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Archive for October, 2009

Halloween approaches and tales of ghosts and ghouls and spirits haunting in the night abound. I decide to visit a cemetary – a place where the spirits of the dead are bound to be found.

I go to Forest Lawn Cemetary, Buffalo’s  largest and finest,  259 acres in the centre of the city to see energies i could find.  It is billed as “one of America’s premier historic cemetaries” dating back to 1849. It is where many prominent people have been “laid to rest”. According to the literature there is a permanent population of  155,000 “residents”  here so i am sure spirits must abound.

But as i walk the grounds, i do not find them – the place is not spooky at all. It seems more like a park with meandering roads, streams and ponds, lawns of grass and stone, and art abounds. I feel both alive and at peace, and i wonder if i am just not listening – if my sense of perception has been warped.

But as i stroll on, i come back to the moment and experience what is there. I realize that the place was created as much for the living as for the dead.  It is a place that welcomes visitors, including those who have come not to remember anyone in particular, but who have come to live. I encounter joggers in pairs and alone, two women walking through enjoying the day – faces smiling and bright. There are benches by lakes where ducks swim by, lawns under trees, and an urban “forest” of sorts. The place is a sculpture garden filled with  not only gravestones and tombs, but with statues, obelisks and more.

I feel that as in nature, where new life springs from the death and decay of the old,  the remains of the dead help keep the place tended and alive. It is an urban oasis, safe from development and the noise and distractions outside. A  gate  surrounds to protect the dead from the living. The plots are well-tended and the lawns are mowed with no overgrown weeds. There is more life here than in some outside areas i passed through with broken down buildings, boarded up windows and souls who shuffle through – the living dead.

And it that it. This is not the place where the residents lived and died, but instead it is where they have been “layed to rest” and to be remembered by their loved ones and the passersby. Any energies that they left behind are most likely elsewhere, in the homes and communities where they lived. I read the stones to remember the dead, and see that most have lived to an older age, a life fulfilled. Would i feel differently if i passed a multitude of graves of children, the war dead or those who left this world in an epidemic or a large disaster – who were forced away before their time?

Perhaps it was the day – a splendid fall day with trees in bright colours dropping leaves, a blue sky above and a touch of warm breeze. The kind of day where you just have to smile.  Would i feel the same if i came on a cold rainy November day where naked trees stood under a leaden sky, on a day where the cemetary looked like the graveyards in horror films and in our imagination.

I stroll on to find the gardens of “the ten commandments”, of “the eternal light” and of “the psalms”  but never make my way there. I come upon some harsh square buildings that jar the eyes, that seem so out-of-place, like the 1960s concrete lowrises in an old historic neighbourhood. I approach one of the “condos for the dead” and glance at the inside which reminds me of a newer office building. The door is open and i enter. The air is still, stagnant and the angles are harsh, corridors lined with crypts for the dead. Although the “serenity muzak” plays, a few flowers dot the fronts of the stacked  crypts and chairs look out through a wall of glass upon the lawn, i feel off kilter, like i must get out. Get out now. It is because many inside are more recently deceased and energies have not yet left their bodies? are more cremated here? it is because it reminds me of an office? That there are so many residents in this apartment like setting? Is it the lack of airflow, of life, for the place seems dead.  That is it – the place feels Dead. I step outside, into the light and  read the name upon the building – the “Serenity Mausoleum”.

I walk along the curving roads, beneath the trees, and by the creek, back to the areas where both life and art play among the dead. Slowly i shake off that feeling and feel content and at peace. At peace in the resting place of the dead.

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I walk along the Avenue under colourful trees on a sunny day. I stroll past old mansions, but i do not really see. I am involved in a story of my own making, an imaginary conversation with someone who i will probably not see. In my daydream i create another world, and am no longer in the physical place where i stand.

How often do we do that? Get so caught in our own minds and chatter, that we ‘re no longer “here” in this physical place. We daydream, rehash old stories in our minds, go over what we need to do and where we need to go, missing not only the now but the here. At times we notice when we have missed our turn or stumble over a crack in the sidewalk, but how often do we fail to notice at all?

But if we are not “here” on the physical plane, in this material place, then where are we? And then, what is meant by place? Is it merely an illusion of our own making, of our collective minds? The “places” we go in our minds are often as real to us, or even more real, than where we sit or stand. Is “the world” merely a creation of our consciousness as some will say, or one of many planes of existence? Still, even when we are not fully here or there, we often are effected by, and affect what is around us.

