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Posts Tagged ‘sacred place’

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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I walk along the Glenwood Canyon trail from town listening to the traffic on the highway that runs beside. I have no idea of the transformation that will come when i turn the corner and enter into the Glenwood Canyon itself. 

But i get an inkling that something special might lay ahead, as i near both the footbridge that will take me across the highway, and the tunnel that will take the cars away for a short while. I have been looking at the cliffs and the rocks, and suddenly a figure appears to me, overlooking the path and the highway on the north side.

Guardian overlooking path as i approach glenwood canyon from the west

I pause, and am taken over, and wonder what lay ahead. I wonder if any of the cars exiting the tunnel and the canyon from the east notice this spirit that looks over the road, watching all that pass through. But he faces the other way. do the cars who enter this area see?

 
On the other, southern, side of the highway is another spirit in stone, a reddish hue like the steeper wall that lay behind. I did not notice him on my way in, but on my return. he smiles down.

Overlooking the highway - west end of glenwood canyon

 These figures, while the most majestic, only provide a hint of the energies in the canyon they guard. I only explore a small area, around Horseshoe Bend where the path and canyon vere away from the highway on the way to the no name rest area (yes, that is its name). being a narrow canyon in mountainous terrain, both the highway and the railroad tracks closely follow the banks of the Colorado River. I have been through on the train, but on foot i connect in a special way (you can also bike the canyon which is what most people do)

I cross the footbridge, and soon am in another world, the world of the canyon itself. traffic has been diverted through a tunnel, so i feel myself with the elements. The Colorado river runs full in a rainy spring after a winter with heavy snow, so it is the sound of it that i hear.

The walls are steep and reddish with a few trees. What strikes me is the vertical thrust of the layers of stone, and i am reminded of areas on the pacific coast. I ask myself, if somehow, in some ancient way, there is some sort of connection between the two. I am relaxed and calm and walk by this area where i will return and become transformed.

I walk to the rest area, past homes, and then return to the sacred zone of this bend in the river. I look up and see a figure – one so much like another that called to me on the Monterey, CA coast – the one that i had called last kiss. The figures was here as well, close to 6000 ft above sea level and over a 1000 miles inland.

Last Kiss #2

 But it is the wall in the bend that comes alive. Several picnic tables sit under a shelter by the river facing a steep wall. As is often the case, the placement of benches, shelters, lookouts and more, shows that we have an inner knowing, a sense of sacred places.

The first time i sit, the wall becomes alive, faces emerge showing me that life is contained within. all becomes crisper, clearer, and simultaneously, less dense. The faces speak to me, but few let me take their picture. Once again, a few i remind me of others i have seen elsewhere. One area is full of spirits, emerging and fading, all having an openness, and reminding me not to look away.

Crawling out of canyon wall

 He reminds me of the being who appeared in a tree trunk in yosemite, calming me,  after the ‘scarier’ spirits had revealed themselves there. Others are nearby, but the camera will not pick them up. Nearby, another looks out.

Ancient guardian on the wall

The photos become less clear, and they say it is time to look and listen and just to be, the messages will emerge. And that i do. 

I return another day, to the same place, sit on the bench, quiet and calm. The world comes alive as i sing to myself, the canyon wall forming a backdrop for the dance of live contained below. A bush with the new leaves of spring becomes vibrant and alive, the lush lime green standing out, a contrast with the reddish hues beyond; the river that flows full, dances, and small brilliant yellow birds fly above the water, emerging and disappearing into the ledges of the canyon wall. Life is so much more than the stones of old, it is here and now, it dances and my spirit dances too.

I walk again, and the whole area becomes unreal for a moment. The rocks lose their density, and i am one with the all. A woman appears further down, carved into the stone. I had noticed the indentation before, but now it becomes something more.

Female saint of the wall

She looks down, motherly and nurturing. And i feel nurtured myself.

I return to the place where i was before, heavy clouds come in with rain, and then blue sky emerges again. Another face appears, speaks again, the bushes and trees and river become alive, and then it is time to go. At the bend, is one face i see looking over.

Face on the bend

I cross over the footbridge and out of the magical canyon. I walk along the path beside the highway. It starts to rain again. But now i embrace the rain, the all, for i have been transformed, the spirits have spoken, and my spirit has come alive once again, as has hope. 

