Tag Archives: Guatemala

Water Has a Good Attitude

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Lud Dimpfl’s Sufi Mureeds (Initiated 1973)

New Start–171

Something From the North Star

“Spring is like a perhaps hand . . .”
–E. E. Cummings

I keep telling myself
Be like flowing water easily
Engulfing even boulders in its path

Or in another guise as perhaps glaciers
With their little known habitat of flowing too
Like slow tears

Which also abrade a channel
Taking something from the North Star
And heading south to an eternal spring

~.~.~

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,
Here where I live in Guatemala (para precisar, Panajachel*) the electricity is out again. It’s lately been a too frequent thing. But I philosophize saying well there is a price for everything. And I do have a wonderful apartment surrounded by a beautiful garden with roses other suchlike flowers and a persimmon tree, lawn you could play croquet on, etc. all for $350 a month. But lately electricity has occasionally been a problem. The scuttlebutt is that it gets shut down for repairs to the lines. And so there is if so hope for the future. And it only has happened say three times in three months, and it only lasts a day at a time, usually back on for the evening thus not interfering with my free cable tv (comes with the rent) and the classic movie channel, etc.

And nuisances like this do train me to be like water which simply flows around a jutting rock in the stream (water has a good attitude). And too it does break my internet habit a bit.

But it was out again last night and I had to make do (for illumination) with candles and a fire in my fireplace. (Yup, have that too) And my computer batteries allowed me to view movies from my impressive dvd collection (to pass the time). I saw Tender Mercies in which Robert Duvall showed he could sing, playing the role of a (for alcoholism) washed up erst famous country music singer a la Loretta Lynn or Emmy Lou Harris. And the night being still young, I also saw the Clint Eastwood movie, “Unforgiven.” It got a lot of Oscars as I recall.

Tender Mercies was more “spiritual.” The title phrase referred to what the leading lady Duvall’s new wife, was grateful for, from God. Which though happy in the present was oddly contrasted with the fate of her first husband who had been killed in Vietnam. And we also see a young and sweet Ellen Barkin, as Duvall’s daughter from an earlier disaster marriage, who chose wrong (another alcoholic) and died in a car crash when her new husband was drunk driving. Which mightily upset Duvall, saying he was the one who should have died instead, being an alcoholic like her drunk driving husband.

Yes these things can look complicated. It does help to believe in reincarnation, a thing of importance in the brand of Sufism I was initiated into.**

Her second husband the one in the movie was as I say Robert Duvall who played a washed up and sloshed up alcoholic. But the Tender Mercies lady threw Duvall a rope and was the winch that then pulled him out of his quicksand of despond, giving him a job around the gas station she ran, with the proviso that he had to give up drinking. Which he did, falling in love with her hence doing it for the proverbial “some dame” of Guys and Dolls fame.

As for Unforgiven, it was an odd title considering that to forgive someone it’s likely necessary they ask for forgiveness or at least show some repentance, which was the farthest thing from the minds of this movie’s villains. But then I guess that justifies the title.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, if you look to the right you will see something titled my favorite quote, also from a Clint Eastwood movie (For a Fistful of Dollars): “Things always look different from higher up.”

Which Hazrat Inayat Khan (the founder of my Sufi order) often stressed as perhaps the most important Sufi truth. (rhymes with ruth***)

But back to Guatemala, the electricity is still out the day after, being Sunday, and the electricians not working on Sunday.

So I console myself with sunlight and chai and home made cookies. Thanks to my maid or really more like my all purposely useful butler person Adelina. (Yes I can afford that too, two days a week) relaxing in the garden reading Margaret Atwood’s (she of the Handmaid’s Tale) novel, “Cat’s Eye.” It’s about a lady painter. (Interesting story how she got there. As Shakespeare would say, “Thereby hangs a tale.”)

