I Came to Yosemite Because I Had To

The following post is excerpted from a journal I wrote while on a trip to Yosemite in April of 2013. The photos were taken then as well. I hope the writing conveys the incredible beauty and power of the spot.

I came to Yosemite because I had to; I was dying inside—I needed to visit my mother, Sierra Madre.

She did not disappoint. I thanked God when I entered his country in the rolling cow pastures of Route 140 E leading to the mountains.

red-buds-by-river

At every turn, as we passed the cows and quaint, decaying barns, my spirit orgasmed anew at each unfolding landscape. The thrusting force of spirits too grand but to respect, striating a wall of multi-colored mosaic rectangles—often forming facades that look like elaborate entryways to posh buildings … And then as we fronted the river, I was awed over and over by the ebullient profusion of “Red Buds,” the deep magenta blossoms of the trees that I had never before observed in bloom. I breathed in deeply, trying to contain my bounding spirit within my body. This was BLISS.

All of this as an accompaniment to the white-capped, gray, and very swift Merced River, the breadth of its imminent stateliness unignorable …

bridalveil-falls-1

I love being up here. It’s away from everything. We discovered that our cell phones don’t even work here! After a great day in Yosemite Valley, we came back to our room in the late afternoon and tried the outdoor pool and Jacuzzi. The pool was COLD (as in unheated). I and a couple of kids 7 or under were the only ones who could stay in longer than 30 seconds (that was just about their limit). I did a good number of laps and then went into the burning hot spa. Then I went back into the pool to do more laps, and then back to the spa again. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to swim in the beautiful mountain air, with the sound of a very full Merced River roaring close at hand.

bridalveil-falls-2

After breakfast at the lodge, we left for the Valley at about 9:00 a.m. As the weather report had predicted, it started to rain a few, big drops at the lodge before we left for our day’s adventures. Approaching the park, I tried to limit my landscape-gawking and picture-taking stops to 2 or 3. Even in the rain, I stuck my Canon Power Shot out the window, braving the raindrops on the lens, to try and capture just a hint of the glory of the Merced coursing its thunderous yet graceful path, white-tipped, past rocks and boulders in the gorge below.

fallen-log-w-forest-backgrd

Every feature of the surrounding roadside gave me spiritual ecstasy. I would say that I was on overload, but that would describe a state of excess or toxicity; this was more like bliss—like being reunited with everything I love, like coming home to the warm, loving bosom of my Sierra Madre, whose love is rapture, and who opens the souls and spirit to join with her beauty. Who heals above every other healer; whose truth, just in its very existence, is proof of the Great Spirit.

We arrived at Bridal Veil Falls at about 9:30 a.m. There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot near the glorified outhouses: a red sports car. The gently, yet persistent rain pelted us tenderly with wet, clammy kisses. I couldn’t help taking compulsive film clips of the water tumbling down from its 300-foot summit. With every few feet closer I approached, I felt the roar more loudly, and saw the mist shooting up more clearly as it smashed against the rocks below and vaporized.

Never had I seen the falls like this. The spring snowmelt is the most turgid and elemental event in the mountains.

Beauty here—reminding me of a spiritual experience I had at Multnomah Falls in Oregon’s Columbia River Valley on a walkabout I had made in my early 30s. Captivating, gentle, cultivated; a home for wood-nymphs and Native American girls with long, braided tresses, singing in the burbles of the stream. I felt their presence, though their voices melded with the soothing shushing of the water.

moss-by-river

We felt enclosed in a green sanctuary, safe, and invited to experience the beingness of the spot. The spirit sees as it feels, and the mind stops for a moment, as it hears that which does not speak. Wooed by the essence of love, every little drop, leaf, and branch became an expression of divinity.

We were the only ones approaching the crashing water. Even the ethereal mist that evolved from the chute seemed to speed downhill, caught up in the general thrust of the ponderous column’s momentum. We got as close to the base of the fall as we could, sprayed with heavy, wild mist that pelted harder than the rain. Looking up, I could see the gray and white rock-face, scarred on two sides of the fall with features cut into its surface. I saw two eyes, equally spaced around the waterfall: the great spirit of the falls had a face! New respect for its power was instilled in my soul.

leaf-on-ground close-up-of-bark

Things to Do While You’re Alive

 

Detail of a lamp I created for a festival called "Blooming Boxes" at Westmoor High School
Detail of a lamp I created for a festival called “Blooming Boxes” at Westmoor High School ©2014 Anne Campagnet-Reed

“I’m getting old,” I moaned to my 19 year-old daughter, attempting to share my state of self-pity and disillusionment, as part of a larger existential malaise. “Well, you’re not dead yet,” she said, with trenchant insight.

You know, looking at things from the perspective that you’re about to die really gives you clarity about what’s important. And then, when you realize that a lot of people really are close to death, and possibly really depressed about it, you realize that your moping and dejection are really foundationless. You look up at the sky, take in a deep breath, and realize, “Yes! There is so much more I can do!!” There is time to chase my rainbow, to right (at least some of) my wrongs, to move forward into joy and meaning.

