Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry Christmas to All -- Pagans and Christians alike

--and Happy Hannukah, Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa.

An exploration of our Deep Winter Commemoration

As a nation with short-term memory, eager for the "next thing," it is no wonder we have no sense of history or a sense of the context in which our current traditions were established. The current Christmas tradition is a good example where we seem to have lost our sense of tradition, history, and the concept of "majority rules."

First off, let’s go back to the beginning. Jesus, a Jewish rabbi, did not establish the "Christmas season." It had already been in full-swing for a millennia or more before his time, in the form of the Winter Solstice commemorations of the "old Religion" of Mythraism (et al). Once Saint Paul proactively altered the basic Jewish dietary practices, and made things a bit easier for "new converts," Christianity took root as a distinct sect, apart from its Jewish roots. Whereas Jews called everyone else heathen (those who lived on the heath, or common) or goy, the New Religion of Christianity called everyone else "pagans."

Let’s stop a minute and examine that now-derogatory term. The Pagani were originally country folk, those who lived outside the grasp of Roman power. The term had no religious overtones. But gradually, those who chose to cling to their old traditions were then called "the pagans," meaning anyone else but us. It was no different than Muslims looking down their noses at non-Muslims, the so-called "infidels."

By the time the Fourth Century rolled around, the new Christian Church was also the dominant political power. Church and State were one and the same. And a savvy leader – Constantine – realized that while it was easy to declare Christianity the "official religion," it was less simple to change the hearts and minds of the people. So what did he do? He stole Christmas fair and square from the pagans. He "Christianized" all of the Old Religion Holy Days, and declared that they were now Christian, with new names in some cases. This is why the Druid Feast of Samhain became All Hallows Eve, and the ancient Ishtar became Easter, and why we have the odd St. Valentines day traditions, a throwback to Roman time. And the ancient Winter Solstice commemorations morphed into The Mass of Christ (Christ-Mass).

Most of the basic symbols of the modern Christmas season pre-date Jesus: the wreath, the mistletoe, the evergreens, gift exchanges, cards, the decorated tree.

Astronomers and historians know with certainty that Jesus was NOT born on or near the Winter Solstice due to the clues given in the New Testament. For example, animals are not in the fields in late December, and there was no comet or conjunction of planets that coincided with that time of the year, and the census that caused Mary and Joseph to travel did not occur in late December, etc.

Santa Claus is a latter-day addition, from an actual bishop in the church, Nicholas of Asia Minor who gave gifts to needy families around the already-established Christmas season. Known as Saint Nicholas, his name is rendered into something that sounds like "Santa Claus" when translated into other languages.

So, all this said, why are we afraid to say "Merry Christmas"? We stole the Holy Day fair and square from the Pagans, who are still free to commemorate Winter Solstice. There is no conflict, and there is no real issue in terms of State-sponsored religion.

Atheists and sue-happy litigants should attend to their own matters, and keep their long noses out of the business of others that does not in any imaginable way "hurt" them. How do the "stolen from pagans Christmas commemorations" in ANY way hurt or harm atheists, or others of different religions? If Christianity, in whatever form, is the will of the majority of the people, how is that harmful?

No one in the broader society, after all, objects if Japanese celebrate Obon widely in their own communities, or when Muslims commemorate Ramadan as they see fit, or when Jews commemorate Hannukah, Yom Kippur, or any of the other well-established Holy Days. Nor is there any objection as those of African descent celebrate the "new" secular holiday of Kwanzaa.

The Christmas holiday is unique and special for millions of people. It is the time of least light, when our minds and bodies and emotions yearn for "the light." It does not really matter that Jesus was not born on Christmas day if that is the day millions of Christians choose to commemorate it. What matters is that we use the symbols of these days to remind ourselves of our spiritual heritage – something ALL people share. We are ALL, after all, descendants from the same Spiritual Father and Spiritual Mother.

This should be an uplifting time for all, when we joyously and sincerely embrace others, and wish them a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, a wonderful Winter Solstice, the best Kwanzaa, and a happy New Year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


[This is part of a book about growing up in Pasadena]

A few years later when I was perhaps 10, my brothers and I were particularly bad and misbehaving and belligerent one autumn. My mother gave us several warning and threats and a few "beatings" in her ceaseless attempt to get us to obey. But I don’t know what was wrong with us that year. It was as if we were afflicted by some unseen infection. Or maybe it was what all teens go through when they believe they know more than their parents. So my mother said,

"Keep it up and there will be no Christmas this year." Of course, my mother didn’t control the calendar. She just meant "no gifts." That threat did at first affect our behavior, but then we’d go back to our nonfeasant and malfeasant ways. There were numerous threats, as November rolled into December, but things didn’t substantially improve.

Now, I was at the age where I began to think about things, and the relative unfairness in the world, and the questioning of authority. But I also wondered why we should receive gifts at Christmas. By this time, I was aware that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus at this time, and that it was primarily a religious holiday. I just didn’t get the whole gift thing –not that I minded receiving. But because I lacked an understanding of the whole picture, the idea of "no gifts" didn’t seem that threatening to me.

Thinking back, our bad behaviour that year was likely the trickle-down defiance from our oldest brother. David was never a defier, certainly not an open defier, but the defiance of Gilbert the eldest would have trickled down to Thomas, to Richard, to me. We were not an ideal family, and I am sure I have suffered my entire life due to unnecessary defiance and the disrespect that I showed to my parents. Did my parents deserve respect? In retrospect, of course they did, though the question would have been irrelevant then – like the pot calling the kettle black.

We were not saints, so who were we to point out hypocrisy in our parents? Anyway, by mid-December, the word was out: No Christmas this year. We were schizophrenic about this. "Oh, we don’t care," we sassed, but inwardly I believe we each felt a deep dismay at our own inability to live up to our household’s very simple standards. I felt particularly dismayed that I had been no better, and that I was swayed along with the tide of my older brothers’ mob mentality. No Christmas. "She won’t follow through on it," Tom told us with assurance. But inwardly, I felt my mother had to follow through, otherwise her word would mean little to us, and she’d gain little by "being nice." I don’t recall what my father had to say about this, but it wasn’t much.

So, sure enough, Christmas came, and we went glumly into the living room to a fire and the usual Christmas tree, but there were no gifts. We went to church and we talked with our schoolmates. When they talked about what they got for Christmas, we just found ways to change the subject. We had a quiet Christmas dinner.

One of my brothers told his friends that my mother was mean, but I never did that. I knew we deserved nothing, and I felt a certain euphoric sense of justice in her actions, and I respected her more because of it.

Interestingly, in certain ways, I felt closer to my mother after that, was more obedient because I simply felt better doing what was expected of me, and I never complained. Despite a seeming lack, it was actually one of the best Christmas’ ever, where I received the most fitting possible "gift" – the ability to quickly experience that my choices and actions have consequences.

