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Road Journal

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Western Lands
Road Trip part 1



Spiral Dance

Three Essays
Towards a

Towards an


RuralGay Artistry


podcast archives

At the prompting of friends, notably writer Michael Gause, I'm writing a road journal. Although setting off with an obvious and unavoidable nod to Kerouac, I have no intention of marking time with a daily diary blog of endless minutiae of life on the road in the early 21st Century. I regard this Journal as an open-ended series of essays, creative nonfiction as some might label it, that I will add to regularly if not always daily, on topics and in styles that seem to appropriate at the time. I make no claims to literary merit. It is instead experimentation, exploration.

I have no idea where this road journey is ultimately going to lead me, or who and what I will encounter along the way. Uncertainty is surely the point. Wherever that leads me as a musician, poet, writer, and visual artist, I look forward to whatever's next.

XX. 15 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

Presenting Life as a Series of Typefaces

The past few days have been absorbed with font development and design for a couple of clients back in the Midwest. I originally designed a Dakota language font the University of Minnesota back in 2000, and revised it in 2002; now I have been asked to make a complete family of fonts for a Dakota language dictionary. I love this sort of project. Not only are they good clients, but the social karma associated with developing materials useful to Native Americans is very dear to my heart. The original Dakota language font which I designed on commission from the Dept. of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota, is still available for free download in completely cross-platform Mac and Windows versions.

I was talking to someone who knows a Hopi man who is teaching Hopi children the traditional ways in a traditional school somewhere on the Rez. Now that there is a written version of the Hopi language, I have heard that this teacher needs a Hopi computer font. I'd love to be part of developing it. I expect there's very little money in it, but it's something I would just to support his efforts as a teacher.

I seem to have a knack for making foreign language fonts, actually. I've also done Rumanian versions of some roman typefaces, for a couple of book design projects. Great fun.

Yesterday I had one of those "What the heck am I doing here?" days, where you wonder just what you've gotten yourself into....

I was driving across the burning desert
when I spotted six jet planes
leaving six white vapour trails
across the bleak terrain
it was the hexagram of the heavens
it was the strings of my guitar
oh Amelia, it was just a false alarm....

–Joni Mitchell, "Amelia" from Hejira

I was driving through rural New Mexico north of Taos in the morning, blasting King Crimson's "Discipline" from my car speakers as I drove towards Taos, not really in a good mood. I had had a bad morning, and was stopping to take photographs from time to time: making art, doing art, pursuing art, is a mood-changer for me, and always gets me to a more balanced place, if not always a perfectly upbeat one.

I had the window down and was noticing how the wind and air pressure was affecting my left eardrum; causing it to get more waxy and tired than the right ear in recent weeks. So that, when I closed the window, the car stereo seemed unbalanced towards the right side. This is also the ear that I have had recurrent wax buildup problems with for over 10 years, in some instances leadinng to wax plugs that hardened and had to be irrigated out, and once or twice led to ear infections. So, I rolled up the window. I love fresh air. i also love my hearing.

By day's end, I had visited several galleries in Taos, dropped off a couple of sampler CDs of my music to coffeehouses looking for gigs, and wandered around the Plaza a fair bit, just absorbing things. Lookng for my place in the weave. The evening light is rich, warm, forgiving: everything becomes golden, sublimely limpid in the late afternoon. People sit on the benches under the trees in the Plaza, resting and talking. Somme have sandwiches there for their dinner. The adobe of the buldings glows in a way unique to this region. People here talk a lot about how unique New Mexico is, about how it's not really like the rest of the USA, how it is its own place, a unique crossroads of cultures, cuisines, temperaments, and attitudes. In this evening light, you can come to believe that.



XIX. 12 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

A beautiful sunset, with the sun sending golden rays through thin pink clouds on the horizon. Very Michelangelo, very Raphael. Opposite, some rainclouds over the mountains, and a brief squall that I drove through before pulling over to take pictures. Then, another perfect full-arc rainbow, fading quickly as the sun was already sinking below the plateau. But for a few minutes, the rain dark grey over the blue mountains, some with veils of silver rainfall; and the clouds right overhead scarlet and pink where the rain was falling from their edge. The photos don't even do it justice, it was so ephemeral yet spectacular.

I spent most of yesterday and today at the computer, scraping and archiving my websites. They were down for a few days, due to server issues. I will be changing over to another server and domain name very soon, probably this week. So, future interruptions to this Road Journal should become rarer. Some settling of contents may occur due to shipping and handling.

I choose to see this changeover as an opportunity to do it even better in future. A chance to make things over again. It didn't escape me that, as I work to make this new life for myself, that all sorts of things from the old life are falling by the wayside–in some cases, literally. You can either dwell on what is lost, or you can focus on the new possibilities that result from the chaff being cleared away. The new land for the unlanded.




XVIII. 11 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

Late Night Thoughts While Listening to a Little Night Music

I don't know at the moment how long I can camp on this land, where I'm staying at the moment. Earlier today, I felt like I had actually arrived here in New Mexico, and I actually liked being here. I stood Info Booth duty again this morning at the Farmer's Market, which is fun for people-watching and networking; didn't get any fruit and vegetables out of it this week, though. Still, I'll do it again, if not every week. Now, tonight, feeling lonely, as I am alone here tonight, I guess; everything's locked up tight and everyone's in bed already.

Some of the people here that I was hoping to make contact with, and spend quality time with, are so focused on their own agendas, that I find myself an afterthought. Why are so many gay men so self-absorbed? Is it because we are so alienated during the first halves of our lives, or longer, that we become self-absorbed to make up for having no sense of self beforehand? I've never been able to understand this. Perhaps because so many of us have had to struggle so hard for every piece of the pie we've been able to get, we still feel a sense of self-centered entitlement. Do I entirely escape this? Certainly not, although I think that I pay attention to it more than the average, mainstream gay man. I do get very tired of waiting on other peoples' agendas, though, when it sometimes feels like they forget all about me, and the things they said we'd do together. I have learned that I hate waiting for the phone to ring so much, that I will many other things to keep from thinking about it; I've had to learn to ignore it.

It can be a roller-coaster at times: one moment, feeling totally at home, then a few hours later, feeling lonely and cut off. This really has nothing to do with anybody, I suppose, but is only how one feels oneself from day to day; don't take it personally.

I am tired of these ants that still live in my camper, that probably came with me from Wisconsin. Even the ant bait poison isn't getting rid of them, or not yet. I like sugar in my tea, yes, but even a washed cup draws them out, and I look over at a black swarm later. Yes, I know they're just doing what ants do; yet I find myself feeling less than saintly towards them just now.

Last night, at sunset, sudden gusts of high wind. I felt the camper rock and sway alarmingly. I had to go out and tie things down; two of the tent stakes were flapping, although the tent was still secure and tied down. I'm using it for a storage locker at the moment, so that I can have space to sit and move around in the camper.

A couple of days ago, helping Farmer Paul harvest the microgreens (tiny sprouts) he provides to some of the local restaurants, we were serenaded all day by a canyon wren in the tree outside. That distinctive falling-note call is memorable and unique. I haven't heard it since, though, so maybe it was just passing through.

It doesn't take much contact at all to make me feel needed, appreciated, loved. I don't need much stroking. I'm usually pretty easy-going and self-sufficient. A single word can be enough, all day. The flip side of the coin, of course: when it's not there, one can miss it. You miss it when you miss it, and next day you start all over again. That's part of the Way of the Spiritual Warrior: every day is a chance to do it all over again, and get it right this time. The past doesn't exist; every day is a new day. And always leave your campsite cleaner than when you found it.

I don't know how long I can stay here. I may have to look for another Situation eventually. I will also have to deal eventually with the stuff still in the storage locker in the Twin Cities, and move it to other storage–somewhere. I also still need to drive over to California for awhile, stay with friends there, and explore the possibilities there for marketing my fine art, just as I am currently doing in New Mexico.

