17 November 2013

Widening the Focus

This blog since 2010 has continued my practice of sharing personal adventures (often misadventures) and reflections, covering issues, events and readings not only personal but global in scope. My intent is not self-centeredness per se, but stems from a reluctance to preach or teach, or to consider myself an authority. I am simply inspired periodically to share my own journey and reflections in hope that these will further inspire and resonate, please and entertain. 

More recently I have shared some of the product and process of my writing life, notably the release of the novella Rendezvous in September 2013. Again the focus is personal but intended to share something of value to those who like to read, in this case fans of fiction with a twist, and and those intrigued with wilderness.

How does the content and focus so far sit with you? Would you prefer to see a shift of focus to certain areas of your concern? Topical news, information, links, photos, guest posts, how-to's, reviews? Send me an email, or post a comment here, and I can endeavor to make this blog yours as well as mine!


Technical note: As part of the ongoing outreach for this blog, I am registering with Technocrati and including the following code: ZK9CN63YAW94

05 November 2013

On Life and Art

In the culture of celebrity, the artist is royalty. In an era of technological ubiquity, everyone and his sister aspires to this nobility. But does the concept of iconic culture-bearer hold any meaning when democratized to 99 percent? And why limit our accolades anyway to the traditional domains of "the arts"? Why not celebrate the art of life, and find a way to recognize and appreciate and make viral the simple yet remarkable achievements of everyman, everywoman? Let Facebook, that sprawling domain showcasing the daily exploits of everycat, lead the way...

jamAs a self-complaint and disclosure, I might say that I exercise poor discipline in furthering "my art" - whether that includes writing, drumming, playing flute, photography. Those at least are the categories most recognizable as arts, even if my own production in any of them has been rather modest: slightly above "amateur" and somewhat below "professional." The excuse I use provides the ballast for this essay's argument: that I am largely engaged instead in a creative quest that might be termed "lifestyle architecture," seeking optimum design that work for me - and, to the extent possible in collaboration with my life-partner, friends, housemates and bandmates - if not in any prepackaged form for wider consumption.

Beyond the arbitrary and conventional categories of art as practiced above, comes the more rarified and subjective realm of spiritual practice, not designed as a communication medium but certainly one intended, in most religions, to refine the self for the benefit of others. Thus the self is the medium of creation; self-creation becomes the ever unfinished work which however is always on display, in performance ready or not. Does the spiritual medium translate into objective criteria of evaluation? Such as... percentage of time smiling? Days per year not needing mood-enhancing substances? Number of life-partners less than or greater than 1? Number of followers of one's spirituality blog? The proof is in the pudding; but where does the pudding reside? More to the point, Who is the pudding? Who, indeed, is asking the question?

Finally we can all, aspiring artists and those knowing better than to bother, fall back upon the more mundane levels of living - those denoted by the "lower chakras" of root existence, survival and procreation, individual will and social and heart connection. We engage, after all, in a daily creation of our own lives, personalities, lifestyles, networks of sustenance and sociability. Is this realm of "life itself" not also a valid arena revealing our creativity, the manifestation of our living spirits, our abilities to achieve harmony, resonance and enduring value? There is no level playing field here, no system of final ranking for success or failure, happiness or popularity. No, not even money will serve, with its well-known contraindications and tendency to squelch as well as to liberate human potential.

So, as with the spiritual realm of self-expression, the worldly pursuits of "lifestyle architecture" (that is, just plain life, in the making) are largely subjective in value. Do you have 1000 Facebook friends or 3 true friends, and which is more indicative of your success? Is that success to be determined by yourself, your own standard of fulfillment, or a panel of self-appointed experts, or a panel of experts appointed by other self-appointed experts? What is success anyway? And who is asking that question?

cacaoMaybe those moments of life stolen from art go on to enrich and inspire the art. Maybe those moments of art stolen from life go on to enrich and inspire the life. Maybe it's all about the life, and art is just indulgence. Maybe it's all about the art, and life is just indulgence. Maybe there's no art without a life that works, and maybe no life without art that works. Maybe it's all an individual matter and to pronounce such maxims for everyone is pointless. Maybe art and life are just shades of the same phenomenon - conscious, creative human being - like light and dark, good and evil, love and fear, spirit and form, energy and matter. Maybe the quantum duality is nothing more than a plaything of the verbal mind, juggling yin and yang to eternity, for its own amusement and edification.

