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Archive for the ‘Life Musings’ Category

What does it mean to build a New Jerusalem? Is it possible to build a city or community for god here on earth? Is it desirable?

i have been curious about Salt Lake City for several years because of its history and why it was founded and built – as a place to practice religion, a place built for god. I am not a mormon, and several aspects of their faith do not call to me, but the idea of founding a place on this basis has always appealed to me.

But what i find here is a modern american city, well laid out and planned, but still a regular city – though with a certain underlying vibe – one that is based in the foundations of it, and it makes me wonder about the ideal. And around is sprawl, the sprawl of modern cities, the endless development up and down the valley – but i see that too is related both to the growth and development patterns across the continent, and to the original (and continuing) mormon corridor – of small communities, or stakes as they were called, built for people to live and worship. And like small towns everywhere, they have merged into one amorphous sprawl.

The curiosity with the origins of cities came to me when i was in San Francisco and Seattle and other places that were founded or grew because of the gold rush, and the old buildings were dedicated to business of the getting rich quick, and there it occurred to me to what extent does the foundation, the raison d’etre of a city in its inception, carry over to modern times.

For me the movement west in search of the ideal has always called, for i too have done it myself, the lure of “go west, young (wo)man” but what has been the ideal – a comfortable life, adventure, riches of gold, the possibility to be free, whatever that means, god. It has been symbolic of a place where you can be both free and safe to live your dreams.

The story of the latter-day saints of seeking to build a Zion, of fleeing persecution for their beliefs, and of finally arriving and building what was to be an ideal place called to me. And so i came to this basin, where they built the temple and called for believers around the world to join them in creating a new zion. for many years that is what they did – design a place that would reflect a living faith on so many levels from the physical design and layout to collective enterprises in an attempt to be self-sufficient.

Once i got here, i realized that part of why salt lake called is that it, in some way, represented the transition from the journeying to the building stage. A journey is a period of travel or movement and of seeking where new horizons continually present themselves. It can be hard and challenging, but it also is a period of growth and renewal, and important transition from one life to another. The pioneer stories are still a prominent feature of the mormon history, dramatic time.

However, the switch from one type of movement of searching to another of creating came about once they found a place. It may not have been ideal, a desert basin, but time comes to say enough, lets stop and build it here. Now according to legend, Bingham Young stood on top of one of the hills and knew or was told by a higher source, that it is here that you are to build. Was it divine inspiration and knowing this is it, and how much of it was weary fatigue, and saying this is the place where it will have to be.

I think this is where it differs from some present journeys where you are looking for a place that already exists and ready-made for you to come and join; here there was nothing, and it represented a palate upon which to build – it was not already there and required vision to believe that it could become something more, something worthy of god here on earth. But then again, how many new frontier exist today in our ever connected and known world? Is it possible to just find a fresh place to transform – a place where you can land fresh? A place where others are not already? But then again, was there ever such a place, for native americans were here already? Is it just the belief in such a place that has disappeared?

Another difference is, that while in the motion of a journey, the pioneers had a home in a community, one without stable roots in the ground, but one of interconnection to one another and to a higher source.

Still once you have stopped there is a shifting of gears – you are no longer searching for the place but you have found it – or rather you have found the locale where you are to build it. Your action changes from seeking and imagining to building and creating. You are now transforming the environment, and although it is a difficult time, you are guided by a higher vision and a concrete as well as abstract purpose and can see the progress you are making. Although they almost starved in the first years, and lived a harsh existence, it is a time that is now romanticized for it calls forth (or back) a higher ideal, and a time when the ideal called forth.

During those initial years this basin was transformed, a city and community and temple were built and thousands upon thousands of pioneers arrived, making arduous journeys of their own, but having a specific destination – of a place that was there, unknown and known at the same time, a place where they would help build and live. They were called forth to help build something greater than themselves and to join with others who had already begun, and were able to do so, making transitions and transformations of their own and thereby transforming the place to where they were called.

During the 1890s there was a switch in policy, where immigration to the new zion was no longer actively encouraged and organized, and instead people were encouraged to stay in their homelands and build there, and go out into the world as missionaries. I see this as a major shift, and this period marks a transition in the history of both the church and the society at large; the abandonment of polygamy, the entry of Utah into the nation and the national expansion in general, the economic downturn that swept across the nation, the end of one century and beginning of another. It also led to the decline of the more collective enterprises, and i believe, the realization that you cannot live totally apart or isolated from that which surrounds. Another century that we have passed through.

Before that time, with the building of the railroads many “others” came for very different reasons and the area was no longer homogeneous in terms of worship. Salt Lake and parts of Utah were no longer only for true believers, for members of the church. And this remains true today; while mormons still predominate in many areas of the state, Salt Lake is a diverse city – but one where you can, at times, feel the original influence of the pioneers – not only in the built material environment, but in terms of an underlying vibe.

Today we see both the search for community building upon common ideals and migrations of so many around the world, of people coming in who you believe are different. In my weeks here i have pondered many questions, many that have been churning beneath the surface on my journeys through the west, through small towns, both ideal and shattered, through divided cities, and intentional communities. Can you build a place for those who share common values? Should you? Can you build such a place and also be connected to the world be it via rail or ideas? Can you change or control the others who come for their own reasons? Can you remain distinct within? should you? What do you need to give up? Is it central to your core or essence, or is it just a minor part of your being? But how does giving up a minor part affect the whole? Do you engage with those “others” who come in? Do you just coexist (to quote a popular bumper sticker) allowing each to remain in their own worlds? Can you? Should you? What do you take in and how do you change? Do you welcome “them” and want them to join you? Do you try to keep them out? Are you afraid that some of you might join them? Do you ever merge and become one? Is it possible that all are transformed, intertwined, but unique? Can you move beyond the notions of “us” and “them” and realize that all definitions and boundaries are fluid and ever-changing and shifting?

