Posts Tagged ‘presence’

On Cape Arago

I became re-inspired on Cape Arago: the elements come together – the sea – both calm and pounding over and shaping stone; the earth – with rock formations, lunar landscape below the cliff, and above on the cliffs trees, plants, and a garden with flowers; sun and light shining, and wind blowing through. As i sat on a bench looking down the shore i felt a happiness and peace come over me.

Still, what speaks about the land and sea is not peace per se, but the earth and rocks that have been thrust up by ancient and not so ancient earthquakes, and formed and carved by the strong winds that blow through and the waves that can come crashing over, carving and altering form – or perhaps just revealing what lay buried beneath.

Below the cliffs where a forest grows – with large trees, ferns and thick green undergrowth, with deer and birds, lays a lunar landscape, of forms in stone. In this is see shapes, and the last time here in the fog what seemed like heads or people; it is of another time and place – but it is here. And as i look closely, i see that there is also life; seals blend into the mottled rocks, resting for a while, and swimming in the bays. It seems that they appear in many lands like this, of strong energies, where fault lines lay.

seals on lunar landscape

small figures - this whole level feels like the moon

The area is formed by intense geological activity of the past and present; with the rocks and headlands thrust up sideways, showing a twisting and turning of the earth, and land has been thrust up and under. I read about the earthquake of 1700 where much of the shoreline dropped several feet, and of many others in the distant past – and what i see now is how the earth stands for a moment, just a short blip in time. Today it feels calm as the sun shines down though the winds blow through; and i know that too is just a moment, a temporary state that comes and goes, for the last time here was in a thick heavy fog that shrouded all with a mist and drizzle that hung heavy in the air, seeping into all.

As i look at the rocks, once again i see more than just shapes carved by water, wind and the movement of the earth. I see spirits and shapes, remnants of some ancient times and peoples and life forms who were caught out or turned to stone; not only those from the last time, as revealed in the myths of the Coos Bay native peoples, but of millions and millions of years ago; a large face thrust upwards, a woman praying in a bay, heads beneath the cliffs, the laying down animal creatures that are similar up and down the coast, and a small smiling face, a whimsical one rising above a long low outcropping with a similar shape in the cloud above. And i know there is so much more than meets the eye and i ask are these spirits still alive, caught in the stone, or coming out?

ancient face on the beach - a guardian or warrior?

Woman in prayer

One of several 'lion' creatures guarding small bays

caught below the cliffs

emerging from the cliff

peaking above the rest

Then i go walk up top, seeing and feeling that life continues on – the forest grows with some purple wildflowers gracing the floor, a formal garden thrives at shore acres, and birds and people and small animals roam about. The layers of life are not only those of the past as revealed in the different strata of rock, but continue on today, being created, breathing life, shining, and one day, becoming part of the earth itself.

I think then of the towns i passed through coming out to this cape; Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston, all fairly hollowed out; much of the life force gone. Sad towns, built upon lumber and fishing, both industries largely fallen away; tourism, the casino, and i’m not sure what else, not making up for it. It is a place of empty downtowns, small bungalows, trailer parks, and sprawl. Is it because we have taken without giving back that they are emptied out, or have people been guided away from here. but even so, i see life about, a kindness, conversations on the bus, men clamming at low tide and it seems a hanging on, a waiting, like something has gone. As i write this i see this up and down the coast as if we are not meant to be here.

But the cape is magical connecting me to the all, the elements, to the life force, and to eons of time. Past, present, and futures to come. I watch the sunset at Sunset Bay and the calm enters again, as the sun glows and becomes transformed as it “sinks into the sea” or so our eyes tell us.

Sunset in sunset Bay

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 Yosemite calls you in. The valley is a cathedral and draws out the spirit. Three roads merge into one at the entrance to the valley – one way in and out. Inside this zone trees grow strong and tall, water runs in the spring, cascading down the steep mountain sides, birds sing and fly about, deer walk calmly and squirrels scurry freely. bears wander, often out of sight, and this time cats were seen. It is a magical place, seeming apart, and not quite of this world, and definitely not of the landscape around.

Still i feel not is all that meets the eye – that there is something that lurks underneath – or rather above. For just as there are magical portals taking you out of self, lifting you high, there is also an element that sucks you under. And it is in the land, it is in the rock – the faces upon the walls. At times i wonder if the beauty is to lure you so that you may be stripped bare. Those times that some of the faces on the walls come alive. I recollect the legends or myths of the Ahwahneechee which speak of evil spirits lurking.