I have been looking for my career to be my inspiration and my solace. When I lost my job, it seemed like my life was over. A part of it is. The social interactions I had every day are gone. I am nagged daily by the “need to make money,” that ugly little mosquito that constantly threatens a malarial bite. Its uglier big cousin, the “Need to Define Yourself by Your Job” is lurking even more menacingly, just out of visual range; a true vampire waiting for the nightfall of my self-esteem.

It’s time to turn on the lights, stand up, and tell the Boogey Man to go away. My daughter is right. I’m not dead at all, dammit, and I’m going to continue my quest to be enlightened and to do good. Maybe I’m not sure how, yet, but I have confidence that my path will come apparent.

This thought liberated my mind enough for some global reflection on society for the past 75 years or so:

It’s all about communication. Letterpress newspapers and telegrams have given way to e-magazines, tweets and text messages. Google Glass is showing us that you no longer need a keyboard to look up a person’s data; you just need to literally look up at the person, and a stream of their personal data appears. Other interfaces soon to be invented will allow our thoughts to control devices and communications, making any 3-dimensional media obsolete.

I’ve always been wary of Facebook and its seeming disregard for any shred of privacy we once thought we had as individuals. More insidiously, the web crawlers and cookies that are scattered everywhere we tread (like the breadcrumbs Hansel and Gretel used to find their way home) track our every move, and seemingly even our thought patterns. I don’t have a Facebook account, but I know that every keystroke I make imprints another portion of my identity into the eternal “cloud.”

You know, I need to take a moment to demystify the cloud. Calling is a “cloud” gives it greater cachet and significance than it deserves. The “cloud” is just a collection of remote data servers, basically hard drives, located outside your computer or device. It does not share the heavens with the Almighty, but lives in scattered, sometimes isolated rooms, in buildings here on earth, fed by long, steel and fiber-optic cables buried underground and under the ocean. It is simply a system of remote data storage, and nothing more. Big deal.

Now back to my mistrust of Facebook. Young people don’t seem to share my paranoia.

The hate of the 1940s caused society in many countries to close itself off and compartmentalize, as a means of survival. Hiding from Nazis and other fascists, extreme circumspection, a lack of sharing of any kind of personal information, were frequently the only defenses against annihilation.

If you look at all of humanity as a huge, collective being, maybe World War II can be viewed as a period of disease in our collective body, brought on by self-doubt (the need to blame someone else for economic and other woes), resulting in self-injury (the brutal targeting and massacre of specified groups), and the consequent need to seal off the wound in order to recover (lack of communication and ultimately the Cold War). Sealing off from other people assured survival. Or at least it seemed so to millions of shell-shocked individuals.

Maybe the Millennium is finding out that being closed off to other people is not the answer.

Maybe we’ve learned something from that. Maybe it’s that by reaching out to others as part of ourselves, we are affirming ourselves and assuring our mutual survival. It seems that the most prosperous human beings are socially adept and enjoy working with a range of other individuals; sometimes to achieve a common goal, sometimes just to catch up, empathize, or exchange stories. This is what makes social media—a vehicle for connecting with large groups of individuals—so attractive.

The impulse to continue to fight and “win” (currently exhibited by more than one aggressive group on the planet) is really an inconvenient anomaly, like an illness, or a virus, and the rest of the collective “patient” (humanity) needs to be patient and optimistic while the disease runs its course. Can you imagine if your liver declared war on your stomach? Or if your hands decided that your feet were an inferior race, and rallied the rest of your body to eliminate them? How far along would you be then?

Glad I could put everything into perspective. What do you think?

Chilling Church Embers


Burnt Church 4

A visit to San Francisco’s De Young Museum on a calm Tuesday revealed, as always, some intriguing discoveries. An unexpectedly poignant piece is an installation of the charred remains of an Alabama church, suspended on wires from the ceiling. On entering, you feel as though you have walked into a super slow-motion explosion scene from an action movie; time slows to a standstill, and as you watch the blackened wood fragments hover in mid-air, the devastation seeps into your consciousness. This was a Black Baptist church, burnt by arsonists.

The very personable museum worker pointed out a piece of the piano wires, here, and a section of a pew, there; he even pointed out a piece of blackened wood that resembles the hand of Christ signaling peace. The work, entitled “Anti-Mass,” was created by Cornelia Parker in 2005.

Pandora: Catalyst of Conscience

From Under the Pages

IMG_0041

Pandora
was framed;
Zeus should have
manned up
to Prometheus.

No one likes
bones and fat,
when
expecting
meat.

Red with rage toward the titan,
the thunder god
punished us,
like uncomprehending children,
for receiving fire.

Maybe Pandora
is just a metaphor;
not for women, but for childish mankind
toying with the elemental force.

© 2014 Anne Campagnet-Reed

(For the final poem in my NaPoWriMo–National Poetry Writing Month–commitment, I decided to try my hand at the new Gogyoshi form: five lines, no meter or rhyme, concise imagery. In the above series, four Gogyoshi are arranged to tell a story, but each one can be read and understood as a separate unit.)

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(Classified)

Watch this video. Does Congress have any idea what it’s approving? One wonders whether this is an H.G. Wells-type mass hysteria ploy (War of the Worlds), an Orson Scott Card novel (Ender’s Game), or simply a grab for unbridled military spending and authority. (Note that the terms “terrorist” and “other-worldly” are used interchangeably in the video.) What do you think?