Every autumn, I spend three solitary weeks at Ravenrock because—this is my incapacity—I feel my depth best when ‘worldly’ cacophony is diminished. The most sensitive dimension of self /non-self eludes me unless I’m away from wifi, news, traffic, etc. Here is one of my Solitude Writings.
It began raining at sunset. I went to bed soon after but woke, worrying, at 11pm. I put on my sheepskin jacket, boots, and a headlamp, everything but pants, and trod bare-legged across the Studio out onto the Stone Porch. A dense mist filled my headlamp light with a befuddling, edgeless miasma. Read more
After a week at Ravenrock, safely sequestered in off-grid wilds away from discord and furor, I have quieted down internally enough to experience stillness. The natural world has pushed aside the ephemera lurking on my phone. Here, Stillness is enormous. Stillness is an Entity, like a great Greek god-head of wind. It carts my buzz into the clouds, scatters it over the canyon. Finally, I am touched by Stillness, wrapped in Stillness. My change begins. Read more
Ravenrock is a ranch property in New Mexico where I teach retreat but also spend time in solitude. It is quiet, pristine canyon and rock rim land where I’ve put up a barn to work and be.
September slips away unmarked by achievements or conversation. I’ve been at Ravenrock in solitude for ten days, growing more and more silent. The beginning was difficult. Now, suddenly, it isn’t. I do the projects I had set up to protect myself, to soothe my fears and solace my grief, but more and more pass through the activity as if it was soft and edgeless as fog. The activities protect but also, like fog, have hidden Earth and its high blue canopy. It isn’t the action of the activity––the lifting and putting and schlepping—which has been troubling me. It is the hooks inside that are bustling, driving, gibbering promises of reward and merit. Read more
Art in the Sky
One reason I love the southwest is that I like good art. The sky here is good art. One has to like the predominance of blues and whites as well as the pinto pony patches sliding over the land’s crags and bumps. The magician plays the light, revealing and hiding, scuttling along the eternal, unmoving rockface. These variations change more swiftly than the languid seasonal flow of light. My surrounding in not a reliable sundial of elastic shades reaching and shrinking readably as a clock. Read more
Ravenrock is named Ravenrock because it has ravens and rocks. That’s my elevator speech—or I guess now my tweet. But of course there is more to the story. What’s in a name? Hope. Intention. A way to disguise or heighten the truth of the named entity. The Sufis chant the ‘names’ of the Divine. The chanting is called remembrance. Saying the names—which are generally attribute, like ‘contentment’, or ‘compassion’—means remembering the Source by aligning with and embodying the attribute. Read more
I look out at Hermits Peak in New Mexico glowing fantastically in early day light. I let my eyes relax. My natural gaze, not reaching or glazing, just my eyes relaxing on this vision, leaning my visual capacity against the beauty. The wind swirls around me, sweet with the rain that tamped down the dust yesterday. Having the morning quiet to feel my eyes look and see, because so often they scan what is there and trigger it into what isn’t there, or take a shard of something– a table edge or a pine tree, for instance — and turn it into another tree from another time, mixing the two trees into one tree rather than just seeing what is right there Read more
I wrote this in late September at Ravenrock:
I walk onto the deck in twilight that feels as if it is hurried along, as if the wind dashes over the crest snapping a whip, urging the light, which gathers birds and butterflies in its graying arms, away from this summer haunt to other regions south of the equator. Yes, it is no longer summer. Read more
I remember listening to Old Testament tales in church as a child about so-and-so going into the desert alone, and I thought of the desert as a horror. I lived in a lush green town, with lovely meals cooked by my mother, and music and dancing and friends. The desert sounded forbidding. The saint would fast and cry out, would have revelations, and it was difficult and lonely and painful. Now I am in the desert. It is harsh, but it is kind. It is full of life. It divests me of my worn personality robes, blows dust at me, and displays a tenderness I had not imagined. The desert—a secret beauty. Read more
My night reading of Koran verses was surprisingly refreshing. I used to find them judgmental—all that ‘do the right thing or be in hell’—but with a new perusing and the leavening of age and experience, that they are right. They just are. The question is understanding what the ‘right thing’ is. Each sura drops a tiny clue in its bed of poetry to what a right thing is. Read more
I sit on the deck bundled in a sweater after a late afternoon rain storm. Fans of sun rays burnish the land between the humps and banks of clouds. The mesas and canyons all have names, have had many names over time. I don’t know any of these yet. And most names aren’t contained in the hard edges of language, the sticky net of thoughts. The mesas approach and retreat in the play of light like a line of country dancers. Long shadows spill over the crest and slide down the slope into the shadowy floor. Read more