This is a dilemma that i see being played out over and over again, not only here, or with many ideal utopian or intentional communities, but all who seek to create a life where you are surrounded by common values, lifestyles and cultures. With the splinterization of society, we see more and more pockets being built, and while you want live in a certain way, can you ever separate yourself or your “group’ and what are the consequences of trying to do that? This is a common theme that runs throughout my thought and i am certain to write more about it.

They mormons also came to Utah not only feeling that they would be free to practice their religion, but that it would also be safe to do so. They had been persecuted and had to flee one locale after another from New York to Missouri to Illinois, attempting to build and then being at times brutally suppressed for being what they were. They fled the nation to what was a land where they could be safe and free, but soon after arrival what was mexican territory was suddenly under the jurisdiction of the united states. Does what you seek to flee eventually find you? And they were not free from persecution in the forms of attacks and legislation. Did they discover that there is no truly “safe” place where you can go? And it asks when is it time to lay down and flee as they did across the land? when is it time to fight and what are the consequences of that – as with the mountain meadow massacre when they attacked a wagon train of pioneers? When do you take a stand? Do you build walls to protect yourself? Can they stand? But just what do you keep out and what do you hold in? Is it what you imagined that you would? And when the walls start to crumble, as they eventually will, just what comes pouring in and rushing out. Or do you spend so much time maintaining those walls, that you neglect to nurture what is inside? And what becomes of those who stand looking at the walls from the outside? Can you just be and let the light shine out? Is it possible when the forces against you will not let up? When do you compromise and how do you do so without giving up?

The temple was finally completed in 1893 and many compromises were made to allow for the continued existence of the church and the society. But from what i sense as an outsider looking in is that the LDS movement was transformed from something quite radical and dynamic to something that is now more staid and conservative. As i went exploring the history it occurred to me more than once, is that while i could not see myself ever joining the church today, i might have been inspired in its earlier days when it seems to be more a movement and a journey rather than a stable institution. But wasn’t that the goal all along? Still, it seemed that something major changed around that time.
With the statement on polygamy i see a shift from building communities to building (and today, maintaining) nuclear families and a focus more on individual behavior with words of wisdom and rules taking on a greater importance, as did obedience to authority. With the separation of church and state (which are still intertwined) the communal aspects of economic togetherness seemed to have faded away.

But i have to ask how much of that came from the specific compromises made and how much of it from the ending of the journey and the building process. Once, the journey kept people engaged and provided a goal and means of togetherness, and then once a place was found, its transformation and building served that role again. But once you have stopped the building, then what do you do? what does life become about? What guides your worship and practical purpose in the here and now? How do you stay connected and inspired? Do you keep building or can you say – yes, this is done. But then what? what do you concern yourself with? You have the building, to go in and worship – is it what you imagined? Are you still connected? Do you feel that you have landed or do you feel a loss? Can you step into what is the next phase? And does it take you along the path, and how does that path transform?

Or do you just try to be and shine your light and encourage others to do so all around? Do you try to build other communities of light around the globe not separate or cut off but within the larger whole? But can you? Is that what this church tries to do through the missionaries and expansion around the world? But can you join with those whose light is different from yours and shine together but unique? Has the ideal changed, or has it just expanded knowing that this planet is so interconnected? But then are we not just building zones? And as one grows does another shrink back? does the energy just move around, rather than being increased to a new vibration for all?

I thought i might answer my questions through the act of writing this, and while i have answered some (for the moment), i find that what i have done is come up with even more questions to be answered.

I began this thinking of my college study of social movements and the progression they go through – from radical idealism to settlement and stability. But how can you stop and still grow and change, how is movement possible within the calm – for all does move, but is much more subtle, and the changes may not be recognized until they have occurred. Can you guide them without trying to cling to the old, without hindering movement and change, without becoming defensive of what you have and closed to all that happens around. Salt Lake is now a modern american city – you can still see and feel the founders, but while the city and area expands, it now does for different reasons, and you can sense a defensiveness and protectiveness of what is here, and at times it is hard to imagine the inspiration, activity and faith that was needed to create what was here. But it is all change.

I still ask can you build a “New Jerusalem” here on earth? While Salt Lake does not seem to be a New Jerusalem at all, and i feel that the goal was abandoned long ago (in terms of american history), i also wonder if that might be a blessing after all. The city is not being torn apart by war and strife as is the holy city in what is currently isreal. But then again, can you not try to do so and is it our abandonment of the quest of building cities and communities for god (however named or defined) that has led to the deadened places and strife around?

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Observing Place

I recently wrote about my sense of disconnection and i know it is a theme that appears throughout my writing. I realize that i often write about the energies of place from the standpoint of the observer, and not a participant. I know that the observer is never really separate, for the observer effects what is observed, but still, the energies i feel are from the point of view of the watcher, and the outsider.
I have gone through most of my life observing and not engaging. I travel through space and place but rarely connect. I seek to connect but do not know how. And i wonder is my role in life to stand outside watching? What does it mean to observe? Is it a valid place? Do i merely suck the energies in and not give back? And how does what i perceive both with my senses and energetically differ from that which i would if i were more engaged? Is writing a form of engagement?

Observing the energy of a place is much different than participating in an environment or an activity. I often wonder, do you “see” more clearly? do you really fail to “see” at all? Do you just “see” differently – that is from another perspective? For instance i remember my trip this summer; walking and cycling down the coast have different energies; sitting outside a campfire circle or quietly within, are different experience than building and maintaining a campfire, or participating in a conversation or drum circle there. Dancing, listening, singing or playing along to music are very different experiences, and while different types of music produce different energetic responses, the way which we engage also transforms both the energetic response and the energy itself. Likewise with sitting beside, walking beside, swimming in, boating on, or crossing over water; the form that the water takes – be it a small creek, a polluted river, a mountain lake, or an active ocean all elicit different responses and moods, but the manner in which we engage does even more. There is a great difference in how you will feel the energies of a small lake if you are watching children splash around in the water or it you are splashing around in it yourself. The action that we take, as well as our feelings and thought, are all forms of energy that in turn transform a place and affect other beings around.

