Monday, July 30, 2012

still-sound 89. Lionheart

Happy Birthday Kate Bush.  My Lionheart.

I couldn't begin to estimate how many times I've listened to her songs.  I know them all intimately.  They have traveled with me to every place I've called home.  They've confided in me.  In the autumn I listen to The Kick Inside and The Dreaming.  In spring, Never Forever

I listen to Hounds of Love throughout the year. On side B, Kate sings of cracking through ice while skating and drowning in the icy waters.  She is witness to the Salem witch trials.  She sees those she loves, without her.  She views the Earth from space.  She plumbs the depths of the Underworld in a Nosferatuesque dirge to discover that deep, deep down, there is a light.

Finally she comes back to life inside her body and breathes in the sweet morning fog.  She kisses the ground and tells her mother, father and brothers how much she loves them.  With her newly gained perspective she realizes,

"you know what?  I love you better now."

This is, perhaps my favorite lyric of any song.


I think I saw Kate Bush once when I lived in London.  My sister was visiting me at the time and we found ourselves at Boots The Chemist in Liverpool Street station.  I spotted a woman with her hair in an updo, wearing black trainers.  She was looking at lipsticks.  When I turned away from her, the image in my mind was that of an older Kate Bush.  When I then looked directly at her again she seemed like Kate Bush but not Kate Bush.  When I turned away, in my mind she was Kate Bush again.  I pointed her out to my sister.

"No.  It's not Kate Bush"  she said.
A second later, "wait...maybe."

Friday, July 27, 2012

still-sound 88. Crop circles

This is a vase I made a few months ago.  I decorated it by applying gold leaf in a pattern.  The configuration made me think of crop circles.

My friend Amely is in Wiltshire, England right now - the epicenter of crop circle activity.  A few nights ago, she and a fellow circle enthusiast put forth an intention for a pattern to appear in the fields overnight, in their immediate area.  The next morning, a stone's throw away in Bishops Canning, this appeared... 

Tony Austin took this picture. 
It appears on

Amely wrote about it on Facebook; "I went to lie down in it and what I can tell you is that I felt a very distinct presence there.  I tend to be a skeptic about my own ability to detect energy from external sources.  But there it was."

I've written about crop circles several times.  They fascinate me.  I don't know if they come from a mysterious origin or if they are examples of anonymous land art.  Either way, they're beautiful.

Recently I met Lisa, a friend of a friend.  I enjoyed our conversation.  She had the word 'unison' tattooed on her wrist in school-taught cursive writing.  Something Lisa said stuck in my mind --

"there's so much magic in the air right now.  It's exciting."

This is a wonderful way to feel in midsummer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

still-sound 87. Augur

Last week I met an old college friend for a drink.  Dan was without a car that night so I drove him home.  As we made our way east on Sunset approaching Alvarado, we passed a sign for a Foot Doctor's practice.  I pass this sign nearly every day and barely notice it.  It revolves and on one side shows a sickly foot on crutches.  It has blood shot eyes and a bandaged toe.  On the other side, a healthy, smiling foot beams. 

Dan asked if I knew about the Foot Sign's ability to predict the future.

Obviously I required more information.

"If you pass the sign when it's the good foot, you're supposed to have a good day.  And if you pass the bad foot you'll have a bad day.  It's a known thing in Los Angeles.  David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Lethem have both mentioned it in novels."*

As interesting as this was, I had immediately wished that Dan hadn't relayed this information.  Being superstitious, I knew that I would come to fear the Foot Sign.  When I passed it the following morning on my way to the ceramics studio, the good foot gave me its blessing.  My day transpired to be fine.  Not especially good but certainly not bad either.  When I passed the bad foot on Friday morning on my way to work, I felt its curse entering my being like a disease.  I took steps to ward off bad fortune.  I drove extra carefully.  I maintained a positive outlook. 

At work I told my colleagues of the Foot Prophet.  I explained how that morning's omen made me feel uneasy.  My friend Andrea tried to talk sense.  "How can a foot tell the future?  It's not even a real foot."  She was right of course.

