Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Goddesses of Stage and Screen and of the Universe

Goddesses of Stage and Screen and of the Universe
Chapter from upcoming sequel to Memories and Musings of a
Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman

I met Fran fairly soon after I returned to Laramie from my time on the Hudson. A lissome and lovely blond, Fran was often observed baring a piercing inquisitive gaze, head and neck bent slightly to the fore as if she were leaning forward to gain a slightly closer look at whomever or whatever she happened to be assessing. Fran seemed always poised to proffer some acerbic commentary, but never quite came across as anywhere near so venomous as her somewhat serpent-like form and intense gaze might seem to indicate, and in fact proved to be rather sweet. Fran was/is in a Laramie/Ft. Collins based punk rock band, Sunnydale High, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer themed punk rock band.

Sunnydale High played a show one evening in the summer of 2016 at The Great Untamed, Laramie's best and only mead bar. I went to the show and enjoyed the song, Fran on the keyboard and vocals and some other dudes I didn't know on drums, guitars and vocals.

The Great Untamed is not a particularly grand venue, just a simple and cozy meadery on 3rd Street in Laradise, with a bar with a well stocked shelf of chocolate, marsh rosemary, heather, basil-mint, basswood show, bochet, ginger, cranberry and cardamom mead, amongst the selections. Scott is the proprietor, one of a number of well loved Scotts that have owned cool storefronts in downtown Laramie over the years. Another Scott has run Laramie's longest standing head-shop and hippy mercantile, Terrapin Station, for decades, and another Scott just recently retired to his hacienda in Mexico after having been proprietor of Laramie's best retailer for custom-made mountain gear and sometimes absurd yet fun and useful bric a brac, Atmosphere Mountainworks.

I sat on the floor towards the back of the first room, my back to the bar, and as a conspicuously single man I was admittedly perusing the audience at least as much as I was attending to the music, noting and perhaps catching the eye of some of the conspicuously single women present. One particular woman who was standing in the broad passage between the two rooms and across from me piqued my curiosity, as she was likely the only person in the room who I had never seen before, save for some of the band members. She was quite attractive and fairly tall, had long brown hair she wore in a pony tail, and appeared to be at the show alone. As the show ended said woman approached the band and seemed to know them, or at least seemed an over-attendant groupie. Of course, she would be girlfriend to someone in the band! I thought.

I went home to my studio apartment and as per my habit turned on my laptop and started a video to entertain myself before going to sleep. As I had just been to see a Buffy the Vampire Slayer theme band, I of course played an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as I had the whole series downloaded. I chose an episode from season 5. As I viewed the video, it suddenly occurred to me that the woman I had seen at the Sunnydale High show earlier in the evening was “Dawn,” played by Michelle Trachtenburg, introduced in season 5 as Buffy's younger sister. Like most of my celebrity encounters, it was only later (often while watching television shows or a movie) that I was conveyed to the realization that I had encountered one of the stars of the show “in real life.”

Dawn's character figures rather like Lalitha in Hindu mythology, by my reading anyhow. Dawn is manifest into human form by the chanting of three monks sitting in a circle and facing each other. According to one myth, Devi Lalitha is manifest when Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma all focus their respective third eyes together to allow Her to manifest from formlessness to physical incarnation. Devi Lalitha is the Goddess of Divine Play, and is Maha (Great) Shakti, the most transcendent expression of Shakti or Ma Durga, the Most Powerful Goddess of them all. Buffy very much thus fits the archetype of Durga, I might also note. Buffy says of Dawn,

No. She's more than that. She's me. The monks made her out of me. I hold her ... and I feel closer to her than ... (looks down, sighs) It's not just the memories they built. It's physical. Dawn ... is a part of me.”

The next day was Kirtan at Blossom Yoga, which is owned by my friend Miguel, one of the stars of the world-renowned punk band Teenage Bottlerocket. I slid my boots off in the hall and slipped in about five minutes after the chanting had begun. As I placed a cushion under my butt at the end of one semi-circular row of kirtan singers, I noticed that the woman I had determined was Michelle Trachtenburg was sitting right next to me to my right. She glanced at me only briefly and continued chanting “Hare Krishna” or “AUM Namah Shivaya” or a Goddess chant or some such Sanskrit mantra. I pulled out my phone to record the chanting, as I had tried to do at a previous meeting of Laramie Kirtan, but immediately considered that Miss Trachtenburg might think me trying to get a photo of her and so slid my phone back into my pocket else set it on the floor. After the last mantra was intoned and Ron, the kirtan leader, started to recite the Hanuman Chalisa, I went out to sit in the hall and put on my boots. I was intending to try to talk to miss Trachtenburg when she came out of the yoga studio hall, looking up toward the door and waiting somewhat anxiously for her to emerge through the open door. As I tied one set of laces, she walked rather briskly out of the door and past me and very swiftly made her way out the front door before I could finish putting on my boots and endeavor to inoffensively and respectfully approach her, to ask her if she enjoyed the kirtan or something.

Ever since I started to watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series, sometime around 2008 or so, I noticed startling coincidences between the show and various Hindu mythological figures. Whether by Joss Whedon's conscious intent or no, any number of parallels seem clear enough, and there is enough reason to assume some of the parallels were indeed intended. In the dream sequence that introduces the first episode after the credits, visions of tombs and crypts are followed by a sequence showing a Shiva Nataraja murti (sacred statue). The same murti sits in a prominent place in Giles's (Buffy's supervisor or “Watcher”) office in at least one other episode. To my eye, the whole of the series did seem to very well if somewhat subtly archetypally present at least some semblance of Goddess Ma Durga, if she were a high school cheerleader. Both the first “replacement Slayer” and the later introduced “First Slayer” are, in said guise, clear multiforms of Kali Ma, “Black Mama” to put it in the vernacular.

Several months later Sunnydale High held an EP release show at 8 Bytes Game Cafe, just a few storefronts down from The Great Untamed. 8 Bytes was crowded, as fans of the band and of the TV series filled both the bar and the room with the stage, and the video game and pinball room in the back, too. I was very much expecting to see someone from the cast of the series, and danced near the back of the crowd to look over the scene, admittedly scanning the audience for Sarah Michelle Gellar or James Marsters (“Spike”) to appear amidst the throng. I soon enough noticed an attractive not quite middle age woman with dark blond hair dancing just a few feet to my left, and determined that if anyone I had noticed in the audience might be a BTVS cast member, it would be said woman. “Tara!” I thought to myself.

She seemed to notice me or my moves, glancing my way with a slight smile granted as I turned my head to look her way, perhaps briefly making eye contact with me and getting down to the beats and the groove and at times even slightly brushing against me as she swung her arms and hips to the rhythm. At set break I went to the bar for another beer or some such, and when I returned noticed the woman in question was standing by the entrance with a relatively short fellow who looked to me like so many twenty or thirty-something Laramie punks, Teenage Bottlerocket fans and the likes who generally wear leather or denim jackets and short spiked or subdued mohawk hairdos, and so I immediately questioned my assumption that the lovely woman was “Tara,” or Amber Benson rather, as I would later determine the actress's name to be.  I ought note, Tara is also one of Goddess Durga's names.  

I enjoyed the rest of the show, having decided I must be conflating some random graduate student with “Tara,” and then did go home to my apartment to watch an episode or two, and readily determined that it had indeed been Amber Benson at the Sunnydale High EP release show, and that the fellow with her was almost certainly Adam Busch, the actor who played Warren, a wannabe “supervillain” in the show, who the tabloids did tout was once in a relationship with Amber Benson and is still good friends with her.

Fran told me she didn't know of either of these cameo appearances, of “Dawn” and “Tara” and “Warren,” though she said that the other members of Sunnydale High were the BTVS fans, and that she'd only seen a few episodes. I might also add, almost as an addendum, to add to the absurdity and unbelievability of my telling, that I am not disinclined to believe I saw Sarah Michelle Gellar sitting in front of Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse shortly after I had first arrived back in Laramie, fresh from encounters with two BTVS vengeance demons, Emma Caulfield and Kali Roche, on the patio at Bank Square Coffee in Beacon, NY.

I had just filled my mug inside, and stepped out to take a seat at one of the sidewalk tables to enjoy the sunshine. As I rolled a smoke, I turned my head and eyes a bit to the left to noticed that a woman sitting at the table to my left was wearing a pair of black pants, not quite what I suppose are properly called “yoga pants,” as they were loose fitting, with two or three white stripes running down the seam of each leg. At my first glimpse of her slacks, my Hollywood star radar kicked in.

Those are Hollywood pants!!” I thought as my gaze then rose to notice that the woman sitting at the next table was blond, and that she wore very large dark sunglasses. I at first considered that the seeming star somewhat in disguise might be Emma Caulfield (who I have determined plays a figuration of Hindu goddess Shashti Mata, an ex-demon who marries Shiva's Son Skanda, rather clearly figured as "Xander" in the series) as I had twice encountered her under curious circumstances in Beacon, NY, but upon reconsideration determined that the mysterious woman who sat at the sidewalk table to my left was Sarah Michelle Gellar, as at a glance the two Hollywood stars do bear a similar appearance. I haven't told so many people about this encounter as I neither had someone else to vouch for my assessment, perhaps to look up Sarah Michelle Gellar's latest internet photos on his or her phone to compare, as I had done when I asked James, the barista on duty at Bank Square in Beacon when I first saw Emma Caulfield sitting on the patio at said establishment, nor was there another overt reason for said star to be in town, as there would be when Sunnydale High (likely the only active BTVS-themed band in America—though I'm guessing there might be one in Japan) was playing a show in Laramie. For those factors, and as I didn't have very long to thoroughly yet inconspicuously examine her visage, obscured as it was behind large dark sunglasses, and as said suspected Hollywood star soon departed from the sidewalk seating at Night Heron, never again to be seen by me in Laramie. Certainly one of the tellings of my Hollywood star encounters that I am myself least certain of, nonetheless it seemed worthy of inclusion, with the aforementioned caveat, in this telling of one of my many twisted tales to tell.