I think back to my studies in sociology back in the 1980s when the paradigms were much different. My areas of study were social change and methodology, a seemingly contradiction, but both play into my current writing. The question of the role of the researcher, the observer, often came into play – is it possible to have an unbiased study? can you understand without participating? How does one’s presence effect what is being studied? The goal of the researcher was not to effect what was being studied. How much of that identity have i unconsciously drawn in, and how much have i attracted because it is my natural role?

With the change in paradigm, and the knowledge of the new physics and the discovery that yes, even with particles and waves, the observer effects what is observed, i think most accept that true objectivity does not exist. (what do you look at, what questions to you ask, what do you see and fail to see, just what lens do you wear for all is interpreted through a lens, what energies do you put out and attract). we all play a role in this cosmic dance and i wonder if i have been sitting on the sidelines for too long. (but then again, the bench or wall in a dancehall is as much of a place as the center of the floor)

I know that one of the reasons that the energies of a place often overcome me is because of my role as an observer – i let them come in, and do not put them out (but that is false, for energies are always put out), but i do not often seek to engage with or transform what is there. i am not neutral and what i write about is often my energy as well as that which the place emits. But is this a valid role? Do i need to accept this role as mine in life? And while i see myself as an observer, it there truly such a thing? Or am i in my small way, an enlightener after all?
 
 

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I wrote this almost 2 months ago when i was at Harbin Hotsprings. It was a rainy day when i sat inside trying to write – it came to me, and i was afraid to put it out. but i can hold it in no more.

The feeling returned to me as i sat outside last night, alone in the quiet and the dark looking up at the starry sky. The air was crisp and i felt still and then the voice came whispering in – you are dying, you are dying, i walked down the road to the smoking deck which was thankfully empty.

it returned to me once again – you are dying, that is why you came back here. The memories of that night as las pirimides came back to me – the calmness and acceptance of the fact and the knowing that i would go, and remembering why i cut my trip short – why i felt the need to leave and come back here, not just to this place but to this continent. Still i had pushed it from my mind, and told myself i left because the process did not feel safe, because of my worries about money, because of blah blah blah.

I sat last night and knew that i was dying. Still not sure if it is just a death to the ego and all i thought i was, or if it is a death to this plane of existence altogether. Can i leave the former without the latter? How long can i hang on? Can i tell my story? Do i have time? Am i meant to? Or has all been for naught? Will i tell my story on this plane or in the next dimension?

I remembered this again in yoga today – as i stretched on out, i felt the pull, the lump that i know is there, the lump comes and goes and that has been growing for some time, for years. and i feel them elsewhere too, and i know i have felt this before,

And i remembered it too, on the walk back on the darkened path, a path where mountain lions lurk – wondering if this was to be it. Or dying alone, under my tarp, curled up into the cold.

And when others are asking how i am, and comment on how i seem different than a year ago, i wonder what they see, i am calmed i know, but do they see the energy falling away. Or am i being made anew?

I cried last night as i sat on the deck, realizing that i was leaving this plane, not tears of pity or anger but of goodbye and wondering about my time here. he came along in the dark, the tears went away as we started to talk.

This is what i wrote in san marcos on lake atitlan in guatemala, that starry night in which i knew, that night i walked outside the room that closed me in and sat outside and tried to write, the night i let go of it all.

I am dying – the moment is soon – i am no longer afraid. I just need to continue to let go. The dreams about mom and dad passing away as the ground destabalized were not about them but about me, and the guardian angel i saw on the bridge, i hope he is there. I only hope that in my next life i am able to proceed forward from the mistakes and lessons learned in this one. I went to the bottom of the lake in meditation and looked for the image of me in 7 years – nothing was there. my shifting and rocking in sitting meditation a sign that i am to leave this dimension behind. Lord i will go – my desire to go home. i see myself finally at peace. i hope the bad karma created in this life does not follow me – i have wanted to be good – in some ways i feel like a life wasted but part of me knows and has known that it is preparation  for the next where  i pray i will have the courage to fulfill my mission and have a story that i may report back  all that i have learned and not regret time wasted in misery. i am in the shadows – can i grow angel wings, is that the feeling in my back? My resentment of the youngers i did not understand – full lives ahead of them – now i can only pray they use it well. I have a few days i believe if not longer – lord i would like to go by the sea and the large trees in the land that i love. will the bottom of the lake claim me? I pray to return once more to the land that i love. I have known this for a while, but sought to deny it, being morbid, even the visions i had as a youth, the lumps that grow inside claim me but it is ok – even why i wwas brought here- talk of dimensions and the afterlife – needed to see before i go. I have known this for so long, and still became trapped in my pain instead of looking a gods beauty that surrounds — or is it just  a process of letting go? I let go. i am sorry for the pain that i have caused. Lord, i want to shine one more time before i go but i will accept your timing if this is not possible. Thank you. Will i be in purgatory – able to calm the other lost souls who are there? Will i be an angel smiling? Will i integrate the lessons i have been shown and may have learned? I know this is true – my time is near (19/02/10 from journal)

And i think of my recurring dream/nightmare of my youth, i was wandering around, dying somewhere in the forest, on a cliff, full of cancer they not know how i lived

but am i dying in the physical body or in the ego alone? Am i ready to let go? Is it just the death of all i have clung to and i will be ready to shine a light in this lifetime for all?

I am tired, getting more and more so. thought of my return home – to buffalo – and what that was all about. even my trip here, how i wanted to see this land again, and how i prayed in the woods of Sierraville last summer, that i just wanted to go home, to my true home. will i rise again?

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It was in the week or so after i wrote this that i became more determined to write my story before it was too late. And maybe that is why i have journeyed back here. But as i write i realize how little i have to share – not a story of adventure and exploration, but one more of quiet despair. For what have i really contributed and how little have i shined. How little i have been truly alive, and how much of my time has been as a member of the multitudes of the walking dead.
Am i dying – and if so, why does it feel so wrong to write that – for we all are. and on what level is it at – the ego or the soul? and you need to die to live again. And as i wrote elsewhere part of me feels like i have already died and am but a ghost hanging on.

