Friday, July 29, 2016

Mirror Tricks and Time

The world changes constantly. That is a self-evident certainty although I’m barely getting my head around it. As I age, I’m accepting that I am not the same person I was ten years ago, let alone 30 years ago. After making peace with that fact, it has become an adventure to take note of the changes I’ve experienced and the changes that I’m undergoing now. Nothing stays the same. Some things change faster than others do but even the stones, the oldest substances on our planet are changing however slowly by our criteria, and we humans are down here on this little ball in the midst of an enthralling 3D picture show. I feel better looking in the mirror when I accept that continual change is reality.

Personally experiencing the kaleidoscopic patterns of change in my miniverse is the greatest surprise of ageing.  The longer I participate in this 3D show the faster time turns the wheel from scene to scene.  Oddly, I am surprised by this state of affairs as if it was an isolated discovery.  Ironically, the older I am the newer what’s left of my future seems.  

During my early years, even though I took for granted that there were wars, natural disasters and social changes, I saw the world as a historic stage where everything that happened followed a script and each event was another scene that would confirm a meaningful process on the way to an even grander conclusion. My world back then consisted largely of external data insulated from my sense of self with a soft focus lens. Of course, such a world had to fall. It was merely the impression of a child experiencing the external world as the inevitable progression of a drama to which I was merely a witness.  

Although transformation surged within as I grew and developed, I experienced this inner change against a relatively unchanging backdrop. Now, that backdrop has come free of its moorings and crashed through the living room. People die, ambitions die and so does the slice of time they were dealt. This is relevant now that I’ve moved beyond that phase when one has ageing parents to visit or take care of. I’m now an orphan of time and there are no elders above me. It is both liberating and terribly exposed, it’s as if the roof blew off the family home and then the walls collapsed exposing space in all directions. However, space and freedom are not the same. 

At this time, there is a plague of locusts (grasshoppers) literally eating all the green babies in my garden.  All winter I looked forward to green grass and flowers. Spring started out well then suddenly everything went south. All the flowers disappeared, sometimes overnight and soon the leaves were also disappearing. Now, the unrelenting heat is making a green lawn with cool shade on the patio a dream. Things are not turning out the way I anticipated. Life is betraying my trust (I failed to notice that it didn’t come with a contract). I so needed that soothing green world after a long stressful winter. 

Next, I notice that the eaves on the south side of the house need painting before irrevocably succumbing to water damage, and the cycle of freezing and thawing last winter caused the color stucco to flake off that south side of the house exposing the base of gray cement.   This house is ten years old, and upkeep issues are arising. Home ownership seems like just another unwanted burden. I really, I don’t want to climb a ladder (first it to be retrieved from the rez house) in this unrelenting hot weather with paintbrush and pail, or buy, mix and repair the plaster. Then there is some long neglected inside work to do as well. The list quickly tips me toward overwhelm on the energy gauge.

After the fortuitous break of selling two of PQ’s paintings, looking forward to easing the bills and making plans for PQ and me to locate closer to a lung transplant center,  several things immediately go expensively wrong, accidentally capped off two days ago when one of my cousins generously made it possible for us to attend a family reunion in Denver. Although we cautiously avoided the urge to hang around and shop in a nearby mall with every temptation one could imagine, or visit old friends and old haunts. We headed straight home after the brunch and on a long incline a few miles north of Walsenburg, the engine began making strange rattling noises.  Stopping at a service station in Walsenburg, we discovered that it was almost entirely  out of oil and although we immediately filled it with three quarts, it was too late, the damage was done.  How stupid! Even though we checked the oil a few weeks ago, we learned that when the air conditioner runs constantly it is important to check it at every gas stop and have oil on hand, especially with 124,000 miles on the odometer. Despite the engine noise, we decided the closer we could get to Taos, the better it would be if we had to be towed. We climbed onward up La Veda pass limping slowly until finally the motor shut down about a third of the way up the Pass. After losing the phone connection many times and speaking to a different AAA representative each time, I finally got a tow truck scheduled.  
Next to the Coffee Shop in La Veda