The story about my mean mother gradually got out into the neighborhood, and my mother once again became the topic of conversations, mostly criticizing my mother. I always remained silent, trying to listen to both sides. But I only heard one side—no gifts – from those who truly lost the meaning of Christmas, whose sole focus for Christmas seemed to be the acquisition of things. So I slowly was given a second "gift" by my mother’s action – a unique insight into the all-too-common mundanity of most people’s very narrow thinking.


[This is a short selection from a book I am working on about growing up in Pasadena]

Christmas was always a special time, though in my very earliest memories, there were no religious overtones. I was taken to church every Sunday, of course, but the Christmas decorations and gatherings were all something that happened at home, not at church. When I was too young to speak, I realized that Christmas was the season that happened during the coldest time of the year, and it meant that we’d have a fire going in the fireplace, people would be coming over, and there’d be lots of gifts and food.

My earliest specific memory was when I was told that Santa Claus could come to our home and bring gifts, and that he had some way to figure out where I lived. I didn’t know exactly why, but there was a great mystery about this fat, bearded, red-suited Santa man. People spoke about him in hushed tones, and would even sometimes stop talking about him when I came near.

My brother Tom told me that Santa Claus would come down the chimney – something I found hard to believe considering how fat he appeared in the pictures. We both peered up into our fireplace one day and wondered how Santa could get through the narrow passageway.
"Plus, doesn’t dad have a screen over the top of the chimney to keep the pigeons out?" Tom asked. I didn’t know. "I hope he remembers to remove it for Santa."

On Christmas Eve, our dad showed us a plate of cookies and a pot of coffee that had been set out for Santa.

We barely slept, and I tried to not sleep so I could be the first to rush out and catch a glimpse of this Santa. But I fell asleep, and Tom woke me and Rick. We jumped out of bed, and ran down the hall. We weren’t particularly interested in gifts, but we wanted to catch Santa. We were too late, but the three of us carefully examined the remaining evidence. There were no cookies left on the plate – only crumbs – and there was only a small amount of coffee left in the cup. Tom held the cup and carefully peered into it, and then Rick and I stared into the cup, the proof that Santa had come and departed.

"See?" said Tom. We all continued to stare into the cup a while longer, as if it might reveal some secrets to us.

In a few more years, I noticed that people didn’t fully hide their comments from me when speaking about Santa Claus. "He believes in Santa Claus?" was met with muffled response. What an odd question, I thought. Why shouldn’t I believe in Santa Claus?

When I actually learned about this mythical aspect of Christmas, I did go through a period of confusion and even anger at the world of make-believe perpetrated entirely by adults and foisted upon me. I suppose I felt bad because I really wanted to believe in Santa Claus, and I felt that he was a positive figure. And I had been told to "be good" for Santa Claus, and that Santa Claus knew everything I was doing. I was very puzzled by all this, but I got over it.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009


[Note: This is part of a book Christopher is working on about his lessons and experiences with Dolores' death, and how they both dealt with issues of death during their marriage.]

As Dolores wished, her body was cremated. In about three weeks after her death, a brown box was delivered to me which contained her ashes. It was heavier than I expected. We received it too late for the Memorial we held in the back yard a week and a half after she died, otherwise we might have planted a tree that day.

The search was on to find the ideal tree to plant over Dolores’ ashes. The first choice was breadfruit, a Hawaiian tree, in honor of Dolores’ love of things Hawaiian, and her feeling of a connection to those islands, and the memory of her having lived there. But there was no breadfruit to be found. If anyone would have a breadfruit tree, I figured Steven Spangler of Exotica would have it, but he told me that the tree would not grow here unless in a greenhouse. That wouldn’t do.

So then I tried to find a terebinth tree, rich in symbolism and seemingly ideal to memorialize Dolores. But could not find one. I was told by a botanist at the Huntington Garden that there weren’t any of these trees in North America. I sought a certain species of fragrant lilac, a certain variety of deodar, and other trees. Each of these inquiries took time, and it was clear that we should not wait too long for such a memorial.

We had felt the presence of Dolores very strong through December and early January, but she seemed further afield now in that different sort of work that someone must be engaged in once their body dies. So I decided to plant Meyer lemons, a tree that Dolores enjoyed because not only did it provide food, but also fragrance and medicine, and it was drought-tolerant.

Finally, we planned the event for Saturday, February 7, 2009 at 3 p.m. Alvin Toma provided the two Meyer lemons – we planned to plant two trees, symbolic of all things two, like frontal column and spinal column, like Boaz and Joachim. We planned the trees so that Dolores’ trees would watch over and overlook where her dogs were buried.

On Saturday, Talal and I spent an hour finding the just-right spots for the trees. Where I first placed them, still in their pots, seemed symmetrical, but as we looked at it, we realized one would have much more shade than the other. So we moved the trees and finally found the just-right spots, where one would walk down the path and through the two lemons, into the dog cemetery. We dug two holes and built up the hillside on the outer edge of the holes so they’d be secure and not wash away.

Soon guests came. Prudence, Julie, Racina all helped with the site preparation. Nicole and Candace came, as did Mike, and Ben, and Jonathan, and Mel. Even an Hungarian woman showed up after seeing the notice in the L.A. Times. I beat the sacred Taos drums as guests arrived, drums passed down in Dolores’ family, now to me.

We began by filling and touching our cups, and sharing a Toast to Dolores.
We read poesic arts works, and discussed death. A few words were spoken about Dolores. Then we went to the trees. Everyone gathered around. I cut Dolores’ last garment in two, the garment that she wore on her last days. It was a long gray cotton night shirt, and I put half in each hole, explaining how it would be also good for the tree to maintain moisture during dry times. I cut a few inches of my hair and added it to each hole. We put some Otis (our pot-bellied pig) manure into each hole.

Then it was time for the ashes. The dust from which we came and to which we return. I opened the brown box and found a plastic bag inside. I opened the tie. Inside was the dense white ash. I knew that Dolores was no longer her body, but I also knew that this was left of the body within which Dolores resided. I reached into the plastic bag with my hands and took a handful of the powder and placed it in one hole. I put about half of the power into each hole. My hands were white with Dolores’ ash, which gave my hands a silky feel. I saved a little ash to see if anyone else wanted to save some, but no one did. Everyone had been so very quiet. (I was later told, privately by four different people, that they had never seen human ash before, and that they were a bit shocked that I handled them with my bare hands. Prudence told me it seemed like an act of Love. I can only say that it seemed like the right thing to do, to not have fear or repulsion for the ashes of my beloved, but to touch them.)

Then we planted the trees, everyone pitching in to get the trees aligned and watered.
When done, everyone put a rock around the base, and added a little water to the trees. We read more readings, looked at Dolores’ beautiful and unique photography. I smoked Luther Standing Bear’s pipe, blowing smoke to the four directions, to honor Dolores’ site, where her ashes will nourish the trees, where the fruits will absorb the nutrients from that ash, where we will one day consume lemons nurtured by Dolores’ essence.

