Jnana's Red Barn

A Space for Work and Reflection

LAYER UPON LAYER, LIKE PAINT

As I said at the time:

That round, as I looked back, I had the advantage of understanding my emotional and physical workings better than I did at the time I made the journal entries. Some of my intuitive yet wise moves, despite my many yearnings, now amazed me. Opportunities for involvement that I backed away from, despite my deep craving for relationship. With you, though, if I didn’t demand more, it was because I was afraid you would have bolted or rejected me. So much for self-confidence! Still, you managed to avoid becoming the conduit to/from/of my emotions, back to me, as so much of my psychological wiring has invoked, nor with you was the touch of flesh the ultimate reality (more accurately, my grounding), as it had been with my second college girlfriend, the first woman to be fully naked with me and/or have sex, my senior year of college, at that. Maybe with you, I was already approaching a kind of Tantric sensuality. (Something tempered, via the ashram restrictions, into a renewed Puritanism. Alas.) Is it true I never became dependent on you, no matter how much I hoped we’d spend the rest of our lives together? Or how much you threw me into the proverbial loop? So here you were, only the fourth woman I’d known intimately – and two of those were quite turbulent and oh-so-briefly before you. (From my end, my relative innocence certainly adds to the enchantment.) Or maybe, with you, there was also a faint awareness of my own need to maintain some dimension of freedom – at least not be caught up in the emotional entrapment of others, despite the patterning my mother instilled and which I have usually escaped by living all too much in my intellect alone. This does make for a curious dichotomy!

It’s not my intention to be clinical or analytical here, but rather to see and express more clearly the connections and currents through all of this experience, as well as what followed. Perhaps become wiser, too. If anything, I now feel like an artist who is “painterly,” adding layer to layer for greater intensity and depth. Besides, you’ve unintentionally instigated a fresh reconsideration of so much of these decades.

(And here, my younger one just called from school, to say she’ll be late … she’s dissecting a freshly shot and delivered coyote that had been afflicting another student’s dad’s hen house. How’s that for an unexpected brush stroke? You, with all of your cadaver experiences or employment, and the kid, with her new passion for science. Diener? My three dictionaries at hand don’t even have that word, and this computer’s not online for a quick Google. Later, at the office, I find it in the very fat volume, where it’s defined as “laboratory assistant.” Oh. That’s got to be a great word for Scrabble.)

There’s also the fact that males typically avoid so much in conversing or corresponding with each other, or at least did, back when real letters were mailed. Email, from all I’ve seen, is altogether ephemeral. My best friend from junior high, for instance, has always been all business, even when his first wife was dying of cancer or his mother, from Alzheimer’s. How frustrating! Even with our men’s group at Meeting (a weekly lunchtime gathering that was instigated at the prompting of women, go figure), the dialogue is more likely to turn to politics or finances (out there) than emotions or family (within us).

LIVING THE DREAM INCLUDES NIGHTMARES

When Jaya arrives in small-town America after living in a forested yoga ashram, she hopes to jump start her career and move on. The only complication is Erik, a young waiter in the corner restaurant. As they discover in the cyclone that follows, living out a dream has its nightmares as well, even when they resettle in their own Promised Land of apples and snowy volcanoes.

Promise~*~

“You see that rectangle in the ceiling?” she said in the kitchen. “It continues in the bedroom on the other side of this wall. There’s a skylight above it. I’d like to open it up. Get some more natural light in here.”

“We can do that,” he said. “Shouldn’t be any problem.”

And if it was? She liked his cocky assurance, all the same.

~*~

To learn more about my novel, go to my page at Smashwords.com.

ROCK ON

Photo by Beth Gorton, with my deep gratitude.

Photo by Beth Gorton, with my deep gratitude.

This message painted on a roadside rock near Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, has become legendary in its own right. It’s inspired songs, poems, and likely much more. Just imagine an off-off-Broadway play, for starters, or a very indie movie or video.

There are reports of real people who lived around the corner … people who raised chickens and had a lovely daughter … and of a very shy admirer. I have no way of knowing how much is accurate or if any of these folks were ever hippies, but the vibe’s right … and love, well, it’s half of the revolution.

While we’ve been talking a lot here at the Red Barn about the hippie legacy, a more sustained examination is going on over at my blog named for this message. Hop on over to Chicken Farmer I Still Love You by clicking here.

I look forward to your reactions.

HOW DID THEY AFFORD IT?

Viewing several documentaries on the writing life in Manhattan in the 1950s leaves me wondering just how anyone could afford it. Yes, the world was quite different then and, if we can believe their arguments, the written word was king the way it would no longer be by the late ’60s.

