the now

the now

walking

in company with

the purpose 

of now

 

it floods 

our being

with that sense

of arrowed command

about what

must be done

now

 

all those photos

of people

meandering the past

up to the present

with their 

own meanings

of now

happiness confidence

worry sadness

nervousness hope

sex death

birth laughter

poverty more poverty

lust anger

fear loathing

unemployment suffering

any crushing thoughts

swirling

in the mental maelstrom

hammered home

in the now

 

where have 

all those nows gone?

 

the awareness

the being moment

the everything

the conqueror

the now

 

how does 

now

become now?

 

our memory 

the museum 

of now

 

but, But 

really

what is

the NOW?

 

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Fishing in the Sky

As part of my stay-at-home regimen, I have been rereading Walden. I have consulted it often, but not read it through for many years. When I first read it, I was as enthralled as any child of the Sixties could be, and thought it the American finest prose of the Nineteenth century. I was curious what my reaction would be now so many years later, and having been thoroughly influenced by Thoreau’s mentor Emerson.

The first chapter, Economy, I have to admit, was disappointing. The tone seemed to me preachy and self-satisfied, like someone shouting on a street corner, with only occasional bouts of elegance and depth. Also the math seems suspect , but since that’s not my strongpoint either I’ll pass over it.

The second chapter, Where I Lived an What I lived For, is all the Thoreau I remember. Let me share one passage:

 

Let us spend one day as deliberately as Nature, and not be thrown off the track by every nutshell and mosquito’s wing that falls on the rails. Let us rise early and fast, or break fast, gently and without perturbation; let company come and let company go, let the bells ring and the children cry,—determined to make a day of it. Why should we knock under and go with the stream? Let us not be upset and overwhelmed in that terrible rapid and whirlpool called a dinner, situated in the meridian shallows. Weather this danger and you are safe, for the rest of the way is down hill. With unrelaxed nerves, with morning vigor, sail by it, looking another way, tied to the mast like Ulysses. If the engine whistles, let it whistle till it is hoarse for its pains. If the bell rings, why should we run? We will consider what kind of music they are like. Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance, that alluvion which covers the globe, through Paris and London, through New York and Boston and Concord, through church and state, through poetry and philosophy and religion, till we come to a hard bottom and rocks in place, which we can call reality, and say, This is, and no mistake; and then begin, having a point d’appui, below freshet and frost and fire, a place where you might found a wall or a state, or set a lamp-post safely, or perhaps a gauge, not a Nilometer, but a Realometer, that future ages might know how deep a freshet of shams and appearances had gathered from time to time. If you stand right fronting and face to face to a fact, you will see the sun glimmer on both its surfaces, as if it were a cimeter, and feel its sweet edge dividing you through the heart and marrow, and so you will happily conclude your mortal career. Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born. The intellect is a cleaver; it discerns and rifts its way into the secret of things. I do not wish to be any more busy with my hands than is necessary. My head is hands and feet. I feel all my best faculties concentrated in it. My instinct tells me that my head is an organ for burrowing, as some creatures use their snout and fore-paws, and with it I would mine and burrow my way through these hills. I think that the richest vein is somewhere hereabouts; so by the divining-rod and thin rising vapors I judge; and here I will begin to mine.

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a pandemic verse (written late at night by the River Thames)

a river
hesitant
in the dark
stabbed with light
plays with my mind

crescent sleekwhite
suspended
in aerial pitchblackness
giving false security
as we are dispatched

internet deathline
relentless
in the ether
delivers heaped anxiety
shrinking earthly future dreams

grim tide
merciless
as we fight
a killer virus
while devising universal unity.

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Memories of Guadalupe

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Am I haunted by an old place or just by forgotten spirits?
Guadalupe sits in the hot sun by the edge of the river.
La Senora Guadalupe: Wind, cold, sand, sun and rain
have sucked the town dry leaving only a fading husk.

A wandering poet with a camera is sometimes a dangerous thing. We get into troubling places with troubling thoughts and sometimes find ourselves where we don’t belong. Such was my experience on a recent brilliant January day. I was in pursuit of an idea and ideas are hard to pin down. Eighty miles is a long way to go chasing an idea and it is a long way back again – find it or not. On this day I didn’t capture the one I was after but was captured by another. Finding a ghost town in the desert opens a new Pandora’s box.