Trying to remain optimistic, I observed that the weather was nice and La Veda Pass was comfortably cool as we settled down for a four-hour wait. I walked back and forth on the long pull-off shoulder that blessedly appeared just as the car died, and Standing Deer leaned against it watching the sunset.  Even he can be patient if the options are basic.  Eventually, a young man named Kris pulled up in a tow truck. We enjoyed his company on the drive to Taos. He came out west from Tennessee ten years ago as a result of meeting a young woman from Southern Colorado on My Space (remember My Space, once bigger than Facebook?).  Now they have three kids and hopes to buy a double-wide to place on a few wild acres, someday soon.  We even talked politics although he is a Republican and it would be easy to step into dangerous territory there. Then we talked about the deer we saw in La Veda the day before lazing on the grass next door to the coffee shop.  Deer live a good life in the center of town eating lawns and gardens. Kris said he worked in La Veda as a waiter for several years and along with deer had several downtown bear encounters. 

Although a completely unwanted adventure, it was true to the unpredictable essence of life. This morning we got a ride from Son Jay’s girlfriend to mechanic Jim’s place where we had the car dropped off last night. He turned the key and heard the awful banging sound then gave us a quote of $3,500 for a new used motor, and a time quote of about ten days for its arrival from the west coast plus installation. Our family taxi’s heart attack will have a domino effect down the family line and PQ’s other son Corey will have to find a new ride to work, as will we for visits to the post office, grocery store and oxygen supplier. Now I fondly remember the mom and pop grocery stores and drug stores all in walking distance back when I spent summers with my grandparents.  

We have arrived at approximately where we began a few months ago minus a car at least temporarily. Although I was hoping to get beyond those worries, Trickster says I’m just not getting it. Obviously, I am doing something wrong. I’ve decided to relax, let the grasshoppers have their way, live with stripped shrubs and brown grass and put my faith in no-thing. Just like the mishap on La Veda pass, I will submit to reality and enjoy the scenery while waiting for a tow truck. It may or may not come but life goes on. I recognize yet another version of the Maybe Story, my favorite Zen teaching story.

This began as is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. 

"Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. 

"Maybe," the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed.  

"Maybe," replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "Maybe," answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "Maybe" he said.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Our neighbor Pat Lujan came over this morning to give us two loafs of horno bread and some pueblo cookies left from her daughter’s graduation party. Both PQ and I are avoiding gluten right now but I had to take a bite of cookie. It immediately threw me into another lifetime. I felt the cool thick walls of the Suazo family's pueblo house, and its contrast to the penetrating sun outside. The complete experience then rushed in full on with the smell of the pinon and cedar wood fire from an outdoor horno.  Today it is almost 100 degrees and easily takes me to summer feast days at the pueblo with the piercing heat on my back and the powdery texture of hot yellow dust working its way through cloth and leather. Yet, most surprising was the way that one bite could so powerfully fling me back to long ago feast days with PQ’s parents Joe J. and Frances Suazo. I remember reading once that the olfactory senses of smell and by connection taste are the most primitive and longest lasting memory we have. Smell and taste have the power immediately to collapse time.

Perhaps I’m more sensitive than usual to the mysteries and paradoxes of time.  The experience of time seems to come in layers or perhaps I could analogize it more effectively with a shelf of books arranged sequentially in time and space, but removed randomly from the shelf when prompted by the senses.  Memory isn’t under the control of time even while it uses time. I’ve lived in Taos 24 years and yet the experience of being here was just as strong when I had been here four months. In truth, the full experience of being present in this place was actually stronger during the early years.  Those were experientially my rebirth years in Taos. I’m sure most people have noticed that early experiences are the most powerful and lasting.  Attention becomes lazy and the mind rancid with the repetition of habit but the senses hold the original power of experiences in a special vessel that keeps them fresh for a potential reawakening.

