? Why did I not move close to my husband to get more? As we pulled into the small parking lot, he wanted to know, What is this place?
An art supplies store! Well, he was very excited by this news, but I was out the door of the cab and up the stairs and moving fast through the aisles and my list of paints and round the back to where they keep the big pads of paper. Coming back out to the front again, thinking I should have a quick look at the mediums, a man opened up his arms and waved at me. Here I am! he said with his grin.
It was the taxi driver. Looking a bit like actor Robert Wisdom –
r wisdomBut now I could see the long tribal scars patterned on both cheeks, kind of like a cat’s whiskers –
black_panther_spainI’ve never been in an art store before!
He was thrilled, delighted, in love with this newfound world.
I was so surprised to see him there, the moment was so disorienting, in my confusion I forgot about looking for mediums and simply lined up to pay for what I had in my arms. My driver was now in deep serious discussion with one of the store clerks.
Standing, waiting for the cashier I wondered, What was it that felt so disorienting, so unusual? That he seemed so open, so free, so un-servile? That in spite of being for hire he didn’t feel obliged to sit waiting in the car if his curiosity was strong?
We went back out to the car together, and driving away his delight with this world of wonder turned to concern – They have all those things out on the shelves where anyone can just grab them and put them in their bag or under their clothes!
This upset him quite a bit, the enormous quantities of goods lying out on open shelves, and he went on about it for a while, driving slowly up the street, now nearing my house, inching along at about 10km/hr, waving his hands, both of them frequently lifting off the steering wheel altogether. But soon this worry, this loose tooth troubling him was put to rest with the summing up, This would never work in the third world – in the third world, you would go up to the counter and ask for what you want, and they go back and get it for you.
This little exchange caught my attention somehow – that he had been so troubled by something I didn’t think twice about, and had had to settle himself down quite deliberately, reminding himself that the context was different. Some lesson about the importance of the need for adaptation felt nestled in the moment.
In front of my house, he practically clucked with dismay at the disarray, the strewn collection of chairs, old bicycles, unraked leaves and crumbling porch. God will help you settle down eventually, was his last fix-it pronouncement on my life.
We said our goodbyes and I trundled into the house, arms full of stuff, head full of the uniqueness of this man.
Somewhere in all of the twists and turns of the encounter I felt the hint of magic, the reminder to remain open to the possible variations on what angelic presences might look like…

Strange Teachers

For several nights now I’ve dreamt of a temple of death.
Apropos for the Halloween / Day of the Dead season I suppose – the skulls and skeletons are everywhere, sticking up out of the ground, in and around a kind of pyramid rising up into a darkened sky with segmented sections, the lower levels somewhat gorier and grisly, the staircase up to the upper level flanked with lithe dancing young people.
The dreams seem sort of natural for the season, or like maybe they’re a by-product of the new moon / eclipse action happening in the sky, but I also suspect they’ve been brought on by this breathing exercise thingy I’ve been doing.
The exercise is an extended 5-month project, 40 minutes a day of combined breathing and visualizations, taught or guided by Sergio Magaña of Mexico City. He has a school in Mexico for teaching spiritual mastery and healing techniques of the ancient Toltec and Mexicas, or Aztec as we would call them.
Here’s some music to set the tone (the video has Maya imagery, but gives that ancient Mexico feeling) –

This guy Sergio has a book out, and someone on the book jacket blurb calls him “the new Carlos Castaneda”, really a most unfortunate and misleading reference because for one, his writing is not the lush fiction of Castaneda, but a more impenetrably cryptic mathematical and culturally localized explanation of things that made no sense to me until I went to a workshop he gave a couple of months ago in Owen Sound.
Secondly, there is no sign of a creepy Castaneda cult around him – he is a funny, laid back, lovely, helpful guy, and works with the UNESCO Heritage Club to preserve the Nahuatl culture.
Nonetheless, at the workshop in Owen Sound I found I was having some serious resistance – doubts or hesitations or reservations about being open to a teacher, a healer from outside my own cultural tradition. Maybe it was because I hadn’t dreamt about him before he appeared – something that has happened to me more than once, where I’ve dreamt of a wise person, then met them later, a phenomena which made me trust the wisdom, the prescience of the dream to have led me to them.
With Sergio there was also a question for me of cultural appropriateness – I worry over the kind of mix & match version of spiritual grab-baggery that seems to plague New Age type ventures. Even though I am fascinated by all things Mexican, have spent a lot of time there, still I hesitated.
I kind of wanted to ask him directly about these questions, about why we Anglo-Saxon types should feel free to saunter into the study of ancient Mexican culture, but I felt awkward and maybe like an insensitive brute, cause in the back of my mind was also the thought that it seemed a bit bizarre to be learning spirituality from the tradition of the Aztecs? I mean heck, those guys were INTENSE!
jawbone ex1 again
But I waited, didn’t raise any questions, just learned what I could, and then back at home one night reading, I stumbled on these words:

