The Devil Inside

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Aussie Tsunami surfer Ross Clarke Jones is a man who rides waves that eat surfers. He tells Jade Richardson why.

It was standing on its haunches, biting at the sky.

A swelling, growling wall of water; a snarling slice of sea.

The biggest wave ever ridden; a freak wall of liquid thunder churned out by El Nino tides that summer, was a sight that even the hardest of Hawaii’s big wave riders preferred to watch from the headland. It was a wave the size of a department store, with the velocity of a train wreck and destined for the same kind of impact when it finally smashed itself against the flat water.

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When surfer Ross Clarke Jones popped to his feet inside the blue-green throat of the biggest wave he’d ever seen, he was risking not only being swallowed, but chewed and snapped by the 40-foot jaws of the North Pacific. He did not look like a legend, he looked like a stickman in an avalanche.

A wave that size is pure velocity. On a crystal-clear day, under a skyful of blue, a wave like that emerges from the sea like the mirage of a mountain, a holy place – full of power and promise. It swells up in ominous silence, sucking great sheets of thick water inside. It prowls for a while, bouldering into a curve too huge to be described as graceful. It looms like a predator on the horizon. Descending fast.

“I’d never seen anything like it,” tells Clarke Jones. “The sight of that thing made everything else any of us had seen in the last 15 years instantly obsolete.

The sets were breaking at 25 feet. It was a league beyond anything any of us had ever known, and the guys who were there were the best big wave riders in the world.

“The water was like glass, the weather was perfect. We had all arrived at Waimea for the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Surfing Challenge – it’s a contest that doesn’t even kick off unless the waves hit 20 foot.” The swells hadn’t been big enough for the epic big wave contest in nine years, but in ’98 it just went wild. By mid-morning on the first day organisers, fearing injury – or worse, pulled the plug. “They cancelled the comp because it was just too extreme to send guys out there,” says Clarke Jones. “We were evacuated from the contest and headed for the top of the mountain range that skirts the sea, from there we could see that the whole 11 miles of coastline was one huge swell. I had one thought; how can I give that up?”

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It is never a question that Clarke Jones considers logically when the surf’s up. If most other human beings were to think, seriously, about the prospect of riding such a monster, there would be a very sound argument for settling for a double short black and leaving the surfboard in the car.

When a 40-foot wave breaks it is the aquatic equivalent of a landslide. 9200 tonnes of water, travelling at approximately 120kms per hour fold into a soufflé of white water as thick and dangerous as rubble. Standing with your feet strapped onto a 7 foot, 5 inch piece of fibreglass on the face of something that big is like nothing else on Earth. Watching from the beach, you can feel the noise – like the boom of a jet. When the wave implodes the force of the impact moves the sand under your feet. If you are brave (or crazy) enough to be in the water when such a wave explodes, it is nothing short of apocalyptic.

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“There’s no way you can even get near surf like that without a jet ski to tow you in,” says Clarke Jones. “The whitewater alone is bigger than any swell a surfboard could get through. In this kind of surfing skill on the jet ski and the surfboard are crucial. You need a partner who knows how to get you behind the wave, you need a powerful ski, one that can hit 100kms and not spin out. You negotiate a path onto the wave at a speed that matches the pace of the water and hope like hell you’ve got your line right. Once you’re on, you’re committed. You choose a line that races out the collapse of the wave, you think only of what’s in front. There is no noise, there is no past. There is no 35-foot wave. Only the future.” It is a future of intense seconds where you ride clean water, take some air and hold on to your line for as long as your survival instincts can bare it.

In big wave surfing Australian-born Ross Clarke Jones has made a name for himself by refusing the possibility of error. “There’s no point thinking, ‘Can I do this thing?’”, he says. “The only calculation I bother about is; big wave, fast ski – me first!”

It’s a philosophy that has made him THE name in big wave surfing and earned him a reputation as a fearless maniac. “Sure,” he says. “Maybe that’s half true. The thing is, once you’ve got a taste for that kind of thing there’s nothing to stop you. I’ve got a hunger for it, and when I’m on the beach feeling everybody’s anxiety, it’s like fuel for me. There’s no fear – only the craving to be out there and inside.”

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He’s a man who should know better. The opening sequence of Biggest Wednesday, a cult status short film documenting Clarke Jones infamous ride on the Waimea swells, a Quicksilver ad sums up his surfing career in a simple set of statistics.

‘Busted eardrum. Broken back. Mangled heel.

Millions of stitches. Fractured skull.

12 close calls. Cracked ribs…

and 10,742 thick barrels.’

The latest offering from IMax, Extreme, features Clarke Jones flirting with mortality on swells already written into the skin and carved into the skeleton of the 34-year-old whose body knows only too well that his flesh is weaker than his fetish. The fourth wave of that January Wednesday was the wave of his life – and could easily have been the last.

“That was the wave,” he recalls. “It was awesome. It outran the jet ski, I held it for a while but the line was wrong. I saw my partner, Tony Ray, get swallowed on the jet ski and then I felt the sucking. One minute I was on it, I could feel it riding out underneath me – the next I was inside it. I was nothing – the world inverted, the world ended. No up, no air, nothing but my last breath – the call to surrender. That kind of wipeout is, well, how can I describe it? It feels pretty good. You curl up, there is no pain. You get thrown around corkscrew fashion at about 100kms an hour inside a vacuum. When it’s over you’re deep, very deep underwater. It’s over, you’re out of air and your only worry is which way out.”

One minute without air is a long time when you’re metres deep in a cyclone swell. The wipeout itself is enough to knock your last gasp clean out of your lungs, after that the turbulence can suck whatever oxygen is left in your blood. “The trick is not to panic,” says Clarke Jones. “You’ve got to relax, let the water spin you, don’t choke. If you get the headspace right you don’t lose your cool, then you can enjoy it – there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

It doesn’t always work out quite this way. Just a few years before the summer of ’98 Clarke Jones was underwater in Hawaii facing an entirely different scenario.

“It was a big swell, but not like ’98,” he recalls. “I was riding a wave when a Hawaiian guy dropped in front of me, at that speed I would have killed him so I pulled into the tube, got sucked up the face headfirst and spat out – straight onto the reef.” Clarke Jones landed butt-first on dry reef, a fall of about 10 metres at a speed of almost 70kph. The blow sent compression fractures right up his spine, whiplashed his neck and left him unconscious, being dragged back into the swell. “I came too 10 metres from the shore, underwater. The waves were pounding over me, I couldn’t move my legs at all. People watching from the beach ran down and hauled me out, they pulled me onto the sand and while I waited there for the ambulance I thought; my God, it’s a broken back, I’m paralysed – it’s all over. I was beyond humbled, demolished by the ocean.” It took four months of rehabilitation but the determination to get back to the water was intense. “In the end it just made me stronger,” he says. “Through that time I told myself, this is nothing. I said to myself, this is not the end, it’s just something to go through. After that there was no more fear, nothing to stop at – I felt I’d broken through a wall.”

Ross Clarke Jones2.jpgThe word most often used to describe Clarke Jones is fearless. It’s a misinterpretation by his public, not a private ambition. “People like to think because I do these things I’m some kind of superhuman, somebody without limits. Perhaps it helps people justify that they’re not out there themselves,” he says. “The reality is that I was born on the 6th day of the 6th month in 1966 – how deep into my anxieties do you want to go?”

Sure, when it comes to big waves he admits to no fear, “When you get scared out there the adrenaline shot’s too strong to be any good, it makes you weak – I’m not out for that.” But there’s other things that do get Clarke Jones in a sweat. “Sharks scare the living daylights out of me,” he says. “Can’t stand spiders. Snakes; can’t touch ‘em – I can’t even confront a dog, I’m no good with animals, or humans.”

On an autumn Thursday, surfing the break at Terrigal, NSW, Clarke Jones got to know a lot about being afraid. “I was paddling around the point when something grabbed me around the leg. It got me by the leg rope and pulled me under, let me go, then went for me again,” he tells. “I got sucked under and I could feel this thing dragging at me – there was no pain, but I was screaming like a schoolgirl. Shark! It made my blood run cold. It turned out, in the end, that I’d got tangled up in fishing buoy but I couldn’t stop screaming anyway – pure terror.” That was in the beginning, when Clarke Jones was just a kid. “I found out about myself that day in the surf,” he says. “I’m out in the water because it’s a kind of paradise, surfers understand that. When I’ve faced sharks (or fishing buoys) in the water I’ve got the distinction really clearly – there’s a big difference between scaring the hell out of yourself and being exhilerated.

“Riding the big waves happened because I was seduced by the idea. From the day I surfed the pointbreak at Terrigal, when I was only 11 and my mum was screaming on the rocks, I just knew it was where I wanted to be. I always loved the feeling; the intensity and the sea, it was never about conquering fear. I hate being afraid.”

Since then he’s surfed his way around the world to ride the sea in Japan, South Africa, Indonesia, Morocco, Peru, Brazil … the list goes on.  “I just like to be on the ocean, in all kinds of ocean,” he says. “I love the emerald green sea off France, I loved Peru – like surfing on the moon. I love it when it rains, I love the golden light and the brisk energy of a dawn surf in Sydney. It’s not that surfing has made me into something, not even the big waves that everybody gets so excited about, it’s more that the sea has taught me something, a way to belong I think. Yeah, it’s that – a way to belong.”

Published by Panorama, and The Sunday Telegraph.

eddie Eddie Aikau was a big wave surfer and the first life guard at Hawaii’s Waimea Bay. He saved more than 500 people in the water, inspired generations after him, and died in February 2016 – his life story is being celebrated by surfers all over the world.

 

 

Good Men, Hurting… a message from the Jasmine King

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Bob came to mow the lawn yesterday. I saw him creep through the side gate while I was sorting out my shell collection.

He slunk in hunched and filthy. His sticky white legs poking out of saggy King Gees. Bandy ankles thrust into ratty Blunstones, raw with mud and ash and spit from years of grubby labour.

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Bob looked to be about 60. Dark skinned,  grizzle-eyed, scribbled all over with tats. He was, as we say in Australia, built like a brick shit-house. In other words; Bob is a scary guy.

