“When our aliveness consciously connects with the aliveness of the universe, a current of aliveness flows through us. At that moment — when life meets life — a direct connection between the living universe and ourselves is realized and we have an awakening experience. We no longer see ourselves in the universe, we experience that we are the universe.” - Duane Elgin
Thanks to my sister-in(common)law Ashley Young for sharing this quotation on my facebook page today. She is aliveness incarnate – her energy is ceaseless as she bounds around NYC and the world with her video camera creating films (sometimes pro-bono) for amazing organizations to help share their messages of peace, and unity, on a global, spiritual, full-on let’s change the world-level.
In my own, internal way, I’ve been deep in aliveness recently. There’s been so much aliveness, day in and day out this past month, that although I’ve imagined so many blog posts – glorious, perfect little stories and adventures with their own custom theme songs – I realized – as did friend and fellow blogger Melissa Marc of The New Fairytale - that, OOPS, I didn’t WRITE THEM DOWN.
Which begs the question: If a blog is completely written in one’s mind, but is not actually written down, or published, and no one reads it, does it still exist? OK, maybe not quite the same as “If a tree falls in the woods, but no one hears it does it make sound?” parable, but I’m trying over here. I am the RRY after all. I’ll keep working on it.
Back to Aliveness. Let us Enter: Aliveness in Three Parts. Spoken in the voice of Ira Glass from This American Life:
PART 1: Autumnal Equinox. September 22nd. Woman Lured Last Minute to the Muddy Banks of Esopus Creek to Perform at the Far Out Music Festival. She Sings, She Dances, She Politely Declines Offers of Various Designer Drugs. And Bad Light Beer.
PART 2: Perfect Autumn Morning. Friday September 28th. Woman Drives Down Manhattan’s West Side Highway in State of Bliss and Grief and Joy. WKCR’s Early Morning Music Show Playlist brings her to a trance state, her body and car and mind becoming One. (Only Certified Yogis are Qualified for this Advanced Yogic Practice).
PART 3: September 30th. A Bath is In Order. Woman Journeys to the Hipster Town Otherwise Known as WilliamsburgRightbytheBedfordLTrain to Enter Artist Built Yurt. Jesus Eagle Clears Her Chakras with Sage and Feathers. A Sound Bath Via Gong Ensues. She Journeys to Places of Infinite Vibration. She Fails to Communicate with the Dead.
What do these all have in common? Almost Husband (Also named Ira) asks tonight over dinner, in his best Ira Glass voice.
Well, Each woman is me. And each involve some kind of journey – road trip. And well, other kinds of trips. Mind/body/spirit trips. Of the all natural, not smoked, inhaled or swallowed kind. You get the picture. And each, in their own way, was part of my annual autumnal re-entry back into my Aliveness.
You see, my father Morton died six years ago September 30th. Each year when autumn begins and September comes to a close, I feel some unseen, difficult, can’t possibly express anxiety, sadness and joy all at once trying to find a way into consciousness, expression. Sometimes there just aren’t words for it. And as 9/30 approaches I vow to “do something” to honor him and his passing. His life, our complicated relationship, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Part 1: Fall is here. I journey to the Catskills near Saugerties after a musical cohort of many years, Benoir, invited me to play the Far Out Fall Harvest Musical Festival. Road trips always fill me with a certain joy and this was a particularly straightforward route, so I didn’t need to worry about getting lost. For two hours I rocked out to sort of bad, yet kinda good classic rock playlists on various local radio stations. Dark clouds loomed overhead the whole time, threatening my 3pm set’s outdoor setting. When I arrived at the Black Bear Campgrounds, it was like entering some strange far out, lost boys kind of place. People seemed a little out of it, not quite sure whether they were coming or going. I was 100% sober so maybe that had something to do with it. Turns out though that it was more about the fact that the forecasted bad bad weather had turned people away and the turn out was smaller than expected. I soldiered on in typical RRY fashion. The clouds were holding shape for now, and I kinda like a weird, solemn gray day. I set-up, listened to the opening band Whiskey Reverb, and walked around the grounds. The banks of the creek called to me, as I quieted my racing thoughts about all things logistical, what songs to play, and whether I should eat before or after I played…whether I should sleep in my car later or drive home in the wee hours.
At 5PM, I finally got on stage, after numerous technical delays, and had started into “He Roams”, when the organizer stopped me after the first two chords. “We gotta wait one hour so the Church can do its thing”. Ummm, What??! Are you kidding me? Turns out the Church through the woods behind the stage had some kind of very special and quiet Autumnal Equinox Service and the Festival had to Shssss as well. Far Out, Man. This was a first. A Church Service never opened for me before. I walked around and told some of the hippy folks hanging around with their guitars that we should all just attend the service. Half joking, but kinda half serious too. No one took me seriously. So I sat by the bonfire and waited for my own version of Church to begin.
By the time I actually sang I was pretty tired. But also relaxed and feeling naturally high in a good, Catskills Bonfire by the Creek sort of way. Benoir arrived with his entourage, the Light Beer started flowing, the Christmas Tree Lights and candles came out, and some more folks arrived ready to party. My voice was lit by something unseen and unreal and crackled, warmed and expanded into the air around us like the heat and flames of the giant campfire. Folks were responding to my tunes, I told stories about love and loss, and then let it all rock out during “Oxbow Legacy“, my voice doing some new kind of thing-it was so bluesy and strong I thought maybe someone else had entered my body-someone like Janis who really likes her Whiskey.
