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Sunday
Dec232018

Celebration Day

Zahara, Andalucia, Spain

After I turned the key in room twelve leaving a hostel in Ronda I passed a dim corridor. A dark shadow entered a room down the hall. I remembered seeing her at Relax eating a large salad.

We’d spoken about the size of the tomatoes and she’d laughed saying it was too much food.

I stopped, stepped back looking down the hall. We recognized each other, laughing and talking like deranged idiots. We filled in the blanks.

 "What are you doing here?" I said.

"I’m checking in to save money. What are you doing here?"

"I’m checking out to save money. Let’s go enjoy sun, coffee and conversation."

We went to an outdoor cafe. She carried day old food in a plastic bag.

Monica was from Sydney and had traveled to London, Paris, Lisbon, Granada and now Ronda. She’d never been away from home and friends before. She didn’t like London and got out. She had relatives in Rome.

“I had to live with their rules," she said. Hard. Her epiphany occurred in Nice, France. “That’s when it hit me, all the loneliness, all the insecurities came piling out. I hit bottom.”

Her moment of truth hit her like a ton of bricks.

“I had no idea where I was or what I was doing. I was in chaos. I started sitting meditations.”

She made her breakthrough and it changed her life. She became free to move. It was about her expectations. She’d suffered enough, made enough wrong turns, listened to others’ advice about how to survive.

She discovered compassion and meditation saved her. She moved forward with an open heart-mind.

We sat near the Plaza de Socorro as people streamed to church, markets, shops, and met friends. She opened a can of garbanzo beans. We broke bread.

“A spoken language on the planet dies every two weeks.”

"Really?"

“Ethnologists estimate there are 6,912 living spoken tongues left on Earth. Here’s something you may find interesting. Omar a blind man in Morocco I met just after 9/11 gave me his book of stories, A Century is Nothing.”

“May I touch, see, smell, taste and hear it?”

I pulled it from an Eagle feather pack, handed it to her and entered the cafe for coffee. She opened it and read.

“There are multiple narrators in this journey. One narrator wrote on mirrors, another carved on 26,000 year-old Paleolithic cave walls and Little Wing weaved magic cloth. A change of context changes experience.

“On the loom of time the three fates did their work weaving the word ‘context’ from Latin. “Con” means 'with or together' and 'texere' means to weave. A change in context is an essential and active process. Weavers direct thoughts, emotions and actions as a kairos shuttle passes through openings in the time-space continuum. The loom binds or connects the weaver’s ability and power to speak.

“A nomad finished an extensive tragic-comic jazz poem opus in August 2001 heat and wandered away from the Pacific Northwest. On September 1st he flew from Seattle to Casablanca under a full moon dancing its reflection on waves. Fate, chance and timing.”

I returned. "Did you read about Natasha?"

“I don’t believe so,” she said. “Is she a Now or a Later in your tale? This looks fascinating,” handing him the blind book.

"It’s not my tale. I’m a conduit. Omar’s a beautiful man and dear friend. He has Baraka, supernatural blessing powers. I’ll give his prescient tale a deeper look-see when I return to the Sierras and share it with Little Wing, a weaver on the loom of Time. To question your answer, Natasha arrives later."

Monica resembled Ingrid Bergman, a star in the universe. I made an image of her because I was a rangefinder with excellent optics, good depth of field and focused manually.

We met friends at Relax, a vegetarian restaurant. Susan a lively blond dancer from North Beach studied Spanish. Simon and Christian, open-minded German guys were setting up a travel expedition company. Jon was their creative Spanish genius interpreter.

Jon’s English father was an author who’d written books about the white pueblos in Andalucía. He’d written about hardship, trying to fit into the system and make a living by buying, working and eking out an existence on a campo farm in the late ‘50’s before it became fashionable. Politics mixed with luck and perseverance. Now he was retired on his campo near Ronda and painted oils.

At a lavish Christmas dinner for fifty friends and relatives he gave Omar solid advice.

“Get out of the way and let your characters tell the story.”

 

Simon worked for the German police for eight years. He got tired of picking up body parts along the Autobahn in freezing cold weather. He switched to infiltrating gangs doing undercover drug busts for a couple of years. Knowing he’d be killed if his cover was blown he quit and moved to Spain.

Simon told two short stories.

“I am a millionaire. Everyday I have a beautiful view.”

“There was a poor man in South America. For forty years he slaved away digging for gold in distant mountains far from home. Everyone in his village said he was crazy. One day he found a lot of gold and exchanged it for money. He bought some rope. He tied the rope around his waist, tied the money to the other end and ran through the village dragging it behind him. Everyone said he was crazy. ‘Why?'