Last night, in the cold half-hour before dawn, did some time-lapse photography of the night sky: Orion and the Pleiades, Sirius, and over to the east, rising over the mountains, a sickle moon and a lone, bright planet (Jupiter or Saturn, I think). A celebration of the dawn and the waning moon. Then the sky began to blue, and fade and grow pale as the sun approached.

The stars here on the plateau are every night bright and clear, as long as it's not cloudy. The galaxy heart we orbit, seen edge on, a river of light. The turning wheel of the circumpolar constellations. This time of year, every evening for an hour or two before it sets, my zodiacal birth-sign, Capricornus, hangs low in the western sky. That one golden star on his arched back, the upper left of the triangular asterism that marks out this watery constellation.

This star intrigues me: is it my star? I look in the night sky atlas for enlightenment, and find its Greek letter designation: Delta Capricornus. Also known as Deneb Algedi, "tail of the goat," a hot A-type star. Little more. There are too many stars to name them all, and hubris to try.

I wrote, years ago, in a poem called epiphany, the lines:

Coyote wants to make love to the whole sky;
but he's too small....

It feels just that way out here at night.

A few nights ago, I heard coyotes howl twice in the night. Their voices more high-pitched and yippy than a wolf or dog's. Passing through. No moon at the time–so much for stereotypes–but a signal that the night is alive with voices and visions.

Tonight, watching the stars again, a coyote yip-howls not too far off; then another answers. Their wavering howls and yips are sequenced, modulated, like a rich, complex language: they are talking to each other across the plateau. A dialogue of voices in the night, under the Great Sky River, Sirius just rising.

A Coyote Codex

We move in the blessed darkness and silence. Muted colors and hard wind.
Here's a cliff-edge: precipice and salvation. Crimson grit, salt, and fierce clover.
Rover is a way to be: not naming, Whole appellations, halved skulls.
Black on black: these shades, this contrasted moonlight. Sky bright sorrows.
We had a home once: now, everywhere. We move on. We sing. We are. We are.

It is the Warrior's way to know that the dark places, the harsh realms, exist, and to neither dwell on them nor to deny them. Too many lightseekers want to deny that there is any darkness in themselves (or the world) at all; they reject their own Shadows. And, therefore, their Shadows rule them: and they can neither advance on the Way, nor escape those Shadow-projected forces that appear in our lives as destiny or fate: things that block us, and that we only believe to come from outside our Selves. The Warrior never forgets that the Sword of the Way has two edges, and can cut both ways; living consciously, with conscious intention to walk the Warrior's path, means never forgetting that there is always the possibility that we can cut ourselves on our own swords, and so we must always be aware of where our edges are.

Living consciously also means grappling with life as an adult, rather than as a spiritual or emotional infant. It means having to grow up and act responsibly in all things; which can seem a hard, daunting path to walk. It does allow for grace and beauty and joy and even fun; and it also means not being able to slough off critical events as things that other people–the grownups over there, so we don't have to be grownups over here–will take care of for us. Spiritual infantilism is all-too-common in the New Age; and all-too-useless. You have to grow up before you can learn to walk these paths. If not us, then who? If not now, then when?

Well, don't be alarmed. Perhaps none of this really means anything. Perhaps it's all my own illusions. Don't be afraid of phantoms. Don't take it too seriously.

"I have nothing to say and I am saying it." –John Cage

XVII. 7 September 2004, in the desert north of Taos, New Mexico

Why did I bring what I did bring? I brought along books and music, things to read and the tools to make art, even some materials for art-making that have gone un-looked-at since I began to travel. Four boxes of books that I looked over for the first time today. Four briefcases full of art, and the materials for making more.

And things to listen to, and things to watch on DVD. Two of these are words-and-music CDs, one of them a radio play of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's masterful graphic novel, Signal to Noise, and the other a recording of Paul Bowles reading texts from his works with sound design by Bill Laswell, Baptism of Solitude. All of these are artists I highly esteem; all these works have had deep meaning for me over the years. Signal to Noise and Baptism of Solitude are both listening experiences about the desert and death. The death of the self, and the death into sommething more absolute than the self. The silence of the desert away from the cities and oases. The desert of the end-times, where there is no big apocalypse, only an endless succession of small, personal ones. The desert where reason sleeps, and anything can happen, unmonitored and instinctive. There is not a single stone here that one can imagine as being any different.

Suddenly the wind kicks up from the West, blowing things around. Curtains I really need to replace with something better. The absurdity of full-scale tennis courts up here on the plateau, on the neighbor's land, where there are also stables for horses who in truth could only just make the climb; It all seems vain. Calling in circles overhead, the pair of ravens that nest near here. A flicker of brilliant blue skates across the sage between trees: a male bluebird, from another nesting pair that lives here.

I wander around shirtless today, although I wear a hat. It is good to feel the sun hot on back and shoulders. I pour water into the camper's holding tank. I refill water bottles, and drink as a I walk across the plateau, back and forth between faucet and camper. I need to put gas in the truck today; there's enough gas to make it down the hill. I need to do laundry soon, too. In the wind, dust spatters against the screens. I'm still getting accustomed to life at altitude; today I feel tired and short of breath, and a little nauseous. It doesn't matter; my only plans today are small, little things. Taking a pause between chores, I sit and write some more.

Why do we ever bring what we bring with us? Is it habit, or some deeper intuition about future need or desire? (I follow an arrow of desire that moves as the wind moves.) Why do we bring anything to this place that has Nothing? Where nothing is all you need?

Filled up the truckbed with recycling and drove into Taos with Paul to dump it at the recycling center: huges open-air bins of glass, tin, aluminum cans sparking in the sun, dumpsters for cardboard and newspapers. Over in the corner, cubes of crushed cans bright and hard in the light. There's also a free give-away hut, for clothes, and other small donations. We dug through it for awhile, found some work clothes for Paul, maybe something for me, a piece of loose fabric or two I can make something out of, some drag for Faerie friends.


XVI. 7 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

When you're lonely, the natural impulse is to reach out for companionship. But sometimes you should not, as it can be a distraction and a drug. Sometimes you need to stay by yourself, lost and suffering in the desert, because it is necessary for your spiritual evolution. Try to resist those urges. Stay with the sun and the moon. Sometimes it's best to be alone.

As if we were ever alone! As if there were never a Spirit watching over us. As if we could always know everything there is to know.

One day, Nasrudin was sitting drinking tea with a group of seekers. One of them (who believed he knew everything) stood up and said, "My master taught me that humanity can never evolve as it must until the person who has not been wronged is as indignant about a wrong as the one who has been."

The group gasped with admiration at what they thought to be the profundity of this statement. Then Nasrudin said, "My master taught me that no one should become angry about anything until he is sure that what he believes to be a wrong is one–and not a blessing in disguise!"

(from Andrew Harvey & Eryk Hanut, The Perfume of the Desert)

One night, some years ago, there came to me a vision of the Void, in which everything I believed and everything I knew was stripped away and shattered. A scream of lament came out of me several times that night, as I wandered by myself in a winter landscape without comfort. The stars were empty of meaning, the practices I had learned, the rituals and symbols and identities and Powers were null, and the place I found myself felt alone and desolate and I was unable to connect to any sense of human feeling or any other person. (This was the Dark Night of the Senses.)

I tested that Spirit that moves in all things, I tested the Powers That Be. I dared them to annihilate me, and They did–but not this body. There were many times I wanted to die, because I could not endure another moment of suffering. I came close to dying more than once; I put myself in situations where I might have died, then turned it over to Spirit to do with me what Thou wilt; and I did not die. I often felt abandoned, and betrayed, and exhausted, and already dead. (This was the death of the false self, so that the true Self can be unveiled.)

The worst of it is when you feel totally abandoned and alone, cut off from everything and everyone, weak and powerless to even reach out for help, and left to your own inadequate efforts which seem always doomed to failure. It is the worst of despair, the point at which you stop caring whether you live or die–both are equally pointless.