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I found it today. i was not looking, and lo and behold it was there. I have written previously that i felt that San Francisco was an ancient holy center, and that the hills that it is famous for are truly the remnants of pyramids of a bygone ancient civilization.https://energiesofplace.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/re-enchantment-an-ancient-holy-place/

 

 
  

Today it was shown to me, the mother pyramid, that which was at the center of it all. She is not the tallest hill, but once i spotted her i knew. I have been near her several times, walked beneath her, but was blinded and never saw. Most likely, i had not come from the right direction, for her magic is shrouded from many angles. But she is a park, and people and dogs gather there and is marked on the maps, but somehow i overlooked her before. Maybe i was not ready to see. 

 I spotted her as i was up on Beuna Vista park, one of the hills that has spoken to me as a very special place, not only with the view of the church and the bay (and the ocean on a clear day), but with the magic energy it has. I was not planning to come here, but after a walk to Alamo Square (the first locale where the pyramids spoke to me) and a bite to eat, i was called there despite my fatique and the threat of rain. And once up there, the winds picked up and the sky turned a darker grey, but i was called to walk up and then down a different way – i said go back, it is bound to storm, but my feet kept on taking me down another path – when over the trees, i spotted it, the hill and park which i knew was the main pyramid.

I looked and saw the green grass covered hill, standing noble and seemingly alone, a few paths up were visible as were the rock formations at the top. i knew it was somewhere special, but did not know how to find my way there. The path took me out of beuna vista onto a road where i had never been, in an area where the streets twist and turn, and i was unsure on what direction to go to reach this pyramid. i turned to my right, and then another street turned down, and there it was, a pyramid for sure to be found.

 

I hesitated, not sure which way i wanted to walk up, walked around at the bottom, first to my left past a dog run, but then took the small path with steps that led to the top. The winds picked up and i could feel an oncoming storm, and although i was not too sure where i was, i pressed on.

The rock formations at the top form a different world, and as i went down and up, the wind was intense up there, and i felt like i might blow over at times, but i just wanted to speak with them. They have been painted over in places, to cover graffitti i guess, but i could make out beings in them, overlooking the city and the bay. And i wondered, who is in there? What civilization once was here? For they call back a much more ancient time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

  From the top you had expansive views of the domain, the bay, the city center, and the taller hills to the south. You are in a bowl, but not. hard to explain. I went down in one direction, curious to see (and ok i admit to see if i could find a place to pee), and from the bottom near the randall museum, it just looked like a hill, nothing special. I looked up and a hawk (i think) was floating still in the air, and did so several times, majestically floating in the wind (until i tried to take a picture of him). I used the bathroom, and walked back up, talked to a woman on a bench; few people were around, a guy taking photos when i arrived, and a few lone people with gods who also paused at the rocks. The winds picked up once again, and i just knew this was it; i felt awake and alive and somehow at peace, but although i touched and talked to the rocks, i did not feel a call to sit and linger on oneI descended into the valleys, walking along, and felt my energy change once again.
I finally left, and walked down the hill (i found out where i was from the view at the top), and found myself soon on a few streets i had walked once or twice, but from there, you often do not see, or need to know how to look. i looked at its name, Corona Heights Park – so visible, but so hidden in the winding streets, but right on the 49 mile drive.

 but i know she is there, and yes, that this city was once a sacred place. I only wonder when all will be revealed – what this is now and what it was before. 

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I have not been down to Temple Square this week. It is the place that drew me here, and that enthralled me on that first early morning when i came to town. It sits in the centre of the city and the temple spires call from a distance, but it sits apart from all around.

The original square is enclosed behind gated walls. The gates are open throughout the day and you are free to enter inside. The adjoining area is a pedestrian zone with defined entry ways. The museum and family history library lay across a busy street, but feel more connected to the square than to the city that lay around.

When you come into the square you feel like you have entered a different world – which is the purpose of it. You leave behind the daily concerns and enter into a sacred zone. There is much to inspire with fountains and flowers and statues and the architecture of the buildings, all designed to uplift the spirit, but it is not a place where you can just be and connect. Although there are no “no loitering” signs, i feel like i cannot just be with the place.

