Transmutation – Gold Into Fire

Don Brautigam

The Old Dust

The living is a passing traveler;
The dead, a man come home.
One brief journey betwixt heaven and earth,
Then, alas! we are the same old dust of ten thousand ages.

The rabbit in the moon pounds the medicine in vain;
Fu-sang, the tree of immortality,
has crumbled to kindling wood.
Man dies, his white bones are dumb without a word

When the green pines feel the coming of the spring.
Looking back, I sigh;
Looking before, I sigh again.
What is there to prize in the life’s vaporous glory?

– Li Po / Translated by:Shigeyoshi Obata
There are no revelations here, no deep insights.  A recounting of days and nights with those we love, and cherish.

Time is short.  Let everyone you love know that they are.

I have been meaning to post for a few days, but life is in a hurry as of late.

On ya go now. Have a read.

On The Menu:
To Mantis Hill & Back
From Laura & Dale Pharmako/Thanatos
Mazzy Star: Into Dust
The Poetry Of Li Po
After Thoughts…
Tomorrow Never Knows

To Mantis Hill, & Back
So, we were in a panic come Thursday morning the 12th of April. We were to head south to Dale Pendell’s Memorial/Birthday on Saturday the 14th, and the weather reports had snow on 4 passes south which meant multiple chaining and dechaining, plus 12 hours of driving. I had all about given up when George Post suggested that we take the train. Brilliant Idea!  So we booked the train, and it ran about the same cost wise as driving, motels and expenses.

We headed down via the train Friday afternoon.  We saw into numerous backyards through the Willamette Valley, the back alleys of little towns, homeless camps.  Through the fields, and then into Eugene.  After that up the beautiful MacKenzie into the Cascades.  Such beauty!  Elk watching the train pass by as mist played through the trees and surrounding peaks, then down into central south Oregon in the darkness to Klamath Falls.  We had one hour of sleep due to a manic passenger on the car we were on (sweet but challenged).  George graciously picked us up at the station in Sacramento, and off we went to Mantis Hill.

Arriving there, we found the parking lot full, with many of Dale & Laura’s friends having arrived early or the evening before.  Some we knew of course (Jacob for instance) but were soon introduced to everyone.  Lots of love in the air, and preparation for the afternoon event.

We all packed up and went up the San Juan Ridge at the North Columbia SchoolHouse Cultural Center, about 10:30 or so, arriving early to help set up if we could.  We floated in, to a crowd of wonderful faces already there. Nungies & Nick, Sylvia, Trout, Kiki Ivors and many others. Things moved along as we got closer to the time.  Wild stories about psychedelic boundaries nbeing crossed, mad adventures that included tales of Dale & Laura, laughter, laughter, laughter…

We had a conch call us to the memorial and birthday ceremony.  We sat down next to Trout, Fire & Earth Erowid, Jon Hanna.  Our friend George Post ranged about catching wonderful photographs… (See The Gallery Below)

Laura kicked it off, and she turned the proceedings over to “Jerry Tecklin.  Long time friend of Dale’s from when he first arrived in the area in 1970s.  They were “neighbors” which out here means the nearest person to where you live but not visible or probably even within a easy jaunt”(Laura). .  I believe Dave Pendell came up first to speak next. It was weirdly odd seeing Dale’s older brother speaking, Dale/Not Dale.   Gary Snyder was on next, and I remember a couple of others…  Kat Harrison who I did not recognize at first until she got up on stage, after all it being some 15 years since I had seen her.

There was some very fine poetry, stories, and songs.  This one afternoon expanded my awareness of Dale in a way I had not expected.  Who he was to so many,  tales of his past I hadn’t heard, hearts that he touched.  There were tales a plenty of Dales’ polymathic abilities.  One of the most touching of talks was Marici’s description of how Dale helped her with school lessons and their shared explorations of natural phenomena and math.  And… before you knew it the circle was closed, and we joined together as a group listening to the musicians who had drifted in and out of Oracular Madness and other configurations, play as we mingled, hugged, talked and remembered. It was indeed a gathering of friends and lovers in all of the best ways.

I met wonderful people that day, John Mabey, , Nick, the various iterations of the Pendell clan.  I finally got to meet Marici and Miss Scarlett.  That, was wonderful. I did get to meet Gary Snyder, and many others. I spent time with Gary. Of course, I have read his works, and they have come to inform a better part of my life, and what I have come to consider the concept of being in place. Luckily I did not babble like a massive FanBoi, I give thanks for that! 😛
John Mabey Caught this moment:

The sun arching towards the west, we made our partings, and left back to Mantis Hill.  The sun sank in the west, and we all settled into Mantis hill again, where the evening stretched late, and I got to know the circle that Dale and Laura had gathered to them over the years.  Wonderful people.  Vicki D was an absolute delight, Her husband Jim kept me in stitches through the evening. Everyone dispersed around 11:00 as Laura and everyone had reached saturation point.  We walked out, under the Milky Way. It was glorious.  The rushing of the springtime stream, the voices of the trees in the wind, the magick that is Mantis Hill was vibrant in the beautiful darkness.

