So, I am pretty much devoting this entry of The Hares’ Tale to my friends Dale & Laura Pendell, who live not far from Nevada City up in the Sierra foothills. We go back a ways, about 18 years. I first met them at the Salvia Divinorum Conference at Breitenbush out in the Cascades. They were always laughing, riffing off of each other. It has been a great joy in Mary & my life to share time with them.
They have visited us a couple of times over the years, and we visited with them a few years back at their place. We had a running monologue on poetry, magick, incantation. Some of this can be picked up in “Salting The Boundaries” one of Dale’s books. It is on my table by the side of the bed, I read from it often, before I drift off. I believe that poetry is a necessity of life, oh, I do.
I will provide a link at the end for said book.
There is nothing so fine as friendship.
Psychedelics, Deep Ecology, and Wild Mind
In 1969, in an essay in Earth House Hold, Gary Snyder wrote that “Peyote and acid have a curious way of tuning some people in to the local soil.” While exceptions abound, some of the more salient characteristics of the psychedelic revolution that blossomed in the 1960s and continue to this day are an embracing of things “natural,” including natural foods, natural childbirth (and breast-feeding), an easy acceptance of nudity and the human body, and, for many, a return to earth-centered living. Many favored the outdoors as a place to open their minds in the new way, and interest in vision quest and traditional nature-based lifestyles followed.
In traditional cultures less shielded from the natural seasons and the cycles of birth and death, the powers of the wild are everyday occurrences. People lay offerings at springs, or perform dances to acknowledge these powers and to maintain an exchange. For the industrial culture of the twentieth century, it took the tremendous power of visionary plants and chemicals to open many minds to what had been obvious to most human cultures for millennia.
Hard-headed rationalists and cynical materialists often found themselves humbled by a looming mountain, a stream flowing on bedrock, or by a wild animal that stepped out of its camouflage to say hello. Many hold these liberating experiences as the most important in their lives and have never returned to the old paradigm. In seeking to understand such soul-moving events, people have rediscovered what human societies for thousands of years have acknowledged: that we are a part of a great living fabric, and that certain wild plants, animals, or places are endowed with something that we might call presence, or energy, or resonance. This feeling of special resonance or presence is usually glossed as “the sacred” by Western intellectuals, though no one is certain what that actually means. Such recognition has led many beyond the resource management ethos of conservation to what has been called “deep ecology.”
Being tuned in to the local soil means being at home—the root of “eco.” As trivial an example as orange peels highlights the difference between the tourist and someone who can feel that he is standing on the bones of his mother. Anyone who has spent much time in the back country has seen orange peels thoughtlessly tossed along the trail or at the base of a rock. People who would otherwise be careful about packing out their trash leave orange peels because they are not “trash” (though they wouldn’t do the same in their own living rooms). But “presence” has to do with what was there before we came—call it power, or beauty, or suchness—it has nothing to do with our ideas of what is trash and what is not-trash.
Encounters with the wild always have an awe-inspiring quality—that is their nature–but most of us are conditioned from birth to block out these experiences. One of the great gifts of visionary plants and substances is that these cultural filters are temporarily suspended, so that the wild has free access to mind. The downside, of course, is that everyday mind, with filters back in place, may dismiss the experiences as hallucinatory, forgetting that the filtered interpretation is also hallucinatory. That is, the very special and extraordinary quality of the visionary experience itself tends to allow us to relegate the profound insights of that experience to the visionary realm only, as if it were separate and not a part of “reality.”
In his book A Zen Wave, Robert Aitken presents two haiku of the Zen poet Basho. The first goes:
Wake up! Wake up!
Be my friend
Basho is not on psychedelics, but he is intimate with the butterfly. There is a joy and playfulness that form a shared reality—the oneness is the reality. The other poem goes:
The morning glory!
This too cannot be
Aitken’s point is that Basho also recognized the absolute independence and separateness of the other being. That’s deep ecology! The many beings, the many rocks and crevices and waterfalls and streams, all exist in and of themselves, entirely without reference to the human world and human uses. At the same time, all of it is linked together in an indissoluble web.