The weather was perfect for the event. The rain stopped as we began, and the sky had a unique shade of blue, as large billowing clouds filled the sky. It was the sort of skyscape that you expect to see in classical European art.

Finally, Racina sang a wonderful rendition of "You Lift Me Up" and John Denver’s "Country Road." It was beautiful.We cleaned up and departed, and wished the very best to our dear friend Dolores.

My friend Christopher Reamer could not join us that day, but he wrote, "I am one person who was inspired by Dolores, and will continue to be. Peace to you and her in this awesome journey of life. Christopher Reamer."

Monday, December 07, 2009


Terumasa – Nami’s friend from Japan – had arranged to visit in December of 2008. Though Dolores tried to work out the details of his stay, she wasn’t really able to fully do so, even with my help. Nevertheless, Terumasa arrived after Dolores had already died. In the few remaining days before Fikret returned to Germany, Fikret taught Terumasa how to feed the dogs and perform several of the tasks that Fikret had admirably taken on.

In the evenings of late December and early January, I would often sit with Terumasa and Nami and have dinner together, often watching television, and always trying to converse with Terumasa. Terumasa was a noble man who exuded greatness. I loved to be around him, and wished that our language barrier was reduced.

One late afternoon, after we had the backyard memorial for Dolores, a few people lingered in the backyard and living room to talk. Terumasa sat there next to me, with Mel sitting there listening. Terumasa looked at me while we talked about Dolores. He said, "Christopher," to gain my attention.

"Christopher," he repeated with great concern in his voice.
"Why are we born? Why are here? Why do we live this life? Why must we experience all this pain?" He paused. He was about to cry. He added, "Why do we die?"

We were all silent for a few moments. Joe Hall looked at me, wondering what I would say. Joe had previously made it clear to me that he didn’t believe in reincarnation, so I suppose he wanted to see how I would respond. Mel commented, "Those are the questions, alright."

I nodded to Terumasa. What could I say? Should I offer my opinion as to the meaning of life and death in a few simple words with the attempt to cross the chasm of our English-Japanese divide.

"Yes, what is this all about?" I asked rhetorically. I felt that I was certainly able to intellectually approach those questions, but I did not feel emotionally up to it in that moment.

"Let’s talk about that some more soon," was all I offered.

Eventually, only Joe Hall and Mel remained talking, and when I finally walked Mel to his car, he turned and said, "We should get together and talk about Terumasa’s questions. I’d really like that."

"OK," I told him. "We will, but you have to promise to come." Mel said OK.

About a month later, on Thursday January 29, we planned Boy Voyage party for Terumasa, who would be actually departing Saturday morning. We invited many people, and planned to have Japanese tea and Japanese food.

We set up an outside table up on the hill at the wildlife sanctuary, with lights and a table full of dinner. Nami came up with Terumasa and we invited them to sit down. It took a little while for Terumasa to realize that this was a party for him. He laughed loudly when he realized this was a surprise for him!

We filled our tea cups and touched them together for our toast, reciting the words of a little cartoon – Love Is…

Then, all holding hands in a circle in the darkness of the evening, we recited a work called "Friendship Bridge."

Then, after asking Terumasa about the details of his departure, and what he’d be doing back in Japan, we made the effort to answer his questions. Prudence and I prepared with different parts of the book "Thinking and Destiny" by Harold Percival, along with our own insights.

We didn’t want our bon voyage to Terumasa to become a strict metaphysical study, but rather we wanted to provide some preliminary answers to his serious query. It was as much for us as it was for Terumasa.

We decided that we were born upon this world in order to continue our spiritual evolution. Each of us added some comments to this, but everyone seemed to concur that this is why we are here, and which is why we are here to live this life.

The subject of pain was much more complex. Yet, we quickly denounced the notion that our pain is something given to us, or done to us, by "god," as is so often averred by religious zealots. In fact, in all the cases of individual and large scale pain that we could list, we felt that we are our own worst enemy. We men and women are the sources of pain on the earth, which usually come about by some violation of natural law, some breaking of the Ten Commandments, not abiding by the Golden Rule, and by partaking of the Seven Capital Sins. Our pain is the result of our own choices, and when we learn from our pain and our choices, we – if we are intelligent – learn to make other choices.

This was a big topic, but again everyone was in agreement that we bring our own pain upon ourselves, and that pain is largely unavoidable.

Then we talked about death. Prudence read from "Thinking and Destiny" and pointed out that death can be a friend to our Spiritual Self, that our bodies are simply not destined to live forever, and that – like it or not – we will all die as part of our long progress towards spiritual perfection.

This was not wholly agreeable to all, but the topic of death is so full of emotion and opinion and religious dogma that we did not attempt to have agreement all around, and that was OK.

By now we were feasting on some delicious Japanese fish and soup, and we gave Terumasa some gifts to take back to Japan. He really enjoyed the roll of the new George Washington brass dollars that he was given.

We all exchanged phone numbers and emails and we all hugged. It was clear to all that change was coming soon, and that this wonderful warrior would soon be gone. By 9:30, we all departed, and on the following Saturday morning, Terumasa flew away to Japan.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Since the Angeles Crest Highway was opened last week, and since I heard that it might be closed again with possible mudslides in the coming rainstorm, I drove up there this morning. It was quite a sight to see mile after mile of grey and black hillsides from the Station Fire. I noted that lots of new growth was here and there, such as sprouts from Laurel Sumac, and chamise, and grasses.
I wanted to see Switzers, so I parked there along the road, and happened to see my great mechanic, Raz from Eagle Rock. He was all smiles and telling me about his reactions to the burn.
I walked down the quiet road and examined the camp -- I was happy to see that the fire left the bridge, the outhouses, all the tables intact! The fire came right down to the river bottom in places, but didn't burn through the bottomland where all the tables and infrastructure are located.
I saw bear scat, and portions of a recently killed deer on the trail in the camp. The trail was all covered with leaves, and it all had an abandoned feel to it. But I was very happy to see the picnic area more or less intact.
I even spotted a yucca plant in full bloom, as if the fire tricked it into thinking it was April.
I took many pictures, and really enjoyed my morning jaunt. But it cost me $75 in the ticket that was on my windshield, payable to some agency in North Carolina! Oh well.....

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


December 9, 2008
[Part of a book I am working on about Dolores, and our life’s lessons]

It had been a tough week so far, and it was only Tuesday morning. Dolores’ left leg had continued to get swollen the last few days, while her right leg appeared thin from her weight loss of the previous month. She was still only "eating" juices, mostly frozen, and I was constantly worried that she still could not hold down anything more solid.

And I slept lightly and sporadically Monday night, as most nights the previous weeks. I had the occasional dark nightmares which would wake me up, and then I’d try to fall back into a light sleep.

