Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova

The rabbi (Adam Morris, aka Rabbi Mo) at the temple Fred and I are about to join (Temple Micah in Denver) had a couple of stories tonight. The second, which resonated particularly with me, was one of the Baal Shem Tov's -

A man goes from town to town in search of justice, and is continually disappointed in the people he encounters - "Does no one care?" he asks himself. "Is no one righteous?" He enters a very dark forest, and when he is far within, sees a strange light. He approaches - it's coming through the windows of a tiny hut. The door is ajar so he steps in. The hut is filled with an unimaginable number of wicks in oil, each wick alight. The flames flicker and dance, and he stands transfixed, utterly amazed. An old man appears who explains these lights are souls - each represents a living person.

Naturally the man wants to see his own, so the old man leads him to another room where he points out one of the scores of lights. But as the man looks at his own wick, he realizes it is dwindling, and its oil nearly gone. The old man has disappeared, leaving him alone with this soul of his. The man is grieved and disturbed to see how soon he will die. A wick near his has much more oil. He reaches out his hand to give himself just a little more, when a hand clamps upon his outstretched arm.

"Is this the justice you seek?!" the old man thunders.

The man awakes in the forest, alone, in darkness.

I thought that was a fine story, but in the garden of forking paths* which is the creative mind, I had a different version. In mine, the man comes to the hut, and seeing the door ajar, steps inside. There he sees countless wicks, their flames dancing, and every wick draws its life from a single great bowl of oil. Some wicks are small and others long, but they have one source from which to burn.An old man appears who explains each flame is a living soul.

And when the man sees this, he understands he draws his life from the same pool of spirit that sustains all souls. Some give greater light, some lesser, but each is alive with the flicker of its own fire even as it feeds from a common origin. In appreciating the wholeness that is the basis of these individual lights, he sees that the notion of separateness is mere illusion.

When he can recognize in others what he is proud to believe about himself, he will find the justice he seeks.

* a concept for which we thank Jorge Luis Borges.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Karmafornia Road Trip, California Edition

From Chico, where I'm standing in
front of the now-gentrified house
Fred and I lived in 25 years ago, with
my friend Nancy who still lives in this
small Sacramento Valley town,

To San Francisco, where there's art
pretty much everywhere you look,
such as the Tractor Book
in a bank window,

To the early morning thrill of
Big Sur in the fog,

I've enjoyed my travels
through this great state.

And here in Venice,
the sights are always a wonder -

check out these bikes!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Karmafornia Road Trip, Second Leg

I thought I'd be blogging more but I've been enjoying my travels & encounters too much!

Visit with a long-time friend in Eugene - hadn't seen her for decades, but we just picked up where we left off.
Then over to the Pacific and down the coast into the redwoods - camped in the forest then drove through Avenue of the Giants where I had to hug & kiss one of those ancient wonders.

Among the giant trees are horsetails, one of the most primitive of plants (dinosaurs ate them). They make a fine contrast to their immense neighbors.

Across the Trinity Alps into Redding, then to Mt. Lassen Nat Park for a hike into Bumpass Hell.
This completed our volcanic vista trifecta - Craters of the Moon in Idaho (giant lava flows and weird formations), then Crater Lake formed in the collapse of a massive volcano 7700 years ago (in the historical memory of the Klamath tribe), and now the youngest of them all, seething, spewing and sulfurous, Mt. Lassen.

Arriving in the evening in Chico we took up residence with friends I haven't seen in 25 years. Shared stories, rode bicycles and devoured the most marvelous tomatoes in the world (so ripe they remind one tomatoes are fruit - sweet!).

Friday evening attended a potluck at another friend's house where I gave a reading and sold the most copies of Karmafornia yet on this journey.
So far the calling card that gets the most attention is that the chapter on New Wave (punk rock) music was vetted by my friend Jello Biafra.

Sunday I came along to a woman's 65th birthday party, attended by a group of adventurous creative older women (and some younger ones).

Tomorrow I'm selling books at San Francisco Arts Market down by the Civic Center - hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Karmafornia Book Tour, Part 1

Marigold & Ernesto set out from Denver heading north. Spectacular cloud formations in North Park, CO then found a campsite on Rabbit Ears Pass. Break from rain for dinner, then while we slept in our cozy tent it rained through the night. From Steamboat Springs we went into Wyoming; north of Baggs we held tent and rainfly into the stiff breeze, drying gear in a matter of minutes.

Back on the road into Grand Teton Nat Park. Ernesto's a Virginian - he's never seen much of the West, and finds it amazing. We camped along the Gros Ventre River - treated to a rainbow - and in the morning toured the park.

West thru Idaho:

Atomic City, Arco (1st nuke-powered town in US)

then Craters of the Moon Nat Mon, an otherworldly jumble

of lava beds, tubes and other crazy formations.

Campgrounds on the map near Boise didn't exist

so we ended up at Stinker's Fuel Stop that night.

On to Sisters OR for the Folk Fest - camped on the frigid Metolius River 3 nights and listened to music and hocked books 2 1/2 days- these Karmafornia t-shirts are great! Sold & traded a few books & handed out my book cover card.

Nice people and fine music - headliner Dave Alvin, new to our ears Cow Bop and Sweet Talk Radio. Excellent program Sept 11 morning - a dozen pieces, story and song, by diff artists, united us in sorrow and community. Rest of the day anything but gloomy - Hoots & Hellmouth, a Philly band playing at breakneck speed, and JT and the Clouds to finish off the festival with well-written songs.

Sunday a staffer gave my tray table "kiosk" the evil eye - "You know there's a really big fine if you don't have a vendor permit" so we packed that up & just gave out cards.

Monday drove to Crater Lake - gorgeous place. Hiked up Mt. Scott to highest point in the Park, then outran storms back down the trail. Tuesday boat ride to Wizard Island and around this stunning lake, then on to Eugene.

Sights along the way:

bear warnings in the campgrounds;

smoke from forest fires - east of the Tetons, west of Sisters, east of Crater Lake;

Adopt-a-Highway signs - businesses, families, schools, apartment buildings all doing their bit to keep the roads clean (which they are) - gives me hope for America.