The night continued on well after my early evening set, with DJ Roo getting us all twisted and crazy with freaky trance fun disco jungle beats. I danced with some fun folks including one of the only other chicks hanging around: CeCi Gonzo. A Gal from the Bronx, and now living in Albany by way of Atlanta. I don’t know her whole story, but I won’t forget her name, no Sir. She was super cute, and her eyes were all aglow and her spirit oozing Aliveness. It was infectious. God dancing is so good. There needs to be WAY more of it. I used to dance my ass off in College. In my bra. With packs of women at the LBGT parties. (Insert PHOTO/VIDEO MONTAGE that only EXISTS IN MY MIND Here). Alas, I digress. Night fell, and Benoir and his Long Beach Allstars hit the stage. Highlights included showing Woody how to do Warrior 3. And eating pepperoni pizza. Thank you gods. Then the rain. The skies exploded. It was like a cleansing. Grayness, Fire, Rain, Music Crashing my Ears, now Water Crashing overhead. In the spirit of CeCi and all the lightness I felt after such a strange, gray day, I wrapped myself in lights. Literally. I had become light. Far Out.
Part 2: An old friend of mine who also lost his father in recent years, said to me when his grief was still fresh: “I just want there to be beauty, beauty all around me. Beauty”. As if saying it three ways would make it real. And its true. Why are we waiting to find, be, know beauty in ourselves, our lives, our hearts? There’s not a lot of time. Ah Yes. Mortality. Dad loved the play on his name, he was funny like that. “Je Suis Mort”. My brother, sister and I joked this would make a good epitaph. Dad would’ve loved it. But he was cremated and released into the Hudson River instead.
That goddamn river was so beautiful on the day that I drove across the George Washington Bridge and down the West Side Highway to work on Sept. 28th. I found myself lost in a trance while listening to WKCR’s Early Morning Classical Music Program.
Dad. Dad. Dad. Was all I could feel and think. He was there with me. The lights dancing off the water, the buildings, beauty everywhere, a weird Autumnal grayness settling over all the colors so they pop in contrast. The feel of the car turning and gliding and slowing and turning again, the movement of life itself. Crescendos and swells of perfect orchestrated strings and horns. My heart lilting with breath and hurting with almost too much beauty. Dad understood this. And he didn’t ever need words to let me know. Ironically, although he was a writer, and a funny word play person, it was the quiet, non-word moments between us – eyes, laughter, silence, that helped me know him the best.
Six years ago, hours before his death, in the ugliness of his hospital room, a feeding/air tube and recent brain surgery obstructing his ability to talk, the sounds of machines and nurses, Dad waved his arm and hand around, with rhythm, intention, feeling – conducting time, space, his unspoken love and awe for us and life. It was Beauty itself. And Aliveness. I think in that moment, I never saw him more alive. He and I were one. And there was Music Everywhere.
Part 3: Somehow the anniversary of Dad’s death 2 days later coincided with an invitation to attend a Sound Bath. Gongs. In a Yurt. In Williamsburg. In an artist’s studio. OK. I never thought my first time in a yurt would be in Billyburg at an art studio. But this is the beauty of all things Art and NYC. But seriously, the artist, Philip Riley’s “The House of Dreams” exhibit is truly cool. His yurt aims to recreate something called a “Psychomanteum”, a structure conceived of by Psychologist Raymond Moody as a way to process grief. And even communicate with the Dead. Hmmm.
As I stood in the Artist’s Loft in one of the hippest places in Brooklyn, I couldn’t believe the irony. The synchronicity. Dad would’ve loved this. Maybe he’ll visit. Would be a good time for all if he did. We packed into the small round space, lit by candles. Emily Horowitz played her gong beautifully, but at first, I had trouble letting go, letting the sounds free me, wash me. I felt tension, difficulty relaxing. Sonically I was in heaven, but mentally/physically I was struggling. I felt grasping, over efforting. For a sound bath, I wasn’t getting very clean. I felt almost as if I was getting more clogged, as if my expectations for some totally definitive Dad’s Death Anniversary Communicado Via Brooklyn Yurt Sound Bathers was stopping me from being in the moment, from being really Here.
So I focussed on the candles – four were visible to me. There was a tall one- which I imagined was Dad, and then three smaller ones grouped together – I imagined these were me and my two siblings. I didn’t pray or ask questions or wait for some miraculous moment of realization. Or Dad’s voice telling me something I didn’t already know. And Yet. The sound, the candlelight, my soft focus on those four flickering wicks. Soon my aches and pains and discomfort faded and mingled and softened and merged. Like the overtones of Emily’s gong swirling in and out in incredible impossible to recreate patterns. A word came to mind: One. I needed to stop over focussing on Dad versus Me versus You and Me and I and Us and This and That. My I was tired. Of constantly creating separation. Between Dad being here, and not being here. He was Here. Always Here. There’s no reason to differentiate between the physical plane and all the other planes we can’t prove or disprove. It was time, I felt finally. To move FORWARD. Beyond grief. Into something very new, something I’m not sure I was aware existed before. Something I KNOW, but not something I can SEE. So maybe I did communicate with the Other Side. The other side of my own mind’s possibilities.
Aliveness. I think in that moment of awakening, I never felt Dad more alive. Or me. Or Brooklyn. Or Strangers in a Yurt. We were all one sound. Nada Yoga. Nadam. Ommmmm. Vibration.
The Universe is ringing in my ears.