The recent public resurrection of Mabel Dodge Lujan has as much to do with the awakening of my soul’s memory as Pat Lujan’s cookies.  The first people I met in Taos were Diane Daugherty, (now Osburnsen) who owned the Adobe Inn and her dear friends Joe J. and Frances Suazo, who visited each afternoon as part of their daily routine.  Before moving to Taos I had recently but superficially met Mabel Dodge Lujan on the cover of a book placed on top of a “Sale” stack in the Denver bookstore where I worked. I remember reading the dust jacket because I was interested in anything having to do with New Mexico and especially Taos. However, I decided not to buy it. I was interested in knowing the Pueblo people who had haunted my consciousness since visiting the southwest as a twelve year old and to a lesser degree the Hispanic people and their history dating back to the Moor’s, and crypto-Jews fleeing the inquisition.  A book about a rich white woman and patroness of the arts didn’t snag my interest. I knew a number of white women who married Indians. It was in fashion at the time and I was following a vision that had mysteriously captured my life, not fashion.

After migrating to Taos, one winter day, seated in front of a friend’s adobe fireplace, I picked up a book about Mabel. I don’t remember which one now, nor do I remember how I came by it, but I was surprised to read about the manner of her meeting with Tony Lujan, and then further shocked by a psychic prediction by occultist Mrs. Lotus Dudley concerning Mabel’s purpose in Taos. It was uncomfortably familiar and goes something like this, “Taos is the beating heart of the world,” and when the time is ripe for this to be revealed, a bridge will be needed between the Indian and the white people”. She then told Mabel, “the Taos Indians were given a secret doctrine to hold and protect that has been kept alive by certain chosen groups throughout the ages”, and that the spirit of this revelation had invited Mabel Dodge Lujan to become a bridge between this important knowledge and the sick Western culture that had forgotten how to be human. This could be realized if she (Mabel) could put aside her ego driven doubts and pettiness and step up to the challenge.  Taos could become the impetus for the birth of a new more enlightened Western civilization.  This was the essence of what I read. 

I felt immediately exposed and taken down by the less assertive version of this prediction that had pulled me to Taos. Not only that, but a member of my new Taos family, Joe J. Suazo was the adopted grandson of Mabel’s Taos Pueblo husband Tony Lujan. Tony had no natural children and had adopted Joe J’s mother as his daughter. Joe J. grew up moving back and forth between Mabel’s Big House and the Pueblo. He had many stories to tell of road trips, camping expeditions and Mexican adventures with Mabel and company. As an adult, he became a traditional Medicine Man and kiva elder and sometimes expressed sorrow that he dare not share his religious knowledge with the Anglo youngsters who yearned for an organic spiritual experience while his own Pueblo youngsters had lost interest in their spiritual way of life. I suppose all visions have updated versions. I felt myself magnetized by a somewhat diluted version of Mabel’s passion.

Over the years, I became more skeptical of any cure for what ailed Western civilization and feared that the vision was going in reverse. The Taos Indians continued practicing their kiva ceremonies and dancing for Mother Earth and all her children but externally their way of life seemed to be disintegrating along with the rest of the world. I also became disillusioned with those seeking traditional spiritual information for its exotic appeal and as an escape from adult responsibilities for which they were unprepared.

However, I believe there is another greater mind behind the familiar mind.  It is a mind we don’t own, but we can feed it,honor it and open a door for it to enter our life. I can sense this mind at work pulling me into another stage of integration. My own consciousness is too small and earthbound to reach to the creative center of this process, but I can feel it moving just behond conscious grasp. It is another invitation to put faith in the unknown possible. Mabel Dodge Lujan never succeeded in overcoming the personal and cultural obstacles to being the doyen of spiritual and social awakening she hoped to be. No one mortal totally fulfills “the dream” but it is good that the spirit of the earth continues to bother us especially in this time of global warming, over crowded cities, mass shootings, continuous war, and a disturbing quest by many for easy answers to complex problems. 

I consider it portentous that Mabel Dodge Lujan is experiencing resurrection in Taos.  Her contribution to the dynamic of this land is genuine. A few years ago, most people in Taos had forgotten her, or if old timers remembered only gossip and shady stories. Besides, her revival confirms my faith in the vision that brought me to Taos.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Writing grasps at a paradox, or tries to, like gathering a stream of water running underground. Life is a rapid flow and I can never catch more than a few drops as it rushes along. Time itself has always fascinated me. What is it really, or even is it really? I often have ideas and insights as I’m driving, walking, washing the dishes and so on,  yet before I can logon to this computer or pull a notebook out of my purse, the thought is gone and something just as interesting (or not) washes over it and takes its place in a Nano-second of time.

