Monday, October 20, 2014

Reminiscing about the olden ways

Stone Culvert, Boscawen NH: 10/16/14
CC Jean Stimmell
Last Thursday we enjoyed a fall walk along the Merrimack River in Boscawen on a newly opened section of the Northern Rail Trail, following what was originally a Boston and Maine rail line.

At one point I stopped to ponder how the workers who built this rail bed 150 years ago, without modern equipment, had been able to move the prodigious amounts of earth necessary to build a raised causeway over the expansive swamp we were crossing. Standing on this raised roadbed, we watched a sizable stream snake toward us through the swamp and disappear under our feet only to reappear on the other side.

Being an old stonemason, I was curious about what kind of culvert the workman had constructed to let the stream pass through, a passageway that was obviously still working perfectly, even after all these years.

It wasn’t easy. We had to make a long detour to find a not-too-steep route down off the causeway and then backtrack to the brook. The photograph above is what we found: a beautifully arched culvert, 12’ high, built out of locally quarried granite, dry-laid without the use of any mortar or cement.

The craftsmanship is superb from the precise way the arch is constructed to the structural alignment of the granite pieces. But more than that, it is pleasing to the eye in both shape and composition. To my biased eye, this arch surpasses craft and is capable of standing alone as a piece of art.

Yet, as hard as it is to believe in today’s world where everybody is straining to achieve their 15 minutes of fame, this marvelous arch was not concocted for the applause of others or to wow a crowd at a gallery opening; it was simply built as a utilitarian structure in the backwaters of Boscawen in a forgotten swamp that no one would ever see but trappers and river rats.

Oh, how I wish I could have lived back in those olden days where workers had the luxury of building beautiful things like this arch, just because they could, before we all became ruled by the clock: when we had time to finish things without hurrying, when we could stand back at the end of the day and admire our work, not because it was cost efficient but because it met our own standards of what is good and right.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meditating on Sea of Being

Meditating Outside My Door
CC Self-portaint:10/15/14 
Seeing Things Anew

Meditating outside my door
pastel kaleidoscope colors
pungent ripeness of fall
transported beyond myself
floating on Sea of Being.

Thoughts about Seeing Things Anew:

Henry Shukman writes about the nature of “seeing things anew” in the current issue of Tricycle Magazine. He tells us that in the field of art, this ability was called “defamiliarization” by Russian literary theorist Viktor Shklovsky who wrote: “The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known.”

And to accomplish that, art makes objects “unfamiliar,” less habitual:
“Habituation devours work, clothes, furniture, one’s wife, and the fear of war. . . . And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.”

In essence, Shukman concludes,  “art exists to restore to us our actual experience, unmediated by the veil of what we think we know.” 

Shukman then widens his net by saying that this ability to restore us to our actual experience is bigger than just art but something basic to our search for spiritual meaning in life.

“Even as we are impelled to strive to understand things, somehow we yearn at the same time to be divested of that understanding, so we can meet things more intimately. Defamiliarization is, then, both a function of art and a structural feature of spiritual life, and whether or not it is recognized in this way, it is the source of deep resonance between them.”

Certainly I felt this deep resonance this morning, meditating in front of my door.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Eating the Golden Trout is a sacred meal

Giant Kelp at Long Sands Beach
CC Jean Stimmell: October 2014
A response to my last post about my dream catching a golden trout

Thus Spoke the Giant Kelp

Arriving straight from the briny depths – without warning – I was confronted by a giant kelp with faded eyes who spoke strong words to me:

"Don’t be an unctious do-gooder, so under a yuppie spell that you would release this magnificent fish you were lucky enough to catch in your dream net.

You idiot!

This fish is your unconscious, your path to everlasting life. Throwing her back may win you points in the realm of the politically correct but, in the bargain, you will castrate your primal being.

You must eat her instead!

Through eating the golden trout, you will incorporate the wild, the collective wisdom of Gaia back into your conscious mind.*

Through this sacred meal, you will be reborn. You will become whole."

* My thanks to Annette Hanson for helping me ingest this Jungian insight.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A dream about killing The Golden Trout

CC Jean Stimmell: 9/27/14
 A dream about killing The Golden Trout

In my dream, I go camping with my son. We park the car in a remote state park and start hiking up to high ground  to pitch our tent. We walk up an enchanting stream gorge where I take photos of brilliant yellow flowers, the shape and size of lamp shades. At the top we discover an exquisite mountain pond with a dam at one end. My son tries fishing with my fly rod but, having no luck, declares this isn’t a good place to fish. I disagree and start tying a new fly on my line with great difficulty because the leader is all tangled and full of knots. After accomplishing the task, I realize I have tied on a huge fly, a life-size replica of a white bumble bee. I am irritated because I don’t think this fly will work at all but, before I can change it,  some one nearby hollers out that indigenous people used to have good luck with bumblebees as bait.

