Summer Solstice

Today, June 21, 2013 is the Summer Solstice. Summer officially began at 1:03 EDT. It is the longest day of the year, here in the Northern Hemisphere. It was light at 5 a.m. where I live and although the sun will set just after 9 p.m., there will be light well after that. In Sweden it will never really get dark and in Edinburgh barely.

I like to hike up Solstice Canyon to the little waterfall on this day.

Solstice Cyn pho #2 But this year I have had to send delegates instead. They assure me the falls is still there.

close up solstice fallsIt  is just above the ruins of the Roberts house that fell victim to wildfire years ago in spite of its deep, natural pool.

What a great place to perform Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream: Titania, Oberon and the fairies in the rocky grotto, the workmen, Quince, Bottom, et al rehearsing their play on the colorful tiles that were the kitchen’s, the erstwhile lovers who have run away from Athens on the gravel path, Puck flitting between, bewitching the wrong people into love, Bottom saddled with an ass’s head proving irresistible to the exquisite Titania. But they have to be quick, so quick, because it is the shortest night and this is a fleeting dream.

Failing this, do something unexpected to celebrate the light.

Advertisements

Winter Solstice

Winter solstice occurs this year on Friday, December 21 at 11:12 UTC around 4:15 p.m. here on the west coast.

This poem was written nearly 20 years ago, when I was living in an apartment on Venice Beach. I brought a copy with me on this trip and it feels applicable now as we approach the longest night, a time when physical light has reached its lowest ebb and now will begin to grow again, a time when inner light is at the full and can be accessed.

images

Winter Solstice

Such deep dark
so long sustained
should smell of balsam,
cedar, pine,
should have a canopy of icy stars,
of Northern lights,
shifting panes of white or green.

-A child under a buffalo robe
watching a sleigh runner
cut through blue
moon-shadowed snow
sees a rabbit track running off
into deep woods.-

Waking in the depth
of this longest night,
thirsty for sleep,I hear
the pounding surf,
an angry wordless shout
one floor below
and the reverberating slam
of a dumpster lid.
The sky at least is quiet:
a star hangs
above the flight path.

In my long sleep,
I have been following
that track back
into the woods
breathing sprue pitch
and resined pine,
lashed by boughs of evergreen,
until I have arrived at this
secret place
which only wild things know,
a place to shelter
while things end,
time unwinds,
the circle turns.

When we awaken,
shouting, homeless,
single and bereft,
we will go forth
into the growing light,
a light
we creatures of the dark
must yet endure.

This is the place,
now is the time
for the birth of the Child
in the cave of the heart.

Sage Baby: Bad Titles follow-up

A couple of posts ago, I ruminated about titles that get outdated by time, including George Orwell’s 1984 and my blog 115journals. I imagined that the three journals I have written since are seriously put out and I rashly promised journal 118 that I would mollify it by posting its highlights. Today I reached page 215, the last page. Journal 118 started on July 8th is now retired from active duty.

Let’s see what’s there.

Oh. My. Goodness. Anais Nin would have relegated its first part to her diary of pain. When she was mortally ill in Big Sur, as I remember, she divided her journal in two and kept the unpleasant stuff separate. I haste to add that my “pain” was more mundane and much alleviated by simple means such as a new regimen of supplements to replace the minerals I was short of.

Then I come to a dream I had in which I was a young doctor just beginning my residency when I learned that I was pregnant. The dream was suffused with love, warm, nourishing love for and from my husband, and a quickening sexual desire. I went out for a walk by myself on a rainy Sunday evening to relish this feeling. Oddly, I came upon my actual/ non-dream-life son in the course of this walk. He was working as a blacksmith -not of course in real life -outside his forge and raised his head only briefly to ask if I had written another book.

I seemed to be living an alternative past and seeing an alternative future.

When I looked at what the dream meant, I saw that I was dreaming of healing myself. The Sunday night walk could be seen as a sign I was now complete enough in myself to do so. Someone I told the dream to said I was dreaming about my “sage baby”, that gestation is a symbol of spiritual cultivation.