In the meantime, life goes on; and art can proceed of its own will. Art goes on, and life proceeds of its own volition. Each surfaces according to the need of the moment, or season, in the form each being requires for our final definition... before such definition is erased, like sand in a monk's mandala. So in the meantime, celebrate: each with one's own brush of the moment, or season.


27 September 2013

The real Italy (first impressions)

Vernazza Leaning Tower of Pisa

Sometimes when you are about to leave a place, that is when it appears to you in its essence. Crabbed to this cliff edge in Vernazza by knotted logistics of travel plans and eroding priorities of purpose; pressed out of the streets and alleyways by the relentless streams of tourists from America, France, Australia, England, in hiking boots, cargo pants and tank tops, who chuff red-faced up the cobbled path to the inter-village trails of the Cinque Terre; budget burned by the pedestrian 20-Euro restaurant meals of skimpy pasta and salad; ears blunted by the assault of American English filling the piazza pizzerias; I find refuge by this window over the sea.


Behind the green wrought iron filigree curled in wavelets, the pale waves wash in the morning onto the gray rocks, oblivious to my concerns of the moment as to all the human history clotting these shores with empire, architecture, art and commerce. The nobility of the human enterprise is reduced to this essential: the pure genius of stacking rock upon rock on the bedrock of the cliff; turning raw nature into habitable space, into havens where one can sit sheltered, graced by pleasing colors of ochre and white plaster, terra cotta, brick and dark wood. One can sit removed from the bustle of what passes for culture and tradition, sit connected with the source of it all.

The real Italy, the one before tourists, the one before art and reputation, sits facing the sea, its essence arising in the dancing waves, the grace of the morning light, the play of motion and stillness, the warm-cool sensuous air, the soothing hum and crash of the foaming tide. The Italy of history awaits beyond all this, in the stories of the mind and scratchings of the scholars, heaped in stones rebuilt and repainted over centuries, bringing wave upon wave of visitor to catch glimpses and pass away again.

Manarola Manarola

This enterprise of building an edifice of words arises too like ephemeral shifts of wave and light, and falls again into the motion of the current, fades again into the white horizon. This empire too shall pass, leaving, if it is well enough constructed, a window standing high on an ancient cliff, open to the sea.

14 September 2013

Sketches of Croatia

Sept. 5-8 Drasnice

Clear transparent luminous pebbled turquoise water, devoid of coral or large fish, tropical warm, facing islands west to Italy. The host family, apologetic on the snafu that made us drag our luggage down the long track from the highway, then surly after we renegotiated our reservation for less money and fewer days. Or maybe it wasn't about us, but about them, middle age in a second-rate resort outpost, burnt out after high season.

Sept. 9-10 Dubrovnik
Bombed-out fortress walls restored, tourist hordes renewed with extra fascination, war in our time, how incongruous! Red-tiled roofs again reflect brilliant sunshine, contrast with azure Adriatic, Ottoman navies repulsed like Yugoslav dive bombers, cafes awash in Euros, pizza everywhere, and world-class ice cream at every lip.

Sept. 10-11 Korcula
Embraced in the intimate splendor of Korcula's clear pebbled bay, wild swimming, footsteps from the ancient walled port. A sleepy languor of island life, in view of a long green peninsula ridged by gray stony mountain. The narrow alleyways choked with cafes, the harbor promenade and obligatory fish on ice, more café bars three per block, we saunter five minutes across the old town, fifteen around, clicking each step slower.

Sept. 12-15 Komiza, Vis
Sweet brown village at end of remote Vis island, ancient wood shutters closed on deserted alleyways while tourists flock at harborside restaurants and cafes, tour boats lined up to ferry them to rare blue cave and sand beach coves, skies pure blue till chemtrail cross-hatch over empty stone church, grapes purple and green at harvest, cake of apple and carob to wish us onward to Italy.

31 August 2013

Day Before Launch

As fate would have it, my first published book releases tomorrow, September 1; and two days after that I fly to my next round of world explorations.

New beginnings: a book, an author website, a Facebook author page, an itinerary of locations that include possibilities both familiar (Portugal, Thailand, Bali) and unfamiliar (Croatia, Italy, Sri Lanka, Mexico, Ecuador...). Life continues to unfold as a mystery of manifestation, the past and present merging in the choice of multiple futures.

Such is the fate of the world, and such is the theme and construction of what on the surface begins as an "adventure novella," Rendezvous.

Of course the first question anyone asks is, "What is your book about?"

