It was supposed to be a trip to Florida to begin cleaning out my mother's house in preparation for selling it later this year. The trip had been planned for weeks, everything was in place, but then at virtually the last minute, some shift of awareness occurred which told both Wendy & myself that we needed to change our plans and journey north, up the California coast, and into Oregon, where neither of us had ever been. At first, we fought that decision, for on some level it seemed almost irresponsible, and yet at the same time it was as if we both knew the time had come to actually do the journey we had talked about for years. Florida would have to wait.
It's no secret to those who have been reading at The Sorcerer's World for awhile that we have had a lot on our plates of late - our usual business of the renaissance faires, and the opening of our store this past September. There has been little time for personal exploration and spiritual matters, and so we began looking at the journey as a sort of vacation. In the back of our minds, unspoken, was also the awareness that we have been in the desert now for over 14 years, and there are aspects of that which have become tedious & difficult - mainly the summer heat and, more recently, the influx of meth junkies who view the desert as a place to hide from the law.
Secretly, silently, each of us had begun to wonder... Is it time for a change?
The first leg of the journey took us through Los Angeles. We talked animatedly about matters of spirit, the path, the type of philosophical conversations normally reserved for long drives when two people are trapped together in a moving vehicle. By mid afternoon, we were north of Santa Barbara and moving over to the Coast Highway which hugs the jagged coastline. By dusk, we pulled into an overlook near Moonstone Beach. The conversation had turned darker, more serious. Somewhere along the way, someone had asked the question: "Are you happy with what we're doing?" and the answers each of us gave were not surprising, but nonetheless unsettling.
Standing on a high cliff looking out over an angry sea that crashed up on jagged rock formations several hundred yards from shore, we had to admit to one another and to ourselves that while we are satisfied with our choices on one level, neither of us was particularly "happy" on any level. Was it too much pressure & financial responsibility? we wondered. Was it the fact that the store is not really holding its own despite the fact that everyone who comes through the doors tells us how much they love it? Had our ordinary lives become a convenient series of habits rather than an ongoing trek into worlds of wonder?
The crack between the worlds stood open - that moment right at dusk when there is almost a flash or a flutter in the light - something that says the earth is shifting her awareness, too. I watched it happen through the black branches of a tree hanging out over the dangerous cliff... and then it was simply night. Clouds had gathered far out to sea, and the winds scratching at the sand were fierce and cold.
For that single moment, I just wanted to stay there forever. A place alongside the road, a place that had no name, a place where no one knew my whereabouts, where cell phones did not function, where the only thing I had to concern myself with was the serenity of that moment and the survival of the next.
"Be-ing," Orlando's voice whispered in my ear as a stray leaf blown from some shivering tree caught in my hair, fluttering. "Just breathing. Just be-ing."
As night took over the world, we drove a short distance to the beach, and walked the shore in opposite directions, gathering tiny fragments of moonstone which glittered in my hand like splinters of some shiny, shattered world...
I found myself feeling irritated that one of the most beautiful legs of the journey was occurring in the pitch-black of night, traveling along a road that was neither straight nor particularly safe. Before nightfall, we had begun the climb up the coastal mountains which parallel the shore, and at times we could hear the sea crashing up on the rocks far below the severely winding road. I wanted to see it all, I thought as the car moved through the darkness. For once, I didn't want to have to imagine what the tall trees around us might look like, didn't want to have to envision how the sea spray looked as it pelted the craggy shoreline, didn't want to be in such a hurry to be somewhere else that I could not enjoy simply be-ing where I was.
And yet... that was how it felt. My irritation irritated Wendy. So we drove in silence. On the Coast Highway, there are no hotels or business establishments of any sort once one goes beyond a certain point, so we couldn't even stop for the night and continue the journey in the morning. A part of me wanted to laugh, but another part felt strangely angry. This was not the journey I wanted to take, and so by the time we reached Big Sur, there was a feeling of tension and annoyance in the car - two unwanted hitchhikers who had joined us somewhere along the way.
One hears a lot about Big Sur, but I can tell you nothing about it, except that we stopped at a restaurant/hotel that seemed to have no entrance despite the fact that people were inside dining in a room which boasted, "Oceanview service." What I found interesting was that I did not like the psychic feel at Big Sur, though at the time I was writing it off as my own irritation. We walked around the hotel grounds for awhile, looking for an office or some form of lobby, but never found it. The sensation was eerie, almost like a Twilight Zone episode, where one abruptly realizes that the patrons inside the cozy restaurant with its massive fireplace are actually in the world of the living, whereas those wandering about in the dark, unable to find the door, are victims of their own car crash several miles back, just the dead walking along that cold and foreboding foggy road forever. The only thing missing was creepy music.