“He said, ‘for forty years I’ve been chasing money and now money is chasing me.’”

Everyone drove to Grazalema below the Penon Grande Mountain where I lived with Little Wing, a weaver. She was in the mountain collecting herbs.

Declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park was located in the north east of the province of Cadiz northwest of Malaga, at an altitude ranging from 250 to 1,654 meters above sea level. A Special Protection Zone for Birds, the park covered 51,695 hectares of ecological importance in the south of the peninsula.

It had the highest rainfall in the Iberian Peninsula, with an annual average over 2,000 liters per square meter. It was the most important western massif of the Subbetica range.

It was an old Roman village of 2,300 people. An isolated white pueblo with narrow cobblestone streets filled with suspicious conservative kind, simple people who’d been shut away from the ‘modern’ world forever.

My small white habitat for humanity was old, cold and intimate. When I wasn’t scribbling notes in my Moleskine, climbing back in time and loving a beautiful seer woman weaving on her loom of Time, I admired leaves turning green to yellow and brown dancing through air in silence.

In the patio were lemon and orange trees. Christian juggled three lemons. We met Antonio and Sophia from Seville. Antonio sold discount sofas for a furniture company, loved Formula One racing and Sophia was the queen of video sales. We drove into the national park for fresh air and views of mountains and valleys.

We ended up at the old abandoned Arabic Zahara Castle. Castillo de Zahara sat on a pinnacle above land and artificial lakes. Founded by Romans, Muslims took it over in the 8th century and it fell to a Castilian prince in 1407. It was recaptured in a night raid in 1481 by Abu-al-Hasan from Granada and was home for anarchists in the 19th century.

Someone said George Harrison died the day before. We remembered My Sweet Lord and hummed, ‘I look at the world and know it is turning while my guitar silently weeps.’

We sat inside vast plains, mountains ranges and sky.

“Anyone seeing the sky here would understand where Picasso got his colors,” Christian said.

We were in the Spanish province of light. Luz - land of light. A sharp sunset painted orange horizons. The sun bounced blue and green rays off El Torreon at 1654 meters, the highest mountain in Andalusia. We were mesmerized by beauty.

We climbed steep jagged stone paths skirting Roman baths through history’s past into history’s future. We held hands inside pitch-black stone passageways toward the top of the tower.

It was a kid’s day.

A full moon showed a sliver of itself over mist hills and valleys in the east. It exploded up, a perfect white orb surrounded by purple, orange and blue light.

We were in the perfect place at the perfect time. A history of Romans, Moors, and Christians, as lakes stretched along the valley. Water reflected moonlight.

“Before meditation the moon is the moon and the water is the water. During meditation the mountain is not the mountain and the water is not the water," said a Zen monk.

“True,” said Omar. “We were in a dream of light. Colors flashed across the sky. Shooting stars came out to play. Mountains shimmered in the moonlight. The lakes were mind mirrors.”

“In an improvisational acting class they had us do this when we made a mistake,” Sherri said. She arched her back, threw her arms into air and screamed, “I SUCK,” and relaxed. Everyone laughed seeing her intention in an instant. ZAP. Clearing the way with heart.

Driving past lakes reflecting blue and silver moonlight Sherri said, “You know this would be a perfect night to be able to fly. To make love in the sky.”

“Yes," I said. “We’d make love flying upside down doing acrobatic turns in space while connected.”

“Yes,” she said. “If the earth were a marble and dropped into the lake we could swim to the surface.”

“Yes, and burst free and fly, glide over the mountains and plains end to end forever.”

“Yes. Just for one night.”

“Yes. Only during the full moon we’d have the freedom to fly all night long.”

Our universe was Yes.

We listened to Portuguese Fado singers sing sad songs about fate and love as headlights created shadows. Moonlight dancing on lakes illuminated jagged gray dolomite mountains in a black sky full of shooting stars. Our collective energy made it a day and night we’d remember forever.  

We were shooting stars.

Weaving A Life (V1)

Monday
Dec172018

Bhutan

A wandering Chinese monk shared a talk story with Omar.

“One day in the Himalayas I hiked to a meditation hut above Taktsang, Tiger’s Nest, in Druk Yul overlooking the Paro valley laced with rice paddies, rhododendron, fir, spruce, hemlock and barley fields.

“Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche (Precious Teacher) was the spiritual founder of the Nyingmapa old school of Himalayan Buddhism in 800 still taught in central Bhutan. Tantric Buddhism, the esoteric form of the Drukpa Kagyupa Buddhist School in Bhutan dates to 450. The state religion of Mahayana Buddhism or the Great Vehicle was established in the 8th century.