…if you go back far enough you can probably find that all our ancestors practiced human sacrifice. It was part of the religion in the old days and seems like it was practiced all around the world…” ~J.M. White

Right. Of course. Abraham and Isaac. Not quite the same scale but yes, the idea being that human moral codes are constantly shifting.
And the joke I always remember of how they say the Aztecs and the Spaniards deserved each other in terms of their mutual capacities for cruelty.

So being charmed by his lovely personality and the remarkable amount of success he’s had with his practices, and because it’s free and I find myself totally unable to stick with traditional meditation, I committed myself to the 5-month project of Sergio’s breathing exercises. And things are definitely starting to shift internally – some seismic cracks that have left me without much impulse to write.
The fundamental point of this breathing exercise is to “cleanse the shadow”, or in Western psychological terms, clear the unconscious.
It’s a technique that proposes to bypass all talking cures and do away entirely with the “story” of the self.
The idea is to let go of all the elements of what we tell ourselves about who we are.

The challenge lies in understanding and accepting that human beings are simply an idea, an illusion in motion, and that the only truth is the energy of the essence, which is pure potential. As long as we are aware that this is the case, then our idea of ourselves can easily be replaced by a better idea. ~ Sergio Magaña

The more weeks and now months that pass of doing this exercise for 40 minutes a day, the more I seem to be dreaming of death.
But later, as I get towards the end of it, I wonder what new imagery might wait for me there?

What do you dream of, dear reader?

Unusual POV – bird sanctuary and more

20130906-153343.jpgToday was a bird day. Bit by bit I worked my way out into the folds of the bird sanctuary, knee deep in the water, scrambling on rocks increasingly covered in bird poo, assuring me I was in their territory. Many of them flew away at my approach. Others stared coldly. I waited. I figured if I hung out long enough they’d get used to me.
Wednesday was a mammal day. I biked some 36km to Thornbury and back, seeing bunnies and chipmunks darting across the path. On the way back, the sun going down, I passed through a patch of air so rank and funky I knew there was something big in the bushes, likely bear.

20130906-185633.jpgThursday was looking like it was going to be all cute little bugs – caterpillars and locusts and this very charming ladybug –

20130906-185850.jpgBut when I looked up from the rock where I’d cornered this poor little guy, a snake slithered past into a small tuft of grasses and a frog bounded away, saving himself.

20130906-190224.jpgThe snake both spooked and thrilled me – I haven’t seen a snake in years, had forgotten their creepy eerie magic, the way they glide effortlessly along the earth.
Riding out, I had to swerve to avoid a toad on the path.
Insects, reptiles, amphibians.
But today was birds.
Swans, geese, ducks, and gulls by the dozens. Their sanctuary so still and peaceful I lost interest in photos and simply contemplated the sky. And when a heron flew overhead, just 2 meters above me, I didn’t even turn on my camera but just stared at his strange pterodactyl body and listened to the faint metallic whoosh of his wings.
Peace.

20130906-190934.jpgweekly photo challenge – unusual POV

Sea (or not)

20130905-153305.jpgActually it isn’t the sea, it’s a lake. And in fact it’s only the bay of a lake.
But it’s pretty fucking huge.
And powerful.
And these days quite, um, cold.
But like look at that –

20130905-153618.jpgThat is one big body of water. And it isn’t even the biggest one.
Once I flew from Toronto to Winnipeg and we passed over Lake Superior. That shit went on for days. Huge, massive lake.
Not quite the sea, not the moody enchantment of the Atlantic off Maine or Connecticut, not the terrifying energy of the Pacific off Vancouver Island, not the inviting enrapture of the Caribbean but….works for me.

20130905-154345.jpgWeekly Photo Challenge – sea