I see it in the faces above, those that come alive at certain times. I first felt it last spring, after i had a magical moments as i went up the vernal falls trail, and came back down again after being transported to a different world. I walked along the river or creek, and looked up, and north dome (i believe) seemed alive – as if other beings lived there. I did not know what to make of it at the time.

North Dome - Spirit Comes Alive

Last summer, iwent up top for day, up above the walls, and there the energy felt so different, the boulders that lay strewn about remnants of some ancient war or cataclysmic destruction, I walked around Tenaya Lake, and spotted this dome, again alive, feeling ‘monkey’ beings or some others that could live there. It was so similar to the other dome i viewed from down below.

Spirit of Tenaya Lake

This visit i stayed in the valley, the uplands still full of snow. Yosemite Falls called me as they always do, for there is often a magical feeling to the walk below – the path lined with giant ponderosa pines, and the boulders off to one side. Now in spring, the falls and creeks ran full and you could feel their energy. I felt like the place was not quite real, as if it belonged to another world or dimension, and i basked in the bliss a few early mornings. But near the base, i spotted a stone, that called to me, off kilter with rest of the magnificence around.

A Poloti of Yosemite Falls?


The Ahwahneechee called Yosemite Falls “Cholock” which is a bad spirit, and believed that several witches called “Poloti” lived in the plunge pool at the base. while this was downstream, i could not help but wonder if this was one of the spirits they talked about. Still, the faces that embrace Upper Yosemite Falls seem kind, but sad.

Two Faces of Upper Yosemite Falls

As i walked in the meadow near the swinging bridge, the falls seemed to be seperating the two faces – one night i imagined the falls as a giant tear – two tears joined together. The walls near the falls came alive in the evening, and once again i felt that something was looking down at me.

The Wall Has Eye


On my previous visit, i had been fortunate enough to camp under the full moon, and at night these walls lit up and shone with an unearthl quality. As I walked along the loop trail, out towards El Captain, i noticed a shine in the wall although it was the middle of the day. A face appeared to me, one that did not seem benovolent.

Eerie Luminescent Spirit

I felt an evil force in this face and tried not to look, but still i had to. I did not go as far as Bridalveil Falls, who the Ahwahneechee called “Pohono”, another ‘evil’ spirit that means ‘windy spirit’. It was thought that the waterfall spirits would mesmerize you and get you into the mist and make you fall in and you would die. Instead i go to Cathedral beach which calms the spirit.

I walk back on the other side. I glance up and this spirit comes out.

Scary Spirit

It haunts me – i feel an evil force. I try not to look up but i do and spot  another – more benign.

Smiling Creature

Still, the kind nature of this one, fails to shake the feeling from the other spirit that la nearby. I am reminded of one of the spirits i saw one of my first days here this time, something crawling out of the walls, something that threw me off.

What is this crawling out of the wall?

After seeing this creature, i tried not to see images and focused instead on the multitude of life that blooms in the valley in the spring. Once again i did, listening to the birds and the waterfalls and the streams and looking at the trees and making to connection with the other life forces. and this was another face i saw, a bear or something coming out of a tree.

Bear Tree Spirit

I have seen many more spirits in stone at Yosemite. Some i have not photographed, and some do not want their picture taken – they do not want to be revealed. But the walls are alive, with a past much more mysterious than we know. Who are these spirits? I cannot say, all i know is they are there, magical in many ways, seen and unseen. And i know that each time i visit the valley, i come alive as if imbued with a magical force, i experience a whirlwind of emotions, and after i leave, i feel that something has been taken from me. A loss of the magic, or something more?

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A small detour

A large truck blocked the sidewalk. It was picking up a dumpster and the only way around was to walk in the wide street. I did that on my way to the coffee shop venturing out beside the small stream of traffic that was coming towards me. When i left the truck was still there so i took a small detour and discovered something on the way.

I usually walk down that way to the library, in fact it has become routine. My body automatically turns to the right and down 300E and i walk the street that was new to me three weeks ago no longer really noticing what is there. It is not that i am closed down, but that i am on automatic pilot and thus not fully engaged – unless, of course, there is something so obviously different, or in my way – something that is impossible to ignore.