Not so much there in the way of tender mercies. As I say, this life stuff is complicated. But it makes for an interesting story that helps one grapple with pain and sorrow.****

And all I have to do is get to the bottom of my first rate frustration from a bout of electricity scarcity. (Life is best with a challenge)

This reminds me of an oft told story of my Murshida (denombre Ivy Duce) of her master, Meher Baba, who upon her complaining of the myriad disasters in her life*****held up his hand two fingers almost together saying “Can’t you take this much?”

I now refer you to the photo shown above of my Sufi class. Notice the sign on the wall, whose letters are too small to read from here. It’s an old Jewish proverb that says, “God forbid that we should ever have to bear all that we are capable of bearing.” I am the dark haired guy in the back row partially blocking out the white left door jamb. The man in front and center was Lud Dimpfl, my beloved preceptor. (We Sufis were divided up into smaller groups (300 Sufis being too much for Murshida Duce to juggle all at once). I was fortunate to have been in his class of thirtyish.

And then there’s the issue of premature judgment. For instance my hit-by-a-car episode at age 15. Compound fracture (bones splintered and open to the air) of tibia and fibula (the two calf bones) which though it resulted in a shorter left leg and nine months in a cast, yet kept me out of the war in Vietnam (better than bone spurs!)

I don’t know how hip you gentle folk are to the Vietnam War, but in my opinion I was thus saved from likely emerging either dead or hugely insane brought on by My Lai massacre sightings and such.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*Panajachel lies on the shore of world famous Lake Atitlan which I read in Yahoo travel was number nine in an article titled “The Ten Most Sacred Spots on the Planet.” In 1932 Aldous Huxley declared Aritlan as the second best lake in the world, losing out to Lake Como in Italy because “Atitlan was too much of a good thing.” Of course I bet they hadn’t cut down the trees then.
See
https://www.foxnews.com/travel/10-most-sacred-spots-on-earth
(I guess it was picked up by Yahoo)

**Founded circa 1920 by Hazrat Inayat Khan who while never addressing reincarnation directly, certainly connoted that given the long span of time perforce implied as the course of the development of spiritual awareness. Indeed, the order later was turned over by Inayat Khan’s chosen successor Murshida Martin, to a Parsi mystic named Meher Baba, who she said was the “Qutub” (Sufi lingo for the highest spiritual authority on the planet). And Meher Baba quite explicitly talked of reincarnation, describing how it worked.

***Ruth is an archaic word which means pity, compassion, remorse. Famously a line from Milton’s poem Lycidas, (alluded to in the famous Thomas Wolfe novel, “Look Homeward, Angel”) The line went, “Look homeward, angel, and melt with ruth.”

****Are you hip to the Kahlil Gibran book “The Prophet?” In it (just like in the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu) A holy man wants to go away, seeking solitude, but before he does is prevailed upon to address some pressing spiritual questions, among which was “Speak to us of pain and sorrow.” As I recall he said these things excavated a reservoir which would define our capacity for joy.

***** As told in Murshida Duce’s book, “How a Master Works.” In which the said “this much” referred to the true tale of the myriad “one damned thing after another” stories she related in the book.

It Makes Me Cry, Remembering Arden

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For Arden

PR–234

You Have To Believe

“…life was impossible like that, and that he must either
interpret life so that it would not present itself to him
as the evil jest of some devil, or shoot himself.”
–Leo Tolstoy (Anna Karenina)

There are caverns deep in the sun
Where people live on legends of earthlight:

To stay alive their hearts respond
To this perceived wholeness of things
And so they live in hope:

You have to believe
In what you would be dead without

~.~.~

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,
November 2 was Arden’s birthday. I sent her her annual happy birthday email:
Arden,
Happy birthday! As you probably have noticed, I seem to have this compulsion to remember you every November 7. Hopefully too, you have noticed that I am not otherwise intruding on your life, and so, not to worry if somebody remembers you and loves you. After all, it is flattering, verdad?
Un abrazo,
Eric
To which she replied, Eric, you are a gentleman with a big heart. Thank you for remembering and caring.
Fondly,
Arden.

