Ghostly Desire

I hope to sit at a wheel and spin, “throw,” practice the art of pottery. One can take classes in town. It’s as simple as enrolling in a beginner’s workshop, as has a friend. Otherwise I read M.C. Richards’s thoughts on pottery as a craft, her descriptions of her work as a potter in her book Centering, and I think Ghost (1990), a romance starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. Swayze’s ghost and his former lover achieve erotic paranormal union round a wheel, hands wet with clay. ‘Tis the most memorable scene in “one of the most memorable romantic films ever,” “winner of two Academy Awards,” etc. I was maybe 12 years old when I first encountered the scene — and already at 12, I was a sucker for ghostly romances. (Hence another of the films I liked in those years: The Heavenly Kid.) Those are what came first to my adolescent consciousness. Audio-visual tone poems visited upon me in my youth. From them I came to know desire as a longing across distance. “A passion of the lonely soul,” as a character says in Arthur Machen’s story “The White People.” A thing one suffers as a ghost. Years later I would hear the cost of this in “Catholic Block,” and in the mmms and bells of Russell Atkins’s “Night and a Distant Church.” Can I trust myself to let go and have fun? “When a body is filled with stresses, the nervous system is so busy handling them that its potential for attaining higher states of consciousness is very limited,” writes Itzhak Bentov in Stalking the Wild Pendulum: On the Mechanics of Consciousness. Through meditation, however, we can self-stimulate pleasure centers and calm our way toward joy.

Notes from Another Past

Hiro Kone’s “Mundus patet” hisses out from floor speakers into the space of my living room as I sit and pack books for my journey. The plan is to leave early tomorrow morning, drive conjunct with Winter Solstice. “Others are awake, living wild magical lives,” thinks the Traveler. “Let us get with them.”

I walk the path of a time tunnel, listening intently, sight reduced amid the day’s cool air as I head to the beach. ‘Tis a somber tale, if all one hears is squawking — so listen. Laughter, wheels of strollers rolling on boardwalks, children conversing with caregivers, waves crashing along the shore. I gather shells along my approach and then toss them gently into the ocean. A makeshift offering. One does what one can. Shorebirds pass; seagulls dive down and collect. Other beachgoers share the beach with us, wandering solitary or in pairs. I close my eyes and meditate, awakening myself at a set interval with a timer. Languages confront me with occasional meaning — terms like “Moses,” “nope,” and “Sunken Meadow.”

My eyes fall upon Pringles potato chips, left behind in the upstairs bedroom in the wake of Frankie’s visit. “Eat, Eat, Eat!” I hear her saying. She brings such joy, such willful, day-shaping energy. Yet here I lie, feeling crumpled and broken, sleepless and alone atop a bed of crumbs. “Until summer, I’ll be running from one thing to the next, barely able to feel my face,” thinks the Traveler. Struggling to cheer up out of this self-administered genre/affect/mood. Struggling to awaken. Until it’s not really a struggle after all. One awakens all the time: birds fly by, light shines through. And there are companions! playgrounds! friends of the forest! an immeasurable capacity to forgive.

The Spread

Tarot: great modular graphic novel, arranged in a spread and read by super wise super cool Sacred Expanse rock-witch Michelle Mae. I’ve been a fan of hers since 1995, when I saw her band the Make-Up on a bill with Fugazi and Slant 6. Michelle has me set intentions. I share with her my questions for the cards — “What should I be open to? How do I make the best of the year ahead?” — and, upon her instruction, also voice them again silently, eyes closed. She pulls the spread: lays it out on a table, explaining that it can be read both linearly and holistically (i.e., taken as a whole). The two of us then proceed to do so as follows. She introduces the cards one by one, naming them, raising them into my field of vision one at a time, without my knowing at any given point until the end how many there are in total. “Some difficult cards,” she reports. “Two of them major arcana.” Michelle helps me make sense of what she admits with a laugh is a bit of a crazy spread. She sends me afterwards a sacred Tibetan meditation practice, urging me to approach it with utmost respect.

I am to visualize my demons sitting across from me.

I am to ask them what they desire, and I am to feed it to them.

By these means, the instructions suggest, we convert our shadow self into an ally. We become whole again, filled with a sense of power, compassion, and love.

Wednesday December 9, 2020

We’re seeking new practices, and a proper space in which to meditate, as churches and temples were for our ancestors. My grandmother prayed before statues. She built a stone grotto with a statue of Mary, and across from it a stone bench on which to sit, in a corner of her backyard. Hers was a magical world full of prayer beads, statues, jewelry, and shrines. She attended Catholic masses. I wish to honor her memory by creating a sanctum of some sort — a space akin to the meditation room at my previous home. I should try sitting in the loft above the garage, or outdoors, or in the sun room. Either that or I’ll just continue to recite mantras and prayers silently in bed each morning (as I have each morning since the move). Perhaps I should read some Thomas Merton. Or just observe His Dark Materials, with its magical, pluriversal cosmology mapped out Game of Thrones-style in its opening credits.