Can i write my story? should i? can i write the insights i have had, though i have not learned to live by them? Can i be trimmed like an old tree or a flowering plant – cut off the dead or dying parts so that the rest may live more fully again or is it too late. Can i shine a light upon the world?

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“Why are some afraid of bliss?” she asked as she sat on the centre carpet in the temple before the yoga class. Her face was serene and filled with joy, and she had told of how the winter had transformed her, and now she was able to see and feel the bliss even more. Gone home, prepared to engage, and for a few hours just let herself be, feeling the joy and connection of eternity. I was groggy, a cool damp morning, having just awoken from a long deep nights sleep, the day still coming to me. I smiled inside as she read some quotes and sang, feeling joy and peace inside, but when she said that i thought of some moments where my bliss had turned, like the calm before the storm. For those moments are fleeting, and we can not hang on to the highs they bring, and i remembered times where they had been the calm before the storm, if they were just preparation for me.

Calm falls over, i feel connected to the universe. And for a moment, i feel truly at bliss transported to another world. I have glimpses of god, and faith. I have been feeling that more and more, in waves over that past week or two. And during my last few days at fisherman’s wharf a sense of inner peace. In Yosemite i catch sight of the divine. But then suddenly it shifts.

A feeling of dread and unease rushes up. As if all is to coming crashing down, if this is but a moment that cannot last, for nothing ever does. But i felt a shattering, as if something is about to break. And i wait, hoping it is not is real..little thoughts in the park, conflict, my stuff, my food eaten – remembering an experience that happened at Yosemite Bug two years ago and several others with greater implications for my life. I go back all is fine, but the feeling that this bubble i am in is about to explode, continues to grow and grow, as if all will be swept away from under my feet.

Two years ago i spent almost a week at the Yosemite Bug and went into the park several times. I had been up in the park, a cool winter day, and walked along the river bank by the campground, a path where few were to be seen. The sun came out and i sat down, some areas free of snow, and watched and listened to the river and looked out to the granite mountains and felt a peace inside, something greater possessing me. i felt so still and there i sat with the peace and calm i had been seeking for a while. For i had come up there a nervous wreck, thrown off-balance and disconnected, anxious  not knowing what was next. I had been to the park a few days before i know and walked the grounds of the bug, some of that stress had dropped, but i knew that i needed calm and quiet and peace. And for a little while i was feeling bliss and connected to the world.

Then out of nowhere thoughts came through, fears about returning to the hostel, an agitation, a fight in hand, others partying and pushing me out or taking my food. now the hostel had been quite, it was a weekday and i had a dorm room with one other and to myself the night before, and i did not know why i felt this way. But the thoughts held on, the images and agitation, and though i got up to walk i could not shake them off. They fleeted in and out but i lost that bliss and that peace of mind.

I got back to the hostel that night, feeling nervous and unsure. Imaginary fights battled my mind as i rode back on the bus. I ate dinner, and then went to my bed as if guarding the place. I read for a while, only partially caught in my book, and as 10:30 rolled around, and i was still alone, and i wondered what those thoughts had been all about. I turned off the light and went to bed.

Just after 11pm, the final check in time, the door opened wide, the lights turned on, and a group of people walked inside. I kept my head under the covers, trying to sleep, saying ok i do have roommates, and they will soon be done. the door opened and closed, slamming shut each time, someone stomped their feet, and the voices were both animated and agitated and did not stop, “who is that person?” i heard one say. they left the room, turned out the lights and i got up to take a pee, and fell over several suitcases blocking the bathroom door. I turned on the light and what did i see except bags filled with large bottles of cheap alcohol and high-heeled shoes strewn on the floor. Still i went back to my bed for a while. they came back in one sat on a bed, opened the large bottle and started to joke around. I asked them to be quiet, long after the quiet hours posted on the door, and beside no alcohol allowed in the dorm rooms. One girls said to me its our room and we didn’t expect you here. The office was long closed by that time. We argued back and forth and her friends decided to take the party elsewhere slamming the door hard as they left.

A few hours later, after 1am, the door opened and shut, lights turned off and on, voices were louder, the bottles emptier and i stirred in my bed. Two sat down, drinks in hand and unpacked and poured a drink. i asked them to be quiet. You be quiet the one girl said, i really don’t want you in here. and that set me off . I don’t really remember exactly what transpired except that we ended up in a screaming match. i know i blew, i know i yelled until nothing could be fixed anymore.

The next day i was able to change rooms, to the other that was just the other side of a thin wall, i heard them talking about me, how i was a psychopath and telling all i was crazy and the people in the room i talked to muttered about the noise next door and then the person who screamed aloud and was to be condemned. It had gotten so out of hand.

It sounds like nothing now that i write it, but was one of those moments i carried with me. Did i cause the events to happen because of my thoughts, or had a premonition been granted to me? Was the calm but a temporary reprieve? for the calm and the storm have happened many other times, with much greater implications.

I remember now having the calm and then the internal storm before the journey with my father that would lead me here that time, the journey that left us both ragged and run down. It happened at the end of the journey with Robert, which took us through here. During that last week along the coast i took walks alone, appreciated god’s beauty in the world, felt the clouds lifting from my eyes and the calm returning and caught a glimpse of the devine….and then it all exploded and he was gone. And it happened as well in sierraville, that other place in this mountain range where i spent some time. It was after the Burning Man rush, and i think i had proven my worth, the debates about what i would do and if i were to stay were gone. I felt calm and liked i belonged, but there was still something in the air. One morning i took a walk up the hill behind the baths, and felt a sense of connection come over me, an angel who was there. I hiked to the top of the pools, and the land became eerie and heard another voice, felt a presence of another life, telling me to go away and a shiver ran up my spine. Three days later i left the place. Those stories are long and complicated, but each time i felt a bliss and then a coming storm.

I often wondered if it were a warning of something that was going to occur or if my thoughts created the actions that were to ensue. Still all the times here i had previously been uneasy, off kilter with my mind nervously chattering away. Those moments of clarity that preceded the storms were perhaps a gift to me, a chance to rest, for in those moments i had the answers. the glimpses of the disorder were foreshadowing so that i might prepare how i would respond. In all cases i tried to push the uneasy thoughts away at the same time as feeding on them. not choosing how i would respond, so i was swept away in the storm. But as i write i see how some of the storms were necessary, forcing changes that needed to happen, and sweeping away debris.

And i feel like i have not heard the messages of the stillness or the discord of late. I finish this entry many miles away, and feel like i have made another mistake. A mistake i have made before, a lesson i have not learned and feel that the storm has not yet begun. Or can i trust the bliss, knowing that it will come and go, and listen to all that is being said.

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My seat faces backwards and i look at where i’ve been, the road and place where i am coming from. I do not look forward, see the horizon, the place i am travelling to. It seems it is like how much of what my week has been spent in recollection and i ask myself how much of my life has been that way. Looking backwards.

I am on the way out of San Francisco, riding the Amtrak train. Actually, that is not entirely true for trains do not run into the city itself. i had left the city taking the Amtrak bus across the bay to Emeryville where the tracks run through.

I boarded the train, one of the last into the car, and had to wait awhile to put my baggage up on the rack downstairs, and as a result i was the last one up to the top where the seating was. As always, i wanted a window, so i could watch the landscape pass by. Now half the seats in the train faced forward, and half the seats faced back. All the forward looking window seats were taken, the only ones available were in the places for four with the two seats facing one another, and being a person alone i did not take one for myself, knowing that more people would soon get on. So i got a full window in one of the seats, and stared backwards as the train rolled along.

I watched the suburbs, empty lots and water as we headed in along the bay en route to Martinez. While the water and hills pleased the eyes, i could not but help feeling that something was wrong. I was looking backwards to where i had come from and could not see what lay ahead, did not see what we were coming up to. Looking backwards is like constantly goodbye and not hello, and looking to the past. In along the bay and more so in the valley you could look back a very long way. Still the landscape shifted, and things would drop out of view. In Martinez, the train turned away from the bay and left the water behind. But even in the flat lands of valley, with it’s industrial agriculture, the horizon slowly slipped out of view.

I became uncomfortable, i was facing the wrong way, our eyes are not on the back of our heads. I should be in the now, i thought, so i tried to turn my head aside, to just look at the moment and landscape as i passed through. Once in a while i would turn my head as far to the right as it would go to see what lay up ahead but i could barely get a view and from the little i saw it merely seemed to be more of the same. My neck felt best when it faced forwards which meant backwards on this train. I shut my eyes, fell asleep, and did not see anything for while.

I woke up a little while later, unsure of where i was. We passed a new housing development and the orchards had replaced the plots of dirt or low lying plants somewhere on the line. And i saw that we had moved forward and along, though at times my eyes were shut. i stared out the window, looking backwards for rest of the journey.

And i thought that maybe looking backwards wasn’t all that bad and was part of the journey itself. After all half the seats faced in that direction. I was on the train, moving along the tracks. The tracks that were laid out upon the ground and that led me to where i was going. I knew my intended destination, and trusted someone to take me there. For though i looked back, i did not cling or hang onto what was there, and kept rolling forwards to where i had to go.

I got to Merced and stepped on off the train, now in a new locale. I still had another transfer to get to Midpines. I waited outside for a little while, standing in the sun, then got on a bus, to my next destination. It turned some corners, then drove straight, then the road began to twist and turn as we climbed from the flay valley to the foothills and began the mountain climb. The seats faced forwards and i looked to that what lay ahead.

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I sit in Barnes and Nobles in Fisherman’s Wharf. I came here to write. Soft classical music plays adding serenity to the place. The cafe, Starbucks, is calm with others sitting alone in front of laptops or reading books. The sun shines now, clouds over the bay, and the light is good – both from outside entering in the windows, and from the large round lights hanging high above, from the high ceiling of exposed beams and pipes. Shelves of books are all around. The california and bay area travel books on my left, and i do not want to linger there.

I came here yesterday, and realized how long it had been since i browsed a book store, especially a large chain such as this. And as i made my rounds, i found myself stopping at familiar locales, differently placed here but the contents much the same. I stopped by the best sellers – fiction and not, the travel essays, sociology, religion, new age and more. And i remembered just how much time i have spent wandering these stores, browsing at titles but not much more. I have looked at these sections and more – history, fiction, self-help etc. and become overwhelmed. I walk around, and look and look, and then walk on out without buying a book. Yesterday i came into sit, but still walked around and browsed a bit.

Memories of not only places and times came flooding back, but of emotions i held, and that still linger on. For these bookstores, even under the different banners are so much the same. Or maybe it is i am re-engaging in familiar activity.
There is so much to read, but what do i want and who do i want to be. There are so many worlds sitting on these shelves, so many possibilities how do i pick just one? Stories of lives lived out, of adventures to all locales, of love and life, of ideas, and philosophies and analysis and of information about the world, and about the self. It is a place that contains so many worlds laying between two covers sitting upon the shelves, waiting to be bought and read. Waiting to become a part of one’s own life.

I look around, reading the covers; wanting to, but never really delving in – a page or two read here and there. I look for an answer – the question unknown. But i do not leap, buy just one, too expensive i say, and pass it by. Besides, what one would i pick? And i walk and i look and i don’t know why. Expecting an ah ha to come off the page, to magically appear from somewhere. I walk out of the store empty handed and drained.

I have been in so many of these places on my travels around north america. I look and look but cannot decide. Often i have gone in to the travel section, hoping that a destination would come to me. I browse through the listings, of places i know (believe) i will not go – yearning for what is out of reach or become frenzied and overwhelmed. i’d look at the travel essays, never really reading them, but desiring, thinking one day i would write that too. And the best-selling novels, and the popular analysis of culture that draw me in. And as i sit here i think of the Barnes or Borders or Chapters in Seattle, Boston, New York, Vancouver, Victoria and even more locales – it seems that i have visited them all, a stopping place along the way.