My version of Yin Yang from
a number of years ago
I’m a spontaneous painter, also. Sometimes just drawing lines, curves and abstract patterns trigger images. It is a way of pumping the image well that flows involuntarily below the surface of the mind. However, I’m not an abstract painter. I suspect that only the imagined familiarity with the world of objects surrounding us leads us to believe there is anything but abstraction. Only an established habit of interpretation makes an image recognizable.  I’m uncomfortably familiar with the unidentifiable and unknown imageless surging beneath our common perceptions.  I love to turn them into recognizable words and shapes. Perhaps it’s really like seeing horses, elephants or racing cars in the clouds. 

Of course, as someone tells a story or writes a novel, or even news, history, politics or whatever, it is really always about telling a story, and the form guides the mind. Yet telling a story can be an adventure into an unknown wilderness.  The really great novelists are over taken by a story that wants telling from the collective mind of their time or occasionally from beyond time. 

One must still read hand held books to get gourmet mind food.  Although there is an enormous selection of stories on TV, the quality is usually fast food with a lot of mental sugar and trans-fat. Now and then, I send an eye and ear toward PQ’s documentaries and action programs across the room and usually begin mentally arguing with them because of the simplistic conventional views of nature, spirituality, and history that even documentaries frequently express. Definitely lowest common mind food planned so as not to challenge anyone’s palette but with enough spice to hook the human appetite for gossip and secrets. I do wonder if there is some conspiracy to tease the appetite without giving anything of substance. Keep them coming back for more like the iconic donkey following a carrot that forever hangs just beyond reach. The hungry viewers will wait through the commercial for a satisfactory result that always disappears into a suggested reward in the future.

Ideas erupt into the present and I try to catch them, but often they run away zigzagging like rabbits evading the hounds. However, the past has some controllability. Perhaps that is its great appeal. No matter it isn’t very nourishing. At least we know what to expect. I find myself drifting into thoughts of a grim future when reviewing the future with my present mind and wonder what we will need to survive even the immediate future, as the needs of family and the throng of bills seem to increase every month. Last night I caught myself doing a dysfunctional mental dance instead of sleeping. Over coffee and quiet, I compared these compulsive thoughts to an epiphany also over a cup of morning coffee several months ago.  

At that time, I suddenly recognized that getting onto the vibration of joy and love was literally the cure to angst. I was broke, PQ’s health was worsening, and his youngest son was going through a bad divorce, was temporarily unemployed and needed our support both emotionally and financially and our taxi service to pick up his kids from school. After that, things just kept going down. It seemed there was an unwelcome and expensive surprise weekly.  Even when we had a moderate windfall, it was quickly gobbled up by another unexpected crisis. It seemed that reality was out to destroy us and occasional positive events tempted us like cruel jokes just before surprising us with another over the top situation.

This morning I realized that I could also see the events over the past year as a revealing test to expose my automatic attitude. It is easy to feel positive when everything is just fine. Eckhart Tolle refers to the product of early traumas as the Pain Body. The Pain Body essentially becomes an addictive attachment to pain and resulting self-pity in a continuous search for the balance of compensation.  Of course, the world produces what we perceive or, more accurately, what our emotional filter lets through. 

Spring always brings the best of times and the worst of times to borrow a famous quote. This seems normal as nature surges out of the darkness of winter and it is much bigger than we are.  We are going to Arizona for a visit next week for a house-sit, an unexpected miracle that caused PQ to do handsprings in his soul. Then in early May, we will visit National Jewish Hospital in Denver, perhaps the world’s foremost experts on lung diseases.  It is definitely time to do whatever we can about PQ’s lung disease, as it has intensified over the past year and become a real obstacle to the flow of life.  The future is unknown, and although this is a truism, at this time in our lives, it has become very personal.  The life stream surges up this spring and will we swim, drown or find a previously unknown option.  I’m counting on the unknown.