I have since learned her email was sent about two weeks before she died.

And so, to honor the memory of Arden, I am dedicating my blog post for this November to her whose birthday is November 7.

I mean to do this by reprising the post from five years ago that talks about Arden, and how she fit into my life.

SO HERE IT IS

(Posted on July 8, 2013)

Gentle Reader,
What is romance, really? This perhaps is the central question.

(This is referring to events–circa 2000–discussed in just previous biographical posts, to explain how I ended up a metaphysical poet in Guatemala).

So, I sold my house and quit my job and then moved north to Ashland, Oregon, to be with my new love, Arden. I no longer had to spend half of my time 300 miles away fixing my house in California up to sell. And so I was now free to get dedicated to making a relationship work. Work being the operative word, as it turned out.*

But there were tragic flaws in the ointment. For one, I couldn’t get work as a teacher. (When I met Arden I was a first grade teacher). In Oregon they are so flush with teachers and for even a day of substitute teaching, you have to have a full fledged, active credential. (As opposed to California for instance where all you need is any type of bachelor’s degree and pass the Mickey Mouse CBEST exam) So the competition for full time teaching slots was intense. Unless of course, one could speak Spanish (for their army of Latino students). And thereby hangs a tale. (Have I mentioned yet how neatly events dovetail into destiny?)

But we were both sufficiently romantic (very much so) to try to fit hexagonal pegs into pentagonal holes. (So near, and yet so far! So close, but no cigar!)

So of course we were always fighting. And yet truly shocked when one or the other of us appeared to be giving up. And of course a lot of this if not all is quite personal–not just to me but to Arden, who would perhaps not be amused to have our issues publicly aired.

But I will mention one thing, which has been mentioned before, and so was opened the door.

I don’t think this is a common problem, but it sure was a lousy fit for us. Because as my Gentle Readers have no doubt noticed, I am a believer in “God.” In my conception of God, (The “Sufi” one–the most liberal in the world), it is far from a matter of priests and churches but rather exists in one’s own heart. But to Arden that was like dressing up my faery dolls in less controversial clothing. Since Arden on the other hand was not merely an atheist, but one who had no respect for those who believed in such obvious fairy tales. And (go figure) it turned out that respect was a sine qua non of a good romance.

In an earlier post ( https://rumi-nations.com/2013/05/06/the-unaccountable-opportunity-to-do-experiments-with-happiness-2/ ) I told about how that played out in Arden’s heart. As if it was always logic and science uber alles. What the depths of your soul cried out for was of secondary importance. Even, apparently, if it did undo the life is worth living part.

Oddly, there’s some stigma that often seems to attach to believers in God. At least, I personally have felt that pressure. You’d think that my history of stubborn atheism and only reluctantly and in desperate straits, coming to believe otherwise, would have vaccinated me from that, and even with atheists would have given my conversion some respectability.

But alas it was the bottom line of what I believed that mattered to Arden. Not my fig leaf of why. It was like she couldn’t respect anyone who could believe such a thing. I remember once she emphasized to me, “I don’t EVER want to hear any talk of your religion.”

But she ended creditably, when I then replied, “So the thing that’s closest to my heart, the consolation without which I might want to kill myself, this is something which you do not ever want to hear about?”

So of course she backed off that right away, because she has the best heart in the world. But I do think she then saw a revelatory glimpse of incompatibility.

So neither of us was happy. Both of us wanted things we felt were not negotiable, and which we were not getting.

And then along came my daughter, Mehera, who was in medical school and had just taken advantage herself of a generously funded vaccine study by Johns Hopkins medical school, for travelers’ diarrhea. The catch was you had to go to Guatemala. (Please don’t throw me in the briar patch!)

