Saturday, February 20, 2016

Writing Down the Bones

It is 2:50 PM and I’m enjoying my first cup of coffee this Saturday afternoon. Actually, it tastes better than it does first thing in the morning. Why, you may wonder would this be? Gratitude I suppose. The alarm rang at 5:50 this morning so that we could get to the hospital in Espanola at 7:30 am leaving no time for coffee. PQ is having sleep tests to determine if he has sleep apnea. 

 I had hoped to attend a free event celebrating the 30th anniversary of famous homey Natalie Goldberg’s first bestseller, “Writing Down the Bones”, but PQ’s appointment had been changed from 12:30 to this earlier time. We rushed down to Espanola Presbyterian, didn’t know where the Sleep Center was and couldn’t ask because the front desk wasn’t open. Finally, a janitor offered to walk us there. A quarter of a mile later we walked through the door. PQ was exhausted from the rapid sprint so we sat down. A young nurse came out with a puzzled expression and looked at our papers. “Oh, that is 7:30 pm tonight, she said. Then I walked rapidly in the cool morning air back to the main parking lot, because my honey couldn’t have survived another four block run, picked him up and drove us back to Taos. We have to go back this evening.

PQ slept while I drove. It sounds obvious in hindsight but since neither of us had any idea what a sleep test involved we just went along with what we thought was an odd plan. The truth is PQ could have taken the test this morning. He has no trouble falling asleep that early in the morning. I however, was wide-awake. 

When we got home, I realized there actually was time to attend the celebration of Writing Down the 
Bones, before delivering Corey to his cooking job in Arroyo Seco.  Of course, I will have to take PQ back to Espanola this evening, drive back to Taos and then to Seco to pick Corey up at the restaurant.  In the morning, it’s back to Seco to deliver Corey to the restaurant for Sunday morning brunch and then on to Espanola to retrieve PQ.  Are you confused yet? I’m hoping that I won’t be.
Natalie (center) in the Dining Room of Mabel's House

The Mabel Dodge Lujan House was the location of “Writing Down the Bones” event and it turns out it was the first event held in that New Building at the base of those antique stairs leading to the main building.  I felt like a stranger at a family reunion but that was OK, because I knew that I should have been part of the Taos writing family a long time ago. It is my own undoing that I’m just an appreciative stranger. 

It was definitely a family event and I enjoyed some brilliant and funny stories going back to the Lama Foundation and outer edge of the old hippy days. Some of these people are now famous writers and all of them figurative siblings in this family. Every time I yield to disenchantment with the Taos chi, something comes along to shame me into taking back my negative grumblings.   

My personal connection to this event goes back to my days at the Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. I remember placing Writing Down the Bones on the shelf when it was just published. I read the brief bio of Natalie and noted that she lived in Taos, which is where I wanted to be. I had a warm rush each time I fetched that book for a customer. Yes, Natalie was one of us and I secretly hoped to meet her someday. But I didn’t read the book.

I’ve kept a journal since I was 25, but never considered myself a writer. The journal was personal history and self-psychotherapy. I always received excellent grades for papers and once in a while wrote an  article with complementary responses but I was not a writer. I didn’t want to be a writer. I wanted to be a Jungian therapist, an anthropologist or maybe a mythologist like Joseph Campbell.  For one thing, I was too shy to be a writer. I was almost too shy to be a painter. Earlier I wanted to be a dancer so that I could express myself without saying a word.

I uploaded my first blog entry with trembling hands. We had recently returned to Taos from Cottonwood Arizona and all my painting supplies were in boxes here and there. However, the real reason was that I knew I needed to do this. It was time to quit hiding in the shadow of more outgoing people. It was time to avoid exposing myself to possible criticism; it was time to come out. Yet, this morning I realized I have to take another step into the world of words, even though I haven’t quite arrived at that trailhead.

I noticed that Natalie’s audience this morning was 80% well educated, over 50 white women. Yes, there were a few Hispanic women, and half a dozen men but everyone represented the feeling intellect and a politically liberal outlook. As I looked around, I wondered, “how come I’m usually to be found among this demographic?” I have no degrees, and economically I don’t qualify as middle class.  Then I realized that these women and a few men are swimming in the same stream as Mabel Dodge Lujan and her Movers and Shakers. They represent the visionaries that can re-balance this out of balance world with the consciousness of the heart.  The stream is rising again and I need to get off the bank and jump on the canoe.

Friday, February 12, 2016


I could almost do without legs (just kidding. I do have to walk between bed, table and desk). I have been sitting in front of my computer most of the week. I’m wondering how this happened. I’m not going to blame the computer that brings the world to my desk. However, in the past, I would have gone outside searching for what I can now find with a keyboard and screen. Especially in winter, it is easy to stay in this house/cocoon waiting for the big melt.

