FIELD GUIDE

When you walk into the expanse, keep going. Maybe you’ll meet a dwarf at creekside. Maybe a bear. If you do, you must speak respectfully and listen closely to the reply. Even if they call you a yokel, as Kokopelli did.

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A dust storm — sandstorm — and they close the highway.

You must wait. Cover your mouth and eyes.

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On high ridges, bachelor Basque shepherds follow their flocks all summer. Each one and his dogs rarely encounter anyone who speaks Human.

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Wilderness is about clouds, too.

Now what were you dreaming?

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Guides do appear. Sometimes among fellow practitioners. Maybe even your landlord. Or Kokopelli.

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“Who’s standing on my head?” a totem pole figure wonders.

Just like a typical office.

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Blinking in my field of karma, the reminder:

PENDULUM
swinging
back
winter
NIGHTFALL

It’s not the first time.

Be faithful and wait.

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Sometimes a lover becomes a place you want to enter.

Sometimes one’s the space the other envelops.

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Where would I have been without her in that desolate expanse?

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For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

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DIMENSIONS OF ARTISTRY

The space of art also works in other dimensions. The artists themselves are rarely of the same social class as their benefactors or audience. We repeat the cliché of starving artist, even when some become comfortably wealthy and dwell in chic locales. Still, they’re employed in ethereal fields — actors, musicians, painters, the stagehands and gallery owners, box office managers, and a host of others. They work different schedules from the general populace. Many sleep late or stay up through the night.

There are even the spaces as a work moves away from its creator into other locations. A painting, for example, appears one way in the studio, another way on one’s walls, and still another way in a gallery — none of them resembling what happens when the same piece is hung in a major museum. Musicians and actors know the difference between the intensity and argument of rehearsal and the propriety of performance itself. An author can observe how different a piece appears in manuscript, in galley-proof, in a magazine or literary review, or in a bound book. A poet or a poetry supporter becomes aware of the differences between viewing a piece on the page, voicing it on the lips (either in a public occasion or for one’s own private pleasure), or performing it in a formal reading.

We can move outward, of course. Into ballparks or arenas. The loud crowds. But those are other spaces, in some ways overlapping fine arts and religion.

We might consider as well the ways the fine arts have been acceptable as civic religion. An Oscar or a Grammy is more valued than a Crucifix in our society. A comedian is a better master of ceremonies than a preacher or priest. We’re nervous about civic events held in houses of worship. A wedding or funeral, perhaps, though it carries a sense of crossing into something private.

On the other hand, as religion has retreated largely from public awareness, or perhaps simply to the suburbs and better parking, it has abandoned earlier houses of worship, especially those downtown or in the inner city. Some have been converted to arts spaces — galleries, concert halls, night clubs, theaters, restaurants. I regard these as being somehow different from structures designed and built for arts uses. It’s more than recycling, I’d say.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

YES, ‘TIS DEEPLY INGRAINED IN THE NEW ENGLAND SPIRIT

Autumn truly is New England’s premier season, and I’ve spent much time pondering its influence. Here are some of my reasons:

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Click away as you will.

The color suits our settlements.
The color suits our settlements.

FLUTTERING INTO FALL

Gray skies hinted snow was on the way. In the morning, a cape of white stretched down to 3,500 feet elevation on distant western mountains. It was a magic show. On the ridge reaching above our walls, a blue-gray haze obscured the wrinkled tan slope. In the orchard surrounding us, repeating the staggered schedule that brought blossoms and leaves earlier in the year, leaves now dropped on a similar itinerary. Peach trees, the first to shed their foliage, exposed a bewitching grove of stark black limbs against emerald grass and cobalt sky. This light-filled breach was my own private theater or dance hall, all the more eerie and magical when a cloud settles on the orchard and tunnels seemed to point off in every direction. All too soon browned scales fluttered from the remaining cover — cherries, apricots, pears, plums, apples. At this time of the year, when the dew sparkled, I called the rutted path through the dale my Vale of Many Colored Glasses.

How strenuous the goal of dwelling in your own heart, keeping peace, radiating from that center can be. How difficult also to know your own landscape and resources, and how to “live at home” and not go to town for stimulation. Or was I simply trying to cover too much ground?

For more of the story, click here.

THE SPACE OF ART

This time, flipping through a glossy magazine, I confess to myself a sensation I’ve often experienced in the realm of the fine arts. It’s a consciousness I first associated with the hush of large museums, a rarified atmosphere that could well be pressurized. There’s a degree of trespass, moving from the everyday world into this temple, and an expectation of awe.

The museum itself could be dedicated to history or natural science or even military technology. We speak softly, walk slowly, reflect and absorb impressions.

There would appear to be similarities to religion in the expectation of awe or the ephemeral. These are holy places, consecrated and set apart. They are cathedrals built to preserve sacred relics — not just any bones or works, then, but all those who have advanced the cause. There are rituals, as well, in the progression through exhibit spaces or the celebratory openings. There’s also a sense of the departed, as though wandering through a cemetery; here the memorial names are included as donors of objects, rooms and wings, or endowments, in addition to the artists or high priests themselves. But there are differences, as well: where religion has at its core what is eternal, timeless, and righteous in the eyes of God, art often strives for a sense of progression, which fosters curiosity, novelty, play, even a touch of shock or scandal. Where religion imposes ethical behavior, art frequently excuses or even encourages the practitioner in indiscretions. In both, though, there’s an expansion of one’s field of awareness, however brief, and a moment of personal renewal and refreshment before resuming one’s usual activities.

These spaces are not just those for visual reflection. A concert hall, playhouse, or theater has similar dimensions. We settle in, become quiet, and the house lights go down as the stage lights brighten. We show reverence and appreciation by applauding at appropriate moments. Newcomers are initiated in the customs.

Layers of wealth and breeding also appear. The institutions typically originate in noblesse oblige. The patrons reserve box seating or receive invitations to openings, private showings, or galas. Members and subscribers enjoy their own privileges. Smaller spaces, such as art galleries, chamber music settings, or poetry readings extend the experience. Libraries, as well, can be seen in this light. The sensation often recurs when I’m handling a thick, refined, costly literary quarterly — one printed on carefully selected paper and published with an eye for expert, balanced typography. (Sometimes the work presented becomes secondary to the presentation.)

We might speak of the thoughts and emotions that arise in these encounters. The space of art can be acknowledged in one’s own life, then. We observe, but don’t touch. We listen, but don’t speak. We’re voyeurs who do not taste what’s on a plate before us. Here, in public places, we visit our own private musings. There is an outward uselessness in it, ultimately. Time in these spaces does not add to our wealth, our table, or the usefulness of our apparel. It does not transport us physically from one place to another, although it may do that in our imaginations. What does happen is our moving from our animal roots into uniquely human possibilities.

For more insights from the American Far West and Kokopelli, click here.

WATCH HOW THE FOLIAGE UNFOLDS HERE

Check out my slideshows of autumn in New England. The foliage erupts everywhere. Much of it reflects fleeting sunlight.

Let’s start with a hike just before the color changes and then turn our attention to apples. And then? Well, we’re ready for the progression of fall color.

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Click away as you will.

We feel a spell cast over the whole region.
We feel a spell cast over the whole region.