A Shamanic Journey

Last Saturday found me circling with a mentor of mine and a small group of individuals who have become very special to me over about the past eighteen months.  This was our second annual all-day shamanic journey retreat.

In my morning journey, I ascended to the Upper World and quickly flew to a black crystalline fortress floating in space.  This was the home of L___________, one of my inner spirit guides.  Standing at an open doorway, She beckoned me inside, Her raven black hair flowing over an iridescent blue-green cape.  She moved like water up bejeweled stone stairs to Her black crystal throne, turned and sat, smiling benevolently from out of a fair face with large eyes the shape and coloring of peacock feathers.  Two huge onyx panthers came to life at the bottom of the steps, turned to me in gentle greeting.

I asked L__________ about dual consciousness.  She replied with many statements in rapid succession.  I found it hard to keep up.  Basically, She emphasized that I notice the visible and invisible (to my own eyes) beauty in all things, the movement and life in everything.

Above us gleamed a cathedral-like ceiling, the bottom half of an enormous emerald globe, finely cut and interspersed with lapis shades of blue.  Soon, this smoothed out into an opal filled with a web-work of scintillation, mostly blue and green with hints of purple.  I floated up into it.  Inside, I heard L___________ say, “Be between the spaces,” or something very close to that.  My mind translated:  Where dense matter is, there is always peaceful space.  Be there in that spaciousness.  Feeling at one with it all, I levitated within a warm expanse of green light and floating crystals, their hues ranging along the rainbow spectrum.

Then, L____________ took me through a day in my present life.  From home to work, everything was cast in a calming light.  Before leaving my house in the morning, I took note in the dining room of a lead crystal vase holding peacock feathers, cherished mementos from my husband’s and my wedding reception in 2012.  These were one of many a visual reminder that L____________ is ever-present around me.

A little later, I saw vining plants fill the hallway where my office is located, a tunnel of thriving verdancy.  I understood, yet again, how being with plants is a way into feeling  the wonderful spaciousness of existence.  L____________ kept reminding me to see and be with the beauty all around in both the large and small spaces between, each of them ultimately simply peaceful space.  Plants live this understanding so naturally.  “It’s all there,” She hummed.

We returned to L_____________’s fortress in the cosmos.  I then floated backwards from Her mighty abode, back to Earth, smiling in farewell, for now, even though we’ve never actually parted.

Movie Review (PAIN AND GLORY)

Pedro Almodovar’s new movie PAIN AND GLORY moved me deeply. Antonio Banderas turns in a solid performance as the main character, Salvador Mallo, a gay, successful writer and film director. Aging, chronic physical and emotional pain, lack of inspiration, and new-found substance abuse all act as catalysts for Salvador to come to terms with his past.

Early in the story, an old wound is opened for Salvador when a film of his from the 1980s has a special screening for the public. The star of that movie, Alberto Crespo (played by Asier Etxeandia), and he must deal with 32 years of estrangement in order to present a positive front to the viewing audience. This pushes pain-stricken Salvador to further reflect on past events while accepting smokeable heroin doses from Alberto, a long-time chaser of the dragon.

The narrative consists of an interweaving of the present-day with flashbacks from Salvador’s poverty-stricken childhood and, eventually, more recent past events. Penelope Cruz movingly plays Salvador’s devoted, beleaguered mother, Jacinta, whose husband relocates the family from a country village in Spain to a city (Madrid, I believe) with more economic opportunities. Nine-year-old Salvador (Asier Flores) is recruited to teach a handsome, illiterate young laborer and artist, Eduardo (Cesare Vicente), to read and write. As payment, Eduardo agrees to help fix up the Mallo family’s new home, a white-washed cave within catacombs from Medieval times. He awakens Salvador’s sexual desire, which is filmed in a gradually unfolding, tender way.

Seeing homoerotic desire so naturally paired with childhood innocence pierced my heart. Almodovar knocked it out of the park yet again for me. I’ve always enjoyed the films of his I’ve managed to see and this one did not disappoint. I imagine much of the screen play is autobiographical of Almodovar, who also wrote besides directed this gem (which I believe he usually does for his productions). Like Salvador in PAIN AND GLORY, I find myself a middle aged gay man reflecting on past events and the main themes of my life. I felt a heady mix of heartened, intrigued, and enraptured to see Almodovar present such introspection up on the big screen with much tenderness and compassion, peppered with humor and little homages to old Hollywood movies and their beautiful stars. Whether or not you, the reader, choose to see this lovely, contemplative movie, we should all take a cue from it and view ourselves and others with more open, compassionate hearts.

Mini Movie Review (HARRIET)

The movie HARRIET was truly one of heart and soul, in which Harriet Tubman in the 19th century actively freed hundreds of slaves after herself escaping from bondage in 1849. I liked how the story kept it personal via scenes of constant, up close human interactions interspersed with displays of Harriet’s inner life of deep faith and psychic ability. The latter element, very likely fictionalized, is nonetheless effective and believable here.

