What do we see when we walk out the door? What is the physical environment that greets us each day? That which we are a part of, and that which is part of us. Is it something that makes us smile, calls us forth, or something that makes us want to run back inside? And to what extent can we adjust our lens – our perceptions – just what is our role in the dance? Is it merely changing the way that we perceive, or do we need to alter the physical landscape itself?
I awake in downtown reno, walk out the door of my cheap motel room. A parking lot below, a parking garage to my left, and across the streets to my right. A huge sign for a restaurant, that is a concrete box, and several low rise motels, all with signs, a few that glow in the night. On the next block, I see one of the towers of Circus Circus that rise above, the neon red name flashing off and on in the night. A wide street, with barely a tree. And just beyond, a few more casinos, the more old fashioned kind, that are places of gambling that do not pretend to be more; and more low rise motels, a hospital, a few shops selling nothing – trinkets, convenience food and alcohol – very little that calls. This is what i see when i walk out the door, of a nondescript room, institutional but clean, nothing wrong with it, but the spirit is not there – empty like that which surrounds.
I venture beyond, learn to adjust my lens, in the midst of this, learn to value the gems that are there, call them in and forth, and enter another world. The river which flows with life, the trees and rocks, the ducks and geese, down there; i find the oasis, the river walk, just a few blocks, but with something more, i find the parks, the hills above, a few old neighborhoods that are here before you enter that sprawl, the areas with feeling and spirit, that are few, but in this time have learned to value them so, to see differently, to appreciate them – perhaps because they are so few.
But then i come back to this – the lifeless concrete boxes, and can no longer pretend, for though i adjust my lens they are still here – like a factory spewing out contaminated smoke, of a highway that runs through, the constant roar of traffic that you no longer here, the area around full of homes and trees – just how long can you pretend it is not there. And though you may turn your attention elsewhere, focus on growing the life around in all, eventually the pollution gets to you and you see how it has affected you all along. And once you see it again, you can no longer pretend that it is not there. As much as you try to focus your energy on that which you wish to call in, the other still remains. But then to turn to that, you become a part of it, and the light slowly fades away. And it is beyond what you can physically transform, do you take a stab, or do you move away.
When i first arrived i was dismayed, could not get out of here quickly enough – staying in a Casino hotel at very discount rates, a lovely huge room with a view beyond, but being a casino hotel you needed to walk through the gaming rooms, past all the slot machines in a cavern that is neither day or night, to get there. And i left, and returned and left again. Yet something called me back.
I now remember a photo i took, of ducks swimming in the river, a facebook post a month ago, asking what do i take pictures of, what do i focus my attention on, the downtown zone – often empty, with the wanderers who have known better days, or at times those who come to party for the weekend, the reflection on the larger society, or do i focus on the ducks and the river of life. And that i did, and learned so much, opening up and not closing down, feeling at one with the all, seeing and feeling the presence of god, not only in nature, but in so many of the people around, those who jog along with their dogs, and those who spend a day on a bench with their worldly possessions packed in a few worn bags, to those who frequent my favorite coffee shop – with their diversity, to those who make their way through life and those who have stories of an exciting life once lived.
But then i remember all the other places i have been, and as i stare down these hollowed out streets, the streets of a temporary state, of wanting the quick riches – riches that are false and cannot endure, I remember what i did not see, or rather did not appreciate. I think of San Francisco, Vancouver, Victoria, Montreal, even Toronto, the New Yorks – the cities that dance with life, and other landscapes of nature and wilderness – alaska, the oregon coast, vancouver island the mountains of many a place, elsewhere that i have been or smaller towns which are alive – Eugene, Kingston, and so many more, and ask why i did not remain there, so many wonders in those places, wonders i obviously knew, for it is their memories that return to me. And i remember how blessed i have been, something that i have often failed to realize, as the pain field that clung to me took over and that is what i saw, and as i began to see all that made any place less of an Eden itself, seeing what was lacking rather than what was there.
As i remember this, i try not to get mired in regret, but still i have stepped out of the now, and the magic fades away. I begin to plan for moving on and thus remove my energy from the place, something i am now aware of, as the disconnection begins to set in. And as i withdraw my energy the energy withdraws from me, and the magic begins to fade.
I notice the buildings that were built without spirit, and find myself walking, not through the old leafy neighbourhoods or by the river, but down the wide streets of low rise motels, casinos that have seen better days, shopping centers with discount goods and i begin to crawl in ever more, disconnecting from what is there. I then realize that this is what has allowed this deadened zone to be built, the disconnection from the all, from nature, from the spirit, from the magic of life, for what is matter but energy manifest?
Then i wake up in my motel room, and go to step outside, look around at what is there. look around at my life, and have a rude awakening – what is this – living in a cheap motel room, alone, in Reno – that second rate gambling town – with no where else to go, unemployed, in thrift store clothes, surrounded by men who have seen better days, or who struggle through life, and i ask what has my life become. And i know that others may see me as i failure, living this way. All the possibilities and opportunities i had, let go of or thrown away, a downward slide, as i remember myself living other lives, and i wonder what i have done, and that internal downward spiral threatens to take over me as i take on another lens.
But then i ask what is the reality? Is the joys of the park, the ducks, the life in all any less real that this? Have i not learned to see the spirit in all? Was it not that woman who i met on the street, everything lost, including her health, the one who talked about god, having faith, and living in the now? Was it not the man in the ragged pants, a major scrape on his face, who i met by the river, who talked of its beauty, the flow, the ducks how they swim and quack, the life and joy that is there, the magic of the place? And i know that this is what it has taken me to see, to fully appreciate the larger picture and the details of this life. And that exists everywhere – but it is not merely a matter of perception but of actively creating it, joining in that cosmic dance that is life.
Soon it will be time to step out the door again, walk through the parking lot and streets that surround, low rise motels and casinos, that speak of temporariness, and empty lives, and shine forth the light. For as long as i remain here, to be here fully, and focus the lens on the light in all – at times it can be harder to find, but to see it, and by seeing it, helping it grow. Not merely blotting out that which pains or feels dead, but looking through it, finding the hidden gems – those oasis of light that i have spoken of, but also the light in all. It is also time to create some too, and for that i feel that i may soon be moving on.
The dance with the physical world continues, for matter is really energy made manifest, and the interaction flows both ways – we speak to it, create our built environments, or bring ourselves to them, and it in turn speaks to us. What is the cycle that we create, or that is created in this dance – what energies feed back upon one another, thereby growing and manifesting themselves? The answer if not to disconnect, for much of what surrounds is a result of that, but to connect fully, and bit by bit make energies of light manifest, wherever we may be.