Traveling Monk Wind

Painting by Albert Bierstradt

Painting by Albert Bierstradt

Clouds hang thick and brooding above me, as I stand on the deck. The rain comes and goes at its own bidding, with thunder rolling across the rooftops with little punch. The sun sets over the hogbacks, barely visible between the heavy cloud cover and a thin stretch of blue that holds to the mountains as if it were snow. Lightning flashes and a spindly thread of electricity that whips outward toward the fading sun calls a passing goodnight.

It’s the air that has brought me to the railing, leaning out just a bit to catch it moving along the house. Over the past two years a love affair with wind has been brewing and percolating within me. I feel as if she comes to my house for visits. Sometimes a loud and rambunctious toddler, rattling my crib for attention, while at other times, so soft it’s as if she were a lover. Tonight she is the cloaked traveler asking for a night’s stay and a stable for her pony. There is something mysterious in the night air and a feeling of intensity and anticipation, all the while holding a gentleness as she moves by. I decide I shall call her the Traveling Monk Wind and turn my face more fully into her presence. I feel the air moving past the cells in my body pulling the skies electricity deep into me. There is an alchemy in this moment that hasn’t escaped me.

The rain returns, but the wind does not abate. Things seem more silent, though the sky flashes and the clouds rumble. I really should go to bed, I tell myself, but I linger and then, linger still.

Painting by Albert Beirstradt

Painting by Albert Beirstradt

Hungry to be Ptolemy

Copyright: Tartu Observatory Virtual Museum

Copyright: Tartu Observatory Virtual Museum

I stand in my driveway for a few minutes each morning looking out at the night sky. On my iPad is an app, Star Walk that I can put up to the sky and it will identify each constellation. I have loved staring at the stars but have never really known what the various night forms are, and so have taken to trying to find them. I marvel at their names, Ophiuchus, Serpens Caput, Centaurus, Bootes, Corona Borealis, and Hercules. So much magic and myth in each name. The map above is of the sky as I saw it this morning: Scorpius, Lupus, Sagittarius, and Corona Australis. “Look who watched over my home this night”, I think to myself.

zenandpi.com

zenandpi.com

This is how our ancestors saw the night sky. A cast of characters galloping across the firmament each night. Each one part of a larger story, part of a mystical journey each of us could partake, if we chose. Or we could look upon the third brightest star in the Northern hemisphere, Arcturus glimmering in the night sky and know from that brilliant light erupts Bootes, the Plowman, first cataloged by Ptolemy in the 2nd Century. There isn’t just stars floating up there, but histories and stories and ancient mariners or philosophers charting unknown lands.

Richard D. Serros: www.serrosstudios.com

Richard D. Serros: http://www.serrosstudios.com

With all our technological advances and our hunger to know as much as we can, I often think we’ve lost a little of the mystery and wonder at the world and skies around us. We’ve forgotten to tell stories about the curious things we find in plain sight. We’ve lost touch a bit with the magic that looking upon a night sky to see peacocks and lovely, floating maidens can elicit.
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We focus so keenly on the day ahead, we forget all around us is beauty and mystery that could alter our entire day if we would pause only briefly to look up and know a king’s crown or a great hero of old hangs gracefully there.
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sagittarius-constellation

Our lives are not ground to salt by our labors. We lose the luster and vibrancy in living when we won’t take our eyes off our labors to see the marvels that exist effortlessly around us. Life dulls under the weight of brooding instead of delight in something extraordinary as a single crocus pushing up through snow or the wonder that comes from gazing upon Betelgeuse in Orion’s belt. When we release the need to stare at our troubles and turn our gaze upon the beauty that simply awaits our notice life becomes so much easier to bear, so much easier to awaken to each day, so much more fun to really live.
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Birthdays and Fire Monkeys

seerseekersayersage.blogspot.com

seerseekersayersage.blogspot.com

Being my birthday, I decided to reflect today on what I wish this year to be for me. What I’d like to open up more in my life and what seeds I’d like to plant and see come to fruition? Earlier this week we celebrated the Chinese New Year of the Red Fire Monkey. This is the Chinese year whose focus is about letting go, shaking things up a bit and transformation. It bodes of possible chaos, tumultuous turn arounds and the need to go with the flow more than anything else. I suspect for many of us we’re thinking, “Wasn’t that the last five years?”
Year-of-the-Fire-Money

One of the key notes for the year is letting go of things you’ve held onto for too long. There’s that part of my mind that wants to rise up with, “Ugh more personal work. More changing things and less having fun.” But I thought, “How often have I cleaned out my closets and gone to the Salvation Army with all that I’ve collected and felt that awesome feeling of release? How wonderful it’s been to come back home and see all that space now available for something new. How much more lies within me I could jettison for that delicious feeling of release. That wonder at what new might come in.”
god-Ognennoy-obezyanyi

