Monthly Archives: October 2015

She Called Me an Angel

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Our Victoria

Our Victoria

PR3–441

It’s Not Mysterious, It’s Gratitude

Well you know
If I were to put it into words
I would explain it like this:

I am grateful
So grateful
Maybe if I say why you will know

It’s not mysterious
It’s gratitude for this:
It wasn’t enough for God

(Aka The Powers That Be)
To inspire some feel-good sacrifice
That I would miraculously find charming

But my God! the Holy Chap
Goes way beyond that:
Because I have to say today to God

(In a personal way):
Oh Sweet Principle of Existence
You sure are making these lessons interesting

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,

There is the question of mortality. Is this the end?

Of course we can go to a notion of reincarnation.

Or we can say hey this is all we’ve got, and yet it’s possible to make it count.

Does the artist mourn when his painting is finished?

Or does he exult that it has something of eternity in it?

What brings me to this? A friend (denombre Victoria) has died. She was not for me a close friend. Really a friend for just one night, fourish years earlier. But as in this second sense (or some call it second sight) perhaps all is a microcosm and if one can see truth in one evening then one can extrapolate truth to every where.

And of course the whole thing is fraught with the issue of I myself may die. Indeed, my daughter in California on hearing of my recent health problems now wants me to hie my way to California where her trusted MD friend (and mine) can put my health under the microscope.

I mention this mainly to emphasize that I have reasons besides Victoria’s recent fate, to consider mortality.

And a wise person will then segue to what is this life all about anyway?

I can certainly say that the whole experience with Victoria has brought to mind these issues.

 

Victoria recently died of Pancreatic cancer in Panajachel Guatemala where I live. (As I have often mentioned to Gentle Readers).

And in the course of her dying many of her friends banded together in a sort of fellowship of support.

Most were her close friends.

I was not. In fact to tell the truth I had reason to believe that Victoria did not like me. That she judged me harshly.

But I am a Sufi, (in my fashion) and my dharma is important to me. But it is a dharma of the will of the heart, not of mere duty.

And for me the whole business with joining the group on Victoria’s behalf was healing. I believe too it was healing to Victoria to see a man she didn’t much like come out of the woodwork when she needed it, to cheerfully and carefully try to help.

MY task was to help keep her fed. (Having been a life-long practitioner of culinary arts) Especially with homemade yogurt, wheat-free cookies and cornbread made in a special way; she had so many dietary restrictions, and so little appetite. Also, having been a carpenter, I was handy with a bit of that, when it was needed.

~.~.~

The night I bonded with Victoria happened a couple of years earlier.

We were acquaintances, not really friends, though I had wanted to be that. And even once she’d stayed overnight in my casita above Lake Atitlan, when she’d wanted to see a movie in my collection, (I think it was Antonia’s Line, the academy award winning “feminist fairytale” movie from Holland.) and it was too late to go home as travel there was in boats and the last lanchas had passed, it being nightfall.

But the night I mentioned when I bonded with Victoria was a couple of years later when I was in Antigua (a three hour drive from Panajachel), hanging with a girlfriend who lived there, a Peruvian artist of the first rank (painter, sculptress, and poet).

And when I met Victoria in the street, we were close enough friends to decide to have lunch together. It was a difficult conversation; when I am feeling judged, I can be difficult. But we both seemingly peered over the precipice and decided to make peace. And sometimes, after that, one does find a deeper friendship.

I told her about Claudia, my painter girlfriend. I told her how we were breaking up; it was Claudia’s decision. But it was amicable and indeed I was staying at her house in Antigua, with plans to move back to my casita on Atitlan in a few days. And I raved to Victoria about Claudia’s paintings and sculptures.

Victoria, you must know was an artist and photographer herself, and expressed such interest, that I invited her to Claudia’s to meet her and to see her art, which Victoria then adored. And we all hit it off, and decided to have dinner out together that night. And while Victoria was in the bathroom, Claudia told me her opinion that Victoria was perfect for me.

