Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Man in the Moon in the living Kosmos

Photoshop rendition of out-of-this-world N.M. sunset witnessed during our recent trip
"Kosmos with a "K" is the word the ancient Greeks used to denote a Universe that includes not just the physical reality of stars, planets, and black holes (which is what "Cosmos" usually means), but also the realms of mind, soul, society, art, Spirit – in other words, everything." *
* Page 10: Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Presences discovered today hiking up the Wentworth trail
 to Mt Israel in Center Sandwich, NH:

Do you see the toad?

How about the bird shaman of Squam Lake?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Being in the moment with the common dandelion

Dandelion seed head behind my house: 5/15/12

Staying in the moment, so difficult but crucial
Not just as a calming coping strategy
But for the sake of the Spirit 
Art and Life itself.

As Yeats wrote in his journal in 1909: “To keep these notes natural and useful to me I must keep one note from leading to another, that I may not surrender myself to literature. Every note must come as a casual thought, then it will be my life. Neither Christ nor Buddha nor Socrates wrote a book, for to do that is to exchange life for a logical process.”*

* W. B. Yeats, Autobiographies: The Collected Works of W. B. Yeats (New York: Scribner, 1999), 341.

Monday, May 14, 2012

White Buffalo Blues: updated

Manipulated photo of overturned tree roots: J. Stimmell 4/8/12

While it has taken me almost 70 years, I am now learning to pay attention when my psyche persists in bringing up a symbol. It all started earlier this spring when I was walking in the woods behind my house when, suddenly, a white buffalo emerged out of the roots of an uprooted tree. Stranger yet, I felt it spoke to me. I came home and scrawled out this short poem:
While taking a walk
in my woods last evening,
a white buffalo suddenly appeared
standing among the exposed roots
of a blown over tree,
and spoke thus to me:

“Once we were too numerous to count
until you two-legged came along
to wipe us out
just because
we were in your way.

"Take heed, my brother,
I've come with sad tidings
from Earth Mother,
'What comes around
goes around:
It's your turn now.'"

Still, I couldn’t shake my strange encounter. That evening I scrutinized the digital photo I had taken when I saw the buffalo but it didn’t really correspond to what I had seen. I started tinkering with it in Photoshop, tweaking this and honing that, several hours ticked by before I finally arrived at a passable facsimile to what I had seen.

Why was I spending all this time on this, I pondered. Is this just a colossal waste of time? A  delusion brought on by magical thinking?

I hoped not. I have always been sympathetic to Carl Jung’s notion that symbols appear to us when there is a need to express a deeper truth beyond the realm of words. Beyond that, he believed that there were certain reoccurring symbols that were universal in all human cultures, past and present, around the world. He called these shared symbols archetypes:  irrepressible, unconscious, pre-existing, universal forms of the human psyche which can manifest themselves spontaneously anywhere, at any time. 

I had a fairly good theoretical grasp of Jung’s theories, but not an experiential one. The same with the work of Joseph Campbell, the famous mythologist. Like many of my generation, he is a hero of mine from the sixties, but again my knowledge is from his books not the school of hard knocks.

Joseph Campbell subscribed to Jung’s theory of archetypes and believed that these common symbols were mythic images that lay at the depth of the unconscious where humans are no longer distinct individuals, where our minds widen and merge into the mind of humankind. I intended to try to make sense of my vision by studying both these great thinkers but fate intervened once again. 

As luck would have it, I read a review of a new book, a few days later that I had to buy; it sounded right down my alley:  I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own by Michael Taussig, an anthropology  professor at Columbia University, who over his long career has specialized in studying indigenous people who believe in visions, miracles, sorcery and black magic. 

I loved reading it. Not only is he an extremely creative, nonlinear thinker, he validated my vision. He says that we are mistaken to attribute magical thinking to “so-called primitive people” but not to ourselves. 

“Indeed, such an attribution is but an all too typical colonial example of projecting onto others what we want but dare not utter, what we truly believe, but must not. We have our taboos, too.“[1]Taboos like not seeing a white buffalo behind your house, particularly in New England in 2012.

Taussig even answers the question – that I had asked myself – of why I had bothered to toil for hours working on an image to capture the white buffalo, rather than just writing a description.

He believes that language is the poor sister in our world of communication, able to describe the magnitude and richness of reality only in exceedingly halting, fragmented, incomplete, and unsatisfying ways.