Still, it’s hard for me to believe that writing would have paid that much more in the era than it did when I entered the profession. How many plum magazine assignments were there, anyway? Or how many lucrative book advances?

The argument that rents were low, especially in Greenwich Village, is hard to believe for anyone who tried to find a decent place upstate in the early ’70s, as I did. Even for a full-time journalist working for Gannett, the best the pay would cover was a slum where a heavy rain would leak on my typewriter.

And that was without the heavy drinking that we’re told was required of the New York literary set, as well as the psychotherapy, sometimes daily. Plus the heavy smoking. Did I add, all the men wore suits and ties. (And all of the writers and editors, it was emphasized, were males. Women were employed as “fact checkers.”)

Still, when I run the numbers, they don’t add up. Can anyone tell me what I’m missing?

 

FORSYTHIAS

Spring yellow, for Easter. I cut branches of forsythia, bring them indoors, find an appropriate vase with water, if Easter’s falling early. And then they open, with a profusion of yellow. Sunshine.

Some, soon adorned with suspended eggs.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

SUNSET ON THE HILL RANCH

Far West, at the edge of bleached rippling
stalks of desert flowers

the irrigated valley
rich as moss
in an embrace of wrinkled limbs

the ridges extend from an ashen moon

until a jackrabbit startles:

who fears rattlesnake?

just steer clear of that talus

*   *   *

with the sinking sun

alpenglow, one direction

full moon rising, the other

poem copyright 2014 by Jnana Hodson

BLURRING INTO SMOKE

The title, drawn from a line in Galway Kinnell’s “Tillamook Journal,” brings to my mind the corkscrew motion of seasons, memories, and time itself across the sequence of landscapes where I’ve dwelled.

My poems arising in this vein rarely stray far from northern woods. Or from the woodpile or fire, even in summer, no matter how unacknowledged their presence.

Nor do the poems in this range stray far from crickets, whose fiddling is akin to rubbing sticks together to create a fire. Where I live, their night rasping intensifies in early autumn, as though defying the growing chill and approaching, decisive frost. In a sense, there’s an inverse relationship between the mating songs of birds, so rampant around dawn in mid- to late spring, and the cricket activity. In the end, their music goes where the smoke goes. For now. Before starting over.

SPIRITUAL ENCOUNTERS FROM THE HIPPIE ERA

Nowhere do we see a bigger before-and-after contrast of the hippie impact than when looking at mainstream religion in America.

The idealized smiling family of father and sons in suits and ties and mother and daughters in their hats, dresses, and heels – maybe even with gloves – was once a common image with the church and steeple in the background. But that has become a rarity, and even at funerals and weddings the dress is likely to be casual. Intact families are a minority – weekends are often custody matters – and going to church or temple is a low priority.

Before we blame it all on hippies, we need to look at other influences from recent decades, including the elimination of blue laws, and the expansion of weekend job demands and children’s soccer leagues and the like.

Still, I see a few glimmers where the hunger many hippies felt for a spiritual connection has taken hold.

First is the practice of meditation, which is no longer considered exotic. Even health providers are urging people to turn to it daily, maybe not as a religious pursuit but at least for letting go of some of the daily stress.

Second, yoga studios are everywhere. It may not be with the strong spiritual teaching I feel is essential, but it is another way of opening ourselves to inner awareness and peace.

Third is a recognition of the feminine side of the holy, including the Jewish and Christian traditions. For that matter, think of all the women pastors and rabbis now found across the continent. Others will point to Native American, Wiccan, and other teachings with feminine components that now proliferate.

Fourth is a sense that faith is not an obligation, to be performed as a social requirement, but rather a relationship that includes hands-on, sensory experience. As the axiom went, “If it feels good, do it,” extends to religion this way.

As a fifth facet, I’ll point to outdoors encounters with their Transcendentalist streak. God, as you’ll be reminded, can be felt keenly when you’re close to nature.

Look closely and you can see the hippie influence working. There’s a desire for community and caring, on one hand. And the mega-churches with their rock-concert emotions, on the other, as well as the praise songs with their repetitions function more like Hindu chanting (kirtan) than the motets and hymns of Christian tradition.

But there are also examples of shoots gone astray. I keep thinking of Jim Jones’ Peoples Temple and its cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, especially.

As we kept watch in the ashram, the warning was this: “You’re on a false trip.” No matter how exciting it might have felt at the moment, there was always the danger of ego-based excitement rather than a deepening surrender to the Holy One.