But Claudia got jealous when at dinner, Victoria and I sang to each other most of the songs from the musical My Fair Lady. You see, I was a poor child and my family had only a few vinyl records for music, one being the soundtrack for My Fair Lady, and so I’d listened to it so much, the songs were all memorized. I have no idea how Victoria had come by such knowledge herself. But I have since heard from people in the group to help her while she was dying, that she loved to sing. And so we spent much of the evening in duets from the musical.

Now Claudia knew English, though not nearly as well as I knew Spanish. But even so, she felt left out as we sang together with such obvious gusto. And she waxed powerful jealous. And when we got home she changed her mind about breaking up, thinking I was soon to be hanging with Victoria when we both imminently returned to Panajachel.

Which was an intense relief to me, as Claudia was quite the catch. Out of my league really, but because of Victoria I had three more months of Claudia memories.

So, join me in my gratitude to Victoria, who that night saved my romantic ass. Which was at that time very important to me. I have since however been grateful for the transitory nature of that relation, as in looking back, I see how damaging it would have been to my poetry “career” had it been a permanent thing. Largely since Claudia took up so much space in my life, it was always me in service to her and her art. I even (with my knowledge of carpentry) was pivotal in how to make her life-size papier mache sculpture of a woman be able to free-stand without falling over. The secret to that was to embed short iron bars in the lower legs, giving them such weight, they hugged the floor. Kind of like a bottom-weighted helium-filled life-size doll. But I digress from my main point which is to explain my gratitude to Victoria. And even my gratitude for gratitude itself.

Gratitude.

An important thing in Sufism.

Just as an example, when things go sour or I am disappointed or gloomy, it cheers me right up to think of the intense good fortune I have to have been a witness to this wonderful drama we call life. An interactive witness. They talk about three dimensional chess, but this life is three dimensional art.

It’s hard to feel gloomy when you are so full of thanks.

And gratitude goes so much further than just what you must feel to avoid the stigma of ingratitude.

No.

Gratitude is a life jacket or in my case a hook I can fasten to my belt which has a winch at the other end, which pulls me out of a quicksand John Bunyan famously called the slough of despond.*

And even in the teeth (yes, seemingly teeth were involved) of Victoria’s later judgment of me, I held to that gratitude like an ancient mariner does his astrolabe. And it was actually an enjoyable challenge to shower Victoria with my love and concern as she was dying. I hope seeing the sincerity of that also touched Victoria’s heart, at the end. I think so, and there was a proof of it in a note she sent me three days before she died, in which she called me an angel.

I think that’s the true grail: the support of holy ground underfoot, the happiness to be found from impersonating an angel.

I will always remember Victoria for that.

This post is long in the tooth wordcount-wise. (Also, I hope, long in the truth)  The next post will include contributions from other members of Victoria’s support group.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell
P. S. Are you hip to synchronicity?** It’s a Karl Jung concept. (He was a famous apostate acolyte of Freud) I confess to being too much a dilettante to really know much about him, though I have many reasons to respect him as a first rate metaphysician. Anyway, he has a concept known as synchronicity. A manifestation of this is when you are thinking or in this case writing about something and suddenly it’s in your face. Like if you are thinking of the old (or youthful when he died) pharaoh, King Tut, and suddenly there is on PBS a special about the King Tut collection of artifacts in some famous New York museum. And suddenly there is a Saturday Night Live reprise of Steve Martin’s classic song and dance thing about King Tut. Or if you are thinking of an old photo of the mystic Meher Baba when he visited Hollywood and the photo you’ve seen of him with Mary Pickford on a movie lot in Hollywood, circa 1933. And suddenly on the classic movie channel is a Mary Pickford retrospective. You get my drift. I’ve always been fascinated by this and have seen it in action countless times. I’ve never understood whether it was that my mind, once having thought of a thing, has suddenly rearranged the universe to bring forth a relevant reference from out of the blue. Or if it was that I was clairvoyant and saw it coming. The latter makes me seem less powerful and so is probably more likely. But in either case or in any case, it’s a fascinating concept.