Given an elevator ride of, say, 7 floors, I might reply:

RendezvousRendezvous is a taut yet poetically described tale of a wilderness adventure, by a young family drawn on a romantic quest to meet in the heart of the mountains. Overcoming obstacles of logistics and physical endurance, they achieve their rendezvous at a cabin in a remote pass. During an overnight storm, through a haunted dream state, Will confronts the agonizing choices of finding a descent back to safety. The linear narrative spawns divergent scenarios of disaster, which the reader must navigate with Will in the quest for survival.

That's one way to put it. It leaves out, though, the personal, autobiographical dimension. Invite me for a coffee to say more and I would share:

The core story in Rendezvous is a real-life adventure my family and I experienced in 1987 in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia. The successful outcome of that adventure, with its numerous challenges and pitfalls, allowed me to muse on a variety of "what-if" scenarios stemming from the actual story line - most of them disastrous. In the paranormal sense, and structurally in the novella, I conceived of these as alternative timelines or parallel realities. Somehow karmically the other characters and I "chose" the one scenario leading to our survival.
The challenge in publishing and promoting a book is to distill the entirety to a 3-page synopsis, a 1-page version, a 2-paragraph query, a back cover blurb.

Like life and this story, the task of summarizing spawns numerous possibilities to choose from. I can present you with the following finger-food, for example, as hors-d'oeuvres to give you a flavor:
  • wilderness survival Man on one side - his woman and child on the other - battle a haunted mountain for survival.

  • Seven doors: six lead to disaster, one to survival.

  • A romantic quest becomes a wilderness ordeal.

  • A simple tale of adventure spawns paranormal possibilities.

  • Groundhog Day meets Night on Bald Mountain.

  • Hero plays Russian roulette with the Canadian wilderness.
One reviewer, fellow writer Raye Rabbitfoot, offers a similar palette of tidbits from the other side of the mirror, the reader's view:
  • Fabulous: tingling fear-filled apprehension.

  • Waiting bristle-backed for the next avalanche of possibilities.

  • Drink your carrot juice; this book will take your blood pressure off the charts.

  • Suspense-filled details culminating in twists of possibilities.

  • A sword swallower... it took courage to watch the next move.

  • A maze of manifested fears.

  • A slide show of white-knuckle catastrophe.
Now that your belly is already full with a surfeit of appetizers, and I have more packing to do before embarking on a larger new adventure, I will close here to allow a spell of digestion while we await the main course, still baking until tomorrow.

September 1 update: You can now order Rendezvous at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle ebook editions (Kindle ebook also available from Amazon.ca).

28 July 2013

Colonizer Meets Colonized: From the Heart

In the theatre production "From the Heart," just finished its run at the Uptown Mall, the most moving vignette was the second one, the tete a tete about the play itself and the implications of awareness of colonialism in ourselves, the colonizers. "Not about guilt, not about negativity" - but about education, awareness, acknowledgement of what really happened and how we continue to benefit. Feelings of suppressed injustice and release arose as I listened, with the realization of how pervasive is this "settler's" curse - whether in Canada, the US, South Africa, Israel, or any other land that has seen waves of conquering armies, immigrant races, or marauding corporations decimate resources, cultures, and previous populations.

After the show Cedar brought the discussion to the present, a world where 99% of the people are now united in our colonization by the 1%. In this world we no longer need to be divided by issues and identities of separation on the basis of race, nationality or territorial seniority. The predominant separation that controls and overshadows all the other issues now - environmental, political, economic, cultural - is that between the 99% and the 1%.

Lest we jump to the witch hunt and lynch mob, the 1% is not even a class of people, per se. Those handful of wealthiest on the planet are, we presume, still human at the core; just as, on the other side of this unequal division, all of us in the 99% have seeds and remnants of rapacious tendencies in our DNA. The 1% is not so much a human demographic as a fiction of privilege: a manufactured bubble of power and protection propped up by such legal machinery as Admiralty Law and the notion that corporations enjoy the rights but not the responsibilities of actual, living and breathing persons. Its occupation of the apex of the pyramid is secured, most blatantly, by a combination of brute force, fear and intimidation, bribery and blackmail; and more insidiously, by controlling education, media, information and entertainment, accepted modes and boundaries of discourse, definitions of "normal," and social pressures to conform.