And yet another odd addendum . . . Walked into the Buckhorn Bar one evening in August of last year and noticed a woman with bleach-blond short hair, cut rather like Miley Cyrus's was a few years previous, who was wearing a mid-length form-fitting dress and flitting about the bar. One of the woman's companions had two-toned past shoulder length hair, blond towards the end and brown towards the roots. Though it was her companion, a less petite doppel with the short blond hair, that inspired me to look up images of Miley Cyrus, when comparing pictures from the internet it became apparent that the woman with the two-toned hair was in fact the real Miley Cyrus.

I was at the Buckhorn the next evening for Sunday Open Mic and noticed the taller doppel who wore the short blond, pre-two toned Miley hairstyle, was sitting at one of the booths. I approached her and after a bit of small talk I inquired if her friend who had been there with her the night before was Miley Cyrus. She looked both ways and said that her friend with her the previous night was indeed Miley Cyrus, then asked of me, “Please don't tell anyone!!” Well, I do apologize, but it's been well over a year since then, and said vignette does fit far too well in this telling to ignore this intriguing Hollywood star encounter. If Miss Cyrus herself had requested of me to keep my mouth shut or my keyboard from clacking, I would certainly have respected her request, but as it all did manifest, this stuff's to good to forego adding to these true tellings of this “nobody” at play (being toyed with?) by the stars, and seemingly and contiguously, sometimes by veritable Goddesses or Gods.

Though the abundance of bizarre stories of my encounters with Hollywood stars might lead the average reader to readily conclude that I am quite delusional (not to mention so many other scarce believable tellings I've told and have yet to tell), I must note that I am exceedingly self-critical regarding my own assessments of the amazing and the unlikely that I encounter and observe, always ready to give ear to a “rational, scientific” critique of my interpretations of the fantastic I've seen and experienced. Certainly there is some particular point to this particular lila, these uncanny encounters, this seeming grand Hollywood production that uses no cameras, that is projected onto the screen of the day-to-day of my experiencings.

Perhaps it was some curse (else consolation prize?) for my failed marriage to Holly who is now Holly Wood? Certainly some subtle esoteric principle or plot is at play in the presentation of these strange cameos, vignettes directed and produced and written by an as yet undetermined crew, i.e., undetermined save for the abiding recognition that it is certainly somehow Ma Lalitha Sahasranama, the Playful Mother of the Universe, behind the whole production, but that's always true of everyone's life in some guise or other. The particulars and the point of this peculiar production do still evade me, to whatever degree, though there is certainly some rhyme and likely some reason to this strange screenplay in terms of karma and dharma, in terms of action and justice, but some of my theories are perhaps indescribable and probably too bizarre for the current likely audience, so I shall spare those details at least until I've a better grasp on said absurd story's subtleties. In the meantime, Jaya Devi Shri Lalitha !! Victory to the Goddess Mother of Divine Play and of the Universe !!

Twelve years and eight months had passed since I spent my 33rd birthday with her at the Omega Institute on May 1, 2005. She asked me to meet her at the picturesque lake that is centerpiece of the interfaith and yoga retreat center. We embraced and exchanged greetings, then she briefly left me to go to the kitchen and returned with an apple to give me, I suppose in some guise else inadvertantly to grant an offering to the mendicant sage I was playing since our last parting, i.e., since I had first come to the Omega Institute to bring to her a pillow and some other items I was carrying for her since we left Montreal together with Zunaka, my wolf-dog, on an Amtrak train.

The lake on the Omega Institutes grounds is purportedly the lake that is featured in the film What Dreams May Come, as Robin Williams had apparently spent some time there and was rather fond of the lovely little lake in the hills above Rhinebeck, NY. Their are subtle and rather personal implications to that fact, in terms of the plot of the film and my own life experiences and relationships the which I shan't elucidate and to which I shall only allude. I watched the film with erstwhile girlfriend Meghan and her family, and she touted it her favorite movie. Leslie found something therein quite disturbing, and too much for random chance many elements of the Hollywood film seemed to oddly coincide to certain obscured occurrences having to do with women I've loved and lost, if not overtly to death or suicide.

Our meeting on my 33rd birthday was rather brief, if still symbolically rife. We talked for a while. She told me her malaise was subsiding and that she was healing in the nurturing environment at Omega. We embraced again and then I left, walked and may have hitched a ride back to Rhinebeck, and likely went to the Starr Bar or Pete's Famous Restaurant or the Bread Alone Bakery to have a beer or a coffee, pondering the purport of my faltering Quixotic endeavor.

I returned once more to the Omega Institute a few months later to see Leslie and check on her well-being after a failed attempt to return to Wyoming took me only so far west as Port Clinton, Ohio, as I had not heard from her for some months nor received any responses to a number of emails I had sent her. She was not particularly pleased to see me without having been granted proper notice, and I did not see her again until just last Winter Solstice, 2017, or rather the day after, which happened to be her birthday.

As with many of my mornings, I made my way to a coffeehouse to have a cup and maybe write and research some of the topics regarding which I've taken or found a vital interest, scarce even giving thought that the solstice had just passed. As I walked into Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse, I glance to the left whilst walking towards the counter to get a fill for my cup and noticed an auburn haired woman with a scarf covering her hair, save for her bangs which were wrapped or braided into a number of separate locks or braids, her beautiful brown eyes painted like an Egyptian princess. It took a few moments for me to realize the woman who sat between two others, one older woman with silver highlights in her curly dark locks and one younger woman with lighter hair, was really her I had said goodbye to at the Omega Institute a dozen years previous, who I'd hopped trains in the middle of winter to find in Montreal and subsequently shared an apartment with. As noted, it was the day after the Winter Solstice, which fell on December 21, and thus it was her birthday, approximately twelve years and seven months since I had spent my 33rd birthday with her on May 1, 2005. Auspicious in more than merely a European Pagan guise (May Day and the Solstice and all), I'm sure, and well fitting the love story, if might be called that, at play in our relationship, if might be called that.

I proceeded to the counter and ordered a coffee, rather dumbfounded at the vision of my erstwhile(?) Beloved sitting with her mother and sister (I'm assuming) on either side, still to my vision the most beautiful woman I have ever been blessed to rest my eyes upon, and I dare say most who new her then, and likely now, would not disagree with said assessment. I soon recalled the fact that it was her birthday, the day after the Winter Solstice, perhaps the occasion compelled the three to come over the hill to visit Laramie as likely twas the holiday season generally that was the occasion of her visit from afar to visit family in Wyoming. Once my cup was filled and I poured a splash of cream into my mug, I walked past her table to the condiments counter and quite purposefully and intentionally slowly poured a fair helping of honey into my mixture of coffee and cream. I rather unabashedly gazed at her as the honey slowly started to flow from decanter to my mug, both to ascertain that I was not delusional, and as if expecting her to turn and raise her eyes toward me and perhaps smile, but she held her gaze fixed to the fore, not even glancing at her assumed mother nor sister as she conversed with them, and she certainly did not turn her eyes in the least towards me.

Upon the occasion of our final meeting and parting at the Omega Institute, she had told me that she was trying to cut ties to all save for close family and best of friends, and that she did not much appreciate my unannounced visit on that occasion, a few months after my birthday visit. She embraced me one last time and I departed with my white wolf-dog Zunaka (the dog formerly known as Zeus) and with the intuited understanding that she did not particularly want to see me again. I received one more email from her in which she apologized for harshing me, and that was the last that I had heard or seen of her, save for viewing a few YouTube videos of her belly dancing over the dozen years passed since our last communique, until that sunny if chilly first day of winter.

In light of her last response to my interest and devotion, I determined it would not be fitting to interrupt nor intrude upon her day unbidden. The move was hers, if any was to be made. I decided to go outside and sit at one of Night Heron's sidewalk tables to smoke a cigarette and reconsider and contemplate my proper response, if any:

Should I approach her table, look at her and quizzically if confidently pronounce her name with a slight bow of my head, and await a response? Am I to assume that she still wishes for “ties to be severed,” and thus that I ought go about my business as if she had not seemingly not so randomly appeared on her birthday, after our very meaningful if not (at least to my renderings) sacred meeting on my birthday twelve years and eight months previous? Maybe I should “play it cool,” whateverthefuck that is supposed to mean, and yet position myself to be available if she chooses to approach me and proffer a greeting? perhaps peruse the bookshelves not too far, nor too near, from where she and her companions sit, and . . . and, whatthefuck does this “mean”?! I don't come here every day, and indeed what are the chances we'd just randomly meet on this day of her birth, the day after the Solstice, so many years and days since our last blissful encounter on my birthday, May Day, Beltane or whatever?!

