14 September 2009

Editing Life: from Dzogchen View

Funny how the professional life and the personal life overlap. Now back working steadily as a copy editor - with music performance season passing into more of a lull, and my former nightly avocation of music editing also on hold - I'm seeing how life itself can be a kind of perpetual editing project. Forever tweaking, doing major retuning (as in this 7-month move to Maui) or minor fine-tuning (carrying the laptop around the house and to "hotspots" outside to catch the rays).

During this time of transition I've found some quality reading time, finally checking out Eckhardt Tolle's A New Earth, and Stephen Cope's The Wisdom of Yoga: A Seeker's Guide to Extraordinary Living, along with Jeremy Narby's Intelligence in Nature (thanks, Paul, for these selections!). It's fascinating how these different writings overlap ... which is no surprise, as each would acknowledge the universal essence of life in its holographic flowering from form to form, and each would stress the underlying unity of consciousness.

Back on the ranch of the mundane ... I have been mostly preoccupied over the last three weeks with getting set up in my new household, with the help of my host Marianna, who was still here for two weeks of that time busily preparing for her own winter journeys. She's an artist of some renown who paints Tibetan deities, sometimes as wall-sized murals, such as the one in Maui's own stupa at the Dharma center, where we recently attended a talk by the visiting Oracle of Tibet.

I won't bore you here with the extensive details of buying a car to use during my stay here (or, read further below if you must); of reorganizing the kitchen to my own taste (all right: stashing away unwieldy large pots and pans, sharpening a motley collection of knives buried in a drawer, rearranging items on counters and in cupboards); of various attempts to find shortcut routes down the mountain to the beach (it's so tantalizing to see sunny Kihei laid out directly below, but frustrating to have to drive the roundabout highway to get there; sadly, the Google Earth aerial views don't anticipate gates and "No Trespassing" signs on the back roads that do run straight down the mountain through the cane fields and ranch country); or of the trivia of electronic tasks such as setting up printer, router, and phone options (all systems go). Suffice it to say that now the basics are in place, I'm comfortable here in this mountainside nest, and I'm finally able to breathe a little, take stock, and deepen my vision of the life I came here to live.

The core motive of my move here, of course - as well as my skinny guy's daily quest - is heat. Sunrays. Warm ocean swimming. Endless summer. That's the theory, anyway. I mean, Victoria's as good as it gets, in Canada that is. But that's Canada. So, when the offer to move here came up last April after a long dreary March, I instinctively sprang for it. I knew from the description I had, however, that living 3600 feet up the side of the Haleakala volcano would be a compromise of the tropical ideal.

The fact is, there's beautiful warm sun here for a couple of hours first thing in the morning. Then clouds form from the ocean breezes on the mountain and hang over it like a sombrero for the rest of the day. Around mid-afternoon the sun clears the canopy and shines back in from the west, ending in a glorious unique sunset each day. The nights and mornings are chilly, the days moderate. "Winter," I hear, is somewhat more challenging, but it's all relative. This is Hawaii, after all.

The flip side of this rural mountain location, as I came to know so well at my homestead in interior BC, is space, solitude, and the beauty of peaceful nature. And of course the key difference here is that in 30 minutes I can drive to that tropical beach, any time of year. The choicest beaches are an hour away ... still no big deal, considering that in Victoria in summertime I do just that, driving 30 to 60 minutes every chance I get to go swimming in a favorite natural location.

The other throwback to my days in rural BC is a garden - my first in 15 years. This one has been just too easy. Three raised beds behind the house were nicely rototilled in advance of my arrival. I bought a flat of starter seedlings and plunked them in the ground in less than an hour. The trick now is to wait. In the meantime, groceries. The tree crops here have been a disappointment. I heard macadamias, avocados, various fruits ... in reality the only things bearing now are plums and some tiny dry tangerines. So, once again the ideal needs modification: the grail of rural self-sufficiency, as I learned once long before, remains elusive.

On the music front, things are progressing more as expected, with opportunities sprouting up frequently. For starters, I hooked up with a longtime West African drumming class I'd played with on both my previous visits, and fit right in. Same with the epic Sunday afternoon jams at Little Beach, where again the djembes and dununs set the pace. Here the added spice is that it's a semi-performance, since the beach is crowded, always produces eager dancers, and is ... oh didn't I mention? ... clothing-optional. I've also been invited to sit in and play at the dance classes happening down the road in Haiku. Then there's the FireTribe Equinox celebration next weekend on Oahu ... and after that, a class workshop and performance near the "seven sacred pools" on Maui ...

In case I get bored with too much time on my hands, there's always the full slate of yoga and dance classes going on at the Studio in Haiku ... but something tells me I'll have enough going on soon enough, and that I'll be content to take spare moments of peace and solitude to enjoy here at home in Kula, at the place Marianna calls "Dzogchen View."

A Tantra of Dzogchen

As a bee seeks nectar

from all kinds of flowers,

seek teachings everywhere;

like a deer that finds

a quiet place to graze,

seek seclusion to digest

all you have gathered.

Like a madman,

beyond all limits,

go wherever you please;

and live like a lion,

completely free of all fear.

-a tantra of Zogqen

The Unedited Life

1 September 2009

The world is too much with us; late and soon,Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;Little we see in Nature that is ours;We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,The winds that will be howling at all hours,And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,For this, for everything, we are out of tune;It moves us not. -Great God! I'd rather beA Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.