So when i left i had to break out of the habitual mode and come into the present moment and locale. I could step out into the traffic and walk around the truck, or i could turn the other way. The sun was shining, and to go in the other direction would take me there just as well – it was only a few hundred metres longer after all. So i walked over and down 200 east instead and discovered a street cart selling veggie dogs – in fact the food it sold was entirely vegetarian. “Now so what”, you may say, “it was only a street cart”, but for me it was a discovery – something small – but a discovery nonetheless.

Not only did i get to eat a veggie dog, something that i had been thinking about for a while, but I consciously realized that i had ventured out and discovered. The other day i had been at the library and my tummy rumbled and i wanted something small to eat; i did not want soup from the nearby coffee shop, as good as it is, for a can of soup was to be my dinner that night. I walked up and down the busy avenue – 400 south – that i also know so well -, a place where you feel overwhelmed by the cars, looking for what i could not find, for what i knew was not there. Eventually i hopped on the trax in the free zone, and went for a ride to get a street cart burrito that while tasty did not seem as good to me as it had the times before. Last week when grocery shopping, i had looked at the veggie dogs, something i rarely do, but decided not to buy them as for me it is an occasional treat and is street food. What i had been looking for was there all along but i had not turned to see. Now i know that cart exists, only a block from the library, and i can return there any time. And maybe i will, and it will become part of a new routine, or then again, maybe i won’t.

This might seem like a really small thing, but how often do we find ourselves walking the same path over and over again, more out of habit than anything else. Something that could add to our lives is just around the corner, but we have no idea that it is there. We don’t think to venture out until our path is somehow blocked, even momentarily. It is easy to get agitated and bemoan why must i go around this obstacle (even when another way is clearly there). but if i just say, yes, i can go around, I may find something there. A detour need not be a source of frustration, but can be a journey of discovery.

A detour is not the same as a path being blocked, for we know we can get around, and still get to our destination. While it did not happen here, we might find ourselves headed for entirely different place, to where we were meant to be. (And of course, sometimes a detour is just a detour – nothing more and nothing less )

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I have been retreating to old patterns, returning to look up old things on the internet. and an entry i meant to write came to me – one about perception and the shoe shine boys – how what you look at defines your world, and you notice what others don´t but are blind or partially sited to what others see.

The central square in Antiqua was filled with shoe shine boys working the area – not the stable stands that are here set up in place. They walked around carrying their kits, looking at peoples feet – eyes cast down not out of humility or sadness but to look – what type of shoes are they wearing – sandals and runners are no good, and just might your shoes need a shine. And that is what they saw, how they witnessed life in the zocalo – yes, lifting the head for more, but it was the focus. And for a while i followed thier eyes – looking down at those who walked by or who sat on benches – and what i saw was another world. The shoes said so much, – new, worn, quality, fitting the feet and so much more. And i realized how limited my perception can be – what do i notice and what do i focus on and what do i fail to see at all – unaware of what is there. And i do it, and it is time to let go and broaden my perception – yes something that travel does, but you still see through the filters of your eyes and more importantly mind.

And it is not just the shoeshine boys but all of us. Just what do we look at when we travel – or when we stay at home – what are we oblivious too? When you talk with others you begin to notice – yes there is the square or the ruin or the falls or the church or the lake, the main attraction that draws us in. But do you notice flowers or birds or beggars or the clothes people wear or the hairstyles or the food – it is all part of the focus, the lens that defines your world, a lens you may not be aware of. And it is through others that the filters are revealed or through a return to filters you had cast off. What did i notice today or did i. i look at the women selling combs and other goods in the square – they size people up as well – will they buy and how much will they spend. When i am hungry my focus is on food, can be blind to all else, or to define a place by where the shade is, or look to see who might be selling a cigarette and not notice what else is in their basket or what is in the other baskets. I know the churches here, but not the restos.  The focus can be long or short term, but for now, to open my eyes and not keep them cast to the ground or turned inwards to myself. Remove the glaze for life is rich.

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Those Mexican buses – i forgot how luxurious they are, with cushioned reclining seats that you reserve, plenty of leg room, curtains on the windows, reading lights, air-conditioning, toilets (with soap and paper), and movies – and now with over head speakers that you can turn off (but still have the sound around) and baggage claim tags for your bags that are placed in locked compartments under the bus, and even a real ticket office.

