So, I guess two active wordpress sites now, this one, and then another I use as a notebook for my work in Indonesia. And I have a general website for my darkroom photography (though desperately in need of an update). Now, I’ve added a tumblr to the mix. I think of it as another diary, though now words, only pictures. Check it out please?!
Sometimes, you do have to nurture fire.
Above, a photograph of the Cornell University homecoming fireworks show last night. Below, from the One Picture Book by Risaku Suzuki documenting a fire ritual in Japan, Fire: February Six.
I woke about 2:30 in the morning with a fresh realization.
It was about the true meaning of trust and patience.
I am convinced now that these are the greatest things we can offer one another, trust and patience. And these are meaningful because they are so hard. To have real trust and patience, you have to make yourself vulnerable.
And today I am also convinced that these are the roots of love; without trust and patience, we can’t have real love. Because – as confusing as it all seems most of the time – the world has a way.
I don’t think I can say exactly when this conversation took place, but I remember it like yesterday.
And I don’t know if I’d call it a conversation, but over the course of a day, we exchanged a number of emails and a few texts talking about the ebb and flow of our day.
Somewhere along the way, I asked, Do you believe in magic? Or least in mystical possibilities? She answered right away, Absolutely, I believe in magic.
The conversation changed direction a bit from there, but a couple of hours later, I came back to it. At the end of the day, we exchanged a couple more messages.
I wrote first: I don’t know if I said this earlier, but I think I believe in magic too. At least I believe the spirit is bigger than the body, and can communicate outside and beyond itself. I think I see that in you, and that you still see that in me.
I went on a bit more, but that does get a little more personal.
Her response came quick, and it made me feel warm all over. Gosh, that was beautiful, Brian. She did go on to say a bit more, but again. . . Somedays it is a bit easier to feel the faith. And I do believe there is a magic we can share in the world, and the root of it is trust.
Yesterday it all seemed so lucid, tangible, and real, knowable. Today I just don’t have the words to really describe what I saw and felt at the time.
I went for a tarot reading at one of the head shops downtown, Jaberwock. For about an hour, I met with Damaris (also a photographer, a synchronicity I appreciated). My life is changing in big ways, really a point of upheaval, and I know I am going somewhere. It’s killing me not knowing where.
The conversation began immediately, and was interesting from the start. I sat down, and there were two decks of cards on the table, sitting a top an orange tie dye table cloth. The cards had the same backs, but were two different sizes. I asked which decks she used. They were both the same, The Book of Thoth.
This was Crowley’s deck, so I asked about her interest in Alistair Crowley and the Golden Dawn. I had to express my reservations about Crowley, whom I really associate more with my adolescent naivety and angst.
She explained her interest in the Thoth tarot wasn’t in Crowley, and that the cards were actually painted by his one time lover, Frieda Harris. Damaris is more interested in Frieda and than Crowley, and likes the deck because it was developed by lovers (what’s more powerful than lovers?).
Damaris randomly chose one card from each of the two decks, and held them in her hands out in front of me. This was a “first” reading, and she laid out her thoughts as to what was going on that brought me to the reading. She was startlingly accurate (though I suppose more people come to see her in times of crisis than not). I was then asked to pick one of the two decks from my reading. I chose the larger of the two – I mean it is a deck for lovers, and I am a man.
I shuffled the cards lightly, and was asked to lay four down on the cardinal points. She rolled over one of them at first, the Ace of Swords.
She spoke at length about this card, but from here the details get fuzzy. The conversation we had looking at the cards and their relationship – actual or metaphoric – to my life was amazing. Invigorating, actually. This card marked the singularity of the journey, and referred not only to the tight rope I walk these days, but my ability to resolve that conflict with decisive and calculated thoughts.
She seem surprised (today, I do feel lots of truth in the reading though recognize she had some obvious performance tricks – but I do believe in magic) by the dynamic between the four cards. She saw lots of power, a clear indication of a rebirth developing in my life today.
Four cards. The first the Ace of Swords. The top the Universe. The bottom was the Ace of Cups, and then the last card, the 9 of Disks, Gain.
It’s funny to me today how lucid and meaningful the reading seemed at the time, and now I simple don’t have the words to describe it. So much of what we discussed mirrored my current transitions, and also strengthened my resolve in the emotional and thought process I’ve begun to help find my way forward.
It was almost like a dream, the whole thing. It was important to me, what Damaris said in the beginning, about this being a deck for lovers. In the end, we talked about one card in particular, the 9 of Disks, Gain. It’s a complicated card, but one speaking to success and benefit. If you look at the details, the card has two triangles composed of three small, circular portraits. The figures repeat in different configurations, so both times it is the same three portraits representing different facets of the characters and the triangulated relationship. This felt so true, as I feel I am two triangles myself, and within these two triangles, two of the people are the same, and both the triangles are about love and lovers. The goal with Gain, she said, is to use the decisive qualities of the two aces played first, and then find a solution that benefits all facets and players within the triangle, and then beyond will be new place in the universe. A new same old me.
The conversation ended in a different way. Damaris played one card from the other deck, the Ace of Wands. This was her experience/contribution to the meaning of the reading. I, however wanted to talk more about the first two cards she played. The first, reading left to right, was the Knight of Cups.
Close to a year ago, I did another tarot reading with my friend Katie Hargrave. Katie’s reading was fun, but nothing like what I experienced yesterday. Though curious enough, the last card played with my reading with her was the same as the first with Damaris, the Knight of Cups. That seemed interesting to me, because essential the questions I asked during that first reading were the same, just much about the scenarios and relationships at the heart of the questions have evolved. And I do love the horses.
Writing this now, I see something new too, or at least something I missed yesterday. The second card in that first reading sinks with the last in the main reading, the strength and dilemma of triangles.
There are two other things Damaris spoke of that I like to think about today. First, she said, there is lots of power to my writing, and I need to be writing a lot right now. Interesting, here, is that I have – photographically, journaling, and just look at my texting bill. I am writing everything down. The key to writing, she said, is that I can actually write my own story and determine the outcome of these decision. She thinks my hand (in the cards and creatively), is full power and opportunity. She also spoke about reconciling the feminine in my life today.
Another idea that stuck with m between the lines about cosmic orgasm (is there any other kind?), was that all the decisions have to make right now have actually already been made, even if i have to wait to see the results.
b. One in which confidence is placed.
What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Every morning Millicent ventured farther
into the woods. At first she stayed
near light, at the edge where bushes grew, where
her way back appeared in glimpses among
dark trunks behind her. Then by farther paths
or openings where giant pines had fallen
she explored ever deeper into the dim
interior, until one day she stood under a great
dome among columns, the heart of the forest and knew:
Lost. She has achieved a mysterious world
where any direction would yield only surprise.
William Stafford, The Day Millicent Found the World
One of my favorite books I own is the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, edited by Richard Ellman. I got it for a modernist poetry class in college, and clearly the book has seen much use.
It was in Listening to the River by photographer Robert Adams that I first encounter William Stafford’s poetry. He’s since become a favorite.
After Arguing Against the Contention That Art Must Come from Discontent
Whispering to each handhold, “I’ll be back,”
I go up the cliff in the dark. One place
I loosen a rock and listen a long time
till it hits, faint in the gulf, but the rush
of the torrent almost drowns it out, and the wind-
I almost forgot the wind: it tears at your side
or it waits and then buffets; you sag outward. . .
I remember they said it would be hard. I scramble
by luck into a little pocket out of
the wind and begin to beat the stones
with my scratched numb hands, rocking back and forth
in silent laughter there in the dark-
“Made it again!” Oh how I love this climb!
-the whispering in the stones, the drag, the weight
as your muscles crack and ease on, working
right. They are back there, discontent,
waiting to be driven forth. I pound
on the earth, riding the earth past the stars:
“Made it again! Made it again!”
It’s a labor of love, and it’s not a love worth knowing without the effort.