I endured this state of being continuously, day and night, for four years, three months, and fourteen days, until a second vision of the Void arrived. This next vision was a balm, an anodyne, a soothing, a place of resting in the Nothingness, with nothing to do, no one to impress, no agenda and no plans to complete. It was a place of pure pausing, of suspension in the waters of that dark ocean that has no boundary and no name.

While the second vision of the Void signaled the end of the first process, I still have dark nights and days, black hours that can only be endured. I don't know that there is a "cure" for this; once that door is opened, it stays opened. Yet even when I'm in a dark day, I know now it will pass, if I can just endure, if I can just get through the night. It passes.

Now I find myself in an actual desert in the Southwest, with plans and hopes again, and dreams. And I wonder how far I have actually come. I feel shriven of many of the Things I had obtained. I feel reduced to essentials, which even now could be reduced further. I still carry much baggage with me. I know better than to ask that Spirit take it all away, because what you pray for, you get, if rarely in the way that you expect. I have received no end of blessings in disguise during this process, even if I have not always welcomed them in the moment. I continue to have doubts and expectations, signs that I am still learning to trust and surrender, and have faith.

The Divine has many masks, many veils. We cannot know them all. Cataloguing them misses the point. None of what we think we know is more than a veil, an illusion, a layer of mirror between us and what is Real.

In a house of flies and ants and peeling skin, where I scratch naked and alone,
You come with breezes to steal my sweat, with sun's fire to burn me in,
With cold nights to freeze me (and stars overhead to get beautifully lost in,
Till they fall), with endless things to do and with nothing to do,
And with signs that I may be nearing You at last.
Come then.

What have I ever lost by dying?

XV. 6 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

Last night, I cooked an Indian dinner feast for friends, in celebration of making it here. I had brought some Indian ingredients with me from Minneapolis, and this seemed like a good time to cook it up. Then we sat in the living room and talked again till late.

I showed them my artwork sample books, and they really loved them. I was very encouraged that I have made the right decision to come here. My art was not being received at all well in Minnesota, albeit some folks there do get it. I get compliments when I show it, often enough, but this was a practical boost, a conversation about practical marketing of my art, and so forth. It was a genuinely good thing for me to hear, at this point.

The light here on the Taos plateau is amazing. Clear and brilliant, and towards sunset, that amber light strikes on people's faces and gives them a glow. Everyone looks good in this light; it is perfect for portraiture. The clouds turn purple and orange against the indigo of the evening sky; it's like a Maxfield Parrish painting every evening.

Towards evening, now, after a long day meeting people and being upbeat and networking, I feel the need to unwind and just be quiet for the rest of the night. Maybe write some. I got up early this morning, before high heat settled in, and set up the canvas tent and moved my surplus gear into it; I'm sleeping in the Scamp, so the tent is like a closet for my other gear. Makes me some more room in the camper to stretch, and I will set up a porch awning between them later, and put the camp chair and table there; make myself an outdoor office room for inspiration and art-making. Meanwhile, the past two nights it has been as cold as 40 degrees F, so I bundled under several layers of wool blanket to stay warm. Hot tea and warm blankets and making art .... this is the life!


XV. 5 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

A Mountain Hermitage Codex

Unprayerful aftermath of unritua: unsolemn children run through sunflowers.
Prayer flags whip the wind: slow ivy of incarnation.
Hard slate, indigo, steel, rust: sunset mesas under clouds.
This fading light, this eagle's perch: harbor's dusk for lightnings.
In every junction, a handprint, a stone, charred trees, bluebirds asleep.

The Book of the Last Night

Dusk blues every canyon, gorge, mesa: translucent shades of silence.
Ivory candelabras on rust placemats: lightning forks and knives.
Silver edges curl around an escarpment of birds. Rain spatter, tikkititik, surge.
Cross-legged crouched on patio bench, the child huddles white-eyed in shadow.
Western indigoes, the last remnants of storm: night settles in to wakefulness.

A day and a half of hard cold rain. Wind so strong the camper vibrates. Huddling inside, unplugged because of lightning, windows closed, curled up in the blankets, watching the rain fall in sheets. The basalt-weathered red sand soil turns to instant mud, coats your footwear and cakes there till it dries, till you're wearing moonboots. The mica, the feldspar, the quartz, all microcrystalline in this weathered dirt, electrostatically attractive to rainwater ions, soaked and caked in seconds. Beautiful drama of cloud and mountain peak. I switch the camera to black and white in this detailed monochrome daylight, takes dozens of pictures tracking clouds moving across valley and peak, the occasional spot of sun and blue sky above, the lowness of the clouds at altitude.

Convivial dinner with new friends: hearty chicken potato herb soup, good food for a wet cold day. Tomatoes and basil from the greenhouse. Peach cobbler from this morning's farmer's market. I sat for two hours in the market info booth, selling baskets, aprons, t-shirts, and am rewarded with enough fresh fruits and vegetables to fill my table all week. The small peaches, starting to get soft, that I got, we made into whole wheat cobbler, with brown and cinnamon crust. Delicious teas. Laughter.

And after the storms, just as we sit down to dinner, we rush outside again: a perfect half-circle rainbow, intensely colored, we can even see the violet arc, and beside two partial arcs to either side of a double rainbow. Gab boots and cameras, shoot intensely, sit back down to salad, soup, and tea. A blessing on the feast of abundance that was this day.



XIV. 3 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

The Book of Tariqah

Calligraphy of the desert: snake, shadow, stone. Ideogram and absolution.
Nightwatch, nighthawk: palace of moths seeking the beloved.
Moon's wheeling traces, calving the trail into being.
Naked walker across shoals of sage. Boot and destiny, created in glory.
Land glowing: daylight, moonlight, starlight, soul's light. Triple blessing of the fires.

You Know You Might Be in New Mexico When:

• McDonald's lists on their 99 cent value menu, Green Chile Double Cheeseburger. (And they're pretty good, too.)

• Most of the people have dark hair and dark skin. Blue-eyed blondes are a definite minority, and for the most part they look perpetually sunburned and dried out. (I am reminded of the year I spent in Indonesia, where people of European ancestry stick out noticeably in the sea of Malay features and skin tones.)

• Dust. Ubiquitous dust. It gets everywhere, and into everything. Washing your truck is pointless (and waste of water) as it will just be dusty again by the time you get home. (For me, my dust allergy is in the foreground; all the usual plants I am allergic to don't grow here; but dust, endless dust.)

• The endless sky. The Big Sky, as they call it up in Montana and Wyoming. We're around 7000 above sea level here, which means the air is cleaner and less hazy than on the Great Plains or in the Midwest: you can see 70 or 90 miles on a clear day. The curvature of the Earth is such that, at sea level, the horizon is around 18 miles away from you. But when you're up here on a plateau, or a rdigeline, or a peak, you have the advantage of elevation, and thus, an incresingly wide-ranging view. Hence, the Big Sky.

• The other part of this, which as a photographer I immensely enjoy, is that you can see the weather for hours before it gets to you. You can see the rain falling over the peaks to the west, where the air is so dry that only some of the rain actually touches the ground. You can almost reach up and touch the clouds, they seem so close during a thunderstorm. Storms are quick and hard, then move on, and it's dry again soon. I remember reading an essay once that talked about how, because rain is so precious and beautiful here, that smart people know to not come in out of the rain. It's like that, indeed.

Last night I lit the camper's propane stove for the first time, and made lemon stir fry chicken. Then I made a cup of tea, and later, after helping Camphor with some planting, a bedtime cup of chamomile. The fridge is gradually getting colder. Chocolate that had liquefied in the day's heat gradually coalesces and becomes the cousin of mafic mineral basalts: dark and hard. I dust off the countertops again, after a day of wind and sun.

I am re-reading, now that I am here, Andrew Harvey's anthology of Sufi writings and sayings, The Perfume of the Desert. Harvey's works are essential readings for any modern mystic, and especially any gay mystic. He tends to speak in absolutes, which I know for some post-modern irony-laden urban seekers can seem off-putting and un-hip, but which in the final analysis is necessary: because this is the way of Passion, and Eros (the bird forever singing in the sunlight olive tree!) and commitment to being burned and consumed in the flame of Love.