And it paid enough for a round trip plane ticket. And the little wheels in Arden’s and my mind set to turning over the idea of me going to a Spanish school in Antigua and me supposedly being such a quick study, I would soon be back knowing Spanish, and thus employed. (As if my unemployment were the biggest problem.**)

But for all Arden’s disdain for fairy tales she bought this one, that I would just be gone a little while and come back to a rosy employed future. By that I do not mean to imply that Arden was more materialistic than romantic. Indeed if I hadn’t had the usual pride etc. she probably would have cheerfully installed me as house husband (I can cook!)

But it was just the fairy tale we needed to get me out of Dodge. (Just before High Noon, I think)

We both could hardly see to wave good-bye at the airport (for the tears).

Three months later reality dawned and Arden had a new boyfriend. So I found myself in Guatemala, with a small carpenter’s pension and $50,000 from the sale of my house in California, enough to last til I could take early social security. And then live nicely, with two incomes, if only I could find an occupation of some sort, as Lady Bracknell would say.

And I found in Guatemala something so much better than smoking! (see the Importance of Being Earnest)

So, the Guatemala saga starts next week.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

PS The photo above is of a magazine rack for a bathroom door, I made it (Remember, I was a carpenter also.) for Arden out of a rare purple African wood. With the heart cutout. Purple Heart seemed appropriate. Because asi es el amor.

We were in the midst of a bad fight and it seemed medicinal to choose that moment to give Arden the gift I had made in secret. Immediately the fight was over with Arden hugging me saying no one had ever made her anything before. And I send thanks to Jill, Arden’s friend who arranged to get the rack back to me, now that Arden has gone.

*I still have an old answering machine I keep to be able to hear Arden’s voice again and saying how much she appreciated the level of hard work I was prepared to undertake trying to keep us together. I listen sparingly though. Because it makes me cry, remembering Arden had so much wanted someone to love. And to my knowledge never found it.

**Unemployment is or should be just an economic problem. In my case of course, having quit my job, and unable to teach in Oregon, it would have been a severe and daunting one but for Arden’s generosity. She felt since I had renounced my job to be with her it was her job to feed me, etc. Case in point, when she gave me a copy of her ATM card, I asked, “You want me to have access to your money?” (asked in an incredulous tone) and she replied, “NO. I want you to have access to THE money!”

Home Cooking

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Place Pigalle

Place Pigalle

 

PR4–425

Home Cooking

I was always afraid of something
And even after my youth’s epiphany
I’d look at my new reality
And sure it called like something pure
And it did smell of home it’s true

But I was afraid of it too
It was still as if I was told to die
And trust to some resurrection
But lately it’s just choices
Cut and dried choices

Choices between something obviously
Fraught with pain and angst
And something so good I can’t accept it
Why?
I guess

Because I don’t feel I deserve it
But I am trying to be able to
Say okay I do love home cooking
I do and yes
Yes thank You I will have a care

And just a little slice of that
Wonderful smelling pie
And I’ll just sit over there
With my pie
And cry

~.~.~

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–

First, to set the tone for today’s overarching metaphor, I suggest this from the wonderful singer, Judy Collins:

 

At last a new post!

Here’s how it came about:

But I must first ask you this, were you ever trying to take a nap but your foot was starting to cramp? And coincidentally just before that, you had a blog idea which had kept at your psyche?

Well, sometimes in my cosmology someone or something is trying to tell me something. Maybe in the Robert Frostian sense about walls (“Something there is that doesn’t like a wall”)

Or God knows why but just now I was wondering about my stalled blog post output. (Though not stalled poetry-writing wise, as my Facebook friends will attest)

And as I lay there, words just kept coming like a recurrent surf and somehow were aligned in a sort of why not try something off the top of your head configuration? Why not indeed since some possible opening words kept coming at me.

Let me give you an example. Which also segues into the theme of this post, another biographical musing.

I have been cooking all my life* but about twentyish years ago I decided to throw away the cook book. Sure, I would consult to make sure I had the right amount of baking powder to flour ratio, and such.