I don’t recall if Dolores called me to wake me up or if I just hopped up and checked on her. But I could tell something was really wrong. Dolores seemed to be in a state of shock. It wasn’t something she said but just the way she was. I could tell she was struggling, and that she was distant. The room was cold and I was immediately upset with myself that I had allowed the fire in the corner wood stove to die down. I went to Dolores and asked if she needed anything. She seemed to have difficulty talking, and asked me to turn her from side to side, something I often did.

But this morning was different.
I felt a panic and my body was instantly in a light sweat. The room was cold but not icy. I asked
Dolores how she was. She responded that she wanted to be turned. I rolled her over to her other side. She could not get comfortable. I rolled her a few times, and she was trying hard to find a comfortable spot, which was difficult.

I told Dolores that I was going to call Prudence, that I needed help. She said no, don’t bother. I could tell that Dolores simply didn’t want to be a bother to anyone else. She knew that Prudence had to go to work and was concerned about Prudence.

"I’m going to call her," I told Dolores, for I could tell Dolores’ body was in trouble. She didn’t look right, and there was a bit of bloating. I had been hoping that Dolores would get much better and that we’d go to Hawaii. We had laughed about going to Hawaii two days earlier. Now I was panicked.

I got Dolores some of her iced juices to suck on and then I continued rolling her from side to side. She could not get comfortable.

Prudence arrived and began massaging Dolores’ bloated leg. My panic subsided, and I somehow clicked into a clinical perspective so I could keep my emotions under control. Deep inside I was crying deeply, praying deeply to whatever Life Force and gods controlled our part of the universe. I wanted Dolores to live and I wanted to continue the momentum of our renewed relationship. I knew that Dolores said she was content to do this body purging, as she called it, come what may. But I also know that she wanted to live. She often told me all of the things she still wanted to do. The publication of so many books and cards. The promotion of all the works of her mentor. The renewal of her relationship with her daughter Barbara. A second chance, she said. We had watched a movie called the Second Chance, and this made Dolores’ face so bright and alive. We both knew that we would go forward together, another chance, and that a bright future awaited us. Dolores could not die.

Prudence and I spoke little, and we worked on Dolores’ legs and body like two workers who had done this a million times. We were doing what we felt needed to be done, in accord with what Dolores was telling us. I later learned that Prudence hid her panic well, and she experienced more fear and panic than I did.

I was glad to do all that I could for Dolores. We’d lived the better part of our lives together. We’d had our ups and downs, and for better or worse, our lives were completely intertwined. I wanted Dolores to live and be healthy as naturally as I wanted that for myself.

Dolores seemed less able to guide us in what we were doing. We kept rolling her from side to side, kept on some music, and Dolores worked the swollen leg. It was exhausting, and Prudence was reaching her limit before she had to go to work. I called Julie.

Julie came quickly and we both continued to massage Dolores legs and feet. One leg was emaciated and the other was swollen. She had good sensitivity in her soles. I began to talk to Dolores constantly even though she was less and less responsive. My mind was racing. Should I call the paramedics? If I do, what if she dies in their care and doesn’t recover? Then I would not be able to fulfill her final wishes? Plus, Dolores didn’t want to go to a hospital.

Julie and I continued to turn her body from side to side, and I tried to get her to drink liquids. By 11:30 a.m., she had become unresponsive, though she kept asking me to turn her. It seemed that a sort of panic overtook Dolores’ mind, and she wanted me to roll her rapidly from side to side, as if it was impossible to be comfortable. Julie watched in silent wonder, and maybe fear.

After a half hour of this, I worked on massaging Dolores arms, and Julie worked the feet. Dolores was silent. She rolled a bit, and then I watched as Dolores seemed to pull up into herself—hard to describe. I watched as her face pulled up into itself, as there was some inner pain Dolores was experiencing. I knew she was going, but didn’t want to believe it. Her face pressed into the pillow and the elasticity that you normally see in the skin of the face wasn’t there as her face froze into a death pose. I closed her eyes, motioned to Julie that Dolores had died, and I lay down next her, and hugged her for the next 30 minutes as I could barely breathe through my choked tears. My best friend was gone.

In many significant respects, parts of me died with Dolores, and yet many parts were awakened.


Memories of Christmas Season 2008

[This is one small section of a book I am writing about my life with Dolores, how we lived, and how we dealt with death.]

In the days after Dolores died, I still spent my evenings with Nami and Fikret and Nellie (the little dog that Dolores boarded), cooking dinner, sharing dinner, talking over television. Both Nami and Fikret were living in rooms in the front part of the duplex. Nami was from Tokyo, working at a Japanese firm in downtown Los Angeles while she earned her CPA license. Fikret was a student from Germany who’d be going home in a few days.

That December was dark, pressing, my mind a constricted box of sorrow and loss.
RW had earlier suggested to Dolores that she take Nami and Fikret to see the annual Griffith Park festival of lights, and Dolores had mentioned it to Fikret. I brought it up to Fikret and he wanted to go. I think he was more concerned about me getting out and "getting normal" than he was about seeing some electric light display. Anyway, he arranged with Nami to go one evening after Nami got home from work, and I drove.

I had never seen the light show either, and though I was in no mood for "joy," I wanted Nami and Fikret to feel happiness, and the joy of the season that the youth can best appreciate.
My mental state was very constrictive, narrow, even subdued horror. It was as if I’d been hit in the face with a 2x4, and I could not see beyond my shocked pain. But I tried, with great effort, to "enjoy" an evening out with Nami and Fikret as best I could. It was the weekend after Dolores died. Nami got home early from work, and it was already dark. Fikret made a very light meal – more of a snack – for everyone before we drove off to Griffith Park in my Jeep. I was preoccupied with now living a life turned upside-down, with no perception of light at the end of my tunnel.

Fikret and Nami were noticeably happy, upbeat, and they seemed to be happy to be doing something with me. Fikret had come on a few field trips with, but I’d only gone out rarely with Nami. I know they were both fully cognizant of my pain and I think they were being happy because they wanted me to be happy. I think that the lights of Griffith Park were a very minor attraction.

As we drove, we spoke about their day, and other light matters. I always enjoyed talking with Nami over dinner about what sort of day she had at work, and what new English words she learned. We drove into the large expansive parking lot east of the Los Angeles Zoo, and drove around until we saw where to park for the festival of lights. People parked their cars, and then boarded buses which set sail every 15 minutes or so, or until the buses were full. The three of us were the first to enter a bus, so we got the seats we wanted. A few adults filed in, and then a whole group of school children came in and filled the bus. The driver turned off the lights, and we were off down the two miles or so of the electric light display.

The children spontaneously sang Christmas carols at the tops of their voices. Nami and Fikret tried to follow along: Jingle Bells, Rudolph, Silent Night, all the classics. Mostly, the children sang enthusiastically and loud with lots of laughter for the first verse until the song faded as the children didn’t know the words. After loud laughter, another song would begin.

I could tell they were all having great fun, though I was barely there. I had to shut off most of my painful feelings and emotions and turn on only that part of me that was needed for ordinary interactions with others. I was glad that there was so much happiness in the world, but I was in pain.