It is a place where you visit and in many ways it has become just another tourist zone. Two visitors centers, one at the north gate, and the other at the south, serve to show and tell the history of the square and to provide an introduction to what the latter day saints are about; several free films are shown every 90 minutes throughout the day showing the founding of the faith, the journeys across the land to come here, and some of the unique beliefs; a history and art museum lay across the street. I visited them all when i first arrived feeling an entry back into tourist zone. it has become a show case for what is there – the simple shiny surface to show the world.

The sisters, pairs of young women wearing skirts that reach mid-calf, are there to guide you around the square. They are helpful and friendly – but so very young, on their version of the boys(young mens) mission – and have not yet experienced the depths of life. And i am afraid the my philosophical questions might dim the perkiness they possess. And everywhere there is someone to guide you – and on any spiritual journey, is that often not what we seek – a guide to show us the way. but here in the show room, i feel that it is the superficial cover that is shown and it is a deeper connection that i seek. But the girls encourage me to both fill out a card so that i may receive a visit in my home and a greater introduction to the faith and to read the book of mormon itself. And so perhaps,this square is but an entry way into another world – a world that may be deeper, but remains unseen to me.

As an outsider the most holy place on the square – the temple – remains unseen. While there is a full model of the temple in the visitor’s center, with inside relief, and photos, videos and explanations of each room, you cannot enter the temple unless you are LDS. Even for church members it is not a place where you go on a regular basis; it is a place where you engage in ordinances (or ceremonies of faith), communicate with the spirit and engage with god. It is not the gathering place of believers, but a holy place set aside from worldly concerns. I look at the fence that surrounds the temple and feel cut off.

At times here i have craved many of the mexican and central american churches that sit on or beside the lively zocalo or central square – the square that is full of life, the grand churches that are open much of the day, where people wander in and out, not only for mass but to pray, to light candles or to merely visit. I remembered Christmas in Leon, nicaragua with people flooding in and out of churches with balloons and more – oh, it seemed so much livelier there. And the churches are not as separate, connected to city life around, the public square with a variety of worldly activities, a market by the steps, food stalls inside or outside the gates – a visible part of daily life. You enter the church, just step inside, and you can be taken to another world, that of the spirit and of god. The spirit is incorporated into the daily life, a place apart, but connected. its true life outside is often louder, more crowded, more alive, and the church is a place you can go for a moment of peace, prayer or reflection (or to mass of course). It is a living faith, one that extends to the crosses in taxis, buses and cars, and far beyond. worship and spirit is not just something that happens apart from daily living. but then again all life zones are not as differentiated there.

It is true that the mormons also practice a living faith. Here much was designed to happen in the ward houses in the local neighborhoods – but those building are not part of a larger public gathering space; they are calm and well ordered like the neighborhoods themselves. Although holy buildings are a material representation of faith, spirituality is much more than a sacred place and what is practiced there. And here they do affirm the spirit through service, in their families, with the rules or practices that guide their daily lives and even through their underwear. Perhaps the undergarments represent the difference, they are worn beneath the clothes and thus not visible on the outside.

In latin america the boundaries between the inside and outside are much more fluid and permeable in general. There is more of a flow. In North America the separation of church and state, inside and out, public and private is greater and we often strive to maintain and build boundaries or borders. While there is a time for joining in and bringing the spirit into the dance of life, and a time for leaving worldly concerns behind, perhaps what i feel here is the split between the sacred and the profane. And when i go to temple square, i am the profane who may visit, but is to be kept outside of the truly sacred grounds. To be seen as profane is akin to being cast out and separated from the divine. But i know the boundaries are more fluid, and the divine can be found in all – if you only look for it and see it, and call it forth. And all can be sacred if we let it be.
 