But what does this have to do with Victoria? Well, tonight, just a day after having written about the above incident of me and Victoria singing to each other songs from a musical, I am watching Charley Rose interview Steve Martin (who it turns out is also a master banjo player) and his new musical sidekick Edie Brickell, and they are talking about how their Bluegrassish collaboration has resulted in their imminent Broadway musical, Bright Star, no doubt a reference to this famous John Keats poem:

“Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art”

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

And here is a musical example, featured at the end of the interview:

And of course this song is fascinating, due to it’s love theme. Have you noticed? Love has a universal charm. Always has and always will. And this of course cannot be explained by science, or evolution, except as a proof of the existence of God, the Personification of love.

Post script de Nuevo:
Okay, I just finished this, and would have posted it, but my internet is suddenly out. And so I decided to watch television. (It’s 10:38 here in Panajchel).

So I am channel browsing, and there on Jimmy Fallon, is Steve Martin with banjo in tow, and Edie Brickell too, and their band behind.

Incroyable. (As they don’t say here–it’s more of a French thing)

 

*For a reference check:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slough_of_Despond

**For a quick primer on the concept, I refer you to wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synchronicity

The Kaleidoscope of Her Candlelit Eyes

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Laura Archera and Aldous Huxley

Laura Archera and Aldous Huxley

(Published in wordcatalyst, a now defunct literary journal)
PR–490

The Kaleidoscope of Your Candlelit Eyes

(To Susan)

“One shade the more one ray the less
Had half impaired the nameless grace ”
–Lord Byron (She Walks in Beauty)

As if your beauty
Hangs on the photographer’s art
The good lighting

Instead and no
Rather she (you) transforms
The view

Since inherent bright
Gives its own light seizes
The camera says imperiously

Thus!

Hence blessed memory of that night
When those stars were in your hair
Though not alas your eyes

And mine?
They mined yours for
The translucent tumbling

Humbling dice
Of the kaleidoscope
Of your candlelit eyes

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Invocation:

“Towards the one, the perfection of love, harmony and beauty, the only being, united with all the illuminated souls who form the embodiment of the master, the spirit of guidance.”

~.~.~

Hazrat Inayat Khan’s Prescribed Daily Mantra:
“My thoughtful self: Reproach no one. Bear malice towards no one. Hold a grudge against no one. Be wise, tolerant, considerate, polite, and kind to all.”

~.~.~

Gentle Readers,
Well, since this is the third installment of a three part post, on to ancillary Aldous Huxley themes.

Because my having read most of Huxley’s novels, and him buying my aunt’s house, (and dying there) was not the end of my Huxley connection. The rest of my tale though is so indirect I fear it is anticlimactic. (Sometime that’s the trouble when writers go in strict chronological order)

It’s indirect because it’s no longer about Aldous, per se, since we now segue to his wife and my life.

You must know that his second (and last) wife was Laura Archera Huxley, the educator, and author of You Are Not the Target.

I learned in my research for the last post, that she famously administered LSD to Huxley on his deathbed. (In my Aunt’s house!) At his request, of course; toward his last days, he got fascinated with the possible mystic realizations under LSD and mescaline etc. He even wrote a book based on that, called The Doors of Perception.

My connection to Ms Huxley was also quite indirect, in that it amounted to my becoming romantically involved with someone who had been a friend of hers. And who had been to the fabulous Spanish (Monterrey) mini-mansion I had talked about two posts ago. I got to visit two weeks a year in my boyhood.

And so join me in my house worship, which became a symbol of if not liberation from a challenging childhood in the orphanage, at least a glimpse that there were other realities in the world, and highly cherished cheery ones too!