In the play about reconciliation with First Nations, we are told of the nineteenth-century ploy by the US government to wrest lands from the Lakota Sioux, forcing them to sell their treaty lands or be denied food payments under those same treaties: "Sell or Starve." In Canada today, 2013, the federal government repeats the tactic by denying funds to any First Nations band who refuses to support the new omnibus legislation (Bill C-45) further stripping them of rights and resources. A young man from the Nanoose band, sipping tea with us in the lobby after the play, shares that it's more complicated than simply reviving traditional culture and language; the world is changing so fast that everyone - young and old, First Nations and settlers - must negotiate the appropriate way forward, a way that is unclear and changing by the day. Henry Giroux, writing in this morning's blogosphere on the assault on critical thought in American culture, comes to the same conclusion:
Young people increasingly have become subject to an oppressive disciplinary machine that teaches them to define citizenship through the exchange practices of the market and to follow orders and toe the line in the face of oppressive forms of authority. They are caught in a society in which almost every aspect of their lives is shaped by the dual forces of the market and a growing police state. The message is clear: Buy/ sell/ or be punished.
If the native people of Canada are the First Nations, then the youth of America, and by extension the world, are the Last Nations. "In a Maryland school," Giroux notes, "a 13-year-old girl was arrested for refusing to say the pledge of allegiance." A logical development, in a time when "the war on terror ... has morphed into war on democracy." The assault is the same, the mounting crimes against nature and humanity, and time has come to hold this universal predicament to the light.

A pyramid by its very design cannot be simply "toppled," reformed by coup or revolution. Maintaining the hierarchy of power, one form of corrupt leadership replaces another, down through the centuries. Instead it is time for humans to recognize our innate equality, to level the playing field to the horizontal ground of natural democracy on a community level. The Occupy movements recently have demonstrated a nonviolent, consensus-based approach to grassroots participation in affairs that concern us on a human level. Growing past colonizer and colonized, we need to deal now with each other as equals, and to reconcile ourselves collectively with nature which still holds us.

Humanity in the collective can be considered a living organism; and as such it can be encouraged and trusted to carry out its innate healing powers. A few months ago I had a dermatology treatment using light and a photosensitive cream to zap precancerous cells under the surface of the skin. The results were ugly for the first few days, as red spots and blotches appeared all over my face. A few days more, and the red spots began to darken and dry. In two weeks they had all flaked and fallen off. The healthy skin, with no further intervention, had simply moved the offending dead cells up and out of the system, and restored itself to a healthy condition.

Awareness and acknowledgement are the first steps. Appropriate action and healing are the natural consequences to follow, given a continued willingness to listen and learn from each other.

10 June 2013

Critical Mass

I have the image from John Vaillant's The Tiger, of a baboon troop surrounded by lions, with no escape, giving up and sitting there, hands over their faces, waiting for the end. In a book on JFK by veteran nonviolent activist James Douglass, he writes of the "unspeakable" evil in the world (quoting the Christian mystic and poet Thomas Merton), the evil that took Kennedy's life when the president converted from a cold warrior to a leader seeking genuine peace. Now we find ourselves in a perpetual state of "citizen denial" - our hands over our faces - as the U.S. government openly admits it is waging a permanent global war, and one of its intelligence analysts has exposed the cyber-technology placing virtually every communication under surveillance.

Meanwhile for the first time in sixty years, there is a large presence of media and aggrieved public surrounding the secretive Bilderberg conference in Britain, where once it was denied and now must be admitted that 140 of the world's most wealthy and powerful are meeting to plan in secret (definition of conspiracy - no longer "theory" but speakable fact) the fate of the world's economies, governments, and, by the way, people. Another definition that still gets swept under the carpet, fascism: according to Mussolini, "the merger of corporate and state power." Sound familiar?

Orwell saw it coming, but most of the rest of us chose, consciously or not, to look the other way, our virtual hands over our heads. Totalitarianism, fascism, these spectres of the twentieth century did not go away, they just retreated behind the scenes, became more sophisticated, learned to cover tracks by smokescreens of misleading rhetoric, paper tigers, consumer gadgets and toys, bribery and blackmail, false-flag concocted "terror events," assassinations, coups by economic hit-men, mind-control both overt and covert, and the bottom line of choice, appeals to "national security."

No longer relevant in the twenty-first century, if they ever were, are the artificial divisions of left and right, liberal and conservative, socialist and fascist, christian and muslim and jewish, black and white and yellow. The relevant picture in this savannah of a world is the lion and baboon. If you have enough lions to surround the poor primates, it's game over and the hands rightly stay over the eyes. But if, as David Icke pointed out to the assembled thousands in the protesters' "corral" at Bilderberg, we are many and they are few, and we are committed to conscious, nonviolent change, there is hope. If we bother or risk taking our hands off our eyes and ears, we will notice, under the chemtrail-shredded skies, that those self-appointed lions are 140 (or 300, or 1%, pick your billionaire cutoff) and we are 7 billion. Now, maybe now, we are ready to press "reset" and play this game for real.