The true mythologies of a culture are the stories that everyone accepts as true, without question. While the cosmological systems of other cultures are easily dismissed as myth, one’s own never are. For us, that myth includes the belief that there is an “objective” physical world that exists wholly independently from the self—from mind or consciousness. It’s even called “the Reality Principle,” as theistic an appellation as one could come up with. To free the mind, to recover that wildness that is equally jaguar and peony, leaf rustle and dew on a spider web, requires both insight and training.
On psychedelics, even “ordinary” experiences can be hair-raising. That is a clue for us to the true nature of the wild—that the wild doesn’t end or begin at a fence, and that wild mind is something that we know about from our own experience. If psychedelics can help with that realization, they are truly, in the best and most ancient sense of the word, sacred. Mind is wild by nature. Presenting wild mind, sharing wild mind, is benevolence.
Laura Pendell Poetry:
Cry of the Coyote
have I died?
first you pierce the water
the shock of the cold
the shock of the wet
making you gasp
and then there’s
that next moment
when you turn
toward the sunlight
when you turn
toward the surface
toward the air
when time stops
for an eternity
or what feels
like an eternity
it’s just a second
in that eternity
that’s really a second
time stops just long enough
and you wonder
will the surface never come
will I always be suspended
will it always be this cold
here in this body
you break through
back out & up & into
the cry of the coyote
coming from you
(Gwyllm – sadly will not reproduce on wordpress as she wrote it, visually )
she set the house on fire the night she left,
a hunter by nature, not used to being denied
both mad and maddened
good thing the woman who remained behind
was watery, deep, able to hold
both the birthing and the dying,
transforming the fires the first one left—
healing and bringing back the earth,
dampening the fires that threatened all they held dear
and what of the man
who had awakened the light in both women,
enthusiastic, spontaneous, original,
blinded by what he could not control
now torn apart, pulled, paralyzed
by circumstances beyond anyone’s control
in that time, each of them went beyond
the boundaries of everyday existence
those planetary forces so strong,
with the five planets aligned,
willing them to risk
for this vision of something larger
they had hoped only for joy and healing
not this agony, this arena of tears
everywhere they trod
each of them crying out
and still holding
that vision of love—how close once?
now lost to the fire’s lashing tongue
tendrils of dying embers
crisscrossing the meadow
Dale Pendell Poems:
The Divine Spark: Hard AI and the Poet.
Laura and I had stopped at a café connected to a small casino in Nevada. We were headed east—maybe it was Elko.
I’d been thinking about hard AI—about Ray Kurzweil:
little machines loosely called “life-forms,”
“consciousness” having little to do with anything.
Little semantic sleight-of-hands:
computability equals intelligence,
brain equals mind,
logic equals thinking,
brain equals computer.
The whole scene is thick with earth denial: we don’t need food, we don’t need bodies.
Mountebank, slipping highly abstract nouns between the shells:
intelligence, consciousness, brain, mind, “smarter,” “more powerful,” —
once you buy the basic con, that it is all measureable by teraflops, no, who would need a body?
Cyborgs: dream on. Or do they?
One of the other booths was filled with a Mexican family: Papa and Mama, four or five kids from eight or ten to fifteen or sixteen. Some one had said something really funny, because they were all laughing as hard as they could—eyes wet, minute after minute:
It began with the laughter of children.
And went on, minute after minute, faces red, the whole family, a good ten minutes:
delicious, out-of-control, unstoppable laughter.
In a Circle Staring at the Fire
The wind turned cold and the river froze,
so we built a hut,
in the center
to hold the coals
we burned mammoth dung-
there wasn’t much wood–
to invent language:
suddenly flamed and we all said “ah!”
at the same time, then laughed.
One Woman blew
through a hollowed crane bone
to rekindle the embers
then blew across the top.
For Dale & Laura
How quickly it goes
It seems but a moment ago,
you were at our house
just a bit of heaven
good conversation, Absinthe,
and what seemed
like a moment
in infinite time.