I took the bus from Palenque to san cristobal today, a journey of about 6 hours over mountainous roads full of topes (speed-bumps). At first the luxury astounded me as i sunk into my individual seat, and for a moment i loved it – especially after cramped vans, chicken busses and the like. It has been two months since i rode a first class bus on my journey up from Managua , and this was so much nicer. But then i began to feel removed from the land i passed through – a feeling i remember having on the Tica Bus.

I looked through my window at the villages, the homes, the low lush mountains and then the higher drier mountains with pine and coffee and scrub, and the people wanting to sell fruit and corn and barbeque chicken at the side of the road, and those who walked the road and i felt so separated from them all. High above, peering through. The movie could be heard in the background, a film with willie nelson, a film which most people watched with curtains drawn. I did not hear the sound of outside, or feel the air, or smell the smells, and i was one of the few who saw. The window was a barrier, acting like a veil, something between us.

And i thought of the bus as a container, one that takes people from place to place. The journey is only a means to an end on this bus, as it is on all for most. But here you have your own environment and need not be affected by what is outside – yes you feel the twists and turns and a bit of a bump as you fo over the topes, but the ride is smooth and you need not hang on on the curves. You become contained, a world onto yourself.

And i thought of meditation practices, of the stillness inside, of not being swayed back and forth by what is outside, but does that mean being disconnected. For the bus acts as a barrier, the in and the out firmly defined. For in reality all is porous and connected.

I arrived here, rested, back and legs in one piece, my ride was comfortable and safe. Yet somehow it did not seem as fulfilling as many other journeys though the landscape was spectacular and varied, crossing zones, lush jungle to what had been pine forests, through villages and towns, of plankboard homes with dirt yards, to build up towns of painted concrete blocks, sweeping vistas and close up view of chickens and pigs and people and children working and playing. Yet in the comfort a feeling of separation grew, with both outside the bus and within as bodies were not forced to touch and vendors did not come aboard with food and other smells, and except for the group of young mexican tourists in the back who joked between themselves for a while, no one needed to interact, no ayudante calling out a stop, or people jostling for position. It was comfortable and safe, but cut off from life outside.  The life i saw looked beautiful, one i wanted to see, but what if we had cut through harsh lands, industrial landscapes, – would i then want to be in the container. The stillness with meditation it to be still in all, for all is connected and all we pass through.- 

And i felt something missing, a disconnectedness. But when we pulled into town and passed the lines of crowded collectivos, or through another town past lines of camionettas (trucks) i did not want to crawl down out of my comfort. The other looked so hard, though i have done it before. The zone enclosed me, and made me hesitant to step outside of it.

I will ride another bus in another time, for all is part of the journey – from the back of trucks, to the painted school buses, to vans of varying quality to the luxurious first class mexican buses – all is different but similar.

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I had a long bus trip the other day – from Antiqua to Lanquin – over 8 hours – on a shuttle that ran from place to place and it was wonderful and i remembered why i like riding buses. For me it is a meditative practice. You sit in your seat – and i always try to get a window seat – and let the landscape pass by – letting it pass through – simply observing – as you ideally do with thoughts in a sitting meditation. You have nothing else to do for the time you are there, yes, you may be able to chat with others or read a book or something, but it is nicest to pass through, engaged in the journey and not merely the destinations.

 And on a bus ride, especially on twisting mountain roads, you cannot cling to what is there, for it is constantly changing, you turn a corner, and what you passed through is no longer visible, and on a journey you have not taken before, you do not know what lay ahead, what is on the road between you and your destination. And often there are delays, especially on the roads in Guatemala, and there are crazy drivers, and the trip always involves some element of risk, but you have faith that you will arrive. And you look and pass through, still – at times you drift away, into memories, stories, plans, worries, sleep, but then you look outside and see what is there. And here in Central America the landscape changes quickly.
The shuttle drove around Antiqua for over half an hour from hostel to agency to budget hotel, picking up people, going around in circles, circles i had walked many times and you wondered if you were ever going to leave. A feeling i have had before. You get on the road to Guate, the road you passed through on the first day in this country, so green then, still green, but seeming more built up – car shops, restos, buildings, people. It takes over an hour to cross the city, wide boulevards chock full of traffic, trucks – a few with armed guards visible, buses, cabs, cars, people walk along, it is busy and confusing, a pick up at an exclusive hotel in zona 10, armed guards and security, all alert with machine guns on the streets here, protecting the rich, then back out the other side of the city, traffic lessens, you think of the danger for a minute, you watch as the shuttle chugs up a hill. The land is drier, you head out along the road for the Caribbean, longer to the turn off than you thought, construction – people selling drinks and food where the blocks are. Enterprise central american style. Not flat yet, thankfully you turn north again before the flat lands, you see the litter on the side of the road, at times noticing it more than others.

