Monthly Archives: November 2016

Rainbow Gathering, months later: looking into the parabolic mirror

So, it’s been a while since I spent a couple of days at the Rainbow Gathering in Vermont, and wrote my blog about that brief sojourn. I am revisiting it now, because that blog entry was the most read of any blog I posted and visits to my blog have been way down. I’m a little lonely here!

I don’t necessarily take that personally, albeit I admit I have since shifted my focus to poetry and my “Poet’s Notebook” since then, which might account for the drop in general interest. But you know what I think is happening with us, as a people? I think we are a little (or a lot) depressed. I think we are burned-out, profoundly bummed about what’s going on, and I think there is a part of us that is slipping into a hibernative mode . . . a wait-and-see mode . . . a sleep-mode. A Wake-me-up-when-it’s-over mode.

It does feel a little like a dream, doesn’t it? Now many of us might be wondering, not so much, What can I do? because the election is over, and we thought we were doing something by voting for Hillary, (the default candidate), by casting a reactionary vote for the lesser of two lemons, but we might be wondering “What did I have to do with what just happened?” Me? As a Vermonter, I wasn’t in a swing state, so I voted for Jill Stein, and I felt really good about that! But I never thought that Trump would win. (I suspected he would do well, but not win.) When he did, I was in shock. (Read my blog post, “Using my library as an oracle the morning after election returns” for where I was at the day after.)

Since then I have been struggling for a point of view, a mental resting point, as I traverse this precipitous ledge that represents how I feel right now. We’re in trouble folks! We have to watch our step. We have to pay attention. There is a lot at stake!

That little vote? It didn’t help, did it? 325 million people and look at the two candidates that were left when all the froth boiled away. You’d think that we could have done better! I mean both sides in this worn-out, busted down, two-party system, could have done better. But did we really need a wake-up call? I would argue no. The writing on the wall was everywhere! We just wanted to keep believing that the “system” can fix itself. It can’t.

We have to fix us!

So, I found myself thinking about the Rainbow Gathering. You know why? Because the time I spent there – those two days — was completely apolitical. It was like taking a break from “Kansas”, to borrow from The Wizard of Oz. It was two days of being among people who were simply living together peacefully in the woods, eating together, gathering together, camping together, hanging out together, in peace – old and young, rich and poor (Oh yes, judging by the cars that were parked along the access road, bumper to bumper, for miles and miles, some of the Rainbow folks had plenty of money!), women and men, white and those of color, (LBGTs) well-educated and not . . . you get the picture.

And one thing I didn’t write about that happened when I and my friend were leaving the Gathering: We passed this man who was carrying a black box on a pole. The open-faced box had three mirrors inside it, two on the sides and one in the back facing the opening, and there were little lights lighting up the interior of the box. It looked very magical. My friend and I turned around and caught up with the man. “What do you have there?” I asked him. He said it was a mirror that showed you what you looked like to other people. He invited me to look into it. I found myself staring into the mirror in the little box. The person I saw looking back at me was me but also he wasn’t me. He looked a bit older and very tired. But he looked hyper-real at the same time, and a bit sad. Serious and sad. I thanked the man. I asked him how the mirror worked but I couldn’t make heads or tails of his explanation. A few days later someone told me it was a parabolic mirror that reflects a three-dimensional image. That’s where I’m going to end this blog post. I’m just going to suggest that it wouldn’t hurt if we could all get a look at (or steal a glimpse of) ourselves, “as others see us”, as long as we are in rest-mode or taking a step back . . . just to serve as an Archimedean Point ( hypothetical vantage point from which an observer can objectively perceive the subject of inquiry, with a view of totality). If we don’t have access to a parabolic mirror, maybe we can just imagine it.

I have been following what is happening at Standing Rock in North Dakota, and what I realize is, the indigenous people aren’t making a political stand. It isn’t in the least political. They are protecting the water and the land because it is sacred, plain and simple. How long before we can take up that cause with that kind of principled comprehension? Let’s not take too too long to wake up . . . as a people. This is not political, nor is it over-the-rainbow. It’s real. And maybe it starts with us looking hard at ourselves in the face and accepting what we see, and then looking at each other with the same perspicacity, tinged with compassion. And then, let’s move. Let’s change things.

