“The wild gods live with the wild plants. Once, all of our gods were plants and animals. The allies are the ancient gods, their wisdom is the ancient substrate of our volition; they are the maternal transmitters of our vision ans dreams. Anthropomorphic gods were the children of the plant gods. That is why destroying wild habitat is parricide, because the gods cannot live without their habitat, and it was the gods that made us, and gave us our culture.” – Dale Pendell
Today marks the day last year that Dale Pendell left this plane of existence. The time has rushed by, first of course with his memorial, and all that followed.
Still, it is a bit of a jolt knowing that the conversation, at least on his part has ended. When people pass you free them, or try to. I have had some intense conversations this past year with Dale, some waking when I am writing or thinking, some in the Dream Time. This is the way it falls out it seems. I find old conversations still welling up; not as often but just as potent.
We talked on such subjects as poetic frenzy, the wild, the uses of ritual, the importance of sympathetic magic, and the language(s) of stillness. When he came to speak you could see ideas drifting up behind is eyes, as he dipped into that well of knowledge that he carried with him. A small smile would flicker across his face as he would make his statement, not too much, not too little, measured. Those moments were golden.
We talked, but now, I know not frequently enough. What time there was spent together was spent well though, and that suffices as it should. The times with Laura & Dale were golden. I still hear them laughing and talking as we walked along Hawthorne, or out in the meadow on their land.
When we were down at Mantis Hill last April, Mary & I sat outside the library looking across the meadow. Amazingly green at that time of year, the stream talking away noisily just to the left down the length of the meadow. It is a place of presence. No road noises, the sound of the wind, the occasional hawk, or wood pigeon, frogs in the evening. A perfect place for poets, and it served him and his beloved Laura well I believe. Spring also brings brush clearing, due to the increase in fires up against the Sierra Nevada’s. A concern always. Still. There is always a price to pay in that regard to finding part of the biome that corresponds to the heart.
There is the cost as well that we pay for visiting this place, dipping out of immortality for a taste of living, made sweeter by the moments passing by, with life whispering in your ear… “Now…now…now”. This sweetness comes with the sting of mortality, to an ending here before the great return.
Everything is made of the dust of stars, congealed sunlight. All is fleeting, yet the mystery tells that all is immortal at the same time. The form falls away, the spirit is something else. I ponder this alot as of late.
We have had a hint of mortality (within our family) this year as well, which has prompted some of these musings. Every moment, be present. That which is form, departs. I take solace in poetry, and I have been exploring Dales’ books again as well.
So, a year has passed, Dale is with his ancestors as we all will be. One of the great gifts of my life was the time we all spent together, and the friendships. You are loved, you are missed.
Medicine / Circle – Dale Pendell
The tenth century Chan master Yunmen said: “Medicine and sickness subdue each other—they mutually correspond. The whole earth is medicine. What is the self?”
Medicine and sickness, or poison and remedy, subdue each other; they correspond. Yunmen might have been defining the Greek word pharmakon, drug, meaning either poison or remedy, depending on context, or a spell, enchantment. Pharmacology is its child. And pharmakos, the scapegoat, hidden away in prison or hanging from the Cross, is its cousin.
Perhaps there was a wedding—poison and remedy—where friends of bride and groom didn’t know on which side to sit. Elder married couples—such as samsara and nirvana, and form and emptiness—sat in the balcony. Someone threw rice.
Poisons are three or five, depending on lineage. As three, they are greed, hatred, and ignorance. On the bhavacakra, the Wheel of Life, the three poisons form the hub: the cock, the snake, and the black hog chasing each other and spinning the cycle of existence like a trimorphic ouroboros. As five, the Vajrayana tradition adds pride and jealousy, or envy, to the poisons. As ten, the poisons are kleśa, the ten defilements that spoil the immaculate purity of the ālaya-vijñāna, the “storehouse-consciousness”. They are like graffiti, or pharmaka: polychromatic pigments, or makeup, applied to the world through discrimination and artistry. Or maybe we have the Seven Deadly Sins, the fly in the ointment whose name is Beelzebub. Either way, we are up to our nostrils. Or are we?
Which side are you on? Bride or groom? Some say not choosing is to side with the oppressors. Hands rise toward you in supplication. The hands are poisoned. Have been poisoned. Polluted, and sick. Self-poisoned. Hands with broken fingers. Dürer’s hands. Hands at gasho. Give me alms. Give me medicine. If poison and remedy mutually correspond, there is no doctor and no patient, so whose hands could they be?
Song Dynasty master Shiqi Xinyue said: “The intent of our teaching is like a poison-smeared drum. Once it is beaten, those who hear it, near and far, all perish. That those who hear it perish is surely true. But what about the deaf?”
The whole earth is medicine. Somewhere a mockingbird sings. Clouds gather. A rain may fall. Shiqi beats his drum and the sky cracks with thunder. The raised hands have become an army, swaying back and forth like tall grass in a light breeze. What will you do?
If the whole earth is medicine, that must include both ayahuasca and the leaf of an oak tree. This leaf is bitter, as is the ayahuasca: the curling margins host a few spines. Maybe it is Zhaozhou’s oak tree, in the garden or in the courtyard—the reason Bodhidharma came from the west. Surely this must be a medicine. But what medicine are you seeking? In matters of medicine, the oak leaf competes with the ayahuasca. Or perhaps that is backward. How is one to walk such a path, strewn with bitter brews and prickly oak leaves? Which are the sharper thorns?
Poison and remedy mutually correspond. The whole earth is remedy. What is the self?
This is the nub of the problem, the essential question for either approach—all else is distraction. Distraction is the poison, the disease. The “world” is distraction, yet the world is the medicine. From such a condition, Yunmen demands that we step forth and answer.
Exploded! Whoever that was—
Some of it abstract
then the spirits entered:
not at all
Where’s that line in the fuckin’ sand, man?
my toe is itchin’ to transgress.
and one by one
they had their say
(in some cases)
more than their say.
These scoundrels—they’d steal a drink right from under God’s chair.
And someone said
“She’s never happy unless she’s shakin’ her butt.”
They played drums and guitars and keyboards and horns
and danced in wild circles, thumping the ground.
Animals came to listen. A raccoon, his paws on the gate,
watched the whole set.They carried my litter to the center
and drummed as I purged.
How could there be any spiritual work in such chaos?
A man brought white sage, smudging my legs—
I reached, spilled the coals,my clothes caught fire.
They danced me out.
The Old Dust – Li Po
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?
Translated by:Shigeyoshi Obata
Take Care, we shall be back.