AUTHOR’S NOTE: Too often we don’t know the person behind the posting. Here are a few of the deeply-felt experiences that have brought me to where I am today as a mystical thinker, writer and practitioner of the esoteric arts.
I’ve always had a powerful, almost euphoric connection to Nature, having been raised in a bucolic corner of what at that time was a farming-turned-bedroom community for a mid-sized Connecticut city. As youngsters my brother and I had miles of deserted pasture and woodland to roam at will (this was well before the days of random sexual predators lurking behind every tree). We also had a grandfather who was (literally) a Canadian lumberjack and sportsman who took us on many kid-friendly jaunts into the wilds of New Brunswick. Additionally, it probably didn’t hurt that I was a “Full-Moon baby” born on the Summer Solstice – itself a magical time of heightened sensitivity. These advantages have led to a long lifetime of turning away from the scourge of urban sprawl whenever I can avoid it (except, of course, when it’s convenient to briefly embrace it and then flee).
Some of that which moves me most is the stuff of Hallmark greeting cards: the Full Moon anywhere and at any season; the ocean’s tides when I’m at the shore; rivers and streams – any kind of rural running water; a spectacular sunrise or sunset; the cathedral-like peace of an ancient pine forest with a mute carpet of rust-colored needles of an impressive thickness; the absolute quiet of a snowy forest at dawn or dusk (I used to fancy myself a deer-hunter, but no more; now I just torment trout and put them back in the water when I’m done – a verbose way of saying “catch-and-release”); a gentle, warm breeze blowing on a tranquil summer day; a starry sky free from the glare of human habitation; the mountains as long as I don’t have to climb them; the haunting cries of a variety of owls (but especially the screech owl and the barred owl); the skittish pileated woodpeckers that condescend to dine at our backyard feeders, sounding for all the world like prehistoric jungle birds; I could go on-and-on.
There are also a few human achievements that stir the same emotions. One that stands out in my memory is the Gothic cathedral in Heidelberg, Germany. I’m by no means a religious person (in fact, one of my favorite oxymorons is that I’m “devoutly non-religious”) but I had a friend who wanted me to go with him to a Christmas Eve service when we were stationed nearby, and I’m glad I did since it was indeed a majestic, magical experience. There are others closer to my New Hampshire home, such as the Boston Opera House and the Museum of Fine Arts – or any art museum anywhere, really. I’m also partial to wide, well-tended public parks, gardens and lawns whenever I happen upon them in urban settings, anything to get my feet off the pavement and onto the grass. The vivid paintings of Vincent Van Gogh deserve honorable mention in this category, as do the inspired musings of the British Romantic poets. A number of musical events have also left their indelible mark on me, such as a Rolling Stones concert in Frankfurt back in 1970, with Keith Richard and the band tough-as-nails while Mick Jagger pranced around the stage in pink satin pants; I had to flush that disturbing mental picture from my short-term memory by seeing Johnny Winter soon after. “Magical times” for sure. One of my few regrets is that I was overseas when Woodstock happened; but at least I got to experience Formula 1 racing at Hockenheimring and Nurburgring as well as the “touringwagen” races at Schotten, looking down on the town from the hillside.
There is a small group of special places that will always be with me. One I’ve written about before was a small brook on a wooded Connecticut hillside that flowed over an old stone wall and between the roots of a truly ancient maple tree to form a small, limpid pool at its base. I’ll never forget how that aged tree “spoke” to me as a kindred spirit (I was maybe eight years old); it still gives me chills to think about it. At that age I was wiry and nimble; I could scale the tree without benefit of lower branches and would sit in it waiting quietly for the birds to return. Sadly, that spot has now been obliterated by a suburban subdivision, so it only lives on in my heart. Another remarkable location was the “back forty” at my great-uncle’s farm in New Brunswick, perhaps a quarter-mile of meadow drowsing in the sun and dotted with clumps of wild-cherry scrub that began behind the barn and rose in undulating tiers to a dense pine forest full of deer. It doesn’t require much of a visionary nudge to take me right back there on any cool, bright August day. The big river down the hill from the house completed the picture, murmuring softly as it slid over the shallow gravel bed on its way to the Gulf of St. Laurence.
In recent years these epiphanies have been few and far between. Most of them have been evoked by passages in books of poetry or memorable scenes in not-so-popular films (like those surrealistic epics of Alejandro Jodorowsky), as well as by my daily esoteric pondering, writing and practice. While metaphysically rewarding, they serve as pale substitutes for the immediacy of personal engagement with the natural world and other episodes that ignite my creative imagination. As I age, occasions for direct experience of these watershed moments get fewer and fewer. But I always have my feelers out and my eyes open for the uncommon inspiration, which often winds up in my own writing.