I decided to approach him with a gentle confidence before he got any ideas about burning down the house, or murdering the dog. I slipped out the French doors, glided over the dehydrated lawn, and was surprised to see, as I stepped up to him beside the jasmine, that Bob was clinging to the fence, crying.

His greased-up flanny was flinching with a wrenching breath. Little muddy rivers were breaking dams along his crinkled-up eyes. It came to me vivid-clear, like a bright star at night, that Bob, thinking no-one was home, had crept inside our pretty garden to be alone, to weep.

I was frozen in my little pink slippers. Stuck out in mid-field, doomed to break this spell, and ashamed of busting in a grown man doing secret grown man business in the delicate, lonely way he had found.

But it was too late.

Bob just about flew out of his skin when he saw me. Tears went scattering in all directions. He had a bit of a job, to muscle up to full size and shake the jasmine blossoms out of his hair, but he got it together and smiled at me, blue eyes flashing like sapphire spiders and said, “Fuck me! Arr didn’ know no-one was ‘ere!”

“Geez! I’m sorry love,” he sniffed, smudging up his face, and wincing in the sharp, unozoned southern light. He took a deep breath, shuddered it out and said, “It’s just I’m so fucking cut up over that thing with the dogs.”

Dogs?

“The greyhounds. It’s all over the news. They’re doin’ real bad things to dogs over greyhoundin China, an’ over here too, it’s even worse. Right here in West Australia! We’re brutalisin’ ’em. All over the place. An’ when we’re done with ’em we’re just injecting em with pesticides, cause it’s cheaper ‘en proper death drugs.

“They showed it all on tv. It’s a hell of a death. I saw blokes chokin’ them dogs with their boots on their throats while they’re dyin’ like that. It’s just too much for me. Too much – all of it. I’m sorry. I’ll be right in a minute.”

Bob reckons the whole place has gone mad. He says he’s given up on the human animal. “We’ve gone feral.” he reckons. “It’s a fuckin’ mess,” he says. “It’s this, and the blokes who got off after raping and killing that Indian girl – how can ya reckon it? The whole lot of it! I’m desperate when I think what the world will be like for the gran’kids.”

“We’ve just gotta hope that somethin’ – maybe the weather, maybe the war, maybe some kind of bloody god or whatever… puts an end to us. Soon. So’s the rest of the place can get on in peace.”

Bob is holding a pretty antique plate,  and a posy of gardenia and roses. DSCF1138

“Ere,” he says softly, holding out the flowers. “These are from the wife.” He  passes the plate over gently too, “This is from your place ‘ere. Your friend gave it to me last week. All the ladies in the street bake me cakes,” he explains shyly. “I just love cakes, an’ the wife can’t keep up.”

“I come over and do the lawns, tidy things up a bit, and the ladies leave me cakes. It’s a great street this – are you here by yerself? Well ya oughtta come for Christmas! We’d be bloody glad to have yer.” 

I am standing among the bobbing dandelions, holding a bouquet of
flowers tied with string, knowing that I am witnessing one of those great treasures in life – a rare moment; a sort of homegrown miracle, actually.

Bob, I can see it, is a great and fine thing. A rare and wild blessing – an ordinary bloke. A man with more love still in him than he knows how to handle.

He’s an endangered animal, actually, and a triumph of our time – a good man, with heart. We need as many of those as we can possibly nurture.

His being in the world, tough and grizzled and mean-eyed as he is, is a great comfort to me, and proof that the role of the Truly Good Man is not being left solely to hippies, or self help writers, or the various New Age wasters who have hijacked the archetype – thank God!

In general, it’s fair and about time we said it: the Bad Man, the Deadbeat dad, the Greed head, the Cruel boss, the Creep, the Wanker, the Yuppy, the War lord, crook, the school Bully, the Traitor, the Sloth, the Yellow Dwarf, the Wolf and the Devil have taken over the bodies of men everywhere.

In short, the Wrong King is sitting in the man’s place in our society – and we all know it!

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This shifting of archetypes is key in the new work of teacher and mystic, Caroline Myss, who I spent a week with in New York last year. Myss spent a good deal of time practically screaming about the terrible impact of sabotage and reversing of human archetypes going on in the culture.

You can see her discussing this sort of thing here. But be warned  – she blows the lid further than I do.

She pointed specifically, for example, at how The Lover has been transformed into The Vampire in movies, books and imagery.

“This is dangerous, dangerous, evil shit!” she said.

Why? Because it is a direct attack on the innate virtue of a human being, on sacred, cosmic intelligence which aligns with Grace and Love, and not with Feeding, Sadism, Sickness and Violence.

What we’ve got, and what Jung says has been creeping up on us since major shifts toward city-living, industry and centralised government in the 12th Century, is a corruption of the archetype of Father, Leader, King and Protector – what the Chinese might call an attack on the Yang forces of life and culture.

But this is much bigger than a gender issue – and I hope you can see that too. Because we are not dealing with a crisis caused by men, or inflicted by men, but actually being done to men, and therefore trickling out to undermine us all.

Masculinity is something the whole culture shares – not only the men. It is a metaphor for traits the Chinese would call Yang; forward-moving, extrovert, bold, sun-oriented, warrior-natured, active, decisive, clear, aggressive, independent and strong.

We associate these strongly with men, but the qualities are obviously and naturally also held and reflected by women, and in the way we all do things – either overtly and strongly, or covertly and gently, which we could call Yin, or feminine: these are qualities, not actual gender roles.

Distortions in this symbolism have been wrongly translated into a gender crisis.

Men have been persecuted and used as slaves by industry, state and church under the crucible of an overly-yang culture, and women are getting sucked down that tube as well. Because we have blamed this on a Patricachy, instead of a culture headed up by men and women, we have fallen into fear of the wrong enemy; men blame each other, women blame men, sons blame fathers, fathers blame their wives, and everybody is distracted from the real source of the problem.

And what is that? Could it be that we are being undermined by a war-driven State that instead of cultivating life on Earth, and enriching its citizens, thrives by devouring the planet and exploiting its living beings – black, white, male, female, children, aged, feathered, forested – all.

Could we have been lead astray, into a Survival of the Sickest cult, instead of a world where the soul is valued and nurtured? You can read about this brilliant hoax on humanity here..

As our leadership models are weakened, we are becoming more ferocious, desperate and cruel – “in this era of consciousness, actually, we have never been more disconnected from ourselves, from spirituality, from the Earth,” says Myss.

The trouble for us today is that we’re bent over buckling, tackling all this as if it were actually personal. We’re carrying deadly wounds inflicted by mothers or fathers who were absent, cold, drunk, violent – or statesmen and CEOs who are, and the damage they have done to us,our Earth and hope, and happiness.

We’re limping over grief and wounds that appear personal, but are way way bigger than our own biographies.

Myss says it like this; “No way! That’s all over now. You can’t turn up saying I’m hurt because daddy didn’t love me, or daddy was a bastard.

What you’ve got to realise is that whatever daddy did, and the daddys before him and before that – they did to ALL of us. We’re all dealing with wounds and psychic illnesses that are deeply spiritual for the whole creation, for the whole cosmos.

One of the most powerful has been this twisting of our idea of masculine power, and the hobbling of men.

We have inherited a world where men have been tricked out of their goodly role as lovers, fathers, healers, peace-makers, providers, wise-ones, truth-keepers, nourishers, protectors and life-givers – and into the role of gladiator, wage slave and hamster on a wheel driven by industry, and not by spirit.

Good men have been deceived by a devilish deal, and sold their own hearts, souls and happiness to a world that promised them riches, but left them cold and mean, or crying in the jasmine.

This culture encouraged men to cultivate coolness at heart, make bad trades, errors of judgement, choose the tv over real life, turn a blind eye to need or injustice, indulge in vanity, lust for ‘things’, abandon their children, siphon power from servile wives (or neighbourhood sirens),  and just generally degrade themselves out of true power and happiness.

This creeping in of sick values and sneaking out of the Great Male Qualities in our families, streets, councils, corporations and governments is the secret wound that festers as the swords fly in our world. Women are in on it too, when they masculinise themselves at the cost of others. And when they fail to ally with their husbands, sons and brothers against the whispers of a culture which, at its dread root, nurses a war on the love between man and woman.

Why? Because if you can cut humanity right there – in the guts, the heart, the crutch of our most holy longing – that of union between the Great Mother (Earth) and the Great Father (Humanity) principles – you’ve got a lost species that will shop, work, war and drive a billion industries with its grief and anxiety.

“The basic discovery about any people is the discovery of the relationship between its men and its women.”  Pearl S. Buck

What peace is lost between loving men and women, between children and parents, and in the private worlds of individuals is the base essence our culture. This modern world alchemises our anxiety, ambition, fear, cruelty and greed into the unholy oil that drives the economy, governments, the ideology of war, and loss of spirituality.

Add to this an off-planet, war-backed Christian/ Jewish Father God, separated from life on Earth except to issue Commandments, exact revenge, demand total  worship and allow his son – the Good Man –  to be brutally murdered on the planet… and it’s not a very encouraging picture for men, is it?

It has been like this longer than we have been at war over oil. And if you want to fight against terrorism, then get this – the root of all this crap is in the constant temptation and slaughtering of the basic humanity in us all – what Myss calls our natural, spiritual intelligence.

Good men, as we all so well know, are truly hard to find. Partly because those who remain have disguised themselves as dangerous yobbos, to keep Other People away, and partly because unknown numbers are presumably scattered about the place, quietly crying in the shrubbery, or in bars, offices, traffic jams and sheds.

It’s also because, as boys and young men, those qualities of really feeling it, of being open, of being tender, of caring, intuiting and being vulnerable are bashed out of them by a society that favours a more ruthless kind of man. And his twin, the more ruthless kind of woman, too.

Boys get it at a very young age in Western culture – it is not ok to care. You will get the shit kicked out of you if you do.

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If they are not bullied into being cold, tough, hidden or viscous at school, chances are their dads were, and will do the job themselves.

Breaking in boys is standard brutality in our culture – through sport, or the glamorisation of ‘cool’, of reason, competitive learning, of war games, of indifference to nature, of the normalising of porn, violence and money.