I observed and measured my fortunes throughout the day.  By nightfall I decided that the day had been fine.  Not especially good but certainly not bad either.**

* Dan later told me the titles of these book: Pale Kings by David Foster Wallace and You Don't Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem.
**My friend Kathy, a native Angeleno, read this blog post and informed me that the original version of the Foot Sign was actually bright pink, in the shape of a foot, much cruder in design and consequently even more disturbing.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

still-sound 86. Iris

I pass irises when I walk Rosie through the campus of a respiratory hospital near my home.  The garden there is well maintained.  I associate irises with my birthday since, in Pennsylvania, they only bloom in May.  In California they bloom throughout the year.

I read that the iris itself has no scent - that perfumers use the rhizome, the iris root, for its distinctive earthy, powdery smell.  I know this rhizomatic smell.  But I also know the smell of the iris blossom itself.  Not the compact flowers they sell at supermarkets -- these irises truly have no smell.  The big, bearded blooms that appear on my walks with Rosie have a beautiful fragrance.  I lean in and breathe deeply, directing my nose towards the pale yellow fuzz that crawls into the center of the flower.  The scent is a combination of clover and a spray of lemon oil released from a peel...with a faint trace of a small skunk shuffling by, a half mile away.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

still-sound 85. Ikea food

I was tempted to pick up a chilled box of Dryck Flader to go with lunch at Ikea yesterday.  It's an elderflower drink apparently.  I like the taste of elderflower.  I can't remember the last time I drank something from a juicebox.  I decided to go with water instead.

I love how Ikea promotes an unwavering sense of Swedishness at all times.  The products have foreign names ornamented with unusual accents.  When I was a kid I formulated an impression of Scandinavia based on my trips to Ikea.  I imagined it to be clean, modern, and child-friendly since there was a room filled with balls for kids to play while parents shopped.  I can't imagine parents leaving their kids unattended to play in a public shopping center now - but in the early 80s this was not a problem. 

I ate Swedish meatballs yesterday.  The meal tasted like cafeteria food which made me feel nostalgic.  Rob had a salad and a plate of smoked salmon topped with slivers of slightly-pickled vegetables.  We couldn't determine whether they were radish or turnip.  Impressively, the salmon was neither too salty or slimy.  We shared a slice of cake which featured a layer of custard and a crunchy Daim bar topping.  I had first discovered this cake perhaps ten years ago at an Ikea outside of London.  It was called Almondy.  Now when I think of Ikea I immediately think of Almondy in a Pavlovian response. I don't know if the cake is still called Almondy as there was nothing to indicate its name in the cafeteria, but I recognized it immediately nonetheless.  It certainly tasted like Almondy.

I couldn't find anything to watch on TV when I got home so I ended up watching a program about a woman who was addicted to cheesy potatoes.  It was called Freaky Eats: The woman addicted to cheesy potatoes.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

still-sound 84. Drum

I bought this drum several years ago after participating in a a ceremony in Wiltshire, England led by a pagan named Peter.  I like how the translucent, stretched skin resembles the surface of the moon.  I strung a leather cord from the holes bored into the drum's rim so that I could hang it up when not in use.

I made the drumstick soft by covering the head with felt.  In an effort to attune to a sense of time set by natural cycles rather than by a calendar, I diligently drummed to celebrate the full and new moon.  I lived in Long Beach and sometimes walked to the ocean's edge at dusk and drummed while sitting on the towel I set on sand.

When I moved to the small apartment in Echo Park two years ago, I hung the drum up on a bookshelf and didn't touch it.  I was worried that I'd disturb my neighbors if I played, although the walls are pretty thick and it's unlikely they'd hear anything.  I thinkly mostly I just didn't feel like playing the drum.  To pick it up again would feel like 'a thing'.  It takes a mental commitment to start up 'a thing' again after retiring it and I suppose I wasn't prepared.