For background on that, here is the url:

https://rumi-nations.com/2015/08/14/the-power-of-symbols-they-resound-like-cymbals/

This makes for an interesting story, and so here goes:

My dear friend Gail,*who died last year, initiated a connection between me and this woman, named Susan,**who was my long distance girlfriend (me in Guatemala, she in California) for three years, up in fact until about four years ago.

You must know that Gail was a trance medium. She made much of her living giving “readings” from a spirit she said was self-identified as “Miraflores,” (Not sure of the connection but in Spanish that means, “Look at flowers.”) But, for short, she was always referred to as “Mira.” To facilitate this communication, Gail would enter a trance state, and by and by this spirit would start to talk, (in a completely different way of speaking than Gail had) and would answer questions whether about the client’s personal life, professional life, or (this was the spirit’s preference) spiritual life, one’s relation to “God.”

Well, there came an occasion when this Susan was told by Mira, that the “Dear One” (Mira’s name for Gail) had a friend, a poet, (moi) who lived in Guatemala. And Susan would benefit if she commenced exchanging poems with me.

Well, while Susan was an excellent poet, (but not prolific) soon she ran out of material, and we pretty much just became pen pals, exchanging photos and then talking on the phone. Finally it was agreed that Susan would use her upcoming two weeks vacation to visit me in Guatemala.

And now comes in the Huxley connection.

During the taxi ride from the airport to Antigua, where I lived at the time, the conversation mysteriously got to me talking about the wonders of Aunt Edel’s house, and how she’d sold it to Aldous Huxley, who died there. (As I mentioned in the last post).

Susan listened quietly and finally said, “I’ve been there.”

Turned out she’d been a friend of Laura Archera Huxley. They both were working together on some education project. (At least twenty years after Aldous’ death; Laura was much younger)

Susan said she’d visited her in that house many times.

Yup. It’s a small world. Of course that’s scarcely odd considering the mystical considerations . . .

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

P. S. Before leaving the Aldous Huxley theme, Did you guys know that Huxley was just one of an impressive family? Aldous’ brother, Sir Julian Huxley was a biologist. And his famous grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley was a zoologist, as well as Britain’s foremost exponent of Darwin’s new theory of evolution. (circa 1875ish)

Aldous had several other siblings who had achieved a first rank of notice in academic journals, etc. Though I think Aldous was the lone literary figure in the family. I find it (incidentally) interesting when families have so many accomplished (even hasta famous) members. Take acting, for instance. Witness Henry Fonda and Jane. And, famously, Lionel and John and Ethel Barrymore.

Or how ‘bout them Huston folk? I refer to John Huston (the director and screenwriter of Bogart’s classic, Treasure of the Sierra Madre), who Wikipedia says “directed both his father, Walter Huston, and daughter, Anjelica Huston, to Oscar wins in different films.” Of course Walter, his father, won it for Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

It also mentions that John, in addition to his directing “wrote the screenplays for most of the 37 feature films he directed, many of which are today considered classics: The Maltese Falcon (1941), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Key Largo (1948), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The African Queen (1951), Moulin Rouge (1952), The Misfits (1961), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975).”

Or how about the musical Bachs? According to this interesting online article (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ba-Be/Bach-Johann-Sebastian.html) Johann Sebastian Bach came from seven generations with a musician in the family. And of course they mentioned that four of his sons were noted composers (e. g. Karl Philip Emmanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach)

Or even the father and son Buckleys who both died tragically young but left behind evidence of musical genius. Witness Jeff’s haunting rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

Which can be heard here:

 
 

*I wrote about Gail in the blog post of October 20, 2014. This was a bit of a panygyric to Gail, when she died. It was titled, “My Heart Comes Out to Hurt When the Chips Are Down.” Here’s the link:

https://rumi-nations.com/2014/10/20/my-heart-comes-out-to-hurt-when-the-chips-are-down/

**This Susan was I think out of my league, and it was a miracle we lasted three years (on and off, since I lived in Guatemala, and she in California).
But I really fell for her. See the poem above which I wrote when I could see the handwriting on the wall.