Dads who don’t abandon their boys through work or booze or divorce – thereby pulling the wings off their natural masculinity by denying them the model and protection of a loving, loyal, honourable father – might stick around to bash their sons into becoming ‘real men’, because it was done to them, and they don’t know any better.

Girls work out too, that it pays to wise up, to crack the social codes for power and influence by either attaching themselves to its male sources, or sizing up to fight for a share themselves – and thereby abuse their own Yang force. The feminist movement has been on that wagon for ages as women merrily stab each other in the back in pursuit of security, and I, myself, am sick of it.

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Women have been bitching and moaning and wringing their manicured fingers over the injustices of the patriachy for decades now, and the so-called boys’ club they want in on – oblivious to the scaffold of male bones, brutalised boys, and shattered men, betrayed and abandoned on the killing fields of war and industry they’re climbing on.

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How do women, who keep blaming men for the mess we’re in, ignore the collective wail of millions upon millions of men of all races who have been marched out and slaughtered, stolen and enslaved by the society they now aim to succeed in?

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They forget that the fashion is for men to go bad. To have their hearts crushed early, so they can go to work, man up in the world, fight for a dollar, bring home the bacon, wrangle the rats and keep the noose firmly at their throats so they don’t choke on the horrors they see in the world.

Good men are few between, because we murder them in their beds before they’re 12. The ones who survive it are running like foxes from the fear-machine of society, and desperately searching for a light – a true light – to head for. Many have learned that not all women who glow are golden.

And I have learned that too.

We’re going through a dark time on the little planet, Earth. The signs are reversed, the balance all kallywonkers. Things are dying everywhere, or medicating themselves to Lalaland. The waters are rising, the forests are burning, the leadership looking more all the time like a pack of hyenas and here in Australia, at least one person dies every day by their own hand, because they just can’t handle the misery that’s being dished up as a human experience.

Or is it that they’re grief-stricken, actually? – their hearts opening up amid a chaos of gunfire and cruelty and callous social climbing, and they can’t find a good man, a real man, a proper hero – crying in their garden, to help show them the way.

This is a mass crisis. In 2012 in West Australia, one of the richest, most beautiful places in the world, suicide was the leading cause of death for men and women between the ages of 15 and 44. More people were killed by their own hands than by skin cancer or road accidents.

This tells how many people are wrestling with pain, are onto the fact that things are not what they seem, and haven’t found a light to navigate by.

In my own world here, I am oddly proud to say that half my friends are on anti-depressants. A good slab are on whiskey, porn or Deepak Chopra audio books – which is about the same thing. I’m observing it all with love, because they’ve got hearts that keep blooming, even if they haven’t quite worked out how to deal with that power yet.

Most are desperately searching for a Good Man, an Ordinary Bloke, a proper Father Figure to show them how to use their natural born power with fair aim and gentleness of heart. In this quest, sadly, most are as yet, in another great Australian phrase… completely fucking lost.

Their fathers are gone, unavailable, uninterested or just plain incapable. These are men who often tore off their own wings for corporate success, or to survive whatever war games were required to please their ambitious wives, or flee their own heart-ache and terror of ending up sobbing in the jasmine.

Myss says the archetype of the Good Man is under a spell. He is in the power of a social cult run by a greed machine, out of control.

Of my mates, a fair hunk are numb, resigned or confused.  And there’s a handful who get around teaching workshops about healing, or being heroic, or becoming virtuous, or whatever, while secretly navigating their own ships through extremely narrow straits of total hypocrisy.

There are powerful black women getting the sneaky feeling that something still stinks around here, and experts in sustainable science gone saggy with despair over the social change circus. There are feminist motivators and spiritual entrepreneurs who just irritate the living shit out of me, and a LOT of people who really care – who worry about polar bears, and Aboriginals, and poor people, and stuff…. who are, like, totally into the idea of actually giving a shit – but are secretly just pulling the wings off fairies.

They’ve made the trade already. They’ve exchanged their feeling selves, the open, tender crush of being actually human at a time like this – for the practical business of getting on with it, of taking care of number one, of stealing whatever fire will bring them power, wealth and the stark refuge of status in a society that actually values the cut throat higher than the gentle heart.

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Voices from the rice field… how Bali lost it all

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Come with me for a moment, away from the roar of mad thinking and the crush of despair –  there is a voice in the garden, a song in the rice field…  

I fled back to Bali with a face sucked dry by the Antarctic winds that gnaw on the bones of remote southwest Australia.

The winter had eaten the honey out of me. And that small town, bespangled with tiny flowers as it was, had worn me out with its dangerous lusts and frontier wounds, still bleeding despite all the buried bones, and the new mansions and tarmac and fleets of four wheel drives.

The day I left there were fires all around us.DSCF0204

The bush was roaring as eucalypts exploded in the first Aussie bushfires of the season.

The road was melting as my brother and I blazed north to Perth.

An Indonesian volcano had shut down the skies, and Kalimantan was boiling all its babies, oozing with uncontrollable fires caused by industry there, as the French succumbed to gunfire on the eve of those sick bargains struck at the Climate Change Convention, to haggle over the boons of our broiled earth.

In Bali, as usual, the streets were littered with plastic, and an endless cascade of pretty flowers. The tropic heat socked me with its fragrant punch as I tumbled out of the tidy neurotics of West Australia into the gorgeous sweaty bosom of divine bedlam that is my beautiful, ruthless, wild-at-heart Bali.

The rain hadn’t come.

In Ubud the rice was scorching in gluey paddies. From my little bungalow, in the last remaining rice fields, I watched the last farmers of Ubud at dusk, squatting over their waning crops, staring toward the blood-red sky, for weeks.

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My Balinese friends were saying “it is too the very hot!”

When they looked skyward they said they saw lasers, and not storm clouds in their sacred heavens. There is a hushed but steady conversation going on among the sons of the last farmers in this heaving tourist town – the lasers are stopping the rain, they say. Rich people are shooting the storm clouds so they can schmooze a month longer at cocktail parties.

The water is so low in the fields that there are rumours of rustling at night. Thieves have been cutting away at the mud paddy walls to channel the last precious water from their neighbour’s paddies.

Wayan is a taxi driver. For years now, on my long stays in Bali, he has taken me on my excursions out of Ubud and into the furnace of the main city, Denpasar, or on my regretful rides to the airport. He tells me stories about his life, listens to mine, and navigates us through the whirl choke hustle of his tiny island.

He has given up his career as an artist to drive this rented taxi. Trained since he was 14, with legendary Dutch artist Rudolph Bonnet, a darling of the world art scene, Balinese royalty, and credited with spear-heading projects to conserve and promote the incredibly rich natural talent of indigenous painters – Wayan says he’s lucky to get $100 for a painting these days.

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Bonnet’s art, which was nurtured and trained in the Balinese style, fetches up to US$1 million at auction.

“It was better before,” sighs Wayan, “when the people loved the Bali for the art, and the nature. Then I could paint and sell. Now, not possible,” he smiles.

“The people only they come for the buy fashion and other things. It is better I work with the tourists, in taxi, at hotel, cleaning. I have my family to pay for the life. And my sonDSCF0325, he not like painting. I have nothing to teach him. He just likes the handphone, and the watching television. So me, I just be hoping the tourist will like me and my car.”

Bali is visibly blooming and disintegrating under the thrust of progress, development, and a surge in tourism that never seems to let up. Prosperity and poverty are both escalating in this global hotspot which sees billions of tourist dollar, while the local wage still wallows at about US$50 a month.

The impact of the world-wide upheaval of developing cultures is nowhere more apparent to me these days than in the disheveled and desiccating oasis of Bali.

baliart2

Wayan loves flowers. He loves white roses best. He loves going to the gym, and showing me the muscles he makes there. He loves music too, and often, as we set out he will roll up the windows, turn down the AC, and sing to me with unabashed joy, the gayatri mantra.

He sings if I am sullen on the road, or if I’m leaving. He sings when the crush of traffic is making us impossibly late for an appointment. This chant, he tells me, so pleases the gods that they can’t help but shower down beauty indiscriminately to Earth whenever they hear it. He sings it like that – as if he could just see all the white roses cascading about us.

Today he sings because I ask him to. I tell him my heart is hurting. Another bad love story.

He sighs, “Ah, the very very bad and stupid man!” and chants again. “Don’t worry Jaydee,” he says. “the gods, they take this one away so they make room for one of their own. It will come. Sing!”

So we do.

The city thickens around us. A chaos of billboards advertise Guinness, bridal wear, handmade spear guns, surf boards, bikinis, puff wicker storage chairs, silver, gold, kitchen fitouts, iphones and botox. Men push bicycles kitted out as restaurants, street sellers wilt beside bbq corn. There are stall of fresh cut watermelon, racks of sunglasses and smoky griddles of satay between endless high fashion windows of bling, and beggars, bent dogs, and huge advertisements for Bali Marine Park’s latest exhibition, From Predator to Prey.

The road is a mash up of thousands of motorbikes, vans, trucks, and bashed up lorries bearing tiny dark work boys in open flat beds, covering their skin from the hazing sun with sacks and shredded t-shirts. If you smile at them, they beam back at you with an innocent joy extinct in richer places.

A man in a flower truck clips our wing mirror at a tangled junction. I glance at him, he smiles and giggles. Wayan waves at him cheerfully as we all press on for our place in the throng.

I ask Wayan, like I always do, how is life with him? How does he feel about all this? And he sighs at me, and sinks a little.

“Jaydee…. We learn the many, many things this time in Bali,” he tells me. “It is difficult for us, we are need the the too many every thing. I thinking for now, what I know is the true; our parents, and their parents – they had the better life.”

“Before this coming, my parents, they had all. For them and for some few people here still – just the last ones – they knew what it was; the all.”

The all? I ask.P1060171

“Yes, the all – you know? You remember this one?” he says.

And I say no. Because after 20 years pretty much full time traveling and interviewing and working with upper middle class educated white people from across the world, I am confident to say that no – we no longer have any idea what ‘the all’ is – and we’re suffering for that.

“The ones before this change, the progress coming, they understood that it is not possible, this life chasing every thing. For them, before money, before what they tell us is freedom, they had the rice and with the rice came the all.”