What the computer has done is make it easier to avoid going out into the asphalt and mud world. Living with someone who can’t walk very far has certainly limited my scope. I used to find sitting for long periods of time difficult. I would even do stretches and calisthenics while talking on the phone to avoid restless legs. Walking is a way of interacting with the real world and during the few times that I’ve walked this neighborhood I’ve discovered things I didn’t know existed. Walking is an intimate conversation with the earth that’s supporting you. That is one of the problems. I usually feel sad and empty when I walk on the earth in this neighborhood.

I know this isn’t a real community. Most of us don’t know each other beyond the first name and a nod in passing. What is worse is that we know each other less now than when we first moved here. There is nothing natural or organic about this neighborhood.  Over time, the folks in this cul-de-sac became more reclusive.  I just recognized this as I wrote it. I was blaming myself for this situation and yet it applies to all of us in this development. Nevertheless, there is powerful energy behind the east side of this house flowing down from the mountains. I feel good looking in that direction when we have our morning coffee but it seems remote from this group of houses as if it wanted nothing to do with us. My attachments here end at our fence. Our cats know our landscape more intimately.

In contrast, the neighborhood I moved from was a family constellation. Perhaps that’s why we even knew the names of each other’s cats and dogs. Many of the houses in Chamisa Mesa (our development) are builds of Habitat for Humanity. During the building process, I felt involved in the community because we worked hands on with each other and with volunteers and also prepared dinners for visiting workers. Something changed when we actually moved into our homes.  The distancing process began.
Nature Boy Blending In.
So, what about the sagebrush behind us and the concrete walk along the highway? What’s wrong with those? Probably if I applied willpower, I would start walking again. Maybe the energy around us would become more inviting. For some reason, it was more relaxing and intimate to walk in Sedona and Cottonwood. However, I suspect that my problem isn’t entirely about the environment.

I’ve been reading “Into the Heart of the Feminine” by Jungian analysts Massimilla and Bud Harris. The primary theme is the influence of the “Death Mother”. The myth of Medusa portrays the deadly results of demeaning the feminine as a culture and the effect it has on our mothers. Most of us grow up with wounded mothers who then become at least partly toxic. Often the psychic poison is mixed with milk and honey so that we are confused and feel guilty of ingratitude when feeling rage and confusion. In the Greek myth, Medusa became deadly after experiencing such horrible abuse that it resulted in her transformation from a great beauty into a deadly monster. Perhaps this is happening to Mother Earth presently as we notice more earthquakes, deadly storms, forest fires and other anomalies. We assume that our human world is separate from the natural world around us and as such, we can fix any problems with more technology, that is, more of what got us into trouble in the first place. 

The problem is about imbalance. Technology and an objective scientific stance are not wrong unless they obliterate our identity as living beings that are dependent on the earth and its systems. We are in fact products of the earth. At this time, we are like a cancer whose out of control growth is killing its host. Has anyone considered that the increasing prevalence of cancer might be a mirror of our cosmic state? Primitive (think of as prime) societies that have yet to be overtaken by civilized values still observe such internal effects as a mirror of an external condition.

Feminine energy isn’t just about gender. It is the life power of nature flowing through our planet. The removal of earthy feminine energy is literally deadly. Even when covered by an empty beauty, as many of our social improvements are, our modern world is largely distant from life.  We are killing ourselves and usually don’t notice because the outer form is designed to simulate a natural look.  

Have you noticed that every new technological breakthrough and cutting edge invention has an unanticipated negative side? Breakthroughs in old problems upgrade to bigger problems. Few people consider whether a new invention has heart, or if it will be wisely used. Instead, it is presented as an advance in technology that will make life easier, safer or more convenient. Soon there are ramifications that no one foresaw. Often it becomes a tyrant or a controlling addiction that we cannot do without. Imagine living without an automobile, electricity, the internet or plastic. Is war better because we have high tech weapons that have virtually turned it into a video game with fatal consequences? We are all in it together, living in one global power grid and yet we can’t get along, and our intelligence is purely mental. Emotionally we are in the middle ages but with powers of mass destruction. Is that progress?

Uncontrolled escalation of consumption and competition cannot end well and it must come to an end in a finite world. Moving to the Moon or Mars would only work for the very wealthy and it might be good if they went there soon. However, I suppose their intention in doing so would be to use the rest of us to produce what they will need to exist in an alien environment. Modern cities are already beginning to resemble space stations, so perhaps we are being acclimated to such an outcome.

Our unbalanced culture is still unconscious of the feminine organic essence of life. The belittling of women is just one of the symptoms. It isn’t actually about men and women as gender but about a balance of being and doing, heart and mind. Unless doing supports being it is destructive.  Being is not simple survival but the organic connection with source that comes from the heart center and binds instinct with intelligence and a spiritual foundation. A balance of masculine and feminine could be compared with the Taoist concept of Wu Wei.

Wu wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world.