Friday, September 30, 2011

We're all but frogs in a well

A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation given by Dr. Robert Svaboda titled "Spirituality or Psychosis?" (a subject near and dear to the hearts of many meditators and yoga practitioners) at a yoga centre in Toronto. Svaboda is a riveting and entertaining speaker and he told a story about a frog in a well which goes something like this...

There once was a frog who lived in the bottom of an abandoned well with a lot of other frogs happily going about their little frog lives. As days and nights passed the light coming in from the top of the well revealed to them all they needed to know about where they lived and who they were. When they looked up at the sky they recognized familiar changes. They saw the passage of the moon and stars, the sun and clouds; of night and day. Now and then branches blew into view sometimes bare, at other times decorated with blossoms or leaves, some of which would drop down into their abode and provide an exceptionally tasty treat, especially if accompanied by resident bugs.

Then, one day, a young boy discovered the well and being in need of a drink lowered the bucket and scooped up some water...and our little friend along with it.
The frogs gazing up from down below noticed an eclipse as the bucket filled the sky and then it passed. The old ones said this had only happened once or twice before in their lifetimes.
The little frog riding in the bucket on it's way up the well, gazed in awe as the hole, that was the sky, grew bigger and bigger until the sides of the bucket were only a slim rim around it. Then the sky grew dark and he closed his eyes in fright as it squeezed around him. He heard sounds he'd never in his life heard before, smelt smells other than mud and musty water and felt the pressure of the soft warmth around his body being withdrawn. When he opened his eyes he was surrounded by sky and all the things that it contained.

He came to live with the little boy for a time and from his vantage point in his custom decorated glass aquarium witnessed (though we all know the lifestyle of a typical pet frog) more of the world than he could ever have imagined. Until one day, thinking our little friend might be lonely for his past life, the boy went back to the well. He gently placed his now older and wiser friend into the bucket, lowered it down and released him back to his "hood".

The little frog's eyes took time to adjust to the dimness of the light. The sudden change left him a little disoriented so he sat there silently for a while.

"Hey, isn't that Ralphie?", said one frog to another.
"You know, the guy who disappeared one day."

For the first time in a long time he heard sounds in his own native tongue. And as his vision cleared, he saw that he was surrounded by others of his kind and though they stood back from him at a distance he was thrilled to see all their familiar froggy faces.

"Where were you dude?" asked one "We looked all over for you but when we couldn't find you we figured you'd been taken by a snake."

Our little friend began to excitedly tell them of his great adventure.

"Do you know that the sky is huge?" he said, spreading his forelegs out wider and wider.
Looking up at the tiny circle of light way above them they replied, "No way! Ummm mmm. It's not, it's small".
"And that there are places where there is no water at all. There are beings who don't hop...well, they can if they want to but it's usually just the younger ones that do; most of them don't want to. And, they have only 2 legs, not 4 though they have 2 other limbs that are sort of like legs but not really. And....", he spoke, barely taking time for a breath as he was bursting to tell them of all that there was "out there".
They listened silently while casting sideways, horrified glances at each other as it became unspokenly obvious to all of them that Ralphie had clearly lost his mind.

"No, no. It's all true. I swear," he protested as he was dragged away to a place where he could recover his sanity.
When he ceased to speak of: a sky that surrounded them, creatures that walked, dryness and the sensation of warmth and such; when he went about daily matters and sat in the muck looking up at the sky like the rest of them they knew he had been cured. But, he knew he was just playing the game while waiting for the bucket to return.

(The gist of the story is his, the elaborations are mine. My apologies to Dr. Svaboda for putting my spin on your story).

*     *     *
This weekend I'll be attending THE WAY OF THE TEACHER a workshop in Shamanism with Sharon Van Raalte. We'll be leaving CR (aka consensus reality) and riding the bucket into NOR (non-ordinary reality) which has me recalling this delightful tale.

I've also been recalling a talk by a lovely animation instructor called TOM (sorry I don't remember his last name at the moment though I think it was Tom Halley) who had been an animator on the Beatles film THE YELLOW SUBMARINE (I was a student at the International Summer School of Animation at Sheridan from 1986 - 88) given to our first year class of animators.

He said that people are in awe of artists because we provide a sorely needed service for humanity. We can go "way out there and come back and bring the most amazing experiences with us to share with those who can't go venturing for themselves". He believed that we have the ability to show others a fuller spectrum of reality, broaden peoples' minds and in expanding their view of what is possible create the foundation for more possibility to manifest in the world around us. He was excited about the journeys we were about to embark upon as novice animators and story tellers.  He saw us as forerunners of possibility. "Many people are afraid to do what we have the ability to do", he said, "because they fear they won't come back or will come back maladjusted".