It is a necessary burning. The fires of the Beloved are close to the surface here, in the memories of rivers and lava flows and cinder cones and malpais floodplains, all prophets of the nonlinear equations of dynamic fluid flow. (You think there is no mysticism in mathematics? The mind of the Creator encompasses all we can imagine, and all we cannot.) It is the purity of the desert, in which all things inessential are stripped away, leaving only the naked skeleton of the soul's core desires (the arrow of desire) and belief. I scratch myself somehow on every surface, not knowing till later when the scabs crust over and itch. These are mortal wounds that do not kill, like the rose-smelling blood of the stigmata or the perfume of the desert itself: the smell of the Void, of Nothingness, the purest and greatest perfume of all, for it is the absolute essence (essential oil) of Nothing.

XIII. 2 September 2004, Taos, New Mexico

The Book of the Plateau

A shopping list for flies: compost, these pungent leaves, a crisp residence.
Three ravens circling the land: calls from ancient times, shield of the cordillera.
Turbulent aftermath of anxiety, the desperate hours: burning times, a lotus of fire.
Drink the green rivers between old trees. Stand in the shades. Hike these glistening trails.
Inn your every dwelling, a ghost of what we carry behind us: shadow, sorrow, hope.

A poem in a form which I have been working in for some years now, that as far as I know I invented, and which seems natural to me. Jessica Schneider coined the name Durku for the form, a combination of my surname with "haiku." It's an affectionate, humorous, evocative name for the form, which I am not entirely comfortable with for the reason that my goal as a poet in this form is to become egoless, and let each image and moment evoke its own existence, without the interpretative or disruptive presence of the writer's ego. My goals as a writer are generally transpersonal rather than confessional, transcendent rather than self-advertising, eternal and timeless even while recording the tiniest details of vision. The paradox, of course, is that I can never totally reach that goal, even while I seek to create a poetry that is less time-bound, more global, less narrative, more imagistic. Yes, the "I" has to be there as an interface and filter; "I" can't get around it; but there is much more to ourselves and our beings than the "I" alone. (Also paradoxically, the form is a reflection of my mind, my idiosyncratic ways of thinking. Like John Cage writing mesostics, I don't know that anyone else could do it this way.)

The form is fractal, in that it is self-similar on different scales. Each line of each five-line form is haiku-like; each five-line form can be grouped into larger sections of four to six staves; each larger poem consisting of five-line forms can be seen as part of an overall viewpoint, a Book if you will. You can zoom in and zoom out and the tone, effects, and imagery remain similar on each scale. When the sub-sections of a larger set also carry their own subtitles, the subtitles may also add up to a poem. The beauty of fractals is also in finding higher levels of order and pattern within seemingly random chaos; in these poems, the images and phrases, often seemingly abrupt and disjointed, combine to form a flow and meaning, a rhythm and music, a cinema of Presence, a pattern laced together in the reader's mind.

As far as I know, this is the first genuinely fractal poetic form.

XII. 2 September 2004, Taos area, New Mexico

They Say That the Harder the Journey, the Greater the Reward at Journey's End

Ravens. Everywhere I have camped so far in New Mexico, there has been a raven living nearby. This morning, up here on the plateau above Arroyo Hondo, where I parked and leveled the camper last evening, just before dark, the first sound I heard this morning was a raven. When I got out of the camper, it flew off, but it continues to circle the plateau, croaking as it flies. Are ravens territorial? I need to learn more about ravens.

I want to give myself permission to take a day off, now that I have arrived in Taos and set up a semi-permanent camp, for now. My mind still spins in that continuous mode of Things To Do; and there are things to do: bills to pay remotely, people to contact, this New Life to get started on creating. And I'm so very tired. The past few months have exhausted me; between the moving, packing, and traveling, I feel drained and weak. I called Dad last night to tell him I was finally here, and the situation, and to thank him; afterwards, some deep sobs tore out of me across the desert night as I walked back to the camper, leftovers from that abyssal pit of despair I felt (was it only two days ago?) when the wheel fell of the camper. Yes, that's resolved, for now, and it was the worst I've had in ages. Well, the worst happened, and it's over and doesn't need to happen anymore. I chose later that night, in the hotel room in Santa Fe, and choose now, to go for what I want instead of continuing to fend off what I don't want; I'm not someone who can deny or suppress the dark times, I give them their due, without dwelling on them overmuch. I just don't repress them into the Shadow. I know that scares some light-seekers who would rather see only the light times. (I also know that my more shamanic artwork scares some viewers, for similar reasons.)

This plateau is a hundred or two feet above Taos, and to the north. It is ringed by ancient cinder cones, some tree-covered, some bare. Under a few inches of weathered red soil, you find solid basalt; it's all volcanic crust here, in the windwards of the Sangre de Cristo peaks. Amidst the rocks and dust and scrub grass and juniper, there are two or three small species of cactus, so be careful where you walk. To the west, the Taos plateau lies below, a wide plain ripped open by the gorge of the Rio Grande river. Off to the west off town, Highway 64 crosses the 600-foot gorge on a vertiginous spider-span of steel and asphalt, a bridge that seems too thin to be substantial over the abyss. Below, the thread of river below the cliffs reflects the color of the sky.

Downstream, driving up Highway 68, the wider canyon of the Rio Grande that I passed through, driving north from Santa Fe, there are verdant fields, well-watered and green: the only topsoil in the region lives there, by the banks and miniature floodplain of the river. People dwell there; the rich lives of alluvial ecosystems emulate wetter climates there.

The land I am parked on belongs to Camphor, who I first met at Zuni Shaman's Gathering last year, and to whom I am very grateful. He has a greenhouse up here, and grows tomatoes and other plants for some of his living. This is a beautiful piece of land with a terrific view, and a fairly steep driveway. I can use this spot as a base for some time, as I seek to build an artist's life in New Mexico. I even have electrical hookup for the camper, and water when I need it.

When I finally got to Taos yesterday, the land up in Taos Canyon that I was planning to stay on was not suitable as originally promised and hoped for: erosion and time had left nothing but driveway and ditches, and no room for the camper anywhere. Yet one more obstacle, in an endless chain of obstacles.

This whole process, this whole adventure, has been the hardest thing I've ever done. There have been times when it has felt like the obstacles being thrown in my way were insurmountable. I have felt worn down to nothing more than once, and way past being able to cope. Monday last, when the wheel fell off the camper, I sat there in the desert highway night, with the traffic whipping by at top speed, and screamed my frustration, and wailed my despair. I'd driven all this way, and for what: the sufferings of Job. It was the darkest moment, the end of everything, the place of despair, of wanting to give up and go back home; it was also the Ritual That Demolishes All Rituals, sweeping away plans and self-images and expectations in its wake. More than one person has told me, along the way, that in every journey that is so hard, so taxing, so difficult, that it's worth it, and something good always comes from it. I want to believe that, and I feel so beaten down at this point, that it's hard to believe.

For the past two days, I have been watching my language like a hawk, to phrase things as definite positive outcomes, rather than as rejections of hardships; this is a new habit I have to develop. The speed of thought turning into manifestation is accelerated here. The worst thing that I imagined happening to the camper, in my fearful times, was a wheel falling off in traffic: and that is what happened. Well, it could have been worse. There was some fiberglass scraped off the camper's fairing by the rear fender, but the other wheel and the axle are okay, and the RV repair place in Santa Fed put new bearings in and regreased both wheels; the camper does in fact ride smoother than it did before. I don't want to move for awhile, though. I want to drive the truck without having to pull the camper for awhile, now.