So I looked on the internet for “sage baby’ and found it was the name of a company that produces baby blankets, a name given to both boy and girl babies and the name of a musician. Not helpful. I imagined people sitting in a shamanic circle fashioning tiny doll babies out of sage leaves. Then I finally realized she meant “wise” baby.

Ah, a familiar idea. One of western civilizations most important festivals centres on the wise or sage baby, born in a manger. But it has seemed to me for some time that this is better understood as the birth of the Christ in the cave of the heart, in other words, our own soul discovering itself and knowing it is one with the divine creative spirit.

A book is another kind of sage baby and my real son was/is fashioning his own sage baby, in iron with fire.

So there you go, Journal 118. That is surely your highlight, an actual insight.

Isn’t it curious that in our dreams, we can be any age, possibly because we are not actually age-specific.

How’s your sage baby coming on?

I Dream of Etherica: life changing dream #2

People who say that life is short are generally not old. Although I have not yet achieved old old age, that apparently starts at  85, I sometimes feel like Virginia Woolfe’s Orlando who started out as one of Queen Elizabeth’s courtiers and ended up as a Victorian mother. I seem to have had that many lives since I was born, although they have all been uni-sex.

One of my lives was esoteric. I meditated twice a day and joined in group meditation at the full and new moon. Every day, I visualized three lighted triangles in partnership with two others (per triangle) in far reaching places -Texas, England, France, South Africa, Australia- to bring light and peace into the world. I read the works of Alice Bailey, submitted essays to the Arcane School and attended conferences in New York City at the full moon in Taurus . We were concerned about world events and considered them in the light of the truth that Alice Bailey had channeled from the being we called the Tibetan.

Now it is true as time went on that I wondered why I never got published in the school’s monthly magazine, whereas my friend, who could afford to donate much more than I, often did. Clearly, I was a poor judge of my own worth. And as I observed the thin, harried, quarrelsome people running the conferences, I wondered if that was what enlightenment looked like.

This was the me that arrived in Los Angeles one August morning about 20 years ago. In the rose-patterened journal, # 23, in my backpack, I had just been making notes: “Tension of heart energy expressed in terms of giving to others- expenditure of spiritual energy can overcome fatigue…”

But not in this case.

My brother, Rob, was supposed to be there to meet me. I hadn’t seen him for seven years. He was flying in from his home in Paris. My daughter met me instead and told me he had been delayed. I was disappointed, I was hot and I was exhausted.

“Take a nap,” Julia said and her husband seconded the motion.

I had my 5 year-old grandson’s room while he was with his father. I lay down on his little futon. I listened. Good. The Buddhist woman next door, who assaulted our ears with her loud, angry chanting, was silent. I breathed deeply and fell asleep.

I dreamed I was on a plane on the way back to Toronto, but something was wrong. We made an emergency landing in a high desert airfield. I was looking out the window at something like snow that was blowing up into dirty little drifts.

I turned to the man next to me and said, to my surprise, “Do you think we are dead?’

“Yes,” he said.

We were herded into the airport waiting room, the walls of which were alternately plum, fuchsia and orange, each one edged with the colour of the wall next to it. We were at loose ends, milling about in vague expectancy. I was frankly appalled at the sheer tastelessness of what was, by all accounts, heaven.

Above us, an LED sign fired up, telling us that our first class would be at 10 p.m. Great! Just what I longed for! Heaven is an evening class!

It was 10:10 already. All I wanted was a shower and some rest. Resentfully, I followed the crowd up a curving, adobe staircase. (Don’t ask me. The journal says “adobe”.) Resentfully. The others were chattering merrily as if they were on a cruise. I was thinking how summer-camp, how awful. I didn’t fit in here either.

At the top, I heard joyful greetings. Each person was greeting an assigned teacher, whom they instantly recognized because they looked alike. A swarthy Mediterranean man had met his Spanish-looking teacher. A bull of a man with a short neck had met a broad-shouldered teacher who could be his twin. Each pair withdrew to a plum-colored banquette to begin orientation. They were all talking animatedly.

Except me. I was standing all alone. Bereft again.

What karmic debt was this? What failure of positivity? I had clearly not tried hard enough. I wanted to cry. And I was very angry. I wanted to clean myself up. I wanted to lie down. Lay my burden down. Oh damn.