As I am carefully negotiating across the narrow dam to get to the other side to fish, my fly falls over the dam into the discharge stream below. When I retrieve my line, there is a lot of flopping and resistance: to my amazement,  I find I have caught a type of trout I had never seen before: an amazing specimen, iridescent gold and rotund to the point of being almost round, not slender like the average trout. A camper watching me from his camper told me I have caught a golden trout. I call my son over to show him the fish but already it is becoming drab, its luminous colors fading as it dies. I can see the fish is suffering, chokingly trying to breath. I look around for a club to hit her on the head to put her out of her misery – agonizing the whole time about whether that is the right thing to do, or will it just cause more suffering.

Regrettably, it never occurs to me in my dream to let the golden trout live by putting her back in the water. However, after remembering the dream the next morning, I now feel very guilty: here I was, lucky enough to find Anima but rather than cherishing Her for who She is, I tried to possess her –killing her instead.
In a bit of synchronicity:
Soon after my dream, Russet and I were in the White Mountains. While taking a hike  up to Artist’s Bluff, our dog rolled in an horribly smelling, dead animal carcass. We had to find some place quick to give her a bath. Descending the nearest path from the bluff, we came out at Echo Lake, a beautiful high mountain pond that, in a very visceral way, reverberated with my dream image. Even more surreal, the water in the pond was held in by a narrow dam, corresponding closely to the one in my dream as you can see in the photograph below.

The first photograph at the beginning of this blog is of Echo Lake. As in my dream, anglers were fly casting for trout along the edge. I manipulated the tones and colors to more closely resemble my dream state. Unfortunately, there was no golden trout –I had to add that.
CC Jean Stimmell: 9/27/14


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Our fate: turning gray, overripe, fading...

CC Jean Stimmell: 9/23/14
September 23, 2014: Thoughts while photographing milkweed along the Merrimack in the last light of a perfect fall day.

Looking at Milkweed from afar, we can clearly see her destiny, writ large in the ever-changing cycles of life: Turning gray, overripe, fading, soon to fertilize the ground – yet transcendently beautiful.

Clearly She has a larger fate: With the seeds of future generations already visible within her, poised to fly off and pollinate the Earth, isn’t she really merging with ALL?

If we look at ourselves from afar, isn't our fate the same?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Sacred Spaces & New Myths

CC Jean Stimmell: 9/18/14 Pawtuckaway Park
Can Mythology Save Us? In an interview on this subject, Arthur George points out how humans have moved from fantasy thinking to more linear, rational thinking through language only very recently, just in the last two to three thousand years of our long evolutionary history.

This rapid psychic development, he says, has resulted in a major imbalance, allowing our rational ego consciousness to almost totally repress our vital unconscious processes, “which among other things has rendered our culture too masculine, warlike, and out of touch with nature.”

I believe that Arthur George has put his finger on the root cause of the dementia that haunts our modern world. It’s not what the conservatives have done or the liberals; it’s not what the Christians have done or the Muslims; it’s over-dominance by our rational minds that is the problem.

For the sake of our mother earth and all her precious inhabitants, we need to find a way to a higher level of existence, one where our conscious self is integrated with the full contents of our unconscious.

George says the way to do this is by creating new myths.”[i]  But to do so, he says, certain criteria must be followed:

For a new myth to work, it has to reconnect us to what in the ancient world was called the center of the world: “a sacred spot where the divine, in the heavens and the underworld, connected with the earthly…it is where the three planes of the cosmos meet and thus lies at the heart of reality. Archetypically, it was also thought of as the place of creation.”

In simpler language the sacred spot is a temple or sanctuary where we can interact with our deities and experience transcendence: “Sacred space is existential for humans, and can exist anywhere on earth.”

My sacred spot is the Boulder Field in Pawtuckaway State Park, but it wasn’t always so. When I was younger and more rational, it was just a nest of giant rocks. However, over time as I age, I have become increasingly mesmerized by the magic of this spot.

It has become a sacred space.

Something changes as soon as I pass up over the last ridge and descend down into the valley of the boulders. I enter a more-than-human space: I feel the temperature drop and sounds fade, like being ushered into the cool stillness of a great cathedral. Surprises abound as I come across giant stone figures in a truly mythical world, one that Gaia built.

As I have tried to show with these two photographs, great hulking beings inhabit this sacred place, sad and reflective, two-stories high.
CC Jean Stimmell: 9/18/14 Pawtuckaway Park

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Dream: Moment of Reckoning

Moment of Reckoning
CC Jean Stimmell: 9/13/14*
A Dream I Had Last Night

I am walking along the shore trying to find access to the ocean
until, after hours pass, I come across a run-down state park. 
I pass through an overgrown field of rubble and old tires
and come to a gate in an old rusty, chain link fence:
Passing through, I finally arrive at my destination,
a sandy beach shelving off into swirling surf,
blood red in the glow of the setting sun.

Large luminous waves crest and break as they near shore
which would normally attract me to jump in and body surf
but this whole scene seems ominous and treacherous 
so i gingerly wade out in the surf just to my ankles 
when I am grabbed by an immense undertow,
terrifyingly swift, feeling like certain death
which I am barely able to escape
falling back to the beach
a puddle of fear.

* This image is a collage made by combining a photo I took of a sunset over Jenness Pond on 7/1/12 and a photo I took on 9/12/13 of a surfer braving the elements south of Cannon Beach in Oregon.