I was in a darkness of my own, alone, as if I was severely and suddenly cut off from all that was important to me. Which was, in fact, what happened. After the light show, we returned to the Jeep, and I drove on in a stupor. I asked Nami and Fikret if they wanted to see more Christmas lights, and they said yes. Christmas Tree Lane was impressive, but monotonous to me. Nami and Fikret just said "Oohh," and "Ahhh," and "Look at those, wow!" I tried to explain the history of Christmas Tree Lane, how I grew up just around the corner, and I drove by our family home on North Los Robles.

I didn’t want to go home quite yet. "Going home" would mean that I would go back to the rear duplex alone, would sit there for awhile listening to music or watching TV, feeling the full grief of losing Dolores, by myself. It meant I would go to sleep with my grief, unable to find solace in music or TV. I would turn off the TV and music, and in the darkness I would fall into my abyss of sorrow until I awoke the next day. No, I didn’t want to go home yet.

I told Nami and Fikret that I knew of another Christmas light display and we drove across town looking for it. We never found it, but they got a tour of East Pasadena and Sierra Madre before we stopped for some snacks and finally went home.

We then went into the front kitchen when we got home, and enjoyed some cookies and coffee. We all laughed together and we watched a little bit of a Christmas movie on TV. It was a good evening overall, but it would be a long time before I could feel joy again.

Friday, November 06, 2009

An Unlikely Insight

What Happened on the Roof on Columbus Day 2009

There I sat on top of the world, contemplating all of creation. I felt wonderful, enlightened, elevated. I felt one with all my dearly departed – Dolores, Cassius, Marie, Frank, Ramah, and others.

But I was not really "on top of the world" – it just seemed that way. I was taking a break from all-day roof repairs, hurrying to beat the coming rain. Full of tar and Uncle Henry’s Solar 278, I sat on the only flat spot on the roof, crossed my legs and breathed deeply. All I could see were the tops of trees and roofs of houses. It was an amazingly beautiful scene, and I could barely believe I was looking out over Los Angeles. I could have easily fooled myself into thinking I was at the border of ruralness and forest. Yet, here I was in the ‘hood, relaxing, seeing things from another perspective and suddenly Europa starts playing on the radio.

Europa. That was Ramah’s song, the song that played as our pit bull Ramah died in my arms 15 years earlier. I never fail to think of Ramah when Europa plays. I breathed deeply, and thought of Cassius Clay too, my pit bull pal who died about a year ago. I closed my eyes and felt Cassie there with me on the roof, by my side. I cried as I began to talk to Cassie, to Ramah, to Dolores, to my mother. How quickly those sounds –- that specific music – took me into the realm of all my departed dear ones. I found that I enjoyed being there with them as I sat there on the roof, and I realized that I also need to simply love more those who are still with me.

The clouds were hugs, dynamic, in shades of gray to the north as they towered over the mountain range. To the west, the clouds were breath-taking, colored in their pastel shades of pink and red by the setting sun.

I’d been feeling hectic the last few days, now rushing on a job that I’d intended to do over a longer period of time. I couldn’t tolerate another storm with leaks all over, and the weathermen were telling us to expect two to four inches of rain. One inch of rain in a 24 hour period is a lot. I was on the roof on automatic pilot. I’d neglected friends, normal niceties, preferred customs. I was in emergency mode to prepare for the rain.

Now, taking a break from this pace, relaxed in cross-legged posture on the nearly flat roof, I breathed again deeply, and let the stress flow out of me, and became one with the sound and the cloud and the wind and the coolness and the love of my dearly departed and the love of my living loved ones. My little sense of "self" dissolved into the bigger picture of "the moment." Wow, I’m alive, I thought. How wonderful that I awoke today from my dream, the "dream of life," that dream that occupies most of my mind most of the time. The dream of illusion, duty, momentum, success, and failure, and so often devoid of feeling. I let my mental words dissolve into nothingness, and became one with the dynamic reality, this moment of NOW, all around me.

I realized that I have lived so much of my life in the seeming-reality of words. Are they real? Or are they merely tools with greater or lesser clarity, greater or lesser accuracy in portraying the "what is" of life? I felt no excitement with words, with their ability to convey something, their facility to lead me into "truth," their wonderful taste and color. In this moment, I withdrew deep into my inner circle and I dissolved into this moment of awareness and I let go, and felt.

Soon, as the wind picked up and I contemplated the unfinished roof and the coming rain, I put my tar-covered gloves back on, and then got up to continue sealing the roof.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Search for Meaning -- and Home

Sometimes I wake up in the early morning, and I sit out on the front porch, looking down on the fog that slowly ascends up the canyons. I am still far-away in my dream world, trying to make sense of the world I have just awaken to, the "real world." So often this world of ours seems to lack meaning, and I struggle with what to do each day that has meaning.

The quest to "Find Home" seems so universal that my mind dwells on that. "Home" is not a house, but it is the place where your heart resides, where your dreams can be fulfilled, where you can do that which you were destined to do. As I think of these things, I recall a poem I wrote last year. I share it with you now…


Christopher Nyerges

In flat grassy lands hot and dry
Where mountains rose steeply to the sky
We walked narrow canyon and watched ravens fly
Along fire-burned willows that would not die.
Past acorn pancakes could smell if you try
And buckwheat mush that mama would fry.
A hot summer day, a distant hawk cries
I’m trying to see what the present denies.

Vibrant little village hundreds years ago
Down by river where the waters did flow
Sheltered by rock from the winter winds blow
Open fields where wild crops did grow
Good clay abounds, lots of ochre yellow
And asphaltum seeps back in the canyon low
Back in the willows could see hidden doe
And grew here all the reeds for crafts and show.

It’s Tataviam summer in this wild grass plain
Where men fasted in the cave out of the rain
And social structure kept you from going insane
While families collected the wild grain

It’s Tataviam summer and I’m looking for home
I’m getting tired of my civilization roam
It’s been a hard millennium away from our loam
It’s time to get back to our Tataviam home.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


[Note: this is a bit long, but please be sure to read the final message.]

I planned a gathering to commemorate what would have been Dolores’ 63 birthday. It was for Saturday October 3, 2009, the day after her birthday. The full moon was Saturday night – it was the "harvest moon." It may have seemed like a casual gathering, but a lot of planning and preparation went into our small gathering.

Michael and I cleaned up the area around the two trees where we buried Dolores’ ashes earlier in the year, and we made sure that the many steps leading down into the Island orchard were safe and not slippery. We set down strips of carpeting on the terraces so that guests would have a place to sit. Plus, I’d noticed that a raccoon had been coming and digging around Dolores’ two Meyer lemon trees, so the layer of special rocks and quartz and handstones that I’d carefully placed under the trees was now tumbled and jumbled. So I re-aligned these specially-placed stones.