I haven't a clue what happens next. I have leads to pursue, of course. I need to shop my art around to galleries and agents here in Taos, in Santa Fe, in Albuquerque, in Los Angeles, and maybe a place or two in Arizona. I also need some time to recover my strength, after the past few days. So, I am doing my best to take a day off. My mind still spins with Things To Do, but I am doing my best to acknowledge those Things while putting them off till tomorrow. I need to meditate: not on anything: just meditate, practice the discipline of emptying the mind.


XI. 1 September 2004, Santa Fe, New Mexico

I have spent two extra days here in Santa Fe, mostly pleasantly, though not at first by choice. On the drive up on Monday, a wheel fell off my camper trailer on Highway 25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, near the Santa Domingo Pueblo exit, about an hour before sunset. The day had begun with me breaking a window on the camper by backing into a tree on the way out of ZMS. I did some shouting and swearing, but later a roadrunner ran across the road in front of me.

Not a good day. Much gnashing and wailing. Sounds coming out of me like a desperate infant. Feeling like the sorrows of Job. Way more than I could deal with. Had to leave it by the highwayside and do a hotel for the night.

But the next day, thanks to Al's RV Repair of Santa Fe, got the spare on, drove it into their shop, they looked it over, did some simple repairs, and I'm on the road again.

Am I supposed to be in Santa Fe instead of Taos? A couple of things seem to point in that direction. Well, I need to camp safely for a few weeks, and the plans made previously allow me to do that in Taod easier than in Santa Fe; but that's just down the road, an easy drive.

Not knowing what's going to happen next. Hard to make plans. Some anxiety about actually being here, and now actually having to make it work. Driving is more fun than arriving, I guess. Well, stay tuned.

X. 29 August 2004, Zuni Mountain Sanctuary, New Mexico

The only TV series on DVD that I own, and the only one that I think worth owning at the moment, is the first season of MilleniuM. I always thought this to be one of the best things that was ever on TV, although in retrospect it's surprising it ever got on. Of course I identified with the lead character, Frank Black (played by Lance Henrikson), a profiler who has the ability to see what the killer sees. No surprise there. I've seen into some darknesses myself, and I see visions, too.

The past couple of nights I've sat in bed watching episodes before going to sleep, then going out to see the full moon before bed. Last night and tonight, coyotes howled in the distance, high-pitched yips like wolf pups across the open plain here between the mesas. The stars are not so bright when drowned in the full moon's light. But you can still see the constellations.

The asterism for my birth zodiac constellation, Capricorn, is a polygon figure almost like a lopsided smile, or a bent double-triangle. You can see it clearly over there in the southeast sky this time of year.

Last night, when I felt at my worst, that familiar despair, a translucent cloud covered part of the sky near Capricorn. Suddenly, the star to the upper left in the asterism started to glow more brightly, and with golden light; I distinctly saw it as the glowing eye of the Dragon, and the open jaw and head and neck became clear and definite, sketched in pixelated sparkles. I felt a chill pass over me, and then a thrill of pure fierceness. A moment later, the Dragon image faded with the cloud's passing, but even tonight that same star glows golden.

Is this a sign? An omen? Maybe. Take heart, have courage. I am neither docile nor tamed. I am fierce and loyal to my dreams. I will not be deterred. I will succeed, despite not knowing how as yet, or what will happen to get me there. Is this faith? I guess it is. Inn a couple of days I leave here for Taos, without a clue what's going to happen next, and almost completely out of money. I will get there, but after that, I will have to follow my intuition, and see where I am led.

IX. From my journal, last March, after a dream

a tree within,
the parallel
reservoirs of blue water in red stone,
reflecting cloudless twilight.

a mountain of bees tornado whirling
scrape and swirl of redded knives,
machetes of love and self-anointing.

somewhere inside you, an olive grows;
blackbirds court and crouch, epaulets fluffed,
the unsmiling waiter of prisms displays.

I have no anymore mouth. these birds,
embedded and acorned under glass, steam on,
puffs of smoke escaping an opened stove's door.

I don't know where this corridor leads.
You brought the bandages and iodine and lace.
Somehow, what we planted here, despite, prospers.

And another:

lying in bed,
ear pressed against outflung arm,
hearing my own heartbeat
throb liquidly through artery and pump,

I return to my scriptures:
bass thrum of hummingbird and bumblebee.

VIII. 28 August 2004, Zuni Mountain Sanctuary, New Mexico

Yesterday, dropped Sage at the airport in Albuquerque. Hard to say goodbye, not knowing how it might be till we saw each other again. Then, after doing email, called Wisconsin, only to hear from Dad that even more crap is trying to get my attention back home. It feels like black tendrils of old evil trying to pull me back in, pull me down, tie me up, kill me. The fallout from the car crash last mid-May when my old truck was totaled (and which led to Dad helping me buy the new truck) seems endless; every time I turn around, more crap. The County Clerk's office in Monroe County, where the crash happened, just east of Tomah, had the audacity to call themselves "user-friendly" on the phone; well, they seem more user-hostile than anything else.

There were long difficult talks on the cell phone, and lots of tears. Not a good way to end the day. I couldn't stand to be around people afterwards, so made some dinner at the Common House, then went back to the camper and watched some episodes of MilleniuM on DVD.

Today I feel stuck in limbo, not in pain but not knowing what to do. Crap I have to deal with on Monday, when I leave ZMS to go to Taos. Spent some time making repairs to the camper; the door hinges needed replacing. Airing out clothes, doing little domestic tasks. Planning to do more later today, after the high heat of the day cools off some. Endless dust in this high desert. Sometimes the wind stirs, sometimes it's still for hours at a time.

I have no money, and I have no idea what to do next. I'm going to go to Taos only because I don't know what else to do at this point. I guess I need to find a job, something, anything.

I walk out to the old quarry area, where there are many spirits and some remnants of the Old Ones who lived here once. Rocks that have grinding holes in them, places where grains may have been ground into meal.

Last year, my first visit to ZMS, I felt called by the land to take curved dead branches from the piles of deadwood lying around, wherever a tree died and crumbled, and to make circles out of them. The photos I took of the circles last year became some of my most popular artwork over the past year. Dead things don't decay into humus here, the way they do in the northwoods; here, they dry out and become skeletal, brittle, and gray. Today, taking a walk out there, re-photographing some of the circles I had made last year, I made one or two new circles in other spots, the first time I had really felt called to do that this year. This year's Shaman's Gathering has been somewhat frustrating; it's clear to me that I can't live permanently at ZMS, as there are some full-time residents I have a hard time with; worse, there remains a mental atmosphere of lack (rather than abundance) which mirrors my old patterns so closely that I can't partake of it lest I get sucked back in. It's cruel and hard to be real. Sometimes all you can do is have faith and trust, and hope, and pray. Yesterday I felt little trust or faith, a blow to my self as well as my plans. Today I feel somewhere in limbo, either numb, or just waiting. It's a day to make art. Artwork, music poetry: these things I retain my faith in, my trust in my own abilities as a Maker.

A poem from the vision quest experience at Kawashaway in early August:

walking in the wet at dawn
down overgrown tunnels of disused road
from the dripping leaves at trailside
the grunt and growl
of moose or black bear;
the grey light
startlement of ripe red raspberries
plucked fresh and tasting of the greening

she could kill you there
the mother of dew
and the rain of walking

your sloshing boots full of wetdewrain
a narrow lane's escape
and a trail of lightning

she could, and you would welcome it
thunderstorm darkness of her breast
clatter of hooves or claw's embrace
and you would welcome her
decisiveness and ending

but precisely because
you're tired and sore and scared
and want it to end
it won't

and she lumbers away
merging with the yellowing scrub aspen
the salamander-seal and blue ivy
club moss and ferned gully
melting into her shadows
that flick of tree-bark shorn
glint of red berry
in her eye's corner
and shade
under the closing cedar

VII. 27 August 2004, Albuquerque, New Mexico

I just dropped off Sage at the ABQ Sunport (what they call the airport here), and am sitting at the Flying Star restaurant and coffee shop on Central Ave., in Albuquerque; E!ureka and White Ash and I ate here last year, on the drive home from Zuni. They have free WIFI (wireless internet access) here, so I'm taking a half-hour to eat, do email, and update this Journal. There will be more to add here later, in a few days, when I am on the road again, from Zuni up to Taos.