“In my village, the people, they never had the every thing: but only the rice, just the each other, but they happy.

“They need water; they go to the rice. They want food; there is rice, and many, many things inside the garden. There was the medicine, the sounds for  the music, the art, the place to be free, or to prey and be safe with the life. For my grandmother, and my parents, the life oh – it was so easy then! Just come to the rice field. All is there; the food, the cool water, the gods, the beauty, the happy.

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“But for me, not possible this. We lose this connection and now we need pay for the every thing; the food, the water, the motorbike, the phone, the clothes, the electric, the school, the happy, the ceremony. The people now, we are always busy, always running for money to get what our parents had for free. We are busy, busy, busy and worried all the day, and night.

“When we lose this, the rice, we lose connection to the land.., We lose something very important: our painting, our dancing, our quiet heart – the love. We lose this – you know? – we lose the sweet in the mind.

“We lose the really free. The helping each other for the love, and not the money. 

“But it is not the too very bad Jaydee. Not all is lose because we still have the ceremony and the song, the family is still a little bit strong like before.

We are the very very lucky, we have religion. We know how to love the god and be grateful. This is the safety for us, from here we try to learn.

We don’t understand every thing for now – how it is possible, this? How it is good, this? To lose the all for the everything? We still be need learn, and the gods, I am for sure –  they will protect us. So come – Jaydee – let’s sing!

girl at prayer

One night, the moon – dreamless in Denmark

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That last full moon

conjured phantoms and poems

off sleepless pillows

all over town.

xx

A desperate flotilla,

our unquiet beds

strayed the wide back of night

as we, dreamless in Denmark,

alone in the undark,

bobbed fearful

in our silvery seas.

xx

Great tides of longing,

deep swells of forgetting,

grumbles and fretting

rode heavy under all our craft…

eating the dreamers,

tossing their boats

and conjuring a dark puzzle

of strange

marine creatures

to surf our stories

and snake our waves.

xx

The fairy tore her linen bonnet

and twisted her nightgown

with anguish.

xx

The forest walker

was lost for hours in a labyrinth

of dark places, hollow caves and wolf magic.

xx

The poet, finding herself in a pool

of bright water, fallen all the way from the moon!

to electrify her sheets,

huffed twice, turned three or four times

until a pencil appeared,

a bird flew to her hand,

and the three of them embraced.

xx

One man agreed to die.

xx

But most clung on

their wretched craft.

Just a few,

sniffing mushroom, fox, sweet moss and drumskin,

crept out to the wild.

Out into that spangled cathedral

between the unfolding woods

and the uncurling sea

where the land gives her stories

to the silvery stars.

xx

There they saw the ghost ship riding,

her mermaids abroad, and her stallions at large.

They saw the shimmery nets were cascading

and that halflings and soldiers and lonely bones

were riding about her, great pillars resounding

from Australia to her sister in arms, fair Pleiades.

xx

Broken dreamers, weeping men and felons pulled those ropes.

They churned the cosmic ocean,

spilling little boats and tossing all the fishes

as the blood in the soil

took robe of flower, cloak of bark, crown of feather

and composed itself into faces

to turn toward the heavens.

xx

Down down down

spilled the glittery tresses.

One for every lost sailor

in our geology of sorrow.

xx

and up up up

reached those yearning caresses,

turned from pulling at shrouds

made of silence, made of violence and the deep clay of despair,

turned from their dark business with the purifying earth

and ready to ride again, brightly.

xx

This last full moon, remember?

She set out her fleets across

rocky seas through sleepless sailors, us.

She shook up our cradles

and salted our tongues.

She gargoyled our dreams and curdled our pillows

so that all her monstrous babies

could borrow our prayers,

could bite at the sky,

could toss up the firmament

and gallop the switchback

for that starry leap

beyond the jaberwock.

xx

Their great triumph,

a bridge made of moonstone

between the treasons of our fathers

and the futures of their sons,

born to ride the helix

on a crucifix of Love.

The poet, by moonlight.

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The moon

tiptoed like a fleet of silken fairies

across a busty chorus of cloud,

across the pretty lawn, doused in nightdew

and through a lattice of gum leaves

to find

only his image upon my little window.

xx

The moon

was not in the mood

for reflection.

xx

He swelled up,

his silk turned to satin

his chariot to ice

and his pretty serenade

cut short at the neck.

xx

The moon

pushed through the curtains,

pulled at my blankets,

grabbed me by my flannel pajamas

and pressed his thumb against my throat.

xx

He was

full of hard muscle

and indigo with rage.

xx

He stared me dead in the face.

He breathed ice upon my puckering skin.

He trailed his long fingers,

flesh-less and filed,

across my pillowy cheek,

and plucked

the petals

off my dream.

xx

The moon

twisted my hair.

He pulled at my lashes

and yanked back the sheets of my cocoon.

xx

To douse me

with a chill wave

of his bleak grace.

xx

He forced his ancient cold

against my sleepy nest.

he regarded my gooey body,

dripping with sleepy lala,

and said,

xx

in the voice of Freud,

in the colour blue

in no uncertain termsxx

               Write!

               Or I will send you a monster!

Lilium – in her glass, brightly.

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IMG_4326IMG_4337
IMG_4319IMG_4331 

                      Lilium

xx

in her glass, brightly

she furls

and uncurls

her long limbs,

xxxxxxdusted

xxxxxxwith tiny creatures

xxxxxxof light.

xx

almost naked

in the thin glow

of this quiet table,

beside the car keys

and a flotsam of letters

with plastic windows,

she

slow

dances

a lush burlesque.

xx

peeling

her fingers

out of silken gloves.

pulling

off her iridescent stockings,

and leaving

her brilliant laundry

in puddles

of peach, and stubborn powders

at her feet.

xx

She,

shameless

with love bites

and rich with juice.

xx

while We,

thrum on,

through the crush-drizzle

of houselife,

making homely scents out of crumpets

and soup.

xx

Lilium – right beside us!

in vivid pink,

arches her back,

pouts

and

contorts.

anoints every eddy

with galaxies of bright things

and dangerous

love potions.

xx

We, anyway,

bustle

by her in toweling,

between steamed puddings, sponges and sink bubbles

as she

unclips

her silky vests,

reveals her powdered neck

and swoons

’til her throat

glows

golden

from blowing

heavy

kisses.

xx

We, anyhow,

tug at the purring fridge,

admire the well-fingered cat,

gamble on rain.

xx

all

under

her perfect eye,

our parade of toast and cake

and lovely cups of tea,

trailing heiroglyphys

up the wooden hallway.

xx

we pick at our hems

as she – right beside us!

peels off her satin

panties

and leaves them to

drip

xxxxdrip

down the wall behind her,

a fingerpaint of erotic shadows

on a sensibly neutral

expanse of Dulux.

xx

She

dances

for her cosmic lover

xxxxxxthis suburban air,

xxxxxxeach inscrutable night,

xxxxxxevery blue dawn

xxxxxxand in the halogen glow

of our television.

xx

She

dances

her divine romance.

xx

What it is

to be

Lilium,

unfurling

Lilium,

curling

caressing the space,

anointing its barren plains

with her sticky lashes

and dripping

scented honeys,

rude potions

and wax

to advertise her lust.

xx

Her sex

leaves

fatal powders.

Bright gold, burnt honey and dark blood

potions which fairies

skip through, perhaps,

to mark our house with fertile footprints,

conceiving sunbeams

and starlets

and living air.

xx

She tosses all her treasure,

her limbs even,

her graces all –

every

thing

falling

in

love

as she

disempetals,

unseen

and unabashed.

xx

reducing herself

to stumps

and spent rags

on our hall table,

she swoons

unfolding toward

the delicate crush

of her dying.

xx

In this ballet

she shreds

her satin slippers,

stains her lovely wings

and tears

all her pretty

silks

in an excellent collapse –

xx

like we might,

if we also

danced

brightly

into the

hot dream of our death.

The Face of Extinction – who killed Lonesome George? Galapagos diary # 3

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The pin-up boy for conservation is now known as The Face of Extinction.

lonesome george 5

Lonesome George stands pickled in New York while whispers surf the streets of his Galapagos home. Was the father of a never-born-generation killed by the scientists who ‘saved him’? Have conservationists wiped another species off the Earth?

You hop a bus, ferry and then a 4WD taxi from Galapagos airport into the nerve-center of life on Santa Cruz. It is one of the most beautiful rides on Earth. Terra firma, Galapagos-style, is a heady masala of flavours Africa, Australia, Greece and Sci Fi blended along an undullous ribbon of tarmac that surfs some of the world’s least storied landscape.

galapagos road The road rides like a dolphin through the gently rolling landscape and Ooo – there! A giant tortoise slowly mows the verge. And Ooo – there! The scrub parts to reveal huge craters glittering with indigo waters in which nymph nor pharaoh, Viking nor tribesman ever saw their own reflection. tortoise

This is a land almost free of human history. A land not yoked and laden by empire, legend or myth. Here – this air unfettered by words – has a glitter about it.

A peculiar brightness, like falling in love. Blazing through the untold wilderness I feel – for one hour of grace – the heavy load of my own stories dissolving. A thrill like that first rush of champagne.

An echo, is it, of that translucent state of Life, before the Beginning – the human one, with its Word, and resultant cacophony.

Everything in me wants to just STOP RIGHT HERE.

I want to whisper to the driver, “Let me have Galapagos like this.” Before the petrol stations, shanties, cafes and ports clutter up the innocence of it…“let’s just stop here.

Let me creep out gently into the wild and lie down in it for a month or a year or a lifetime.”

But such things are Not Allowed. The human animal on the Galapagos islands may not walk off into the wild. May not even set a naked foot upon her unless escorted by a guide in those regulated territories set aside for us, at prices set in US Dollar – unless they work for National Parks.

And so, we barrel on. Into human habitat with its scent of petroleum and barbecued chicken. The taxi releases me from its air conditioned bubble, and I wilt instantly on the parched cement of Galapagos’ main business district.

Puerto Ayora rears out of rippling heat like a building site on the industrial skirts of an Orwellian hell. The town has a heat-haze reminiscent of bridling stallions composed of vipers of cooked air, diesel fume, dollars and desperation. It thrumps with the heavy, sweaty rhythm of industry as usual in a habitat that is just too hot for this sort of carry on.

