Tag Archives: Guatemala

“I Too, Would Like to Weep”

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My Painting of Meher Baba

A Grudging Little Miracle

In Guatemala the water stops a lot
So it was foolishness baking bread
With no water to wash off my sticky fingers

So there I was with my hands
Fresh from the masa
Looking at the water faucet

Fully open but nary a drip
I had a choice of whine or risa:
I just laughed and an instant later

The water started again but only a trickle
Barely sufficient to clean my hands
And then it stopped again

It was a grudging little miracle
But instructive: We get what we need
(With the right attitude)

~.~.~

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 Reader,
(A rewrite reprise from 2013)

I will call you that, perhaps because (apart from apropos) Gentle Reader was the name of the (now defunct) magazine in England where my first published poem appeared. (See above)

Today I saw on You Tube a very short video of Kurt Vonnegutt’s advice to writers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmVcIhnvSx8). A key suggestion/point was to get to the reader as much information as soon as possible. So I start the blog rolling with this short bio that appeared in Umbrella, alongside my poem:

(http://www.umbrellajournal.com/fall2009/science/LikePicassoWhoNeverHadtoP.html)

Eric Halliwell has spent many years as student, carpenter, flunked-out nursing student (thereby hangs a tale) and then a first grade school teacher.

Through a tragic romantic misadventure he ended up in Guatemala where he lives on Lake Atitlan, writing poetry. It keeps him off the streets, or, rather, since there are no streets where he lives, off a dirt trail above the lake.

So that’s how I got to Guatemala, on Lake Atitlan, and the peace here seems to have facilitated a late blooming life-of-the-poet trip. In fact, I was just online and found an article (http://travel.yahoo.com/ideas/10-most-sacred-spots-on-earth.html?page=9) including Lake Atitlan on a list of ten most sacred spots on the planet. (I like that they use “sacred” as if it were objective fact. Because it is)

As you now see, my view is skewed toward the “sacred.” And as you might expect, my poetry is from a metaphysical, para precisar, Sufi perspective.

Yes, I was in a Sufi order in Walnut Creek, California for seven years. This order was founded by Hazrat Inayat Khan, who died circa 1927. I will no doubt regularly regale you, my readers, with some favorite inspirations (quotes and stories) of his. Indeed I start each new post with both his invocation, and suggested daily mantra (see above)

I trust you will enjoy as much as I have, his lucid common sense and inspired ecumenical focus on what is, after all, the science of happiness.

So it’s no surprise that my poems have a Sufi (read very broad-based) theme. I’m not sure how familiar my readers may be with Sufism, which is best known by the writings of Sufi ecstatic poets such as Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, Saadi, Farīd ud-Dīn Attar, Ibn Arabi, and Omar Khayyam (he of the Rubaiyat) .

I started out in Guatemala, hitching my wagon**to art (drawing, painting). But within a year, having read a book of poetry, Love Letters from God, by Daniel Ladinsky, I was inspired to try my hand at my own “ecstatic” poetry. It was ecstatic for sure in one sense: my intense happiness and gratitude to be given this sudden gift of a compulsion to listen to sweet stuff pouring out from my heart, and write it down and even presume to call it poetry. My touchstone for that is if it touches the heart. And we know that by the metaphor that we find in our salty tears, small miracles which are a microcosm of the ocean. We know by these small miracles when we’ve written a poem from the heart. And these small miracles keep coming regularly, like the lanchas on lake Atitlan.

Indeed the first poem I got published, (see above) dealt with such “small” miracles. (FYI that really happened)

In future/upcoming blog posts, I will muse (as it were) about metaphysical themes, about poetry writing, particularly proselytizing the art form, art in general, favorite heart stuff. The wonderful thing about Sufism is it has relevance to every interest. You know it doesn’t matter what pebbles you install in your kaleidoscope. So they be of translucent colors and you see to a light source.

As my late Grandma Dorothy used to say at bed time, “See you anonymous!”
God be with you,

Eric Halliwell

PS—In the original version of this post I was speaking of weeping, and though I seem to have edited that out, still this is worth mentioning: I am reminded of something from Jean Adriel’s memoir of Meher Baba **(Avatar). When she told her friend Princess Norina Matchabelli (yes of the perfume prince) that there was a holy man in the vicinity, and upon meeting him people would invariably weep. And Ms Matchabelli memorably replied, “I too, would like to weep.”

*Full disclosure: Ralph Waldo Emerson reference (“Hitch your wagon to a star”)
** Meher Baba, the silent Mystic, was co-founder (along with Hazrat Inayat Khan) of my erst Sufi order in Walnut Creek, CA (Sufism Reoriented) for a summary of the life of Meher Baba see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meher_Baba. For Hazrat Inayat Khan see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inayat_Khan

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!”