Random notes and poetic thoughts from my journal of the past several days at Zuni Shaman's Gathering:

A tornadic dust devil spirals, out across the plain. Memories of my early teens, when I first was followed by air elementals. Most of my friends had imaginary friends; I had an air elemental.

Mesa of light, guarded to the east by giants, the mist vanishing like a wave into the plain, a tilted table coated with moss.

Red soil, green trees: what is here that is not volcanic?

Glimpses of sun between thick, low, cold, grey clouds: sudden illumination of the book, the hand, the written. (The first couple of days it was cold and overcast, although not much rain. The past three days sunny and dry and windy and clear.)

Spark of illumination against a steel-blue background. Rivers curve into leaves, into the lung's arteries, the ridgeline of the mountains in sunset.

My roving home a colony for ants, the smell of insect corpses only gradually fading: see, black foragers ride my legs even now.

I cannot take a picture of the unseen, but I can make a picture of what I have seen that others have not seen, so that they can also see it.

Silence into sound into silence: the Hindu depiction of word and world.

Rejection of the depiction of the head not connected to the heart: both in operation together make a whole person.

Low voltage lightnings skip back enough sparks for me to summon fire, make a candle weep.

The way deadwood branches fall onto the circles of needled, mossy green under the boughs of green trees in the desert: runic ideograms, white as death on soil red as blood.

No topsoil here, just cacti, scrub grass, pinon pine, juniper, sagebrush, scattered wildflowers. Fields of sunflowers by the roadside turn to the south, where the rains and the light come from.

Microbial duration of the breath of life.

I become dominated by clouds: I see only skies.

A pile of dry wood calls out to be encircled.

circle of silver spirit beings
enscribing, watching over, healing
sweatlodge and bonfire and fire-kissed arms
halfmoon surfking clouds

perfect circle of starlight
opening directyt above
enshrouded by silver cloud

A night or two ago, awakened out of sleep by what sounded like someone trying to break into the camper; pulling on the rubber bungee cords I use to keep the door closed, yanking. Eventually, I realized it was a dog or coyote trying to chew on and pull of the bungee on the outside of the door. I scared it off with noise and flashlight, and never did see exactly what it was.

But then I got out, and Orion and the Pleiades had risen in the eastern sky; sheer pre-winter beauty above the desolate trees. That tree over aways where a raven croaks at us every morning and evening. So I spent an hour taking time exposures of the night sky. And a new technique: painting the foreground objects, buildings and trees, with my little handheld laser: red flickers and splashes and spots of light on the image. A wonderful beauty to it.

The cold high desert night a balm for hot dusty dies filled with biting flies.

VI. 22 August 2004, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Spent the day driving again, another long day of it. Almost to Zuni, will get there tomorrow sometime. Hard driving, exhausting and stressful, pulling the camper through the Denver metro and down past Colorado Springs, with all its military-industrial complex poisons. Even more stressful tugging the camper up hills, straining the truck's four-cylinder engine to haul all that weight. Stressful trying to find this hotel inn the dark of the Santa Fe night, after that last huge long incline on Highway 25, which seemed endless and even more of a challenge to the truck than Raton Pass.

Driving through Colorado all morning. I am not impressed with Monument, CO, where we stopped for gas, and had trouble finding edible food. Finally, mid-afternoon today, leaving Colorado and entering New Mexico, cresting Raton Pass, and pulling down to Raton itself, the change in the feel of the land is instantaneous. The land feels so alive here. It seems to glow with creative force, the power that is under life, that supports life and its manifestations.

We were greeted in New Mexico by all the local godz, a welcoming parade. The spirits were really talking. Bright sunlight in patches between building rain clouds. Male rain, female rain, the rain that doesn't reach the ground, veiling the mesas in the distance, grey on grey. Flashes of lightning, near and far. The Thunder Beings walking over the land, talking to us. We passed through the rainy zones, and then it was sunny, but the clouds surrounded us still. After awhile, we looked back and saw a rainbow at the foot of the clouds which were standing tall, surmounted by a huge thunderhead disc-shaped fan cloud. (Yes, I took several photos.) A day of drama involving driving, the roads, and the truck, ended with dramatic skies and blessing rain. It feels good to be here.

V. 21 August 2004, Sterling, CO

A Rough Guide to the Universe via Quesadilla

The quesadilla, a nearly perfect food, has at last Arrived, appearing on the appetizer menu of many different restaurants, at all scales and styles of eatery. You can get them just about everywhere, although like other kinds of roadfood they vary in quality. Last night, we ate at a restaurant in Iowa City that looked like the bastard lovechild of a fancy Greek restaurant and Perkins. Sage and I drew mystical and shamanic signs and artwork, a Green Tara with magickal sigils, spirals and hands traced in blue and red, all over the paper tablecloth with the crayons provided for just that purpose; I think our artistry scared the waiter. The salsa was too mild, but the quesadillas themselves were some of the best I've ever had; lots of chicken, thick cheeses, and peppery tortillas. Today, at a Flying J truckstop, a truckstop chain in the West that I rather like, good hot salsa, but the quesadillas were kind of generic and bland. Filling, though. Looking around at all the truckers, potbellied and scruffy, realizing that the trucker's lifestyle lends itself to bad food, fast food, and too-short stops to rest and eat and sleep. Not a lifestyle I could ever sustain for long. The food would kill me, for one; but what trucker has the time available for cooking for him or herself?

A long, long day of driving, arriving after dark at a dingy one-bed motel room in darkest Colorado. For the first time, I feel like I'm actually in the West. I have the sensation that the truck and camper, black and white beetles respectively, are skating across the surface of the planet, which spins beneath them. Driving Westward into the nightfall, feeling we're flying over the land rather than just driving on it. Driving down the road, aimed straight at the waxing moon, the lines of highway signposts ticking by like white-eyed sentinels, red taillights of starcraft in the distance ahead.

Drove across all of Nebraska today. I've driven Highway 80 across Nebraska before, and it remains one of the most boring drives in the world, in my opinion. Even northern Indiana, one of the flattest areas of the Midwest (all glacial floodplain, after all) has more to look at than this. Boring, boring, boring. Flat, flat, flat. Nothing to look at, merely the interminable miles to be endured. There's only so fast I can pull the Scamp, so getting to Zuni and New Mexico is taking days longer than originally hoped. I alternate between timebound frustration and Zen acceptance. Punctuated every so often by herds of deer loping beside the highway or fording the Platte River shallows, or broad-shouldered and redtail hawks circling overhead; at sunset, in a greening field, a large flock of wild turkeys and a large herd of deer gathered nearby under the orange sun and purple clouds.

Another long day of driving tomorrow, but I hope to get all the way through Colorado and into New Mexico. Got to get the camper over the pass, so I don't know if we'll actually make it to Zuni tomorrow; but we'll make good distance anyway. Patience and frustration go hand in hand. Then I remind myself that this is not just a vacation, and that the hurry I feel is partly left over from the deadlines and stresses of the move out of the apartment in St. Paul, and the emotional hangover from departing. Perhaps with some time actually living in the camper, and after or during ZMS Faerie Shaman's Gathering, I might actually start to feel relaxed. Gods, I hope so. My father's lingering anxieties about me moving down here, and my prospects for life and work, are difficult to shed. The great leap into the Unknown has terrors enough without those borrowed from others.

IV. 20 August 2004, Iowa City, IA

Finally, finally, finally, on the road.

It has seemed more than once in the past weeks that events were conspiring to keep me from leaving on this journey. There was always one last thing to do, one more thing to deal with, one or two last decisions to make. I still have Too Much Stuff. Dealing with my family's problems around my mother's Alzheimer's. Sorting and loading stuff into the Scamp. Which of course, at the very last minute if departure, weighed too much on the hitch, so I had to redistribute some of the weight before we could leave. Sage kept me sane through it all. I'm glad he's accompanying me to New Mexico on this drive; it makes it possible at all, having someone to help me stay alert on the drive, and to talk to, be silly with, share pleasures with.