A chaos of echoes rebounds off every surface and the people melt, shimmer, wobble and seep body fluids into their cheap Chinese lycra as they set about their myriad ways of moving dollars from pocket to pocket – like everywhere else.

I gaze across the shop fronts; pharmacies, burger joints, hardware, beer fridges, ticket vendors for last minute cruising, dive shops and a huge, imposing hospital smack bang before the port, with dozens of people sprawled out around its flanks.

The waterfront is mid-way through a surgical beautification process involving the demolition of its natural visage, and replacement with one whose parts were imported from China. What stretches between me and the shimmering sea is the last naked stretch of undeveloped foreshore, receiving its final nourishment of sunshine, birdsong and breeze. Ahead, the long boulevard is already buried beneath 10 inches of desiccated sand and brick, bringing Galapagos that suspicious glory known as ‘development’.

The ‘beautified’ malecon will soon look more like the photo-shopped sexy future waterfront property developers have been flogging off to consortiums and other gamblers lately. And less like it has for those wordless Millennia it has been here.

Millennia which manged to create and nurture all life as we know it, without any mind, nor mouth having ever conceived that word, ‘progress’.

With one foot on the doomed sand, and the other on the new red paving I can feel in my own flesh the actual reality of that much argued about ‘possibility’ even a half-baked blonde can testify to; climate-change.

The beautification work is having a sort of open-air microwave effect on things. To my right side, new bricks are evidently much, much hotter than the remnant sand road to my left. The baking sheet of new road roasts the last flesh of an already enfeebled onshore breeze, which has picked up so much sun off the posh glass, and relentless cement along the foreshore that you can just about see the glitter dying in mid-air and falling to the ground in heaps of ash.

On an island where conservationists and biologists have swollen tongues from all their raving on about understanding and conserving the environment it’s kinda kooky, and sortof sickly to witness an entire ecosystem being ploughed into a shopping strip right under the noses of the world’s most noisy NGOs. galapport

Being the optimistic type, I decide not to dwell on all this and dash brightly across the bitumen to feast upon the waters that (allegedly) helped Charles Darwin, and then all humanity change our view of life, the universe and everything.

Ah – the heavenly delight of that rush to the sea!

There she lies… twinkling and rippling in a bright, cool seduction. I lean over the railings to drink the salty nectar of the far, far Pacific, and seek the shapes we all come here for: shape of iguana, shape of penguin, pelican and our own nature-loving selves. galaptrack2 Lovely red crabs skitter about on a mean-looking rubble of black lava. The calm, fizzing waters of wide, wide sea breathe off puffs of redeeming ions and… what’s that? And that? Oh! Shit! They’re Everywhere! galaptrack

As my eyes adjust to Galapagos frequency iguana, seals, pelicans, rays and other creatures start composing themselves into view… and the weirdness turns up a notch.

My cones and rods adjust their apertures wildly, but no.. it’s actually real – every moving thing, every single living thing larger than an ant on the foreshore of Santa Cruz is attached to an antenna.

galaptrack4 Perhaps scientists are comforted by a scene such as this: wild things zipping about here and there with belts, buckles, or bolts driven through them from which transmitters gossip up to satellites and satellites report back to computers key facts about ‘life’.

For me, there is a rage about it, this horror at watching innocent creatures turned into machines by organisations that claims to protect and serve nature, but are in fact the full expression of a Big Brother impulse, practicing on animals, before they get to people.

I’d spit into the water, if it wasn’t filthy already, and am scowling heavily over the railings when the Fates  call out CUT! And send in an emergency angel.

Stage right: He arrives on a clapped out bicycle, smelling of Old Spice and deepwater.

Mario drops his rickety chariot under a sagging palm with a mortal-ish clatter and flings himself at the view beside me – his heart to the horizon and his arms spread crucifixion.

“Fuckers.” He says. And turns to beam at me deliciously.

I can tell, from the strange radiance of his freshly laundered dive-shirt, his symmetrical grin and luxurious irises,  that he is of the Order of Good Men that have forever ridden into my biography on rusted-out chariots – and saved me from too much reality.

The mingled elixirs of a mutual horror, bewilderment and willingness to trip the lightfantastic anyway etch matching symbols across our gaze, mine blue, his brown, as they fuze in a magical helix across the beauty and the beastliness of Mario’s radio-active islands, this Galapagos.

“Passionfruit gelato?” I offer.

We set off, my wilting story-burdened self, and Mario, sizing up visibly under his sudden destiny as leading man to maiden in cognitive dissonance..

The best gelato on Galapagos is to be found at Galapagos Deli. About this, at least, there is no doubt.

The owners may be scowly, and serve the most unimaginative scrambled eggs on the enchanted isles, but their gelato is to die for.

He chooses chocolate, and I have passionfruit, of course, while Mario tells me in a bubbly Spanglish how he was born and raised among the mangroves, the mountains, lava fields, rock pools and deep water wonderlands of Galapagos. How he knows and loves the islands but is forbidden now, by National Parks, to visit the places of his youth. Despite his life-long passion for nature, biology, diving, exploring and his beautiful, rich mind full of intimate wisdom for the islands, he is forbidden from making a living telling his stories.

He cannot sahre the gifts of 45 years as a second generation actual Galapaguano – because he can’t pass the National Parks test.

This seems kinda smelly to me. It reminds me of the hellofatodo I had trying to assist Australian Aboriginal elders to share the meaning of the dreamtime stories their own families had carved into the rock in the Royal National Park near Sydney. I tell Mario about how there, any rambler can stumble on the sites and chip away at them with a pen-knife if he likes, National Parks guides can lead walkers if they feel like it, but if an Aboriginal wants to tell those stories Rangers will call the cops to get rid of him.

True story. It was me that had to deal with it when Uncle Max Harrison, the last surviving elder of the entire region, dared to share stories on his own ancestral land one day, and all manner of National Park hell came down upon him.

We sigh. We eat ice-cream. And Mario and I pull our focus in around our little cones of gold and brown to share our own stories: about the histories and futures we’d lost. Mine was a fresh wound.

The baby, neverborn in Vilcabamba. Whose American father had scarpered off to live with shamanic entrepreneurs and practice Thai boxing and psychedelic journeying further up the Andes when the last ultrasound said, No Longer Viable..

That was a loss, caused by forces cruel, benevolent, selective or whatever… and I had managed it. I dug the grave myself. In the pretty spiral veggie patch the fleet-footed father had built. It was the only seed ever planted there, while we lived and our love died in Vilcabamba.

I managed it, but did not really survive it in the sense that while I had all the basic signs of life one could send to a satellite, I hadn’t had an actual experience of life other than struggling for nearly a whole year now.

These are things your friends can’t really help with. Perhaps nothing much can. There was only one woman in the town where I lived who hugged me when she saw me afterwards. A man mentioned it once too, not longer after, he said, “Oh, yeah.. I thought you were getting fat!”

Other than that, everybody just ignored it. “Life goes on.” “Onward and upward”. “No use crying over spilled milk…” etc. It was weird. But people are weird – or just frightened of dealing with the losses in life, having been so focused, mainly, on keeping on keeping on.

I had a deep, unshakeable case of Actual Sadness that was not so much about the neverborn baby, but about having been abandoned. About indifference.

Abandoned, I can tell you. Sucks. It is like dancing about in a field of daisies one minute, then falling quite suddenly through a hole in the world and finding yourself in a cement coffin. That’s what it feels like. And it goes on for aaaages.

Ages and ages and eons and suchlike are crammed into minutes and days and weeks when you feel abandoned. Your body, weirdly, keeps doing what needs to be done to keep itself working, but the rest of you (that which may or may not even exist, according to atheists and reasonable types) is in an agony of just wanting to curl up under a flowering tree and dissolve into the soil.

Knowing he has nothing but the slightest grasp of English I feel totally safe to describe all this to Mario at the gelato bar, my passionfruit dripping between my fingers, and chocolate melting on his tongue.

“This feeling, where is it?” I ask, feeling sheltered by the language barrier. “How do you measure it?” “Is it against life, or part of it? Is it killing us, or making us fit for the next round?

“And is it only humans who feel this? O, do you think, that all life knows what it is, to feel lost or lonely or sad?”

I’ve wondered, and any sane person surely has – why we’ve never bothered to plot grief or sadness, loss, love or joy on our compass for understanding the world we live in – as if those were unique to humanity alone.

love for animals 3

I’ve been ashamed and horrified to witness how our greedy monopoly on feelings and morality have enabled us to inflict a cruelty on other lifeforms, and the planet around us, as we obsess over ‘facts’ about atoms and survival, about chemical urges and mechanical impulses that end up being embarrassingly wrong, sooner or later.

“What do you think, Mario? Those antennae feeding off the pulses and movements of living things on Santa Cruz, do they tell us anything at all about what it is to be alive as iguana, penguin, sea lion or shark? Do animals feel what is is to be alive, or are they wind-up toys we can know by their clockwork?”

It’s a wonderful thing to pour your heart out to a man who doesn’t understand your language. It’s very freeing. I recommend it.

I was basking in the lightness of having just set one story free to the air, when Mario was gripped with a primal shudder and bent over in a crumpled shape across the last of his gooey gelato.

“Lonesome George,” he moaned.

“They kill him also,” he wailed..

And a large chocolaty hiccup announced the arrival of a huge orb of glittering tear-water which exploded itself into smithereens across the last of his ice-cream.

“The National Park. They kill him. They kill all of us here too.” I’m stunned and afraid to see this bounding man crushed into misery as he tells me of the loss of a tortoise, and how it felt for the people who love this, their home, Galapagos. lonesome george 5

The story of Lonesome George is a world-famous narrative in devastation, conservation, animal-meddling and human idiocy that inspired, and then saddened the world, leaving an extinct species and lot of merchandise in its wake.

Wiki puts him in a nutshell like this: “Lonesome George (c. 1910 – June 24, 2012) was a male Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdonii) and the last known individual of the subspecies. In his last years, he was known as the rarest creature in the world. George serves as a potent symbol for conservation efforts in the Galápagos Islands and throughout the world.”

