Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Projection and Resonance

Boey modeling wire hay rack.
We brag on the goats’ mischief, a dead giveaway! We still laugh about the time Boris jumped into the middle of a table to get the salsa when we were showing him off to friends while having wine and hors d’oeuvres. There’s the time we found Boey wearing the wire hay rack that took two of us an hour to remove. And we enjoy remembering the time the goats attacked our consultant’s trained border collie who was trying to herd them (we warned the owner!), sending the dog whimpering into the bushes.

I once wrote a poem during a particularly hard time in my training program about taking Boris with me to an evaluation committee.


Boris greets guests as we never would:
on hind legs, head curving down to deliver a wallop.
So there! he says. Me first! When we walk in line,
Me first! The guests shrink back and
wait in polite silence for corrective action.
And certain guests wait and wait.... until it occurs to them
That I’ve gone wild and
this black goat is not just an attraction!

Could I? Would I DARE take him with me to Certifying,
my black voice of authority?
For that day he’d wear his horns and together
we’d rear up and curve down, delivering some blows
settling once and for all
issues of Presence and Power.
Then, on our way out,
we’d jump on the table
and eat a flower.

But this attraction to goats’ liveliness and mischief is not all about projection of suppressed feelings or attitudes onto these capricious beings!  Something else happens when you are with a goat, maybe something that happens with any animal (even human animal, for that matter!) whom you are attuned to, and this has to do with a resonance. When I walk the goats each day, I am received into the herd if I can resonate with that energy. I am considered leader, which means it is my job to notice sounds and smells, to be alert to my role of leading on the path: when to stop, when to continue, resting into a consciousness that is very present, one I suspect the goats are in to some degree all the time. In this state I feel lively!

My husband and I built our home some years ago, the goats present each day as we watched builders laying concrete block walls, then plastering them. (One day Boris came out with his head covered with plaster; I got out of there fast!) Concurrently, as we built our new home, my husband and I both experienced deep renewal. The following poem came from that period.

Boris running through the living room.


I am running my goats through your house,
the one you dreamed of years ago with its blood red
Tibetan cross courtyard, square and symmetrical, tended by whimsical monks.

I am running my goats through the stone passages, walls thick
from two wythes of block , over 100 yards of concrete ,
and my goats with their flips of after thought tails

wander the corridors of your dreams,
the abandoned concrete factories way up at the top
and tenants you did not know.

I am running my goats along the scaffolding still stretching the north face
of the steep side. Hooves clicking like high heels, they slowly peruse the house
from the outside in, looking into the guest room from two stories up, into Casey’s room

from 20 feet high. Or are you running your goats through my house? Your goats who dance on hind legs in the dining room I never had, yet here it is, windows opening
onto rolling meadows like those I grew up running through, a streak

of prairie morning fog. You are running your goats in my kitchen guarded
by two ancient Valley Oaks, tall and sturdy, the record of their many
scars in their bark, in the broken and dead branches now inhabited.

You are running your goats by my window seat, deep and shaded, where the knoll across the east meadow promises the landscape I dreamed of as a young child,
the landscape just beyond that pulls you into it, promising more,

and you enter, Yes! Yes! ...more ... Yes! ...Yes! Don’t stop, a little further...

You are running your goats...
first appeared in Psychological Perspectives, Volume 44, pp. 12-13. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

On Morphic Fields and Ceremonial Sites

Photograph courtesy of Lowell Downey.

In a previous blog I have written about several large grafted valley oaks on the edge of a knoll just south of our property. These trees are at least 150- 200 years old. This was probably done before or around the time of the arrival of General Vallejo in the early 1840’s when this area was still home to the Michewal Wappo, as it had been for thousands of years before.

Crossing the meadow.

In the presence of the grafted oaks.
The knoll is on the eastern edge of a graceful cup of meadow on a saddle of land that is accessible from the valleys on either side, the Napa Valley to the east, Pickle Canyon on the west. Old timers say it was a picnic site for early settlers. It is now one of the last valley oak savannahs which used to stretch throughout the Napa Valley. By the looks of the grafted oaks, the flat space they encircle, and a second circle of valley oaks on the far side of the meadow, it was probably also a ceremonial site. Some say the circle of grafted oaks may be a place young couples spent their first married night.

Such awe the oaks engender! One hot July day a colleague in her early 90’s came to visit and asked to be taken to see the oaks. Our goats accompanied us as we walked across the dried grasses of the meadow to the knoll, and we all felt the presence of these old beings.

Lowell Downey, Napa photographer, took a series of photos on another visit.

Awakening the heart energy of the ceremonial grounds, and of ourselves.
Jean Bolen visited the trees and rang a Tibetan bell attuned to the heart chakra to awaken heart energy for all concerned.

In visiting the oaks, are we also experiencing what Rupert Sheldrake would describe as a morphic field of a ceremonial site? Is that some of what we experience as awe? Is one of our tasks in learning to be more balanced in our approach to the earth to become more sensitized to these energetic matters, as early peoples almost certainly were?

Photograph courtesy of Lowell Downey.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Trees: Part Two. On Love and Activism

A tree I love.
Several years ago I attended an evening performance of several ecological poets and songwriters at an environmental conference in San Francisco. I remember one songwriter straight out of the tradition of 1960’s, who accompanied her song about star thistle with her guitar. The song was a call for attack on this invasive plant that is, in fact, hard to get rid of and threatening native perennials of our California grasslands. But I found my attention flagging.

Then came poet, Elizabeth Herron. She had collected statements from north coast tribal people who traditionally depended on salmon for their sustenance and incorporated these statements into a poem/song. As she read, a young man “played” a rain stick and dancers bedecked in blue and green filmy streamers swam about the stage. Any of us who had doubts about the divinity of the salmon fell in love with them and with the waters so important to their healthy ecology. After that performance, there is nothing I would do to hurt such a fish. Love is motivating!

Reading Jean Shinoda Bolen’s most recent book, Like a Tree: How Trees, Women, and Tree People Can Save the Planet, I remembered that performance, which for me, has become a gold standard for activism. Jean Bolen would agree. Both a Jungian analyst and a long time activist for women, children, and our planet, she says there are three questions to ask yourself when you come across a cause you are considering. First, is it a cause that is meaningful to you? There are many causes, but does this one pull you? Second, will it be fun, although hard work? And last, and certainly not least, is it motivated by love?

Jean wrote the book as a way to deal with her grief about losing the Monterey pine tree that sat outside her kitchen door. I saw this tree once. It was a gracious tree with large and stretching thick branches that provided a micro climate of its own, catching the fog of the coastal atmosphere and dripping it onto the surrounding area. A neighbor wanted it cut to provide a view and ended up getting her way. Jean poignantly describes returning from a meeting at the United Nations to find her tree gone, how the micro climate changed, becoming dry and harsher, and how different plants grow there now. This is small example of what is happening globally as ancient forests are cut for timber and for farming.

She describes the biology of the tree, too, how trees take carbon dioxide out of the air, “fix it” into matter, while releasing oxygen back into the atmosphere. Trees are the lungs of our earth. In understanding the science of the tree, one understands why we need to support economies that do not cut forests. As my sister, Judy Parrish, a botanist and ecology professor, says, one of the most important things that we can do for our planet is plant trees, and certainly stop cutting them.

Jean’s book reminds the reader that what each of us does is important, that each of us has power in the present, and that is it important that that power be motivated by love. The tree we protect, the neighbor we are kind to, all of it adds up.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Phenomenon of Portals: Malcolm Campbell’s The Sun Singer and Smoky Trudeau’s The Cabin.

Many years ago I read about an illustrator who published a series of cartoons about the atomic bomb that was being developed concurrently under highly secretive conditions in Los Alamos, New Mexico. Alarmed, the FBI investigated him, deciding not to pull the cartoon because doing so would attract the public’s attention to the bomb even more. Evidently, the artist did not know factually of the bomb, yet the knowledge of it may well have been in what Carl Jung would call the collective unconscious. As an artist, he evidently had access to this. Art is like the dream, often a little ahead of its time. (and if you have the name of this illustrator, I would love the reference!  I have been unable to locate it!)
Recently I read two novels which drew my interest in a way that I know is of a matter of interest to the soul. This reminded me of the foresight that access to the collective can bring. Although both Malcolm Campbell’s The Sun Singer (Vanilla Heart Publishing, 2004) and Smoky Trudeau’s (Smoky Zeidel) The Cabin (Vanilla Heart Publishing, 2008) are worth reading for no other reason than both are good coming-of-age stories, full of intrigue and suspense, there is that something else that takes them into another realm, making one wonder if they involve a coming-of-age for humankind. This “something else” is the concept of portals.

It is not that portals have not been in literature before; they have. Any of us who read fantasy and science fiction know this. But here the issue is again: in both novels the protagonists have to recognize and then negotiate such states in order to move on in their lives. Portals may be something we as humans need to learn to negotiate in order to move on, too.

In Sacred Geography: Geomancy: Co-Creating the Earth Cosmos, author Marko Pogacnik describes interdimensional portals as “organs that make exchange between different dimensions of reality possible.” He states these are aspects of the earth that have been asleep, but due to the earth changes at hand, have reawakened. “The reappearance of Interdimensional Portals means that the unprecedented transformation of the rationally structured space-time dimension into an open multidimensional reality is at hand. (pp. 137-138).

The Sun Singer and The Cabin develop within the reader what more conscious access to these portals might mean. The Sun Singer has a sophisticated structure. Campbell’s use of italics in concurrent or alternative realities creates a kind of differentiated consciousness, a training in sensitivity to the fluidity of realities.

Trudeau’s story transcends generations of a family in which a family suffers due to a transgression on the natural world by a family member generations before. In both novels, the protagonist must travel back in time to heal the present conflict.

Perhaps novels such as these stretch our sense of reality, allowing us to consider something larger than that template we inhabit most of the time, a template that ossifies our sense of reality. As the earth changes through great floods, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and rising seas, perhaps the psyche also must change. After all, in a time metaphysics and science have melded in string theory, physics theorizing eleven dimensions instead of three, our sense of reality expands. Time and space are part of a “rationally structured” reality that is limiting only if we believe that is all there is.