“According to legend, Rimpoche subdued many demons in Paro and central Bhutan. At one time he had two wives, an Indian and a Tibetan. He transformed his Indian wife into a tiger and flew to Taktsang Monastery in the 8th century.

“Tiger’s Nest is a series of small tight buildings built into the cliff. It is composed of intricate staircases, stone flagging, a small open air kitchen, balconies, rooms for sleeping, and meditation. I was welcomed by boys and monks who showed me a small meditation room filled with statues, offerings of rice, coins, fruits and vegetables.

“They showed me the cave where Rimpoche lived for three years. Three monks appointed by the chief abbot in Thimphu live here for three years for meditation study and are followed by novice monks in their spiritual meditations.

“Taktsang, destroyed by a fire in 1998, was rebuilt.

“I traveled east along the spine of the dragon climbing to 10,000 feet, dropping into valleys and climbing again. Distinct elevations consist of grasslands, crop lands, forests, hardwoods, coniferous forests, soft woods, alpine meadows, yak pastures, and glaciers. Barley, wheat and potatoes are spring and summer crops from 7,500-13,000’ with the tree line coming at 12,000-14,000' and coniferous replacing hardwoods above 8,000’.

“I passed West Bengal and Indian road gangs working at quarter mile intervals. They carry large rocks and crushing granite to repair and fill endless washouts. They live and work here for two or three years maintaining roads before being replaced by new workers from northern India. Their living situation is grim. Shelters are woven reeds, fortified with any materials they can find along the rivers. They carry their children on their backs as they work. Younger ones sleep along the road under torn black umbrellas.

“Ten thousand people live in the Bumthang area. Small shops and stores along the single main street serve as homes and business. Built of wood with small steel stoves and chimneys, the rooms are multipurpose; selling in front, eating and sleeping quarters in the rear. Merchandise includes thread, wool, fabric for weaving, canned goods, small toys, sweets, local spirits, spices, eggs, a limited supply of green vegetables, a few green apples, and soap.

“The architecture is Tibetan. Rectangular buildings are two-three stories high, a pitched roof with open space holding firewood and fodder. The middle floor is for storage of grains, seeds and foodstuffs. Upper floors are living quarters, broken into smaller rooms. The ground floor on a working farm is for the cattle. If not, there are windows at this level with a shop, storeroom, kitchen, and servant’s quarters.

“I arrived at a monastery in the foothills overlooking the town where 300-500 Bhutanese gathered to receive a blessing from a lama. Children and adults on timber slabs sat talking on a sun baked ground.

“Three monks blew long wood and silver jallee horns to chase evil spirits away.  The lama, Nam Kha Nen Boo, is Khenbow, a reincarnation of a former monk known for his fortune telling power. He was seated and read in a low tone of voice for twenty minutes and used a small hand held drum and bell.  

“Finished, he moved among the people touching us on the head with a statue called a Tshtshto. This dignifies the life of a human with a blessing “Have a long life.” People approached with offerings for his blessing. Bags of red string, flour, and jenlap, a nutmeg like substance, were offered. One lama handed each person jenlap. Another lama gave each person a single red string to be worn around the neck.   

“I visited the Jakar Dzong. The head lama opened large doors in the spiritual center. Ornate sculptures of Padmasambhava and flickering yak butter lamps filled the center wall. Inside another room was a ten foot high statue of the guru, bronze statues with salt and butter flower carvings.

“Display cases with hundreds of identical 5-6" Buddha statues sat in tiered arrangement extending the length of the room, reaching the ceiling. Larger images depicted historical and religious levels of spiritual attainment.  

“My meditation is on The Eightfold Path or Middle Way between self-indulgence and self modification. The eight orders are: Right Views, Right Purpose, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Awareness, and Right Concentration or Right Meditation.

“I have a diamond in my mind. I am alive and empty and present.”

A Century is Nothing

 

Tuesday
Dec112018

BS Backstory

Dark, a tour guide for Get Out, a Cuban travel company, visited Never-Never Land in 2009.

He met Strange, an H’mong man among men speaking excellent English. His nickname was Wandering Buffalo.

He worked with UXO, the Unexploded Ordinance Organization demining land in the morning and teaching English afternoons. He developed a soccer team.

Dark and his co-founder cohort Thor, a Viking singing sagas while invading Ireland helped Strange.

They established soccer team funding to take the Lao team to an international football event in Havana with caviar, cigars, goat cheese and noodle soup.

One week before leaving Strange died.

