In conversing or commenting in Xenonlit's "Everything Must Change" I touched on how I got started writing. I wanted to expand on that a little bit as a "by way of introduction" to what drives me to write and photograph and post in the first place. Consider this a bit of a biographical history lesson.
In that post I mentioned that I started writing poetry at the age of twelve. Even as I look back on it, this seems kind of crazy. First that I would be motivated to begin my writing with poetry; and secondly that I started at twelve. I mean, here I was: this crazy wild-thoughted kid who loved horror, science fiction and war movies of all kinds (because I was a military history fan) and I started by writing poetry?
Stranger still, this poetry wasn't an attempt to please a girl or to show my sensitive side to attract a girl I liked (and I liked plenty of them at that age.) I had this dream. It was a repeating dream that, like a nightmare, I couldn't seem to wake from each time I had it.
I would start the dream innocently enough by seeing a forest all around me. I was in a heavily wooded, fern and moss covered forest of tall conifers, growing everywhere. The light shafted in beams through the high canopy of pine and redwood branches. Some of the trees were immense, reminding me of Darby O'Gillis and the Little People, or of those old Errol Flynn "Robin Hood" movies of the late forties and fifties.
I would be walking through this forest and I would see all manner of creatures. They didn't run from me. In fact, often as not, they came running to me and started talking! In a dream, most of the time, you know you're dreaming and this was no exception. Even so, talking animals was pretty amazing to me, even owing for my youth and knowing I was dreaming.
They'd say things like, "Hurry! You must help us! Save us! There is no time!" Then they would scamper, scurry and slither away -- only to be replaced by others who would encourage and entreat me to save them from some unspoken fate. Their words made my travel seem more urgent and, like in any nightmare, the faster I tried to hurry, the slower and harder my way seemed.
The first four or five times I had this dream, I never made it to wherever it was I thought the animals were urging me towards. I had to learn to calm my self in the dream state and, like I learned in nightmares (of which I had many, remember, I loved scary horror movies too) I would still my anxiety, fear and dread and tell myself, "Move slowly, don't hurry, you'll get there." It still took me three or four more dreams that I repeated this before I made my way through the forest and came upon a wooded hillside where many animals awaited me.
Now, before I continue, I must make clear, the year was 1972 and it was late in the year. I had literally just turned twelve a few weeks earlier and Halloween was right around the corner. Each time I awoke from this dream I was hearing music. The music, even then I supposed, came from some song playing on the stereo in the living room, even though I knew my mom and dad watched, "Bonanza," then the Ten'O'Clock News with Walter Cronkite and after that, if I was still awake, I'd hear the "Johnny Carson Show," start up.
By that time of the evening, I would have finally fallen asleep and my parents were sure to be in bed, so where was the music coming from? I had no idea. This music was like a ballad from Peter, Paul and Mary and I never really heard all the words, just this sad sounding refrain that sang:
Oh Valley,Valley Blue
A Valley Blue.
It was always a woman's voice and, as I said, it was reminiscent of Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary. Each time I awoke, I had tears streaming down my face and I couldn't understand why. I mean, the places I saw in my dreams were just breathtakingly beautiful, magically lit and all the creatures of the forest knew me, didn't fear me, and seemed to be looking to me for help. From what?
The last two times I had this dream, I made it over the hill. As I crested this hill, the ferns grew extra high and the tree boles were so close together in most places, it seemed to form a wall. Except in the one place where I could pass, which was wide enough to allow maybe three people walking side by side to enter this valley.
The Valley was just incredible. You couldn't ask Peter Jackson to do as good a job as this valley. It stretched out into a wide vista. There was a lake off in the distance and it glinted blue under a golden sun, sparkling even from the heights of the foothills where I stood. The grasses and flowers in meadows of light, copses of trees and willow, ash, beech and elm were growing along the two streams I could see flowing from the wooded hillsides nearby that fed the lake.
This place was like a magical place out of time. A secret valley where magic still had its sway and man could speak with and be friends with the animals. I stood there, marveling. The first time I reached this point in the dream, I awoke once again with tears running down my face -- I had actually been crying in my sleep. My breath came in sobbing gasps and I woke up one of my brothers in the bunk bed above me from my crying.
The next time I had the dream and made it into this valley, I walked down the hillside and entered the valley proper. I can describe this all I wish and there still would be no way I could convey to you the ethereal beauty and glory of this place. The whole time, though, the animals, and this last time, even the wind in the leaves of trees, were saying I had to hurry, I must save them and that there was so little time as to be none left.
As a child just turned twelve, I could not get that song's refrain out of my head. I listened to all the records my mom and dad had to see if that song or the tune was in any of them. Nope. I listened to my brothers' music (my two oldest brothers had their own record player and some 45's and a few LPs.) Nothing there, either. Where did that music come from? It must have been only from the dream.
So I wrote that refrain down. The first time I did, it made me cry while I was awake. I was actually sort of embarrassed by that, but I became determined to not let that stop me. I tried, again and again, to write the lyrics to this song, always just beyond my audible hearing and always this sense of urgency, that if I didn't act now, it would be forever too late. I never figured it out.
What that dream did, though, was spark in me an intense way of listening to what people said, to music and the lyrics, to the sounds of the world around me and to pay attention to even the body language of the animals I did see while awake and aware. It filled me with a longing and a love to be outdoors, in the woods and to observe everything in a state of wonder, awe and joy.
It also kept me writing. I learned to perform your standard Iambic Pentameter poetry without so much as a lesson in class. By the time I was fourteen and we were studying poetry and Shakespeare in English classes, I had already felt I had earned my "chops" as a budding poet. I would never show those poems to anyone until after I turned seventeen. I was too embarrassed to be called a poet in the period from 1972 to 1977.
During this same period, as I was really an avid science fiction reader, I began to also write science fiction stories and draw all sorts of pictures of strange planets, aliens, spaceships and interactions of people with technology and alien species. I wasn't very good at the human form or, living forms of any kind, for that matter, but I also didn't let that stop me. I'm still not what I could call a good artist, but I would go so far as to say I have managed to make of myself an average one.
When I was twenty-three and in the U. S. Air Force, I had this epiphanic moment of absolute clarity, brought on by a near fatal dose of psilocybin mushrooms. I will relate that event for another time, but suffice to say, it changed me and my outlook on the world. More accurately, it reshaped and reforged my then quashed love of nature and poetry. I began writing poetry in earnest again.
No matter what I've done since then, I have been writing. I have since turned to philosophical musings, ideas about the future of mankind and how we owe it to our species, as well as the rest of the planet, to preserve and protect our home, our environment. I have made it my mission to find ways to promote conservation, nature, to appreciate the beauty and majesty of nature as well as our role in that by learning more holistic ways to grow our food, build our cities, conduct our business and deal with each other.
This is my mission; my calling. If, someday, I manage to write a science fiction novel in the process, I would have also fulfilled another dream -- to be a novelist. I think now, though, that I understand the dream and the urgency of the animals.
I was placed on this path. I was given a choice to live in the world, going through the motions of culture, civility and commerce and make a path for myself that was vested in the material well-being of myself only and to promote me and me only; or to accept my other choice, my destiny, to communicate this joy, this love of the world, in all it's variety and to work to promote the ideals of man as responsible steward of his home, to encourage a compassionate life and culture of caring. It is our home
So I have not completely given up on writing that amazing and well crafted science fiction novel. Even so, I now recognize and accept completely my role as a Shaman, a Spirit Communicator and Animal Advocate for the world. As I write this, the same sensation of urgency and the tears try to flow once again from my eyes of knowing the beauty of a world that could be, if only we learned that we are not masters of this reality. Instead, we are supposed to be the caregivers and caretakers of our home, our world, .
Only this time I am awake. This time I am living the dream. This time I am not afraid to share my vision. This time, I know this is what the dream was all about. I only hope that I am in time to make it happen.