Though Wendy wanted to stay (if only we could have found the entrance), I found myself getting back in the car with a feeling that I simply did not want to be there. Though I could not see it, the forest pressed too close - cold and wet and angry with the world of man somehow. I could not pinpoint the feeling, only that I did not feel welcome and that was fine with me. I have learned over the years not to argue with those little voices, but to listen.
After another few minutes of searching, Wendy gave up and returned to the car as well, and we drove further into the night along a coastline we could not see. Pink Floyd had lost their magick. Enya was a grating whine. My skin was on wrong. I was not happy.
Perhaps an hour later, we emerged into Carmel, where we were able to find a hotel that had a door and even a restaurant across the street. As we sat in the coffee shop waiting for our order, one of the waitresses (not even our own server) came over to our table and struck up a conversation which was, in hindsight, both amusing and strangely suspect. Almost immediately, knowing nothing about us, she began talking about her psychic/spiritual experiences, hauntings along the coast leading toward Monterey, and experiences she had had as a result of living in the area for a long time. Remember... we had said nothing. For all she knew we were stock brokers or accountants. And yet...
It was then that she began talking about Big Sur. "I don't like it up there," she said with a dramatic shudder and a warm laugh. "I don't know the whole story, but somewhere in the past the land was cursed by one of the Native American leaders."
I looked at this woman and had to smile, for I knew then what I had been feeling up there in the mountainous forest. It was a validation on some level that my perceptions weren't "only" the result of a long & tiring journey, but that I was actually picking up on something left behind from some other time. The waitress talked throughout our dinner, exchanging tales of power, anecdotes of mystery and imagination. It occurred to me that I don't normally believe in curses or the like, but in the case of Big Sur, I was willing to make an exception.
Later, it was validated to me again by a separate individual that the land had allegedly been cursed. What amused me most of all, was the fact that those patrons in the restaurant on the top of that mountain apparently either could not feel that energy, or had become so accustomed to it that it no longer affected them. I wondered fleetingly which was best - to feel the power of that long-ago curse, or to be blissfully oblivious to it while sipping red wine by a fireplace.
What I do know is that I have encountered areas with that type of energy elsewhere - rare, but not unheard of. In an old tv series, Twin Peaks, David Lynch referred to it as "The Black Lodge" - an area in which all sorts of dark elemental energies seem to come together to create a sentience. Sure, it's just a legend, a forgotten tv show, but I couldn't help thinking of it as I lay in bed that night in our hotel room in Carmel. The Black Lodge was out there. I had no fear of it, for I understood wholly that it was neither personal nor even particularly understandable. It simply was what it was - an address somewhere in the nagual. Maybe what surprised me was that I had sensed it at all. In so many ways, Wendy is normally even more sensitive to earth energies than I am, yet she had felt nothing foreboding up there, even though I was looking around for Rod Serling.
The following morning we headed up the coast, where we spent a couple of days with one of Wendy's old friends from high school. Somehow, that never ceases to amaze and amuse me. I barely remember the name of my high school, let alone what friends I may have had back then. It seems so far and long away, an ancient script written in Sanskrit on the surface of water. A lost chapter in a book long ago burned.
Throughout the time we spent at the friend's house, I continued to feel restless and displaced despite the fact that our hostess was gracious, kind and even involved in her own spiritual pursuits. Something seemed to be pulling me - a sensation with which I have become familiar over the past several months, yet it is a pull I have not been able to identify - that same feeling of always rushing to be Some Where Else, never having the time to simply Be where I Am. We walked among the redwoods that day - massive giants who have stood sentinel over the land for over a thousand years, yet even in the comforting embrace of that indescribable evergreen womb, there was a sense that I did not belong here either, that I was nothing more than a set of eyes and arms and legs recording the experience for... what?
