Saturday, May 26, 2018

Yoked Together

Newburyport MA: 4/23/18
CC Jean Stimmell
Yoke is an ancient Proto-Indo-European word meaning to join or unite.

This yoke once hung around the necks of two oxen, joining them as one for work.

Now it is hung over this forlorn, old door like an  optometrist’s advertisement.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


CC Jean Stimmell
When I was in Oregon a few years back, I took a photograph of She-Who-Watches. She is an ancient Native American pictograph-petroglyph, revered throughout the Pacific Northwest. For her people, she was the resident guardian of the Columbia River basin. She cast a spell over me: Her eyes not only follow you everywhere, they pierce your soul.

I had a similar experience visiting good friends in a tiny town called Kokadjo, lost in the wilderness of northern Maine. It is near a pristine pond whose original Indian name is Kokadjeweemgwasebem, which translates to kettle mountain pond.

Hiking near the pond, which is really a magical lake 7 miles long, we came across another haunting face, another Native American guardian: I call her She-Who-Watches-Over-Kokadjeweemgwasebem

Click on the image to make it larger. Take a good look and you will agree: we stumbled upon a goddess.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Pink Spray and Purple Haze

Published in the Concord Monitor 5/27/18
1968: The Jimi Hendrix Experience
public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Buffeted in a  tsunami of a dream, I found myself back in the 1960s last week: the entirety of my experiences from those wild years coalesced into a single, jangled wave of hedonistic energy, radical exuberance, and existential angst, trying to balance the hope for the coming of the Age of Aquarius against the fear of the apocalypse.

The dream culminates in stark words blazing like neon lights in front of my eyes: pink spray and purple haze.  They sound like the names of paint colors at Home Depot, but they trigger images, much deeper and darker. 

Pink spray is the traumatic image, one of my former patients is still haunted by, of killing a Vietcong during a firefight in a cloud of pink spray as his bullet pierced the neck of his foe: A traumatic image, I guess, now branded in my brain, too.

Purple haze, on the other hand for me, is synonymous with Jimi Hendrix’s iconic psychedelic rock song, of the same name, with its insistent, driving guitar riffs. Purple Haze encapsulates the 1960s for me: The raw energy, the agony and the ecstasy, comrades in arms marching into the breach in both protest and war.

Like a cattle prod, these two images shocked me wide awake. Sitting up in bed I struggled to make sense of my dream, particularly how these two disparate images were connected.

I have always had a strong affinity for Purple Haze as a sixties person and a Vietnam veteran. Paola Sarappa has noted that many vets feel this way: “The rhythms, raw energy, and screaming guitars of rock music perfectly reflected the chaos and confusion of the jungle warfare and firefight battles.”⁠1

There are other connotations; for example, because Hendrix was in the army and trained to be a paratrooper, many vets assume that purple haze refers to the purple smoke used to mark landing zones.

I also wondered if there is a common thread between the mystical aspect of the 1960s psychedelic music and death: during a mystical experience, time slows down to a hyper-focus on the here-and-now, in the same manner as when facing imminent death during battle.

My dream images of purple haze and pink spray draw me ever further downward. After more research, I discovered, Purple Haze, was based on a dream, like this essay.

When he once was asked how he wrote songs, Hendrix said,"I dream a lot and I put my dreams down as songs. I wrote one called…'The Purple Haze,' which was about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea."⁠2

Hendrix always expressed regret that could never put into words, the feeling content of his song. “You know that song we had named “Purple Haze”? [It] had about a thousand, thousand words” if he only had the capability of writing them all down… “It was about going through, though this land. this mythical [place]”⁠3

His songs vibrated with the liberating energy of the posters plastered all about Paris in 1968: “Be realistic – demand the impossible. It is forbidden to forbid.”⁠4

My dream, like his, was about experiencing the Sixties as an odyssey through that mythical land. It expresses the ethos of the sixties, both the highs and lows. 

And that feeling still lives inside me, as visceral now as the first time around. I feel it alive and kicking in my gut, but, like Hendrix, I have no words to articulate further.

I can’t help thinking: is this the past or the present I am summoning up?

Once again, our country is divided between the promise of a diverse, equitable, sustainable future and the specter of a rearguard minority, rooted in the past, promoting fear and hate; once again, soldiers are dying in an endless war; once again we have been highjacked by a devious and demented president.

Am I in a dream or a living nightmare.


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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Poseidon's Graffiti

Ocean's Salt Stain on Concrete
CC Jean Stimmell
Poseidon's graffiti accurate depiction
  of our fundamental bozo nature

A rare sighting at the beach

Fort Foster, Kittery Maine
CC Jean Stimmell
In a rare sighting at the beach

I spotted Mother Nature
wearing a sandy dress
and blue clam brooch.