This is Dolores’ gravesite, I kept realizing. This is where I go to commune with Dolores. That is not strictly true, however, since I often feel Dolores with me while walking, while driving, while typing at home. But the grave site is still that one unique spot where her final physical remains are buried, where "she" could overlook the burial site of our three beloved dogs, Ramah, Lulu, Cassius Clay.

I invited 50 friends to join us for the October 3 event, and by Friday – Dolores’ actual birthday – I felt pretty prepared for the gathering.

I drove to the Island around 5 p.m. and set things out in the grave site. I was greeted by both Racina and Nicole, who’d arrived before me. Nicole practiced her violin while I set out pictures and burned white sage. Prudence arrived. Frank Loaiza arrived. Frank never met Dolores but seemed to know her through her writings, and through me. Helena arrived. It made me happy to see Helena, since she, Dolores, and I were partners 15 years earlier producing maybe a half-million pencils for gift shops. We had a good several-year run of the business and became close friends.

We began with a toast. We filled our cups, and as we touched them, I read the Shining Bear work called "Herbs and Meat," which Dolores orated at the closing ceremony of the 1989 commemoration of the Trail of Tears in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I pointed to a photo that I set up by Dolores’ tree. It was Dolores reading "Herbs and Meat" in the Cherokee amphitheatre in Tahlequah.

The sun was low and it was cool, and I felt an aliveness of the spirit of Dolores as we touched our cups in that act of communion.

I then began the prepared Thinking and Destiny reading, which described each afterlife stage, and compared each lifetime to a day in our life, and compared the death stage to the sleep and dream stage each night. After looking at some photos of Dolores, I told everyone how I intended to continue some of Dolores’ life’s work, such as the corn research I’d be sharing that day.
We all then added some more quartz stones to Dolores’s grave site, and then we planted a little corn patch. For this planting, Frank Loaiza gifted an ear of blue corn that his father had raised for several generations. I had soaked the corn in water for some time, and then we each made little holes in the patch with sticks and planted our corn.

Prudence asked me if Dolores had ever worn long robes and beads. In response, I read a paper Dolores had written about how she made and sold clothes when she lived in Hawaii. Prudence said that she "saw" The Lady Dolores there with us, adorned in what appeared to be blue and maybe tan long garments and beads – like braided with her hair and falling on either side of her face. It was as if the beads were part of her hair. It looked just right.

That made me happy that someone else "felt" and "saw" Dolores presence. I couldn’t remember Dolores dressing like that though, except maybe when she did a SerpentDove reading on the Island and dressed the part like an older Native American woman.

Everyone was quiet as Nicole played beautiful sounds on her violin.

As it was getting dark, we all gathered up the hill around Dolores’ redwood table by lamps, and shared her favorite brand of pie, by Fabes, which had no processed sugar. It was a pumpkin pie, along with coffee-elixir, water, and fruit juice.

I shared some of the details about corn, and how the Hopi and others believed that humans were created way back in time from corn kernels. Plus botanists do not know the exact origins of corn, adding to its mystery.

Despina showed up and we read more of the Thinking and Destiny reading.
At the same time, Racina and Nicole glanced at each other. Nicole looked at Racina and said, "You know Dolores is present right now?" Racina nodded knowingly. A very loving and sweet Dolores proceeded to give Nicole a beautiful "soul hug" and whispered very kind thoughts about her and Christopher right into her ear. Racina then looked at Nicole and said, "Oh my gosh! Dolores is here and she is making me smile!! I just can’t stop smiling…." The next moment Dolores’ spirit lovingly moved around the table…a light and loving presence was shared by many of the guests.

And towards the end, even Mel showed up and joined in our conversation. I also read some corn-related selections from the book by Dolores’ mother, Shiyowin Miller, entitled The Winds Erase Your Footprints, a true story of Shiyo’s friend, a white woman, who married a Navajo man and moved to the Navajo reservation during the 1930s. The section I read pertained to the ma-itso, or wolf clan, which used corn pollen to "cast spells" in what was referred to as "Navajo witchcraft."

Prudence said that while I was reading this, she could "see" Dolores shielding her face with her arm, as if protecting herself from this dangerous information. I shared it to point out that all things have a "positive" and a "negative," and the passage from The Winds Erase Your Footprints described how corn pollen was used for evil purposes.

It was a wonderful gathering to commemorate the special being of Dolores, and to recognize how she affected each of us.

When Prudence, and I, and Revve Weisz further discussed the event the following day, we recognized the positive influence that Dolores was now playing in our lives.
RW pointed out something that both stunned me and made me feel uplifted. He said that there was something I should HOLD in my forethought. It was my (The Christopher’s) miraculously Loving interaction with Dolores (The Lady Dolores, as he referred to her Doer, her Divinity) that totally altered The Lady Dolores’ Doer.

We discussed that for a bit. It was obvious that my interaction with Dolores during her last days changed me, but I had not considered how I had changed her. Prudence and I both witnessed an incredible new being arise within Dolores in those last weeks.

RW added that this radical alteration of The Lady Dolores’ Doer will never be known by anyone else, because I (The Christopher) did it all alone, at a huge personal sacrifice, only to benefit The Lady Dolores and not at all "for show" to anyone else. I cried as I re-lived and re-membered those days.

It was late Sunday, and we were ready to depart. RW then shared what was a final "farewell" message from The Lady Dolores, something that Dolores conveyed psychically to him. It was her URGING for how all of us should begin interacting with each other. But it was also such a universal message that is needed by all people, that I share it here:

This could be the last time that I see you.
Either of us could die ere we meet again.
so please know that I deep-admire your admirable traits
and laud your ceaseless efforts to perfect your soul
and elevate your character (and that of everyone you interact with)
I hope we interact again (in this life or the next)
but if we don’t
I want you to know
my life has been enriched by having known you
and I hereby wish you Godspeed
in your sojourn through Eternity.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


by Christopher Nyerges

When my father’s 80th birthday coincided with Father’s Day some years ago, I wrote a pictorial booklet for my father which outlined key aspects of our life together. It was my way of thanking my father. My wife Dolores and I went to his home after the wild cacophonous family gathering had ended. We didn’t want an audience in an atmosphere of laugher, sarcasm, and possibly ridicule. I only wanted to share the thank you story with my father in a somewhat serious atmosphere.

Dolores and I brought some special foods, put on some music, and I began my short presentation beginning with my earliest significant memories. I shared with him my memories of how he told me I would be an artist when I grew up. He always told me to put my bike and toys away, so "the boogeyman" wouldn’t steal them. As I grew older, I learned that the world was indeed full of very real "boogeymen" and my father attempted to provide me with ways to protect myself against these unsavory elements of life.

I recalled to my father, while my mother and Dolores listened on, the birthday party adventures, getting hair cuts in the garage, and how my father tolerated my interest in mycology and wild edibles.

Everyone found the recounting amusing, even funny, but there were also tears mixed with the laughter. As with most memories, some things my father recalled quite differently from me, and some he didn’t recall at all. Some things that I saw as life-and-death serious, he saw as humorous, and vice versa.