I went inside to get a refill, and I again approached the counter where the honey jar and sugars, natural cane and white, stevia and other sweeteners were kept. I still had an abundance of honey in the bottom of my cup, mind you, but I wanted to reassure myself again that I wasn't dreaming or delusional, and perhaps to grant her a moment wherein she might feel comfortable hailing me. As soon as I had reached the counter with the honey, directly adjacent to the table where she sat, however, she walked around the table and past me, glancing at me out of the corner of her eye as she passed and almost paused, then continued to and up the stairs to the second floor, Spirituality, Musicology, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Goddess, children's section, romance novels, and tables and comfortable armchairs to accommodate cafe patrons and students seeking an inspiring spot to study. Of course I did not follow, though the subtlety and grace of her movements in those moments as she walked past—almost but not quite brushing against me as she passed, supernal and beyond elegant with an air of the transcendent—did further whatever spell she already and still held upon me. I might duly note that when I first typed her professional name and “belly dance” into Google after I/we lost contact, one of two videos that appeared on the screen was her dressed in red bedlah doing a fire and sword dance to a fitting version of “I Put a Spell on You!”

I went back outside and smoked another cigarette with plenty of Cannabis mixed in, and perhaps poured a healthy shot of rum in my coffee. I am rather fuzzy on departures, as I cannot recall if it was her and her party or I who left Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse first. The surreality of those moments left me in a contemplative stupor, the rum in my coffee certainly notwithstanding, not unlike the dumbfounded state I found myself in upon our encounters those years before when she was a barista in Laramie. Whether our last encounter or no, I cannot say. Happy birthday and namaste anyway, lovely Leslie.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Adobe Coffeehouses and Hot Springs

Sitting in front of World Cup Espresso Cafe in Taos at the corner of Paseo del Pueblo Sur and Kit Carson, watching the traffic and the other people sitting on the bench staring out rather blankly towards the intersection, with intermittent conversation interrupting the meditation. There's not a cloud in the sky, so far as I can see from here in the shade behind the spiral-carved tree trunks supporting the awning of the World Cup. Passing pedestrians present a variety of people drawn to this locale and local to it, from wild-west long-hairs to poncho and Prada-toting New Yorkers, Spanish children of the Conquistadors and Taos Pueblo descendants of the Anazasi, who have lived here for a thousand years. The little hogan-style store that sells strings of chiles swinging in the breeze and roasted chiles around harvest time is still open, a dozen or two garlands of red peppers pendulously swaying and shimmering in the sunshine.

I much miss Cafe Tazza, though I was told it might (again) reopen. With a courtyard next to a bookstore surrounded by an adobe wall, as well as ample seating, it was a sure place to meet the local color. The Coffee Spot, formerly known as The Bean, is still open for business, as are the Mesa hippies who sit in the yard to the side of the coffeehouse sometimes selling Taos Big Bud and other strains of home-grown cultivated across the Rio Grand Gorge in a community of earthships and broken down school buses that has been affectionately described as “the largest free-range insane asylum in North America.”

Dinner and Hanuman Chalisas at the Temple last night blessed my soul, as every visit ventured to said sacred place, a Hindu ashram in the high desert of New Mexico. The new Mandir (temple), which unfortunately won't be open until Hanuman Jayanti (the celebration of Hanuman's Birthday), bears a dome surrounded by windows, and I'm supposing does correspond to the parameters proffered by tradition. An ornate carved wooden double door evocative of both Indian temple doors and southwest Spanish inspired style graces the entrance to what shall surely be site of many blissful mantras intoned and many epiphanies and blessings bestowed by the Monkey God and other expressions of the Divine. The current temple room and house for Hanuman will always hold a sacred place in my memories, but the new Mandir will certainly serve better as a sacred space for the satsang.

A silver-haired silver-bearded long-hair with a crumpled and stained cowboy hat just strode by with a cane and leashes in hand, with two happy dogs in tow (else perhaps leading the way). A pretty and smartly dressed brunette wearing a pair of large sunglasses just passed and smiled, and I'm not disinclined to believe twas Julia Roberts, though I will admit I've been sort of expecting to see her here in Taos. The other day, sitting in my motor home and smoking a spiked cigarette and a bowl and likely sipping on my hash pen, I thought a woman walking by on the sidewalk on Paseo and chatting with a companion sounded like her, too, I must admit, though I am fairly certain I did see her once at the Hanuman Temple, her hair covered in a scarf drawn loosely around her face as a seeming slight attempt at disguise, as she's touted to be a devotee of the Guru of the house.
The woman in question just emerged from the coffeehouse, and I'm slightly bummed to note it was not Julia Roberts, alas . . .

Next day, and surprise:  I'm sitting at another coffeehouse, Taos Java. I parked da beast in the Walyworld parking lot across the street last night to endeavor to maintain some semblance of a low profile, as parking on the main drag in a 24 foot motor home too many nights in a row, despite likely not illegal in terms of the parking, might be in terms of the camping. I used to, duly I might note, very much diss on Walmart, as their labor policies have been and almost certainly still are rather unfair to the workers (if not relatively atrocious) and their goods too often come at the cost of human rights abuses, though they did raise the starting wage of workers to $11/hour recently. The goods they bring to some communities do allow a slightly higher standard of living, to some, though the presence of a Walmart almost always means a loss of some local businesses. They do, most often, provide free overnight parking, a service to gypsie-style folks like me as well as to families and retirees on vacation, though obviously with the intention of garnishing more of those people's business. Lastly, I might note that the trust-funds that I live on, lest my book sales do increase, are derived from money made from my paternal grandfather having invested in Walmart since the 80s, as he was from Arkansas and saw Sam Walton as just a good businessman from his home state who provided access to an array of goods they might not have already had in their communities. Like so much in life, an ironic mixture of blessings and curses, justice and wrongs seems to make the world go 'round, and for me, keeps my wheels rollin'.

Taos Java is a comfortable little coffeehouse. A wooden French door cut with a sensuous curve at the seem where they meet opens into an L shaped room with half a dozen rustic log tables and however many rustic log chairs and a counter to one side. As with many traditional adobe buildings, rows of log beams hold up the ceiling, and curved passageways and corners give the rust-red painted walls a softer feel than the choice of color might otherwise. More than comfortable enough space to sip a coffee or cappuccino and read a book or pen one.

The midterm election was the day-before-yesterday, and it seems some semblance of balance has returned to “the Force” in regards to American politics. Control of the House is back in the hands of the Democrats, and I feel as if a weight has lifted across the land, if still threatening to burden us if we, the people, don't continue the fight to get or keep our respective heads out of our asses.

I'm considering returning to Manby/Stagecoach Hot Spring today or tomorrow, though the weekend weather forecast calls for snow. The springs sit next to the Rio Grand, a mile or two hike down into the Gorge, allowing one to sit in steaming hot mineral water with naught but a row of rocks seperating you from the icy torrent of the river.  When I was there a few days ago, a herd of bighorn sheep graced the bathers below with a show on the cliffs of the gorge above, one pair of young rams stood intermittently grazing and staring at us from just across the river and a few dozen feet up the side of the gorge. 

I'm ready to sit in the healing waters again already, but Sunday is Chalisa chanting and Indian food feast day at the Hanuman Temple, however, and I don't wanna get stuck in the snow at the end of Tune Road, so I'll likely wait out the weather and go back to the springs next week, and wander the wonderland of winding roads and adobe of Taos until then to see what wonder and magic I might meet...


Sunday, October 14, 2018

A Type-Cast Player in the Game of Life, Death and Rebirth . . .

An (assumedly) worthy paragraph to share from my up-coming and still being composed travel narrative, sequel to Memories and Musings of a Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman

I think it might be possible to end up rather a type-cast player (nata) in this Grand lila (play), despite one's latent talents or proclivities to play other more potentially fitting roles, within the grand scheme of repetitive themes and mythemes, characters and archetypes called for in whatever production at play on whatever stage, grand or small. I suppose it takes something rather quite like moksa to attain the degree of artistic license to have leave to always and only play those roles suite one's sensibilities, in this or any average lifetime lived. Usually one's karma from this or past lives does dictate and direct the course of the part or parts in the play one is to play. Those somewhat writ roles pressed upon us, that while granting due freedom of choice are still to some certain degree karma that our own past karma (literally “action(s)”) demands. This cycle of action and consequence and the almost certain suffering caused is why many leave the pursuit of kama (desire, family, etc.) and artha (wealth and fame) to live an ascetic life to focus on dharma (spiritual duty, literally “keeping things together”), and why some ascetics endeavor to do naught but to sit and breath in order to minimize their karmic footprint, so to speak . . .

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

An Encounter With An Angel: Jimi Hendrix, Gandharva, Bellingham, Washington

When I was first living in Bellingham, WA, not far from Jimi's hometown of Seattle, I was walking towards downtown, towards Stuart's coffeehouse, and a black man standing in the doorway of an apartment asked me if I wanted to smoke a joint. We stepped into his apartment, and the whole front room was filled with expensive sound equipment.  He told me he was a musician, a guitarist, and he played me a recording of his very psychedelic guitar playing as we smoked the J...

This man named Jimmy/Jimi told me he was the same age as Hendrix and that they were in fact born on the same day, gazing at me as if he were awaiting a response.  My random friend had short hair and no big afro, but was built very much like Jimi Hendrix and looked quite like him in the face . . .
Jimi asked me if I wanted to start a landscaping business. 