George had been rendered Lonesome by human development of his Galapagos homeland, actually, and when said same humans later found him there alone they swiftly agreed they knew just what to do with him and whisked him away from the only thing he had left as the last of his species on Earth – his native land and habitat.

From then on he had been studied in captivity, sampled, used as a tourist attraction and revenue generator by his ‘rescuers’ at the Charles Darwin Research Station and pestered, coaxed and even man-handled into mating for more than 40 years.

All attempts at salvaging George’s species failed dismally, and the last ever Pinta Island tortoise finally died, taking his right to choose non-paternity with him after decades in captivity in a strange land, constantly pestered, bothered and masturbated by the humanity that had wiped out all the others.

After they found his body, National Parks said, “His life-cycle had come to an end”. But many, including David Attenborough sighed, saying that Lonesome George may have died about 100 years before his time. Even if he was one hundred, as Parks claim, wikipedia regrets to sign off on his file, writing that this “is not especially old for a Galápagos tortoise.”

lonesome george2 Why environmentalists claim his story as a symbol for their good work is somewhat a mystery.

Mario doesn’t agree though.

He says Lonesome George is the perfect symbol for conservationists and the bureaucrats who have muscled in on the local people for control of the islands and custody of its legends.

“And they can be use his grave too!” he says, rallying up to full size.

“They kill our last one, the last beautiful baby of Pinta Island! They kill him in their prison, with their sad life they force him to survive. “His grave is their truth about what they know of life.”

Mario is commanding the space with the passion of a wounded parent. I can see, it’s for real – Lonesome George did not just ‘go extinct’, he was stolen from his home, miss-treated, and died of misery, lost forever as a being, a loved creature and a symbol for the people who fear they too will be destroyed by forces who don’t understand what it is to be a free being, alive on the land.

“They kill him with the depression. All for money!” he shakes his heavy curls. “The National Park,” he spits out the words. “is dangerousssss. The science, it has no heart inside it. It is only for de money!

“These people coming here, they do not know nothing of the true nature. What is it? I tell you now, what you learn when you grow up with the land, free in de nature. You learn this: the life it is peace. Peace with the land, peace with the water, peace with what needs done to survive, and just let everything else be as it is.”

For the science people, they see only control. They kill for control, and they think it is for understanding. But their thinking, coming from books, and not from the the really living. They forget the power of the world, and hunt for power for themselves – dividing, dividing, dividing into boxes and dollars, and how you say? De Facts!

Mario is angry and sad, he is full of passion and grief. I believe what he says – it’s suddenly obvious to me.

But Lonesome George, I decide not to tell him, has no grave to be worshiped, or sold tickets to.

After he died, National Parks immediately announced that they would have the body embalmed so the tortoise could be preserved for future generations.lonesome george 4 This was the only act of ‘preservation’ the organisation was to actually achieve. It was not without its problems though. Bitter feuds over custody of the corpse are ongoing.

Lonesome George was never, ever to know the scent or the relief of his native soil – even in death. he was frozen, skinned, disemboweled, polished, petrified, forced into a standing pose that tortoises only rarely assume, and used as the poster-boy for the un-dead by organisations dedicated to the history of human thinking.

George became known as ‘the face of extinction’. But even more horrific to consider is National Geographic’s news in 2012 that, “in an area known as Volcano Wolf—on the secluded northern tip of Isabela, another Galápagos island—the researchers have identified 17 hybrid descendants of C. abingdoni within a population of 1,667 tortoises.”

So that would make the whole Lonesome George story a fiasco of bad science, human ignorance, and bad zoo-keeping.

Is this really the best science can come up with still? And yet claim for itself a status higher than other sorts of knowledge!

To the disgust of some of the locals on Galapagos, George remains a symbol for the islands – both as a National Parks scientific playground, and as a reminder of the rare and wondrous life-forms that lived in this tough habitat, and inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

Others see him as his species as a sacrifice to the cruelty of the scientific mind.

Darwin’s observation of differences between tortoises on the many islands helped him understand how animals can adapt to their conditions. But he had nothing to say on how they might adapt to being pushed to extinction by ‘progress’, then rescued from the brink by a humanity that thinks it has a grip on the realities of life on Earth.

“Sometimes, I hate the place,” groans Mario. “The research station, it has made the whole place into their prison, for experiments and torture and disrespect. Life here – this life is a trap made of science!”

We sit in a silence half miserable, half beautiful, until Mario shakes off the spell and calls the waitress for paper and a pen.

“But for you,” he says. “I can make a solution. Here.”

He touches the nib of the biro to his tongue and leans down in earnest over a fresh page in the waitress’ notebook.

“Let’s have a boy,” he smiles. And he draws him.

Your son. And he will be mine.” “What will we call him? Who have you loved?”

“Michael,” I say.

“Ah, lovely,” he beams.

“On his left side we will name him, for me, Javir, and on the right – because of all we know that is beautiful in this life, we call him Momento!” he declares proudly.

“And here, above him, we write the name of his destiny, the gift of his mother: wisdom.” Mario and I beam at the boy he has made us.

‘Yes, he is fine,” says the happy father. “But he needs muscles. He is strong.” And he sketches in some ample biceps. IMG_2466 “Perfect! An excellent boy.” Mario tears our son from the book, holds him up to the light and hands him to me saying, “I give you our baby – the hope of our Galapagos.”

Survival of the Sickest – the mess, the cause and how to fix it.

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If you’re on the path to peace, you’ll find out pretty quick that those be shark-infested waters! A guide for toe-dipping, the Curse of Darwin and who’s who in the spiritual zoo.

Twenty years’ down the road less traveled and that gorgeous, lonely path is now some of the most fought-over real estate on the planet.

This far along, and with a little bit of overview, I wanted to write about the world out here, reflect upon the hullabaloo, and offer some insight to those considering a bit of a Walkabout.

From Cusco to Ubud; Kathmandu to Ko Samui, it’s true that New Age profiteers have hung their shingles everywhere you’re thinking of heading.

They eclipse the pretty views of nature, and lure would-be questers with a buffet of spiritual experiences. A booming spiritual industry sells anything you can think of – shamanic travel, kundalini for cats, conscious fashion, chakra readings, weird medicine, yoni massage, activated pet-wear, transcendental panties and sacred gardening.

The business plan is to promise you nothing less than the life you’ve always dreamed of.

If your dream is more Martin Luther King than Martha Stewart, they’ll either ditch you, or help you ‘evolve’ to one less ‘angry’. They will reprimand you for being ‘negative’ and encourage you to aspire instead for personal radiance, orgasmic joy, funky tribal fusion outfits, ageless beauty and great sex.

Their banner – sometimes subliminally, but often just blatantly – features a heavily opiated anorexic woman in a yoga pose. She hovers pornographically, in shimmering soft focus, above what first appears to be a chakra, but turns out to be a cosmic asshole.

sexy yogi

chakra

For between US$50 and US50,000, the New Age’s shamanic businesspeople will also sell you a balm for all your suffering. If you’re worried about the suffering of others, most will just call you a moaner, or a projector, fogging up the psychic realm with low vibrations.

Only a few will gaze out across the remaining wilderness to sigh before saying… “Yes, it took me a long time to come to yoga for the right reasons.”

The New Age rests its superiority over traditional elites like bankers, lawyers, doctors and big business by pointing out their trails of victims and self-serving ambition. But contesters for the enlightenment dollar are often worse offenders.

Why? Because they will promise to help you while they exploit you, using a language of spiritual cliché, pop psychology, pseudo-science and hope that a businessman, in even the most treacherous field, would rarely dare exploit.

Does this mean we should shun the path, turn our backs on Yoga and all its glittery cousins?

No! I mean, No Way! As the madness amplifies, the scene diversifies, thousands are setting off to search for a better way and many will find ,if they have eyes to see them – guides who are fit for the coming of age that is upon us.

Weathered and bewildered by their own stumblings about, earnest yoga teachers, healers, activists and therapists in the alternative movement will admit to rites of doubt, confusion and dark nights of the soul in the dizzying storm of ‘the movement’s’ crescendo. They know all about the in-fights and rivalry, fakers, shakers and ball-breakers who eclipse more humble workers on so-called spiritual soil.

As teachers they do a heroic job, balancing on one hand the competitive silliness of their industry, while nudging students to toward compassion, non-violence, kindness, selflessness, trust and devotion with the other. If you can get that sorted, you’re halfway home.

There are some where I Iive. People like Cat Kabira, Les Leventhal, Sky xx, Lesley White at Smiling Buddha, Meg Maskell, Daniel Li Ox, the crew at Bali Silent Retreat, Chiara Ram Ramella and her husband, Mino. Seek them out if you can. They stand in the eye of the storm, holding space for one heck of a shift.

But in general, yes… The Way has been snatched from the humble fingertip of the solitary dreamer where it famously alighted, and turned into a billion dollar business fraught with all the power games and scams of any surging market.

Artwork from Osho Tarot

What a shame. But not a surprise. You can’t really blame the New Agers, or even the American MBAs who exploited them in a stampede for universal franchise of spirituality.

Not really. They, like me and you, are victims of a flaw in the very fabric of the western brain. A shadowy hoax in our reality you could call the predator effect.

There’s a shark in the ocean of Western thought, placed there deliberately, and designed to keep us enslaved to frustrating lives of fear and despair, racing against each other to escape the looming shark bite called natural selection.

sharkbite

It’s the Jaws in your own neural waters you have to face, and evaporate, if you really want to be free.

It’s not your job, your divorce, your mortgage, illness, sadness, wonky headstand,  backed up colon or your saggy kundalini that’s the main issue, really.

Even if you get those things sorted, you’ll discover it’s your own Great White Sharky thinking – and that of the guy next to you –  that will undermine you eventually.

There are teachers who know this, and can change your life completely.

But to get the best out of them, you need to make your own peace with the problem, and I am going to start you off.

If you want to put a face it and call it the devil, then that would be the face of Charles Darwin. Poor thing.

Darwin portrait1

It was Darwin’s thought-virus that was used to validate the idea of a life driven by suffering and survival, that pit brother against brother in a fight for existence hosted by a hostile environment, ruled by a cranky god.

