Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dragon in the Rock: Animism

Everything is in Motion

There is a trail near where I live - just down the road - that I walk at least two or three times a week. It winds its way up into the foothills among juniper and pinyon. Here and there, poking out of the trees, I can see the adobe walls of the houses of the very, very rich. "Those who live on the hill."

Bobcat Tracks
Along the trail are stones, broken by wind, occasional rain, sliding down the mountainside, on their slow pilgrimage back to their source. Dust in the dry washes. Deer prints, coyote prints. Every so often, bobcat prints. And, right now, mountain blue birds darting in and out of the pinyon, on their migration north.

Everything is in motion - the birds, quickly; the stones, slowly.

I am fascinated by, and have a deep heart-felt attraction, to stones. Their texture, their color. The lizards that will soon appear out from under the rocks, crawling out from the dark tunnels that connect this world to the underworld, sometimes understand - in brief flashes - the language of the stones. It is far older than the lizard's tongue. The blue-collared lizard speaks in a language that can only be interpreted as various shades of blue. But the stone-language is older than the color blue…

Animism: Everything is Alive

Horned Lizard
I could be labeled an "animist." Animism (from the Latin anima, "breath, spirit, life") is the understanding that objects, places, and all creatures are alive. I feel sentience and spirit in everything. For me, it is not a "belief" that everything is alive, it is more of a lived experience. Granted, what I mean here by "alive" is a bit vague. While a stone is not alive in the same way that a human is alive, is not sentient in the same way as a bobcat or horned lizard is sentient, it shares in the shimmering, pulsating, transient motion that is life on earth, life in the universe.

Maybe what I'm talking about when I say sentience or spirit others would call "energy." Maybe I am feeling the energy of a thing. Look up into the sky. How is it not possible, in moments of stillness - accidental or purposeful - to feel that the stars, the moon, the planets, and the sun are also alive? There is a language going on between all things - an exchange of atoms - that is heard deep, deep in the body, on the cellular level. When I look up into the night sky, there is communication going on between my cells and the blue light of Sirius, the red of Mars…and the weed stalks rattling near my feet.

The Dragon in the Rock

There is a place on the trail where two sandstone boulders have been sitting on a ridge for god knows how long. One of them resembles a dragon. Dragons, in both eastern and western traditions, are energy incarnate. I have spent a lot of time sitting next to that dragon rock. At the foot of the rock, there is a great view of the Jemez range.

Lately, I've noticed that the tips of the pinyon branches all along the trail are turning rust-brown. This is probably from lack of water. Or black scale. We are in a drought. It is the result of climate change. The terrain is beginning to change because of the lack of rain, snow; rising temperatures. We barely have a winter anymore. It is heart-breaking to see the hillsides tinged with brown in early spring.

At the same time, from where I sit at the foot of the dragon, I see the looming triangle of the foothill Picacho to the south and the Jemez range to the west. It's always a stunner. And, as I sit here, one thought keeps coming back: at what point, ten thousand years ago or more, did human beings decide that they needed more than this? The need to accumulate, hoard; to make surplus for themselves and so deprivation for others; to destroy in order to stockpile. To claim one can step outside the web of energy, the interconnection between all things, reign over it, and create a world of "houses on the hill." What wounds in their hearts?

Jemez Range
The world has been wrecked. Things are going to get so much worse before they get better. And probably not in our lifetimes. But there are moments - sometimes brief, sometimes long - where I am stunned, possessed by a feeling of wellness, of being part of the living, breathing, beautiful and terrible web all around me, always in motion…and joy spirals through me.

However brief these moments are, they get me through. I wish you those moments, too.

Song of the Lover of the Dragon in the Rock:
A Praise-Chant

Shadow in the cupola at the top of the long horse-snout
where the left eye watches me; curious, fierce.

Every rock has a name the dead must learn to sing

Green crustose lichen tattooed across his side, where
feathers, flaps, and flags of desire once clung, now solidified.

Every rock was once a flame

Circle of orange-yellow lichen, mid-forehead. Third eye
follows the progress of four ravens in the valley below.

Every rock is a mouth keeping the silence before the name

Black wings, black bodies merge, separate. A continually changing
black hieroglyph: grass-sorrow, pinyon-laughter, heart-lightning…

Every rock is continually unravelling back to the place it was made

Wind through juniper, he rides flying snow-dust, escapes
this geo-spell for a few seconds, body equal to the sun.

The dead sing the names, but they don't know yours,
they don't know yours, will never know yours

(previously published in The Bitter Oleander)

Badlands, New Mexico

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