1. In the beginning we walk the earth and make up stories and our world comes to be as we imagine it.
In the beginning is a restlessness or brooding, a great storm or a mistake. It begins with desire or sacrifice or murder or whimsy. Chaos has a dream or wakes from one. It is spun like a web. Or the creator, tortured by loneliness tears itself in two to have a lover. Or a bird dives to the bottom of the waters, brings up mud and places it on the shell of a turtle, where a seed, like the idea of form, opens, to the heralding song of rain.
In later versions of the story, it is said that a father made it in six days, or that there was a big explosion at the beginning. These versions differ from most wherein creator and creation are the same being, and the project is on-going.
Stroke, and then another, stroke,
like breath’s familiar rhythm
or walking –
how soles massage the earth
and being is shaped by terrain.
Stroke and then another,
ancient repetitions, yielding solutions
solving – really a dissolving
over time, time a tempest
more weather than number,
as origin is more return than beginning
and remembrance is inspiration’s mother.
Breath, stroke, and then another,
stroke, as if going were an undressing
light, water, body
the paddles caress
I watch, stalking my prey
the vision for which I pray
beauty, neither goal nor guide
rather grace’s gift revealed
as seer and seen surrender distinction.
3. Within the soothing comfort of darkness, as night returned in late summer to the northern arc of the Gulf of Alaska, I saw the whole dome of the sky swirling and pulsing wild with color.
I saw a pair of eagles grasping each others claws, whirling like a pinwheel as they fell together through the sky.
And I saw passing through the wing of a dragonfly, light shattered rainbow-like, as if an instant released from a procession, fell open.
I heard like enduring companionship, branches voicing wind, the musical chatter and laughter of streams and sea birds, surf breathing and the grumbling of icebergs jostling in the swell.
I heard within the ringing silence, the whoosing of geese wings in passing, otters cracking mussel shells, while swimming leisurely on their backs through the lingering twilight and the soft sonorous breath of huge beings echoing the distant calm.
Then suddenly, nearby, the snap of a large stick underfoot or a piercing howl or the thunderous explosion of a breaching leviathan or calving glacier, as if mocking the wish for a civil god.
4. In my dream a warm late afternoon sun illuminates a huge bank of dark clouds. I beach my kayak on the shore of a big lazy river in the south of France. I walk toward a magnificent cathedral with no walls. As I draw near the congregation turns as one with the elegance of a vast flock of small birds and retreats further within. I spin round to see what evoked such a response. Against the wall of purple black clouds I see an impossibly luminous veil of rain sweeping upon us. I awake in awe, feeling blessed, moments pass and I hear something gentle, then quickly the air fills with the first autumn rain, releasing a bouquet of late summer perfumes, as the realms unite.
5. In my dream I am in canyon country. I kneel down to look through a small natural arch. It frames a huge arch in the distance and beyond it, a giant stone monolith. Then the monolith crumbles before my eyes, like the release of a tension, long held and solidified in habit. As I awake the word monomania resounds in my awareness.
That which is truly singular is inconceivable. Conception takes two. Unity cannot abide naming, much less the pretensions of right and wrong, lest we demean the miraculous in the attempt to gain our bearings, as if truth were inorganic.
6. In the beginning of our story there were lines. Lineages, our genesis. Time became a line. Lines were drawn upon the earth. Then there was a pipeline. And crude. The crude accrued and then spilled over upon the exquisite.
In his story the line never returns. It proceeds forward towards an apocalypse. In her story the exquisite spinning sphere circles, revered or pillaged, with or without us. Us, a lover evolving with another, or us, a fleeting blemish to her beauty.
7. I had prepared myself for what I might see. It was the pervasive stench that undid me. The first days were clear and calm, the glare from the sheen was haunting. Then it began to rain and became easier to cry. Soon the animal rescue effort became mostly a body count and what had been purpose turned to grief. The sea birds and otters froze to death, their oil soaked feathers and fir rendered useless. Others feeding on the dead, died in great pain, as poisoned organs failed. The surviving creatures seemed confused and lethargic. Human mourning gave way to an oscillation between anger and numbing despair, peppered with small islands of dark comic relief, as odors of rotting flesh mixed with the oil fumes.