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Poet’s Notebook: Post Thanksgiving, my poem: “Hungry mother, hungry land” and reflection

Hungry mother, hungry land

The fires are not here,
they are in the southwest
in Tennessee.
Forests burning.
We went for a walk by the reservoir.
The great spillway, like a highway for water
was dry as a bone.
Drought in the land,
wells drying up,
but don’t worry about the fires spreading here.
(Someone expressed concern
because the air is thick like in a city
with vagrant smoke.)
We walk together and apart
at different speeds,
the young not slowing on the hills,
the old dropping back.
We gather at the views
letting grandpa catch his breath.
The reservoir is 6 miles around;
we are only walking 2.
What kind of duck is that?
Did you hear that splash over there?

That mountain is called Hungry Mother.
Hungry Mother Mountain.
The story goes:
the Indians chased a mother and daughter
to the top of the mountain.
They got lost and separated.
The girl found her way down
and was caught by the Indians.
Maybe they gave her some food.
She pointed to the mountain:
“Hungry mother” she said.
Two hundred years later I say,
Hungry land.

Reflection:

We drove down from Vermont for Thanksgiving, two days drive, to be with my wife’s family in Marion, Virginia. (Stopped over near Philly to visit my brother and his wife.) Wonderful to get together. Wish my son (in Oregon) could have been here. This poem takes some poetic license. “Grandpa” is my wife’s father. In the poem he is the generic grandfather. In real life he is in remarkable shape for someone his age. The story about Hungry Mother Mountain is supposedly factual, but when I heard it, as summarized by my step daughter, it didn’t sound quite right, but it was all I needed to frame this poem because the reservoir we were walking around felt somehow maternal to me in that it was a body of water that was providing to the people in the valley below the parched spillway, which was quite massive. I felt the feminine nature of the land and I sensed how it / “she” was hurting. And then there was the air, which was tainted by the smoke from fires in Tennessee. So I took the local legend, which sounded a bit far-fetched, and used it as a way to express my empathy for the land’s suffering. While we were feasting and giving thanks, the land seemed to be hungry.

Poet’s Notebook: My poem “Children to the mountain” and brief comments

Children to the mountain

1

Domination
is never a dance.
It is a displacement
of love.

Partnership
allows for space
and in that space
room for dreaming.

This place,
this planet wants a partner.
We know this.

2

The door is felt.
It is made of felt.
It is a soft door.

The door is water.
The doorknob, the wind.

It opens with the slightest push.
But first you have to find it.

3

The mountain
has a valley inside it
that is dreaming
for us.

It is dreaming that we will
see through it someday.

The mountain
doesn’t want to be a mountain
forever.

4

Dragonfly, hovering,
four wings a-blur,
you and your dream body
are one and the same.
Teach us
how to fly like that,
how to stop in midair
until we know the way.

5

The rain came hard,
brought thunder,
shook the foundations
rattled the rooftop,
made the ravens
argue among themselves.

What are they doing?

(Is that what they said?)

What are they thinking!
They will ruin everything!

6

The lightning
lit up our faces
like chalk
on a cave wall.

The brightness of our faces,
flash after flash,
alarmed us.

I held you
and for the first time
I felt your bones.

7

Our children are canaries.
They come from far away
where the sun is still the sun.

Tell the children not to fear the dead.
The children
and the dead
have much in common.
The past and the future,
walking together.

8

We will walk,
counting the days
just like children
mastering
certain words and numbers
as we go.

One is this
and everything.
Two used to be the king and queen
but now it is me and you.

Like peace,
like gratitude,
like blood,
like magic,
like power,
like balance.

Like flashes of light,

like chalk on a cave wall,
these words
we will learn anew
like first steps,
like children.
But we’re not children anymore

except to the mountain.

Reflection:

A little while ago, I wrote and blogged about my poem,“There is a mountain”. In that poem I am driving toward a mountain that lies far ahead of me, that “rises from the bleeding edge of familiarity”. By the time I get to it, I will have changed into an eagle and the mountain, far from overwhelming me, will be my home. I think it is obvious that that poem is about death and rebirth. That “mountain of mountains” does not exist in this, what a shaman might refer to as, the middle world. In this poem, “Children to the mountain” , the mountain itself is changing, or it wants to change. It reveals its dreaming, and, at the same time, it invites us into its dreaming. It is also a poem about birth, that is, second-birth, but there is no hurry because, even though we are adults, to the mountain we are, and will always be, children who must learn (or relearn) a sacred language that will help us to survive and maybe even flourish.

