Showing posts with label Bodhidharma. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bodhidharma. Show all posts

03 May, 2012

Bluegrass Slingshot (Westbound Expansion); Louisville Intermezzo: Karmic Kool-Aid

To go from mortal to Buddha, you have to put an end to karma, nurture your awareness, and accept what life brings. - 

The weather was uncooperative and lent itself to not going outside. The mild winter has let loose into a humid early Spring in the Ohio River Valley; after a mild start to the my time here, Louisville was then hit with golf ball sized hail.

I wouldn't wear the pink bow, though. No. Really.
Did I mention that lousy weather follows me whenever I'm out and about? If I wasn't so content, I'd compare myself to Eeyore.

After two thin ribbons of inclement weather rolled through west to east,  the sky cleared and the humidity that rolls in off the Ohio River settled in and took hold. The day time highs over the past few days have been just on the other side of 90 degrees.

And humidity is never pleasant. NEVER.

Now, I don't mind the heat... actually, I'd rather be warm than cold (though I do enjoy a nice fuzzy sweater when the weather starts to cool off. I know, I know. Don't judge.) But I also don't want to drag my fine and honorable hosts out just to keep me entertained. Although Louisville is a cool city and there is certainly plenty to see, both as a traveler and (if you must) as a tourist, I am, to be honest, less interested in seeing the city than I am in re-establishing an old friendship. I've known Amanda  a long time... going back to when I had long hair, actually... which is a long time ago. Well, it seems a long time ago.

Old School Cousin It. 
And NO, I don't have any digital photos handy. There IS photographic evidence, but, it predates digital photography and I pretty much refuse to scan every single photograph into little 1's and 0's. So deal with it. Use your imagination. I'll help. At it's longest, I looked a lot like Cousin It.

Except that I have dark hair.

I had sunglasses that looked a lot like that, too.

And in that, the trip to Louisville has been successful. It's nice to catch up with old friends who are in the process of living new lives; it's a nice reminder that the world moves on whether we stand still or not.  Catching up with and re-establishing old friendships is also a way to remind yourself of just what a jackass you can be... because when people know you long enough... and know you at JUST THE RIGHT (or WRONG, as the case may be) time in your life....

chances are really good... better than average, really... that jackassery, like the weather follows me and Eeyore, will follow you around. And when you're given the rare chance to take a Do Over and apologize for said jackassery, it's a good idea to do it. 

The nice thing about good friends... and good people... is that unless you've REALLY fucked up -- or fucked up one too many times -- chances are they will forgive you. And if they don't, at least you tried.

My particular form of jackassery was tied to the fact that I was... especially in graduate school... something of an arrogant prick. It was also tied to the fact that, even in the recent past, I deal with  interpersonal strife in one of two ways: 

I avoid it or I get drunk in an attempt to avoid it.

Neither of these, by the way, is very productive in the long run. 

Of the two, I recommend the latter -- getting drunk. I know. It doesn't solve anything, and people can sometimes get stupid when they drink... because either they haven't eaten or because they're rank amateurs who should stick to virgin PiƱa Coladas. Sorry. Just being honest. Drinking is an endurance activity.

And I while I won't go into the exact nature of my jackassery here (this is a rumination on karma and renewal, not a redemption sermon) please be assured it will come out in writing at some point. Let's just say I earned my dumb-ass degree and leave it at that.


[Thanks again for reading. Remember to SHARE the link and to consider DONATING to the travel fund (the link in the right sidebar, or, you can log into PayPal and email it to you don't have to have PayPal account.)

I'll be leaving Louisville Sunday night for a stop off in Hannibal, Missouri. After that, south to the Ozarks, and then, points west. Maybe towards you. Maybe not.]

23 April, 2012

Disappearing Geography, Cont. (Bluegrass Slingshot, Ashland, KY)

and it is possible a great energy / is moving near me. - Rainer Maria Rilke 

The wind that blows /  Is all that any body knows. - Henry David Thoreau

Bunker School, Beartown, Elliot County, KY
Kentucky is a state best understood in terms of gradients and degrees. From east to west, ignoring the more or less arbitrary lines drawn on a map, it's possible to separate Kentucky into several parts, each with a unique sense of culture and self. The eastern range -- part of the Appalachia (that also includes the far eastern part of Ohio, some of Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and all of West Virginia) -- is in many ways as culturally isolated from the far western part of the state as Spain is from the Ukraine.