Then someone clattered down the stairs that curved up to the third floor. She was running. She was smiling ear to ear – thin, pale, intense woman dressed in flowing, flapping, filmy prints of plum and fuchsia and orange.

“Hello, hello,” she cried, “So sorry I’m late. I’m Etherica. I’ll be your instructor. You can call me Dea, that is “of God”.

Her draped arms were held out, ready for an embrace. She was beaming, smiling broadly but more than that. Her eyes were wide and bright and intensely focused on my face, as if she were beaming light and love as she bore down on me. LIke one of those TV preachers or self-help gurus.  But she was also tripping on her gown and, unforgivably for me as a teacher, she was late.

My stomach revolted. I thought I would vomit. This was my  angel! This was how I seemed to others! Flighty, incompetent, ungrounded, and showering a blaze of brightness that made them want to wipe it off. She was not genuine. She was not …what…. She was not real. She could not, please God, be what I was meant to be.

GAAA!

I struggled awake, tangled in the wet sheet. I gasped for air in the stifling room. I stood straight up. Oh bad idea. Low blood pressure. I sat back down. Put my head between my knees. I could hear Julia treating a patient in the next room. I was in Los Angeles.  I was still alive. Etherica might be waiting for me, but she’d have to wait a while yet.

When I was able to get to the kitchen and had blurted out the whole sorry story to my son-in-law, he found it vastly amusing. “Sambo’s”, he chortled. “You died and went to a Sambo’s.”

He had to do a footnote for this uninformed Canadian. Sambo’s, he said, was a franchised restaurant that specializes in pancakes. Ah, as in the story of Little Bl….., how non pc.

“You’re really spooked. Don’t want to die?”

“It’s not the dying. That’s bad enough, but is that what I am – desiccated, flakey, ineffective, nervous…”

An unwise question to ask a son-in-law but at that moment the phone rang. He picked it up. I could hear the person at the other end, saying, “This is North West Airlines. Mr Hood’s bags have arrived and will be delivered before five.”

“And Mr Hood?” my son-in-law asked.

“Yes?”

“Mr Hood has arrived as well?”

“Good” said the man and hung up.

Where, I wondered is Rob. How could his bags be here and he not? I cursed Air Canada for showing that movie about Judgement City on my flight down.

My son-in-law took his shaken mother-in-law out, down to the beach apartment to make up a bed for Rob. My urgent need to prevent myself from ending up in Sambo heaven with Etherica had to be put on hold.

When we arrived back home on Washington Way, a van labelled  AirServ stood in front of the house and a delivery man with his phone to his ear was pounding on the door, yelling, “Pick it up. Pick it up. I know you’re in there. Well finally… I’ve got your bags here. Where am I? Right at your door. Your single storey brown house..” He turned to look at us as we came up the walk and Julia threw open the door.

“I think you have our bags there,” my son-in-law said pleasantly.

In the evening, the front room changed from a consulting room back into a living room and we were there watching television when I suddenly got to my feet and opened the door. Rob was getting out of a car across the street.

“Hi there, Sis,” he yelled. “I lost somebody. I’ll be right back”.

Back in the car. he made a U-turn and vanished up Abbot Kinney. We stood shivering in the cool desert air until he came roaring back followed by another car. He stood in the middle of the street speaking rapid French at the people in it. We must meet his friends, hear the story of the lost bags, of being questioned in Amsterdam as suspected terrorists because they were bagless and much, much more.

He had blown back into my life, this force of nature, he who had been stabbed on a train platform in Bombay, spent a week in jail in Turkey and as a camera man had had compartments that no one could ever find.

While Julia and her husband were working we walked on the beach and Rob talked, “And so I said to him, ‘Monsieur Godard, films are not made with trucks. Films are made with people – directors and actors.’ quel triumph…”

We drove north up the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur, where there was no room at the inn but he conned the hostess into letting us have a table. I had been a vegetarian for ten years but I ordered chicken.

“I remember you, Sis,” he said. You used to laugh. You could laugh at anything. You had a root canal that went wrong. You were in agony for weeks and you had people splitting their sides. You’re the one who taught me how to laugh.” He put down his fork. “What happened to you?”

