Wednesday, December 30, 2015
The Eagle Tree and other Magics
Yesterday I was in a parking lot when I saw a huge bird fly right across my line of vision, not 20 feet away. It flew into a palm tree, where I was able to study it for about 10 minutes before it disappeared. I thought it might be a golden eagle, but I suspect it was a hawk of some kind. While there are golden eagles here in Pima country, they are very rare, and especially rare in the city, although red tail hawks seem quite at home here, enjoying the selection of pigeons to hunt. You can always tell when one is nearby, because all the smaller birds become very quiet or fly away.
But the experience of seeing that magnificent creature brought to mind magic that happened in 2003, right around this time of year, that I never forgot, although I never told anyone. To this day there is a certain small, stunted tree in downtown Tucson, in the proximity of where the former Muse Community Art Center once stood, that I will visit and salute when I happen to be in the area.
Specifically there is a branch on that tree, not far from the height of one's head, that I often find myself standing before, as if something invisible was there, regarding me with a fierce yellow eye.
I had moved into the now long gone Muse Community Arts Center, living in a little studio on the second floor there. I had a show in their little gallery in process - a display of the Masks of the Goddess collection. It was very early, just dawn, and I was walking with a cup of coffee in my hand a few blocks from the Muse. I looked up at a this little tree for some reason and saw, not 12 feet from me, a gigantic bird sitting on it's limb, looking right at me, I've seen hawks in central Tucson occasionally, but I've never seen a golden Eagle in Tucson, or for that matter, never in the wild either.
But that was what sat before me in that tree. Far too big to be a hawk. I stopped, afraid to move, and for a full minute or so I looked at the eagle, and the eagle looked at me.
Then the eagle spread its huge wings, rose into the morning sky, making that strange cry that raptors make...........and I stood in awe.
A few days later I found a note from Grey Eagle, a native American traditional Story Teller who had, by chance, seen my show. He wrote that he wanted to meet with me to give me the Story of Sedna, which he had learned from the Inuit people when he lived in Alaska. And that was the beginning of the best, and certainly most mystical, performance I ever produced, which was called "Restoring the Balance", and centered on the Story of Sedna.
I think this is what someone once called the "re-enchantment of the World". Magic.......recently I was considering submitting a possible paper to an academic conference on Magic. But looking at their guidelines..........I imagine long papers on medieval alchemical symbology and the anthropology of magical rites in pre-colonial Borneo, or some such, and already I'm having a problem keeping my eyes open. What is behind the constructs of academia? What is real magic?
I guess to me "magic" is about the great Web of interdependency and ecology that underlies, well, everything, the "entanglement" and "unified field" of a living universe Synchronicity....... as Alice Walker put it, "the Universe Responds".
The Universe Responds
by Alice Walker
A few years ago I wrote an essay called "Everything is a Human Being", which explores to some extent the Naive American view that all of creation is of one substance and therefore deserving of the same respect. In it I described the death of a snake that I caused, and wrote of my remorse.
That summer, "my" land in the country crawled with snakes. There was always the large resident snake, whom my mother named "Susie", crawling about in the area that marks the entrance to my studio. But there were also lots of others wherever we looked. A black-and-white king snake appeared underneath the shower stall in the garden. A striped red-and-black one, very pretty, appeared near the pond. It now revealed the little hole in the ground in which it lived by lying half in and half out of it as it basked in the sun. Garden snakes crawled up and down the roads and paths. One day leaving my house with a box of books in his arms, my companion literally tripped over one of these.
We spoke to all of these snakes in friendly voices. They went their way, we went ours. After about a two week bloom of snakes, we seemed to have our usual number: just Susie and a couple of her children.
A few years later, I wrote an essay about a horse called Blue. It was about how humans treat horses and other animals; how hard it is for us to see them as the suffering, fully conscious, enslaved beings they are. After reading this essay in public only once, this is what happened. A white horse came and settled herself on the land. (Her owner, a neighbor, soon came to move her.) The two horses on the ranch across the road began to run up to their fence whenever I passed, leaning over it and making what sounded like joyful noises. They had never done this before (I checked with the human beings I lived with to be sure of this), and after a few more times of greeting me as if I'd done something especially nice for them, they stopped. Now, when I pass they look at me with the same reserve they did before. But there is still a spark of recognition.
What to make of this?
I think I am telling you that the animals of the planet are in desperate peril, and that they are fully aware of this. No less than human beings are doing in all parts of the world, they also are seeking sanctuary. But I am also telling you that we are connected to them at least as intimately as we are connected to trees. Without plant life human beings could not breathe. They are the lungs of our planet. Plants produce oxygen. Without free animal life I believe we will lose increasingly the spiritual equivalent of oxygen. "Magic", intuition, sheer astonishment at the forms the Universe devises in which to express life - to express itself - will no longer be able to breathe in us.
But what I'm also sharing with you is this thought: The Universe responds. What you ask of it, it gives. The military-industrial complex and its leaders and scientists have shown more faith in this reality than have those of us who do not believe in war and who want peace. They have asked the Earth for all its deadlier substances. They have been confident in their faith in hatred and war. The universe, ever responsive, the Earth, ever giving, has opened itself fully to their desires. Ironically, Black Elk (the Lakota shaman) and nuclear scientists can be viewed in much the same way: as men who prayed to the Universe for what they believed they needed and who received from it a sign reflective of their own hearts.
I remember when I used to dismiss the bumper sticker "Pray for Peace". I realize now that I did not understand it, since I also did not understand prayer; which I know now to be the active affirmation in the physical world of our inseparableness from the divine; and everything, especially the physical world, is divine.
(From: "The Universe Responds: Or, How I learned We Can Have Peace on Earth", Living by the Word, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, N.Y., N.Y., 1988.)