Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Seekers at the Portal

When I was finishing my master's degree,Wendell and I took a trip across the United States from California to Michigan to pick up a new-to-us, pre-owned car. On the way there, we took a detour to explore the Arches National Park. As they say, it was hot but it was a dry heat-which only means that it was extremely hot! The hiking and the landscape seemed to burn through my my mind and melt my limiting but comfortable perceptual boundaries. I ran over the boulders with my long time friend and canine, Lady Blue, arms flailing about and brushing up against- wait this is the desert! There is no brushing up against anything here-my left arm flew over the top of a sharp-tipped succulent, which acted as a needle, and pierced right through my vain. As I looked at the tiny hole, it started to spurt out in a wide arc over the rocks and grace the land; a sacrament? First-aid scripts ran through my mind, apply pressure until it stops the bleeding. I held my arm, while watching the circular antics of Lady Blue's hunt and chase, and soon I became unconcerned. Effortlessly, I released preconceived ideas about life and ambition. This created a spaciousness that felt familiar and welcome; I set up a red portable grill on a smooth flat rock and made my one standard girl scout I-can-cook-outside meal, i.e. I combined a slice of potato, onion, and carrot on top of a lentil burger, seasoned with salt and pepper, and wrapped it up in a small aluminum tent which was then roasted over hot coals for an hour. Somehow cooking outside there in the heat with the coals radiating on my face, connected the familiar with the unfamiliar. Later, I inadequately relayed to Wendell, "I got hurt but I'm okay, see?" Though inside, I was different, life-affirmed. I felt secure, patient and welcoming of any change that we were headed toward. The land became my guru, a portal to view another way of living. I was small compared to this spaciousness but as an indefinite part of this space, I was unlimited.


  1. I went to the arches recently, but it was in early June and it was not so hot as bright. The sun was insistent, like a little sister who is starved for attention. The arches dwarfed everything, especially in pictures. Our eyes and brain are able to focus on what is important, but a camera has to do this mechanically. So I took pictures and noticed how in a sense the persons in the picture disappeared in the vastness of the arch. Now when I think of it, I cannot help thinking of MacDonald's. I suppose that means that my mind is warped or that all my experience has become so layered that I can never see anything for itself. Actually studies show that we have to learn how to see and people who do not acquire sight until they are older never learn how to see. They cannot conceptualize. It is a blur of color, which perhaps without the mind, it may just be. Like when the sun is in your eye.
    Those western spaces give me a sense of emptiness, which is not all together bad, but it is not sustainable. I found the marvel of the slot canyons more beautiful, curving living things, smoothed by water, twisting, the light dropping into the slot canyons to create rich textures which the blazing sun outside had bleached away.
    I went with a group of four other men. We shared experience at times more than having it. But that was okay. I usually have most of them alone and realize that the flower opening, the black and red bug, the spider in the shape of a squat bat, that the memory of these things are more fleeting because they are not shared, but at the same time I have to learn to focus on experience and less on the narrative which is for someone else, even if you are talking to yourself.
    I spent this vacation with a knee brace on. My steps were careful and often a bit painful. If someone kicked my leg by accident, as happened once in a bus, I had extreme pain. But I walked up and down canyons and perhaps was more aware of my body, and at times less aware of my surroundings.
    I don't know if I would go on this trip again. I knew a woman once who loved to go to Niagara Falls. She lived near the Mississippi River in a suburb of New Orleans. I didn't understand her enthusiasm for the falls, but then I haven't been there.
    But I think I would rather sit for a few hours next to a pool of the Espiritu Santo River than to see The Grand Canyon again. I guess with everything in the west, I have the feeling of seeing it and not being there. Here I have lived long enough to be there.
    On another thought, don't you think all institutions have their magnets of power that make people worse and some people horrible. Of course, they feel they are only protecting what is theirs. The world is so transitory let them hold on to the power. It will sink them and they will miss the world. I think Kierkegaard repeats many times the phrase that it's better to lose the world than to gain the world and lose your soul. I tried to find this passage and opened up the old leather bound volume of Either/Or in Danish. I keep it in a Ziplock bag, but just opening it lets out that sweetly acrid scent of pages decaying. It once belonged to my great uncle. It did not look like he ever read it.
    As you can see, once I get started it is hard for me to stop. But all that stone doing yoga bends has inspired me and now however I am out of wind. I hope you get this. Mark

  2. Mark, thanks for the response, its beautiful! Now forward bend and hold...om


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