The land is barer, lower, much cleared and logger. The earth seems like lifeless dirt. Scrub, corn, then for a while almost desert with cacti, You climb again after a break, a chance to pee and eat, traffic less on way up to Coban, you see the signs for biosphere de quetzal, the land is still dry, as you climb, the pine trees return and the road twists, life is coming back. you watch it all pass through, at times passing into judgement, i like, i don’t like, and then return to stillness. It twists more now, vistas, you look and admire,

You pass through coban, on the outside of town where malls and chains exist and then through narrow streets of centre, trying to look more, will you stop back there, another central american town narrow sidewalks full of people, mayan dress different here, the blouses of another type, vendors and the like, you do not go past the central square. You pull out, back to the green, lusher here – the sky has been blue all day. Relieved to be back out on open twisty road, stop for break and then adventure begins, road narrows to languin and semuc champey- all is lush, so lush, you feel like you have reached heaven, you smile at each turn in the road, mountains softer, kinder, greener, you stare out, smiling, looking, narrow road as you branch off again, calm – a day spent on the bus – others say wasted in travel but for you it is a journey. You arrive, happy to stretch your legs, and eat. Mind calm –  you  are not where you  began, yet you are in the same  seat,  you have  journeyed in the present, and a  slice  of the  world had passed through you.

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I have spent many years wandering the land looking for a perfect place, one that speaks to me, and makes me soar for more than just a little while, one where i can stay and linger for a while. Or have i been? Is my call to travel from place to place, experiencing the energies that are there, experiencing the variety of life.

There are places that speak to me, and places in between.

At times it is the baggage you carry, an overloaded backpack in the mind, that affects your experience of place. The times that it does not matter where you are, for you are not really there at all. You are shut off  living in that place in your mind, one that is very real and one that has nothing to do with geography. And there is an energy to that place too, one that can blind you to what is around. Although we rarely turn it off all together, there are times when the mind quietens and we can listen and feel to what is around, interacting with the flow of  life. There are places we go that help us do so, while others feed the clutter of the mind.

And while your mind and consciousness affects not only how you interpret the energies of a place, they effect the very definition of a place – what your five senses pick up, and what the senses beyond can reach.  You may carry memories of a place, or expectations of what will be there, and they not only effect you but the place itself.

Sometimes a place speaks to you – there is a joy you feel inside and a connection to something more. Other times you just have to leave. And you wonder why. It may be a temporary feeling an uplift followed by a decline, or it might come back almost every time you return there.

Some places have a moving energy, a city or a rush or water, while others have a calming effect and others just serve to drain.

You may go to other places that have similar elements of spirit – the oceanside, waterfalls, old growth trees, mountains, a big sky, a special place of worship, and while each of these elemenets speak to you, they speak differently and in combinations – what is the energy of the trees, of specific mountains, of a place on the mountain. Can make a list, but it is something that cannot be categorized by a check list of what material things are in place. Yes spiritual energies coalesce in a place, but there is more, the energies of the earth, the stars, the living beings and created things that intermingle in any given locale. 

And what is a place? Do we mean a town, a region, a park or church, or at times is it a rock, a bench, a corner of a room, that feels special and sacred, or that is defined as a place we pass through. Or something to stay away from.

And does my own, or a collective appreciation add to the vitality of a place.

And what of the history the memories that are stored in place. Be they recent human history, or stories from the past or those that we create and perpetuate.

I have been travelling now for three months and it longer since i started this entry, and at times my eyes have been opened and at times they have been blurred, like my ears, my heart and my soul. I still ask myself the same question, is it my call to travel and experience the energies. Can i experience the energies and let go of the chatter of my mind? How to open oneself up to the wonders of the world and to it all.

For me it is better in the morning, when my mind is clear, when i can sit in the park or by the water or somewhere and be at peace with all that is around smiling at life, but at others, my mind comes in and chatters, when i tired or hungry or just off. At others on the journey, the intensity and the rush of the energy that is around, throws me off and all is rushed, or i feel out of place out of me. And travel can force us into the moment and it can put us face to face with our darkest selves, it can make us come alive and shut us down, it intensifies the process of life – both inside and without.

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