But above it all, I felt I’d finally "connected" with him at age 80 in a way that I’d never managed to do before. My "fathers day card" wasn’t pre-made by a card company, but consisted of my own private and secret memories that I shared with him. I managed to thank him for doing all the things that I took for granted – a roof over my head, meals, an education, a relatively stable home.

Of course, all our family members – "insiders" – knew that my father was no saint. But I was at least acknowledging the good, and sincerely thanking him for it.

My mother died two years later, and we all knew my father would be lost without her. They’d been married over 50 years. His health and activities declined and he finally passed away on the Ides of March a few years later.

Though his death did not come as a surprise – I was nevertheless left feeling his absence. That early Saturday morning when I learned of his death, I even felt parent-less. My view of the world changed and I was forced to acknowledge the limits of life and the futility of pursuing solely a material existence.

After I learned of his death via a phone call, I walked out into the morning rain, in shock, crying, thinking, remembering. I was not feeling cold or wet, and somehow I was protected by that unique state of mind that enshrouded me.

During the next three days, I did as I had done with my mother when she died. I spent the next three days reviewing my life with my father.

At first I allowed the random memories and pain to wash over me. I talked to Frank constantly during those three days, inviting and allowing him to be with me as we did the life review together. I felt his pain, his frustration, his emptiness and loneliness in his last few years of life. I did nothing to stop the pain of this – I allowed myself to feel it all.

I spoke to Frank as I’d speak to anyone living. I felt his presence and even his responses. I did this for myself as much as for Frank and his on-going journey.

I began to see him as a young man, who met, fell in love, and married my mother. Somehow, this was a major revelation to me. I had never seen my own father in that light before. He had simply been "my father." Suddenly, he was a unique individual, with his own dreams, aspirations, and goals. Amazingly, I’d never viewed him in this way during our life together.

And then, after perhaps 12 hours of this, and miles of walking, I began a more chronological review of my life with my father, point by point by significant point. I saw his weaknesses and strengths, as well as my own. As I did this review, I looked for all the things that I’d done right with my father, all the things I’d done wrong, and all the things that I could have done better. I wrote these down, and the "wrong" list was shockingly long. The "right" list only contained a few items!

I asked my father to forgive me, and I resolved to do certain things differently in order to change and improve my character. I know I would not have imposed such a rigor upon myself had it not been for the death of my father.

A week later, when there was the funeral at the church, I felt that I’d come to know my father more than I ever was able to do in life. I briefly shared to the congregation my three days of "being with" my father, and learning what it was like to be Frank, in his shoes, and how we forgave one another.

More importantly, I shared to family and friends gathered that day the importance of constantly finding the time to tell your living loved ones that you indeed love them, not waiting until they die to say the things that you should be saying all along.

I remember Frank now on Father’s Day, and continue to express my heart-felt thanks for all that he – and my mother – gave to me.

Monday, March 09, 2009



Money. Greed. Fear. The three horsemen of the new apocalypse. Everyone wants a scapegoat – the bankers, Bush, Obama, The Fed, the highly-paid CEOs. But in our zeal to find someone to crucify, we forget that all of us played a role in this economic crisis. Greed fueled the “housing boom” that had to inevitably crash.
An acquaintance told me during the height of the dizziness, “I can’t afford to NOT use all that equity in my home,” as he refinanced his way to debt. “That’s MY equity,” he assured me, not even realizing that “home equity” is a phantom asset. Where did we lose the notion that it is sound and wise to pay off our loans?
In our book “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” we shared in the last chapter some of the illusions of money that most of us carry around with us every day in our brains. We shared our perspective of something called “the four illusions of money,” which we originally read about in the 1979-80 Co-Evolution Quarterly.
One of these illusions is that if we have a lot of money, we will be free to do whatever it is that we feel we want to do. Of course, few people who are victims of this mental illusion ever define what they mean by “a lot” of money, and – amazingly – few take the time to specifically define those things that they “want to do.” I say amazingly, because how can one ever achieve any goal if you have not carefully and specifically defined the goal?
And the reason this idea is an illusion is because when we focus upon money – an abstraction – we tend to then lose sight of the fact that money is a tool to achieve some other goal. How and when did the acquisition of money become a goal in itself?
Of course, in a modern society, everyone has daily needs which are most readily met by money: paying rent or mortgages, buying food, medical needs for the family and children, insurance, gasoline for the car, clothes, etc. These are not the things I am speaking about.
I am referring to the need for us to define, personally, our short-term and long-term goals. Also, we should – perhaps even daily – continue to ask ourselves: What is the meaning of life? Why do I do what I do all day? Am I fulfilling whatever it is that I was born to do? If not, what can and should I do?
I strongly urge you all to read these details in the “Extreme Simplicity” book – and you can get the book from our store at www.ChristopherNyerges.com, or you can get it at Amazon, or any bookstore which can order it.
But here is one way to break free from this particular monetary illusion. List several of your important goals in life. You cannot list “making more money” as one of your goals. Yes, money may help you to achieve your goals more quickly, but you cannot list earning more money as a goal. List those things that you want to do, or achieve, or those skills that you want to master.
List each of these goals on a separate piece of paper. Next, write a simple series of steps that you can see yourself actually doing that leads you in the direction of achieving that goal. Do not list money on this list.
Your steps for achieving your goals should include some of the following: Asking others to work with you to achieve your goals. Asking others to give you things that you need to achieve the goal, or barter with you for objects you need. Consider ways to trade your time or labor so that someone else can give you things or trade consultation or labor so that you might achieve your goals. See?
Begin to see the real world, apart from the webbery of money, and see the people in your life who can work with you to achieve your goals.
Those of you who take these steps, and move forward towards your goals, will find that world seems like an entirely different place. You will discover your brother, and you will find that when two or more of you are working cooperatively towards a meaningful goal, your life will be richer, more meaningful, and your fulfillment will come in the journey.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


How I reviewed my life one year at a time

By Christopher Nyerges

[Nyerges teaches classes in practical survival, is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine, and the author of "How to Survive Anywhere," and other books. He can be reached at www.ChristopherNyerges.com]

My new year came Sunday, January 11, my date of birth. So that’s my personal New Year. As has been my custom, I did a birthday run where I run one lap around a track for each year, and review that year as I run. In a sense, I run through my life, looking back at where I started, where I went, what’s happened in between, and seeking whatever lessons I can.

This year, I didn’t do laps around a track, but ran up and down a dirt driveway for each "lap," a distance of about a fifth of a mile.

For me, 2008 had been a year of pain – losing my dog of 17 years on Easter Sunday, and losing my wife of 22years in early December. Christmas and New Year’s burned by in the time warp I was in, not wanting another close person to be gone. I focused hard as I ran my birthday run, trying to re-live my life, trying to really feel, again, what I felt back then, and my pain came back.

