So, that last blog post was a doozie.
Right before posting I checked the word count: over 2600. I think that might be more than most papers I wrote during my entire academic career. In the English Department.
I’m really proud of it, and I’m definitely not complaining. The infographic-y quote photos were original (stock images, but designed by me), and I’ve gotten amazing feedback already. I hope those of you who are reading these consistently know that I appreciate you immensely, and it really is difficult to articulate the gratitude.
So, for this post, something more relaxed. Just like a Cougar Mellencamp song, this one’s straight from the heart.
Today I went out to Government Canyon Natural Area (I currently live in San Antonio) to film two videos I have outlined. Sadly, I found it closed for the exact day of the week I showed up, so I wandered over to Friedrich Wilderness Park.
The packed parking lot was not a good sign. I love the high park attendance, but the crowd, and the dire winds which seemed to flow from some ancillary (20 pt word) direction both seemed to predict a no-video kinda day. And it was.
But I kept walking anyhow. For some reason I felt called into the deeper forest area, and so I took to the trail, the paved, concrete snake, and walked it until I found a bench and sat down.
I sat and saw the light for some time, flickering through the shading branches, articulating glimpses of some etherial reality I see in deeper areas of being. These places are only opened to me at certain points in life, typically when plans are foiled, when operations are aborted, when I’m late to my own party. These moments actually happen quite a bit. In fact, I’m beginning to think that the key to enlightenment is in being totally tardy to most concrete ideas of life.
This light kept its momentum in my sight, and I moved back along the trail. The path continued past others on the same way, but I was drawn to the tall trees hanging over.
Most passers-by probably thought I was nuts, some guy staring at trees. But to me, these are beings of this same light, composed of the same stratae of truth that might indeed compose G-d. I see drastic similarities. The flowing, undulating giving-ness of being alive was there, in these madly swaying super-vegetables of pollenacious allergy torture.
Running through my thoughts at this juncture was the memory of my friend, the brilliant poet, wanderer, and wise person (though don’t tell him I said that) Gabriel Pedro Prado.
This mystic man has been my main teacher these last few years. It’s funny, because it seems he first endeavored to teach me through maddening me. By no means do I think this to actually have been his intention, but in memory it looks simply to be my controlling nature, rationalization of all things, and narrow vision which ran right up against his freedom. And only hilarity could be found in that equation, for real freedom is this warping of all rational “reality,” an aimless, purposeless flux of reason and linearity, something that gargles and spits out your best life intentions and presumptions right into the dirt, all with a laugh, a dance, a grin. A knowing look in the eye…
This summer I filmed Gabe for a movie I am putting together. The very first scene was a true test of mine own presence.
I asked where he would want to go to film this first scene. There was no plan: in the spirit of what I’d learned since, both about the pathless path and the man himself, a prior commitment or designated motif of any kind would be foolish. Instead, I brought the idea of going to a local park to film some of his ancient practices, practices meant to allow the peace or healing, or power to be called to some place, whether in a physical body or natural landscape. He agreed, and so off we went.
Specifically, his intention for that day seemed to be for the healing of the land. He told me that a medicine wheel sounded like a good idea to set up, and, excited by the prospect of this being on video, I readily agreed.
However, when we arrived at the park, Gabe walked off into the forest. I was following him on camera, and the interaction was a little awkward. It seemed to me that Gabe had some alternative mission in mind. He did. He talked to trees.
Literally. When we stepped out into a small clearing surrounded by copses of trees, I asked him to show me how he talked to them. And he did, displaying a means of communication I had never seen before. He placed his hands on the tree, breathed in, and breathed out through his mouth.
Immediately, there was a space. It is hard to articulate, but a silence seemed to occur, one which all life seemed to honor. And then it was filled by a response: trees began clapping, birds spoke to one to the other, cicadas played their harp-limbs. All caught on camera.
All of this was in jubilation. As if, though it sounds crazy, the forest and all its inhabitants might actually be alive and ready, ready and waiting for just one person to notice them.
It’s only been six months or so since I filmed that occurrence, a pure happening of connection, but when I went to the park today, I felt the invitation of some sort to connect in that way. And so, when I walked out into the forest, amidst the howls and wails of bulldozers and construction equipment across the street at their work, I took a deep breath, and listened.
The wind that day was howling so hard it seemed to threaten to buckle the beautiful trees. In fact, in the spirit of Gabe’s teachings, I stripped the wind and trees of their causal relations and simply observed the trees as they were: enraged, furrowing their canopy wills into the air-space with such violent tremens.
I listened. And in that listening I began to understand, that just as our bodies must make motion to give off their stress, just how exercise and running release the old reservoirs of distress that bind our human parts, so the land must cast off that which harms its soul, its very nature.
This brought me to the obvious conclusion, that the land was off of its foundational mark. In order for there to be release, there must be stress, and stress only occurs at the violation of some natural covenant, of the basic coding for this stressed organism’s existence.
My mind went immediately to the machines building across the street. Was it another apartment complex? A suburb? A strip mall with its scraped-scorched-earth techniques? I enjoy all of these creations in their own ways, but at what cost to the actual soul of the land?
There has been a tremendous weight in my spirit as of late, one which I believe to be much more common amongst others than we might ever speak aloud. It is the weight of homesickness, the weight of a longing for actual joy. It is the desire for just one thing, just one aspect of life that is not artificial, not forgotten. In short, we want Just One Thing, just one thing, to heal us at a deep level.
I would suggest to you today that, perhaps, we find more of Home when we connect to where we are actually from. And from where I have been taught, there are two core components to a human: that we are formed from the ground and breathed into by the Breath of Life.
It seems that in human civilization we have forgotten most of these two things. In my experience, the “ground”, the land from which we come, from which we are fed and clothed and sheltered, and to which we go back to, has been treated as a “resource,” as something to take from and maybe have a little experience with now and again, to go vacation or walk upon.
The land is not a resource. It is a living, breathing, feeling spiritual being. It is also capable of response, and I sense this land is beginning to wake up in a very real way. I saw personally some of the aftereffects of Hurricane Harvey, and I have no real interest in seeing that again. I could list off other specifically unsavory aspects of this un-spiritual view of the world (desertification, continually decreasing nutritional quality, extreme soil erosion, etc) but i think you get the picture.
And our Breath of Life: where is our Spirit? Might I suggest our breath, our fully oxygenated breath, seems to have been taken from us by our own surrender of our natural habitats? We have left behind much of the harmony that is not only possible, but is REAL when we are in a right relationship with the land. It would seem to me only a natural causal understanding that the abandonment of the land and our designed relationship to it would result in the air and water eliciting a like, though eventual, response.
Now, please read: I have no interest in discouragement. In fact, I fully believe that only a few of us turning around our old perceptions and ways of living to a more connected way of life can change, quite literally, the whole world. If only a few of us would pray for the peace of the land to return, for the magic to return, the joy and genuine love that comes when we are in our right relation with this land; if a few of us would remember this, be still to pray and meditate into this, to ask for this, to live this, everything would change.
When I came home later on I began to consider all I’d observed. I concluded that the true thing to do in this situation was in fact to seek out this magic, this peace of the land. I would make this a dedicated facet of my life, and integrate the prayer and meditation of this into the day to day. I live now with the genuine calling to the land to wake up in spirit, and to others who also are awake, those who sense this, for us together to bring the reality of joy back into human experience again.
These practices and beliefs tend to (or perhaps intentionally) frustrate the rational mind in order to force the acceptance of a lived reality, or the denial of the potential way of freedom entirely. The power of this practice cannot be overstated: the limits of the rational mind are bypassed, the body is moved back into, and the healing of the heart from past nervous civilized life becomes real.
Our joy comes much from the land. Our hearts are filled by this realization, and to move continually deeper and deeper into this is to follow our individual path into a truly lived life.