August 23, 2009
We’re all passengers
on the cosmic train to nowhere,
SAYS MY FRIEND LARRY,
but I think my cosmic train might be going to…Phoenix? Sedona? Burning Man? Vermont?…or, indeed, nowhere. “Nowhere” is made up of “now and “here,” so if one is going nowhere, it is because one is now here, and there’s nowhere else you can be.
writes blogger Robert Solis, “three of us were on US-95 north out of Winnemucca bound for Boise. I was stretched out in the backseat with the well known hangover from hell. The two guys in the front had cranked up the radio just to irritate me when the news came on and the announcer reported on a range fire near the Nevada-Idaho border along our route but not yet near the highway. Like fools, we decided to make a run for it, the driver floored it and away we went. We came upon the smoke pretty quick and smelled the burning sagebrush but we didn’t see the fire. A mile or so along, we spotted remnants of the fire on both sides of the road but it had pretty well burned itself out by then. My hangover persisted, though, until we reached our destination and I had a cold shower and a beer. No whistling shower head.”
Sagebrush, by the way, is not related to the herb sage, and Robert informed me that it smells like mint, not sage, and also, after reporting that he loves the smell of it in the morning, napalm. To be taken with a grain of sage.
I ASKED THE UNIVERSE
for a story idea, and was given, via Robert Solis, the image of burning sagebrush and raging fire. The story I’m writing is about a man who burns his life down and emerges from the ashes transformed. Taking the phoenix mythology as his cue, he feels compelled to go on a vision quest in Sedona.
I was at my handsome friend Beau’s Art Explosion Open Studio the other night, marveling at the inner workings of his mind made manifest in pen and ink, exploring why I had been sent this fiery imagery from a fellow writer. I thought it must have something to do with Burning Man. Friend Kelly had a ticket to sell, no less (now gone). But a long-haired Earth Mother Wiccan named Trina told me about something else that was going on in Santa Cruz that night, the Phoenix Fire Festival, featuring drummers and dancers around a Sacred Fire Circle. Oddly enough, Santa Cruz itself has been on fire, with a major wildfire covering more than 5,000 acres. Phoenix. Fire. What is the universe telling me? Is there something I need to burn down and emerge from, purified? Some fiery demon I must confront?
AT ALAMO SQUARE
flea market the other day, I found the Burning Man bike for all time for $25, a pink girl’s Trek 1-speed on which I am going to write “Channel your inner princess.” OK, so now I’ve got the bike. Am I going to ride it across the playa? Stay tuned, I myself don’t know. I’m still not feelin’ it.
A CERTAIN FRIEND JD
commented on my sagebrush column, in which I struggled over whether I should or should not write during my own proposed Arizona vision quest, with “Doing something to write about it is both an engagement in the experience and an intent to share it. Nothing wrong with that!” No, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I’m not George Plimpton, I don’t generally do things with the intention of writing about them, or solely in order to write about them. I don’t “cover” events, I write spontaneously of whatever’s on my mind. Total “engagement in the experience” for me would be to not write during the experience, and write about it afterward only if I felt like it. It seems I’m a split personality, with my writing persona and my nonwriting self each struggling for supremacy, each somehow standing in each other’s way. Why can’t I integrate them into one person comfortable in her own skin? I don’t know.
I’d gotten an auto-response from www.questforvision.com, the organizers of the Sedona quest I inquired about, acknowledging my email, but then I heard from one of the workshop leaders, a fellow named Sparrow Hart, also a writer, who told me, “Yes, of course you can write on a quest… you can let the spirit speak and move through you however you want. My only caution is that you allow the writing to come, not try to ‘make’ it happen.”
CERTAINLY NO ONE COULD STOP ME
from writing on a quest, but fasting in a wilderness area appeals to me as a voluntary retreat from ordinary circumstance and routine, and denying myself nourishment of the body presents a wonderful opportunity, perhaps never to be repeated, of fasting my mind as well, that mind that is constantly wrangling with itself to produce words. Whatever else writing is, it is an act of observation and commentary. However much silence I give myself living alone in my home, I am rarely quiet of mind. Not writing for four days, and not even bringing writing materials, would be an enormous challenge to myself to relate to the world around me without my laptop screen in front of me or a writing utensil in my hand.
I have received an invitation from Sparrow for a September “Dreamtime: Exploring the Left” workshop: “A Journey into Wonder and the Wild,” in Putny, Vermont. From their flyer:
I AM BOTH
calling forth and receiving from the universe opportunities for exploration, detoxification, purification, regeneration, evolution. It would seem that some journey, ritual, or workshop would be just the thing right now, and the huge Burning Man fire festival is only one week away. Is it not made to order?
AND YET, I DON’T WANT TO GO.
I don’t feel like physically getting myself to Arizona, Vermont or Nevada, and dragging a dozen gallons of water with me. Am I telling myself, wherever I go, there I am; that I, myself, in the here and now, am the arena of quest? Everywhere is nowhere. Now here.
there’s that monolith—this “what is it?”—that absorbed my childhood and keeps the past casting its shadow over my present. Honest to God, I wish Yves Montand would drive his truck full of nitroglycerin into it and explode that sucker into outer space.
The sky is a foggy periwinkle blue at 6:21 a.m. as I write. A couple of hours later, it’s a chalky white. I’ll say goodnight.
Next stop, nowhere
Photo source unknown, c. the owner
The cosmic train to nowhere
Clink! Na zdorovje!
copyright Alexandra Jones 2009