For me, then, the most crucial part of the legacy is in having a circle of others committed to the practice, to encourage one another and keep each of us on course, as best we can. This form of discipleship is rather communal, actually – and far from what I saw growing up in the pastor-and-sheep model.

So what are your spiritual encounters these days? And how’s the “inner hippie” responding?

A NEW DEAL, FULL OF PROMISE

Thanks for getting the buzz going with my previous ebook releases. Let’s do it again with Promise. Here are the steps:

  • Be among the first 20 to download my new novel, Promise, and post a review (preferably favorable, of course).
  • Let me know when it’s up by emailing me at jnanahodson(at)yahoo(com). I’ll put you on the list for a coupon for a free copy of my next novel in this series from Smashwords.
  • The review can be at the Smashwords site, any ebook retailer where you obtain your copy, a print or online journal, or your own blog. It’s that simple.

For details on the novel, go to Promise.

Promise

CULTURE SHOCK

It had been ages since I’d gone to the cinema multiplex – you know, the kind in the vast parking lot beside the mall. Usually, when we go out for a movie, it’s an art house in Concord or a volunteer-run series at the Music Hall in downtown Portsmouth.

But Wes Anderson’s latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, was showing, and we figured we’d better make it there fast. No telling how quickly anything that quirky, formalistic, and savvy would be playing. (As we juggled our schedules, we realized it would have to be Monday night, overriding another activity on my itinerary – as we discovered, if you’re going to hit the big-box of showrooms, that’s the night to do it. We practically had the rectangular cavern to ourselves.)

I’ll leave it to others to lavish praise on the witty plotting that continually turned in unpredictable yet seemingly inevitable developments; the impressive casting and stylized acting; the precise cinematography; or the marvelous interweaving of actual sites in Germany (the hotel interior was actually the atrium of a defunct department store), miniature models of varied scales, and special effects to create a sense of fantastic and delightful artificiality. Anderson, as his fans know, is a moviemaking genius with a voice and vision all his own. (For one engaging detailed look at the roots of the story, click here.)

For me, though, the outing also invoked a series of culture shocks. Now that I’m “retired,” income’s tight, I’ll admit. I’m spending much less than I did before, and gasoline’s toward the top of my out-of-pocket budget. So the current ticket price (go ahead and laugh, you debonair rounders, when I tell you it was $11 apiece for three) made me gasp silently. (I know a good Greek restaurant where we could have dined out for that.) (I’m I really turning into this?)

From my end, it’s hard to take the very interior and decor of consumer society reflected in these big-chain outlets. It all feels plastic, cake-frosted, impermanent, unnatural. No one would want to linger in the vast lobby (what’s the point, anyway?), and no matter how plush, the showing rooms are – well, showing room sounds like something you’d find in a funeral home, which may be a good parallel, except that in much of the country, the mortuaries are usually in some amazing Victorian mansions. Nothing cookie-cutter about them, unlike these concealed warrens. None of this matches what I consider a theater or concert hall or even a house of worship, the kinds of places I prefer to assemble with others.

The third shock came in viewing the trailers and commercials. I’m still offended to be bombarded with big-screen ads after paying what I consider to be inflated ticket prices, after all, but to be hit twice with a promotion for a new computer game was especially egregious, especially with its pseudo-documentary interviews with its “creators,” a handful of pretentious nerds claiming social value for violent nihilism. I’m sorry, their world vision leads nowhere but destruction.

Actually, it was the amplified violence repeated in the trailers as well that most aggravates me. What in the American psyche so fosters terrorism of this scale? What justifies the reveling in gore for so many (and at such a price, even before we get to the price on our psyche)? Here’s the road that deserves a sermon of hellfire and brimstone, indeed. Wake up, folks, will you?

No wonder I prefer intimate, small-scale, gentle, playful, European or indie productions! They, in contrast, have soul and reality.

Anderson, I must confess, goes well beyond the small-scale criterion, but he earns the right to do so. And he’s generous to those who contribute to the effort, from the visual artists to the payroll accountants. One of the things that kept going through my mind as we were watching, actually, was an awareness of the lavish investment he was expending in the process and the question of whether he’d ever make it back. Well, maybe it wasn’t any greater than those of the futuristic trailers we’d watched beforehand, but still … Hollywood and Las Vegas have more in common than I’d like.

Maybe their biggest gamble is in making works that demand to be seen on the big screens rather than on our laptops or TVs via Netflix.

If you were a moviemaker or investor, what would you do? Or, as a film buff, what are you doing now?

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