Never saw him again there in Bellingham during that first visit (1998-99) nor during later visits to that lovely city in the northwest corner of the contiguous United States of America.  I am actually rather inclined to believe it was really Jimi Hendrix I puffed with on that day in B'ham . . .

Am I saying Jimi Hendrix is (or at least was) alive years after his purported death ?!?!  Maybe . . . Else he is a Gandharva, a heavenly musician (Gandharvas and Apsaras are Heavenly Musicians and Divine Nymphs, i.e., "angels" according to the Western religions), and decided to pay me a visit...

All I know is, by my memory of that encounter, the fellow in B'ham was not unlikely really Jimi...

Namaste and Rock On !!!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Knuckers and Nagas . . .

Yet another etymological discovery !!  Not that the relationship between Sanskrit (or "PIE," Proto-Indo-European, if you buy that racist spiel) and the English language has not been acknowledged . . .

From Wikipedia:

Knucker is a dialect word for a kind of water dragon, living in knuckerholes in Sussex, England. The word comes from the Old English nicor which means "water monster" and is used in the poem Beowulf.

From Wikipedia:

Naga, (Sanskrit: “serpent”) in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, a member of a class of mythical semidivine beings, half human and half cobra. They are a strong, handsome species who can assume either wholly human or wholly serpentine form and are potentially dangerous but often beneficial to humans.

The mythological serpent race that took form as cobras often can be found in Hindu iconography. The nāgas are described as the powerful, splendid, wonderful and proud semidivine race that can assume their physical form either as human, partial human-serpent or the whole serpent. Their domain is in the enchanted underworld, the underground realm filled with gems, gold and other earthly treasures called Naga-loka or Patala-loka. They are also often associated with bodies of waters — including rivers, lakes, seas, and wells — and are guardians of treasure.[4] 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A Pilgrimage to Nowhere In Particular (Chapter 1 of Memories and Musings of a Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman)

A Pilgrimage to Nowhere in Particular

Chapter 1 of Memories and Musings of a Post-Postmodern Nomadic Mystic Madman

I was back in Laramie after an intense year of studies, still not quite finished with my Master’s thesis, and far from any semblance of a mastery of life. I was restless, and not at all content with the conditions in which I found myself. No, that’s not quite the right way to phrase things, for I was far from finding myself at said juncture in life—a journey of about a thousand miles, and perhaps then some.

I was married and had a wonderful young son, and had nearly completed a Master’s from one of the most tauted schools in my field. I had received excellent marks in all my courses, and some of the top names in the relevant academic disciplines were quite impressed with my work. I was unsatisfied, however, both with the progress of my thesis and with the teachings I had received at the University of Chicago, in spite of the relative excellence of the education offered at said institution of higher learning and the tutelage of inspiring professors.

At a gut level I felt as if the underlying truths I had a desire to discover were scarcely given a nod, even at one of the most renowned universities in the world. I instinctively sensed that what I sought was still veiled beneath comparatively inconsequential discourses, if not intentional fictions, indeed as I had felt previously whilst an ordained Southern Baptist minister and student of religion and history at Oklahoma Baptist University.

I believed (or have come to believe, and knew at my core) that there might be something not unlike a consensual agreement among academics, as amongst the more perceptive ministers of the conservative denomination to which I once belonged and in like institutions, to skirt else categorically deny the deeper issues that might be controversial, unpalatable or even paradigm shattering. Somehow I discerned and have since determined definitively that there is indeed some twisted and deep-seated conspiracy to intentionally dissimulate regarding certain known truths that might unsettle the integrity of those institutions and disprove those sacrosanct myths which hold up their prestige—and keep their pocketbooks filled.

Either this, or these supposed learned men and women might merely be blind to the subtler truths of reality and history, unable to see beyond disputations about angels dancing on pinheads or what tactic was decisive in a particular battle, the cadence of Shakespeare’s sonnets or how the chili pepper had arrived in India. Not that there is no value whatsoever in these sorts of exercises and inquiries, mind you, nor to a fair amount of what learning I acquired from lectures and assigned readings both as an undergrad and in graduate school. Rather, I was not satisfied with these as the gateway to those subtler truths I sought, which were certainly not readily to be realized within institutional confines and even if thus realized, not likely to be accepted within the discourse of the academe.

Whilst in Laramie, I attempted to find work lecturing at the regional junior college, or anything remotely related to my field of study. I ended up working on a highway construction safety crew. My evenings were mostly spent at what was Laramie’s only full service coffeehouse at the time, Coal Creek Coffee Company, working away at my thesis and unwittingly beginning to show signs of being sadhu, though I shall leave unwritten the specifics of those beginnings of my tantric practice. After Coal Creek Coffee closed for the evening, I’d most often wander on to the Buckhorn Bar.

I readily became quite smitten with one of the baristas at the coffeehouse, but hadn’t the self-confidence to engage her in even the most casual of conversations beyond ordering coffee or tea and a scone. Rather introverted after a grueling year at graduate school during which my wife (pregnant at the time) and I had first separated, and my mother, grandfather and family dog of seventeen years had died within a period of about three weeks. It was only once I was at the bars, a belly full of booze, that I had the wherewithal to be at all socially adept, and there a bit much so considering my presumed marital status.

So besides this sober reticence regarding the prospect of approaching said beautiful barista beyond the most casual of exchanges, I was married, and she also happened to have a boyfriend with whom she seemed quite enamored. Still, something about her moved me, inspired me towards a deeper search, a quest for the essence of what is beautiful, true and transcendent.

It was somewhere before Thanksgiving of that year, 1996, that I decided to go on what I deemed a “pilgrimage,” though I had no particular place in mind as a specific sacred destination. I had concluded that my life was at a standstill. My marriage was failing, my spirit stifled, and within me was a deep-seated desire for some sort of change the which I could not quite yet put my finger on, an angst issued from some seed not yet given the room to grow. I had lost faith in the claims of Christianity, seeing too many holes in their theology and claims regarding history, and similarly found academia wanting, as it seemed it had likewise grown too attached to the assumed verity of its dogmas and tradition. I wanted some semblance of answers unalloyed by a fear of questioning bygone authorities and institutional walls, unfettered by hollow convention and shallow tradition.

I recognized it was also trying on Holly, my wife at that time, to deal with my malaise and still overtly concealed carousing ways, and so we agreed she and our son would return to Oklahoma to stay with her parents while I attempted to get things together, to find steady employment and finish my thesis. I drove with her and our son Kieran Drew as far as Shawnee, where Holly and I had both attended college. From there, I set off on my first attempt at hitchhiking, intending only a short stop in Santa Fe before returning to Laramie to find work commensurate to my education and career aspirations and which would properly support our family. I felt like this “leap of faith” sort of experience might help me to clear my mind and figure some things out (I had grown quite fond of Kierkegaard’s writings as an undergraduate).

I said goodbye to Holly and Kieran, watched the black Honda Civic drive away, shed a few tears, and walked on. I was hoping to find one of a few of my more open-minded college friends still abiding in Shawnee—i.e., the truly liberal arts majors and not the theology and religion folks. I went to Deem’s Bean Scene for a coffee, Shawnee’s only coffee house at the time, hoping to run into someone I knew. No luck there, so I strapped on my frame-pack and headed towards the highway, less than forty-dollars in my wallet.

I spent a couple of hours at the Denny’s by the interstate, hoping I might meet someone there who was driving west. A friendly waitress gave me a few tips from her somewhat limited knowledge of hitchhiking. I finished my coffee and whatever I had to eat (I think it was either an omelet or a cinnamon roll), then started down the on-ramp and proceeded to hike along the shoulder, extending my thumb every time a vehicle would approach. It was somewhere after 1 a.m., Thanksgiving Day, 1996.

The night air was a bit chilly, though not so cold as in the high country where I’d been less than a day previous. I said or thought a semblance of a prayer somewhere along the way, an invocation that was something like, “God, Goddess, Universe or whatever you are, if you are there and you hear me, show me your providence, and love . . .”

After less than fifty cars and trucks and tractor-trailers had gone zooming by and less than an hour after I had started walking down Interstate 40, a pickup pulling a load of glass pulled over to the shoulder. A couple of dime-store meth-cowboys invited me into their ride and told me they were headed to Las Vegas after a brief stop to unload their trailer. I rode with them as far as Albuquerque, rolled my last two joints of Mexican brick-weed to smoke with them on the way, and fell in and out of a half-sleep state over the course of the ride (the driver didn’t seem to have any trouble staying awake).

Less than five minutes after hopping out of the pickup, a low-rider with fading and scratched paint screeched to a halt on the ramp between I-40 and I-25. I scurried to catch up and climbed into this second ride. The driver was a longtime local, and he offered a few tips about regional etiquette. He said his family had lived in the area for hundreds of years, and that I should be careful to refrain from calling the longtime non-indigenous (i.e., descended from early colonial) inhabitants of the area “Mexicans.” He informed me these people were properly categorized as “Spanish” or at least “Hispanics,” and that anyone with roots going back to the Conquistadors and first European colonists of New Mexico would take great offense if referred to as “Mexican.”