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La Ojo del Padre: the father’s spring provided fresh water.
And the water brought wildlife and hunters and Indians.
And then the Spanish soldiers and the friars and the settlers.
And then the sheep and cattle. A common story in New Mexico.

I vaguely knew it was there. I had heard stories and there is more than one lost colony out in the unforgiving desert. For some, we know how they were born and why they died. That is not so much the case with Guadalupe. Now empty, it was once home to a couple hundred people. Maybe they came for the scenery – it is stunning – but I doubt it.

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I was a man possessed, but by curiosity, and I stumbled backwards
through the dusty years. In 1870 the place was a speck by the spring
on the banks of the Rio Puerco. A few skinny cows, some goats,
and maybe a wandering Diné poet chasing an idea?

I was looking for something else entirely: an old pueblo ruin perched high on a mesa. It was elusive that day and for my own good I stopped climbing. It was a long way down and I was by myself. I have tumbled off cliffs before and was always lucky but this time I was spooked. I don’t bounce like I used to.

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The ghost town called me back from the edge.

The town, Guadalupe, is named after Our Lady of Guadalupe but it was also known as Ojo del Padre after the spring and was named Miller at one point by the all-knowing postal service. No idea why. The last Postmaster was named in 1952 so there were people living there in my lifetime. There are people alive who hold memories of this place.  Just a few miles away there was another village: Casa Salazar, also mostly invisible today. It seems to have been more substantial than Guadalupe or at least known. John Wesley Powell showed it on one of his maps drawn in 1880. The Salazar family goes back to 1610 in New Mexico. But Guadalupe has a presence and a few melting adobe structures.

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Who lived here?  The town, now dead, was once home
to herders, farmers and “cow punchers” and something else.
The Ladies of Guadalupe: were they fact or mere rumor.
Who knows? They are all dead. Mostly forgotten...and gone?

There are stories about the loose women of Guadalupe. It seems like a very unlikely place for a brothel but who knows. I combed the records that I could find but there were no hints of the story. There were a number of widows with children listed in the census record with no obvious means of support. There might be a story there, maybe not.  One remarkable thing was the staggering level of infant or child mortality. There must be a camposanto somewhere full of tiny graves.

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Senor Cordova ran the General Store and the dancehall out in
back. There were a couple musicians by trade. Antonio was the
blacksmith. Manuel was born nearby in 1800, first under the Bourbon,
Carlos IV, and then Joseph, the Bonaparte, and then the Anglos.

That old Manuel saw the long march of history, but nothing changes. Hardly ever. The townsfolk spoke Spanish, probably the sixteenth-century dialect common in northern New Mexico. All were born here or close by. Few could read or write but some could and there were postmasters and burro-riding boy mail carriers. How letters found this place is a miracle. There was a teacher now and then – and a school for the few kids that were sent…very few. There was no priest or padre but there is evidence of a church, of sorts. Perhaps it was a Morada maintained by Los Hermanos Penitentes or a chapel visited by a circuit-riding padre. This was someone’s hometown for several generations.  It would be a hard place to love as a home, but times change and so do expectations.

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There is a mystery in the earliest census pages. A curious number of persons are living in families as “adopted” or tagged as “wards”. These were sometimes listed as servants or as farm laborers. Some were Indians. Slavery, as known in the American South, was a different sort of thing from what happened here. Genizaros were an ill-defined group of people who were held captive by the Indians but were purchased (or ransomed) by the Spanish settlers most often from the Comanche or Apache traders who passed through the area. They worked the farms and herds or were servants and their existence was somewhat akin to indentured workers but there were no hard and fast rules. The early census taker apparently paused and wondered what to write and settled on “adopted and “ward”.  After seeing the place and looking at the records I think these people could have left on their own if they chose to and maybe did -- they disappear in later records.

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I’m taken back to consider the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years. Forty years is a long time – generational time. Those that came out of the desert mostly knew Egypt and the time of bondage from stories passed down. They experienced great hardship. They went hungry, ate quail and other wild things. They lived off the land as best they could. They left a trail of those they had to leave behind. They got into trouble, but they found their way. The people of Guadalupe found their way. Cattle and sheep herding were their primary occupations. They liked to dance and make the best of things. They had a hard life and it got harder. They survived two world wars and the depression. There was a CCC camp nearby. There were some Anglo workers from Oklahoma during the dustbowl years. The place is a ruin now. Somehow there was the last straw and people moved away. It is going back into the soil. The desert owns everything.