I think of my trips to Powell’s in Portland – the largest independent new and used bookstore in the land – hours browsing, different sections, occasionally reading a good part of a book there. I saw the people in the hostel and a the check out stand with piles of books in hand. But i was carrying my bag, and on the road, and had room for just one, or two at most. And with the thousands and thousands of titles on the shelves, how could i pick just one. I bought a book there once – the story of The Peace Pilgrim. I’d glanced through it before in a library just before closing time, and when i returned it had disappeared from the shelf. But it was a book i’d been wanting, and hard to find, had been searching for months, and there it was found.

During my long winter in Victoria which i spent lost and unemployed I would spend much time in the Chapters on Douglas Street, drinking coffee and scribbling away up on the second floor. I would walk on in out of the rain, and tour the bottom floor, best sellers and more – i looked at the tables of books marked down, and said, just maybe i can. But even at the marked down price i bought just one – not the book i had truly been wanting, but another i meant to read, and i felt guilty for doing so. It was new, it had not been used, and it cost $6.99.

And i remember before i started this wandering, a lifetime ago, how i would browse the stores in Toronto, and even Montreal and do the same thing. In Toronto i would go to the worlds biggest bookstore and wander its narrower aisles on a winter sunday afternoon, and would walk out empty-handed feeling depressed. i forgot about the one on saint catherines near peel, in Montreal, the crowded downstairs with the bargain bins, i would go in about once a week, I see myself going in out of the snow, slush in the door, and i would look at books, and tell myself no. There was a larger one, with carpeted floors, or had it expanded to the second floor. I have bought a few new books mainly with gift cards, even then it was difficult to take the leap. Often a journal bought instead. I remember buying one top-ten book 40% marked down, and i lay in my bed, curled up to it that night, transported in time and space. But often i spend more time looking at books, than i do reading them.

Once upon a time, there had been a small independent book store where i would go, less overwhelming with limited stock. I bought new books a few times, when i got back to Montreal and started a job. i’d buy one book every paycheck, a reward for doing my time. But my time i did in office walls, and bought fewer books as time passed on.

But once upon a time i collected books. I bought many and read many and they were my prized possessions – and how many have i given or thrown away? And just when was it that i became afraid of buying books, and have i ever bought many that weren’t second-hand, or marked way down? I know some came after i was out of school, and some came the second time around, feeling that i should buy more practical things. And i had given up on some dreams. And the times i wandered but did not buy, were often the times i felt like i had died inside. Or when on the road, i look and look but do not engage a few brief morsels but that’s all for me.

Don’t get me wrong, i read a lot and have read many of the books i wanted to buy – found in libraries and thrift stores. But why is it that i feel that it must be second-hand, and cannot come from a bright comfortable store. Or that i might read it through, but not take it away, use it, peruse it, but not make it mine. I have spent much time in libraries over the years, my second home of sorts, but that is for another entry, a genre of locales onto itself. I wander these stores like a library, except that i do not sit to read the gems i have found.

I no longer go to proper used book stores, seeking bargain bins, garages sales, thrift stores and book exchange shelves instead. I tell myself it is because the choice is more limited, and i will not become so overwhelmed. Sometimes i stumble onto a gem, the book i had been needing to read pops into my hands at the perfect time, providing the insights i need at the time. But just as often, i find myself reading some crap, or lugging a book around that i know that i will never finish; its story does not interest me.

And i carry that weight around with me, for all those times i go to places where the shelves sit bare or full only of cheap romance and detective novels and maybe a few used cookbooks – nothing that will fulfill. And i spend my time searching these stores in the desperate hope that just something will appear. It becomes a game, which occasionally i win, but all the more often walk out empty-handed and empty inside. I ask myself, why i go there looking for what i will not find. And why is it that is must be used – or borrowed, scavenged from a shelf? Previously owned by someone else? A bargain, on sale, not at full price? It would be so much easier to go down the street to the large new bookstore, and buy the book that i seek – but then again do i know what it is that i am looking for.

There have been times i have been called to a certain title, but cannot seem to spend the price of dinner on a book or give to myself. I say it is because i am on the road, carry a pack, and will need to leave it behind. Why spend money i ask, on what i cannot make mine. Even though Jesus did say you can’t live by bread alone. Yes, i eventually read that title i sought, but ask myself why i waited, or was the waiting and denial right, and it came to me at the right time. And though i don’t own the book, i carry its message inside.

And why it is that i have found it so difficult to buy a new book, even in the days that i could. The feeling that i should be doing something else instead? That i should be browsing another more practical section of the bookstore – though that i have done, a few years spent wandering the business shelves. That what i want to read is wrong, should be focused on something else. Oh i justified it, these stores are operated by big chains, so many deserving writers that barely make it here, but that is but a story i tell myself, a justification for my inability to take a leap.

For I also wandered more specialty bookstores. Once upon a time when i bought many more books, i would frequent the lefty political book stores. Then for years i avoided them all together, refusing to go on in. On my travels i have been through those places in many locales, though as i write I realize it has been a long while, for over the years the titles and feeling of those stores appealed less and less to me – for my focus had changed. Though i need not avoid all that was there as i did for years.

Another type of specialty book store has claimed me more these past few years – the new age, metaphysical, spirituality and natural health bookstore. And i think of my trips to Banyen Books in Vancouver, the first time in the 1980’s over twenty years ago. I had gone in to buy a book for a course. i think it might have been smaller then, but rows of books on dreaming, psychology, spirituality, healing, creating and more, and although my identity was still wrapped up in the other kind of lefty bookstore, which i frequented less and less, something called me forth.

And i have spent time wandering there, finally, after being afraid to enter inside. Too many times i would walk right by afraid to enter in, stand outside on the sidewalk looking in. I see myself walking up and down the block on Saint Denis – outside of Boule de Neiges, or on St. Catherines by Melange Magique, or in the annex in Toronto outside of Eternal Moments i think that is the name, and go on into the bargain bookstore instead. But when i think of it, i had previously feared walking in to those lefty bookstores, not knowing what i should buy, what section to perview, and it was only after someone took my hand, many years before, that i walked in and found a world unfold to me – social analysis, class inequality, social movements and more.