Though I can understand this man’s pride in his heritage, said kind low-rider cruisin’ “Spaniard’s” lecture gave me cause to consider how people sometimes grasp for categorical differentiations to distinguish themselves from whatever perceived “others,” to question why folks so often seek to elevate themselves by depreciating others, or at least to separate their own group from whatever other group they (or the wider society) may have deemed lesser. I had most succinctly encountered this unfortunate social phenomenon whilst attending high school in Oklahoma, where many of my pale-skinned peers derogatorily referred to our peers of African descent by the well-known epithet—if also often noting that those of our African American classmates they happened to like were not to be fitted in said category. Trying to fit in, I admittedly joined in on an occasion or two, though quickly recognized such words didn’t belong in my mouth.

Of course being in Oklahoma, most of these “whites” were to some degree or other of Native American descent (as am I), yet memories of the Trail of Tears and other such abuses of their ancestors, which should have taught them (or perhaps more accurately, their parents) compassion for minority others, had seemingly given way to the frustrations of being born into a particular socio-economic “caste,” so to speak, and to a want to find some other group in relation to which they might imagine their own status superior.

Not to do this very thing to those thus pressed to the periphery of the prosperity and social elevation of this nation by means of this analytical assessment, mind you. I do not desire to judge herein. Rather, I would merely wish to point out a cycle of social dysfunction that has maintained separations amongst oppressed peoples that ought to instead recognize a common cause. Members of such disenfranchised groups should well realize they have reason to unify, to break down these barriers that do little more than continue to maintain socio-economic disparities and to divide those who might rise together to overcome the injustices that have for too long held far too much sway in our world.

The CIA and other such organizations have subversively employed “divide-and-conquer” techniques in their covert actions, as has nigh every ruling class and empire throughout history in order to prevent a unification of potential foes. A few years later I would encounter the divide-and-conquer tactic first-hand whilst living at Big Mountain on disputed land in Arizona, where the Hopi and Diné were supposedly squabbling over the desert scrub they’d been forced to share since subjugated to the rez. There was no significant overt dispute between these tribes regarding this land, in fact, until a mineral extraction company decided they wanted access to this land, and thus the Department of the Interior, the BIA and purportedly even the FBI got involved, and the human rights abuses began (er, continued).

I would like to point out from another perspective that there is clearly great good in maintaining the integrity of cultural identities, so long as these don’t divide the oppressed where they ought to unite, nor cause strife where they should cause celebration. What a boring world if it were all of one culture and if we all looked the same!

This proposal is indeed a tenuous balance, to maintain pride in one’s people and traditions, and yet uphold respect for those who maintain other identities and cultures and lifeways, and still to determine and defend those basic and universal standards of justice and human rights that ought to transcend whatever traditions. And as should be apparent by these assertions, I’d also help incite, if I might, this world’s yet oppressed peoples to find what common ground they might to fight the still threatening swells of commercialism, neocolonialism and economic exploitation, to stay the destruction of native homelands and prevent the erosion of healthy and beautiful indigenous lifeways, languages, tribes and families.

Pardon the digression. Where was I? Oh yeah, on my way to Santa Fe. In truth, said descendant of New Mexico’s early Spanish colonials was doing me a favor by offering advice regarding the socio-cultural lay-of-the-land, regardless of whatever personal prejudices or pride may or may not have justifiably or otherwise motivated his monologue.

After this kind gentleman let me out at the southern edge of New Mexico’s capital, I started towards the center of town. I had called in advance to find out what arrangements for lodging I’d need to make at the Santa Fe International Hostel. Though I had left on this journey with only forty dollars, I was still want to ensure a comfortable and safe bed awaited me at what was intended to be a half-way point between Shawnee and my return to Laramie.

I was quite green to the ways of wandering, and completely unaware of the traveling hippie culture that was still going strong just after the end of the Grateful Dead’s long strange trip. My assumption upon extending my thumb was that this hitchhiking endeavor was relatively unique in a decade I believed had long left those aspects of the hippie movement behind. I had not, by the way, read any Kerouac at this point in my life, and was familiar with the Grateful Dead scene only by having attended a few cover band shows in Oklahoma City and Norman, OK, and thus by interacting with the eclectic audiences these performances attracted (yes, there were and are Deadheads and the likes even in Oklahoma . . . really). Oh, and I was also made privy to Head-lore by befriending Suzanne, my smokin’ hot upstairs neighbor and fellow MAPSS student at the U of C who had done the Dead scene when Jerry was still on stage.

Upon checking into the hostel, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the residents and staff were preparing a mostly vegetarian feast for Thanksgiving dinner. I enjoyed this unexpected delight, then sat out in the courtyard sipping some wine and smoking a joint being passed between some of the other residents. A light snow was beginning to fall as I endeavored to engage these other hostel-goers in conversation. I thus made the acquaintance of Natalie and Louisa, who were amongst the party puffing on the patio, and my first acquaintances to become friends in Santa Fe.

Natalie was a Canadian, and Louisa was from Amsterdam. Natalie was exceedingly effervescent and amicable, and Louisa rather reserved if not reticent. Natalie had red to brown hair, and Louisa was a blond. Both were rosy cheeked from wine and the chill of the snowy evening. Also present was a rather pretentious Latino in a poncho who was telling tales (however tall) of his father’s associations with Che Guevara. He didn’t much seem to appreciate my presence.

Natalie informed me that her boyfriend Arvo had need of help in constructing, as she described it, “a straw-bale, environmentally friendly, chemical-free as much as possible” home in the wilds north of Santa Fe. I decided this was likely another act of the “providence,” for lack of a better term, which I was seeking, and the likes of which had appeared amply displayed in my journey thus far, to my heartfelt satisfaction.

On a later excursion with these first two friends in Santa Fe, plus my employer at the time, Arvo, a mail order pot-pipe producer who lived in Tesuque named Dan, many Negra Modelo and swills of cheap tequila and spliffs smoked in a hot springs on a snowy hillside . . . I received a mild concussion after walking off the rock ledge above the upper pool (I think the Tequila softened the blow a bit, though was also the probable cause I fell off the precipice and got concussed in the first place), virtually carried Louisa (who was suffering from some apparently dismal revelations that had come to her on a Psilocybin induced vision quest) up, and then after my concussion, back down the slippery snow-covered pathway. I later discovered that a hippie mama named April from the Laramie crew died in these particular springs sometime thereafter, and that Native American Indian lore tells that hot springs on the sides of mountains are potential bad medicine. I don’t go there anymore.

Of course the heater didn’t work in the station wagon as we piled back in to head down the mountain into Los Alamos. Then whilst huddling under a blanket with the two ladies in the back seat as the wagon proceeded down the icy road, a rather disconcerting proclamation with a German accent proceeded from the driver’s seat: “Shit! Elk! Shit! Shit!” I felt the car swerve and then a thud, as apparently we had struck the tail end of a cow elk crossing the road. A few moments later, our driver informed us that the brakes had failed.

After many tenuous curves on our way down, we made it to the bottom of the incline seemingly alive. In order to fix the brakes we made an unscheduled stop at the home of Dan’s dad, who was of course one of those X-Files type Los Alamos scientists who couldn’t even tell his own family what he did for a living. At least we weren’t abducted by aliens on some deserted stretch of highway between Los Alamos and Santa Fe (so far as I can recall).

I sat for a while enjoying the buzz of good food and wine and weed in the hostel’s courtyard, unaware of many such odd adventures which awaited. Indeed, I was quite blissfully and obliviously observing and absorbing my surroundings, endowed with a lightness of spirit I had not known for many years, if ever before—save perhaps in the solitude of the wilderness. The air was charged with a magical quality as symmetrically fractaled snowflakes lazily fell in the subtle light of my first Santa Fe night.

The chill did not seem the least uncomfortable, but in fact quite exhilarating. I breathed in the rarefied air of freedom and exhaled contentment and peace as I contemplated the steam of my breath and shimmering snowflakes falling under the floodlights. I felt liberated from an oppression that had weighed upon my true self since childhood, as if I had outrun death or slavery. I had discovered a renewed innocence in this state of detachment from society’s tracked and plotted place for me, and felt unfettered from a guilt and subjugation to which I had seemingly been yoked and which in fact didn’t belong to me in the first place. Indeed, by sticking out a thumb whilst standing next to the open road, one is inviting more than free conveyance from one place to another, and certain adventure if not outright conveyance to another world or paradigm, the likely consequences.

Please do not mistake, this liberation I felt was not about being loosed from the responsibilities of being a husband and a father. Rather, I was glad to leave behind the subtle factors of unnatural institutional influences and unnecessary social and psychological control, and to at least temporarily ditch the direct sway of those lies that uphold the assumptions of authority used to justify manipulations of the masses and unwarranted intrusions into our lives. Somehow I seemed to have evaded “the system’s” tracking system, and had broken some of so many strings tying me to the stultifying expectations of religious and social tradition and karmic ties to others’ pasts, “sins of the father,” and myths of some taint of original sin we’re all supposedly obliged to carry. It was these unhealthy and oppressive ties I was grateful to sense were severed, and not those more endearing and important bonds.

In departing from householder role, I was seeking to attune a soul not yet well or properly adjusted to this world. Indeed, in my mind were intentions to find somewhere within myself that self who’d best serve as husband and father and whole human being in whatever context, and indeed I did much lament separations from those beloved persons I had to leave to find what it seemed I lacked. I might also recall one particular instance of prescience (at the time only available to my gut) that told me Holly and I were not meant to last, and which in fact occurred very soon after we started to date in high school. We were standing in the hallway at her family’s home, and after sharing a kiss, she told me that as a girl she had believed or wished she would marry a man with the last name “Wood” so that her married name would become “Holly Wood.” As she spoke these words, I experienced the proverbial “gut sensation,” a literal if slight ache in my innards that should have told me then that our relationship was not to last. Within approximately one year of officially divorcing me, Holly married a man named Jeff Wood. Even things like divorce do happen with rhyme and reason, at least some of the time.

Next morning after snagging a couple of complimentary pastries and performing my requisite chore at the hostel by scrubbing a tub, I wandered towards the plaza and made my first of many visits to the infamous Aztec Café to spend my last five-dollars, received as the return of my deposit upon completion of the aforementioned assigned chore.

I was amazed at the colorful clientèle of this officially state-designated “Cutting-Edge Art-Space.” More mohawks and dreadlocks and non-traditional piercings were displayed than I had seen in all my life. Hippies and punks and artist sorts, Deadheads and florescent-dyed and dreaded hair dominated the scene. Hippie mommas were braiding hemp, and various freaks had their handcrafted pipes and wire-wrapped semi-precious stones and crystals out for display on tables next to lattes and maté gourds and croissants and bagels.

This was a wonderland I had only dreamed existed, and these were the natives of the polymorphic-postmodern-nomad culture to which I had always an instinctual knowledge I belonged, despite being quite oblivious that such was yet thriving. Or at least I felt I belonged here more than in the midst of the bourgeois conformity I had known heretofore, that sanitized and assimilated culture to which I had become never quite comfortably habituated previous to taking this assumedly unconventional leap of faith.

I soon made the acquaintance of a number of interesting wandering and local freaks, some who’d grown up in communes and some from the suburbs, some who’d followed the Grateful Dead and some who’d come to Santa Fe to study art or the classics, and some who had just hopped aboard some brightly painted bus and didn’t know where they were going. There were white kids who wanted to be Rastafarians, a few with knotted hair who legitimately fit said category, and more than a handful of trustafarians. There were blacks and whites and browns and yellows and reds and any number of beautiful hues in between, and each with something outside and in they bore to endeavor a free-expression of self and to differentiate from the dysfunction of mainstream culture, else perhaps to display his or her chosen mystic path. At least this was how my rather innocent eyes perceived what I encountered here in the wonderland of “cutting-edge” Santa Fe and the Aztec Café, the hippie caravan scene still lively as Deadheads had not yet let go of their gypsy ways, the Rainbow Tribe’s Gathering at a peak in the number of eclectic and ragtag pilgrims converging.

Hope for peace and a transformation of society by love, compassion, and transcendence was strong amongst these seeming free spirits, and as more than a mere echo of the sixties. I was in awe at finding what I had longed for consciously since a lecture in a sociology class at OBU when a professor had given a rather inspiring speech about the hippie/protest movement of the sixties and early seventies, and for what my spirit had wanted unconsciously at least since my elementary school days, if not from past lifetimes immemorial.

In retrospect, having been made privy to other perspectives and at times forcefully pressed to see a less beautiful view of these and other events in my life, I realize I was somewhat naive, for better or worse (likely for the better). I had chosen to be emptied of all prejudices and to let go of the conditioning I had received by so many years in and influenced by institutions, from school to church to media-fostered consumer-training and so many other modes of propaganda designed to assimilate inhabitants of this land to the so-called “American Dream.”

Though at the time I felt very much a novice amongst these veterans of the road, as I held no presumptions that I was wiser, cooler, or more hip than any of these, I have come to realize in some ways I already held a consciousness and spiritual freedom many of these seemingly superior in the ways of counterculture lacked. Not to judge any in particular from whence I sit and type these words, but it has become clear to me that even amongst many of these seeming free spirits there were yet vestiges of competitive intentions, oneupmanship, schemings and connivings, etc., or at least the sometimes apparition thereof.

Not that there was not also and indeed more prominently true camaraderie, expanded awareness and good intention, and indeed likely some who were ascended souls. Yet to wear tie-dyes and dreadlocks or black-eyeliner and purple hair or an eight-inch mohawk does not necessarily mean one has a true grasp of the principles of legitimate protest or genuine and unalloyed intentions of free-expression, a solid desire for solidarity or even a half-assed, half-way integrated aesthetic or philosophy. I have come to realize heart and mind do not necessarily always accompany overt signs of affiliation with various counter-cultures, modes of dissent which indeed most often maintain compelling and substantive messages, well thought-out symbolic expressions of protest and legitimate individuation, and very much valid ideas and ideals for social transformation.

From yet another perspective, it might be noted that if one wears a mask often or for long enough, one might well become what is represented thereupon. Or to put it in another context, this is not unlike the often held understanding that devotion to whatever given deity is designed to bring devotee into union with said expression of divinity—i.e., Yoga (“yoke” or “union”), “be one with the father, as I am one . . .,” theophanies and theogonies, apotheoses and the self-realization of avatars, etc. To meditate upon or imitate a form is to receive or become the essence of that form to whatever degree. Bow to an image of Krishna and you may find yourself drawn to dairy farms. Wear hippie or punk clothes, or those of a businessman or woman, and you are not unlikely to find yourself to whatever degree conforming to the spirit and essence of those subcultural paradigms, just the same. There is thus a certain level of truth to the perception that you are what you wear, and indeed, sometimes clothes do make the man. Essentially, signs matter.

I did not make even these critical assessments at the time, however, though well-enough trained in semiotic analysis and cultural criticism, as I was determined to be open to whatever expression of guru (though not quite yet a term I would have used) might manifest through these new and exciting experiences, these doors opened into the world of wanderers, renunciates and mystics. And indeed, lessons and would be teachers and even veritable gurus appeared in many guises during this first pilgrimage on the road and similarly throughout the course of my journeys thereafter.

I called Natalie’s boyfriend Arvo to inquire about employment. The terms were six bucks-an-hour, lodging in a camper parked behind his house in town, and all the homegrown I could smoke whilst on the job at his homestead north of Abique. My employment entailed stuccoing straw-bale walls with a mixture of mud and sand and portland cement, chopping wood and carrying water.

Like most I met in Santa Fe and thereabouts, Arvo was a rather odd (or perhaps better, “interesting”) character. A well traveled German of Latvian descent, he had run away from home at the age of seventeen and somehow ended up in Indonesia, where he met a Dutch journalist who he then accompanied to Afghanistan in order to tote sound equipment whilst said journalist covered the Mujahedeen insurgency against the Soviet occupiers. His graying-blond hair was constantly disheveled (when not covered with a ski cap or other hat), and he generally had automobile grease on his outerwear, as he was a freelance mechanic by trade. Given to the stereotypical emotional outbursts often touted a trait of Eastern European sensibilities and simultaneously to the typical German work ethic and sense of efficiency, Arvo was not an easy man to work for, if nonetheless a good-hearted and genuine fellow. I was certainly grateful for this “manifestation” (hippie/Rainbow/road parlance for a seeming spontaneous and helpful something somewhere between providence and magic) of employment and shelter, and in my state of intentioned humility took whatever personality conflicts in stride for a few months until I was hired at the Natural Foods Co-op in Santa Fe and took lodging with a long-haired guitarist named Miguel.

Among the more intriguing people I met in Santa Fe was a woman named Coreena (or was it “Careena”?). She was a tall and thin and beautiful artist with short brown hair, and on one occasion we had one of the best conversations I experienced during this stay in Santa Fe as we smoked a joint one night in De Vargas Park. I had been introduced to the work of an anthropologist by the name of Gregory Bateson by one of a few professors I had as an undergrad who overtly sought to expose his students to freethinking and who unabashedly encouraged a questioning of the Southern Baptist dogma and the policies of thought and action that issued there-from. I mentioned some of Bateson’s ideas regarding the formation and emplotment of binaries and their implications in the construction of consciousness, and Coreena grew exceedingly excited as she proposed the idea that if a spacecraft such as Voyager landed on a lifeless planet, playing the well-known recordings sent along into the atmosphere, the sound vibrations would over time bring order to the soil and rocks and whatever elements present, eventually creating life according to the frequencies and rhythms transmitted into the atmosphere. As she grew intense in her elocution and at least intellectually aroused, I almost kissed her, but for some reason was restrained from this boldness.

Coreena’s roommate Mila, whom I scarcely got to know, had grown up on one of the area hippie communes. She was tall and blond, and was rather quiet if not aloof on the few occasions we were in each other’s company. This pair and their peers were given to wearing feather boas and displaying various similar carnivalesque or burlesque expressions of fashion, as well as to those sorts of artistic and other modes of alternative expression somewhat expected of hip young Santa Feans, and were of course mostly bisexual. As I recall, one or the other worked at the Cowgirl.

The Cowgirl is around the corner from the Aztec and attracted some of the same eclectic clientèle. The waitresses and lady barkeepers I’ve encountered over the years at this iconic bar-and-grill are generally quite hot, clad in cowboy hats and tight jeans or short skirts, and often present demeanors as they take an order that indicate they are of the sort who fancy nose-candy—to enhance their service, of course. Not my poison, by any means and for a number of reasons: “Hey, can I offer you a line, fortified with sodium carbonate-dissolved peasant flesh? C’mon, you’ll like it!” . . . but definitely a favorite of more than a few waitresses and cocktailers and strippers from the LA to NYC, Seattle to Miami. Not to judge, mind you.

Arvo once related a story he had been told by Mila about her years on the commune which I found rather emblematic of the communal movement during the seventies. It was near Christmas (or Solstice, depending on which hippie you ask), and the mostly vegetarian communitarians were having a rather lean holiday season. One evening one of the community’s inhabitants stepped out of the house and startled a passing deer, which promptly ran into a wall and expired on the spot due to a cleanly broken-neck. The communal crew dined heartily that holiday—even, according to the version of the tale I was told, some of the otherwise vegetarians, who viewed this seeming self-sacrifice as a sign.

This is how a generation of wild and free people learned to live, freed from the fetters of false, churchy spirituality in order to relearn and redefine the meaning of words like love, blessings, liberty and divine providence. Cut loose from the chains of supposed civilized society, these “rebels” sought to learn how to return to a closer relationship with divine Mother Earth and Her gracious bounty, and thus to a more abiding means of earthly existence in the here and now, and how to conform to a state closer to nature and to reform life lived into a reflection and remembrance and recognition of the unity, harmony, peace, purity and magic more natural to human beings than suburban box houses, concrete and steel, and living around a schedule of 9-to-5.

Some eventually dropped-out of dropping-out, though many of these have tried to remain tuned-in. Others still carry on these traditions manifest from meetings of modern and ancient, tribal and multicultural, wild celebration and sincere meditation, conscientious living without puritanical misgivings. And many of these wild and freed spirits of this first grand wave of elevated, altered, and expanded consciousness called the hippie movement continue to convey what they have learned to those who have turned-on or tuned-in sometime since the sixties and seventies.

Regarding other romantic or nigh romantic exchanges, my experiences in Santa Fe were less than fulfilling. After a night at the bars playing pool with Natalie, having consumed much tequila and beer and both made-up with eyeliner and rouge for our playful excursion, we returned to the house and I ended up having sex with my temporary roommate Kristina, an attractive eighteen-year-old local. Nothing ensued from this one night stand, nor from the odd tryst with a somewhat neurotic rich girl who decided to scoop me up whilst passing by in a taxi and take me home to her bed. The most “substantive” (nigh) romantic experience I had during this period of introduction to the wild and whimsical world of hippies, artists and gypsies generally was with an older woman named Pilar.

I met Pilar at a reggae show at a bar up Canyon Drive. She was a New Yorker in her upper-thirties, and was from South America originally. I was twenty-four and from southeast Wyoming. Upon leaving the show together, we walked beside the Santa Fe River—a rather meager excuse for a waterway bearing that designation, and she told me of her failed relationship with a Rasta musician who had numerous other paramours as well as offspring. We later took a trip together to stay at a monastery next to the Rio Grande as retreat from the everyday and sometimes warped “metaphysical” milieu of this old New Age city at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Our mutual friend Tom conveyed us in his seventies vintage Pontiac (if I recall correctly the make of this behemoth of a ride) north from Santa Fe and towards consequential encounters with sacred sites of three religions. Tom was a thick-framed on-again off-again junkie from New York City I met at the Aztec Café and with whom I smoked much hashish and learned a great deal about heroin (not from any personal experience, mind you, as this is yet another poison I want nothing to do with), about the drug-courier scene in New York City, and about Buddhism.

Among other tales, Tom told me several somewhat scandalous stories about Chogyam Trumpa, the famous/infamous renegade monk who mingled Tibetan traditions and hippie culture in the sixties and seventies, including an account of a dildo named Mr. Happy. Oddly enough, Laramie had an analogous heavy-set Buddhist storyteller named Tom (much older and recently deceased), who would sit at one or another of the local coffee houses and offer tales about Trumpa, touted Buddhist philosophy, and similarly claimed a strong liking for heroin.

On the way to the monastery, we stopped for a brief visit at a mosque in Abique, site of a sizable “white-Muslim” community. We met the imam, and I discovered from ensuing conversation that one of my professors from the University of Chicago (who was in fact at one point my thesis advisor) had preceded us for a visit to this mosque by only a week or two. A notable synchronicity, I suppose.

We reverently or at least respectfully entered the adobe mosque under rounded domes rising towards the deep-blue desert sky. As I recall, we removed shoes and washed our feet in the tiled foot bath (or at least I remember intimately examining the tile-work of this basin, if I didn’t get my feet wet) before passing through the arched earthen doorway into the sajadah (prayer room). I pondered the idiosyncrasies of this center of worship as I examined the Arabic script and mosaic on the mihrab,2 considering this desert setting with in mind analogous scenes surrounding mosques from North Africa to Arabia, and wondering of the lives and motives of the mostly converted members of this Muslim community in northeastern New Mexico. I opened my senses to assess my surroundings, or perhaps “endeavored to feel the ‘vibrations’” of the worship which transpired in this place, and indeed found some things in the atmosphere there in fact more comfortable than what I’d known in most Christian houses of worship, though still not by any means something perfectly fitted to my spirit.

I had written my Master’s thesis (which I never quite completed) on European discourses on Islam, basically with a view to exploring European writings which did not characterize Islamic people with the usual stereotypical essentializations. I was interested in dichotomies of “self and other,” and why conflicts arise as well as how resolutions and harmonies are manifest between “us” and “them,” however deployed in any given context. This visit thus fit well with themes I had already given much thought, providing an interesting example of the evolving relationship between “the West” and Islam.

After a night’s stay with a friend of Pilar’s who lived on a hilltop just outside Abique, we continued on to our intended destination, the Christ of the Desert Monastery. This Benedictine monastery sits next to a particularly picturesque section of the Rio Grande. The buildings are all earth-tone adobe, though stained glass and frescoes embellish some spaces. Of the several earth-built buildings, a prominent bell tower rises highest above the lush valley.

I could almost imagine this scene the same, three-hundred-plus-years in the past—minus the cars and trucks in the parking lot and electrical lines dangling overhead, that is. Despite the antique appearance, however, the monastery was actually founded less than fifty years previous. In the midst of the construction of an addition, however, adobe bricks stacked and ready to be molded into new earthen walls with worn wooden scaffolding erected for the task, this place elicited sensations reminiscent of the early colonial missions established in the region, centuries before—or at least Hollywood renderings thereof. Vintage Clint Eastwood films came to mind.

Thomas Merton, a Trappist monk who had spent time in Asia studying meditation and the philosophies of China and Tibet and India with Buddhist monks and other renunciates and who consequently became well known as a proponent of the ecumenical movement had apparently spent a span of time at this monastery previous to his death in 1968. The gift shop offered a wide selection of his books, for sale at retail prices.

This monastery had a policy of offering retreat to world-weary strangers in exchange for a little work and worship—a worthy expression of saintly duty and charity. We ended up staying for only a couple of days, however, as Pilar was unhappy with some of the expectations the monks held for visitors. As we had started to form something of a romantic connection I decided to accompany her to Taos, where she intended to attend a festival which was to occur at a Hindu temple coinciding with the night before the new moon during the month of Maaga—that is, sometime in February or early March.

We hitched a ride down the long dirt road and into Espanola, then happened to meet an acquaintance of Pilar’s named Casey, who just happened to be going to the same festival with his girlfriend, and who thus just happened to offer rather cozy conveyance in his VW bug up the Rio Grande Gorge and into Taos.

Pilar showed me around town, and introduced me to some of the odd and interesting characters of Taos proper and others who lived out on “the Mesa.” The Mesa, which consists of two primary settlements, Two Peaks and Three Peaks, is a hodge-podge gathering of hippie homesteaders both young and old who took advantage of the bankruptcy of a land development company whose holdings on the west side of the Rio Grande Gorge were regularly offered at back-taxes auction for less than a couple of hundred bucks per-acre. I have heard the Mesa affectionately described as “the largest free-range insane asylum in North America.”

Among the more memorable Mesa inhabitants Pilar introduced me to was Two-Raven (or as I have heard him called, “Too Ravin’ Crazy”). This character had grey dreads to somewhere near his waist or knees with blown glass beads and bones and any number of other odd objects woven in, and wore two or more tattered layers of robes. Two-Raven gave me a “medicine card” reading that told me I was a good man to bring women water whilst they are in “the moon-lodge,” and that I have “dragonfly-vision” (i.e., can deal with cantankerous women and can’t see straight?). There are quite a number of other characters nigh as eccentric out at Two and Three Peaks—“wing-nuts,” as these are designated in turn of the millennium Hippie-speak, a mostly endearing term often used to describe the craziest amongst the tribe.

These two communities consist of a chaotic conglomerations of asymmetrical earth-ships and other unique adobe and straw-bale structures, recycled wood chalets and permanently parked VW and school buses which have been home to many a wildman and woman, freaks and heads and punks and anarchists and various uncategorizable others who have sought retreat from the real madness of the consumer-driven, spiritless mess manifest destiny, capitalism and the conventional take on the American Dream have made of a once wild and free land. Indeed, if these are insane for their discontent with the dysfunction of a society that has poisoned the rivers and cut down the forests and placed cookie-cutter houses and box-shaped chain-stores where once was habitat shared by many tribes of free people and animal and plant life alike, then count me amongst the insane.