Maybe that’s the trick of this year. The monkey antics we need to embrace. Instead of feeling daunted by work, see ourselves as wild chimps tossing things out of our tree. Swinging from vines and laughing uproariously at what we thought was so important. Maybe the story is not one of chaos and turmoil, but stepping into the wild dance that is unfathomable and letting ourselves go with it.
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So this is my Fire Monkey Chant for today and all the year long:

Bring me storms and bring me rain
Bring me flash floods that wash away my dams
Bring me turmoil that exposes my tenderness
Bring me chaos that shows me my stillness
Bring unexpected turns that I fly around, a monkey girl on her tree
Bring me exposure that I might laugh at what I did not see
Bring me whip cream pies in the face and slips on banana peels
Bring me surprises that I might remember this is all such a wondrous farce
Bring me chimps, macaques and marmosets, sniggering giddily at my flaws
Bring it all down on me until I cannot help but laugh.
Bring me so much that I laugh and laugh until my belly hurts.
Bring me storms and bring me rain.
Bring me flash floods that wash away my dams.
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Bring me the Red Fire Monkey Year that I am left at the end, completely changed, for this is what I wish for my birthday this year. The chance at an adventure that leaves me empty and entirely new.

Peace of Snow

Bird Eagle Snowfall

Bird Eagle Snowfall


The silence pulls me and I offer no resistance. The flakes swirl past the window and I could fall forward, Alice down the rabbit hole. I was born in winter. My name conjures up winter, my colors are winter, my very nose smells the scent of it a month before it arrives. Everything about it fuels my engines and releases me from a thousand worries. I cannot explain it. Winter heals me. Snow invigorates everything I love within myself.
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I sit watching the snow fall now, thick and dense. The world of human chaos comes down with it. The streets empty and the store fronts close. Mother Nature calls all to home, soup to the stove and a fire burning steadily into the night.

miradna.com

miradna.com

This is the peace of snow.

A Hole in Me Pocket

Clement Park at dusk: Photo by Noelle

Clement Park at dusk: Photo by Noelle

I most certainly have a hole in me pocket. Every day I am full of time, but before I know it half of it is gone out a hole in me pocket. I stitch the blasted thing up, but the next afternoon I find myself in the same straits. Too much to do and not enough time to do it in. For someone who praises peace and breathing room this damn hole is most bothersome indeed.

It seems no small irony that all of our technological advances were intended to give us time and yet I feel more robbed by them every day. I was reading an article about the Greek isle of Ikaria. The New York Times dubbed it the place where people forget to die. They have an extraordinary number of octogenarians. They say their lifestyle hasn’t changed in a hundred years. They walk everywhere and garden. They remain connected to their faith and dine on fresh food and good wine. They never hurry. They sit in the sun without sunblock. They laugh a lot. This story plays itself out in Okinawa, Japan, too. People bike and carry their own groceries, and eat fresh food each day. They stay connected to their passions and talents. They breathe slower and speak less of troubles.

Autumn Leaf: Photo by Noelle

Autumn Leaf: Photo by Noelle

John Muir wrote in 1912, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” I wonder how such a man as this was not the most guiding force in our country’s evolution? How did we get money and busyness confused with the acquisition of peace and contentment?

There is a deep lesson here I don’t want to forget. Something that moves me about laughter and sitting in the sun. How much do I really need to get done everyday? Who is cracking this whip? What would happen if I planted something and sang to it, rather than worried about what was on my schedule? What would happen if I consciously found ways to step outside the machine?

I feel I might find others and there would be wine with some good cheese, time spent gazing at the horizon, all enjoyed after a lovely, scenic bike ride. I think this might be true. I think there are others like me wanting to feel dirt on the bottom of their feet.

Bike trail, Ken Caryl: Photo by Noelle

Bike trail, Ken Caryl: Photo by Noelle

Yellow Submarine

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

As I look upon the post-processed images I often feel I have stepped into another life. A life separate from the hike that actually took place. As if I have been given a second life laid on top of the first where art, light, and shadow burst into life and I get to live the experience in some other fashion. I see the blues and blacks or deep yellows inside the photographs as if through Yellow Submarine glasses. Glasses that alter the reality of the land into patterns of shapes and highlights. Nothing is really the same in the image as it was on the trail. The other senses are suddenly shut down and my inner eye is the only thing firing on all cylinders.

I am also different, curled up under a blanket, nose deep into my smartphone. I am pouring back out within a very tight focus, what the trail poured in.

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO: Photo by Noelle

I see the four Beatles long-legged images from the Yellow Submarine poster flash through my mind. The psychedelic movie and madcap song that have nothing to do with dirt trails, but in my artistic mind they seem connected. I am distorting the image, the way their music often distorted our minds. A little Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds again. Nothing is as it seems.

