They’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.They 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…Weekly Photo Challenge – Abandoned
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.
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!
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?
Over a week ago I lost my glasses.
Somewhere on my way up to Collingwood they fell out of my bag.
They are the only pair of glasses I’ve ever owned – a recent acquisition (well, maybe 3 years ago) for reading, working on the computer… old lady glasses.
It was annoying – the thought of having to go back to the optometrist for a new prescription, having to fork over the cash to her, then more cash for a new pair of glasses… I was avoiding the problem, stalling.
At night, reading in bed, I stuck to the one library book that happens to be a large print edition – the highly entertaining Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter.
A week went by. 10 days. I dawdled, squinting at the computer screen.
Then this morning, on the ratty old rocker on the front porch, an apparition –
Returned by the delightful taxi driver from last week who took me to the bus station. They’d fallen out of my bag in her car. And she’d noticed, AND she had remembered me.
What a sweetie-pie!!! I’m in love….
The incident reminded me of the time we were living in Mexico City – we were supposed to be making a film, were often out shooting stuff and interviewing people, lugging cameras and sound gear around in taxis… I had a notebook in which I kept all names, phone numbers, notes and relevant observations, I kept it in a knapsack I took everywhere with me.
The city both fascinated and terrified me – the sprawling monstrous size, the compelling yet horrifying complexity and intensity of a city poised on a gelatinous former lakebed in a circle of mountains – the beauty of some of the architecture, the markets, the flowers and crafts, the rich history, but then the toxicity of the pollution, the extreme violence and prevalence of crime, and yet the hundreds of thousands of bold, beautiful, wonderful human beings living there.
My friend Maria had stories of being held at gunpoint by 5 guys when she was 7 months pregnant – how they’d kicked her in the stomach even though she gave them her cash. But that story not as bad as the time a few years before when she’d been held hostage for 3 days by a man who raped her and emptied her bank accounts.
“Don’t you ever think about leaving?”, I asked her, practically peeing my pants at the thought of staying in this city.
“Solo los cobardes se huyen”, she answered – Only cowards flee.
Count me a coward.
At that point we were staying in a little house in Coyoacan, an old and very pretty section of the city, where many of the houses had walls several feet thick – story was the Spanish conquistadors would hide their gold inside the walls, then murder the slaves who’d built the house and knew where the gold was, and hide their bodies inside the walls as well. There were many tales of ghosts wandering corridors and alleyways around the neighbourhood.
One night we got home to the little house where we lived and I realized I’d lost my knapsack, and in the knapsack, my notebook – probably on the floor of the taxi. All the names and places and ideas and plans and contact numbers…..gone.
There was a yellow pages phone book in the house (it was the 90’s, life before cel phones), and I opened it to the taxis section – hundreds of little companies. Where to begin? There was nothing memorable about the taxi we’d been in – it was one of thousands, if not millions of little VW bugs that served as taxis all over the city. All I remembered was it was one of the green ones, not a yellow one.
Several nights later the doorbell rang. A very formal, reserved man stood there. He held out my knapsack. He’d found the notebook inside and remembered us and our little house, in this city of some 20 million.
“How could you forget something so important?”, he wanted to know.
I stammered with disbelief, called him my guardian angel, tried to invite him in for a coffee, a beer, something to thank him.
He refused all offers. “Estamos para servirle”, he said – We are here to serve you – and went off into the night.
Last night I forced my husband, O, to watch ThunderHeart, Michael Apted’s movie from 1992 based on a bunch of things that happened in the 70’s at Pine Ridge and the Black Hills involving uranium mining and the murder of activist Annie Mae Pictou (for a serious discussion of environmental issues in the 70’s in the Black Hills, check out Peter Matthiessen’s Indian Country). These historical incidents are used in the film in a fictionalized way as a backdrop for a murder mystery and a kind of identity story of the main character, Ray, played by Val Kilmer. His awakening happens in part through a series of dreams and visions he begins to have.
I wanted him to see it, cause I’d been telling him about some dreams I’d had and how I believed they were showing me something in the future, or were showing me things that exist that I should know about, pay attention to, or be ready for. He was unfamiliar with this idea, unfamiliar with the concept of dreaming the future or dreaming as indicating the way forward, and unfamiliar with the notion of visions.
One of the first times I really noticed a precognitive dream, where my attention was captured and held, was many years back when I dreamt of a woman who lived in the last house at the end of a pathway down a little hill. She had straight grey hair to her shoulders and glasses that hung on a string around her neck and she was very very wise.
When I woke up I thought, Oh how strange, I don’t know anyone like that, and put it out of my mind.
But then a few months later I was in Mexico with a friend, and my friend insisted we spend the weekend with this woman she knew, the mother of one of her childhood friends who’d moved to Mexico years ago. This woman, Gilda, had a house in Tepoztlan, just outside of Cuernavaca.
So we went there for a long weekend and took turns preparing and sharing meals and this woman Gilda talked a lot about things like astrology and how much the energy of Uranus and Aquarius was influencing our behaviour that weekend, and I was not in the least bit interested in astrology at the time, and I thought to myself, Wow, what a flake.
On the Saturday we all piled into the car to take a little day trip to Taxco where they have lots of silver shops, and wound our way through the dry hills leading to Taxco, and in a moment of confusion in a left turn from one small highway to the next, Gilda hovered in the intersection just long enough for a policeman to notice some minor infraction she was making in her turn and come over and point out her mistake.
Now maybe you haven’t heard, but the police in Mexico are rather famous for extreme corruption and violence, and in fact the running joke that actually wasn’t a joke at all but some pretty serious advice not to be ignored was, If you get robbed, do NOT call the police, things will only get worse. Sometimes at night in the city you’d see police cruisers carousing the streets with drunken policemen hanging out the windows whistling at girls and yelling obscene whatevers into the night.
So when this policeman by the side of the road on the way to Taxco said to Gilda she was trying to make a left turn from the wrong lane and asked to see her papers, the rest of us girls all huddled in the back of the car began to shake with fear. Gilda pulled her papers out of the glove compartment and got out of the car to show him. The policeman glanced at them, then said, These are photocopies, I need to see the originals.
This we knew was the signal for the bribe. This was him finding the one little thing, even a pretend little thing with which to make her feel like she was about to have a big big ugly problem that could only be made to go away by giving him money.
In the back of the car, we held our breath.
There was a brief moment as Gilda pulled herself up to her full height and then she slammed her hand down hard on the hood of the car and said, No señor! Conmigo no te metes. You will not intimidate me, I am doing nothing wrong, and my papers are fine. You will let me be.
No one made a sound.
The policeman’s face remained impassive, as he made a little show of looking at her papers one more time. He seemed to pause and think about his options before declaring the papers good enough after all. He then indicated to her how she should make her left turn out onto the highway before turning and lumbering slowly, thoughtfully back to his cruiser. Gilda got back in the car.
From that moment, I wanted to know everything Gilda knew. I listened to all her observations on astrology or cooking or silver or anything else with rapt attention. I knelt at her feet. I was amazed to discover a fascinating world of very provocative serious authors on astrology – especially the Jungians Liz Greene and Howard Sasportas.
Finally on the Monday, late in the afternoon before we were about to drive back to the city, I realized that, here we were in the last house at the end of a little path down a hill, and Gilda wore her straight grey hair to her shoulders and her glasses on a string around her neck. Just like the unknown woman in my dream several months before – here she was.
And boy was she wise.