I am well familiar with a warrior's detachment, but this went far beyond even that. I simply did not belong. Neither to the desert which we had left behind, nor to the sea along which we had been traveling, nor to the forest all around me, nor to the river rushing wildly nearby. I wanted to feel sad, but even the sadness would have been a human experience. At that moment, I did not feel human or inhuman. There was the same desire I had felt back on the overlook near Moonstone Beach - a desire to simply remain there forever, lose myself in the forest, and survive on wild mushrooms and blackberries... but even as I was fantasizing a vision that would always be far better in imagination than reality, we were walking back in the direction of the car, because there were places to go and people to see and things to do...
The time at the friend's house came to an end, and on the morning of the third day, we headed back out onto the highway again, up the coast, and eventually into southern Oregon. Almost immediately upon crossing the border out of California, I felt what I can only describe as a lightening, a lifting of some burden. Time seemed to move slower, or I was moving more slowly through time. Either way, I liked the sensation, and yet...
The day was magickal. Near Bandon, we walked along a shoreline that would have been quite at home in the legends of Barnabas Collins. A foggy world captured in an embrace of cold mist and fierce winds. A storm was coming in. The kind of storm I have always craved. Again I wanted to stay, to lose myself in that storm forever, to breathe in the mystery of it until it permeated me and absorbed me and claimed me as its lover.
And yet... night was coming quickly. Time to go. Always time to go, time to be Some Where Else. Time to go. Time to do. Time. Time. Time.
Inside the rental car, the window fogged and bled as I gazed out into the thickening dusk. A strange thought occurred to me again. This was not the journey I had wanted to take. The answers I had come seeking were reluctant to reveal themselves. The same frustration & restlessness I had felt in the desert had followed me over a thousand miles away... and though I am wholly aware that any other outcome would have been impossible, there was a part of me that had hoped to somehow "get away" from it all, even if only for a few days.
And yet... It rode along in the seat next to me like a phantom fungus, a part of me I wanted no part of.
That night, we found a cheap motel somewhere on the outskirts of Coos Bay, turned in early, and unbeknownst to one another... neither of us were able to sleep.
It was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 a.m. that Wendy propped herself up in her bed, peered across the darkness toward where I was resting, and said, "I can't sleep."
When are you happy? Orlando had asked. And as is typical of him, it was no idle question. Nor was it a question that could be answered with words. It could only be experienced in the do-ing and in the not-doing. It could only be experienced in the be-ing of the thing itself. It was not a process, but an instantaneous change brought on by will. It could not be revealed by ritual or recapitulation or any other method known to man. It could only be experienced through surrender.
Sounds simple, perhaps. Sounds silly. And yet... it was the only thing that was real. So what was this thing?
Trying to put it into language will diminish it, but it was simply this: the movement of the assemblage point from the self of everyday life into the evolved self which is the double. It was the crossroads where the double and the ordinary self meet, pass by one another for an instant, and then come together in a manner that reveals to the mortal self that one's true authentic identity is in the wholeness of the double, but that it is a wholeness which can be experienced right here, right Now. And it was the crossroads that further reveals to the double (as if he doesn't already know) where the mortal self is, and defines the process of what I can only call "surrender to the infinite." Not a surrender which is a defeat, but the surrender which is the ultimate victory - the releasing of roles and identities we cling to as part of our inventory, in order to move into the ubiquitous awareness and unconditional love which is the assemblage point of the double. Indeed, it is what has been referred to as "the super-position of the assemblage point" - that imaginary "point" on the map of Everything, that point which is everywhere and nowhere simultaneously, and therefore represents the limitless choices (truly limitless) available to the sorcerer/warrior who is able to surrender to that aspect of herself which is infinite.
Words. Like rattling bones. Webs in which we find ourselves tangled.
In the big picture, I feel I have learned a lesson I already knew, but tend to forget when life and all its silly folly creeps too close. Dorothy had the ruby slippers all along. What we seek is not in front of us or behind us, but within us - yet it is in the process of learning to inhabit that assemblage point that we create it in the first place.
"You have to be immortal before you will know how to become immortal." We have to experience our infinite self before we will know how to create it - and yet the experience is the act of creation, and the experience can only be gotten through the will to surrender.
So what does it mean? Everything. Nothing. Whatever I want it to mean. What it really comes down to is that both Wendy and I were given a new tool which is actually just an old tool refurbished. By shifting the assemblage point from the ordinary self who dwells in a world of folly and funny shenanigans, and into the double who dwells in the infinite, we are able to literally know and experience an awareness that is no longer weighted down by all the distractions and diversions of the consensual reality. And it is from that assemblage point that we experience our authenticity and the power to maintain it even in a world of folly and phantoms.