As I am about to embark on another journey, of the next phase of the journey we call life, setting off to distant, unfamiliar lands, I seek to write about what energies exist in the different places i go. To share my perceptions with others.  To bring myself into the here and now, those marvelous moments when “I Am”, Being and connected. And that is so much easier to do when all is new.  But in the act of writing, instead of just being, do i draw back from the spirit of the place, remove myself from what is there?

And when I write about one place while sitting in another, drawing together my recollections on the screen, i often lose momentum – the brilliant insights that i had fade away and all is but a blur. I write this entry on a break from editing another one based on a place where i had been just the other day – it is difficult for it seems so far away.

 Thus, is any writing we have about a place, in any genre, really about a place or about memories instead? The notes at the time in order to write, to jog those memories, may be clear or not. They may bring us back to where we were, or we may look at them and wonder where that was  or what we now envision and what we had written on the page or typed on the screen do not mesh at all.  We may be unable to envision where we had been at all, even though at the moment we were there we felt connected and alive.

I turn away now, as my mind drifts from the place of this screen, to go back to writing about a physical place – neither truly here or there. I sit in a chair, stare at a screen and the clutter on the desk, lift my head to look at the bare tree outside the window and the pond and woods that lay beyond. I am chilly and my fingers are cold. I listen to the hum of the fridge, the breathing of the dog, the clawing of a cat, and the clicks of the keys as i type. The air is still and i turn my focus not only to the screen, but to the place i had been.

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THE City – 1

The city gives a certain buzz
 awakens dormant cells and ideas
but like the traffic
they begin to hum
    incessantly
calming at night
but never completely ceasing

The sights and sounds that stimulate
begin to overwhelm

you shut down to distractions
to the self
all noise becomes dim
and the beating of your heart
is drowned out
with the buzz that abounds.

I wrote this last summer in San Fransisco after being out in the country for sometime. But this could be any major city i have been through after time away in the stillness of the wilderness or countryside. For i have felt this way many a time – Vancouver, Calgary, Portland and Seattle come to mind – any lively city centre i have come into after having  been “out” – out in the Rockies, on the islands, on the coast, wherever.  I find myself energized at first, wondering what took me so long to come back and why i hesitated for so long. I marvel at the diversity of people, of sounds, sights, and smells and the energy that is there. I bounce along, feeling liberated from the serenity, or what now seems to me, the deadness, of small towns and the countryside where all moves at a much slower pace.   But soon the novelty wears off, and i become overwhelmed and no longer understand what it is all about.

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I sleep inside
and do not feel the power of the night
the breath of the world in my soul.

I am warm
I do not shiver or lay huddled in a ball,
The cold does not penetrate these thick walls
And the wind does not blow through.
I no longer feel its call.
The air I breathe in the place of another is stale
the life force is faint.

I am dry
no longer washed clean by the rain.
A solid roof over my head
blocks out not only the clouds and rain but the stars and moon
the power of the universe becomes less intense.

I sleep in a comfortable bed that cushions the bones
Far above the lap of mother earth where she soothes the aches and whispers to my soul.
I read late into the night and wake when i need,
lose track of the cycle of the day, of the year.
bedtime no longer determined by the setting of the sun
and i no longer stir awake in bed awaiting the crack of dawn.

I barely feel the power of the moon as she waxes and wanes
am not intricately aware of her phases, or where and when she rises and sets
of how she lights up the nights and shines into your eyes
or of the darkness that surrounds in her absence.
The vibrations of the power that runs through the walls are different
that those of the voices of the night.

 It is quiet here, the sounds outside do not seep in
but i feel the hum and buzz, of the fridge, of the implements of our lives
and the breathing of the dogs and cats that keep me company.
Gone is the roar of the ocean, the wind blowing through the trees, the coyotes howling, cows giving birth, the patter of rain, the steps of others, the birds at dawn and the rustling of animals in the night
But i am safe
protected from the vibrations and spirits of the night
protected from the animals and people who might harm me
protected from the elements

The night outside is cold and wet as storms blow through.
I am safe
but less connected to that force of life
cut off in my created world
and that of another.

