The River of Time

Written in August 2011 while camping in Humboldt

I sit here by the banks of the eel river
Where I sat a decade ago, and a decade before that
I grew up here
The last time I looked up at these trees
And saw the sun sparkle through on its way down beyond the horizon
And listened to the endless trickle
Breathing in the musk
I longed for something
I asked for something
I begged and pleaded for life to release me from the bondage that I felt as a child

Since then I’ve been on a journey
And have only revisited this place in my mind
There were a couple of visits now and again
But my mind, my spirit were in a different place
A place of belief
A place of co-dependence
I thought I had everything that I ever wanted

But now here I am
Alone, but not at all
I have a daughter who is older already than my first memories are of this place
I was 2, and swam across to the alligator on the other side inside my red cloth-covered ring
I don’t think they make those anymore
And I’m still looking up at these trees
Again with longing
Again with a pleading look in my eyes
But this time the difference is gratitude
And wisdom
I’ve been to the ends of the universe and back
Do the depths of hell and back
And I’m still here
To witness
To love
To drink in the sights and sounds of sitting on a river bank in Humboldt County

The River of Time has brought me here
Ever changing
Constantly in motion
But never moving anywhere
And I now see the desire that I’ve had since my daughter’s birth
To reconnect with my own parents
The desire to relive the happy days we had
The few among so many difficult ones
Myers Flat was always a place of joy
Picking blackberries
Playing volleyball
Hiking
Swimming in the river
My dad throwing me over his shoulder until I was 12
My brother skipping rocks all the way across to the other bank
My mother’s chicken soup that she only made here
Card games after dinner
The laughter still ringing in my ears
There were always good days somewhere
My folks just weren’t so good at recognizing how we got there
And we all had to wait until circumstance would make us a happy family

The River of Time has shown me
That I want to emphasize the blissful experiences in life
A skill I didn’t learn in my youth
I’ve ended up tied to a fear that if I don’t have family around
I’ll perish
But the result has been a kind of self-imprisonment
Because together, day after day, we’re all so dangerous to each other
But if we have the space to breath
The space for longing
Our shared moments are happy ones
And I silently cry when their faces smile while watching Gaia
They are remembering how happy we were when I was her age
And they don’t know how they lost that feeling with me
Or how to get it back
But it doesn’t matter that she is the link between us
Life just works that way sometimes
What is important is that we still have moments when we smile

If we could only be at the perfect distance
So that we can be a family again
To smile and laugh when we’re together
So we have something to remember
Before the moment has passed

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The Way We See

Something I have been investigating throughout my life is our vision, and how it is connected to our awareness and psyche. Lately it has become even more of an intrigue, as I dive deeper into becoming film maker and study my own response to visual cues. What I have discovered is that we have several different forms of “seeing”, all of which light up different parts of the brain and body, and which translate differently upon our overall sense of “being”.

This is by no means a scientific study or complete theory – these are only my thoughts. I welcome your comments and personal experiences in response.

Vertical Vision

When we are concentrated and focused, using primarily our left brain to decipher visual cues (such as studying the pattern of a fabric), we see vertically. Although we are concentrating on a particular area, we don’t see just that spot, we also see things around it – mostly on a vertical plane, and some on the crosshair of the horizontal plane. (My guess is that this is partially learned, and definitely inherited – people are vertical, so this is likely one of the root reasons we see this way.) This is the vision of progress, the kind of thinking and seeing we do in order to get things done. If we are cleaning our home, for example, our eyes will dart around the room, focusing on different objects that need to be taken care of. We also see the objects that line up above and below that one. Evolving from that, anger and panic have a similar visual pattern as we become ever more controlling of the energy emanating straight from our Third Eye. With panic, I believe (it’s been a while since I’ve felt it, thankfully), that beam of focus tends to curve and come right back at our chest. I remember sensing as though I am falling through myself, and my vision was unfocused, but definitely vertical. Worrying about the body brings about a vertical awareness as well.

Horizontal Vision

If you’ve ever taken yoga, you have probably heard the phrase “relax your gaze”. This is the essence of horizontal vision – taking in everything in your horizontal plane, not judging or expecting to see something, without a particular focus in mind. The Third Eye relaxes, and so do your temples. The crown and your root chakra open. There is an “inner flute” of energy that flows freely throughout the body, because we are not worried about it. Whereas Vertical Vision produces various forms of actions (from positive to negative), Horizontal Vision is the act of enjoying, relishing in accomplishments and feeling gratitude for what is. This is a form of being that people too often forget to engage in, and I can swear that people who don’t practice yoga or meditation after a while have a different look on their face. I cannot feel that relaxed vision in them when I see their eyes; I see only the concentration that is focused about 5 inches from their Third Eye, always doing, never enjoying. I would say that yoga has taught me to do this more than it has taught me anything else.

Hazy Vision

Hazy vision is exactly what it sounds like – unfocused and blurry. There are several different forms:

Hazy Daydream: This is when you look through something but are really looking inwards. The eyes are focused on an unknown point in space, but what they see is a blur. This lines up with Vertical Vision because the thought is usually very specific. Peripherals are turned off.

Hazy Lazy: You know that food coma that happens after too many carbs? Have you ever noticed how your vision is blurry and the eyes have trouble opening? This is a prime example of completely useless seeing. It happens from depression as well as when a person is so used to a routine that they have completely turned off their peripherals. Focus is also turned off so it’s almost like swimming in a sea of fog all the time. Not fun.

*Note about sunlight: Incidentally, I experience this when it’s too sunny out as well. I have to squint so much that I end up with hazy vision and eventually feel sleepy. Do you feel this way? My remedy is to always sit in the shade on a sunny day – then I can experience the beauty with my eyes wide open

Hazy Bliss: This is the state following orgasm, yoga, meditation or sleep. Peripherals are on fully, but gently. You can see all around and through all things, and colors are usually vivid though they melt together. In my experience, this is the most healing form of vision there is.

Focused Vision

This is also what it sounds like, when eyes are wide open and lines are sharp and clear. I experience this fully on rainy days because my eyes can be wide open and I don’t have to squint, which is why I’m so perplexed about how much people dislike the rain. It is when I see the world around me the clearest.

Focused Vertical: This is as said before, a very specific object is being observed and thought about, so vision is clear but peripherals are off.

Focused/Lucid Horizontal: This is when one experiences extreme excitement, has learned to observe landscapes as an artist, or is on drugs. This is also the vision of lucid dreaming. It is progressive vision, and is often followed by action. Eyes are wide open, but the mind is taking in all that it sees. It can be overstimulating and exhausting. However I find it to be incredibly important in small doses in life, as it combines focus and peripherals in a way that allows one to feel the power of their own existence, and feel connected to the universe.

Social Meaning

If you were to estimate based on your knowledge, which of these would you say was most common during the majority of humanity’s existence? My guess is that there was quite a lot of time for peripherals in general, horizontal vision that would waft from focused to unfocused, and accompanied by a good deal of internal thought.

Now, which of these do you suppose we experience the most today? Focused vertical, no question. From dealing with bills to driving to work to all the media we are inundated with, our eyes barely ever have a time to rest. Now what kind of effect to you suppose this might have on the psyche over a long period of time?

After I’ve used my computer too much over the span of a few days, I notice that while watching a show  my eyes will slowly start to look through the screen – automatically trying to relax when they’ve had enough.

As for my psyche, I actually had panic attacks when I moved to the Bay Area after living in Arcata for 5 years specifically because of the aforementioned experiences: having to drive and focus this much (in comparison to the very slow paced life of the north) threw my adrenals all wacky and my system collapsed. I’ve adjusted now, but only because I’ve gotten used to being tense all the time – not because I’m more relaxed than I was.

My personal feeling is, of course, that we all need more time to give to our peripheral vision. It is incredibly important to our nervous system and there is unfortunately very little room for it in our busy city lives.

Connection with Film

This seems obvious to me but I’ll say it anyway: all of these notes can be easily used to create visual tension or relaxation within a film (or any visual art). I think that since we’re making people watch something on a screen anyway, it’s important to give time to the peripherals throughout – you will keep your audience longer by giving them eye candy to relax to.

Exercises

I encourage you to take the time to notice your own visual patterns, and I would love to hear back about your experiences so I might refine this theory. Here’s some ideas on how to experiment:

1. Sit still upon a hill or in a space where you can see some kind of visual landscape (not hills necessarily). Start by relaxing your peripherals and taking in all you see. Then switch your focus to something specific – try to notice every detail about it that you can. Notice how your body has changed – where have you tightened up? Then relax and melt back into peripherals again, and notice which parts of your body have relaxed as well. Notice your root (perineum).

2. Again start with peripherals. Relax your vision, soften it. Then open your eyes wider, keep your focus on the peripherals but try to take in more details. How does this change you, emotionally?

3. Notice the difference between how you feel and see on a sunny day (in regards to your eyes, not skin or body temperature) versus a rainy day. What kinds of thoughts run through your mind in comparison (without judging based on preconceptions)? Simply notice your natural thought patterns in response to your vision.

MEDIA really FUCKS with YOUr sense of time

See what I did there? Yeah, you know I’m clever.

Lately I’ve been thinking of old age and death. A lot of the actors and film makers that I looked up to while growing up are either getting old or passing away, and it seems it’s happening faster than my brain can keep up with it. At 28, I’m feeling like old age is flying at me. Rather than having a healthy sense that I’ve still got a long way to go.

I realized that what is fucking with my sense of time is the fact that I can jump back and forth in a person’s life as many times as I want, watching their early works to their late works back to back, and then go and read about their funeral. I can watch a series that spanned several years in just a few weeks, and feel like age approaches at the speed of light (actually, that’s exactly what it does but you know what I’m talking about). So I have to step back and take a look at our modernized world once again, in this new sense: being exposed to mass media for extended periods of time can make our internal clocks a little tweaky. It’s no wonder I have night wakings all the time, there’s a certain amount of inner peace that I’m just not experiencing. As always, there can be a hailing of reasons why this is terrible and why we should not let our kids watch too much TV or play video games or let them go outside because, let’s face it, the world sucks much more than it used to.

Wait. Really? I don’t see public hangings or see women being raped in the streets… We’re more civilized now. We use lethal injections and rape our women in college dorms (OH…). But seriously, we have our problems in society but that doesn’t mean we’re not doing the best that we can. Media is here to stay, even if it does fuck with our sense of time. It is the art form of our day, much like ballet and opera was in centuries past (and don’t say they still are, we all know they’re not).  It’s worth the sacrifices to experience something new. Times are changing faster than we can adapt. But we’ll catch up eventually, I’ve got faith in us.

First Shoot

This past weekend realized something grander for me than I could have imagined at the start of this year. I am grateful and humbled, knowing that the incredibly difficult process I’ve gone through in the last 2 years – reshaping my entire life and how I see myself – has lead me here. That in just a few months I’ve been able to create an experience for myself and others which I’d only once dreamed of doing.

We had our first shoot, and regardless of any technical difficulties we may have had, it was an incredible first experience on set. For a group of people who had never been in the same room together, we have a very well functioning team. What stood out to me most is how seriously and professionally each person took their particular role on the team, without anyone having to really define anything. And what’s more, my vision for this piece was respected and upheld, so I knew that I could ask for anything and know that everyone would follow suit. Not a very common experience in my life, especially not right now. Living with my folks has been an experiment in extreme patience. I thought that I had already learned to be patient as the partner of a drug addict, and then again as a parent. But living with my parents, knowing that I’m stuck here until further notice, I’ve learned a whole new level of keeping my thoughts and feelings to myself. Perhaps it is that very experience that has squeezed me through to this place, where I am finally walking the path I’ve been dreaming about for over a decade.

The shots look great. When put together they will be quite awesome, if I do say so myself. It remains to be seen how we fit the CGI into this piece, but I’m not worried. If all else fails, I’ll make some paintings or 2D graphics and stylize it that way. I’m beyond thrilled at how this is all coming about. Stay tuned for more in January 🙂

Scary Cow

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written. Though not because I’ve given up on this train of thought, not in the least. In fact, things have actually started to pick up to a rather manic pace.

A couple months ago I decided to put out a “Is anybody out there?” call on Craig’s List for other budding film makers, hoping that perhaps someone else in this universe was in the same position as I. I got a few responses, though nothing really worked out with people as individuals. I also got pointed to Robert Rodriguez’ book “Rebel Without a Crew”, which I swallowed up whole. It seriously made me cry on several occasions. Whether or not his movies are genius (which they’re not), his personal attitude towards film making and being an independent artist is so tender, so genuine, that I know I would love him if I met him. If you look at his films, he has built a family around his career – the same people show up in his cast and crew over and over again. I hope I can meet him someday and say thank you.

The other tidbit I got from talking to others was that there is an indie film maker’s co-op in SF called Scary Cow. As soon as I visited their website, I was hooked. Holy shit! You mean there’s actually a group of people who PAY to keep the organization going, and everyone works together with whatever abilities they have to make indie films? You would have never seen anything like it even 10 years ago. But here we are. The films are getting better each 4-month round, and after attending the screening for their last round I was dead set on working with these guys.

The pitch meeting was coming up and I kept telling myself I was just going to sit and listen. But you know me, I can’t let my ego slide too far behind the curtain. So I pitched the only complete short I had, “Drip”. The piece is totally surreal, and came entirely from my imagination so I didn’t give a second thought to whether or not it was “doable”. I just pitched for the hell of pitching, and figured no one would be interested. Fuck. I was wrong. I had about 15 people come up to me during the mingling hour we had following pitches, and although lots were skeptics, everyone commented on the originality of the idea and how awesome it would be if we actually pull it off.

7 of us had our first official meeting yesterday. I have a producer, a director of photography and his assistant (who also do lighting and sound – OMG kill me now! I must be dreaming), a sound effects guy, a visual effects guy, and several production assistants. I didn’t do any of this. It came to me. As opposed to every other goddamn hurdle I’ve had to climb over the last 2 years (if you know me at all, you know what I’m talking about), this is the one thing that I haven’t had to lift a finger in order to make happen. I mean sure, I drew 120 panels for the storyboard, and have been emailing people back and forth continuously for a month now. But emotionally, it is not a struggle in the slightest. It’s pure bliss. Just like when LA welcomed me with open arms last January, and I felt like I was stepping into a family that was long awaiting my arrival, I feel like I am finally riding the wave that was there all along for me.

Birthday wishes

On the brink of turning from 9×3 to 7×4, a poem in two parts – illustrating the journey of a day into night. Gratitude for heavenly visitors in my sleep…

Part 1

What is writing if not to release your brain, your soul unto the ocean of the universe?
To mingle thoughts and feelings with the swimming satellites, the heavenly bodies we call you and me.
Roaming the plains, nesting upon he highest peaks, burrowed and furrowed in the moist soil that bubbles beneath the rest of us.
The flow of thought and experience literally spilling from your eyes into your pen, and out onto flat sheets of oak tree.

Why do we do these things?
Is it to satisfy some egotistical desire to be more important?
More than what?
Or perhaps, to simply see our mother smile and tell us she loves us.
Perhaps we are forever chasing that primal, child-like feeling of pure love,
and we hope that some other listener can give us that satisfaction.

Mama says, “that’s beautiful, and I am so very proud of you.”

I cannot tell you why these actions compel me so,
why I cannot do anything but create.
For years it was not so, and again I am reminded –
sex defies creativity.
For when we achieve that carnal need, we let go of want, of strife.
We already have it all.
But when there is no such satisfaction, we can be forever chasing that state of orgasmic bliss within ourselves.
And those who know what I’m talking about,
know full well the moment I’m talking about,
know that these moments will hang in the sky like every last star;
a collection of our own gifts to ourselves,
reminding us kindly, “you did it”.
These moments are just as short lived as any climax,
but are followed by continued drive rather than relaxation.

And it is THIS continued drive that finally brings us to the space where an audience can truly see us,
laugh and weep for us,
and makes them tell us,
“we are so very proud of you.”

And finally you are home.

***

Part 2

what luck that love should visit me this night
love sits watching me, humming a familiar tune
i look up and see that love is mother
that mother and heart mingle in the whispers of the curtain
blowing in the the breeze of night’s forgotten dreams
she sits still, a smile glowing on her lips
holding me as a newborn babe

i turn to look at my own kin
the offspring of my heart and womb
i hold her, hold onto her
as though life could take us to opposing corners of the world
i feel mother’s cradle
she holds us both and we resonate with sounds and waves throughout the ages
she is my heavenly mother
mother of earth
mother of sky
mother of spirit

what luck that mother should visit me this night
and finally i know that she does see me
and says, “i am so proud of you”

and finally i am home.

Pea Soup

It’s all about the stock. Whenever you make a good soup, if you don’t have a good stock to work with then you can forget it. Can you imagine, people actually make soup just on water? What a waste. I love making a good stew, the hearty taste and rich aroma send me to this place like I’m in 1460, a serf with nothing but family and farm to lean on. It’s so ironic that their food was considered low class, because it was anything but. And today people pay hundreds of dollars for the same.

I started with beef bones. Thick, marrow filled and slightly frightening, I caressed them with grapeseed oil and salt, and let them roast in the oven for an hour or so. The meat and fat sizzled as I pulled out the glowing hot glass dish, trying not to drop it on my foot and end up in the hospital. Then came the fun part. Gently lowering the bones into an oversized pot filled with a gallon and a half of water, I let it simmer, and simmer, and simmer. For over a day. People look at me like I’m insane when I say it takes a day or two or three to make good stock. They think it’s such a waste of energy. But what they don’t realize is, everything they eat is triple the expense and none of the satisfaction. Their frail bones crumble under the weight of their oversized hips, yet they remain faithful to their bleached flour and dead milk. What a shame.