My unspoken responses to his comments were:
How much questionable substances he'd ingested during his work on the Beatles project?
Was he ingesting any now? As I'd never met someone with such a sense of childlike wonder nor had I been viewed with the awe that one reserves for astronauts and the like.
What the heck am I getting into?

But deep inside there was also a flicker of a feeling in my gut that he was absolutely right, which has been confirmed by my life experiences in CR and NOR since then.

These many years later, I have learned that all you have to do is remember:
  1. where you are at all times
  2. the rules of the game in each territory
  3. speak the language of each realm or else others will think you're nuts
And a weird thing is that now with the possibility that E doesn't = MC squared we could all just be blown out of the well.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thumbs up way to pass the time

© Nance Thacker 2011
click on image to enlarge
So, there I am sitting in the front office at my mechanic's garage with 1 hour to kill while ALF W gets a long overdue tune up. Oddly enough, I usually enjoy these visits as the selection of magazines has, in the past, always been almost as trashy as those found at my (or any) hairdresser's. These are rags that I wouldn't be caught dead reading in public but, when I'm tucked away in a corner in either place, I indulge in the guilty pleasure of surfing their pages.
However on this day they were nowhere to be found. A few measly SUN newspapers was all that littered the table beside me.
I scanned the room for something of interest and my gaze lit upon the photo of Henry and his wife cruising down the open road on his motorbike. I liked the smile on his face and her "thumbs up" gesture so I drew it. Not a great sketch, but an enjoyable way to pass an hour.
I liked the wheel clock on his wall, so I added it in the top right corner.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

This act will soon be obsolete!

I have this habit of noticing, and collecting, garbage when I go out on hikes in nature. I can't help myself.  The very idea of someone littering here (or even in the concrete jungle) I find is absolutely disgusting and disrespectful of the earth.

© Nance Thacker 1990
click on image to enlarge
However, this doesn't make me the most enjoyable hiking partner as, distracted from the beauty around me, I unself-consciously break into a full fledged rant or at the very least, emit a "tsk tsk" of disgust until I am brought back to my senses by: the sound of a passing bird, the whiff of a flower, the wind and sun's warmth upon my skin or the broader view of the glory in which I'm privileged to walk.

Sunday's "Just 4 2day B a Tourist Day" day was no different, except for the fact that all I collected during my 90 minute hike/picture taking venture was:
- 1 plastic take out coffee cup with lid
- 1 straw
- 1 piece of plastic about 3 inches long
- bits of labels
- 1 clump of rolled up plastic wrap
- 1 blue lid sans the plastic container it was meant for

Lovely litter-free babbling brook
at the base of the cliffs
With no garbage containers present I was astounded to see that everyone I encountered had a day pack with which to pack their "stuff" out! All the items, but for the plastic coffee cup and lid, were most likely unintentionally dropped along the way.

It left me with such a great sense of hope and pride in humanity to realize that, maybe even in my lifetime, picking up someone else's garbage will become an obsolete act.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Just 4 2day Be a Tourist

One thing I notice about travel is how amazed, delighted and appreciative I am of new experiences in new places. The first leg of our trip found me cycling the bike path that runs through Brockville ON and later diving repeatedly into the St Lawrence from the boardwalk breakwater pier. I felt so refreshed! How incredible this was! To top it off, Rod and I had brekkie at a local landmark that's been serving the town for over 100 years, the TAIT'S BAKERY & DELI. We drop in there every time we pass through. And to think that all this is just a stone's throw from downtown and our suite at the BROCKBERRY CAFE AND SUITES. How delightful!

Somewhere along the way I realized, you know there are some pretty cool things to do in your own backyard (hometown) but you don't notice cuz you're too busy doing whatever you have to do, or just being too busy to take the time to check it out.

Southern Ontarians are a hard working people who seem to take great pride in being stressed, that somehow this state of being validates our existence (I was born and raised here so I know whereof I speak). It's as if someone's giving out 5 gold stars to the first person who keels over with a heart attack. We buy into the belief that life has to be difficult, a struggle; that if we lift our noses up from the grindstone for one minute the world will fall apart. Maybe we're right. The world as we know it WILL fall apart because we'll discover so much more.

When I returned to live in Victoria BC, my plans for going to study yoga in India had fallen through and jobs were hard to come buy but, I'd squirrelled enough money away to see me through the summer. So, I decided to live in Victoria like a tourist because I'd noticed that once I "settle" into a place I explore it less and my life sets into a routine of well-worn pathways.

Yesterday morning I played tourist in Burlington. I decided to explore RATTLESNAKE POINT with my camera. I found a stairway down a cliff-face; I've never noticed this before but I've always wanted to see the cliffs from a different vantage point. Wish granted, I scrambled down to the bottom and found a perch from which to appreciatively view both amazed and delighted as the rock climbers did their thing. My sister and I did some indoor wall climbing this past spring, so I was especially happy to see it done out there in the natural setting on such a beautiful day.