I passed coping and frustration some weeks ago, I have had a few days as bad as I ever have had, and a couple of panic attacks that I never want to repeat, never having had one before.

The New Age tends to focus too much on the wounds and the dark stuff. By this I mean that everyone will always tell you about their dysfunctional pasts, their recoveries, their painful childhoods and/or relationships, their current wounds and sufferings and difficulties; but when was the last time someone told you about their ecstasies? The paradox is that most of these same folks focus so strongly on the Light aspects of the New Age teachings that they totally overlook, or suppress, the Dark side. All these are tendencies I neither like nor trust. My theory is that, bu focusing in an unbalanced way on the light, all these darknesses come up out of the Shadow; whatever you suppress will pop back up somewhere else. In the midst of all this, there has been ecstasy for me. There have been moments with Sage and my parents that have been wonderful, loving moments. There have been days of sunshine and cool air, splendid with the beauty of summer.

From here, driving west on Highway 80 across Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, then down to New Mexico. Tonight relaxing after dark with dinner and a showerl the long hard day over at last, feeling the relaxation at last.

Is there a name for settling? For traveling, for journeying, there is the word nomadics. Nomads, the key theme of Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines, is one of those most human impulses, allied to the explorer and adventurer archetypes. Opposite to the urge to stay at home, to cavedwell, the hearthhold, to settle. The twin souls of expansion and contraction.

The sun going down orange over the great plains. The Mississippi wide and low below. I got used to the headwaters of the Miss up in Minnesota, where it is cold and clear and not yet wide. Passing through St. Paul it makes a wide loop, the houseboats docked across from downtown, the floodplain that the downtown airport is built on, airships riding low over the cliffs to the north.

It was supposed to be overcast today, but the sun was clear. The blue sky only occasionally rippled with high altitude clouds. Great skies looming over the abandoned barns of the eastern Iowan hills. A foretaste of big sky country.

The land changes as the road moves under the wheels. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. Time moves under the wheels at a different rate than when standing still: relativity. Subtle perceptions or overtures. The sublime seduction of the horizon. Moving on, standing still.

III. 19 August 2004, Beloit, Wisconsin

A Philsophic Moment whilst cleaning out the camper-trailer preparatory to departure for Points West

I am now officially trailer-rash. I live in an apartment on wheels. Lacking only a bathroom, I have space to sit, to read, to write, to lie, to cook, to clean, to store, to dress, to undress, to sleep, to do those things we label under that amazingly diverse yet ridiculously provocative cluster of activities we call "sex," to bathe, to watch, to do nothing.

I open up Marshall McLuhan & Harley Parker, "Through the Vanishing Point: Space in poetry and painting," (1968) and read:

"Good taste is a sin of omission. It leaves out direct awareness of forms and situations.

"Good taste is the first refuge of the noncreative. It is the last-ditch stand of the artist.

"Good taste is the anaesthetic of the public. It is the critic's excuse for lack of perception.

"Good taste is the expression of a colossal incompetence. it is the 'putting on' of the genteel audience as a mask or net by which to capture ambient mob appeal.

"Good taste is the most obvious resource of the insecure. People of good taste eagerly buy the Emperor's old clothes.

"Good taste is the highly effective strategy of the pretentious." (p. 213)

So I leave behind me even good taste. I'd rather be tasteless. Not to turn to its opposite, because bad taste is nothing more than anti-good taste reactionism, or deliberate table-turning. The two sides of any coin are the same coin. The are the same because the define each other, and one is necessary to the other to define itself. Both are reactive. There is no dynamic balance because both miss the point: they are both fictions.

Living in a trailer, now that it's habitable and clean, after years of lying unattended in the Wisconsin forest, gathering lichen and moss, ant colonies in old dead bedding, mouse nests in the silverware drawer, mildew and mold everywhere, will be as clean and light a life as a nomad can create, giving that Things have been left behind in various basements and storage lockers scattered across two states of the upper Midwest. Leaving it all behind is something that has to come after you've lived without it for some time, and realize you need less baggage than you thought you needed.

But tastelessness–the absence of good or bad–as Thoreau said, yes and no are both lies–that is worth carrying along. Keep an open eye to discrimination and judgment; we want none, only the perception of what is really happening right before our very selves.

Leaving for New Mexico tomorrow, finally. Lots of cleaning was done on the Scamp camper-trailer to make it habitable, after it had been in the backyard at Al's place for three or four years. But now, even though I'm wiped out physically, I'm planning to leave sometime tomorrow. Since driving with the trailer is new to me, I don't expect to be driving too fast. Sage is travelling with me, as we head towards Zuni Mountain Sanctuary for Faerie Shaman's Gathering. We'll get to ZMS by Sunday, probably.

Infinite gratitudes to Sage for helping me with the cleaning; to Al and Alison, for the camper, the wiring, the help cleaning, the Guy Stuff (more power!), and the feedings, and everything else over the years; and to my parents for putting up with the chaos while I prepared for this journey.

II. 16 August 2004, Beloit, Wisconsin

Back from the woods, a week of camping in northernmost Minnesota, at the Radical Faerie Lammas Gathering at Kawashaway Sanctuary. Been doing a lot driving lately, and I'm really wiped out tonight. This is the big push week, to get as much done as I can before leaving. It's lack-of-sleep week, too much to do week, details week.

Time seems to collapse on itself, experience packs it tight wiht event and emotion. How do you encompass a lot of compressed experience into a few words? It won't work. I kept a journal, wrote a few poems, as I do every year at Gathering time, divorced as we are from electricity in the deepest northwoods. Five days of rain, and a few days of glorious sunlight afterwards, to dry out before decamping. Stopping at Hare Lake, my favorite swimming hole, on the way out, to stand and stare at the windcapped water, the sound of the trees, the silence of the sky; feeling some sadness, as I don't know when I'll pass this way again.

Meanwhile, preparing for departure to the Southwest, mired in details and not a little drama. This is a big leap of faith. Faith, trust, surrender, this is what this journey is all about. There is so much time to spend on the details, the tasks that have to be done, the things you have to do to keep the government happy (so that the illusion of a social contract can be maintained, when it's really all about control), and the feelings that come up when you say goodbye to everything you know as you leap into the Unknown. Grief? Fear? Confusion? All of the above.

At the moment, though, I'm just wiped out from moving and driving, with more work to do on the camper trailer tomorrow, and the joys of paperwork. Gaah. Idiocy. Craziness.

Then I remember the light on the water again, and the beauty of the North Shore of Lake Superior last week. Don't know when I'll get there again, which makes me emotional. But sometimes when you just stop and look–just stop–your vision suddenly gets crystal sharp, your ears become traps for every sound from the scree of the gulls to the scraping of the voles in the talus to the crisp wind in the cedar needles, and the world takes on its light and is transformed into something more beautiful and self-complete than it's possible to describe. And you just stand and appreciate it. Silence.

I. 2 August 2004, Beloit, Wisconsin

So it begins.

I am now officially homeless. It took a lot of effort to get rid of things, to finish up business in the Twin Cities, and several days of extreme, torturous work in high humidity and heat to move out of my old apartment, and at the end of it all, I abandoned some things I was formerly attached to, because they wouldn't fit into the truck or the storage locker. Somehow along the way, I acquired Too Much Stuff. I still need to go back to the storage locker to do another sort and purge, probably sell a few more things, drop more off at Goodwill, etc. I have other errands to do related to hitting the road, that have came back onto the front burners, that will still take a few days.

Getting out of St. Paul was rough. I have to say that, yesterday, getting out of the apartment and cleaning it, was one of the single most stressful days of my adult life. I now have a personal referent for what a panic attack feels like; the hyperventialiting, the overwhelm, the glazd-eyed staring vacantly at all there is to do.

