Waking up short of breath, I dreamed I was Hildegard von Bingen, who outsmarted a female demon robed in the bone-white garments of death. Stealthily exiting from behind my small fortress wall, I could see her, but she could not see me; I had frustrated her well. Waiting for me was a darkened, stone nunnery cell, but when I entered it became light and beautiful and full of good things. I entered and I lived a milenia there, and I did not die, because the little cell became a pathway unto The World, and The World was with me while I overcame my heart’s loneliness. A thousand years later I emerged from the cell into a world that was waiting for me in whispers. So many stones had fallen around me, a sea of small rocks. Bear tracks, huge and clearly present: I saw them, and followed them to where awaited an violent, small wolf, rabid with anger and pain. He lunged at me. I deflected him; he lunged again, I caught him, held his small self as his little body surrendered in howling tears, now loosening and reaching for comfort, the curse dispelled, a loving puppy once more.
When Hiawatha ran into the woods out of grief,
Love haunted him. The Peacemaker came in a stone canoe,
floating above war and death. He told evil to go.
Happiness came back to the land.
When Taderdaho looked into the water,
he saw the face of who he once was.
Taderdaho’s terror was being loved into life.
So the people encircled the hut of the evil one,
they began singing, snakes will come out of his head,
and his mind will be healed. His back will be straightened.
Peacemaker fell from the crown of a great pine
and in the white river waters he came back to life.
He was not lost. We are his people.
Instructions to catch the Peace Tree when it falls.
Now when we cry tears we know
the birds come to the great waters
to lift, on wings, our stone canoe.
Through the tempest flows the Xi, incendiary
to the nightmare of endings,
resisting rock, becoming motion,
becoming still as
broken suns splice tree branches
into shadow and their leaves parachuted down
to destroy and renew the whole world.
Beatific, the shimmering,
after death she makes it all new.
Glory to She who invites the intrusion
into pure bliss where we thought
we would never be shaken.
Fire intwined with ice now falls,
the rambunctious teeth of time
digesting human hubris.
Kali swallows all.
eats you up,
gets you dreaming.
She sends her ripple out again
on calm waters, on boats
She brings back soil
to the flooded earth.
She lays you down in heat, Goddess on top,
takes and blows the seed of your mortality,
all your beauty and your folly
Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.
I dream I am playing frisbee with men whose faces match those of my friends and some family members. The game begins lightly but turns unexpectedly aggressive, then violent. they are throwing sharp rocks at me. Something is changed in their faces, and I see that it is not my friends or family, but the face-stealers, the demons I have dreamt of many times. I run from them, underneath a large stone-built bridge from centuries past. It makes an arch over the water and the bridge’s walkway is flat and high above the river. The mens’ faces have become demonically angry underneath the thin disguise of the human, and terrible women are with them too. They are all a part of a horrific regime.
Nearby, built into this stone bridge beside the water are stables for animals. I go inside and hide in a stall barely large enough for me to fit into laying sideways. Now Coyote appears to me. She tells me to take off my clothing and be only in my skin now, to hide in this stall curled up, and to play dead. I do as she says, and a moment later a soldier of the regime finds me, and thinks I am dead. I hear him crying regret, saying “Her face haunts me,” at seeing what he had done to people, that he had killed them. So I look convincingly dead, and I see myself from his perspective now –sickly greenish as a corpse, and in a stage of decay with the bones of my face showing.
Coyote speaks, “It is the cloak of death that covers you and saves you, though you are not really dead. I know the way. I bring back to life everything.” And the soldier falls to the ground in contrition, begging forgiveness, and his gun becomes a pile of ash. Beneath my shapeshifter’s cloak I also grieve for my people who have been lost to the jaws of the regime. When the repentant soldier leaves, I crawl out of the stall, in the movement of animal forms down the corridor of straw beds to where two of my beloved friends are sitting and waiting with water on their heads catching light, welcoming me back from the dead, and laughing with Coyote.
image: Creative Commons CC0
Don Juan – death is over your shoulder in war & spirituality, be in the present moment.
Loss of ego and awareness of death. “Psycho-spiritual”. Kali- Hindu Dark Goddess who eats things (Sam’s tattoo).
Buddhism – demons guard the gates of heaven.
“Troparian” – a kind of Orthodox song
Zenia of Petersburg was a Holy Fool: she dressed in her dead husband’s clothes, a religious jester.
In modern war, you hardly ever see the enemy. 19-year olds are the best warriors because they lack self-awareness. Asking 19-year-olds to kill is asking them to play God. Ecstasy in war and in killing. Young soldiers struggle to integrate back because of what they have been through, like asking St John of the Cross to work at McDonald’s.
“Solipsistic” – writing gets us out of our isolated lives. We see through other peoples’ eyes. We can identify with characters that are unconscious within ourselves.
from Jung: “That which is unconscious is doomed to act in reality.”
Writing as spiritual discipline. Literature is how we move through this. Through writing we turn ghosts into ancestors. America’s media sex & violence comes from our repressed puritanical cultures.
There is a natural aggression given by God, and words will not save us from our attacker. Literature heals this.
We turn ghosts into ancestors through taking the ghost out of our hidden inner worlds and looking objectively at the fear. We externalize into the light. This is “the great work”. Be in this, the work of the spirit. This is the truest writing.
Commercial fiction is not about turning ghosts into ancestors. It is about entertainment. And that’s ok! But it is a totally different game than literature.
Good writing is one of the hardest things any human could undertake.
Karl’s Capuchin friend put on a mass for all Karl’s dead people he knew. It was literally a dark & stormy night. Karl saw the ghosts come into the church, even his grandparents. This is how he became Catholic.
Books: Matterhorn. What it is Like to Go to War.
image: Creative Commons CC0
Last night I hauled out around the fire pit, and snoozed upon the sweet hard earth. No cushion– that’s how I needed it. (“He made him ride on the heights of the land and fed him with the fruit of the fields. He nourished him with honey from the rock, and with oil from the flinty crag…” goes the old Tanakh tales…) No body beside me other than the slugs and bugs, who did not frighten me. No light but the stars, my dinky little fire, my soul and it’s Maker. No music but the song I sang to the Beautiful One, “Come down, O love divine/ seek thou this soul of mine, and visit it with thine own ardor glowing…” And I made my way into the darkness around me, eyes opening wide into the night.
Over the past few years I have been mysteriously reminded by people unconnected to each other that it is possible to see in the dark. I have been shown this with love. You open your eyes so wide that the tangible darkness gets into them like a thickness, but it makes you see. Your skin, more attuned, becomes electric. Your center repositions, your skin-hairs alert, and you see how the animals see.
And you understand then that you can do what you thought you couldn’t, that you have reserves of strength in places you never considered. That is Grace: we don’t create it, just open to it already there in the world. You see that there is light in unlikely places, that you are never left without a way through the thicket. Not a songbird is lost.
In the words of the one hundred and thirty ninth’s psalm, “Even the darkness will not be dark to You; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to You.”
Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.
In Hell there is a lonely tree transplanted from Heaven, and in this tree there is a way out. I am brought here to sit out on a branch of this grand holy tree and pray with songs. After rescuing souls, we go to visit a woman in a wheelchair. She thanks us for visiting her, the sick. We ask what else we can do for her but she says nothing.
My horse I am riding is trying to jump us over an impossible fence. The barricade is made of something harder than stone, but barely a few feet high. What forcefield barrier is this? On one side of the divide is a freeway, and on the other side, an ancient forest. The trees in this forest are taller than the guess of humans, and beyond the reach of measurements. I cannot jump my horse over this fence, but she finds for us a way. A mob is sending battalions to catch us. But we are far above now, clothed by the forest. My horse and I jump and fly through the canopy, invisible to the eyes of the enemy.
I dreamt that I opened a homeless shelter for runaway teenagers and dispossessed young adults in downtown Fresno, California. We transformed an old factory building, with those picturesque old glass block factory windows, into a safe house of refuge and welcome for young people in crisis. When the people were ready to leave, they left empowered by good food, deep rest and a clean, upright mind. Angels walked the hallways and isles between beds and desks, leaving tracks of luminescent pigments of greens, purples and golds. How beautiful it was.
“In those dreams I spoke that language too, the first language, and I had dominion over the nature of all that was real. In my dream, it was the tongue of what is, and anything spoken in it becomes real, because nothing said in that language can be a lie. It is the most basic building brick of everything. In my dreams I have used that language to heal the sick and to fly; once I dreamed I kept a perfect little bed-and-breakfast by the seaside, and to everyone who came to stay with me I would say, in that tongue, “Be whole,” and they would become whole, not be broken people, not any longer, because I had spoken the language of shaping.” –Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane