We called Monday a moonday and went up north. Unreal.
Four hours in a line north-west to Empire, on the edge of Lake Michigan/Leelanau Peninsula. Slanty equinox light, halfway between the north pole and the equator, and Indian Summer – 79 degrees. Second week of October, still no leaves on the ground. But the whole highway was torch-lit! The maples were going up: lime on the bottom, orange flame on top. Such a precise a turningpoint that it couldn’t last more than a day. I thought: fall will end tomorrow and the leaves will be dust.
That was just the way up. Inside, the place feels like Narnia, and like pillow-forts in the sun when I was two. I don’t know why, but the precipice of Sleeping Bear Dunes dusted up flashbacks of reading To The Lighthouse at the ruins of Copan while strung out on giardia. The thin light and thin water of the Crystal River Rorschaced a random moment in 1999: ducking under a palmtree-clothesline on a volcanic sandbar out in Lake Ometepe. But by the time we got to the vineyard peninsula called Old Mission, where the sun set over green islands and a sea with no salt, my system was finally registering this zone as something new under said sun. Not an analogue. Not a replacement. Not a consolation.
This place is also not Middle America. Michigan has not reduced it to brochures, or looked for tourists, or even picked up the beautiful narrative. It’s an Ottawa and Chippewa myth about a bereft mother bear who is the dunes. What we experience on the lake/shore is just part of her dream. We are made by her and exist in her. I guess this bear is something between Brahman and the butterfly who dreams he’s a man.
We drove home down the spine of the state, speeding south with the full moon on the left and a stupid-perfect sunset on the right. I read aloud about TS Eliot, whose poetry gives away carnal knowledge of classical enlightenment, and whose politics were gleefully evil. We were halfway through Libra and halfway between solstices, halfway from Arctic to Equator, down state-spines, between sun-moon….
Incidentally, this is the fastest way I know to engineer a state-shift: meditate on a boundary. Pure antinomy is enough to stop the logical mind; emptiness is enough to stop the sensory one. For legitimation quotations, see Derrida (1979), Dogen (1243). I was spiritually retarded, so had to do the following homework before the trick worked: (1) toxic sludge removal from the emotional and physical bodies, (2) thousands of hours of disciplined concentration practice. If you’re beyond that, cheers. Just feel the boundary between the skin and the air, or between the body and the floor; or study the line between us/not us, or me/not me. Or drop the awareness into the canyon between the hemispheres of the brain. Get superfascinated by some arbitrary boundary, and the moment it fully surfaces it’ll pulverize the objects on either side. Tat tvam asi.
Poof. Or whatever sound it makes when one hand is clapping. Richard Freeman says that sound is “Aaahhh!” Aah is 960 Hz of dumbstruck. It’s shushumna spouting a leak. Maybe RF used an epiphanous sound because yoga—like, actual, fucking, yoga—used to be harder to figure out. For 2011, the sound of one hand clapping is more like “Duuuuuhhhhhhhh.” As in (Homer Simpson voice): moolabanduuuuuhh!
Anyway. I’m on the Colorado grandparent loop right now, feeling two grandmothers from 40,000 feet. Same ritual as every year, including the annual blog-time here on the plane between Denver and DTW. Before boarding, I re-read beautiful emails from longtime bloggers. Karen and me talking about the accidental periods of not thinking, which are caught by the thought “Woah, this here is the first thought in 20 minutes.” Kind of a butterfly-net situation. It used to be that mental notes like that only surfaced in a different sort of stream – the discursive-defensive-narrative-argumentative diaharrea that was my mind. Also, email from Rebecca talking about the relationship of rose-essence to blocks in the solar plexus, and about the honesty and creepy depth of our time – that is, of the decaying ghost-weeks when November’s incoming. Air and ashes. Thank you, internet.
Today on Washington Park, I sat next to my grandfather and watched a Methodist minister pry the iron lid off a hole in the ground. He used his Hushpuppy shoes and a two-by-four. Down the hole is where they pour the church body in the form of crematory ash, all mingled together the past hundred years under the flowerbed. There’s only room for 16 ounces of each congregant: the remaining remains scatter elsewhere. I reacted to the prying-open the same way I did the pit-toilet at the Grand Traverse Bay lighthouse on Monday – peering down because fascinated, but wincing against the updraft. (Don’t all humans peer down pit toilets, having first tensed up against them?)
We had a pound of grandma’s ashes in a flower vase from Ikea. The sun showed curliques of dust or energy playing in the empty part of the vase. I held it a while. I sensed bacon, the colors white and purple, my navel, and the back of my heart. (Sorry about the bacon, Grandma.) My dad was on his knees by the hole in the ground, palming the iron door and my grandpa’s fake knee. He dropped into a preacherly octave and said some things about Abraham, eternity, and love. My aunt reached a hand around my belly and rested her cheek on my scapula, and we cried. Then Grandpa poured the ashes down the hole. A poof of wind blew them into my jeans, tanktop, hair, arms and neck. They felt dusty, purple, and hot.
I’ve never not breezed through airport security, but today the alarms tripped. When they dusted my body by hand and put the gloves in the machine, a red screen blinked EXPLOSIVES DETECTED. They called the head of security and took me to a tiny room with a 6-foot ceiling. A large woman put her hands everywhere as if making a ritual apology, with me saying I take these things impersonally for a living. Then I imagined myself as different bodies under her hands: Grandma, my father, my aunt, and a series of big men with dark skin. Commingled.
The second screening showed the ash was not explosive. Poof.