Earlier this week I took it up again.  I've drummed every day while meditating, holding it in my lap while sitting cross-legged on the floor.  I bathe in vibration.  The sound seems different to me every time - sometimes soft and sonorous, sometimes full and dissonant.  Today its voice was deep and forboding, like a warning. 

When I finish drumming, my hands, arms and legs tingle for a little while.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

still-sound 83. Goose, grouse, octopus

I lifted these beautiful pictures of the spruce grouse from  The posting was credited to 'Vacation' 

I have been sailing choppy waters lately.  Many of the unspoken rules and routines that have shaped my daily life for years have dissolved.  This has left me feeling confused.  Perhaps, for this reason, I seek out bigger stories and different vantage points.  I want to see how I fit into a vast picture.

Yesterday my friend Laura brought her Animal Totem cards to work with her.  At lunchtime she took the deck out of a totebag made from white material adorned with a berry-colored floral print.  I wondered if she sewed the bag herself, but didn't ask.  A small book accompanied the cards, all housed in a cardboard box displaying a drawing of a bird and the name of the book's author, Steven Farmer.

Laura instructed me to hold the cards, to commune with them for a while, to imprint them with my being and my questions.  I then selected three; ones to represent my past, present and future.  She turned the cards over to reveal my animal totems.

This photo of a goose comes from Wikipedia.

My past was represented by a goose.  Laura read Steven Farmer's description of the animal aloud.  The goose symbolizes rest.  This seemed counterintuitive to me.  I would more readily associate rest with a fat orange cat sleeping in the sun or perhaps my pug Rosie, since she naps all day long.  Geese, to me, are on the go - enduring the ambitious journey from Canada to warmer climes.  Perhaps they represent rest because they need it.  A purposeful rest.  I wouldn't describe Rosie's naps as purposeful rest.

My present totem animal is the grouse.  Laura made the sound of what she imagined a grouse to make.  It sounded right to me, kind of like a turkey.  Steven Farmer's description didn't match my initial expectations.  The grouse is the official bird of my home state of Pennsylvania.  I imagined a speckled creature trotting across fields evading hunters in autumn, making the sound Laura just emitted.  I did not imagine it to be the embodiment of dance and primordial rhythm.  The grouse represents my connection to the sound of the drum - to the heartbeat of ebb and flow.  It is my duty to get my groove on.  Like the grouse.

This picture of an octopus comes from

My future is the octopus.  This was an interesting coincidence for me as I had just read an essay written by Terence McKenna about this very sea creature.  McKenna believed that as human consciousness evolves, so will language; ultimately becoming visual.  He describes the octopus' ability to communicate through its subtle shifts in appearance.  

Laura read how I will learn to change my appearance and blend in by observing other people -- how I will become an effortless, skilled shapeshifter.  The book did not explain why I would want this.  Perhaps I will know why I want this in the future which is why the octopus is my future, not present animal totem.

As I gathered the cards together to give back to Laura, I noticed that one of the animal totems was a unicorn!  Not even knowing what it represented I secretly wished that one of my picks was the unicorn.

Friday, July 6, 2012

still-sound 82. Hollywood hill

Fireworks over Dodgers Stadium. I watched from my terrace.

My friend Carlos and I both had off from work on the Fourth of July.  We arranged to meet up at the parking lot of In-n-Out Burger in Studio City at 8:15 am.  We were both on time.  From there I hopped into Carlos' car and he navigated the Valley until we reached the bottom of a path that would eventually lead to a summit behind the Hollywood sign.

We hiked the tiny dirt paths at a brisk but leisurely pace.  Carlos told me about a date he had had the previous week.  He called it the Drunk Date because the girl he was meeting had just been to a tailgating party at Dodgers Stadium and appeared to be completely drunk.  She was also an hour late, calling him to say that she was lost.  Carlos met her at a supermarket parking lot and drove them to a restaurant.  They had a fun conversation over dinner, although she didn't eat for feeling queasy.  She excused herself twice to vomit.  Carlos thought this was funny.  I laughed as he told me the story.  They're most likely going to go on another date soon.