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*   *   *

The Home Place – 2020

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‘chicks bloody well can surf’

I watched the movie, Puberty Blues, the other night. I didn’t mean to, just found it as I was scrolling through for a movie to watch. It’s an Australian, coming-of-age movie made in 1981 about teenage life in the 70s on the coast — the beach, surf, sex and drugs. Not sure much has changed! It resonates with my teenage years and is one I watched many times over. That’s saying something for someone who doesn’t like to watch a movie for a second time, let alone a third or fourth.

The movie had already begun but a beach scene hooked me immediately, no doubt because of my love of the beach and water. However, what struck me about the movie was its ending. It finished on the ideal high that many storytellers strive for, that thought provoking scene that's interpreted through book, song, movie, music or any other creative means. It’s that hook that catches you inside, pulls you to kind of do a double take.

The movie’s ending shows the two girls, Debbie and Sue, buying their own surfboard and carrying it together down to the beach where their ‘friends’ tell them that girls don’t surf. The scene is brilliantly set up to evoke the idea that the surf board is too heavy for one girl to carry, and requires two. Defiant, Debbie takes to the surf to catcalls and scoffs. The scene unfold with the two girls soon laughing as they swim out and surf the waves laying on their bellies. Their friends watch on in deriding disdain.

Until Debbie stands on the board, that is. Suddenly, Sue’s boyfriend is smiling as Debbie rides the waves as a professional, which actor Nell Schofield does so well as a former teen surfing champion. The friends with Sue’s boyfriend, both boys and girls, are gobsmacked and watch in awe. You can almost see the penny drop in the girls that the impossible of girls not being able to surf, is possible. What’s more, the boys see it too. It’s such an empowering scene, for the female and the male, set up so beautifully by director Bruce Beresford and cinematographer Don McAlpine: Debbie in her skimpy yellow bikini showing the boys how it’s done, defying the unthinkable.

It encapsulates a spirited rebellion that rises and leads to freedom, a liberation of the stereotypical of men and women in the 1970s. Baby steps, of course.

Around the time I was watching the movie, I had just spoken to my cousin in Austria. The tremble in her voice was something I didn’t usually hear in her. She was exhausted and in bed early with a headache that night. The limitations and isolation imposed because of the corona virus were getting to her, symptomatic of what’s happening all over the world.

It highlighted to me, that we’re all in this together. The whole big, wide world.

We’ve become one. While vast lands may be separated by distance and water, we are one community facing a virus which threatens us. One united community. And together, we’re doing what we can to minimise its impact on us. We’re carrying our surfboard together, no matter how rich or poor or what colour our skin or religion we may follow. We’re sharing that load. Sure there are some that don’t. There are always going to be those that don’t, those that live on the fringes of any community, for numerous reasons. That seems to be human nature.

It’s so heartening to see and experience the world uniting though, the kindness that’s been extended by so many, and the genuine care and help for one another.

It’s humbling. It’s courteous and modest, sending us back to basics. While we’ve grown into a human race that is rich in materialism, we’ve been thrown back to basics where food, medicine and water are all that matter. And it’s happening to all of us.

We’ve been forced to return to our homes and families, our friends who are our families, whether in physicality, online or over the phone. We’re thinking about elderly people and looking after them. And for those that have them, we’re spending time with our children.

Sitting outside in the glorious sunshine with two of my sons last week, we wondered how some parents and children who don’t often spend time together may be coping with this new togetherness. The eternal optimist in me believes the intrinsic fibres between parent and child have no option but to reconnect, to strengthen relationships and homes. The problem will be, in the homes and relationships that are broken. 

It fills me with such warmth when I sit in my spring blossom and peacock chair in the sunroom at dawn and feel the quiet and peace outside, with the French doors open to my Chinese Elm and birds chirping good morning. Only an occasional car drives by compared with the many that normally stream past on their way to work. Dawn in peace is a grounding gift.

My sons had commented on the lack of traffic in our street too, as they tuned into the stillness outside. This calm that shrouds us, us as in the world where we humans have been forced to stop. Our busyness has subsided and work isn’t as important as it used to be. It’s as if the world is on pause for a chance to catch its breath. It’s been so wacky busy, it needed to catch its breath. Yet as each day passes, it pants more slowly and less so.  