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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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I sit in my tent under the redwood giants and i have to thank them for being alive. their grandeur and energy overwhelm me and i have to thank them once again. They remind me of how small i am and how our lives are fleeting, just temporary – for these trees have lived hundreds of years and tower above all that is around.
and then i remember how few remain – just about 3% of the forests that stood 150-200 years ago, most chopped down and used for building for furniture and more, and most now remain in the protected areas of national and state parks on down the coast. and as i thought of their endurance, the lives they have seen, i realize that the old ones are the lucky survivors of that time. Today i went out to the stout grove, and saw other tourists passing through – awing and marveling over these giants and remnants of a time gone by, appreciating them for what they are – but for how long were they not valued in and of themselves, and were like so much today – people, elements and other life – just valued in terms of their short term use to us.
in stout grove there are several fallen trees, giants that have tumbled in more recent years – their short wide root systems exposed. and i have to think why one and not the other fell, and what determines when one goes. I thought of the other giants, further up the coast, the hemlocks and spruce and cedars of the other old(er) growth forests, and of passing through after a storm, seeing a few laying downed beside the road or over roofs and asking why these now – for they seem so permanent and so old to boot. and others with first marks, and one that lightning hit. And here in this campground knowing they stood in several feet of water in the big flood. but the survivors live on and show their light, and i thank them for being here.

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I sat on a boulder at the side of the trail and felt i was transported to another dimension. Though i knew that i had walked up there, all for a few moments felt unreal. And i wondered after the moment had passed, if this what Yosemite was really about, if this was why it was called a sacred place. If this connection to the beyond was what really drew people here, though many were not really aware of just what it was that brought them here.As i had not been myself.

I’d been thinking of coming to Yosemite since i arrived in San Francisco about a month ago. But at times the hostel was full, or rains and storms predicted, and i had other places i also had to go. But this time the doors opened up and i was on my way. On my journey here, in the night before in Midpines, and when i arrived in Yosemite village i wondered if there was something so special about this place or if i were caught up in myths or repeating journeys i had made before.

My body was tired, back pulled out a bit, but still I had to make my way up the Vernal Falls Trail – something called me there. I had almost got off at the YARTS bus stop in Curry Village, closer to the trail head when we first pulled into the valley. But i was hungry and made my way to the centre to get a breakfast sandwich at Dengans wondering if i should go to Yosemite Falls while it still basked in the sun. But the Vernal Falls Trail called as it had before, and i made my way back there.

I have hiked this trail three times before on my previous two visits to Yosemite and i knew there was something special about the place and remembered a perfect view. My first time here, two years ago, i had been up twice – once above the bridge and high up into the snow, falling down and almost spraining my wrist as i turned back on another barely used trail, Last time i was here, a warm December with Robert in 2008, i insisted that we make the hike, almost causing a fight for he did not really want to go to the special place i wanted to share. I know that his mood changed as we went up all the way to the falls, the Mist Trail had been open, the waters were low and the snow had not yet come, and it was he who pushed me further up and along. And raced back down, not wanting to pause at the stops along the way.

As i approached the trail head i remembered this and debated about going back there yet again, But it was a perfect warm day, the sky a bright blue and the sun shining bright, so despite my fatigue i slowly made my way up and up the paved trail. The park was more crowded than that it had been on my previous visits. It seemed that so many people were coming down – families, small groups and many in spanking new full hiking gear. A couple beside me oohed and aahed at the river rushing along between the pine filled banks.I felt disillusioned, thinking its nice here, but is it really so special after all. I kept on and paused at a place with perfect lighting where water trickled down a boulder covered with bright green moss and began to smile. Still, i was looking for a place along the trail, the most beautiful local in Yosemite from my visits there.

I turned a corner and the vista opened up, steep granite cliffs, the river tumultuous far below, crashing over and around boulders strewn in its path. Off it the distance on the other side, a waterfall streamed down the mountain, and a smaller on also appeared directly across that had not been there on my visits before. I saw the beauty of the valley off to the distance to my right. I took pictures and had my photo taken, and watched and listened to the water stream way down below. I felt much better, my body no longer tired though i had just walked uphill. Was it the ions in the crashing water, the bright blue sun, the steep granite walls and the mountains that surround?. This was the place i thought, and stood there for a while. But others came through, their turn to take pictures, and i walked on up ahead.

I turned yet another corner and stepped into a zone that felt like a bowl at the conjuncture of Merced river and Illilouette creek. A waterfall ran full down a mountain across the way, steep cliffs all around, you could no longer see beyond the mountains in any direction, not the way you came in or out.

A pile of boulders sat beside the path a result of a slide eons ago. It was a perfect place to sit in the sun, a clear vista across the path and i remembered that i had sat there before. I hesitated, which one to sit on, one looked good but hard to climb, so i picked another, just a rock and sat in the shade. A squirrel ran up to me and i chased it away. I looked across the path to where the view was clear and then it happened.