Twisty, burnt, black trees, the remainders of a wildfire, dotted the terrain at the top of the hike. We reached a little clearing and sat on stones to meditate for a few minutes.  The stone I sat on bore a plaque that read "Hugh Hefner" in honor of his efforts to save the rugged hills from property developers.

When I got home after the hike I was surprised to find that fine Hollywood dirt penetrated my shoes and socks to make my feet brown.  After washing, I lit a stick of Tibetan incense and started ironing shirts.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

still-sound 81. Archaic Revival

The Archaic Revival is illustrated with collages 
attributed to Satty.

I just finished reading a fascinating collection of essays and interviews titled The Archaic Revival.  My interest in the evolution of human consciousness led me to its author, Terence McKenna.  The book's second title reveals the major themes associated with this anticonventional thinker:  Speculations on Psychedlic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History.

While reading The Archaic Revival I found a series of photos by David Sims 
published in Arena Homme + that seemed to match the mood of the book.

McKenna believes that psychedelic states of consciousness allow for communication with other intelligence.  I've never been particularly interested in drug cultures and in college found my friends' accounts of drug experimentation tediously boring.  I don't view McKenna with the same lense however.  He approaches DMT and ayahuasca as teachers or tools that allow entry to more-complex levels of consciousness rather than as vehicles for self-pleasure or entertainment. 

McKenna has participated in several ayahuasca ceremonies deep in the Amazon and in The Archaic Revival, describes a particular experience in great detail.*  Not only did a shaman narrate the ceremony through the medium of song, the psychedelic trip itself was narrated by another presence (this is, apparently common in DMT and ayahuasca journeys - they are often narrated and offer a particular message).  McKenna names the voice of the narrator the Overmind.** His reference to a narrator is not to be confused with imagination.  He received a message from a voice outside of his self.  The motto, or message that McKenna received, not unlike a Zen koan went something like this:  the Other is in man

The Other is in man.

This is pretty interesting.  The Other is internal, not external.  The alien is inside, not outside.  Fascinating.  I view this as a counterpart to another idea I've been thinking about; that The Source; whether one wants to call it God or Universal Intelligence or simply The Source - - like the Other, is also inside.

In addition to McKenna's ideas vis a vis consciousness I am also particularly interested in his writing describing the Vegetable Mind or the Gaian collectivity or organic life. He states:

Like plants, we need to maximize the qualities of connectedness and symbiosis.  Plant-based approaches to modeling the world include awareness of the fractal and branching nature of community action. 

I am inspired by this model.  It echoes a main principle behind permaculture which advocates smart design processes that mimic systems found in nature, as these systems have proven to function efficiently and within the delicate balance of the biosphere.

A treelike network of symbiotic relationships can now replace the model of evolution that we inherited from the nineteenth century.  The earlier model, that of the tooth-and-claw struggle for existence, with the survivor taking the hindmost, is a model based on naive observation of animal behavior.  Yet it was cheerfully extended in to the realm of plants to explain the evolutionary interactions thought to cause speciation in the botanical world.  Later, more sophisticated observers (C.H. Waddington and Erich Jantsch) found not the War in Nature that Darwinists reported but rather a situation in which it was not competitive ability but ability to maximize cooperation with other species that most directly contributed to an organism's being able to function and endure as a member of a biome.  Plants interact with each other through the tangled mat of roots that connects tham all to the source of their nutrition and to each other.***

photo by David Sims

*Ayahuasca is an Amazonian brew prepared from specific vines and leaves which when combined and ingested result in a rush of DMT.   The resulting visions are often described as otherworldly, enlightening and not necessarily pleasant.  It would seem that DMT journeys require a shaman or guide to help navigate the process.
**The description of McKenna's Overmind makes me think of Jung's Collective Unconscious.
***p 221, The Archaic Revival, Harper Collins, 1991.