Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ritual Dance

Here's the late, great Michael Hedges performing my favorite piece of his, "Ritual Dance," at Esalen. This really brings me back; the singer in my old band made me a tape of Hedges' stuff back about 20 years or so and his playing really blew me away.

I was looking him up because I remembered Hedges had died in a car accident in California in 1997 and I wondered if it was on the notoriously perilous Route 1 drive through Big Sur. I'll tell you, that will open up a chakra or two. Just imagine thousand-foot drops waiting patiently at the end of hairpin turns and barely a guardrail in sight. The views are breathtakingly magnificent, until you begin to contemplate how easily you could become one with the landscape. Happily, I found it much easier to take once I popped some Dramamine.

I've often contemplated how ecstatic countercultures tend to pop up in hazardous landscapes, like New Orleans, San Francisco, Key West, Big Sur, Black Rock. Maybe there's something about the constant possibility of instant karma that primes the brain to receive more elevated information than you might get in Des Moines or Schenectady.

At Esalen, I was very keenly aware of how huge the ocean is- and how fragile the coastline is- when it was there outside my window. I guess that I need a more sedate environment to explore the dangerous lands within.


  1. You describe the Northern Cali roads perfectly. I grew up in Moss Beach, CA (7 miles north of Half Moon Bay on HWY 1) and for years my father made the perilous journey back and forth to San Fran for work via Devil's Slide, a very tricky and dangerous part of HWY 1. He witnessed some horrible accidents during those years and we were always worried that one day he wouldn’t make it home from work and would end up crashing into the ocean below.

    Witnessing erosion occur under your feet as you are perched on the cliffs above is a daily occurrence for coastal residents. In fact, I saw firsthand a friend’s house slowly slide down the cliff onto the beach below over a relatively short period of a few years. When her family finally abandoned it, the house was tilting sideways and the cliff had eroded away under part of the foundation.

    I visited the house a few times after they moved and it was a very eerie feeling teetering on the edge like that. You can still see the concrete foundation hanging on to the side of the cliff. Earthquakes occurred quite often as well and were an additional reminder as to how volatile the area really was. We were right next to the San Andreas fault line and we always joked that Northern Cali would break off during the next “big one” and would become an island.

    There is something about a wild landscape that reinforces (in a rather in your face way) the idea that we walk the edge between life and death at every moment. Some people thrive in such an environment. Someone once told me that the "land's end" locations tend to attract the outcasts of society. I would agree and will take that idea one step further and say that outcasts tend to live on the edge of everything regardless of the environment they find themselves in.

  2. I just had a dream that I was trying to climb down one of those ciffs to figure out how the cavemen did it. I didnt get very far. Lucy and Ricky Ricardo were waiting at the top. Ricky wouldn't help me climb back to safety, so I did it myself.

    That probably means something. Very synchronistic I got a look at your childhood reality, for sure. Now I understand everything ;-)

  3. You're amazing Chris. That's all I can say. Just amazing!

    We used to climb up & down those cliffs for fun. The following incident is what you dreamed about.

    There was a particular day when we cut class to go cliff climbing. As we were climbing up the cliff, my big brother Egan reached the top first and I begged him to help me up. I was quite scared because I couldn't get a good grip on anything and the rocks were crumbling under my feet. Well, he said "I’m not helping you. You gotta climb up yourself, it'll make you tough". I did make it up but I was so freaked out that I never did climb the cliffs again after that day.

    Just as a side note, my sister and I used to watch the I Love Lucy show regularly.

    It appears that you know me quite well. In fact, you know things about me that I do not remember consciously. I am enjoying this!

  4. =)

    Well, I did pass a remote viewing test! The Ricky Ricardo thing may have crept in because I saw the new Hulk movie last night. That will make sense when you see it.

  5. Well, whatever it is, I like it!

    I appreciate your insights very much.

    You can tell me anything you want at anytime and without reservation.

    Big hugs to you...

  6. Hugs back, D! Merc-ret survival hugs, in fact ;-)

  7. I forgot to mention that Route 128, the road in which Michael Hedges skidded off of is quite treacherous. From 2002-2006 we lived in that area (Mendocino County) and we used to travel 128 a couple of times a year to go to the Sacramento library book sales.

    I could engage you in a very interesting conversation about Mendo. It is a magical place but very crazy as well. My brother Egan lived near Garberville in the most back woodsy yet beautiful place you can imagine. We were very close and I had moved to the area from NJ after getting laid off from AT&T to spend more time with him. But, he dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 41 on Sept 5th (Labor Day) 2005 and I could no longer bear to live there. If you had known him, the irony of him dying on Labor Day would have astounded you.

    Consequently, his best friend who also lived in the area died similarly on October 5th, exactly one month later and to the day of Egan's death. Also, my uncle in Maine died on December 5th in the same year.


    Thanks for posting that video. Michael truly epitomizes the Northern Cali (Kali) spirit in that song.

  8. My sense of the culture there is that it is very much body-conscious and body-oriented. I think all that savage natural majesty forces people to empty their minds and live in the moment as it were. I used to be very interested in Buddhism and Zen- which I think informs the culture in California, not just the counterculture, but rejected it all and embraced its opposite. That whole trip is about negation, which feels nice but doesn't produce much magic. The Symbols want you to embrace them and swim in their ocean- that's when they go to work for you like a Djinn.

  9. I would agree completely. California is a land of paradox. On the one hand you have very enlightened people who embrace life & spirit from an honest and open heart but then you have very superficial people who don't have a clue yet think they know everything. I suppose just about anywhere is like that to a certain degree but in California it's quite exaggerated and ridiculously so in some instances.

    Sometimes I wonder if living in a cave is the answer :) When you're hypersensitive you crave a place where all external stimuli are blocked out. But, that's not the answer either because when you are confronted with your own brain without any distraction terrifying things can manifest.

    The man I told you about before, Tim, who lived in the tree in N.Cali and said I was Daria the Vestal in a past life (I’m still up in the air about past lives…I want to believe but I want more proof!) looked at my astrological chart and all he said was "Oh.....Dear".

    I hesitate to describe Tim in that way because it makes him appear very strange. But, he was wise and I learned a great deal from him.

    The moral of the story is that some of us just have a damn tough life from the get go.

    I have a feeling you can relate to this.

    Wow. It's funny how a simple blog post can bring out all sorts of things! It's very cathartic.