“Why can’t language alone serve as testimony here? Why the drawing? [Why the need of my constructed image of the buffalo?] Is there some inevitable primitivism here that sidesteps language, as when for example I invoke Lascaux and the Naskapi… drawing, singing, and dance…?[2]

Taussig says seeing a white buffalo “may be statistically rare, but it is not that which makes it normally abnormal and vice versa. Rather it is the sudden intrusion of the Other world into our mundane world that is here at issue.” [3]

"What we are witnessing is a stroke of fate, a tear in the fabric of reality. That’s what is important."

In my case, this tear in the fabric of reality was paradigm changing! I found myself – in real time – experientially immersed in the archetypal world of Jung's collective unconsciousness, beyond anything I had ever learned in school or experienced in everyday life.

It was only later, during our vacation in New Mexico, that I was introduced to another aspect of the story: How Native Americans consider White Buffalo to be sacred: they see Her as a goddess who will return to earth to usher in either 'a new age' or the end of the world [4] – which, of course, is all one and the same to Native Americans of the Southwest.

I will return to this topic again in future blogs to share new information I have found on the fascinating history of the buffalo in world mythology.


[1][1] Taussig, Michael (2011-10-20). I Swear I Saw This: Drawings in Fieldwork Notebooks, Namely My Own (Kindle Locations 1069-1072). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.
[2] (Kindle Locations 1105-1107). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.
[3]  (Kindle Locations 1114-1116). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Another failed attempt

Cellar hole on Welch Dickey trail: Waterville Valley 5/11/12

An old abandoned cellar hole
lies beside the hiking trail
to Welch and Dickey:

Yet another failed attempt to force
a rectilinear perspective
on Mother Nature.

A lesson to us all.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Zebra Striped Foam

My neighborhood stream: 5/8/12
Oh, zebra striped foam,
trapped by a log
in my neighborhood stream,
please enlighten me:

Are you pure and primordial,
Pan’s sperm of Spring revival?

Or are you a stealth mix
of human folly:
laundry phosphates
flushed pharmaceuticals
and E. coli.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Teaching My Spirit to Fly

"Teaching My Spirit to Fly" ©Mararete Bagshaw
I fell in love with this painting by Margarete Bagshaw while visiting the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture in Santa Fe. Something about it resonated with my soul. Not only that, it was a visual manifestation of what I consider  the highest calling of psychotherapy and what I strive to impart to each of my patients: Teaching My Spirit to Fly.
Stepping outside after seeing all the exhibits, I circled around in the courtyard in disarray, unable to leave.  I reentered and steeped myself once again in Teaching My Spirit to Fly and read the flyer about her exhibit entitled, Margarete Bagshaw: Breaking the Rules:

“Bursting with color and activity Bagshaw’s canvases are vibrant combinations of precise shape, texture, translucent layering, and light. Her paintings range from small to quite large and have an abstract, Cubist quality steeped in spirituality – a connection to her Native heritage and to her artistic forbears.
One wonders if Bagshaw’s grandmother, Pablita Velarde, were alive today would she be painting like this? It’s through her mother, acclaimed artist Helen Hardin, that Bagshaw traces her creative lineage back to Velarde – a dynasty of independent women artists as renown for their art as they were for breaking the rules.⁠1

Wanting to see more, I found out that the work of all three women, said to be the only three-generational female painting dynasties known, were on display together and permanently at Golden Dawn Gallery⁠2 in downtown Sante Fe. We made it a point to visit there later in the day.

Imagine my surprise to find Margarete – live and in person – at the gallery and gracious enough to spend some time talking with me. As I suspected, she told me that at the most fundamental level, creating art for her is an expression of spirituality. 

Here is what she wrote in an excerpt from an book she is writing, entitled appropriately enough, Teaching My Spirit to Fly:⁠3

“I have a multitude of relationships with a multitude of beliefs…I believe in Karma and Nirvana. Colors, numbers and patterns are some of the languages I use to communicate with the Spirit world. I think that the natural world and the Spirit world work in balance with one another. Sometimes I just talk to my Spirits while I am painting, or bathing, or watching a sunrise of sunset…”

To make a long story short, I was able to let my spirit soar by being granted the opportunity to buy a limited edition print of Teaching My Spirit to Fly, allowing me to continue to savor this special communion of spirit even after I get home to New Hampshire.

Here is what she wrote on the back on the print: