The girl and I got in the little red truck and rolled on out to the country. We bounced around a bit looking for the best possible spot and settled on Rawley Springs, one of our reoccurring playgrounds in the G. Washington Nat’l Park. The dam we worked on last summer was mostly knocked down – as I expected – so that gave us some work to do. We also had this little flower-pressing book from an arts’n’craftsy set she got for Xmas, so we looked around for flowers and leaves to press. And, of course, there were spiders and bugs to exclaim over, stare at and talk about. She wants me to pick up all the creepy-crawlies so she can see them, but she don’t wanna hold ‘em herself. No crawdads or tadpoles yet. They’ll come along.
We encountered a group of Indians – from India – who were out for out for a hike. They had some concerns about bears and snakes which I was able to address to their satisfaction. While I was talking to a couple of them, I noticed another one standing back and taking my picture. I had an image of how I might look to them – a bearded, tattooed American, wearing camo pants and a battered, brown leather hat, holding a little girl on his hip. I imagined them home, in Benares, showing their friends the picture of the rustic mountaineer they encountered, hanging out in the woods with his daughter – the same way American tourists talk about the exotic people they met when traveling. It was an amusing thought. I was glad to run into them, glad to be able to tell them they didn’t have to worry about bears – they all stay away from where people are – or snakes – we have some dangerous varieties, but they won’t be out and about for a few weeks.
There was one scary moment – I left the girl alone for a minute to take a picture of something. I explained to her where I was going and she said she wanted to stay where she was to do what she was doing, so I gave her the standard line about staying out of the water ‘til I got back and went. I was gone for a minute or so and when I got back she wasn’t where I left her.
Friends, I know a bit about myth and folklore. I know that there are many stories about magicians whose hearts are not in their bodies – they have removed their hearts and stored them in some protected place. This prevents them from aging and they cannot be killed by direct attack. Usually, these are dark magicians; the hero has to find the hidden heart and destroy it to stop the magician’s evil works. In faery tales, giants = parents/adults, so maybe these stories have to do with parents, I dunno, but I sure do know what it’s like to have one’s heart located outside of one’s own body. Any parent knows that.
In a trice, I was thigh-deep in the river, spinning around and hollering her name. My daughter is the only person I’ve ever met who is more important to me than me and she was not where I left her. That’s a form of terror that I can’t put into words. Parents understand; others can’t.
I saw a little blond head through the bushes up the trail. She had gone after me, heard me call and, running back to me, had tripped on a root and fallen down. We had missed each other in crossing because I didn’t come back along the trail – I took a shorter, more direct course. She was crying because she fell and I was kinda dazed by the wave of fear I’d felt, but we got through it. She does need to learn to be okay by herself for short periods and I need to learn that she can handle it. That’s part of facilitating her developing need for independence. I’ve left her alone for a minute or two before and she was fine… just one of those things, I guess.
After five hours, we’d eaten all our trail mix, pressed a bunch of foliage, rebuilt the dam and she was sprawled out on a rock with the towel pulled over her like a blanket so it was time for heading home. Back at the shack, dinner, activity books and puzzles, finally off to bed.
And why is this “Bridge Of Dread”? Well, it’s like this: Sub Rosa released a double-cd set of works by Angus MacLise, The Cloud Doctrine, back in ’04 or so. I was already a fan of the man’s musical explorations so I snapped it up. It’s all impressive, but “Universal Solar Calendar” really jumped out at me. The piece is MacLise reading a loooooong list of seemingly random phrases which I soon realized was his naming of the days of the year. I did some research and was eventually able to orient MacLise’s calendar to the Gregorian and ever since then I’ve christened my day-planners by going through and writing in the name of each day. Sometimes, I need a title for a piece and nothing is coming to mind, so I check the name of the day when I completed the piece.
“The Supernatural Bride”, an acoustic guitar mediation that was the BDSR side of a split cassette with Matt Riley was recorded on the day Angus MacLise named “The Supernatural Bride”. “Days Of The Zenith”, a track on From Pussys To Death And Back Again/Eternal Freakout, was recorded during the series of days named “First Day Of The Zenith” through “Fifth Day Of The Zenith”. An early BDSR cd, The Transcendental Outhouse, which was a tribute to Angus MacLise and contained his reading of “Universal Solar Calendar” covered in sludge, was centered around a live show recorded on the day he named “The Transcendental Outpost”. I tweaked that one slightly.
An unintended, but welcome, consequence of using MacLise’s day names this way is that certain days are fixed in my memory. Whenever I look at my planner and see that the day is “The Transcendental Outpost”, I remember that show, in that damp basement, in that apartment where I painted a huge, day-glo Jolly Rodger on my wall with the slogan “Some Day, Some Happy Day”, where the Spotted Opossum was conceived, where her mom and I split up. “The Supernatural Bride” was a different apartment, the girl was a toddler. “Descent Of The Host”, which hasn’t been released, was this place right here, where I’m sitting right now and the name of the day I’m writing is “First Day Of The Zenith”, so we’ve come back around to that, and the memory I have is that creaky glider-chair where I sat in the middle of the night, recording Pussys To Death, exhausted from twelve-hour workdays, but determined to plow ahead.
I didn’t realize when I first wrote “Universal Solar Calendar” in a day-planner that I was setting myself up to experience the annual cycle in a new way – new to me, but not new. Holy days are supposed to function this way. Michaelmas, Candlemas, Good Friday, St. Stephen’s Day – the Church calendar is peppered with saints and special observances. All the religions have their ways of designating the passage of the year, ways of marking out specific days and linking them to memories. This teaches us to know the individual days of our lives as unique, while also illustrating the steady march of time, which leads inevitably to death and then on to whatever happens after that. It’s a good system.
I want to remember taking the Spotted Opossum out to Rawley Springs to press flowers and play by the creek. It was a good day, the first day warm enough to go out there and get in the cold, clean mountain water. It was a wonderful daughter/daddy day, boo-boo and all, in the midst of a season of troubles and strife. Things ain’t exactly as I would wish them to be, but I did have that day with the girl and that day will now be associated with “Bridge Of Dread”.
This is pretty much how I operate. I stumble into things. When I became a vegetarian, I was motivated by some sort of vague sense that maybe being a vegetarian would somehow be a desirable thing. Eventually, I began to associate my abstinence from meat, fish and fowl with the dietary restrictions imposed by various religions. I am morally opposed to factory farming and I believe that consuming massive amounts of animals is unhealthy, but I’m a vegetarian because being a vegetarian causes me to be aware of my relationship with Divinity. I stumbled into the “Universal Solar Calendar” as a way of designating the days of the year and marking them out in my memory. I follow the inspirations and see where they lead. And I heartily encourage other people to do the same.
When one is open to the influence of spirits and/or Spirit, that influence comes. Intuitions and weird ideas float in, wanting to be made manifest. It takes a little practice to figure out which ideas are ego bullshit and which ones are inspirations – I get tripped up occasionally. Mistakes are part of the learning process. Generally though, I find myself stumbling happily along, realizing after the fact that some random thing I did for no known reason has influenced me in ways I never coulda/woulda seen coming.