The Small Round World –
Where is the road to liberation and will the current global chaos point us in that direction or will this Year of the Fire Monkey lead down the path to further turmoil. I watch sheep, I count sheep, I try to avoid running over sheep, I look in their strange eyes and talk to them. They answer back… The mind a bundle of perceptions, I have been dissatisfied with the streams of collective U.S. consciousness building – the dissonance, the struggle to motivate, the lack of a vision to move forward that my birth country has been expressing. Yes, many folks I know are highly motivated (large numbers have worked on Bernie Sanders campaign (and campaigns before that), but those are people I know, not necessarily the norm. I have this ever present nagging feeling that our relatively young country, instead of using our pioneering spirit to leap forward into innovation and lead the creative way into a bright future, is getting stuck in a quagmire of lethargy, bigotry, posturing – boring, or worse, making up for our brevity as a country by creating a plethora of quick karma of the negative kind. Where is the direction, where is the motivation? In short we are a bit like reticent teenagers that need to grow up fast or reap the unfortunate consequences.
So, stepping out of the national drama for a few months, I find I have stepped in the middle of crisis of another tributary sourced from the same river. Is the entire world in chaos and trying to shake it off right now? With the recent Brexit vote, many Europeans I meet here (who have lived in the U.K. for a long while) are worried that they will have to leave. And the Scotts? Well, there is another defiant groundswell of hope in a direction of more freedoms or becoming a completely independent country again, but will they actually shake off the fear of unknown consequences and actually do it this time? England has typically rooted conservative, Scotland (and the other countries that make up “Great Britain”) feel ignored, that their concerns are dismissed. There is still not direct democracy here… yet. And, back in the states, the ideal and grand experiment of a country by, for and of the people has stalled and is now swan diving. Corporate puppet (more of the same) or dangerously demented change at any cost (game over, perhaps taking down all humanity in the go of random mad change plummeting into darkness?) – Are these really the best options the voters could get behind?
So freeing myself up from my personal quagmire was my solution of the moment – Liberation is in the space between breath, I know that much, so, find a place to breathe deep, to breathe new, to have spaciousness as a pure reminder. Charity begins at home, right? Maybe if I could figure out what the heck I was doing from here on out, it would help me see hope for the collective future of this blue planet I am on, or to let go of the concept completely and float, just float. I know I am still and always traveling down the collective slipstream, no way round it so far. I am landed, at the moment in Perthshire – the center and beating heart of Scotland. Today I decide to focus on memories, those feelings of contentment and peace, and those only, letting all other experience run behind then fade. I don’t know which memories will surface as supreme, what experience I will find satisfying now. I haven’t a clue, but I figure it is a start. How can I envision a personal or collective future without a thread of inclination of past and true contentment? It is beautiful here - easy to be clear in the moment, I have had many moments, sometimes stringing those moments together for days on end. I believe change is possible. That is a place to start.
I decide to take a walk out onto the holy mountain of the Sidhe – Schiehallion. I have heard much about this place and have to see for myself. Maybe an answer is out there, somewhere. The road to Schiehallion is single track (of course), winding. I have become accustom to the sheep resting so close to the road here that sometimes their legs or other parts of their bodies are actually out on the pavement. I have developed nerves of steel to weather the drivers that go too fast around the bends, avoiding all head on collisions and punctured tires up to this point. I know I will have to dodge the roadside dangers and that, most likely, at some point in my walk, the skies will open up, so I am prepared. This road is both breathtakingly at times, and completely marred in the middle of it by traverse lines that carry power from the windfarms of Scotland down south to be consumed in England, leaving a massive scar that runs clear through Perthshire and all the counties south of here.
Along the trail it is so quiet, so peaceful. It meanders through forest and field and I take my time to notice every tiny flower, every shift in the land. There are fields and fields of wildflowers – all small. I feel the urge to sing and make up a song about Schiehallion – “Oh, Schiehallion, how beautiful you are...” I continue on the path, humming and singing around its curves – there is a beautiful stream and some dog roses, wild orchids, violets, thimble pink marguerite daisies, a sea of wee white blossoms, fox glove swaying above the ferns. There are ruins, a cup stone, a village now gone – signs of human settlement from thousands of years ago. The rocks here hold the history, some still stacked together, some left undisturbed, still where they have fallen. Sheep are grazing on the far hill, next to a patch of what is left of a forest. Rounding a bend, I can see snow fields on the top of an adjacent peak and wind mills beyond. The mountains are thick here, with Schiehallion nested in the center. - Her obvious pyramid peak rising above all the rest. Not in any particular hurry (a freedom in itself,) I arrive late in the day. Occasionally, a walker comes up and passes me on their direct method climb. They are also humming and singing. The first people I see coming back down the trail are local teenagers. They are dressed in their regular school clothes, no jackets – nothing to batten against the wind or rain that is starting to pick up. They move like the sheep in the field, quickly, effortlessly. Then a couple from France passes me on their way up "C'est tres beau ici!" the woman blurts out as they pass me on the left. Next a pair of women, one who clearly has blisters has removed her shoes and is walking barefoot along the rocky path. There is a man with them, only one. He has an annoyed expression on his face and is traveling in front of them, silently. They are keeping up. The two women have Australian accents and are talking about pedicures, chatting away about their feet as they hurl themselves rapidly back to the parking lot. The woman with blisters has perfectly groomed toenails painted a bright red. Her heels are bleeding. As they noisily go by a bird flies out of the bracken, up and away, her nest disturbed by the racket. I pause and wait for them to pass. A few minutes later the bird returns and settles back into her green thicket of cover. I can hear her chicks’ greeting but I can’t see them.
Next a couple says hello while passing. They are American. I ask them where they are from. They stop and she answers, “The DC area, how about you?” Interestingly, I answer, “I am from San Francisco, originally.” I wasn’t expecting to introduce my past to them, it just fell out. He asked, “Oh really, what part?” I say – “Sea Cliff.” He replies, “Noe Valley.” “I love Noe Valley, best spot in the city, I answer, they get all the sunshine.” “Yes, the fog gets hung up on Twin Peaks,” he continues, “Ever been to the Acme Café?” “Yep, I used to hang out there, and at the Meat Market Café, How about the Sanctuary?” I add. Rick’s wife Cindy is politely letting us have a trip down memory lane. As it turns out, Rick and I used to hang out at the same cafés at the same times, knew some of the same people, had undoubtedly seen each other in Noe Valley, some thirty odd years ago. We had the same haunts and retraced entire sections of street that one or the other of us had forgotten. Bud’s iced cream. That dark haired guy always carrying around his guitar. The coffee drink with a twist of orange peel. Whole spans of time suddenly re-enter my consciousness. I had loved Noe Valley though I did not live there. I had forgotten that. I almost didn’t leave the city because I got an opportunity to rent a place a couple of blocks away from where Rick had been living, one week before I was supposed to move on. But I did move on. My time to venture beyond and out into an unknown future had come. I needed to be brave, and curious about all the possibilities, all that I might create, all who I might meet and where I might go a mystery as I left, as it is even more so now, years later, hung up in the mist on a holy mountain, circling back around.