George Post Photographs Of The Birthday Party Memorial:

The Next Day, Sunday: 

Mary & I awoke around 8:00 in the morning.  Still exhausted from the long haul down, and the one hour of sleep in the previous 40 plus hours. We were in the guest room out in the Barn/Studio/Library.  The building was very quiet as everyone else had walked up to the main house.  We spent the morning getting to know and greet friends and new acquaintances we hadn’t had enough time with the previous day.  We found George stirring, so we headed together up the main house.  As we walked up the road/path, you could hear laughter and talking.  Everyone was on the deck, spilling in and out of the sliding doors.  Breakfast was on, and would be for several hours as it evolved into various iterations. The discussions were varied and wonderful.  I had a wonderful discussion  with Jim on the merits of synthesizers, and using the concept of randomness in mixing ambient music…. the discussion was far more rambling in many ways, but fascinating from beginning to end.  I had a chance to spend time with David E. a fellow VPL member.  The time spent with David & Kristi was lovely as well, a sweet presence they made. David uses Dale’s Pharmako Poeia in a class he teaches at Berkeley.  (He was also one of the presenters at the gathering.)

Jacob kept us all in stitches through the morning.  He has such a lovely presence.

As the day lengthened Dave Pendell and his wife Ann & clan made an appearance, along with Marici and Scarlett. Howard & Pat Pendell with their daughters appeared as well. It was moving towards the time when everyone started to depart. We said our goodbyes as each group, and family left. George Mary & I headed off to Grass Valley to visit a friend of Georges’, John Hoft, perhaps one of the great artist you have never heard about.  We spent a couple of hours talking art, looking at the most impressive work I have seen in a long time.  Such talent!

We made our way back to Mantis Hill, in time for dinner with Laura, Howard & Pat and their daughters.  We spent many hours talking about their lives up in Alaska, and Dale.  The stories flowed back and forth through the evening.  Eventually, their daughters Katy & Coral left early with Coral’s partner Gary(a very nice young man) for an early flight back to Alaska.  Wonderful young people.  We said our goodnights along the way and headed down to the barn, stumbling under stars.


One Of Dale’s Paintings…. 











Up latish for breakfast, we retreated back to the barn/library for a bit. I visited Dales’ office, standing there contemplating all that had transpired there, and it was as if Dale had just stepped away for a moment.  George and I hung out in the library, revelling in the wonderful collection of books and subjects that Dale had delved into over the years.  Most volumes had little slips of paper in them from his research projects…

Then George, Mary & I scooted off to visit people.  It was quite a whirlwind trip, meeting Nate F. & Amelia for a walk with pooches.  So after escaping the snows in the passes, we got dumped on in the Sierra.  Beautiful, cold, and fun.  We had a long session of talking and hanging, and then went to Nevada City where we met up with the delightful Molly Fisk the Poet Laureate of Nevada City. We talked about  Poetry (of course), Nevada City, and much more.  The hours flew by. If I could, I would live there.  It is such a wonderful town.

Later, we headed up to Rough and Ready to visit with George’s friend Sharon.  She and John Hoft had been partners for many years.  She had his fabulous art everywhere.  It was quite a sweet visit.

Headed back to Mantis Hill to pick up our gear, and to say goodbye to Laura. Not enough time of course as these events go.  It had been a whirlwind for everyone, and saying good bye came at the right moment.

Flowers From The Meadow At Mantis Hill – Mary

On The Way Home….
Arrived at the Train Station around 10:00. Said our farewells to George as he headed out to the Bay area. He was a complete champ chaperoning us everywhere over the previous days, and introducing us to multiples of his his friends. We hung out in the station, talking together of the events, and struck up a conversation or two with other people. It is amazing how sweet people are. There are so many good hearts in the world. Eventually we got back onto the train heading north through the valley, into the dark, and then into dreams.

I awoke on the train between Dunsmuir & Mt. Shasta, with the beginnings of sunrise. The mountain was covered in mist and cloud which lifted as the train progressed.It was all blues and purples, then intense light. Although I lived there for years, it stole my breath away. Of course, it was too dark to photograph, and I wouldn’t of caught the state of awe that I was in anyways.