25 April 2013

Jack Ruby and Other Talismans

It's been a winter of challenges, yes even in so-called paradise (AKA Maui). Unusually inclement weather - wind, rain, cool days and nights, and water choppy and too cold for comfortable swimming. Recurrent cold/flu virus attacks, mutating weekly, for months on end. Bouts with parasites persisting from last year's travels in India. Wrestling with future alternatives in the quest for a home with budget balance...

In mid-April, our evening entertainment turned to watching video replays of presentations at the conference held in LA by Project Camelot, entitled, "Awake and Aware 2013: Time Travel & Other Worlds." Meanwhile I was reading 11/22/63, the Stephen King novel about travel back in time to undo the Kennedy assassination. In that quest many obstacles intruded along the way; the hero discovering, "The past is obdurate." The book is reminiscent of Groundhog Day and Rendezvous, both dealing with multiple replays of the past until "you get it right."

My phone log began to reveal a few repetions of the following:



(Jack Ruby, for those two young to remember, was the assassin of Kennedy's assassin, insuring the past would remain silent on that plot.)

Ruby was a young woman wanting to buy our ruby-red car (a 2001 Acura Integra). When she showed up to have a look at it, I said to her, "Ruby, meet Ruby." The week before, the first person we showed the car to said it should have a name... like "Ruby."

This sequence also recalls the movie trailer Ruby Sparks, where a novelist's character creation (Ruby) comes to life as part of his life.

In the midst of all the above, the past - or in this case, the future scenario of selling the car - proved obdurate more than once. After feedback from the first two buyers, we decided to get some basic bodywork done to hammer out the worst of the dents on both front fenders: relics of past accidents in California by Osnat's twenty-something son and daughter. The very next day after the work was done, she drove to an evening event - a channeling session by an interdimensional comic named Karton - and came out to the parking lot to find a fresh dent in the rear bumper; so we had to return the next day to the body shop to deal with that.

The next day, she drove to a healer in the afternoon, up a rough dirt driveway. The healer announced that the stubborn parasites (persistent since India) plaguing Osnat's system all winter had survived her attempted purge and were beginning a new life cycle. On the way out she drove over a rock and suffered a flat tire, which meant another trip to town and another costly repair, dragging down our morale and making us wonder what forces were arrayed against us in preparing to leave this enchanted/haunted island. Following the tire repair, a talisman appeared in the tire well of the trunk: a large button from an ancient sweater of Osnat's from years past.

Coming out the other side of this gauntlet of clues and omens, to our final week before we had to  fly away, the King book was finished, the parasites back in remission. But Craigslist fell silent, and the car remained unsold.

"Time is an illusion," Bashar reminds us. "All points in space and time are linked together. When you find that inner excitement in one experience, and then another, it will turn out that those experiences must be connected." Awake and aware, in the pause between anxiety and excitement, we await the next signpost on the way back home.

Postscript, next day: Osnat passes her driver's test. At the DMV while awaiting her license I see my former yoga teacher on Maui, Ruby Amarshan. In the evening we go together to the Karton session, and in the same parking lot where the previous week someone dinged the rear bumper, I bonk my head on the hatchback and realize it's not staying open: the hydraulic struts are shot. Yet another obstacle to selling the car...
I go stressing into paranoia mode, while Osnat remains optimistic down to the wire: "Something will show itself." On Wednesday we plead our case at the used car lots, put notices on bulletin boards, relist online, and formulate backup plans for car storage on Maui.

After meeting with my friend Rick to play chess, drum, and discuss car options - in the chess game of life - I'm too burnt out even to go drumming for dance class. Instead, on the way down the highway towards home, my phone rings and a guy says he wants to see the car. I detour to Kahalui to meet him there. On seeing the red Integra his eyes light up. A classic sporty car, he owned a '95 model, wanted one again. Dents, struts, no problem. This is the car he wants. Cash in his pocket. Let's do this, tonight.

And it is done. We enter the home stretch clear and free. Rick channels pithy wisdom by way of congratulations, worthy of a bumper sticker:

"Patience is often required when surfing life in the now."

[previous trials and tribulations of Buying a Car on Maui]