Pilar and I spent a night or two at the Laughing Horse Inn, a rather unique place of lodging with eclectic themes for each domicile. Our room had bunk-bed style accommodations with a television built into the slanted ceilings above the upper bunk, and Navajo blankets and rugs embellished the rustic Southwestern ambiance. We also stayed at another of her friend’s homes, where we came as close to having sex as we would during this time spent together, though she halted the act just as our respective genitalia had become only slightly acquainted. Likely for the better, as she and I had definite personality conflicts.

Though I spent a bit of time with her upon the occasion of later visits to Taos, little more developed of our friendship. I must say I am at the very least grateful for Pilar having encouraged me to attend this Sivaratri celebration, an experience that indeed conveyed me to a remembrance of myself—or rather of Self—that I had begun to experience unwittingly via odd signs and indications of being sadhu that had already surfaced in behavior and thought, karma and dharma.

We arrived at the temple a bit early, and were thus enlisted to help with preparations by stringing garlands of flowers and prepping food for the coming night’s celebration. I took a little time to read some of the literature lying around, as some inhibitions instilled from my days as a church goer and Christian minister still held some sway in my mind, and I thus had a wish to be better informed regarding the nature of the coming celebration and rituals. As I read about the intentions in creating representations of the Divine in murtis (statues and other depictions), I came to the realization that visual portrayals of the sacred were indeed no less adept nor less acceptable as modes to inspire devotion and right3 action than the written word I had been taught to believe and revere in the Christian tradition. In contemplation I concluded that in consideration of so many wars and other contentions over the “correct” interpretations of writ dogma, and in light of Inquisitions and a variety of other abuses of human rights done due to slight divergences of belief, that in fact such universally accessible depictions as murtis (icons/“idols”) might be understood as less likely to be subject to manipulation than even the most concisely written sacred script, and perhaps that much more likely to elicit or evoke sincere and unalloyed devotion and positive transformation. Indeed, especially when such speak so eloquently and archetypally and psychologically if not scientifically validly as doth a well portrayed murti. One example which not so subtly portrays this: the Ten Avatars of Vishnu quite clearly portray human physical and social evolution, a religio-scientific construction dating back thousands of years and certainly long before Darwin and Marx.

As the long night of kirtan (call and response chants) began, I at first stood in the foyer outside the temple room, still hesitant to step inside to where linga (sacred phalluses) that sat in a yoni (sacred vulva) chalice were being anointed with offerings. As these ancient songs accompanied by sitar and mrudungam, tablas and harmonium (if I recall right) played into the cold night, however, I began to feel a warmth and resonance in my soul that far exceeded the relatively shallow responses elicited in revivals and youth conferences and church camp meetings I had experienced during my days amongst Baptists and other evangelicals.

My body began to sway in ways heretofore unknown or forgotten, as if these vibrations were awakening something had lain dormant, an energy awaiting a cue to animate a dance in time with my true spirit, if only immaturely and shyly expressed as yet in nATa (dance). I observed with a combination of curiosity and instinctual remembrance as rhythm and rhyme were performed in the ancient tongue that is parent (or at least great-aunt or uncle) to even modern English, as pujaris (priests and priestesses) dressed in ochre robes poured yogurt and rice over the sacred grey and red linga stones gathered from India’s Narmada River, reverently rubbing the mixture over said phallic figurations and carefully caressing the thick concoction through and out of the yoni shaped stone chalice, rinsing and repeating with different colored ingredients mixed into the thick edible ointment, later the prasad partaken of by devotees as well as food for Deity.

This ancient recognition of the Divinity in even the supposed base union of penis and vagina, and thus affirmation of life’s abundance, nature’s pathways as pure, spirit’s (or better, prana) flow in physically manifest form felt more akin to the spirituality I had known laying upon a mountainside as a child, wandering amongst pines and tundra and next to snow-fed streams and rivers and alpine lakes high above my hometown and above the understandable confusion I felt as I was being socialized and institutionalized, even at the relatively open and liberal elementary school I attended during my early years of this lifetime. This worship resonated with my wildman’s soul. This was closer to nature, to naturally being-human, and was indeed something at least a step or two beyond a liberal education and churchy indoctrination.

From my perspective of the proceedings from the plant filled atrium that surrounds two sides of the inner room, I decided to venture deeper into the temple to sit amidst devotees and murtis in two and three dimensions placed ‘round the sanctuary according to ceremony. Ancient memories and primal energies rose up and ‘round my spine as I sat, kundalini awakened. The vibrations of the Sanskrit intonations and tabla beats, sitar and harmonium, melodies and harmonies and rhythms untied knots I didn’t know were tied, and opened channels I had only the least awareness existed. I again consciously compared these sensations to what I had experienced in the highest points of devotion I had known in the Christian tradition, and quite succinctly concluded this more ancient and primal devotion was more genuine, more true to myself and to the truth of the Divine, life and nature and all that is than anything I had encountered at dozens of youth rallies and revivals, retreats and tent meetings.

Through the course of the night, I would alternate between sitting and chanting in the temple and hanging out by the fire and chatting with devotees, sipping chai and smoking cannabis (mostly) in the shadows. Charas (hashish) is a sacrament traditionally consumed during this festival in India, Nepal, and other nations with long established Hindu populations, and as such is more than tolerated in those places. This aspect of the festival is not officially endorsed at this particular temple in Taos, however, as the sacred use of marijuana products has not yet received the same acceptance as even its medicinal use, nor the legal recognition granted peyote for use by Native American Church members. This despite the true status of charas (hashish) as the most anciently and continuously utilized sacramental plant, or perhaps sacrament generally for that matter, of any religion in the world.

As the sun rose shortly after the last watch of the ceremonies I made the decision to return to Oklahoma to endeavor to patch things up with Holly and to see my son. I had discovered much of what I had set out to find at the inception of this unconventional pilgrimage, and a change of heart I had much need to experience—though as it turned out my hopes to salvage said marriage were already doomed to failure.

I could continue on to tell details of my brief but blissful stay at the Lama Foundation (an interfaith retreat center in the mountains above Taos)—a pleasant transition before departing from the Land of Enchantment to travel to the Sooner state. I could also take a page or two to describe the rather epic scene set alongside a state highway on the way to OK, wherein a Kansas deputy dipped his pinky finger into what I am rather certain was a bag of crystal LSD—though a cop prepared for the trip by having attended Grateful Dead shows, at least by his telling told me whilst the ride was being searched by another deputy and before he accidentally sent himself into a reality of heavy-duty fractals and spirals and seemingly good vibrations and thus grew suddenly mostly silent, but I’ll leave those stories and details for another time or medium.

I believe even to this day, and after having been given cause to reconsider nigh everything I ever once, and then later understood as “true,” that through these experiences I had become reintroduced to Self, to Atman, to brahman, the good and true nature and source of Being, compassion and purity that had in fact always inhabited my vessel, and which pervades throughout this good earth and her inhabitants and throughout the universe, if scarcely noticed or noticeable in places.

Though I do now maintain the conviction that certain traditions of practice as best maintained and taught in India and known generally as sanAtana dharma are nearer a root, primal and well considered understanding of the nature of humanity and existence and God/Goddess, and I believe offer a more valid historical and philosophical purview of humanity’s recent spiritual and literal pathways and pilgrimages than do those religions which proceed from the “Abrahamic traditions,”4 I would not claim to be “Hindu” (actually a rather recent term for the most ancient continuously practiced religious traditions in the world), though I might accept the designation, “tantric practitioner.” Nor would I reject those good teachings which do exist within Judaism, Christianity and Islam, various indigenous traditions, nor those offered by the philosophies of secular humanism, etc. I learned on this journey that there is a more substantive strand of righteousness, spirituality, compassion and celebration of life and the eternal that exists in so many places and lifeways, and which cannot be narrowed to any single dogmatic system of belief I have yet encountered.

This “pilgrimage” had no particular intended destination, no specific sacred shrine in mind nor revered location as a motivation to wander. The holy place I sought and was led to was instead a sacred understanding within my heart and mind and whatever other chakra, a beatific recognition that there is much more to this world than is generally noticed by the dulled awarenesses we have inherited from an industrialized, urbanized and suburbanized society, which has become too nearly divorced from the natural world and from those spiritual connections instinct and primal memory would have us enjoy.

I came to realize over the course of this first quest that it is not in creed nor in dogma that truth is contained, though written traditions may offer a certain degree of elevation to human beings. And though I have found myself quite convinced of the verity of what’s expressed in and by the term sanAtana dharma, “eternal teachings”—the most ancient and abiding religio-philosophic-scientific tradition in the world, I came to understand a less rigid religion than some o’er proscriptive brahmanical code, i.e., the wisdom of the consummate Wildman, who just happens to be none other than Great God, Mahadeva, a wisdom conveyed by naked forest dwellers, sadhu and nagababa and postmodern post-Grateful Dead tour Rainbow gypsy wandering tribespeople, among others, who remember and recognize this primal spirituality, linga-yoni good, pure yet not puritanical, playful and fecund, abundant and free.

Indeed in this more earthy and potent, even pungent spirituality, divine truth is writ elsewhere and everywhere, if one only has the willingness to allow its revelation through the course of a life lived with openness to good guidance and the inherent beauty and truth of Nature, to an honest questioning of institution and the status quo, a willingness to let loose attachment to popular versions of reality and to endure whatever potential hardships as one endeavors this sacred pilgrimage offered to any and every life lived.