Look really close at the last picture. See that tiny speck, yikes!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Up Periscope follow-up

In the blog post LMAO Up Periscope I left you watching the CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM clip on the car periscope. If you haven't read it already, read it now here; I'll wait...

Hmmmm.. hmmm....hmmmmm...

Ah, welcome back! I was about to continue explaining how this dreaming/waking life stuff interconnect until I got rudely interrupted by a bout of entusiasmo espanole; my apologies.

To summarize:
  • Rod and I, while driving on our first day of a 11 day trip, come up with the brilliant invention - the car periscope. 

  • 9 days later I record an apparently inconsequential dream but for the fact that Larry David & his manager Jeff appears. 

  • I become obsessed with trying to remember the title of the TV show in which they appear and am infected with a nasty case of ear worm as I recall its incredibly perky, catchy and viral theme song. 

  • I have a feeling that this will lead to something though I don't know what. 

  • 2 days after this, while holed up in a Marriott Hotel in Burlington VT waiting out hurricane Irene (now downgraded to a tropical storm) we are forced to watch satellite TV because the movie rental channel is on the fritz and 2 of our choices have been rejected. 

  • Rod watches a program that I'm not interested in, TRUE BLOOD so I read THE HELP. 

  • Program over,  Rod channel surfs and I hear the theme song to CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. 

  • A compulsion comes over me; we must watch the program. 

  • We've stumbled upon an episode about...THE CAR PERISCOPE.

  • Being in this synchronic experience as it unfolded was truly delightful. I was soooo uncontrollably thrilled that Rod wanted me to CURB MY ENTHUSIASM which I found near to impossible.

    On one hand this demonstrates for me how thin the veil is between the realities of sleep dreams, waking life and imagination/creativity. It allows me to think that anything is possible; I mean what were the odds that we'd invent something that someone else had made a TV episode about (no, neither of us had seen the episode before). Even if we had, we were supposed to be in Lake Placid that evening and, if things had played out as planned we wouldn't have spent our first night watching TV, that's for sure.

    If we look at the function of the car periscope, we see that it allows the navigator to see ahead and smoothly negotiate the driver around obstacles in order to get where they want to go. On another level, Rod and my car periscope stream of consciousness episode seemed to hint what was to come, that we would find ourselves in a situation where we would need to see ahead in order to make decisions as to how to proceed. In retrospect we can see many different things that the periscope was a metaphor for: the blackberry and other media we consulted in order to discern when to leave the cottage; the townspeople, highway patrolman, shopkeeper and information desk person who (also in the role of THE HELP) gave us warnings of road blocks and washed out roads ahead and suggested alternative routes for us to safely proceed.

    If I were to look at the whole experience as I've recounted as one dream, I would ask myself, "Does this feel like anything in my waking life now?" It resonates with the fact that I'm adjusting to new terrain and pathways forming in my life in the aftermath of Mom's passing. I'm trying to see "down the road". I'm also looking ahead to when Rod retires. Like many other wives I'm freaked out at the prospect, feeling a bit emotionally spun and stormy (= hurricane) trying to find direction (in my role as navigator) that works for both of us as we drive down the road together. At this time as the sand shifts beneath my feet, obstacles seem insurmountable and I wish I had a life periscope that would help me negotiate my "stormy weather".

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Buenas Noches Mis Amigos

    I made the 30 minute bike trek into downtown Oakville yesterday to meet 2 "council" friends for brekkie. We ate at Sunnyside Diner which, many moons ago, was once Anne's Cottage Shop, a restaurant where I did the prerequisite postgrad waitressing gig of every aspiring artist whose ever gotten their B. A. in Fine Art.

    Jan and I left Flo in a store looking for a scarf and walked down the road a bit before going our separate ways. Before splitting Janet mentioned that she had signed up to take Spanish; something that I have been wanting to do for years. I have maintained my poor skill level in the language and lack of advancement through sporadic bursts of self-taught efforts filled with: reading articles in Spanish, listening to TV programs, renting movies and playing them with Spanish subtitles ON or making use of the dubbed version.

    I was excited when I heard that the lessons are: reasonably priced, located nearby and scheduled at a time that fits nicely into my week. Yes, I was very excited until I heard where they are taking place; at the Seniours' Centre. AAAACCCCCCKKKK, mentally I was running, not walking, away screaming, "I'M TOO YOUNG TO BE A SENIOUR."

    Janet, sensitive soul that she is, could see the panic in my eyes. "The centre is for anyone 50 and older. Not everyone is 90. You'd be a "young" seniour."