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

Electrical lines, South Valley Park, Ken Caryl, CO

I am there in the image, as I was when I took it, but I am also not there now, as the image has a life of its own separate from the hike. I am hearing birds and feeling the frost, but as I tweak the image I hear Ringo Starr’s throatier voice proclaiming that we all do live in a yellow submarine.

The beauty of all creative endeavors is they shift our focus, even if only briefly, from what we believe is real, to what is also real, but must be powered by our psycho-emotive-spiritual energy. My creative world is no less real to me than the feeling of cliff face beneath my hand.

Bear Lake Valley Park, Morrison, CO: photo by Noelle

Bear Lake Valley Park, Morrison, CO: photo by Noelle

A few years back my friend, Juan Crocco in Chile turned me onto photography. Up until then photography was for me just people standing by monuments taking pictures of themselves or photo albums filled with images of children opening up Christmas presents. I didn’t even own a camera and hadn’t taken an a photograph in over a decade. I’m not particularly nostalgic, so have never spent much time looking at photo albums. In my last couple of house moves I had, in fact, jettisoned ninety percent of my photographs and albums.

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

McCook Point, Niantic, CT: Photo by Noelle

Juan encouraged me to take photographs while hiking as a mindfulness exercise. I was going through a rough patch and he thought this might help. Wise man. It did more than help. It healed me.

I interact with images taken not as an observer to what had been there, but what I might find now. I am on a treasure hunt. Seeking shadows and reflected light. There’s a conversation going on between myself and the image. I am not cataloging my hikes. I’m talking to myself in symbols and abstractions that affect me deeply at an emotional level. Thus, for me, photography isn’t about what was there, so much as it is about what is now inside me being viewed through the effected image. An inner art I am not aware of until I begin to work with the image. It’s this crazy blending of photography and my own personal mojo that creates something else entirely in the end. I live the joy of the hike and then I live the joy of the art.

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image II: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image I: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image III: Photo by Noelle

Winter Prairie at Day Break: Image II: Photo by Noelle

This pattern, now rooted in me, has become a pattern of living and altering, experiencing and awakening. It has been growing like prairie weeds out of the images and into my day to day life. There is what is here in this moment, physically and then there is what is in this moment more abstractly. The things in my life that live as highlights on the edges of things. Shadows that create contrast not darkness or fear. I want to alter my vision. Don my Yellow Submarine glasses and see that world from some other angle entirely. To live with a little psychedelic energy in my soul. Not through drugs or other altering substances but through the spirit in me. The bigger eye that sees so deeply into things the things I look at deeply change.

“In the town where I was born
Lived a man who sailed to sea
And he told us of his life
In the land of submarines

So we sailed up to the sun
Till we found the sea of green
And we lived beneath the waves
In our yellow submarine”

(McCartney/Lennon/Harrison)

TheBeatles-YellowSubmarinealbumcover
“Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles, album cover art by George Martin

Young Jedi

From Nedhardy.com and the National Geographic Photography contest

From Nedhardy.com and the National Geographic Photography contest

I haven’t been posting much lately, as a quiet has permeated my mind that is difficult to describe. I am not without thought, but rather a tension I hadn’t noticed was consistently there until now gone. I find myself suspended a bit, as if my thoughts have slowed enough for me to lift a few inches off the ground. I laugh to hear Obi Wan in my head. “There is no disturbance in your force, young Jedi.”

I think about this objectively, as if examining an exotic beetle. Iridescent blues, pinks and greens of the scarab float as a mist about my mind. It’s a little “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” inside of me these days, but without the psychedelics. I am not in nirvana nor have I become some Bodhisattva. There’s still a good bit of funky shit in this old noggin. It seems, at least for the present moment, I’ve lost interest in the inner drama. It begins it’s crawl across my mental windowsills, as I have allowed it to do for decades, but find myself either completely disinterested or curious that such a creature should have found its way into my home.

There doesn’t seem to be a point in wondering where it all came from. I’m fifty-two years old. Like most people I’ve been a hoarder of life experiences and reactions and reflexive memories since I hit terra firma. I’ve been storing a lot of stuff for a very long time. Cement boots sit next to a Mad Hatter’s hat, teetering on top of ballet shoes, dangling from a business suit as worn as all the other items inside my mind. They all have the same value to me now. The reasons for all of my previous costumes and acting parts just doesn’t seem all that important.

I move about the attic looking at it all. There was a time the sheer volume of internal debris and boxed up crap would’ve overwhelmed me. Now I look at it all, as if from a great distance, and watch the decay. A millennium’s impact on a human life leaves nothing in its wake. Everything in the end returns to the earth or to the Force, as Yoda would say. I feel no need to wait the time out. I imagine it is already decaying, evaporating and blowing out into a strong, celestial wind. This young Jedi has other things to do.

From Lady-Laerwen.tumblr.com

From Lady-Laerwen.tumblr.com