Saturday November 21, 2020

A friend guides us for a second time through a sunny afternoon gathering, a weekly Saturday afternoon event we call BODY SQUAD. We sit on blankets or mats in the yard for yoga, bodywork, and guided meditation. R. “scripts” or choreographs the gathering. She guides us through exercises. We sit and stand and stretch with friends and partners. During the guided meditation, we concentrate on our chakras: aspects of a body-model involving centers of energy. It involves a practice of “visualizing” or “imagining in the mind’s eye” a ladder of colors, points of light along an inner totem pole of the body. At each point, one is asked to visualize a flower that blossoms to reveal a jewel of a similar color. One becomes a student again, learning experientially by trying and doing. One explores and develops one’s awareness of one’s body, as Esalen Institute Gestalt psychotherapist George Downing recommended in his contribution to Anne Kent Rush’s Getting Clear: Body Work for Women. “At the deepest level if we are bound to roles,” Downing writes, “it is because our bodies bind us. […]. Any real transformation must ultimately include transformation of the body” (227).

Saturday November 14, 2020

A multi-talented translator / Reiki instructor / musician friend of ours guides a group of us through a sequence of physical exercises: stretches, poses, celebrations of embodiment. We stand and sit in a circle in the driveway. (If we do it again, we might consider the grass. Or does it not matter? When we sit, we sit on yoga mats.) The exercises are body meditations aligned with particular limbs, joints, and muscles. At the end we lie on our backs together enjoying a lovely, sunny afternoon. Frankie played and sat among us on her blanket / happy, pleased to be with us in companionship with others. More of that, please! It feels wonderful to be present, nerves stimulated by “Chi” again in our legs and feet and arms and fingers and toes, in our hips, our backs, our butts and pelvises. The group concentrates together, bodies held through lengths of breath through guided exercise. The trees stand in their tallness and majesty beside us, their autumn leaves lit by the sun.

Thursday April 30, 2020

Video-friends team up for a live performance via Zoom and Twitch. Double-click and one is there, listening and watching with others. I depart for a time, enter the phone zone for a talk with my mother. If it’s not one zone, it’s another. This morning, though, I stood in my yard, my eyes meeting the eyes of a deer.

Saturday February 15, 2020

It’s been several weeks since I last sat before the window for morning meditation in the room above the garage, facing outward, to the street to the trees to the sky. Meditation has instead become a yoga integrated into everyday life. This is election season, wealthy billionaire politicians throwing their money around to fill the air with lame signage as our cars and bodies zip around through outer space. Enough is enough! The time has come for change. Jerry Farber spells it out, tells it plain in his essay “The Student and Society: An Annotated Manifesto.” “Students can change things if they want to,” he writes, “because they have the power to say ‘no.’ When you go to school, you’re doing society a favor. And when you say ‘no,’ you withhold much more than your attendance. You deny continuity to the dying society; you put the future on strike. Students can have the kind of school they want — or even something else entirely if they want — because there isn’t going to be any school at all without them” (17). The problem, however, is that students lack consciousness of themselves as a class. They’re divided. Some of them continue to see school as a privilege. Hence the need for teachers — those outside voices who, like the character in Socrates’s cave allegory, return to the cave to free the others. If only I could assign Theodore Roszak’s book Sources, described in its subtitle as “An anthology of contemporary materials useful for preserving personal sanity while braving the great technological wilderness.” Roszak’s introduction points the reader back to Dwight MacDonald’s earlier book The Root is Man. These are important works within a largely forgotten strain of postwar thought: a kind of radical Marxist Humanism.

Friday February 7, 2020

A crouched cat, rustling leaves, the blinking lights of a distant plane: these I encounter on a chill night as I walk about the earth beneath a large moon. The planet’s surface bathed in its light. I stare up at it in wonder (oh mysterious thing, so lovely!) before returning to the house, baby feeding hungrily at Sarah’s breast. The three of us go on a date: ice cream for mom and dad, while baby sleeps beside us in her car seat. F. wears a hat her aunt knit for her. As she and Sarah quiet and settle down for the evening, I enter the basement and listen to a recording of a guided meditation led by Chuck Pereda & Natalie Szendro, featuring music by Pulse Emitter. Time to practice Yoga Nidra.

Thursday July 4, 2019

I wake in the cabin of my brother-in-law’s boat, docked for the weekend at Watch Hill on Fire Island. It’s still early — not yet dawn, in fact — but I can hear birds chirping outdoors, so I climb aboveboard as silently as I can manage, so as not to disturb my companions, all of whom remain asleep below. A wonderful fog has settled over the bay, a saving grace obscuring from sight the many ugly neighboring yachts, flags already hoisted in preparation for the day’s festivities. I perform morning meditation sitting cross-legged on a cushioned bench. Afterwards I walk the short width of the island from bay to ocean and stare out at the Atlantic. Time dilates, water line waxing and waning with the tides. As the day progresses, I lie on my back, eyes closed, and become one with radiant energy.