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The Call

On the journey through life,there are times when you here a call – a call of place.  Somewhere calls to you in your mind and you just have to go there though it may be many miles away, and you really do not know why you are going. It is only when you have arrived, that you begin to understand.

Sometimes it is not even a place you wanted to go, or even a place that you said you did not want to go. It may be a place that is familiar or it may be one that you really knew nothing about. But wherever it is, it beckons to you.

 At times it is whisper or a soft melody. Other times it is more like a nagging voice or a loud scream.

You may resist the call, sometimes for years or even a lifetime but it does not disappear. Yes, some inklings fade away over time, for some calls are for a special moment, and other inkings fade away and return when you least expect them. You may embrace the call and journey forward with an open mind and heart. Or you may grudgingly give in and travel forward with anticipation, worry or dread.

At times you wonder if it is your memories of a place that call you back and make you want to return – something you began, but did not finish, or something you failed to see. At times it is a longing for something left behind, but only if you listen hard can you tell if the call is really something larger than you, or a projection of energies for something that should be put to rest.
When you hear the call to a place you have been before, you look back and reflect and wonder why you are listening to this. You begin to analyse – are you moving forward or crawling back. And when is this questioning your ego blocking the higher source and when is it the higher source interfering with the call of the ego. If it was a place you did not stop, maybe you were’nt meant to, or did other chatter get in the way and make you resist. At times there is a warning with the call, and you wonder what is real, but if you do not follow it you will never know.

But maybe it is a place you have never been to, or even a place that you had ever imagined going. Yet it pulls you forward, towards it. Maybe it is a buzz in the air, the latest place in a given circle and you feel the energies of others being directed there, or maybe you have just read or seen too much about it. But other times it is something you stumble on, a random flyer, a conversation overheard, a chance encounter and the buzz enters your mind and makes you smile and say go. You do not know what will be there, but you know you need to go and you cannot explain why.

Sometimes the call is just for the road itself, for movement through place, a break in stagnation, for the journey through life.

There are other times where you feel a push from somewhere, and just want to or have to leave, but you do not hear the call or cannot listen. The mind goes fuzzy or stale, and you end up in stasis or you end up in a panicked flurry of activity as you race around looking, searching, beckoning. This is when you are lost. But if you can calm yourself and listen a call will emerge.

Sometimes you may forget about a call and then suddenly, after time has passed, you find yourself in a place that you had once yearned for. And what is this yearning.

Is it that we are looking for something outside of ourselves, or is it the journey that is paramount, the learning to listen to life, and to embace the flow, both within and without.The call of place is like a journey within linked to the flow of life.

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I wander about Goat Island, and the Three Sisters, chunks of land that rise from the Niagara River, and stand seemingly solid amongst the rush of water between the Horseshoe and the American falls. Here I feel alive, bathing in the energy of the place. There is a bounce to my step, a glimmer in my eyes and a smile upon my face. The raw energy of the falls enlivens me and it is more than just the negative ions in the air that do so. I know there is something special about this place, something deep and spiritual, a power greater than us all. Here I am hit by that sense of knowing, connecting with that universal life force.

Momentum builds up above the falls – the flow of water in the rapids is intense, and the air around becomes more dense – dark squiggles surround as the water from four of the great lakes is about to fall over a cliff, crescending down through the layers of time. From the stasis and stillness of the great lakes, the water runs through a narrow river, a channel, momentum increases, circles, crashes and stills, then whirls and jumps as it heads for the last lake and down another river on its journey out to sea. The energy is alive and rapid on this phase of its journey – a journey from the inside of a continent, where it appears still, enclosed and contained by land, to a joining in the sea of life, that basin of water that surround the lands and is in perpetual motion. The mist that rises above and permeates the air is the soaring of the greatest inland waters combined.

The Falls are not only the water that rushes over, but the land that lay around and beneath. I sit on one of the Three Sisters and feel the power of the molted deep grey rock that i sit upon, and i become more grounded. I feel the history in the rocks, the energy that has built up slowly over time and is being revealed. The land – the denser energy form – is molded and sculpted over time by the power of water – a lighter, vibrating active energy, and by the eons of time. The land was forming and transforming long before the falls existed and will continue to transform long after they pass through.

As the water rushes through it exposes the layers of time visible in the gorge below – the layers of life deposited over millions of years, the remains of the life that once teamed upon the earth and in the oceans and that are now compacted into stone. Lockport Dolostone, Rochester shale, limestone, fossils, sandstone – layers we name and analyse or do not notice at all. The layering reveals great changes in the history of the planet, ages and stages of the earth, and deep fundamental transformations; changes that we can only begin to imagine. The falls themselves are a legacy of the last ice age, and the contours of the land were formed by frozen water in motion.
 
And i wonder, what memories do the stones hold? If our consciousness affects the world (or as some say even makes it) then what trailings of emotion, thought and being have the previous life forms left behind?
 
The changes are still at play. The falls were once seven miles or so downstream and 700 years ago the American falls did not exist – they were one great horseshoe. They continue to move upstream, to shift for the land is in motion too. You cannot stop the flow of life, for although you may try, it cuts through the layers that have been built up, exposing them and transforming them – be they layers of stone or layers of our mind. And it makes me think of what will be in the layers formed by our remains. What deposits do we make as we travel though this space?
 
If nothing else, the falls show that nothing is permanent. The place i see today will be different tomorrow as it was different yesterday. Since places are shifting and temporary how can we define them except in the now? The now is but a moment in the flow in time.
 
I bring myself back to the present. I open my ears and hear the rush of water, the sounds of gulls and the occasional voices in the background. I open my eyes and see the rush of water, the vibrant oranges and yellows floating on branches beneath the leaden sky, the squirrel that prances amongst the fallen leaves and the rock formations. I open my heart and feel the power of the water and the power of the earth. For a moment I consciously join in this dance of life. I wish to stay here, on the second of the three sisters, and bathe in the energy of the place. I want to sleep beneath the trees on the ground, beside the rapids, becoming simultaneously vitalized and calmed.
 
But something presses me on, out of this sacred zone to the rest of the area that we call The Falls. But I wish to stay, to feed, to gorge on the spirit here, although i am satiated for now. I should not consume more than my fill, more than i can share and feed back to the circle of life. But i am tempted, tempted to stay and harness this power for myself, for my personal glory. And i know that i am not the only one who feels this pull.
 
In this place the energy reaches its peak, an energy that no visitor, – from the Native people who travelled here to the first Europeans who saw it, to the tourists or yesterday and today – can ignore. I see smiles lighting up faces – smiles and joy that feed positive energy back to the place. But there are also other vibrations at play – thoughts and activities that take away from the spirit of this place, that at times seek to overwhelm it.
 
I turn my eyes towards the falls, following the direction of the current and see the effects of these other energies. Outside energies that have become part of the place – energies that were brought in from afar, and decided to stay – for a while. I look across to the Canadian side to where tall buildings rise above the land – hotels, casinos, and amusements to dull the mind, and i ask, what have we done to the glory? The airflow changed when the structure rose up and the falls from that side are now shrouded in mist. And i remember my journey here past decaying factories and hollowed out city centres. Another sense of place emerges – one that is dulling and harms the spirit.

So many questions spring to mind. What is it about the raw power of this place that makes people want to feed on it? To hoard it in and harness it for ourselves? To transform it and control it and use it for their own ends? And in seeking to transform it, what effects to we have? Do we diminish the energy? enhance it? Warp its sense of being? To what extent can we transform it, and how much does it transform us. How do we value it? For what ends is this power used? 

The actions of those who sought and seek to profit from the power of the falls have dulled the energy in their zones. There are creators and maintainers of the “tourist trade” who build attractions and amusements from thrill seeking rides to today’s casinos and line the banks with garish hotels, with an eye to profit and blinders to the glory. There are those who immediately sought to harness the energy for industrial ends, building power plants and factories that line the banks, creating a heavy industrial “oasis” permitted and enhanced by the cheap energy from the falls. As i meander away from the island, I feel my spirit sink.

The energy of the falls is used to light much of the eastern seaboard, and thus its power is spread and diffuse. As we turn on the lights do we remember and are we thankful to the source from which it came. And if we do not, do we push the energy away from the falls. The flow of the falls themselves is controlled by the power plants and international agreements – much of the water is diverted for electricity for the power plants that fuel our lives. It flows the strongest in the summer day lights hours, and more is diverted in non-peak tourist times. How would the power of the falls affect us if we felt its full force? What we experience today is mediated, the power harnessed for other ends, for industry, for a softer life, for the artificial lights that illuminate the night. But how would we feel if we bathed in its glory and how would our internal lights glow? And how do we feel when we stand under the massive power lines that carry this generated power along its way?