I feel an enormous depth of gratitude to all those persons who have helped me with all the tasks involved with my garage sale and moving house; Alex, Russ, Scott, Eddie, Michael, Bill and Jim, Sinden, Daren, Rich and A.J., Tallgrass, E!ureka and Suedwind, and the many many others who sent good thoughts, calming energy, prayers, and helpful ideas, regardless of whether or not they could physically help out. Thank you, thank you all.

This morning, after sleeping on Bill and Jim's couch–I got done with loading the truck at 3am–I had a few little events happen on the drive out of town that seemed Symbolically significant.

On the roads, heading out, lots of construction, holdups, and so forth, as though the Universe was asking, "Are you suuure you want to leave??" To which I replied, out loud, "Leave behind the stagnation, dark nights, depression, hard times, unemployment, stupidity, and driving around this town with the least logically designed roads on the planet? Absolutely I'm sure!"

Not that I won't miss many friends, old and new ... but the place itself holds no more attachments for me.

I lost a couple of tarps and my jumper cables off the back of the overloaded truck, right away. As though they were my exit fee. As though I was shedding even more Things as I fled, a kind of clearing and releasing of the past. Shed the past, shed the old. Let it all go, start over completely uncluttered and baggage-free.

As I saw the jumper cables disappear in the rearview mirror on the highway behind me, I pulled off at the next exit to re-tie everything else down, glad that my fly-offs hadn't hurt anyone and shaken that they might have. There was a parking space right there; I pulled in and did the tie-down to the sound of heavy traffic, the wind in the trees and a cat's continuous mewing. It sounded like a kitten caught in the tree, but I was busy for a moment to look, annoyed and frustrated, and so exhausted from the previous days' stresses that my temper was shortened beyond all norms.

But as soon as I was done checking the truck, the cat appeared, walking out of the weeds, on top of a masonry wall under the trees. A beautiful solid grey cat with big green eyes, and just a hint of tabby tiger-stripes on flanks and forehead. I was utterly charmed, so walked over and presented the back of my hand in proper cat greeting protocol. I guess I met his approval, because we spent several minutes in purring, scratching, rubbing, mutual bonding pleasure. I really needed that moment; it changed my whole mood, a gift of connection from out of nowhere and into one's heart. (Grey cats have always been spirit-cats for me; they often seem to be wiser than the norm, and more spiritually connected.) He had no collar, and was so friendly I actually considered inviting him to come with we on my journey. Well ... although I would have been pleased, I don't have anything set up right now for keeping a feline companion; simple logistics.

Finally on the highway, going east. As soon as I crossed the St. Croix River and leapt onto Wisconsin's western shore, things changed. Traffic flowed smooth and easy, and the skies were clear and warm. I felt a great weight leave my mind, and my body started to relax to the point of limpness; all the exhaustion of recent weeks finally catching up to me. I had a new set of audiobook CDs to listen to, by one of my principal spiritual teachers, Caroline Myss, on advice for developing healers; I spent the entire drive across Wisconsin listening. Caroline rocks my world. Every new audiobook of hers I listen to, I learn a lot, and go back to re-listen and learn even more. A lot of what she says directly mirrors my own life experience; she often anticipates my own thinking, and says it better than I can. Caroline kicks my ass. I get motivated into doing it rather than just sitting there and thinking about it.

Some friends have said to me in recent days how much they admire what I'm doing–the leaping into the unknown and uncertain–and also in some cases, how their fears and uncertainties have held them back from doing likewise. I'm not used to thinking of myself as courageous. Aren't I afraid of taking such a big risk, living homeless and poor and gypsying around the land?

I find that I'm not at all afraid of the unknown uncertainties of the journey. Most people, including myself in previous years, are more afraid of the Unknown than they are of the sometimes difficult lives they currently lead; but I have to ask myself, which is worse, the hell you are in, or the Unknown which, yes, could be worse, but could also be better. You don't know till you dive into the bluewater, how to become a deep-sea diver. Change is not what scares me anymore; I have come to understand that change is the nature of the Universe. The Universe is a chaotic system, and strange attractor, and God is fractal. This journal, like the I Ching, is a record of changes.

No, the journey is not frightening. What terrified me in recent months was the entropic undertow of life unfulfilled and just stuck: the stagnation, the pulling down, the dark late-night depressions, some without any rational cause, that had led me over a year ago to that brink of self-destruction that scared me awake and into action. As delayed a departure as this has been from my old life, it is not untimely. I can think of no worse death than the one wherein one trades one's soul for an illusion of stability; and, dead inside, still walks around as though alive. The undead indeed; those lives of "quiet desperation" that have no purpose, nothing but time killed and dreams deferred. No, the Unknown holds no such terrors.

I've been out West before. I once spent a summer studying geology in the field in Wyoming and the surrounding states. More recently, I drove with friends to New Mexico, which was a place I had dreamed of since age 10 yet had never visited before. What happened to me on that visit still is working itself out, and changes still ripple through my existence.

What else can I say, here at the outset? Nothing. Just: Find that cliff in your own life. Spread your wings, and leap. How else can you learn to walk on air?

I.A. 3 August 2004, What I am reading at the moment

My father, who is an avid reader himself, finds it difficult to understand that the many boxes of books I have in storage in his basement are things that I will look at again, or read again. He reads a lot, but he doesn't keep the books. I on the other hand do re-read, and in some cases have kept a book because it's a rare or unusual edition I'm not likely to see again, or a book that I treasure as a reference. I have been blessed through my life with an ability to read quickly and retain most of what I read; this doesn't meant that I don't enjoy re-reading or slowing down for some kinds of reading.

André Malraux: Anti-Memoirs. I knew of Malraux primarily as an art historian with sevreal excellent books on the history and philosophy of art, and also its place in modern society; really, not just a historian of art but a philosopher. He was also a fighter in the French Resistance, a novelist, a friend of Camus and other literary giants of the 1950s, and a minister and ambassador for Charles De Gaulle's government in post-WW II France. Several sections of this book occur, historically, as Malraux was sent by De Gaulle as an envoy to India, China, and other parts of the world; there are conversations with Nehru, Mao, Aime Cesaire, and others. Malraux was deeply in love with India, and he describes his visits to India in the early 60s, when I myself was a young boy there, with language that excites my own memories: the tastes and smells as much as the images. Anti-Memoirs is so much more than memoir or interview or oral history; this is what creative nonfiction aspires to.

André Breton: Arcanum 17. Written during WW II when Breton was an exile in North America during the war–and criticized for it by other artists who stayed to fight. I haven't been much of a fan of Breton before, as in some ways I always felt that, if Surrealism was a fashionable pub, Breton was the bouncer and gatekeeper, letting only those into the club who met his criteria. (I am of the opinion that in fact Surrealism only came to maturity in the work of later South American writers such as Neruda, Paz, Villarutia, and some of their cohorts.) I stumbled across Arcanum 17 and was enchanted by its poetic soul-searching, and its prophetic look at where Euro-American culture has ended up in the po-po-mo world. There are several layers in here, and I haven't plumbed them all yet.

Judith Fein: Indian Time. A somewhat breezy but emotionally resonant memoir of the year a Hollywood insider spent living in New Mexico, with its different sense of time and space, and how it utterly changed her life. Her fascination with petroglyph sites echoes my own.

I wish I could take along a hundred books on iPod or CD, the way we take along music nowadays. I figure I have, adding up my own archived CDs of my artwork, writing and music projects, a terabyte or so of data. Well, they don't make terabyte iPods yet, but it's a dream I maintain. So, while I cannot carry along Jung's Collected Works, I am taking along a few volumes to re-read, and a few fascinating books from Inner City Books in Toronto (Daryl Sharp, publisher), a series of thought-provoking books on Jungian ideas by Jungian analysts. Twoe of the most interesting to me at the moment are Graham Jackson's pair of books on the typologies of intimate relationships between men, The Secret Lore of Gardening and The Living Room Mysteries.




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