There is a quiet moment,
still and hushed,
in the heart beat before you release your arrow.
String biting into fingertips, shoulders strong and steady,
feathers just brushing knuckles.
But in the beginning there is just wood.
The straight young sapling of the hickory, the bent honeysuckle, strong like steel, the resilient elm with it’s rough and scaly bark.
Grown in the under story, reaching for the sun.
In the warm months, the sap runs free like snow melt, and the bark peels off in long strips, perfect for cordage of varying strengths.
Then the slow and methodical scraping, shaving, removing of wood.
The back, NEVER touched, the belly, worked, stroke, by stroke.
Easiest while green with hatchet and knife, or flint knapped tool, or in a pinch, the sharp edge of a broken piece of discarded glass.
And slowly, slowly, it begins to bend. But caution! Take too much off in any one spot and you’ve left yourself a weak point, damaged the fibers, given the energy a place to escape, a tension release, an invitation for
a mighty break.
And then the arrows, only the longest and straightest shoots.
Honeysuckle, box elder, reeds, anything really, as long as it’s strong and flexible, able to withstand the energy of the firing bow.
Warmed over flame, pressed into shape, crookedness corrected, the gentle but firm work of clever hands.
Feathers, striped and colored, songbird, turkey, goose, and hawk.
Slowly wound around, bound in place,
the gift of flight.
And the point, a nail, razor tipped steel, hardened wood. Piece of glass, flint, or obsidian, or quartzite, used by the ancestors who walked these hills, difficult to work with, solid, durable, razor sharp.
And the string, twisted and reverse wrapped, rolled on thigh to the rhythm of a song. Nettles, dogbane, basswood, rawhide, milkweed, flax, and cotton. Cordaged clothing, human hair, sinew. Strong and even, no mistakes. Bowline hitch, “out of the hole, around the tree, back in.” One two three, the archer’s knot.
Then the woods,
gray of dusk,
damp leaves under quiet foot.
The flash of prey,
Breath in clouds,
yours, and hers.
Eye to eye,
Thank you for listening,
Our guest post tonight is from my dear friend Binyamin, permaculture instructor, Papa, and lover of the land. Ben seeks the truth in all he does, and reminds us to look for the deeper meaning in all moments and interactions. Thank you for your words Ben, and thank you for allowing me to share them here tonight. Love you. They are beautiful.
The Long Road to the Treasure Chest
…and where he
dipped a finger
of Her water,
there the vision
to his guidance
and the corresponding
image I received
began to shake me
from my trance
alone with the creek
beneath the power lines;
and down the path
back to town
came my friends on BMX bikes,
and the dream
of a boy
and rode away.
“The idea that knowledge can be gained through sacred experience is alien to our contemporary world. In having come to terms with my own deep connection to sacred states of mind, I was keenly aware that receiving knowledge through direct spiritual experience is highly unusual in our culture–so much so that it is considered abnormal and sometimes even pathological.”
–Stephen Harrod Buhner, Sacred Plant Medicine
“There is a world of difference between a conscious decision to split off and temporarily suppress a part of one’s psyche, and a condition in which this happens spontaneously, without one’s knowledge or consent and even against one’s intention. The former is a civilized achievement, the latter a primitive “loss of soul,” or even the pathological cause of neurosis.”
–C.G. Jung, Man and His Symbols
“I had the power to practice as a medicine man, curing sick people; and many I cured with the power that came through me. Of course it was not I who cured. It was the power from the outer world, and the visions and ceremonies had only made me like a hole through which the power could come to two-leggeds. If I thought that I was doing it myself, the hole would close up and no power could come through. Then everything I could do would be foolish.”
I mourn the loss of imagination, of a world of magic and spirit. I write, and live, in solidarity with the hidden people whom have kept alive, through centuries of repression and brutality, humanity’s birthright capacity to traverse the void. I rebel against the voice of culture that teaches our children that this living world does not speak to us through the vastness of our hearts.
I was a very good student in elementary school. That was when the teachers stood in front of black slate chalkboards. In middle school I began to hate being a student. I resented what I was taught, and on snowy days and sunny afternoons I wished to escape from the academic prison and run for the woods at the edge of the school yard. I had trouble “focusing.” I don’t remember if there were chalkboards in middle school, but in high school there were “white boards.” And though I still spent much time gazing through the windows at the days I was missing, now there was something else to interrupt my focus.