    Too late! My mind had already propelled me forward to a time in which I was trapped in a room full of memory challenged individuals who couldn't remember what was said 5 minutes ago in English much less in another language; and this was my Spanish class. " Mmmm, I'll have to think about it," was my non-committal response before we parted.

    Before tackling the bike ride back, I stopped in at Starbucks to take a pee. It's one place I can slip into and out without making a purchase guilt-free as I'm virtually a coffee imbibing "regular" there.

    Business done, I knelt down to unlock my bike. And, as I did so, the question/consideration briefly breezed through my mind like a whisper in the wind, I wonder if I should take the course at the Seniours' Centre? And, at that very moment a family walked by speaking SPANISH.

    The universe has spoken.

    So, I'm now signed up to take Spanish at the Seniours' Centre. Wish me buena suerte!

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    LMAO Up Periscope!

    THURS AUG 18TH - Rod and I are heading out on our trip to the townships, Vermont and Lake Placid. We're chatting about the next car that I should get when ALF W bites the dust. It's weird I know but I find myself almost whispering in ALF's presence, anyway...

    The 403 was, as usual, busy that morning and from the low laying vantage point that ALF (a Ford Escort) provides, our range of vision was limited. How wonderful it would be to be sitting higher I commented. I have always loved trucks, in fact our Ford F150 had taken us on many a fantastic road trip and served the double duty of providing us with accommodation during inclement weather on those days we were either too tired or it was too wet to set up camp. Seen behind the wheel of the truck no one would guess that I'm a mere 4'10" as the clearance over the hood and steering wheel is great enough for me to appear as the confident driver that I am, whereas I sit so low in ALF that drivers behind me think the car's driving itself. To add further insult I appear to be a "low and slow" (meek little old driver)  since I got 2 speeding tickets in quick succession of each other a few years back I've been forced to observe the speed limit or risk a more hefty fine for the next offence (I like to drive fast and am a fiercely competitive go cart driver). To sit up higher or even view the traffic ahead from a better vantage point would feel empowering.

    Somehow as we're discussing the topic, Rod and I slip into stream of consciousness conversation and we invent the CAR PERISCOPE. How great would it be to have a periscope in the car that would enable you to see what's going on ahead. You'd be able to pick and choose your course knowing what's coming up. How cool would that would be! I got pretty darn enthusiastic about the idea as I'm always looking to come up with an invention that would land me a bundle, something simple - like velcro, post-it notes or even that damn stupid SNUGGIE. I mean how simple can you get. The kid made a bundle just because he was a couch potato who's arms got cold when he went to reach for his beer and chips, anyway...

    FRI AUG 26 - We're in Hindesburg VT at a cottage on Iroquois Lake and I record a dream in which Larry David and Jeff (his agent on his TV show) make an appearance. Upon waking and throughout the rest of the day, I find myself obsessed with the name of the show in which they star but can't for the life of me remember what it is. All day I'm afflicted with an ear worm as its theme song runs over and over in my head. I don't have my laptop with me and though Rod has his Blackberry, I don't want to resort to asking him to solve the puzzle. For some reason this obsession seems important; as if I'm supposed to figure it out myself. I think maybe I'll stumble upon the title in the paper, or on TV or hear it on the radio which seems likely as hurricane Irene is threatening to come our way and we're monitoring the situation every few hours to determine what to do next.

    SAT AUG 27 - I finally cave and ask Rod if he knows the title. He says he doesn't. I don't believe him; think he's taking delight in prolonging my agony and we leave it at that. Later, while eating dinner in AMERICAN FLATBREAD restaurant in Burlington VT (great pizza and microbrewery - try the blueberry beer) he recalls that it's called CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM. Riddle solved. Ear worm vanquished. Relief ensues!

    SUN AUG 28 - We leave the cottage on schedule as planned. In the beginning of a tropical storm (Hurricane Irene has been downgraded) - not planned. We are stranded in Burlington as no ferries are running across Lake Champlain. We take the first place we can which is the MARRIOTT in Burlington and spend the day reading in the lounge (My book of choice is THE HELP which I highly recommend and Rod's is VAGABONDING - An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-term World Travel which he finds so-so), nursing a glass of Malbec wine while occasionally glancing up at the big screen TV permanently set on the weather channel and its "on the spot" weather guy standing on the boardwalk somewhere in New York State monitoring the progress of a lifeguard station getting pummelled by the waves.

    Later that night, holed up in our room, we try, unsuccessfully, to rent a movie. The weather has messed with the signals. All that is left is satellite TV. Rod settles in to TRUE BLOOD which I can't make head or tail of. I'm driven deeper into my book for its duration. Next thing I know the theme song for CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM creeps into my consciousness. I corral Rod's channel surfing and get him to settle onto the show which is just starting. After my obsession with it I figure we might as well watch. We sit back and here's the episode that came up.

    No word of a lie!!!