Probably only Rob could have said that to me. Even so, a list of what had happened unfurled  in my mind and I started to cry.

“It’s okay to cry,” he said, taking my hand, “but, when you get around to it, it’s better to laugh.”

And so it was that what Etherica started, Rob finished, and I gave it all up. I gave up esoteric study and triangles of light and group meditation and terrible earnestness. I gave up flowing prints. I gave up a whole bunch of friends who didn’t laugh either. I ate meat.

That night after he had registered us at the Carmel Motor Lodge, he came out and said, “I told her you were my sister. I think she believed me,” and he fell over the steering wheel in gales of laughter.

Consider the Second-Best Bed

Image

Shakespeare famously left his wife, Anne Hathaway, his second best bed. Period. Biographers have explained this. Most of his estate went to his daughter Susanna including the best bed, which would have belonged to the master bedroom, but to quote Anthony Burgess in his book Shakespeare, “She (Anne) had her widow’s dower at common law, and her place in the great house that Susanna and her husband took over, She was content to live with Susanna and she got on well with her son-in-law. The second-best bed was installed in a particular chamber and this chamber was inalienably hers.”

Will was not, after all, expressing his feelings for the older woman he married in a hurry and left asap to pursue a career in London. He wasn’t a miserable tightwad either. Having lost his son Hamnet when the child was 11, and being estranged from his daughter Judith who had married unwisely, he was laying his money on Susanna to produce a male heir. Didn’t work. Susanna had a daughter who married twice but had no children. Judith had three sons but none survived to produce children. Pas de heir!

Whew! Good to get that settled.

We all have experience of the second-best bed – at holiday time, on vacations, in cheap hotels, as children at grandma’s – the deep-valleyed ones, the plastic pull-out couch, the couch itself, the hard-as-cement beds, the mat on the floor. We have stubbed our toes on the metal legs of the pull-out and ruined our backs on the ones with blown springs and woken up aching all over in the hard ones. Our host’s query “How did you sleep” has been met with a bald-faced, not entirely convincing lie.

Or we have found ourselves in the best bed, a comfortable place to be, and discovered in the morning that the host and his wife somehow managed to coil together in a narrow cot. Discovering such a carefully concealed secret is a humbling experience.

These days, we have boxed beds that can be blown up with an all-included foot pump and provide our guests with a waterbed experience, long after the death of waterbeds, which was, as you know, watery and unexpected. Whether these air beds leak with rude noise in the middle of the night, I do not yet know.

My own second-best bed sits in the den, rather awkwardly I must admit, because of feng shui demands. It is narrow, has a metal frame on casters and no headboard. It is prone to surprising trips across the floor. In its defence, it has a good mattress -should be for that price- if somewhat too hard. When I realized that I would be sleeping in it myself, I remedied that by topping it with a feather bed. Odd that we think a night in a semi-comfortable bed won’t hurt a guest, but don’t want to spend one ourselves. Then I decided that the thread count of the sheets had to be upgraded to the best bed’s standards and a requisite number of pillows added. I overdid the duvet and find that it works well in mid-winter but after that, the quilted duvet cover is enough.

And why do I sleep in my second best bed about a third of the time. Neighbours. Thin floors. Don’t ask. There’s only so much I want to know about other people’s personal lives.

I’ve got used to sleeping there and never wake up disoriented, wondering why things are in the wrong place. This is handy since those mandatory trips in the dark would otherwise prove disastrous.

One of the advantages is better brain plasticity. Thanks to Norman Doidge (The Brain That Changes Itself) and others, we now know after years of being told that once brain cells die, it’s game over, that in fact new neural pathways can be established and for example, stroke-damaged limbs can learn to move again. To maintain neural plasticity or brain change, however, we need to be learning constantly. One of my tai chi instructors harps on about moving your kettle to a different burner to avoid rigidity and stagnation. The kettle, in this case, is me and the new burner is the second-best bed.

Twas there “I dreamed the latest dream that ever I did dream”. It wasn’t a police procedural with noir overtones nor was it a lucid dream. (See previous posts.) But it was one of two dreams that have been life-changing. Someday I’ll write about the first one, which I call Etherica and which I had while napping after an exhausting trip to  Los Angeles. The latest one isn’t ready for publication yet, but I can give you the highlights.