Many are anxious about where we now find ourselves. I like to see it as being in another stage of life that’s in a constant state of flux. Life is full of those, cycles of change, of difficultly and ease, challenge and triumph, and joy and sadness. Change is one of the few reliable constants in life. The key with any flux, flow or ebb in life, is to ride it out for it will shift. Take the action necessary to make the change, to come through it and be patient to believe that things will improve. I see many who are patient and accepting of this.

Some panic in change and adversity. But that’s the polarity of life, of the spectrum of experience and people — positive and negative, pure and filth, disgust and captivating. Even that needs acceptance, of life’s adversity and polarity that is building now as a collective adversity, a world adversity.

In any polarity, change and adversity, life continues. It’s a short life that we have and making the most of it and any situation we’re faced with is all we can do. Love. Kiss. Confront. Forgive and move on. And laugh, don’t forget to laugh, even in times like we’re in now, and especially in times like we’re in now.

Babies are born, people die. Love blooms, relationships end. Some are still at work while many have lost their means to earn an income. People are stressed, some are panicked, others are unperturbed.

And yet in all that, has come one of the greatest revelations: that of kindness and compassion extended to those in need, and to those that aren’t earning an income. Such fortitude emblazons. They won’t be beaten.

It really sends my heart gooey when I think of the compassion around us right now. Yes, there are some desperate and hoarding and only thinking of themselves. But the giving out number them and in reality, compassion can only be extended to those in such panic for they’re in fear.

Fear can be so consuming and at the moment, it’s consuming millions. Eckhart Tolle describes fear as thoughts where people project themselves into some future moment.

If we try and pause with the world, sit in this quiet time to plant our feet on the ground and not get caught in the madness, we may become less fearful. Accept that this time now, is a pause in life. Plan for the future but it’s not possible to think too far ahead as these are new times unfolding in ways we’ve not experienced before. It's new for everyone. Deal with each day as it appears. Plan for the future but live in the day that exits. More easily said than done for some, I know. Compassion and patience is called for those struggling with fear and panic.

Compassion and patience is giving, as the driver coming out of his truck to share his toilet paper with the elderly lady weeping when she couldn’t buy toilet paper, and in the tray of mince and bread left on an elderly woman’s fence and toilet paper left on a door step. It’s in the man asking people that had congregated after playing soccer at the local sports oval to move on and disperse, and those people doing so. And in the phone calls and facetimes, messages on every app possible, of people checking in on friends, family and neighbours, on those alone and isolated. It’s in the support groups and services established to help people unable to go out and buy food or medicine or simply can’t move from their home for anything at all. Organisations are making extra funding available to help people who have lost their income. Even businesses and banks are showing compassion, providing extra services without cost and deferring mortgages for those who have lost work. Business partners are supporting one another, offering jobs to those working for partners who have lost theirs.

People are helping people. If you ever thought human kindness had left the planet, look around for it’s galloping in right now. Even my niece offered to help me. I giggled at first, then that gooey heart got going again. Such care. And love.

The fragility of life has been waved before us. But flapping madly in front of that is the human spirit. It’s strong, alive and kicking, just as it was when Debbie and Sue surfed those waves at Bondi. We are a singular community bound in belonging by a virus threatening us, bound by a humanity that comes with humility. It’s a humanity emerging within humanity.

I’ll finish my rambling in the spirit of humanity loving to laugh, with Lulu taking the piss out of Corona

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As part of my stay-at-home regimen, I have been rereading Walden. I have consulted it often, but not read it through for many years. When I first rea...
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Am I haunted by an old place or just by forgotten spirits?Guadalupe sits in the hot sun by the edge of the river.La Senora Guadalupe: Wind, cold, san...
I watched the movie, Puberty Blues, the other night. I didn’t mean to, just found it as I was scrolling through for a movie to watch. It’s an Austral...

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Good to see you, Nicholas, and that you wanted share your poignant poem with us. Tragic though this ...
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I'm so glad you stopped by. New Mexico is a fascinating place. Every day here is like a box of Cra...
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Hi Ken, I was enthralled with your writing and pictures of my favourite state in the USA: New Mexico...