In autumn, there is always one special morning of singular light and meaningful wind. Many magicians have tried to name it, usually with indirect reference -- calling it "this" wind or "that" light -- but no single name suffices. Even if you were born in another season, you feel it, but if you were born in autumn, you feel it acutely: it is the very core of your physical existence. It is raw life. This morning, after the Orionid meteor shower cleansed the heavens with star rain; this morning, as the Ch'ang Ho bells ring beneath west wind -- the wind of gates shut upon effulgent sunlight -- this morning, my October birthday morning, autumn's special life came to me again.
What is it like?
It is like falling in love.
In preparation for today I set off last Thursday, to ride the high ridges before first snow and forest wardens closed the trail gates. I was retracing the annual spirit journey of the Serrano band of Native Americans. The Serrano held polity over the San Bernardino Mountains, in what is now my stomping grounds. I wish you would take a few moments to read about these mountains. If you do, you will come to find they are what is known as "sky islands," defined as "...a high mountain region whose plants and animals vary dramatically from those in the surrounding semi-arid lands."
So, the San Bernardinos -- once the property of Spain -- are unique unto themselves. You will encounter many things here that you will encounter nowhere else. The photo above was taken at about one mile high. That dry lake in the distance is where my journey began.
Moving east, around a mountain lake and up to the 8,000 foot ridges, one finds the self-arisen stupas flourishing amid trees. Up here there are many glens and glades, populated by all manner of spirits. This is a beautiful place to set up camp.
Moving higher still, and looking back west, behind you, is a portion of the lake. I actually made it up there, with pounding chest, shaking leg, and the plaintive wish that I had not forgotten to bring the Nitrostat. The entire following next day was given over to recovery.
Still, it all worked out for the best, as Friday and Saturday were given over to working my way back down from the ridges to the desert floor -- to a time island reckoned as inhabited 11,000 to 12,000 years ago.
At least once in your life, try to witness a desert sunrise. There is a exquisite tension between strength and gentleness; again, one of those things better experienced than described.
This picture and the picture above were taken just moments apart. This shows you how quickly the morning light arrives.
Looking back from the gate to the edge of a lava flow. I have taken some of you here before. According to the University of California, this is an ancient shaman's den.
You find yourself in a labyrinth that time has carved into the desert floor. A most remarkable and powerful place for ritual, if you like that sort of thing.
The clues are recorded everywhere upon the face of the stones, but it is a lifetime's challenge to read them.
This overhang is above what the university researchers call the "rattlesnake shaman's cave." The photograph below is of the interior of the cave itself.
I have to believe that the plants growing here are particularly meaningful, but I have not investigated the matter in any depth.
In the spirit of mutual cooperation, the shamans left instructions, but we have forgotten how to read. "Mutual cooperation," is, in fact, the theme of this year's birthday post and annual appeal for live release.
Just the other day, someone published a quotation from one of the Dalai Lama's books, and it seems to be the watchword for this particular season -- a sort of textural (not textual) commentary, like the textures in the photograph, above:
"Because it is a reality that we are by nature social animals, bound to depend on each other, we need to cultivate affection and concern for other people if we really desire peace and happiness. Look at wild animals and birds. Even they travel together, flock together, and help each other. Bees do not have a particular legal system, they do not follow any spiritual practice, but for their livelihood and survival they depend on each other—that is their natural way of existence. Even though we intelligent human beings must also depend on each other, we sometimes misuse our intelligence and try to exploit each other. That goes against human nature. For those of us who profess to believe in a particular religious practice, it is extremely important that we try to help each other and cultivate a feeling of affection for each other. That is the source of happiness in our life."
I came home, and I sat on the front porch, really exhausted by my travels. As I sat there, suddenly two ravens came howling over the ridge, screaming bloody murder. One took up a position in a tree nearby Rabbit Central Headquarters, and began alarming the rabbits. The other took repeated, aggressive dives at the stupa! From my limited knowledge of raven, it seemed as if they were warning the rabbits that a bobcat was laying in wait.
Indeed, they were! This bobcat was hiding amid the stupa's walls, looking to pounce upon an unsuspecting rabbit. The ravens would have none of it, and drove the bobcat away with a cacophony of cat castigation that made the rattlesnakes blush.
So, it comes to me, as it no doubt comes to you, that if the ravens can protect the welfare of the rabbits -- an act that does not benefit the ravens in even the slightest degree -- why can't you and me learn to care for each other that very same way? Whether we are stomping around on our sky islands, or nosing around our time islands, we are all part of the same texture.
Feel the October sunlight.
Embrace the October wind.
Let love come into your life and stay there, by being born anew every day.