My first awareness of being born was that something was very wrong, that I came from some very holy sacred place and now I was back in a human body on this Dark Age planet. I cried uncontrollaby as I ran, just as I did in my first few years of incoherence and confusion. Yet, I slowly learned what it was to be human, and though I never grew out of my feeling of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and forever out of the loop, I learned the ways of man, of deceit, of double-talk, lies, beguilement.

I’d forgotten – until I did my life-review run – that I once knew that I came from some level of purity and Innocence, then descended to human-ness, and then I worked to learn how to "fit in" to the ways of the grown up world. As I ran each lap, I tried hard to just feel it, and to find the lessons that I still needed to learn.

I remember visiting my grandfather in Ohio, and how he yelled at my mother for some petty thing. I was only a child, but I never forgot that puzzling scene. I somehow thought that getting older meant that people grew wiser, more respectful, more controlled – but this was merely one experience that taught me that was not so.

I remembered as a teen stealing cigarettes and other things at local stores, and eventually getting involved in marijuana for a short while. Both my parents were working and there was no one watching. I looked up to the neighborhood "bad boys" who smoked and swore and stole things, and were it not for getting caught and exposed, I could have stayed on that pointless, nowhere path of crime.

Fortunately, I went through some sort of internal renaissance at age 14, and began taking martial arts classes, learning music, and studying Buddhism and philosophy. I saw that I knew next to nothing, and still I looked positively to the future. At age 54 as I ran, I could see that the past is very much alive in all I we do now, and the future is already written by what I think, and do, and feel as I live each moment.

I found I could do my birthday run with mental eyes wide open, facing all my fears, and perceptions of inadequacy.

In high school, I entered into the world of ideas, and the vast potential good that was available for the world if people – if I – lived ecological lives, though I was too naieve at that time to see the vast overwhelming influence of the pursuit of money in most of us.

I constantly felt the frustration of never really learning anything in school, but I learned to play the game, and learned how to play at journalism so that I could write and share ideas. I didn’t learn how to think, nor did I receive any moral rudder of any sort while in school. I simply learned about the tools I needed in order to go forward.

As I ran, I reviewed my travels, seeking something, rarely finding it. I reviewed my search for "real community," and my various successes in this regard. I felt so happy reviewing the time Dolores and I drove all the way to Oklahoma to take part in the 150th commemoration of the Trail of Tears, and Dolores spoke to the gathered audience with a Shining Bear reading. The whole trip was a magical dream.

Amazingly, I came to the realization that I wasted a vast portion of my life in the pointless pursuit of sex, or whatever I thought that meant. I was too dumb most of the time, too driven by my own animal nature, to cognize the difference between Love and Sex. Even studying Eric Fromm’s classic "Art of Loving" – though a step in the right direction – only began to reveal to me that "love" is not what we are shown on TV shows. True love fulfills, yet only sex is fleeting, and a terrible waste of time, and often a destroyer of families and neighborhoods. It was sobering as I ran to see that dark side of sex all throughout my life, something that I have only slowly been able to deal with.

In the last 10 years, I felt both uplifted by my work, and depressed by my own weaknesses and deficiencies. My separation from Dolores was a source of great sadness, but that sadness was later replaced by the inner enlightened joy of two people, respecting each other, freely coming together for certain goals. We worked together for some of the public gatherings we conducted at our WTI non-profit, and many writings, and other projects. So when Dolores made her final transition in December of last year, I felt both devastated, and forced to review all that was good, all that would take me into the future with the world we created.

So many lessons flowed from this run that it would take a book to record them all –most very personal lessons. I remember thinking that Dolores had created a wonderful life for herself, and that I wanted to do the same, and still want that. I also took faith in a quote from Michael Savage, that "Work is the only salvation."

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What Happened on the Massage Table

Falling into inner space

It was already getting dark at the Highland Park farmers market, and my back was hurting me from all the running I’d done two days earlier. My birthday was two days earlier and I followed my two-decades long custom of doing a birthday run where I ran a lap for each year of my life, as I mentally reviewed that year. It had been an awesome run which took me two hours. Anyway, I told my assistant that I was going to get a massage at the shiatsu booth at the market. My back was killing me. Plus I was thinking about my wife Dolores – it had been over a month since she passed away, but I was still missing her very much.

Chiyoki had me lie down on her massage table, and I instantly felt some relief just by lying down. Then she went to work, first on my scalp and then working her way down my back. There’s something about pushing, squeezing, working the flesh and muscle – it was simultaneously painful and enlightening. Something about the pain I was experiencing, both mentally and physically, allowed me to enter into some other twilight-zonish space where time didn’t exist. Maybe the massaging released certain chemicals into my bloodstream and brain – I don’t know. But as Chiyoki continued to twist my arms and knead my back as if it were dough, my mind went into early childhood memories as vivid as yesterday’s breakfast.

I was sitting in the kitchen late at night with my mother, talking about all the things we used to talk about when everyone else was asleep. I would be trying to identify plants that I’d collected that day with my many books, while my mother would drink tea and read her newspapers and magazines. "How can God have had no beginning?" I would ask her. "How can the Pope be infallible?" I would ask her. We discussed these matters at length, and she would often say that I should ask the priest. But later, when word got back to her that I was debating the parish priest, she would yell at me and say "Who do you think you are, talking back to the priest?" It was a pleasant memory, whether we agreed or not, since we could sit there and talk, and she died about 10 years ago.

Time was non-existant as Chiyoki worked my back, and the incense from the next booth wafted over me, reminding me of being an altar boy at the Catholic church, and getting up early before school to practice and to help the priest say Mass. Why was I thinking of that? Was it merely the smell of incense triggering a memory? I thought long and hard about spiritual matters of that sort, and was once serious about going into the priesthood, but something along the way disillusioned me. The past was no less alive then as it was now, as the thoughts and ideas coursed through my consciousness, as the music of the Vera Cruz singers down the block rang out and reminded me of travels to Mexico.

Chiyoki began pulling each arm into the middle of my back and I was about to scream, but I just let her do it. I felt my body needed it. And as I relaxed into the pain, I was climbing the Pyramid of the Sun again, standing at the top as I did in 1974, wondering about the people who planned and built such majesty, and wondering what happened to it all. Past, present, future -- all aspects of the same reality. We think, we build, we live, we die. Our parents and families form our character, and then we make choices, and then we do whatever it is that we were genetically destined to do. What was I destined to do, I thought at the top of the pyramid? Does all life, and all culture, end? If so, what is the point of it all?

I was experiencing some sort of mental free-fall, an internal Fellini movie, highlights of memorable conversations, meetings, endings, as the incense flowed, and the singing rang through the street, while my muscles were being given a good beating.

"OK, all done," she finally told me. I got up, put on my hat, and walked back into the market, realizing once again the illusion of time, and the reality that nothing matters in and of itself, but only how we approach what we do, and whether or not we learn from life.

-- Christopher