There are a couple of ways that the poem imagines our progress: first we are advised to suspend our momentum like the dragonfly, second we must learn how to move forward by incremental steps, once we know the way. Our children are described as “canaries”. They have the song. They are precious, for lots of reasons. They come from far away, just as canaries come from well, let’s say, the Canary Islands.

The poem is divided into numbered sections because, like the chalk faces in the cave, the stanzas present as bursts or flashes of images and metaphors. I will finish by saying that in this poem, we are challenged to step into our real adulthood but, at the same time, to remember that we will always be children to the mountain whose dreaming precedes us and whose longevity is measured in eons — a reminder that forming a partnership with Earth, as important as that is, is nothing compared to a mountain’s dreaming. And yet in some mysterious way, as hinted in “There is a mountain”, we can evolve to share in the mountains dreaming. The key is allowing ourselves to be reborn.

Poet’s Notebook: My poem, “Here and There” followed by a brief reflection

Here and there
 
We worship the moon here;
we sing her songs.
She charms us,
she heals us.
There they bow deep to the sun.
 
Here we plant our dreams
and harvest visions.
There they plant periods,
and harvest silence.
 
Here we intuit.
There they know.
 
Here we weave stories out of dreams and grief.
There they weave cities of blood and sand.
 
Here the tide ebbs
and rises and when it rises
the barnacles open and wave little ferns.
There the coral reefs are dying;
the bottle with their message
never reaches shore.
 
Here we call out names
in celebration of the family of life.
Here a name holds power.
There a name is lost and found,
cemented to a building
printed on the sky.
 
Here a fish leaps and the river sings.
There a river
is a million drinks of water,
a million sad stories of once upon a time.
 
Here the land is alive,
and the wind
and the stones are alive.
There the land is thirsty
and confused.
The wind is hungry,
the stones, asleep.
If you disturb them
they will begin to whisper
to the minerals in your bones
and they will gently ask you to return
the diamonds in your necklace.
………………………………..
 
Reflection:
 
This poem is not just about living in a dualistic universe, even though, who would deny that this election was like being stuck in a on / off, black / white, insider / outsider, man / woman, Republican / Democrat, binary program. That was two days ago and this poem sprouted like a flower out of the rubble of that contentious year of intense polarization, that, once any chance of a third party viewpoint was eliminated, reduced us to choosing sides or choosing our poison. Now, if we’re not happy, or even if we’re really scared or pissed, we are all complicit, because we are all in the system. We’re all Americans, right? We’re looking around the way one might when a polluted fog lifts, trying to salvage some sanity, trying to get our bearings. My son, Evan Lindorff-Ellery posted a very timely little commentary on Facebook after the election that reminded us that we aren’t just political creatures, we are cultural, emotional and spiritual beings. But even as I reflect on that and own the truth of that, I find myself contemplating how profound the divide is between people and people. I know that it is American and politically correct to try our best to come together after an election, or at least act like we are and I, personally, am willing to get behind Trump as our president-elect . . . In truth, right now I don’t see Trump as the problem. Politicians aren’t our spiritual leaders or our cultural or emotional guides and teachers. They are just public servants. They are as powerful and influential as we allow them to be. We are responsible for what happens to our political, cultural, emotional and spiritual environment. So, we have a lot to figure out, and now that the damn election is over, we best get to it. There is a lot at stake.

Using my library as an oracle the morning after election returns:

My brother wrote an excellent article this morning after Trump’s win. It can be found at http://www.thiscantbehappening.net/node/3358 :“Of silver tongues and silver linings:Trump’s Presidency, the Demise of the Major Parties, and the Need for a New Progressive Movement”. He and I are very different. He is a fine journalist, whereas I am a poet, Jungian dream worker and shamanic practitioner. Here is what I wrote back to him after reading his article:

Dave:

I of course have a slightly different approach to trying to process what is happening inside and out. This might not make sense to you, but this time, this moment in time, is very, very pregnant. In the old days, ancient and not so ancient times, they would have consulted oracles at a time like this, because the “veil is thin” and they would want to hear from the ancestors. I stayed up last night until I knew that Trump clinched it, then I got 5 hours sleep. I woke up in a kind of daze, trying to imagine a way forward. Then I had an idea . . . I used to do this when I was a little younger, when I was studying the I Ching, and Jung’s principle of Synchronicity etc. I used the books of great and creative minds as oracles. Here is how: Continue reading

Poet’s Notebook: My poem, “Who is I” and reflection

Who is I?
 