As i stared out at the breathtaking view – steep granite cliffs, skinny pines, waterfall tumbling down, snow at the top, sky of blue – the place was transformed. The mountains across suddenly seemed unreal, so crisp and clear like a photograph or backdrop to a film or upon a stage. The granite cliffs seemed almost flat against the blue sky. Actually everything beyond the trail that was in front of me appeared as but a glorious illusion, flat but with incredible depth, so close but so far away. They seemed light, only as dense and heavy as the air and the sky above. And although all appeared to belong to another world, i felt that if i could get there, i would be able to walk through what once was hard granite stone.

It seemed all stood still, though i heard the sound of the powerful falls across the valley and the stream or river that rushed down beneath, and saw the heavy flow of Illilouette Falls. But all else around, even the pine trees, was still, and almost unreal. Was this all real, for it felt like i was glimpsing another dimension. I an actor upon a stage, all else untouchable by me. Words cannot capture what i experience, they can only provide a glimpse.

The others who walked in front of me making their way up the path appeared in 3D but all around seemed as i belonged to some other world. I don’t know how long i spent in that zone, it felt like hours but was probably only a few minutes. I wanted to write it down, so i unzipped my backpack to grab some paper and the squirrel ran up to me, and i returned to where i was, but took some larger feeling with me. I looked up once again, i was back and connected to all.

Still i was unsure was the world but a collective illusion as some philosophies said, but i knew the mountains and all around were in the material realm. I had been up on the top of one at mountains at Glacier Point and looked over the valley below my last time here. But could it be both, both material and in the other realms. And did the circle as visible from here act as some kind of portal. And right then i knew that this was the very locale i had been looking for. And i remembered that i had a similar experience my first time here.

I got up and walked along the trail to the bridge above, passing out of the special zone, As i walked i one of the boulders along the trail to make sure that it was “real” it was hard and solid and felt like a rock. I touched a small patch of the bright green moss that grew on it, and that was spongy and soft. I reached out to the textured bark of a pine tree, and dug my fingernail in.

I made my way up to the bridge, and stopped where the mist trail was closed, ate part of a peanut butter sandwich and made my way down the same way. And stopped there again – and once again all stood still, only the largest pine tree, much larger than the rest seemed “real” and all else like a crisp clear picture again, a world apart from the here. I took several photos but the do not do it justice – there is something beyond the view. While hikers pause to take in the view on the way to somewhere else – the destination of Vernal Falls, i wonder how many have felt as i have here. And i saw why Yosemite is such a sacred place. And wondered what had gone on here so many years ago.

Yosemite has powerful energies, i’m sure in many places, and that is what inspires others beyond the sight of the Sentinal, Half dome and the waterfalls. That something you cannot put a finger on or capture in a photograph or purchase from a store.

But i also wondered about other portals, for as i walked along a bit further down the Merced River and sat down upon a log, a feeling a dread and agitation came over me, in a location similar to where it had before. It grasped onto me, came out of nowhere, and was difficult to shake off. Was that just memories, or another current of energy that flowed through the place?

Later that day i went out to Mirror Lake – a place i vaguely remembered as special. It too was busier, as people picnics and some kids swam. The water was a murky brown, and the creek that emerged ran slow. I walked beyond where the crowd was and sat on some steps and ate my peanut butter sandwich. The view was nicer from here, looking out at Werther point and Awhali dome across the edge of the pond they called a lake and i took a photograph. A woman stopped beside me, took out her phone, some pictures to send back home she said. as she walked away she said “it’s so perfect it almost seems unreal” and i looked up again and all across stood clear and still as part of another dimension.

It is just the places? Something special about Yosemite? It has been so often called a sacred place and has captured that imagination of so many. Even the “town” near the entrance gate is called “El Portal”. But i also know that i have had similar experiences in less grand, more unknown locales, each one different, but confirming to me that there is so much more beyond the material reality. And it does not exist somewhere else, but in the now and here. Does this place contain portals to other worlds or does the magnificence and wonder around merely help remove the veils and open my eyes so that i can glimpse for a moment what is all around. Is all but an illusion? Still, there is something very special about that place on the Vernal Falls Trail.

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