I do not know why the white boards were a catalyst for what I saw. A “phosphene” is the experiencing of light in the visual field despite the absence of light entering the eye. There is a type of phosphene called the “blue field entoptic phenomenon” wherein a viewer staring into the blue sky sees translucent shapes moving in the visual field. Perhaps the marker boards created a similar backdrop for me. And in front of them, surrounding the droning teachers, whose words I only intermittently discerned, was a laser-show of translucent rainbow-light swirling and spindling, concentrated around the head and torso, and emanating from a thin, clear-white silhouette that surrounded the teachers’ bodies. Attached to these concentrations were tendrils and filaments of the same luminescence that radiated in all directions, flickering and flowing in a endless network that connected to myself and all of the others around me. These visions were certainly not limited to the classrooms of my high school–I saw them everywhere–but only keenly in certain environments and with the relaxed gaze that accompanied my public-education malaise.
Eventually, however, with no language or cultural context for this experience, and with an daily numbness and depression that increased throughout high school and college, my awareness of these “phosphenes” faded into my subconsciousness.
as their imaginations run;
I swear there must be power there!
Let them look
into the sun.
I was twenty-one, a college drop-out searching for a rebirth of purpose, and I sat by a large fire in the forest at night, two creeks flowing past, my face between my knees, as I waited for the sweat lodge to begin. The man who tended the fire, though I like him, would not shut up. He blathered on for hours as the rocks were heated, about porn addiction and recovery, the BTUs of different woods, the oxygen content of an exhaled breathe, service to his community, music, and then he said something that struck me. I don’t know where its context in the conversation lay, but suddenly he spoke of the story we tell our children–that to look into the sun is dangerous for the eyes, that the retina can be burned, and eyesight damaged. He said that this narrative had been created, like so many others, by the rulers of society to hide the truth from common folk about a sacred connection, an awareness that could empower a seeker to question the constructs that justify their rule. I had never heard such an obscure idea. It was as if the repressed voice of a paradigm that I wished to exist had forced its way through the stream of banality that the dominant culture vomited from this man’s oratory orifice.
Every droplet of water
caught the sunlight
and sent prism-rays skimming
across the surface of the pool…
I could not shake the meme from my mind. Often, in those days, I walked along a creek on the edge of the neighborhood where I grew up, a small swath of wildness embedded in suburbia, to seek solace from the burden of guilt I felt as I became increasingly aware of the violence, repression, and destructiveness at the root of the culture of my upbringing. Copper, my beloved dog, was the only friend who shared these walks, and he seemed to understand my pain better than any human could. Once, he and I sat on a small footbridge above the water, on a day when sunbeams glanced intermittently between grey clouds. I stared at the flashes of brilliance from our day-star that painted the tip of each tiny crest in the restless water. And suddenly, then, my impression of the interplay between water and sunlight was reversed, and where before I had seen reflections, now I saw living glints of star-fire that shot skyward from each ripple–not reflections but bursts of active energy. I shifted my vision from a narrow focus to a wider field that encompassed my periphery and I took in as many thousands of the dancing lights as I could. Copper sat next to me calmly, as he would many other times during ecstatic moments of spiritual clarity, aware of my experience, and nonjudgmental.
He could have burned my iris
and branded my retina,
but instead Ra lent me
his looking glass.
So many times now, I have stared into the sunlight, like Sitting Bull at the sun dance, and my vision has been changed. But vision is not just eyesight, and the things that I have seen with these eyes that borrow star-fire are unavailable to the mind’s eye that refuses to acknowledge the sacredness of the living world. I am no longer the youth, deluded by the mythological pantheon of the West, longing for a world full of magic. I have spoken with plants, seen spirits in the moonlight, conversed with the dead, and traversed the void. And I have ascertained information in ways deemed impossible by most, and I have begun to craft a life-way and a worldview that utilizes such information to maintain balance within the world. In this cultural void there is a treasure map that leads to a chest wedged into the roots of the Tree of Life. And in this chest there are gems more brilliant than those gilded on the rings of the rulers of the world, and they are reverence, humility, patience, compassion, generosity, courage, and kindness. Melech ha’olam