Is I a “who”
an “it” or a “they”
a “he” or a “she”
or a “we” or a “way”
of putting our stamp
on a dibble of clay?
 
Or the crumb of a crumpet
that descended
the day
that the gods were away
from the feast,
except for one little one
 
(in my fable)
who, bored with the feast,
had crawled under the table.
And he looked at the crumb
and he asked it it’s name
and it said,
 
I am I, he, she, we, way,
crumb of the crumpet
and dibble of clay,
and if you make me a world
I’ll stay out of your way.
Well of course it was lying!
 
But the little god listened
and gave it a world
that was perfect and glistened
and when the gods asked
what the little god did
(for he looked very proud
 
like a mutinous kid
like somebody’s hero,
but nobody’s child)
he smiled
that’s all,
just smiled and smiled.
 
 
Reflection:

This is a light poem, a fable about how the world and the human race were created. One of the things that supposedly makes the human race unique is the ego or “I” at the core of the whole mystery of consciousness, that defines us and divides us and challenges us to find our path in life. I say “supposedly” because any one who loves animals and makes a practice of closely observing them out of love and admiration for their natural genius and personality will tell you that they are plenty aware of themselves as individuals, and for me this genius includes insects. (The real experts on animals are those who love them whether they be scientists or poets or you or me.) But in this modest little poem I am just having fun with the presumption that the human race is somehow special, or at least special to its creator, who is this little god who is bored with the feast and slips under the table where he has a chance encounter with the crumb of a crumpet — the original human being. And this first self-aware being, who isn’t quite sure what he is, realizes that all he really needs is a world. I wasn’t planning on any of this happening when I started this poem. It just took off but I found it very entertaining that the first human is a crumb that falls off the gods’ table and, being a capitalist at heart, it immediately starts bargaining for a world, and the little god is happy to oblige without delay and without consulting the other larger gods. In fact, being a bit of a rebel or an introvert or low in the pecking order, he wants to get it done before the other gods return. This fable depicts the first human as a trickster, a good-natured deceiver who is willing to lie to get something. He promises to “stay out of the way”, which, if he is our ancestor, has turned out to be far from the case. We have managed to royally get in the way. Maybe that is because we have forgotten our humble origins — that we are, at our core, “the crumb of a crumpet, a dibble of clay.”

There is a little of Dr. Seuss in the rhymes . . . and I tried for some of that grown-up-childlike humor, steeped in wisdom that was the genius of the Seuss books.

Samhain (saw-wen): honoring the Celtic New Year, and the ancestors

We hosted a Samhain (saw-wen) gathering last night to honor the Celtic New Year which begins with sunset, October 31. (For anyone interested, the veil remains thin through November 5!) We have been doing this for years. I take special care creating our Samhain fire. For a couple of years we have been building a smaller fire in our story-fire place, a circle of stones for the fire pit surrounded by another circle of stones for seats, surrounded by an outer circle of upright logs. For years before that I would build a much larger fire in the middle of our standing stone circle nearby. But large or small, I build the fire the exact same way. First I gather fallen wood from the forest on the edge of the meadow and place the branches around the fire pit. (That’s not quite accurate. The very first thing I do is collect a good amount of White pine twigs that I snap off the trees.) Then I form a loose ball of dry straw from our barn and around that I build a self-supporting tipi-structure using small pine sticks surrounded by larger twigs and branches, maintaining a dense symmetrical cone shape so there is a hole or chimney going up the center, but not a lot of room for air to enter from the sides, only through a channel below where the fire is lit with a small torch at the center. Once lit, the fire takes its time expanding inside the tipi and slowly makes its way up through with a few tentative bursts of pure flame from the top but once free it grows taller, flicking and waving like the wing of a firebird. Then it begins to gyrate like a sinuous dancer and finally, now that we are all transfixed watching it, it comes into its own and is “like” nothing. It is fire, timeless and mysterious, one of the most ancient elemental-spirits. And this bright and mesmerizing spirit rises to three or four times the height of the wood, releasing countless flames at the top where it can reach no higher, but tries, making infinite little leaps. Later the fire hears our stories and receives our intentions and hopes for the new year, as we honor this moment in time and we honor each other, just by showing up . . .  and we honor the ancestors who are not just our blood-ancestors but these trees and stones and the mountains that hold this valley, our home.
 
We always light a candle from this Samhain fire and place that candle in a West-facing window to guide the beneficial ancestral spirits to our home because we value their presence and invite their protection.