Darwinism is the root cause of human sadness in the West. It’s your part in it you need to make peace with.

His ideas, backed by a ruthlessly expanding colonial elite, created a Survival of the Fittest epidemic pitching the strong against the weak, justifying violence and bullying, slavery, the subjugation of women, expansion of empire and the abandonment of the Irish to famine. In the mid 1800’s Darwinism became the carefully chosen banner under which we slaughtered Indigenous, animals and environment as we supported an indifferent  elite upon whom we entrusted our own survival. His was an argument used to contest the end of slavery in the States, and adopted by Nazis and other not very nice people. The ‘fit’, Darwin ‘proved’, were supposed to get rid of lesser beings so a more perfect human could ‘evolve’.

darwin story2

It was Darwin who argued that, actually, universal intelligence seeks a blood bath. He showed that dominators and manipulators are selected for by nature itself, in an effort to create superior beings through a linear process known as ‘evolution’ which loved nothing more than gladiatorial battles of life and death.

He put the gun in the hands of ‘progress’, pointed it at animals, wildlife and ‘savages’, nerdy kids, fat girls, boys who were bad at rugby, and argued that it was our duty to nature to blow out the brains of the meek – or at least cower them into submission.

The smoke from three centuries of this gunfire has utterly choked up the Western notion of reality. It has left us all wounded, blood-stained, lonely and estranged from the gorgeous cosmos of bliss and elegance with which earlier humans had been having a divine romance for ages.

Mad with fear for our own survival, we still argue about whether qualities like compassion, mercy, collaboration and quietly pottering about in peace are inferior traits to be weeded out by government and evolution. We get blue in the face about whether animals have feelings, if morality is a ‘construct’, whether genes are selfish and if we will suffer a debt for contamination of a mechanical biosphere.

monkey

Today its still Darwin behind our sneers at the underprivileged, the lazy, the tubby, the confused and dreamy. We use his thinking when we feel superior to others if we are better looking, better paid, score higher marks, or kick bigger goals in cooler clothes

But In academic circles Darwin has already had the colour sucked out of him by Sociologists who don’t even argue anymore about whether Darwinism has any actual merit.

In a word, they agree. It doesn’t.

Darwin and his ism were the perfect brand, and the perfect trick of reason at a moment in history when the ruling materialist elite required a public to swallow the notion of empires built on the suffering, exploitation and humiliation of others.

It’s because of the Darwinian misadventure we have tolerated a culture in which the bullies are entitled to all they can get, while the rest can suck it up.

Why? Because we are fundamentally bullies ourselves.

That’s the sneaky logic by which we really live today, and from which we are desperately trying to escape… if only we could see it.

Instead we blame our anxiety on the banks, sugar, military industrialists and the International Situation – on others, generally, because we don’t yet realise it’s our own Darwinised selves we’re sick of.

Darwinism is behind our stress in this indifferent, scarcity-afflicted universe we invented. It’s behind those first squabbles over toys at pre-school, through competitive sport, scaled schooling that favors the ‘best’, status, loneliness and on and on. In a culture which ‘wars’ over peace, drugs, poverty, religion, cancer… it’s a fight over everything. Surrender? Be damned!

To see this in action you don’t have to visit the halls of government, the New York stock exchange, or peek at the machinations of Greenpeace or the Bill Gates Foundation. Nasty politics, in-fighting, rivalry, ladder-climbing and bullying are alive and well in the playground, on the road, at mothers’ groups, yoga school, in the surf, the local disco and creep in to our relationships. No?

bully3

They’re the reason many won’t hop out of the rat-race. Terrified of ‘failing’, of being left behind, devoured by their rivals, or just found ‘unfit’ in a competitive universe they can imagine being ploughed into dust at the bottom of Darwin’s ruthless pyramid – because that was the fate of millions before them.

When you attempt to break this bondage your question should be… who, or what, can I trust?

It’s the right one, because those who can’t quite give up the impulse to dominate, even if they say they are ‘at one with the divine’ are just like the sharks in Finding Nemo, who want to be vegetarian.

Disney, Finding Nemo

Disney, Finding Nemo

And because walking into a new cosmology requires a complete break from the old one – at least for a while.

This is not a matter of character, but of a cultural virus sewn deep in our bones and jellies. In general, we’re tired of the anxiety, the lack of trust and happiness, but we don’t know where it’s coming from. We want out. We want happiness. We want love and fairies, good waves, picnics… and a nice cup of tea.

It’s not only because of evil leadership we can’t have this peace – we’re all destroying it, because we don’t trust it..

But hang on a minute! Isn’t this all a bit far-fetched?

Wasn’t Darwin just a nice quiet man who killed a lot of finches?

Actually, no. Charlie gave the game away in the title of his book, which was, in full:

On the Origin of Species

 by Means of Natural Selection,

or the Preservation of Favoured Races

in the Struggle for Life”

 (thank you, Meg Maskell)

He paid a bitter debt for these philosophical efforts. In a personal tragedy that was poetic in its unfolding. Darwin confessed to his diary near the end of his own exhausting, lonely life of conflict, that…

“I cannot endure to read a single line of poetry… those parts of my brain now atrophied.

 

The loss of these tastes [poetry, literature, scenery and art] is a loss of happiness…

 

My mind seems to have become a sort of machine for grinding general laws out of a collection of facts.”

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin.

His theory, he frankly writes, came from disenchantment with God, and a failure to see any sort of design in life.

“I can see no evidence of… design of any kind

in the details [of the universe]”, he wrote.

Seriously? He couldn’t?

Was that because he was consumed with mild depression, unpopularity, sea sickness and doubt about whether he should have ever given up a life of partridge shooting afterall?

Darwin was making, actually, an unfathomably dumb statement.

Given that Leonardo Da Vinci had already exploded the boundaries of human thinking in art, engineering, biology, aviation, physics, chemistry… everything, all after looking closely at nature.

da vinci

Da Vinci’s doodles of flowers and waves revealed an innate architecture behind everything from flying machines to dripping taps a full four hundred years earlier!

How could Darwin have missed it?

I was desperate to know.

And, since there was but a 3-hour taxi ride, one squalid night in Guayaquil and a picturesque flight between me and the theme park using his name as its billion-dollar mascot, I knew exactly how to find out.

I booked a one-way flight to the Galapagos.

To sniff around in Darwin’s underwear and see what evolved from there.

The Bitter Cup: Ayahuasca – beware the hand that serves you

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As ayahuasca tourism explodes into a frenzy of expensive retreats, gringo-shamanism, one-night love-ins, and do-it-yourself thrill-seeking across the planet – a shaman from the Amazon sends a postcard on which he writes, only this….

beware the kiss

of the vine of death.


 

If you were sick, I mean really – and abandoned on a sandbank in the Amazon -would you trust a chain-smoking motorbike mechanic with a fetish for vomit and a blunt machete who turns up out of nowhere, and says…

“I can be help you if you be come, come with me

 I will be show you how to love de medicina.”

Deep in the ancient forests of the Amazon, where healing arts have been honed for thousands of years under strict and secret lineage, a shaman of an unknown tribe blows heavy plumes of Marlboro Red from a rickety stool under a banana tree.

His practice is a jungle garden. His ‘consulting room’ is air conditioned by plants, and his library is living all around him; in blossoms, cloud, roots, shoots, animal visitors and continual dialogues with nature who informs his powers of diagnosis and prescription.

The currandero was five days late for our appointment.

DSC_0054When he finally boomed into camp on a supped-up Yamaha, wild curls dancing behind him, he wore a grin so wide it instantly erased my resentment for the long and cranky wait.

This was a meeting I was forced into, really – having had no intention of ever ending up on the ayahuasca scene, let alone in a shaman’s wretched camp.

I came to the jungle assisting a team of American medical volunteers for the CNN-awarded outreach project, Amazon Promise.

It was in deep jungle, far away from Iquitos, that a recurring undiagnosed health problem struck me down again with its presentation of angry circular welts, allergies to everything – fatigue, fever and painful, deforming joints and nightmares. After two years’ under care of Sydney specialists I knew the pathology: disorders of the white cell count, acute and unattributed inflammation factors, evidence of infection, progressive decline with no known cause, and no known cure.

At the peak of the illness in Australia my feet and hands were reduced to livid claws too fragile to bear the weight of even a sheet. I had been placed on large doses of steroids and their related chemical cousins. I was warned I was unlikely to walk again, and told to ‘toughen up’.

My questions of experts from rheumatology, infectious diseases and oncology had not been welcome and I spent long, expensive years in a state of chemical dependency and shame.

So ending up here, on a splintery bench in the rainforest for one more shot at a happy ending did not seem intimidating at all: I was used to feeling confused and cranky.

I was also well ware that here in the jungle, shaman give a medicine so powerful for its effects it is known as the vine of death. That didn’t bother me much. Most of the drugs I’d been taking the last few years were likely to kill me in the end.

What did bother me was that I was here at all.

I had been ‘miraculously’ cured of my symptoms a year ago after a juice-fast my brother recommended from a book. 10 days of beetroot and miso soup brought on a hell of nightmares and weird thinking at the end of which I was pain, welt and arthritis-free enough to climb Kilimanjaro and five other of the world’s highest ranges for charity.

touching the void

But here in deepest, darkest Amazonia, I had plunged back into a hell much worse than the first. It was an ER doctor, a veteran from a Boston hospital, who pleaded with me to find a jungle healer.

“What Western medicine knows about what you have is the equivalent of a bucket’s worth of ocean,” he said.

 

“Get yourself to a shaman.  Bring back something useful.”

So I set out to find a shaman. In Iquitos. Which is a bit like looking for a raindrop in a river.

D1000031

They call it zombie-fever. Bleary-eyed ayahuasca tourists; the sick, the lame, the lost and confused who have descended on Iquitos these last ten years in search of healing or of a new career in shamanism.

Most locals shy away, but hordes of gringo healers, jungle side-winders and scouts prey on the tide of incoming, just like most of them were preyed upon when they first set out to taste the medicine.

shipibo

It’s an ugly scene. There are deaths and rapes, fakes and all manner of weirdness in the circus that has been conjured up around the promise of ayahuasca.