8. We creatures, we kill and eat one another, but why does the human beast attack its very matrix, as if earth were an adversary? Do we mimic a perceived archaic aggressor, cruel winters, fierce storms – drought, disease, flooding, starvation – earthquake, eruption, avalanche? As if teeming life’s disregard for me, mine, us and ours were an ancient insult to be avenged.
In deifying individual identity, have we forgotten to identify with life? Separate selves fearing a lonely nullifying death, we build dams against life’s cycling intentionality, seeking continuity in steel and concrete’s false promise of immortality. Or do we instinctively understand that life springs from a common source but mistake awareness for entitlement and lunge for the controls as if creation were a marvelous mechanism for our appropriation.
Can we understand ourselves as addicts, who deprived of the very ground of being, lacking the primal satisfaction of elemental holding within the natural world, consume insatiably, petroleum driven, as if engaged in a ritual of matricidal cannibalism destroying the very birthright we crave.
Or is destruction as fundamental to consciousness and to creation as death is to life? Is worth or even existence possible without antithesis? Is not the alternative to living with our own ambivalence and darkness, a one-sidedness, inevitably blindsided by the very yearning of its own incompleteness?
If the human psyche is creation’s mirror, are we not diminished with the disappearance of each species? And if this earth is the extension of every body, does not instinct insist that we defend ourselves? Yet from Whom? As each, us versus them, facilitates notions like earth as resource, when leaving well enough alone is so often hindsight’s solution? Perhaps only an army of clowns could proceed forth without allegiance to agenda, prepared to surrender to a ferocious beauty, as if such a dance were as essential as it is enough, while not being seduced by a gaining of ends and with the patience of stones.
This is not an acute problem. It is a chronic condition. The Exxon Valdez did not hit Bligh Reef on a Good Friday by mistakenly changing course in the night. The ship was headed for that reef for hundreds, for thousands of years.
9. In a reverie, I have retrieved from Fish and Wildlife’s freezers many of the dead creatures we collected. Now they hang suspended around a stage, stinking more and more as they thaw. The film plays beside me as I pound on an oil drum with wrenches and wail. Gradually a chorus of dying species joins the cacophony as melting glaciers flood the lowlands.
Is this the rising tide of a passing epoch, or the foreshadowing of our time’s own turning? Is it time now to abandon notions that can carry us no further? Like so much of what is essential to youth that becomes folly or even poison to maturity. Can we let ourselves molt ideals of dominion, independence and progress and bring into question even such seemingly natural imperatives as procreation? Or will we continue to enact our scripted apocalypse, as we cling to a consensual illusion of discreet form, refusing to behold intertwining fields of shimmering energy that sustain us, that are us?
10. Dear ones, beware of saviors, those of us with the most worthy of intentions, we are shackled to the galling limitations of our conclusions, schemes and strategies, our brows furrowed, as if mystery were a question to be answered, a problem to be solved or an obstacle. Yet do not succumb to despair brave warriors. Time is on your side. The roots will break through the pavement. Gentle wind and rain, if not earthquakes and glaciers, will crumble the malls. The seeds wait patiently. Your grief is compost. Your struggle turns the soil. And brave ones, you have the home field advantage, here in this place you know and love, where we, each alone, making our way by a bone necessity, arrive, again, together, surprise, at the banquet of all being.
Nike, swoosh goddess Victory
I know your secret lie
the allure of your beauty
that is the illusion of attainment
the goal that masks the reality of ceaseless motion
and gravity, the earth’s loving
that is the way of our falling.
I forgive you this lie to youth,
a necessity to initiate the dance.
But I am undressing you now
prestige, success, fame, falling away
like garments here upon the floor,
Svelte, supple, resplendent body
mosses, sand, river
mountain, wave, wind
pulsing vibrant with the chase,
its prolonging and challenge
Now, nothing left but to enter you
this life, our being, together
as one, against each other
We battle and surrender
merge and become unique
Then once again, sated
gratitude the only cloak to don
from my sole valise, experience
Experience, memory’s oft tragic jewel
a flawed talisman
against the inevitable erosion of forgetting,
as swarming mind is snared
captive in one web or another
until a stream, song or breeze
beckons me back.
I pray I will recognize your gesture
I trust at least my longing
that vigilant sentinel
my wobbly compass
to not abandon me.