Eventually i did enter inside these new age bookstores, and look around, not knowing where to go. I’d feel so lost, which area do i delve in first? Healing – of what type? Chakras and energy systems? Spirituality – of the east or the west? Herbs? Creativity? Astrology? Dream Analysis? Self-help? I would look and look and tell myself no, this is not the area where you should go. It was so overwhelming, so new to me, and so much appealed and i did not know what direction to turn in. And i believed, this arena was forbidden to me.

It was a few years later in Kingston, that i finally entered in on a regular basis. Again there i had walked by so many times, and stared inside, or come in as far as the cash only to dash back outside. It was the time in my life where books filled my livingroom, my couch and my bed. They were there for a reason, and some spoke to me, and some i merely felt that i had to read. And i had to read yet another book, before i wrote, before i was sure, had a quoted the authorities and had all the references? And the books inside this store were not related to my thesis, the topic in which i no longer believed. But they called, and i did not buy them, or maybe just one. But i would go to the public library, not the academic one at the university, and take books out or sit there and read. And write, pages upon pages in my journal or on topics i had read in these new age books and other social analysis instead.

It was after this time, when i dropped out of school, that i stopped buying books, and wandered around instead. But over the years, many found their way to me. Each time i was in Vancouver how i went back to banyen books. but did i ever buy anything, yes, a journal and a card, but would sit there and yearn, or remain uncertain, and walk away with nothing. I made trips there on my way through, but could not reach out. Or i would play it safe – look at books on self-help and writing that were not to far from that i had read before. A few times i remember buying a book, that store on saint denis – a book on chakras marked down 50%, Carolyn Myss’s the Anatomy of the Spirit at full price, and Thomas Moores Care of the Soul in another locale, not marked down. But how many times have i browsed an just looked around.

Now i have read many books of this genre over the past few years – from herbology to perennial wisdom, healing of the mind, body and spirit, and energy systems, and philosophy and spirituality of east and west, and too many books on self-help and am feeling limited by it. I think my trip to indralya helped with that – a library full, and amazing collection – took out too many books and spent my time there a year ago, reading and reading some more. And i have come to know that all knowledge, understanding and wisdom do not come from books. There are so many gems, but so many that seem so much the same, and others that really say nothing at all. Like with travel to many places, repeating circles, and all seems the same, but there are areas that shine, those you come back to, and those that remain unexplored. And while i might branch out, now that i have given myself permission to go on there, i will not leave it totally behind, and cross a border of no return. Just as i still read the social analysis, fiction, travel books and herbs, i can draw it in to the complexity of me.

I know i will continue to read some of the genre and of others too. And the big stores, like Barnes and Noble, have selections from so many genres, so you do not need to limit yourself to just one. Like the libraries where i have spent so much time over the years – to not only browse out in different directions, but to sit down and take a bite of so many arenas of life and to take into yourself.

But at times, i no longer read, and do not branch out at all. And now i walk through the store, a few titles catch my eye, but i look on blankly knowing i will not buy, and no longer desiring to browse. I finish this entry in another locale and realize i did not even note the titles that were there. But now that i have written these words, i am ready to reach out once again.

It is the act of writing, that makes me want to expand. For that is the one true thing that i have felt forbidden to me, a pleasant diversion to be done in my spare time after i have found my call. And the feeling that if something i wrote did not make it onto these major bookshelves, it was not worth writing at all. But it has been my call, and is the reason why i browse stores of books and not something else. And maybe that is why i wander through, wanting to create rather than just consume. As with the books that i pick up, i must write it through line by line.

And my trip to Barnes and Noble brought all this up in me. In some ways it is like my travels, i wander about, seeking for who knows what and cannot reach out and grasp. there is too much and too little and i just look on, overwhelmed, not knowing what book to open. What chapter is to be written next in this book called my life? And do i dare to read what has been written on the pages, can i write it through? do i move a head without a look on what has been written before. But like opening a novel towards the end, you don’t always understand the theme and what has happened before. How did one get to the point on the page, what relevance does it have for the chapters to unfold? But it is a novel that must be written and read, not to remain unfinished, or put down half-way through, the first chapter read many times but you do not find your way beyond. And like the larger bookstore, there are so many sections that make up the whole. this entry is done, to be put out, another one to go, and it is through this writing that i might grow – and eventually buy a new book, maybe a book truly of my own.

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I should have left yesterday when i felt nice and calm, deeply rested and released. The sun shown brightly, the bed called me forth and i did not want to go. I felt unwound and so clear and believed there was more to learn. Where i was going i did not know, but i heard the call of Sacramento.

It’s true i was unsure the day before, when i found my request for a ride answered on the board. I’d been inside for two nights now, sleeping on warm soft bed after five nights out in the cold with my hips digging into the hard wood platform below. I slept and i slept and i felt something go, the push and striving and so much more. I did not want to leave, or was it that i did not want to go, out into the unknown and the life that i knew all to well. Could i go back to the roller coaster ride, thrust back into frenetic movement, and the buzzing mind? What was there that was not here, and why did i feel called to go? No clear answer arose and so i stay put, and now wonder if i missed my chance and turned my back on what i was meant to do.

I answered the note, my ride coming through, she wrote back and i missed our meeting. But i walked to her door, she had left me her room, secretly hoping she would not be there. I passed the window and there she stood, waved at me and opened the door. I felt a connection, a nice giving woman, the rounder face filled with calm joy, and a groundedness and earthiness i felt inside. We talk, an early ride, back to Sacramento airport to catch her flight, to florida where she lived. But as we talked i wondered if i would bail.

I had wanted to wait until after the osho meditation until i replied, felt that some clarity would be reached there. I had thought of the meditation and this place when i had been in the hustle of the Central American towns and felt overwhelmed with the traffic on the narrow streets full of life bouncing off the bricks and cement. The practice is divided into four parts – the first is shaking, feet firmly planted on the floor, to frenetic techno-like music, that you cannot escape. It was how i felt pacing the towns and brought forth images of industry and city like – the constant buzz you cannot escape, and want to, just shake, but you cannot go, stuck, trying to find your way through. The second part is dancing, the music calms, an eastern indian feel, no longer intrusive noise, how free it feels to move your limbs, to dance and swirl around. The third, is sitting, watching the thought. Though music plays you really do not take note. then you lay still – until the talk and i want to leave. I felt relaxed, and how i left the first zone behind, and wanted to lay for a while.

I went to the pools, playing and dancing serene in the jets, the motion massaging my soul. The hot pool left me soft, and i lay down for a while. I looked at my bags and began to pack all that was now dry from the rain. My groundsheet and tarp drying under my bed were still damp, so i turned them to dry some more. I stuffed my junk in but decided to leave my yoga pants in reach out on top. I set my alarm for early the next day And at 8pm i drifted into a long deep sleep.

I already knew decision – do why do i play the game, and delay -I know what i will do but don’t admit it even to myself – just like i often know where i will go but move around before. I do not listen and i doubt and prolong the process and the agony of not knowing, when in truth i knew it all along. And when a voice is not listened to, it shuts up, at times it screams and then gives up. So i guess i did have something to learn. And the time i spent questioning i was not really here. As i am when embroiled in decisions to leave. Though i still wonder, if the voice of indulgence led me wrong – the appearance of safety and of comfort. For the calmness quickly disappeared during the day.

i had known the night before when i inquired about space in the dorm. I made a move, but not a decision and the opening was there. Life was open in several way and this is the choice i made, not because one door was blocked and i took the only one that was open. and though i fear the cold i realize the choices i have made, was offered a cheap tent but turned it down, the belief it would tie me to the road. I was offered a place to stay for a night or two my second day here, the day i ran into many i knew, but i listened to her story and pulled away, not wanting to give or take any more, and because i closed the cocoon around, i slept out in the cold. Still, it was temporary, and i needed space, and clarity of mind (or did i – did i pass up possibilities)

But with the lift i wonder if i buried myself for i put out energy and requests and did not follow through. And how many times have prayers been answered but i did not see, or i turned away from the gift. And when you refuse a gift, how many more will be given. I saw Bonnie in the changing room, i looked and she was there, i told her i’m sorry, i just can’t go and she understood my call,. I wish you well she honestly said, and was not pissed cause an offer was refused, or some plans had changed, just went on with her day. And how many times have i tried to hold others to scripts, even when a change does not set me out.

But after she left, my ride was gone, i felt the energy change. Clouds covered the sunny sky, with the possibility of rain, The bed that seemed clear the night before was still there, but confusion booking it in the morn. I went to yoga and then into town to buy food and connect to the web. The skies changed from blue to grey and i almost got caught in the rain. In the coffee shop as i sit focused on this screen, thA 8 month pregnant woman who had been in my dorm came in and told me she went too late, there no beds for her that night. And i felt bad, she had a car, but should i sleep out in the rain that night. She said she would ask about a basic room and I did not offer to give up my bed. Still i began to feel guilt and wondered if it were a sign that i should not have been there that night.

I hitchhiked back up the hill, walking past the school where i normally stand, parents were pulling in and out picking up kids and i almost caught in the rain. I went to feldencras which left me unbalanced, movements mainly on one side. How quickly i can get thrown off and my frustration rose inside. For i have felt the separation of part of me and my sides, and at times in this year of energy rushes, a difference between the left and right which has hung on for days at a time. So i felt off balance, and then i said should i have left that morning when all felt right. I went to the pools, and a creepy guy crowded my space, and then began to exercise shoving his butt too close to my face.

That night was the new moon and i went to the ceremony, a sound healing and felt wonderful at peace as we toned the directions,and warmed up moving our spines called energy forth. The temple felt sacred and i was there. Then we formed a wheel – i lay down when it was my turn set an intention and integration called to me. It popped out of nowhere, and i tried to call instead purposeful direction(or i want to find a home. it not peaceful for me as my mind raced, did i give the wrong intention, not speak my peace, and now i hear different sounds from all directions. I wrote earlier that it said to me integration was necessary but now as i edit it showed me again what happens when i question a decision and play it over and over in my head. I need integration, and that i realized, but i also see how i played the old game, and got tense inside. I was there in body, but my mind raced all over the place – was it right or wrong, caught in a flux, for it does not matter i was there.

Still i asked myself when does self care become indulgence, and had i stayed too long. the peace that i felt went awry, and i felt that i abandoned my call and opportunity.

The next day the sky shifted back and forth between sun and rain and my sleep was light. I went to fantastic yoga and reiki that night, still i questioned and questioned and felt it my due, when the pregnant woman, who had gotten a dorm bed afterall for those nights, said she was driving to Sacramento the next day, but left ealier than planned while i was in the pools. I felt it was my due, my karma coming home, had a sleepless night, bad dreams got me up a few times and awoke in a fret, bad energy emanating from me. I felt weak that i could not give, she needed time by herself, not knowing her course, and though we were in similar boats, i did not have the joy she needed.

I got a bed for the night and felt myself stuck, wandering lost, wondering what if. I was ready to leave, in some way i had left already, feeling what i needed had been done. Ran into a man i had met before, he now solo, we talked and hung out for a long while, and i spent too long in the pool, still withdrew my energy and had a 12 hour sleep.

I left alone, as i arrived, no lift found its way to me. He had offered me a lift if i waited a day, but i felt sure it was time to leave (a decision i havent questioned). Still on my journey to San Francisco where i now find myself, away from the retreat and small towns, i wondered what i had done. By abandoning what i had put out to go to another place, i find myself back in the familiar, to a zone i did not want to go. I took the busses down and the ferry from vallejo, When i got to market street i cried inside, and spent the night at the downtown hostel which buzzed and i knew i could not stay (that will be a separate entry).

 But as i write this at the hostel in fort mason, i feel drained but calm, and wonder if this were the plan all along. will i remember to trust in the decision i make the next time around? To live with one it has been made – without regret. For going back and forth moves you in no direction but in frenzied zags inside. what has been done has been done, you cant make things unhappen and the best you can do is keep going and trying (and smiling).

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