004: Madre Tierra
Halloween with its ghosts visited for a day. Houses in my neighborhood decorated their yards with monsters, tombstones, and lights. One even had ghosts that flew on the front of the house from moving lights. I remember watching the 1966 TV special It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown every year as a kid. This week we rise up above the singing forest with its Fall colors. From the air, we see the landscape, our home, beneath us. The song “Madre Tierra” by Nick Barbachano and Danit comes to mind and heart.
Running on the trails near my home I saw a colorful hot air balloon gleaming in the sunlight. Running down a hill I would soon have to run up again I imagined for a moment how wonderful it would be to be gliding above it all.
Seeing the balloon I was reminded of my childhood seeing the short 1956 French film The Red Balloon. The boy in the film Pascal has quite an adventure with his balloon. A few years ago I discovered the 1976 novel The Balloonist by MacDonald Harris. The book takes place in the summer of 1897 where three men set out in a balloon hoping to be the first to set foot on the North Pole. The book was nominated for the National Book Award when first published but like the author has fallen into obscurity. Author Philip Pullman writes:
“And what is continuous in his novels is a curious sort of stance towards the world, a quite un-American stance, if I can put it like that: the position of an intelligent adult confronting the tragi-comic absurdity of existence. There is little that’s heroic about Harris’s protagonists, but a great deal that’s ironic and witty and sympathetic, with an acute sense of the ridiculousness of things. And while this is very agreeable to a certain taste, as it certainly is to mine, it’s not a popular taste.”
The bolding is mine. Perhaps more so with the ongoing pandemic, the death of friends and family and pets, and the nonsense of supposed adults not being able to get along seemingly anywhere in the world, I find a companion in both Pullman’s introduction and in the novel itself.
The imagined soundtrack to the novel and my run is a 2007 album by Italian musician Luca Bergero recording under the name Fhieval with Pipe Smoking In A Balloon. The album is full of organic warm crackling sounds.
Over the summer I made several pieces of art as gifts to people who supported me on a personal journey alone in the wilderness. I am reminded of the colors of the balloon flying over the fields in Woodinville, Washington. The quote from Sogyal Rinpoche echoes my sentiments.
Curiosity Is Entrance Level Compassion
The word self-love is confusing for me, but I immediately relate to affection for myself. You, as much as anyone in the universe, deserves affection - a visceral sense of warmth and comfort. Life is trial and error for all of us, we are all stumbling in the dark. What can we do to send safety signals to your nervous system? The Buddha taught that everything comes from causes and conditions in our lives. Your point of view is subjective. No one has access to the objective. Can you have a softening, compassion for others’ points of view? If you can’t get to compassion can you be curious? Everyone wants sanity, safety and harmony.
In the long Rumi poem “Cry Out In Your Weakness” there is a wonderful pair of lines: “Where the lowland is, that’s where the water goes. / All medicine wants is pain to cure.”
Forever To A Hudson Bay Blanket
This story by James Tiptree, Jr. originally appeared in the August 1972 issue of Fantastic. The story appeared the next year in the author’s first collection Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home. No one knew for several years that James Tiptree, Jr. was a pseudonym for Alice Sheldon. There are many who do not care for this story and its writing. It is an early story from the author. She was a true genius to me and I appreciate even her early work. When her identity was revealed she asked the writer Ursula K. Le Guin to write an introduction to a collection of stories. Le Guin wrote, “Alice Sheldon has quite a lot in common with [Virginia Woolf’s] Orlando, and like Orlando is an unanswerable criticism of the rational and moral fallacies of sexism, simply by being what and who she is. She also provides an exhilarating criticism of what real life, or reality, is, by being a fictional character who writes real stories; here she surpasses Orlando.”
The story itself involves love, death, and a time paradox. The story captures one perspective of what it is like to be in love forever.
What Happens When You Get Lost
The poet William Stafford was a World War II veteran of Native American heritage who ended up on the Big Sur coast wrote a wonderful poem “What Happens When You Get Lost.”
Mythologist and storyteller Michael Meade reads the poem while giving commentary. We learn that one root of the word evil means unripe. If it could ripen it would be a good fruit.
In a Friday lunch conversation with my friends Ramsey, Renée and Bob we reflect on the poem. Renée says, “We think we are small but there is something vital about each of us as we participate in this life. What a privilege to be in the fog and find our way home again.” I add, “Only by being lost can we realize where we truly are.”
Renée continues that we belong forever. Without a sense of belonging our intelligence is severely limited. Ramsey reflects that the plants too know our name. Renée adds that if something knows your name you’re oriented and you matter. Bob notes that we use the stars to orient.
Here is the poem in full:
Out in the mountains nobody gives you anything.
And you learn what the rules were after the game is over.
By then it is already night and it doesn’t make any difference
What anyone else is thinking or doing because now you have to
Turn into an Indian.
You remember stories and now you know that the tellers were
Part of all they told.
And everyone else was, and even you.
They’re all around you now, but if you’re afraid you will never find them.
And those questions that people always ask-
“What would you do if…”
They have their own answer right now- nothing.
Some things cannot be redeemed in a hurry no matter what the intentions are.
What could be done had to have been done a long time ago.
Because mistakes have consequences that do not just disappear.
If evil could be canceled easily it would not be very evil.
And so, the stars see you.
While you drift away they have their own courses and they watch you.
And listen, they already know your name.
Ode To Joy
A group of musicians slowly gather in a Spanish plaza to play Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy” from his 9th symphony. I am there with the others who commented below the video, tears came to me as I listened. And the kids playing is wonderful.