While in 5th grade some decades ago, I read about Ms. Tubman and watched an old black and white film on her life as a courageous abolitionist, starring Ruby Dee in the title role. With big shoes to fill, Cynthia Erivo is quite compelling in this new production about a historical figure long-deserving of more notoriety than she has yet received. It was wonderful to re-experience my decades-old feelings of deep intrigue, respect, and appreciation for this woman who called herself “Moses.” Given that she assisted many people across a river en-route to unfettered lives in an at least more promising land, the Old Testament name-title is perfect for her.

HARRIET constantly moved me to tears, with its straightforward narrative about overcoming incredible odds to achieve a basic human need and right for herself and others: freedom. We should all be so fortunate to have as clear and pure a purpose in life and unwavering determination to carry it out, no matter what the cost. I am grateful that this movie was made. I am grateful for Harriet Tubman.

A Small Loss

The fires in California are clearly wearing people’s patience thin, understandably. I have family and friends there. Over on Facebook, I just got blocked by a friend, who I’ve never met in person, who lives near one of these fires.  This quickly happened after a mild disagreement arose between us about something quite minor.  I expressed a short, mixed reaction on his page about a film he happens to like.

This now-former “friend” is a published author and man with whom I share a lot of sensibilities.  I appreciate much of his perspective/worldview.

The loss is a small one and I suppose it can be argued it’s their loss more than mine.  But, briefly, it admittedly hurts.  (And I am all-too-familiar with over-reactivity.)

**Note to self: Breathe. We live in tense, often chaotic times. Remember to think and speak from compassion. Ultimately, most of us, if not all, are in this together.

Movie Review (THE LIGHTHOUSE)

THE LIGHTHOUSE oozes creepiness often and grimness all of the time. Even the seagulls are intrusive and ominous in this intentionally claustrophobic art house horror movie. It harkened me back to watching black and white Ingmar Bergman films in years past. Well, that plus what it may have been like if Mr. Bergman had produced something while on steady dosages of LSD and liquor after having had a few influential exchanges with, say, a young David Lynch. While not exactly fun to watch, I was visually intrigued by the cinematography and impressed with the acting by Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe.

THE LIGHTHOUSE grows more hallucinatory as it progresses, largely shown from the perspective of actor Robert Pattinson’s character, young laborer Ephraim Winslow. Set in the 1890s on a small, stark island with a lighthouse, Winslow battles his guilty conscience, loneliness, and the cantankerous, manipulative aging lighthouse keeper Thomas Wake (Dafoe). As days pass and an ocean storm builds around them, the two men fall into increasingly raw, primal interactions with each other and their surroundings, akin to that in William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES, but often more bizarre. Heavy imbibing of liquor plays a part in all this.

The script was partly inspired by writer Herman Melville’s work and is filled with passages written by men who toiled on the high seas in the 19th century. I appreciated the mythological, Pagan folk elements throughout the film, such as a recurring, eery siren-mermaid (Valeriia Karaman) and references to ancient Greek sea gods Triton and Poseidon. Director and co-writer Robert Eggers does not shy away from the supernatural, cleverly threading it into the psychological, skillfully conveyed through Wake’s superstitiousness and Winslow’s increasing mental instability.

While comparisons of the tumultuous ocean and the often troubled human psyche have been written about and filmed time and again, THE LIGHTHOUSE does so with originality, thanks to the genius writing of Max and Robert Eggers, the latter who also brilliantly directs. The camerawork involves a blending of old techniques from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with the screen aspect ratio an almost perfect square. We viewers are quickly led to feel boxed in as Wake and Winslow do. Initially, I could not quite always decipher what I was seeing on the screen, the landscape being filled with shadows among so much gray. On reflection, I think I was adjusting to Winslow’s dreary surroundings right along with him, the ocean and clouds often adding to the murkiness. From out of Winslow’s murky mind of memories, fears, and desires arise images, the ocean a perfect medium/reflecting pool for them. Or maybe the siren-mermaid is actually there? After all, the fearless, mysterious seagulls are real. Like Winslow, I sometimes briefly felt uncertain about what was supposed to be hallucination or dream vs. physical reality.

I do think THE LIGHTHOUSE will become a classic, joining the ranks of other cinematic masterpieces with a pared-down aesthetic to underscore existential angst and the human condition. Amidst the plethora of visual excess and distractions these days, sometimes it’s refreshing to watch a thoughtful, paradoxically stark yet full movie such as this, if only to remember I have a lot to be grateful for in my precious but ephemeral existence.

Mini Movie Review (MALEFICENT MISTRESS OF EVIL)

I thoroughly enjoyed MALEFICENT MISTRESS OF EVIL. She continues from the first movie (MALEFICENT) to represent the darkly beautiful Great Mother Goddess of Nature, who is, and has long been, misunderstood, feared, and persecuted. In this new film, Maleficent comes across her own kind, the Dark Fae. Not surprisingly, She is their inherent leader. These Fae are presented as fiercely beautiful, several ancient tribes confederated into one and living in hiding.

I personally know what it’s like to finally meet my “own kind,” others with whom I belong, namely Queer and Pagan folk, all of whom feel symbolically represented by the Dark Fae in this lovely movie. And so are Native Americans and other minorities, for that matter.

As long as there is such polarization between much of humanity and nature and ongoing in group/out group thinking and behaving, movies like this– among a myriad of other creative projects and actions in the world– will continue to need to be made.