It was suffused with love, the kind of love that I felt as a young woman for Blake, my high school sweetheart whom I married, and which I saw reflected in my grandson and his fiancé whose wedding I recently described. This nourishing, accepting and all-encompassing feeling made me not want to wake up, but stayed with me once I did. The dream began with me in my early twenties but looked forward in my dream thoughts many years and actually incorporated someone from my real future. As I pondered over its meaning, I understood the “future” person as I never had before. That was instructive, but more important was a shift that had happened.

Like many people who have had abusive childhoods, I have felt like an orphan, bereft of care, human and divine. As I did the dishes the evening after the dream, I knew that this was over. My heart felt as if it were shattering. Not breaking. I wasn’t sad although I cried. It was opening up. It had to be bigger to accommodate what it would now have to hold – another part of me, repossessed at last.

How can I break the news to Best Bed, the black Hemnes bed from Ikea, so solid, so high, so comfortable, that its second-best Sleep Country cousin has bested it in dreaming?

Lucid Dreaming – sort of

Carlos Castaneda introduced the idea of lucid dreaming to me in one of his Don Juan books many years ago, but I confess I never quite got the knack.

Once or twice, in the middle of a truly scary dream, I have said, “This is just a stupid dream” and woken up, thereby saving myself from certain dream death. As a result, I have never tested that theory that if you die in a dream, you really do die.

As far as I understand it, lucid dreamers can change the course of a dream according to their will. Apparently it is a skill you can teach yourself. As I recall, I actually tried it, using techniques I have long forgotten but must be written down somewhere, for I certainly did not learn them from a guru. I gave it up I because it was just too much effort.

From time to time, I wake up with the feeling that I cannot stand one more completely banal dream, so, perhaps, there is an argument to be made for lucid dreaming after all.

Early this morning I had a sort of lucid dream.This was a morning when I did not have to get up at 6:30 a.m. and it was just after that that I had the dream.

Generically, it was a sub-class of what I call school anxiety dreams. In these dreams, I suddenly realize that I am late for school. Usually, I know exactly what time it is, 8:30 a.m. for example, but I am miles from the school where I teach and have no car. The school anxiety dream takes off from there. Sometimes, I actually manage to get to school, but I don’t have my time table, don’t know where I’m teaching, what class, what subject and if I can guess where, the stairs turn into ramps or they don’t lead to the floor where my room is. Or I realize that I haven’t checked my mail box since school began weeks ago and that my time table, placed there in August, is still there unread. Sometimes, I realize I have to teach something I know nothing about, some book I have never read. This isn’t such a stretch. I am actually qualified, for example, to teach economics, having “successfully taught” it at some time, but never having studied it and certainly, having little understanding of it.

I know other ex-teachers who have this same dream.

This morning’s dream was different in that I had to be at a polling booth since it was election day and I had snagged some sort of paid employment, which I badly needed. It was just after 6:30 dream time and I began looking for a green file folder that had the details of where to go and when. I searched and searched to no avail. I seemed to be a young woman, still living at home. My mother was around somewhere and my room, it must be said, was a mess. Eventually, my sister who also had a job at the same place, produced her paperwork. We were to report to a hotel called Dakota at 7:59.9 a.m. I looked at the clock, it was 7:07. The hotel was in a suburb, many freeway miles away. It was rush hour. Traffic would hold us back. What to do?

I decided I needed to make a phone call. I’m not sure to whom. Probably, I intended to plead for leniency because I really needed the $200 I would earn and so did Sis. I picked up the phone. I studied it carefully.

Now it is a peculiar thing. In my dreams, phones are tricky things. The numbers turn into letters or half of them are missing or my fingers are too big for the little keys. I can remember receiving phone calls in dreams. Once shortly after he died, my father called me in a dream, but all he had to say was that he was fine. But I have never succeeded in making a call. This ran through my mind as I looked down at the dream phone and I said, “I can never use a phone in a dream.”

Then I woke up. Of course I did, that was the whole purpose of this irritating dream and probably always is.