And when I think about Kentucky -- in reality or in the abstract -- I always think about the mountains. No doubt this is because I spent some formative years going to school at Morehead State University. (I have spend many years since working to undo the damage done to me in the halls of academia, without destroying the little bit of important work that actually went on.)  I think about living in the cabin in Menifee County. I think about climbing Lockegee Rock. I think about the many friends I have here, and about how much I've lived and learned (and unlearned) here. There's so much here that informs the internal geography; but it always comes back to the mountains and the life that hides within and around them.

The life that people rarely see and rarely pay attention to.

And when I get the chance to return, I always take it. Not because it's my home, or because this clay earth is the same clay earth in my bones... but because of the mountains and because of the life and death and history and myth etched into the dust, cut into the hollers, into the back roads, and into the long memory --

the memory of everything, and of everyone of no one.

The Zen Master Bodhidharma is reported to have said in The Bloodstream Sermon that "Life and Death are important. Do not suffer them in vain."  My week back in Ashland with Mike and Liz bring this idea into sharp focus.

When I first arrived, Mike -- greeted me in the parking lot next to their apartment with the news that he and Liz were going to have a kid. Even though I have expressed opinions about whether I ought to have more children -- that opinion being that I ought not -- I think it's a good thing when another life is going to be brought into the world.  Each new life is a potential for something good; and while chances are better than average that the fetus --  if it is carried to term, is born, lives, and grows up -- will become one more cog in an ever growing and self-digesting and excreting machina mori, I choose to hold on to some hope.
Though the machinations that seem to control our lives have, in the process, engineered their own sense of inevitability... that lingering concept of Manifest Destiny*, that all this muckity muck was foreordained and therefore unconquerable... what faith I have left is in the possibility that people will choose, at some point, to ignore the myths they've let themselves believe in.

And as is common with the news of pregnancy -- especially first pregnancies -- the talk focused around baby names. Mostly rejections of names that would mostly serve to amuse adults and torture the child.

One of the best came from friend and fellow writer Misty Skaggs, who suggested -- and then proclaimed that she would never call Baby Frazier anything else but -- Festus.

It became quickly obvious, though, that something was wrong. When Mike and Liz woke up early that Tuesday morning to go to the hospital, it wasn't hard to figure. Mike called me with an update later that day, after the doctor decided to admit her for the night for observation, telling me Liz had miscarriage. He came home eventually --  long enough to shower, change clothes, and have a few stiff drinks -- and then went back to spend the night at the hospital with his wife.

The doctor later informed them that she suffered from pseudocyesis -- a false or what is sometimes referred to as a hysterical pregnancy. According to the doctor... who was too busy trying to get to surgery to explain it well, or to even fake a kind bedside manner... Liz's body lied and TOLD her she was pregnant... which was confirmed by two at home tests and the self same doctor who had no advice for her or Mike other than to use condoms.

If you ever need a reason why I DESPISE the medical profession... count this as one more. 

She went home the day after, and both her and Mike slept for a solid 15 hours. The day after, we ended up spending some quality time in Elliot County with friend, poet, and awesome homemade strawberry pie maker, Misty Skaggs.

Driving out to visit Misty is is like driving into some primordial free space that has existed since the beginning of deep time. The road narrows quickly and it doesn't take long before the cement breaks up altogether and your tires are rolling over gravel. The roads take on familial names. Houses and trailers sprout out of the overgrown foliage. There are small family graveyards where Misty can recount the generations.

This dust is her dust, and she has it in her bones.

Our other option was to sit around Mike and Liz's place, where Liz would have deservedly and rightfully moped. Instead we ended up taking a 12 pack to a quiet cemetery, spreading out a blanket, sitting under tall shade tree, and talking. Not necessarily about what happened, but that came up some too. Mostly we sat, enjoyed simple conversation, and waited as the rain rolled in. When the rain clouds DID roll in, we knew, because the scent in the air changed.

There are those that might not appreciate the peace of mind that comes from sitting on some secluded hill in a forgotten hollar where WiFi and cell service are next to non-existent. It's one of those deep pockets of the world that, as the world moves on, moves on its own time, its own rhythm, and with it's own purpose. The marks of the modern world are still there, of course. And the evidence of poverty, survival, and economic disparity are there too. It's the sort of place you can go and leave a memory and pick up something that will help you down the road on your travels.

It's the sort of place you envy because it's not your home. Because it's not your dust.

It's the sort of place that has healing powers which, in the wrong hands, would cease to exist.