The house fills with the smell of beef, so you really gotta like it. A few hours before I strained the broth, I chopped up carrots, celery and leeks and tossed them in along with bay leaves, thyme and a fennel frond. Mmmm what a blissful experience, if you haven’t done it yourself I highly recommend it. There’s nothing like the smell of celery and fennel on your hands as the aroma from the stock pot swirls around you. Pouring out this mess is a bit tricky, but with the help of a couple “soup socks” and a very large strainer it’s really not so bad. The bones were so brittle, I could push my finger through the middle of one. I love watching the bowl fill as the fat floats to the top. It’s at least a solid centimeter of fat hovering above the rest of the liquid. I used to worry, but now I don’t. It’s come to my attention that what we’ve been told for the last several decades is complete crap, and the only thing that makes sense is to eat the way a peasant would eat. Pull it up from the ground, rinse it off, and munch on it. You kill a cow, you use all of the cow. There’s no fear of high fat, high cholesterol – because everything you’re eating is so unrefined, so alive, that your body has no problem processing it. We’ve actually managed to take things that came from this Earth and turn them into things that can’t go back into the Earth. I still don’t understand how that’s possible, but apparently it is. And do you think it’s any different with the food you eat? Hell no. It’s all filled with some godforsaken chemical that your body can’t turn into something useful, so it stores it in some fat, and cholesterol clogs your arteries, trying to repair the damage done by all these foul human inventions.

The marrow spilled out. The marrow actually spilled out of the bones in this goopy mess that reminded me of my daughter’s afterbirth. It’s all the same. Blood and guts. Recycled to become our own body. And then an earthworm’s body. And then a tree. And then an apple that your daughter eats. It’s all the same. I tasted it. The marrow, not my daughter’s afterbirth – though I thought about that too. It just tasted like cow fat. And this is the stuff that made us smart? Interesting.

Alright, the stock is finished. Onto the next part. You did notice the title, right? We’re getting there.

I had split peas and barley sitting in water for the last 24 hours, ever since I started the stock. They all grew little tails, and I smiled knowing that they are alive and ready to infuse me with their life force. You probably think that sounds g’hey. Well, it’s your loss. Go look up sprouting and maybe learn a thing or two. I scooped up about half the beef stock and poured into a smaller, but still pretty big, pot along with the grains and legumes and let it cook for just over an hour. Until it was mushy goodness. Then into the blender it all went. Not too much, and adding more beef stock as I went, careful to not have the whole thing explode on me as I’ve seen happen to others before.

It’s green. Pea green. Well, of course. A little whitish because of the barley, but still that familiar brownish-green color that I love so much. And guess who gobbled up a big bowl of it? Yes, my offspring. Could anything make a mother happier? In the back of my mind I had this vision that when my parents came home that evening, we’d all enjoy a bowl of the pea soup that took me 24 hours to make. I thought, Everything in here is simple and wholesome, they’re bound to love it.

So they came home later on. Unpacked, changed, relaxed.

“What’s for dinner, ma?” I asked.

“I don’t know, I’ll think of something.”

“I made pea soup on beef stock, you can all have some if you want.”

“Uhh, did you use kosher bones?”

“I used organic of course, which is way better.”

“Yeah… We don’t eat unkosher beef.”

Shock.

“Oh come on, you eat canned beef when you go camping. And you eat all kinds of nasty chicken from FoodMaxx and wherever else you go. This is all organic, it’s the best there is.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so. It’s not kosher.”

“But you eat all kind of crap all the time! And this is filled with nothing but healthy ingredients! And I spent 24 hours making it.”

“Why do you talk to me like that? Your tone is so disrespectful.”

“I’m frustrated because I was hoping we could all finally share a meal that I made, instead of feeling like every time I cook something you think it’s disgusting.”

“I’ll as your father.”

“K…”

Is she serious? They eat goddamned nasty food, not to mention massively processed meat products that claim they are “kosher” but have the nutritional value of an infested garbage heap.

“No, no, no. I don’t eat unkosher beef,” I hear him booming from upstairs.

She comes down. “He says no.”

“I love how you eat disgusting food but won’t eat something healthy I made.”

“I don’t know what to say to you when you talk like that. I clean for you, I do your laundry -”

“I don’t ask you to clean, that’s your choice.”

“I didn’t ask you to make unkosher soup.”

“Well I guess we’re even then.”

And that’s the story of my pea soup, which is now frozen because there’s no way I could eat three quarts of it on my own. It’s incredibly flavorful and rich, so a little goes a long way. Thankfully my daughter gobbles it up without a second thought, and that makes it all worth it.