The car business was something I anticipated with some trepidation, not knowing exactly how I would manage payment between various options that weren't obvious; researching the best options for sale; contacting and getting around to see the cars I wanted; deciding among innumerable choices of make and model, year, mileage, gas consumption, repair history, and so on; getting ones checked by a mechanic; and arranging transportation involving various parts of the island if it did come to a sale.

It all came down to Saturday when, on very little sleep following intensive Internet research and spreadsheet comparisons of local ads, I set out to make the rounds of my top candidates. First on the list was a '96 Mazda Protege with only 97,000 miles and an asking price of $1500 obo. It happened that the car sat off a little road in Huelo, Ulalena, that I recognized as the road to Danya's where I stayed a year and a half ago on my last visit to Maui. On arriving I called the owner, Tony, on my cell, as he was working on a construction site nearby. No answer. After leaving a message and waiting awhile, I got vague and uncertain directions from a housemate of his. Another person along the road directed me further. But the house I came to did not match the earlier description, and no one was there anyway, so I proceeded further down the road for a visit to Danya and to get directions from her.

On the way I met Kevin driving up the road - a fellow I'd met when staying at Danya's. He actually wasn't staying there but at the neighboring land - which Danya didn't even know, when I mentioned it to her. On the way out again I encountered another person from my previous stay, Arianna. It all seemed so karmic. The house I was directed to was indeed the one I had found earlier, but there was no sign of Tony, so I returned to his house where the Mazda sat, to wait and ponder next steps.

After a while Tony called me on my cell, and said he would be there shortly. The car was in decent shape, except for a banged-up front turn light. I took a test drive. It drove and handled reasonably well, though a little rough on acceleration. I said I liked it and wanted a nearby mechanic, a friend of Marianna's, to have a look. Peter the mechanic actually owned a similar Mazda and so was familiar with the engine; he took another test drive with me and noted the same hitch in the acceleration; and on inspecting the engine, decided the probable cause was worn spark plug wires. He contradicted Tony's reference to another mechanic saying this car didn't have a timing belt. He also mentioned the need for a CVR boot ($75), and an immediate need for a front brake job ($100). In addition would be the probable replacement of spark plug wires, another $60. I paid him $40 for his time and drove away ... though on doing so, it seemed so much rougher than before, that I more than once turned around to go back for another evaluation, before deciding I was just not used to the car and anyway the new plug wires would probably do the trick.

Back at Tony's ranch, I sat in my rental car for a few moments and tried to figure out what to do next. Should I buy the car and then take it immediately back to the mechanic to deal with now, hoping to get a ride back here from Marianna when it was ready? But if I did that, would I have to ask the mechanic to bring me back to my rental car at Tony's? Or ask Tony to follow me to the mechanic's and then bring me back? I was too tired, hot, hungry and confused to think straight. Okay, I finally decided, first things first; I'll buy the car and then worry about the mechanical issues later.

I phoned Tony who had returned to work with his cell phone on, told him what my extra costs would be and offered him $1300 - to which he responded cooly, "Okay, whatever." On detailing what the mechanic said, I heard from Tony that he'd already recently replaced the spark plug wires, and had also bought new spark plugs which he hadn't yet installed because he didn't have the proper tool; he thought the new plugs would solve the problem of rough acceleration.

"Hmm," I said, "that's interesting, because the mechanic checked the plugs and they were okay; he thought it was the wires that needed replacing. Here, look at what he showed me ..."

But as I opened the hood, Tony with the papers in his hand said, "Look, do you want the car or not? I don't know what you expect for $1300."

"I'm just trying to understand what I need to do to get it running properly, and it doesn't make sense ..."

"Well I don't have time to dick around like this. I have to get back to work."

My hand was in my pocket ready to hand him the cash and get it over with. But I couldn't quite bring myself to do it, and with that extra moment's hesitation, Tony lost what little patience he had left. "Fuck it, man, I don't have time for this shit."

I stood there at a loss for words as he shut the car door, got back into his truck and drove off.

[happy ending: "Old Paint" Toyota Corolla to the rescue:]

The jam at Little Beach was another test. No so stressful on the surface ... in fact that part was mostly blissful. The magical blue-green waves, shimmering olive and silver when the sun went behind clouds. The soft golden sand, the beautiful naked bodies, the all-forgiving vibe of the drumming. The usual smattering of jammers were there, with one black-skinned dreadhead more or less leading and soloing, but with a drum that wasn't overpowering. Some duns showed up to add some foundation to the rhythms; otherwise it was mostly the steady pitta-patta of beginning drummers, spiced with the odd percussion, didge or flute. Some people were friendly and easygoing; others more standoffish or uptight. No big deal. At one point a dancer asked for "Yankadi," and I took over the duns, but the djembe support was not there and then someone alerted me that the woman I'd taken over from wanted her duns back. Okay, sorry, whatever. There was room to solo, to play my flute, to play a little didge and wooden frog clave. The dancers increased from two or three to a dozen, as the sun went down and the rhythms built in intensity. Then the dark came, and it was time to pack up and get to the parking lot before the tow trucks arrived.

I stopped in Kihei for a fish sandwich which I ate by moonlight on the lava rocks by the water at Kamaole Park. Here was the other side of bliss: ordinary life, alone, in the dark. I drove back home the hour by highway and sank into bed with exhaustion from the 4-hour marathon of drumming and swimming, on top of everything else, still processing the reality of the event. It was phantasmagorical in its own way, and yet mundane as reality always is, in comparison to the conception of it that has been built up in the mind of expectations.

So this is why I came to Maui ... very good ... but then what, now what, right now, today?

Bird song outside my window, sun in the garden.

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