Here is to Love and Friendship.  Dale, we  miss you dearly.


The Western Cascades… out the window on the way back into the valley.  I am so in love with the land here.  Such Beauty!

From Laura & Dale:  Pharmako/Thanatos How I Died…

“Sometimes poison is the medicine.
Sometimes the action of this medicine
is as gentle as waking up,
but sometimes the world as you know it
is dissolved in a torrent of seeming madness,
so that another world might become visible.”
We All Go…
Mazzy Star: Into Dust


Poltergeist – Gwyllm 2018

Keening/From The Scots Gaelic: caoineadh (“to cry, to weep”) This piece I realized touched on something in the process…

Keening is a traditional form of vocal lament for the dead. In Ireland and Scotland it is customary for women to wail or keen at funerals. Keening has also been used as part of civil disobedience and protest.
The Poetry Of Li Po

To wash and rinse our souls of their age-old sorrows,
We drained a hundred jugs of wine.
A splendid night it was . . . .
In the clear moonlight we were loath to go to bed,
But at last drunkenness overtook us;
And we laid ourselves down on the empty mountain,
The earth for pillow, and the great heaven for coverlet.
– Li Po – Translated by: Shigeyoshi Obata
Green Mountain

You ask me why I dwell in the green mountain;
I smile and make no reply for my heart is free of care.
As the peach-blossom flows down stream
and is gone into the unknown,
I have a world apart that is not among men.

– Li Po. Translated by: A. S. Kline’s
Down From The Mountain

As down Mount Emerald at eve I came,
The mountain moon went all the way with me.
Backward I looked, to see the heights aflame
With a pale light that glimmered eerily.

A little lad undid the rustic latch
As hand in hand your cottage we did gain,
Where green limp tendrils at our cloaks did catch,
And dim bamboos o’erhung a shadowy lane.

Gaily I cried, “Here may we rest our fill!”
Then choicest wines we quaffed; and cheerily
“The Wind among the Pines” we sang, until
A few faint stars hung in the Galaxy.

Merry were you, my friend: and drunk was I,
Blissfully letting all the world go by.

– Li Po
This last poem reminds me of Dale, being present, and now not. Bright Blessings…

Looking For A Monk And Not Finding Him

I took a small path leading
up a hill valley, finding there
a temple, its gate covered
with moss, and in front of
the door but tracks of birds;
in the room of the old monk
no one was living, and I
staring through the window
saw but a hair duster hanging
on the wall, itself covered
with dust; emptily I sighed
thinking to go, but then
turning back several times,
seeing how the mist on
the hills was flying, and then
a light rain fell as if it
were flowers falling from
the sky, making a music of
its own; away in the distance
came the cry of a monkey, and
for me the cares of the world
slipped away, and I was filled
with the beauty around me.

– Li Po. Translated by: Rewi Allen
After Thoughts:
It has been a long winter, that tumbled into spring, and now with the passing of Beltane into the rites/riots of summer. The plants in the backyard are going wild with their mating frenzies, colour erupts and pollen flys in Dionysian abandonment. Amidst all that proclaims “LIFE!!” I have dwelt on passing and impermanence. It is a passing of seasons that I think we most resemble at times. We are never far from our roots, and that begins in dust, and ends in dust, but oh, such glories on the inbetween.

I once believed in God, as I once believed in reincarnation. I am not saying that I don’t anymore… but that perhaps it is not necessary to hold any beliefs on what transpires after we jump through that door, as we will all do so regardless. What comes after, comes after, or not.

There are times I am haunted by those that have passed away… yet, I am haunted more by those that are yet to be born. How we comport ourselves will touch those we will never meet. That, I believe is a fact. Today I wrote this:

“I believe we live in a mythic moment/eternal… His/Herstory accounts for the propaganda of the times… but we live within the greater tale, where every one has a part, not just the powerful and famous.

The daily acts of Love & Kindness is what binds us, not the consensual hallucinations of civilization. We are far more ancient, and greater than that.”

I do not hold to idea of personal enlightenment anymore.  It is not a contest, it is not something to aspire to, except in that how we treat others and ourselves.  Kindness and Love are their own Yogas and Disciplines.  Your path may vary of course.

Gwyllm – 5/4/18

Asako Eguchi
Tomorrow Never Knows…
The Original:

Suns Of Arqa – Tomorrow Never Knows:

One Reply to “Transmutation – Gold Into Fire”

  1. One of my favorite posts yet! Love your writing, Billy. So eloquent and descriptive. Just beautiful. Felt like I was there with you and Mary on your trip. And particularly loved the music selections. Love always, Sherry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Solve : *
23 × 2 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading