Friday, May 28, 2010

Big Sur, Threads, and Syncronicities

The greatest beauty is organic wholeness, the wholeness of life and things, the divine beauty of the universe. Love that, and not man apart
Robinson Jeffers, "The Answer"
I've just hit the road - a healing stop in the Sur, that magnificent stretch of California coastline beloved to Henry Miller and Robinson Jeffers. Beloved to me, tracing my personal Song Lines, winding slowly up that winding road, remembering some 50 years of such treks to family campgrounds and Love-ins and war protests, finally, motels, heaven help me, how decadent can one get . Now, just to sit by the deep blue ocean, listen to seagulls, be. Sitting by the beach, I got into a short conversation with a jade hunter (there's lots of deep green jade in the Sur), living in his old rv.........he told me about places to visit, and left me with a piece of jade for my medicine bag.

  This past morning, as I got into my car, I noticed the crystalline, shimmering threads of a spider web across the side mirror. Looking closely, I saw a tiny spider spinning her art on my mirror, the very one I use to see where I'm going (hopefully, even when I don't really have a clue). I gave Spider Woman my grateful thanks, and thanked her emissary for her artistry as well, carefully transferring the tiny spinner from mirror to finger to a leaf. A few minutes later, still packing, I saw a spider there again! This, I reasoned, is a persistent spider, and a worthy sign! Who says metaphors only occur in dreams or poetry? For me, perhaps because I"m a visual artist, this is the "conversation" I'm always having with World, or World is generously always having with me, if I have the occasional quietude to listen. After two weeks in L.A. ........oh, so much noise, so much human distraction, so much interference.............I always leave L.A. feeling like someone who has lost their sensory apparatus and must struggle forward half blind, feeling around in the conceptual dark. Anyway, I wanted to remember here another of those syncronistic threads that happened in 2007.........I was reminded because I just, serendipitously, followed up a link to a nature sanctuary and festival site that I never heard of before called Our Haven ( and learned it is in a place called French Lick, Indiana. For those interested in synchronicity this is a good story, and I'm taking the liberty of copying from my 2007 entry. Who casts the threads? Or, do we just unconsciously follow them, occasionally waking up enough to notice the shimmering strands on the mirror? So, strange as it sounds, I'm sitting in a motel on the magnificent California coast, remembering a trip to Indiana 3 years ago............

  September, 2007: The moon is full and the night is very hot, somewhere in Missouri. Cicadas drone their mating calls, an Indian summer chorus. I’m still allergic to everything, wondering if my dignity is forever gone along with the use of my nose. But Magic has been afoot. Quite often I don’t write or talk about days like this, because I doubt the intersections and weave that I see, worse, I'll try to figure out what it all "means".

When synchronicities chose me, or I blunder into them, they flurry about with such literary qualities that I sometimes think its like being inside a novel where the plot is about to become clear. I had my map on the motel bed, ready to open it yesterday a.m. I was thinking about two things. The first was the fact that I was 30 some miles from industrial Gary, Indiana, and the road was apparently flooded there. This could mean hours getting through Gary. And then there was Chicago. The prospect was not appealing. The other item on my mind were my friends Morgana and Phil, who live in Indianapolis. I glanced at my dog-eared map. Now the cover was page two of “Routes of Interest”, and my eye fell on “Indiana” (right in the center of the page, with “Louisiana” below it.) The authors suggested I take a scenic drive through West Baden and visit historic French Lick Springs. The prospect of possibly discovering a new hot spring seemed attractive, and I opened the map to find that I could head on down to Indianapolis, maybe see my friends, and take a hilly route to a possible soak, ending up on 64, which would eventually lead me to route 70. I decided a trip to Indianapolis was a good idea, and headed down the road, taking my bearings at Roseville. I would follow the “rose line”, a fanciful idea I played with as I toodled along in my little pink car. 

I wondered why the place was called French Lick. I later learned that the area, before it was settled by white people, had been an important migration route for buffalo because of salt licks in the area. The new settlers had followed the buffalo to the wells. The first Europeans to settle at French Lick were French Jesuit missionaries, and one of the first businesses established in the area was salt mining. “Routes of Interest” informed me that I could have a soak at the Pluto Baths for $20.00. This is no longer true - any soaking areas where the public might have once taken the curative waters are now replaced with expensive spas. I don’t know why they were called Pluto Waters either, but there on the ceiling of the French Lick Spa were huge, Rococo, paintings of Pluto, Persephone, Orpheus, Eurydice, Cerberus, and the Underworld.

I felt a bit like I was within a personal mythic event, because the myth of Persephone and Hades has been significant to me for many years - my little novel, THE SONG OF MEDUSA, was based on it. 

I have identified with the Persephone archetype strongly in my past - Jennifer Barker and Roger Woolger wrote eloquently about this in their 1989 book "The Goddess Within", a book that informed my interest in Goddess spirituality. It is interesting to note that Pluto means "wealth". The wealth of the below, the hidden, the depths of the earth. 

What the area meant to the native people who lived there, I do not know, although I’m sure it was, like all places where healing waters bubble out of the earth, a sacred, energized place. Maybe it was a place of pilgrimage, in the same way that people still go to the Chalice Well in Ireland. Maybe it was sacred because the buffalo went there. At any rate, my trip was spiritually blessed - Morgana gave me the 2nd degree Reiki initiation. Which I would not have achieved, had I not passed through Indianapolis because I wanted to avoid a flood in Gary. I learned from Phil that he went on his Vision Quest, preparatory to doing the Sun Dance this summer - at the state park in French Lick. So I left with a sense of adventure.

The heart of French Lick is the recently restored West Baden Springs, “The Carlsbad of America”. Although I couldn't afford to stay there, I stopped to admire this amazing architectural feat. I felt the ghosts of a more elegant time, come to "take the waters". This historic building was once called the “8th Wonder of the World” because it boasted the largest suspended glassed dome in the world, and hosted dignitaries such as Teddy Roosevelt. Restored only within the past year to its original turn of the century splendor, 6 stories of guest rooms, spas, restaurants, and bars encircle a huge sunlight center, with inlaid marble tiled floor, and art nouveau statues of the muses. 

Here’s the synchronicity that tops them all. After the stock market crash of 1929, the owners went bankrupt, and actually sold the famous resort to the Jesuits for a dollar. It was a Jesuit seminary until the 60's, when it was purchased by the Whitings of Midland, Michigan, and became a campus of Northwood University until 1983. After that the building sat desolate until it was restored just this year! Northwood, on whose campus I had just spent the summer as an Alden Dow Fellow, and done a community arts project at the Midland Arts Center called "Spider Woman's Hands". This had been their southern campus!

A final note here (I'm in 2010 again, and getting ready to drive to San Francisco)...........when I returned to Tucson that fall, within about two weeks I received a mask order from a woman living in French Lick, Indiana. Honest.

                     Syncronicities are Spider Woman's way of saying "hello"


Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

This one is a zinger! Could we repost in an abbreviated form?

Lauren Raine said...

Sure! I'll send you an email as well.....strange indeed.

d page said...

A wonderful story!