Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Night Blooming Cereus and other Milagros ....

The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

Denise Levertov

Here is one of the loveliest secrets of the desert, the mystical Night Blooming Cereus. This cactus only blooms for one night. To encounter a Cereus on a velvet hot night is a magical event...........they were made to bloom in moonlight, to be seen with "night vision", which is very different from day vision.  

Rare, wonderful, how can there be such  "Milagros"?  I remember someone saying to me once "This is it.  It's July 17th, 1996.  This will never come again."  And he was right.......his comment brought that particular day to my attention, both its gift and its loss, over and over.  Even as I remember that day,  I see all the lost  domestic magnificence of a summer day in upstate New York, humid light filtering through red maple leaves, the smell of a barbecue, my ex-husband's voice as he pressed my shoulder and handed me a plate of corn on the cob.  All of that is gone, long gone now, irretrievably gone except within the reservoir of  memory......even "my" husband, who is someone else's husband now.  What, and where,  is the "I" indeed?

Living in this extraordinary time when so much is endangered, and so much is also possible.............I find I have less and less use for abstractions.   The world is too full, and too precious, to waste in abstractions that remove us from the shimmering web of life in the here and now.  I know full well that my own life continues to become shorter, that my sight or smell or hearing will no doubt diminish, that those Goddess given pleasures are, as Denise Levertov wrote, to be "tasted and seen".  Because it will never be July 8th, 2012 again.  "grief, mercy, language, tangerine, weather, to breathe them, bite, savor, chew, swallow, transform into our flesh....." All a privilege, all an exchange, all about reciprocity.

I was reading a book someone gave me by Shirley Maclaine called "The Camino".  I found it  annoying..........I appreciate Ms. Maclaine's bravery, and wanted to know what it was like for her to cross Spain, to walk that road.  But most of the book was about describing her ideas of the meaning of life, sex,  and the origin of species in Lemuria and Atlantis, as well as remembering a past life with Charlemagne.  I rarely felt she was just "there", on the Camino.  She also kept having a constant battle with the paparazzi......I couldn't help but think that she needed to  unconsciously create that distraction as well.  Dying her hair brown, assuming another name, wearing sunglasses, and  saying "yeah, people say I look a lot like Shirley Maclaine" could have nipped that one in the bud.  Oh well.  I didn't like the book, but I did learn something from it. 

I've had a dream of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain as a  Peregrino for many years.  My pilgrimage would (maybe) end at the great Cathedral in Compostella, or maybe at Finisterre, "the end of the world", and I think I would not be making it to visit the bones of Saint James, but rather, to follow the ancient path of the Black Madonna.   I would go to Compostella to be "composted".   I don't actually think a goal, or a purpose, is all that necessary to the Way anyway, which is why I loved the recent film "The Way" with Martin Sheen.    The Journey is the Reward. 

It seems to me that extraordinary events are going on all around us, miraculous occasions of great beauty, or astounding mystery, and one is often so busy being somewhere else, preoccupied with "abstractions" about life, that we miss the everyday Milagros, given, and given, and given. These are the days of "miracles and wonder, the long distance call".  I think there is great solace in seeing that, even now, even here,  "on the Camino".

I had an experience I called "Angels in Nebraska" back in 2005.......I've shared it before, but would like to share it again.  If anything, the message gets clearer for me all the time........

ANGELS IN NEBRASKA and a Talking World   (2007)

In an article from his webzine "Warrior of the Light", Paolo Coelho wrote:
"I let my life be guided by a strange language that I call “signs”. I know that the world is talking to me, I need to listen to it, and if I do so I shall always be guided towards what is most intense, passionate and beautiful. Of course, it is not always easy."
I have also have found myself engaged in a "Great Conversation" that seems to be going on all around me, and occasionally I’m stunned to realize I wasn’t listening. The conversation seems to become most lively when I'm in movement, whether walking, crossing a trail, or a state line, or an ocean. Like many Americans, I've been blessed and cursed with restlessness and rootlessness. Between destinations lies a mythic land of migration, a free range for the imagination in the "Bardo" of transit, where I occasionally meet Angels of the Flux.

JOURNAL ENTRY, September 3, 2005.

Stopped in Cozad, Nebraska, home of the Robert Henri Museum.

The Museum has some beautiful paintings of the tall grass prairies by a local artist, and a few reproductions of Henri's "Ash Can School" paintings. They don't have any of the originals. Henri's father, it seems, founded Cozad, but had to leave rather suddenly with his sons and wife when he "accidentally" shot a man in a heated argument. He went to New York, changed his name, started the first casino in Atlantic City, and his son went on to study art and become famous. The boy never returned to Nebraska, although he did go on to live and work in Ireland, New York, and Paris. Cozad is proud of him anyway.

I continue to fret about my commitment to art. My life seems like a tapestry, on my good days, the threads finally woven with some skill into a colorful tapestry, I see that I have achieved some small bit of mastery. And then there are days when so much precious life seems wasted, lost, too many disappointments and wrong decisions and wrong turns. Those are days that are about emptying out, discovering things that once seemed so opaque are now, well, transparent. Unimportant. What really matters?

So here I sit, with a very nice cup of coffee and a sandwich at the Busy Bee Diner, where I have a front row center seat for the First Bank & Trust Company of Cozad.

That got my attention. 


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

El Camino was an odd book. I know what you mean about it. And hey, I recognize those bank pics! Great synchro.

Lauren said...

Thanks! Yes, I like to keep remembering that synchronicity.......

Valerianna said...

I can relate to your not wanting things to get too abstract... and I must add that though I'd be considered "out there" in the mainstream world, I keep wanting folks to let go of the stories about past and future and learn how to sit still and listen to the Earth here and now and find the stories that we need. I could go on a big rant, I won't.

I can imagine being bothered by Maclaine's book just from the short description! I've often thought about that pilgrimage, too.

PS I have a session with Jewell in the morning... sometimes she has me journey with a rattle you gave her!

Lauren said...

I agree so much, Valerianna. But please do rant whenever you want.

And please give my love to Jewell. I wish so much I could just get in my car right now and drive east.