Flow

I woke up this morning thinking about flow, about how awareness of flow, synchronization with flow, has been so important to life on our planet. Flow is profoundly present in cultures like the Balinese – the flow of water, the flow of light-energy (east/west), the flow of winds, the lunar flow of tides. We are water beings, light beings, wind beings. How have we in the modern West become so immured to flow?

So many sacred places around the world have to do with water (sacred springs, streams, rivers), or with the energy of celestial movement, with high places and low, with crossroads and confluence. The Balinese are deeply sensitive to their orientation within the flows in their world. Everything is kaja (toward Mount Agung – the active volcano that is the highest point on the island) or kelod (away from Agung) and concurrently kangin (east) or kauh (west). I want to know how it would feel to be like that, to be satisfied that I know where I am without Siri or Google Maps. To know which way is up, how the water and earth and heavens move (and me in it) and for that to be enough. Instead I often feel like a fish trapped in an overcrowded and stagnant pond, waiting to be fed.

Like Meg in my novel, I am sometimes troubled by what people call “magic.” This isn’t magic. It’s just flow. It’s real. It’s possible. It’s everywhere.

 

 

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Bear Magic

“This is not a bear.”
That is what Magritte would say.

A bear is very large,
Warm and alive,
With shaggy fur,
With teeth,
With claws protruding from every paw.

I knew a dog once
Whose name was Bear.
He was large, warm, alive.
He had shaggy fur, teeth, claws.
He was not a bear.
He was a dog.

Sometimes my friend calls her husband
Her “man-bear”.
Her husband is large, warm, alive.
A bit shaggy.
He has teeth, no claws.
He is not a bear.

When we call something, someone
“bear”
We mean to evoke, invoke
“bearness”.
Is that magic?

Which evokes “bear” more completely:
A sketched figure, which has the form of a bear?
Or the word,
Which conjures in both our minds
The living creature itself?

Used with intent
Heard with attentiveness
Words have strange consequences.
They come alive.
Words can make things happen.

The magic of words is not
Just a thing of long ago.
The magic still happens.
Ideas move from my mind to yours
With only a word.
The word is not the thing itself.
The word is the magic.

What To Do

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What would I do if the world were ending, which of course it is, as it has been ever since its beginning, just as you and I and all of us have been dying ever since the moment of our conception and maybe even before that?

So the question does not hinge on “if” but rather on “what would I do?” which must necessarily become “what will I do?”

What will I do, given that the world is ending and I with it?

It seems the only rational thing is to give myself over to being exactly what I am – a curious and passionate participant-observer in this whole doomed project. In fact, the finiteness of the project and the minuteness of my role in it is exactly what makes life so very, very precious. No time for pretense, for visions of eternity (which is also a thing although not my thing nor yours). No time for quarreling with the neighbors over transitory possessions or evanescent ideas (mine are ultimately as silly as yours). No time for anything but walking together, hand in hand, and laughing at the joyous unexpectedness of this opportunity to be exactly who we are.

 

On Saving Daylight

Welcome to Daylight Savings Time – again. Why we continue to torture ourselves with this semiannual self-imposed time disruption is beyond me. Today’s Washington Post includes a piece on this annual ritual that refers to it as “a glitch in the matrix that reminds us that clock time is always artificial and arbitrary”. I’m using it as a reason to share with you a passage from my second novel, Shadow of the Hare, in which protagonist Malia Poole reflects on the relativity of our experiencing of time.

When I first arrived in Walden 27, I still felt the need to know the exact time of day or night and I positioned my little digital clock on my table like some deity in a shrine. I learned that Walden 27 was positioned at the far western extreme of the Eastern Time zone. There were only two North American time zones by this time; I remembered having read that, before the original four time zones were established for the convenience of railways in the 19th century, every town kept its own time, keyed to its own experience of the sun’s movements. I came to realize that time zones and clocks meant little to the community of Walden 27.

As my stay extended into weeks and then months, I, too, stopped keeping track of time. It’s all relative anyway, I told myself. We mark our distance from some event in the past or from some planned, imagined future, organizing our activities within the diurnal/nocturnal cycle, across the flow of seasons. In Walden 27, residents rose with the sun, broke for lunch when the sun approached its zenith, or when the temperature rose to a point making a break desirable.

Tracking the cyclic phases of the moon became more important to me than the name of the month or the count of days on a calendar. I noticed how the moon phase tracked with my menstrual cycle. I began to observe the stars and how they shifted position in the sky as we moved toward spring. They don’t actually shift, of course; it’s we who shift our position relative to them. I’d never seen so many stars before coming to Walden 27.

When spring came, the yard around my cottage was planted with a variety of fruits and vegetables. Every square meter of fertile land in the whole of Walden 27 was planted with something edible or useful and it was all worked cooperatively, which meant that I was always encountering people in my garden, working the ground, tending the plants. I had to remind myself it wasn’t “my” garden, though I soon began to do a little weeding there and, later on, I did claim some of the produce for myself.

The lack of regimentation was seductive. In Walden 27, we kept our own time. I relegated my little clock to a dresser drawer.

 

Shadow of the Hare: Recall Chronicles, Vol. II available on Amazon.

The Hare Moon

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Whether you celebrate Beltane or May Day or nothing at all, it’s good to take note of the first day of May, as it brings us ever closer to summer. It’s no wonder the day was traditionally noted by our agricultural antecedents in Europe as a time for the celebration of warmth and fruitfulness, fire and fertility!

I find this particular May Day exhilarating, as it marks the beginning of the month I’ve selected for release of my next novel, Shadow of the Hare. This particular celebration is set for May 21, the day of the full moon that is known is some quarters as “The Hare Moon”.

Associations of hares (sometimes rabbits) with the moon abound in folklore and I’ve always felt a personal resonance with the creatures. The symbolism has worked its way into my novel. Here’s a small taste–it was hard to find one without spoilers!

I remember the year 2053, the year of the Global Peace Accord that officially put an end to war. Lio and I had gone to watch the celebratory fireworks displays on the D. C. mall, sitting in the shadow of one of the big war memorials next to a shallow pool. We lingered, watching the full moon rise, long after the crowd dispersed.
“How do you think they finally got the big weapons manufacturers and military corporations to sign on to the accord?” I asked.
“I’ve wondered about that. I wish I knew. They’ll never make much profit just making explosives for fireworks.” Lio grinned at me. “Although tonight’s show was pretty spectacular. And by that I mean over-the-top excessive.”
I snuggled up closer to Lio as a breeze rose up, rippling the water on the pond where the full moon was reflected. “Of course, weapons aren’t just guns and bombs these days,” I mused.
“Did you ever see a man in the moon when you were a kid?” Lio asked.
“Yeah. At least I think I did.”
“Did you know that in some other parts of the world peo­ple see a hare on the face of the moon?”
“I read about that once. I could never see it though. I guess we see what we’re conditioned to see, right? Whatever our cul­ture tells us is there?”
“Probably. And maybe we want it to be a living thing,” he suggested, “something with a face and eyes. Something we can relate to.”
“Can you still see a face on the moon?” I asked.
“Not really.”
“Me either. Though sometimes I wish I could.” 

PRE-ORDER Shadow of the Hare on Kindle and receive it May 21st! 

Celebrate release of Shadow of the Hare May 21st, 1 pm to 4 pm, at Half Price Books on North Lamar in Austin. Get your signed paperback copy and register for free gifts!

Waiting

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I huddle inside my chrysalis
Afraid to let go of the idea
Of being a caterpillar.
I must give myself wholly
To nameless, formless wonder.
Dis-integrate completely,
Trusting the seed within.
When the chrysalis finally breaks open,
What will emerge?
A glory-winged creature
Soaring skyward?
Or the dried-up husk
Of a caterpillar?

The Journey Continues

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I’m back at my home base in Austin, Texas, after a week on the road and a journey of a couple thousand miles. I traveled on, undaunted by small inconveniences like having some dude in Lebanon (yes, the country of Lebanon) try to use my credit card on the third day of my travels, resulting in the card being cancelled and me being left with only my bank card and cash on hand. Undaunted, as well, by another dude, the one driving the white Lexus, who failed to stop soon enough and plowed into the back of my car exiting off I-30 in Fort Worth.

Never mind those things. It was an amazing trip. There were vast expanses of geologic time strewn out before me, forcing me to imagine ancient seas, volcanic eruptions, eons of uplift and erosion. There were people whose experience and narrative of American history is vastly different from my own, people with gentle manners and firm rules: no photography, no recording. They told me what I needed to know. They expected me to remember it, and I’m sure I will.

My bedtime reading last night delved back into Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, the passage where the preacher protagonist reflects on a wartime sermon he never preached. “The parents of these young soldiers would come to me and ask me how the Lord could allow such a thing. I felt like asking them what the Lord would have to do to tell us He didn’t allow something. But instead I would comfort them by saying we would never know what their young men had been spared.”

My own journey through life continues and I remain undaunted by small miseries. Who knows what suffering could have been my lot if I weren’t so fortunate? Happy travels!

Happy Lunar New Year!

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Although I am neither an astrologer nor a prognosticator of any proven reliability, I would like to offer a few observations regarding this Lunar New Year.

The year we are leaving behind is the Year of the Wood Sheep. Sheep, as we know, are gentle animals who move about in herds, becoming easily distressed when left on their own, lost with no sense of direction, crying plaintively. In some eastern cultures, the sheep year is instead a goat year. We also know a thing or two about goats, especially scapegoats. “Wood” or “wooden” are terms often used to convey a sense of thickness, unresponsiveness, lack of intelligence.

The year we are moving into is the Year of the Fire Monkey. Unlike sheep, monkeys are lively, jovial, emotional, unpredictable. In stories, they are often tricksters. As for the fire, well, fire burns wood. Fire is one of the most useful tools ever domesticated by humankind, but also one of the most dangerous.

Based on these thoroughly idiosyncratic observations here is my prediction for the year ahead: things are about to get interesting!

On Waller Creek

SOLD Formed by the Light. 11 x 14, acrylic on lokta paper

From the broken place in the retaining wall
I can see where the rains
Formed a rivulet
Leading down to where the water
Always flows
Even when the rains never come.
The flow moves on through still, deep places,
Through playful shallows,
Down to the lake where my friend
Walks his dog at sunrise.
Over the dam, it’s a river again
(as it always was, underneath)
Flowing on its meandering course,
Crossed by repeating bridges,
Onward to the sea where another friend
Walks her dog along the beach at sunset.
And out on the far shore of the same sea
(it’s always the same sea)
Another friend repairs a wall
Broken by a recent flood.

What the Birds Say

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“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” -Maya Angelou

When I go for walks, my favorite soundtrack is the sound of birds, and I have been noticing how the soundtrack changes through the course of the year, through the hours of the day. In summer, I was always accompanied by the cooing of mourning doves and the calls of cardinals. More recently, the mockingbirds have been taking center stage. Evenings are always filled with the raucous cries of grackles. With all due respect to Dr. Angelou, not all birds sing – but they all have something to say and it is always worth hearing. The sketch above was done at the monastery I visit in Nepal, where I became convinced that the swallows outside my window, were reciting mantras about the vastness of the sky…