Saturday, February 27, 2016


Poppies, Mid-February, Big Creek

      In mid-February in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, poppies blanketed the hillsides even though winter was still imprisoning the rest of the nation. At Big Creek near Pine Flat Reservoir last weekend, I parked on a dirt road and immersed myself in the poppies igniting the hillside, sensing that my personality is like a perishable shell around the wild core of my soul. Throughout my life, whatever is wild in me has connected with the wildness in nature, allowing a hidden dimension of my self to surface and experience the righteousness of beauty, what the Qabalists refer to as Netzach, or Victory. Almost every time I have experienced nature, I have realized that set beliefs about myself and my status in the world obstruct direct experience with wildness. In my early forties I was not surprised when, during meditation, after my mind had dropped into the void, I unexpectedly began having visions of a primal aspect of my psyche, the chakras within my subtle body, which eventually led to an understanding of the astral, mental,and spiritual dimensions of the self. Perhaps because my father died when I was a teenager and my world at that time fell apart, I am still willing to let go of beliefs about myself, trusting that my soul takes over, experiencing connection with the quiet grasses, flowers, trees, rocks.
Native American Village Site: Pounding Stone Lower Left, House Pits on Ridge

      When my father died, I was seventeen, no longer a boy but not yet a man, and I drove alone without anyone else's knowledge several times into the foothills, and once, I ended up at Big Creek. I slowly cruised across the bridge and parked, strolling over a ridge to a small creek where I discovered a pounding stone. I did not realize then that there were house pits on a ridge on the other side of the stream, but I was amazed by the poppies on the hillsides all around me. I found a barely discernible trail and climbed ever higher into a peaceful fire. My grief and misery vanished. Truth be told, my personality vanished, and amazed that I didn't miss it, I felt part of a vast stillness, at the heart of which is a peace beyond understanding.

Poppies and Blue Dick, Big Creek

      How or why my poor heart ever became separated from this peace I have never understood. Since that day when I was seventeen, I have worked one job after another and have striven to improve the community, but as a human being I continue to experience a sense of separation most of the time. It is perhaps the source of humanity's perpetual search for an Eden. I know that the peace of paradise exists here in this world, but so often I have looked for it in the wrong places. I have never found it in fame, or wealth, or status, or power, only deep inside myself when I am not in nature. Occasionally I feel it with my wife or children or hear it in music or experience it in writing or see it in a painting. The yearning for it is not some neurotic need for a parent's love or some laughable sentimentality. It is a need to experience the core of who I am all the time, not just once or twice a year or a few times over the course of a lifetime.
Oak Trees in Poppies, Big Creek

      So I returned to Big Creek. And the poppies were there again and so was the sense of peace, and I felt like I had been gone for so long, forty years in fact, but that I had never left, and I was afraid that I would never forgive myself if I left again, but I knew I had to leave because my life was an hour and a half away in a city boiling with trouble. I climbed once again up to the poppies, knowing that pounding stones were next to all the streams even high in the mountains, that we had abandoned another order, our life in nature, just over a century ago, for some great struggle, and would probably never return, at least not without some great crisis or some collective gestalt. In stillness and peace I had found sanity, but I am afraid that I would be considered by most now to be insane.
Mining Road above Big Creek

      Freshness in nature dissolves all time and all thoughts. When I was with the poppies, who or what I am didn't matter, only my connection with the peace that permeates the earth. We need to be fed on all levels of the psyche: Wildness feeds the soul. It gets us in touch with the sun, the source of all life, and with the Sun behind the sun. It gets us in touch with the moon, and the mysterious light that holds the symbols and archetypes behind creation. At the heart of all is mystery. What are these poppies anyway? Soft, fiery flesh? Peaceful, timeless fire?

Thursday, February 4, 2016


Confluence of Rivulets below Native American Village Site


     Often my soul has to thaw before I can immerse myself in a forest, as though a layer of ice that holds all of the ideas of who I am, good and bad, has hardened around my core. Thanks to recent rains, I have had little trouble losing myself, sensing eternity in the oaks, grasses, rocks, moss, but I especially forget myself when I encounter rivulets. Sometimes I follow the fledgling steams to their source, the rain fingering the slopes, seeping underground to surface from rodent holes as springs, or puddling and slipping, clear veins of water, through mountain channels (a few of which are segments of ancient Native American trails). Sometimes I follow them to the larger streams that meander through the woodlands and cascade down the slopes to join eventually with a river. If all the rivers around here weren't dammed and diverted, of course, the water would flow out to sea and begin again, but I still feel the eternal cycle as though it were part of my own circulatory system nevertheless.

Native American Path

      The magic of self-transformation begins with the dissolution of personality so that I experience every living thing as a form of light. In regular life I make a great many distinctions that separate me from this light in nature and other people, 1001 distinctions that create a hierarchy of importance that blocks the simple recognition that we are all united within this light that is usually so difficult for me to see. I weigh what is good and bad in myself and others, and too often the ideas become fixed, and I become enslaved by my own thought-forms, yet they melt away in the light as I follow the rivulets.

Large Rivulet (or Small Stream)

      It's no mistake that powerful rituals exist to banish both positive and negative influences. As I follow the rivulets, I lose both what I consider good and bad in myself and suddenly know the light within all living things and the Sun behind the sun. Don't get me wrong: I've been kicked in the face too many times and have seen the evil in myself and other people enough to understand that survival often depends on making some pretty hard distinctions. But there are spaces in the world and in the mind where the veils fall away, and all that is left is light, and I am happy if I can simply follow the paths of light all day through the mountains.