And maybe a bit about oven temperature. But maybe also because it freed up my creative juices, my improvisational acting skills**or such, but I suddenly really enjoyed cooking. For a while I could do no wrong. My specialty became breads and vegetarian soups. (The secret turned out to be to add high quality veggie bouillon cubes until it had a rich taste.)

My bread then I called “red bread” because I used so many steamed and squashed-flat (blender emulsified) beets, that it came out red. Or at least the dough did. Though it did tend to turn brown in the oven. But always with leftist twinges around the edges.

I even extrapolated this idea to an idea of a cookbook based on improvisational techniques whose specialty was using up whatever was handy in the refrigerator. I was either gong to title it “Fry by the Seat of Your Pants” or “Drive-By Cooking.”

People started saying I should open a restaurant. And I even got an idea of specializing in soups, salads, fresh bread and rolls, and desserts (I could make a mean apple pie, though most people raved more about my bread pudding.)

For instance when I lived in Antigua, the erst capital of Guatemala (before the terrible terremoto of 1789) about ten years ago, I had a friend, cierta Sharon, who would come over for lunch insisting on a bread pudding dessert. And in exchange, she would read and comment on about forty of my latest poems. (She had been a high school literature teacher).

Anyway the idea was I wouldn’t need waitresses because it was serve-yourself all you could eat (I was going to give it a fancy French pun for a name: “Place Pigout,” based of course on the famous Paris Street, Place Pigalle.)

See, I used to be a finish carpenter whose specialty was adding charm to a superficially funky situation. For instance reusing old used hard woods like the ripped-up dance floor in the being-remodeled old Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. I inherited it as a carpenter working on the remodeling, and used it to restore the let’s call it vintage old Bay Area house I later sold to enable me to move to Guatemala.

I figured I could do the same to an eyesore of a restaurant.

The idea was to rent a funky dump and transform it a la Cinderella, and have nice art prints on the walls, hanging plants, and soft romantic lighting. And keep costs down by only serving soup and a salad bar, and all the fresh bread you could eat. Dessert and wine of course was extra. But it was mostly serve yourself so I wouldn’t need any servers besides perhaps me and (If I got lucky) a girlfriend/wife kind of deal.

A chic but cheap romantic night out was what I figured.

But in the spirit of a favorite John Lennon quote, (“Life is what happens when you are making other plans”) I never got around to it, my theory as to the why of that being that’s because I would have been too successful and so would never have given it up to be a poet. That’s my story anyway and I’m sticking to it.

You could call that a failure I suppose, but life is funny that way. My old Sufi Murshida used to say, “Failure never let anybody down.”

In my case, for instance a succession of “failures” whether in romance or for instance having tried to become a nurse, had (like falling dominoes) the upshot of me escaping to Guatemala and devoting myself to my metaphysical poetry and blog posts. Indeed I wrote about this series of events in several of the missing blog posts. But as I keep saying, I have back-ups, at least as in word documents, and I am gradually reintroducing them.

So Gentlefolk, I have finally written a new original blog post (as opposed to reposting something from the past which was as I keep mentioning, unaccountably erased from my website).

After all, as faithful readers from the past almost three years know, I do often digress to situations from my life. Always of course with some set of Sufi themes involved.

God be with you,
Eric Halliwell

*When I was a child of four, (speaking of flour) I had a natural curiosity about cooking and I asked how muffins were made. No doubt it was mentioned about flour but from that I’d got it into my head that you put a flower in each space in the muffin tin and mirabile dictu! next morning it had segued into muffins.

**When I was a Walnut Creek Sufi in the seventies, we had a Sufi club of improvisational acting aficianados. Every month we would meet under the aegis of one of our Sufi members, who was a professional all-around theater person. (These Sufis, as befits our Sufi-section derived from Moinuddin Chishti–that is to say, those whose route to God went through the arts–featured a large percentage of artists, e. g. poets, singers, musicians, composers, dancers, actors and allied performing artists, painters, and even a puppeteer.)