The lights that shine from the amusement places seek to divert our attention from the falls. The goal not to illuminate the”light” that shines from within but to make a profit, and i feel it sucking, as it seeks to suck the dollars from my pocket. As a child i always wanted to visit the haunted houses and arcades that fanned Lundys Lane on the Canadian side, and now i want to cover my eyes and shrink from it. And the goods sold, the tourist trinkets to help create memories, the items that say, hey, i was there create another experience all together.  Like the overpriced candies, ice cream and sodas that are sold along the streets and boardwalks, they pull the energy from me, temporary highs, but ones that leave you to crash, and come crawling back for more. And i feel it sinking, sinking, the empty Rainbow mall and storefront, decaying cheap motels, and a lack of life. 

And how much garbage can we dump into a place – taking the light and leaving our discards behind. I think of Love Canal as i pass the decaying factories and current chemical plants and wonder how long this contamination will linger. Once factories lined the gorge, the “tailrace” of colourful waterfalls of waste that gushed out of the factories was once a major attraction that came second to the falls themselves.

Mother Nature, the universal force struck back with storms and rock slides that destroyed a major power plant back in ’56 (in recent times considering the history in the stones). Was she telling us that we could not just take without honouring her. The industries have now gone, the remaining ruins barely visible, the town hollowed out, with vacant boarded up homes, empty shells of buildings and people, and high crime.  The energy in these places is heavy and sad now, yet life flows on and away.

And we rebuild. A newer power plant sits further down the gorge. Shiny casinos built to replace the dying industries provide some glitz and bring in busloads of people who sit in front of machines in a trance, eyes glazed, hoping, praying for that magical moment where they will strike it big. Attention diverted from the falls to the machines and the chance to win some money. Despite the shine, there is a heavy gloom.

Yes there is also life renewed. Along the gorge on the American side past the Rainbow Bridge where factories once stood, there are now trails and parkland. Parks line both sides of the gorge with paths for walking and benches for sitting, resting and contemplating. Preservation efforts continue, and if it were not for those of the past, those which created the parks, and the gardens, those which came from those who valued the falls for themselves and sought to maintain them, we might have decay all around. It is thanks to the consciousness of others who valued the natural energy of the place that i was able to sit on Goat Island and bask in the universal life force. it is and was that energy that feeds joy to a place. As i remember this, my spirit soars, and i and my writing feel less heavy.

I ask myself, how do we define place – just what do we mean when we say Niagara Falls? What is this place in our minds? How far does a place exist and what are its zones?   Where do the borders begin and end – and not just the international border that divides the falls and the gorge. Borders are felt rather than defined by lines on a map. And how does our location determine how we define a larger place and how does our definition of the larger place determine our location within it? What energies do we brings to a place and how much do we strip away?
 
What to we look at and what do we turn away from?  What permeates into our minds and our visions though we would rather it not be there? What do we seek out and focus upon?  Which vision is “real”? That of a powerful spiritual place, or that which shows the excesses of our civilization in decay.  What is the dance between the two, and how long can they exist side by side. Can I write about the falls without writing about the decay that surrounds? Can i see the kernal of light amongst the decay and the garish coverings?  How does our gaze not only affect our experience of place, but also the place itself?
 
But the energy of the falls is strong, and while that has been its downfall in recent times as people try to strip it away, it is also its strength. It is the reason why we keep on flocking to it, to feel the lifeforce gathered so strongly. Can we weaken it and destroy it all together, or do we need to have faith that it will endure, that it is stronger than us? I imagine the life force flowing, cutting through the denser heavier places on its journey out to see, and the power and beauty of that journey and i smile and have faith.

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How do we interact with the energies of a place?

What is a sacred place, and what does sacred mean?

Where to borders begin and end? What are zones of being?

 Has a place ever uplifted you, send you spinning, or dragged you down? How does the universal life force, prana, chi flow through places, and what is our relationship with it?

 What clings and what is left befind? What deposits to we make, individually or collectively? And how much of a place do we carry through?

 How does the energy of a place change over time – be it a minute or eons. Is place just an illusion?

As a wanderer, a traveller, and a seeker I have asked myself these and many other questions over time. In this blog i will write about my musings drawing on personal experiences, stories, metaphysics, energy studies and the like.

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