Dark and Thor made the Lao kids’ dreams come true. They went to Havana by steamship.

In 2012 they created BS offering English education to H’mong students in memory of Strange. Memories are strange.

Dark called Wick his best friend in Beijing asking for teaching help and setting up the school. Wick, a 55-year old Cuban trained lawyer and former financial analyst on Walled Street arrived.

Wick and Dark enrolled H’mong kids, used Sharp Cutting Edge texts and developed community awareness.

Dark did the marketing and publicity - embassies in China, Mongolia, South America and international companies. He filed NGO non-profit charity application documents in Greenland to facilitate Ice-9 donations.

After eighteen months of self-induced torture at BS Wick accepted a teaching job in Ulan Bator, Mongolia with yurts and steppes. Big money at a private school, he said, I need travel money for Uruguay. Try Patagonia, said IT, fresh off the banana boat.

Dark advertised for a volunteer teacher.

In the summer of 2013 Wick went to Ulan Bator, confirmed his new big money job and bought seventeen boxes of textbooks for elementary, pre-intermediate, intermediate and advanced students at BS. He shipped them back by raft on the Mekong.

IT arrived in August. He met Dark in Luang Prabang overlooking the wild wide wet Nam Ou River and rolling green hills.

Dark was nervous about the situation and teacher transition. It was his baby. He’d invested his time, money and efforts in BS. He needed to feel secure in his choice.

He practiced micro-management with high anxiety.

It’s going to be ok, said Prophetic. Relax.

Dark left for Papa New Guinea seeking Mama Guinea and baby Guinean head hunters and cannibals while leading well heeled British tourists carrying clean drinking water through dengue malaria infected jungles, 5* menus and 300-count Egyptian linen.

IT began a new adventure at BS.

A Little BS

Tuesday
Dec042018

Beginning BS

There was a traveller. He was invisible.

IT - Invisible Traveller not Internet Technology.

He wandered Earth helping people discover their English courage, doing street photography and writing.

In April 2013 while polishing a new book, The Language Company in Seems Ripe, Cambodia with eagle-eyed daily discipline from 6-10 a.m. to be independently published in late 2014, he applied for a volunteer teaching position with Buffalo Strange (BS) an English school and Cuban charity in NE Laos.

He communicated with Dark, the co-founder.

The traveller first visited Laos in 2010 for a month, sailing north up the Nam Ou River for three days from Luang Prabang to Phongsali in the wilderness bordering China and Vietnam before wandering south to Pakse and entering Ratanakiri, Cambodia.

By 2019 Chinese financed damns block the flow. Electricity is sold to Thailand. 60 million people downstream in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam suffer from the economic and environmental impact.

In Cambodia he met Rita, author of Ice Girl in Banlung. They collaborated life stories forming the frame of a self-published novella.

He returned in 2011 helping grades 6 & 7 develop character and critical-thinking skills with curiosity and humor at a private school in Vientiane before graduating to a Montessori School in Luang Prabang to practice ABCs with new young friends.

In May 2013, before going to BS he went to Mandalay, Myanmar for ten weeks with Montessori kids at a private school. Ineffective management.

It didn’t meet his psychic needs. Burmese children taught him see say understand I am a miracle.

He learned. He wrote it down. He did documentary photography work. He left. He returned to Seems Ripe.

Dark contacted him in June 2013 in the off chance he was still available and interested. They talked specifics. IT went to Never-Never Land, Laos in August.

19 degrees 27’ 36” N, 103 degrees 10’48” E

A Little BS

Friday
Nov302018

A Little BS

“To travel is very useful, it makes the imagination work, the rest is just delusion and pain. Our journey is entirely imaginary, which is its strength.”- Celine

*

I facilitate English, the language of barbarians in Yangon, Burma.

Ah bliss. I salute the sun every morning from the 8th floor balcony with twinkling stars, flocks of crows and silent burgundy monks clanging gongs.

Wing song.

Bamboo grows strong. Resilient.

Laundry dries faster than a speeding sparrow.

*

One small life chapter began in Phonsavan, Laos a sleepy, dusty enclave near Vietnam. Laos is the most heavily bombed country on Earth. A planeload of bombs were dropped every eight minutes, 24-hours a day for nine years.

The Secret War in Laos

The Plain of Jars wars and scars.

Survivors and archeologists say the jars were funeral containers holding bones of relatives. Jarring fact.

Truth is beyond a shadow of reasonable healthy doubt they were drinking vessels of GIANTS.

I know. I was there 4,000 years ago.

A book entitled A Little BS is what happened more or less.

A Little BS 

Phonsavan, Laos