I hunted for a healer in this city of dealers for more than a month and come across every breed of charlatan, con man, gringo wannabe and naysayer as I got sicker and sicker and weaker and more desperate to believe that the legends of great cures and wisdom in the jungle were not a hoax.

The greatest name around Iquitos is Rivas. The Banco.

He is one of the Grandfathers of plant medicine and a very wealthy man, by all accounts. It was exactly due to his Big Reputation that I had struck Rivas off my list. I wasn’t interested in anybody famous, I wanted the real thing. Somebody genuine, authentic,remote and exotic. As a result, I ended up with Rosa, who had a lot of stuffed toys, some fascinating stories, and no idea at all what to do with me.

She had plied me with the toxic juice of a rubber plant to help cure me of parasites and was taking me to her jungle camp for further ‘healing’ when, an hour down the Amazon, she apparently had a sudden change of heart. She made a pretty loop in the speedboat, pulled up beside a muddy verge, and shoved me out with no instructions, food or even a goodbye. Then she fled into the jungle steam.

It was not a great start to my ayahuasa healing adventure.But it was no worse really than things had been in general. So I sat there, sweating and inflaming, listening to the water lapping on the bank and the howl of far off monkeys.

About an hour later a tall, slim man and with remarkably white tennis socks turned up in a rickety dinghy. He was an ambassador for the Maestro, the said.

The who?

The Maestro. Vamos!”

DSC_0094

And so it was that I found my wretched self before none other than the Banco. Himself.

It was his cigarette smoke that hootchy kootched around me as his sweat wilted the flowers on his Hawaiian shirt.

The Maestro, I knew, was a legend in Peru. He was feared and adored in his region and quietly famous around the world for his power with the plants. He guarded the dignity of the medicina with a ferocious respect, and had openly declared that we are in a time of great war on Earth – over nature, over power, over everything.

He was on the side of the plants. And an enemy of those who either destroyed their habitat or offended their honour.

The Maestro was credited with cures for aches, pains, indigestion, infertility, snakebite, depression, cancer, arthritis, warts and every complaint of the soul. He was to be admired for his drumming, respected for his temper, and the only man to go to in Iquitos for advice on how to fix both motorbikes and photo copiers.

His patients came from simple villages along the chocolate-coloured  jungle rivers and all the wealthy continents. And occasionally, apparently, stumbled in as orphans – like me.

I was in no condition, really, to be meeting a legend. I could fairly be described at that time as scruffy and irritable.

I offered a scowl and a floppy, swollen handful of hideously deformed fingers by way of introduction. He shoved my hand aside to crush me in a wet and fragrant embrace.

Now! How are you?” he asked in melodic jungle Spanish, pulling up his wooden stool. “Come! Sit here. Relax, smoke de cigarette?

I want to know de  ev-e-ry-theeng!

Precisely!

How you in de heart?

How you in de feelings?

How you in de self?”

And so began a journey you will likely never take either in classic Western medicine, or in the circles hosted by gringo entrepreneurs who have recently got hold of the medicine and market ayahuasca tourism.

You cannot sell this sort of a thing. And you cannot buy it in a pre-packaged, one-size-fits-all ‘retreat’ setting. It does not bless any one night stand flirtation which might involve a ‘dose’ of so-called ayahuasca, and cannot abide even the slightest sniff of hippy thinking, according to the Maestro.

DSC_0116

To know ayahuasca – or any other plant – requires that sort of wisdom you cannot serve in a cup.

What true ayahuascaroes cultivate is an ancient process of diagnosis, treatment, care and insight strongly based on relationship – primarily to nature. Many died in keeping this alive during the persecutions of the Conquistadors. Many were exiled as they kept the covenants of their lineage through the carnage of the rubber boom.

Those who were passed the rites cultivate their intimacy with the plants through long, solo pilgrimages in the jungle dieting specific species, meeting with the blessings and terrors they keep, to earn the right to give ceremony.

Many are declaring, now the fad has hit the mainstream, that appropriation or abuse of the ‘medicines’ are acts of war to be avenged.

DSC_0068

It takes a lot more than knowledge of the recipes, a few icaros and a splattering of shipibo artwork here and there to suppose the role of currandaro – let alone of shaman.

A true ayahuasca journey is conceived by a sort of fate, conducted down a river deeper than it appears, in a craft made of fear and trust.

When you active the bonds of chemistry that cause ayahuasca to appear before you, you have conjured a genie even the most powerful healers do well to treat with awe.

“She is the wise one,” says Viejo, adoring the little leaves of  stems we are going to cook with.

“She be the beautiful one.

The empress of all the plants, of de everything.

But Ooooo, she be  the terrible, terrible  jealous one.

The vengeful one.

She be not be liking to be fucked with.

Not de one de little tiny bit.

For my recovery I was apparently to live in Viejo’s camp for as long as it was going to take. “You be live here, in my paradise,” he beamed. “Maybe two weeks, maybe three months.. we be see what the plants, she’s saying”

The camp, far from what you may be ‘shopping’ for now, if you are considering buying a pre-paid, web-marketed, $2000-a-week ‘authentic shaman experience’ in the Amazon – was slightly lacking in mmm… charm.

It was a sort of  ramshackle jungle squat with hungry-looking chickens, a dubious-coloured bog and a slightly worse than average rat issue. My home would be wooden yurt with a moldy single bed and an even more moldy pillow, which were to become my heaven as the healing journey began.

On the second day he told me, after a long diagnostic massage in his plywood temple, examination of my rash and conduct, evocations of deities from the jungle university and lots of poking about;

“You have de poison in de blood and de heart-ache long time.

You have de blockages in de love, and de many hurting not go away.

You must have take out de metals here –  in de teeth.

You must be cleaning de liver and de whole body.

You live here.

With me.

We play de bongos

and talk with de nature.

Vamos!”

And so it was.

Every day for 8 weeks I slouched about camp in bare feet, listening to Viejo on his bongo, or vomiting in buckets, or preparing to vomit in buckets, and running a constant dialogue of wonder and irritability that my life had come to this.

There was Viejo, greeting the dawn with a Marboro dangling from his lips and a bongo on his belly, singing like mad to the quivering garden.

There was Viejo, preparing me another concoction of leaf medicine, ordering me wrapped in honey, buried up to my neck in dirt, asking me to sing to the plants, drawing me a picture of the 13 chakras, holding my hand as a jungle dentist drilled the amalgam from my teeth and watching me puke my miserable guts up about three times a week due to one ‘medicine’ or another.

There was no ‘between’ the medicine. There was only the medicine.

And I don’t mean ayahuasca. I mean everything. Everything was medicine: the screaming whistle of the jungle bugs, the twisting heat, the soggy bed, the starlight, dripping off banana leaves, the hideous shit and puke and spit we lovingly poured into Pacha Mumma, who would know what to do with it.

And Viejo… singing as he tenderly stripped down his Yamaha. Viejo, caught in rapture at the tinkling of motorbike parts as they sun-dried on the washing line. Viejo, offering me a litre of pure tobacco juice, saying only ‘Drink. All. Vamos!‘.

And there were my own miserable thoughts as I wrestled with an inner dialogue that was variously unhappy with my body, my life, my circumstances, my pain, the heat or my diet of salt-less rice, fish guts, steamed plantain and vile or psychotropic juices.

I was prepared fresh medicines from turmeric, passionfruit leaves, resins and slimy things served in recycled jam jars by the doctor himself, and or by his friendly staff who sat with me while I drank tinDSC_0028ctures, hideous goop and poisons that did things unmentionable by a lady.

The mechanic held my hand when their effects were diabolical.

He enthusiastically inspected buckets-full of my vomit, searching for signs and clues and bubbles which would lead him to either frown deeply or throw out his arms in joyful rapture when he found de something that he was looking to get out of my body.

These triumphs were usually a puddle of froth or an asymmetrical slime blob that I had troweled the depths of my being to wring out in misery over a bucket. They were sometimes fragments of dreams.

The maestro played the harp when his plants were ruthless.I often begged him to stop because his presence seemed to amplify the agony of the process.

Then he would sit close by, gently de-greasing bits of motor bike.

He never once left me alone. He never once refused my questions. He called me Princessa, and was as concerned with my psychological journey as he was with my physical ones.

After he made me hallucDSC_0039inate, shiver and puke for a full day to get de bad liqueed out of my gall bladder he took me on the back of the bike on a day trip to a spring and restored my joy for life.

When he thought he had squeezed a good puddle of de bad out of me, he had me scrubbed raw with a laundry brush and commercial bleach, then wrapped in mud for a full afternoon before we drank the ayahuasca – which seemed mild in comparison to the other plants.

In the Western model this would all, I know, be considered quite ridiculous. Such a level of personal involvement with a patient would be frowned upon for sure, and if one were to be so indulged – just imagine the cost!

In the tourist model, there’s nobody can give you even half the actual experience.

But in the larger part of the world, and in the oldest medical traditions – the Chinese, Tibetan, the curranderos of the Amazon, the Australian Aborigine – from whom the pharmaceutical industry still takes it cues for synthesising medicines – what’s being offered by doctors and ‘healers’ would be equally unthinkable.

Listening, connecting, sharing the experience are as much part of the cure as the treatments.

In fact, any treatment or remedy that has not been made and blessed by the healer is considered next to useless.

Which is why I warn you –

beware who you drink with, where your plants come from, and how much faith you give to the new gringo market in ayahuasca.

 

The power of the bond between healer and patient is equal to the power of the cure – without trust and confidence, says the maestro, an illness can only be cut at the stem, it cannot be removed at the root.

A cure cannot come from a person who is ‘dabbling’ with the medicines. “Ayahuasca, she is dangersousssss. Oh, very she be danger. When you play with her, like with any strong woman, she can seduce you, she can be suck you into a very very bad world of delusions.”

Likewise, he says, a cure cannot come from a bottle, but only from a living dialogue between the patient and the healer, the healer and the Mother. He spent hours of his day caressing, listening, adoring his gardens, the clouds, birdsong and moonlight.

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Since this adventure I have been free of my illness and interested in the doctor/patient relationship which in indigenous medicine is not without its challenges.

When a shaman asks you to drink his deadly medicines he is well aware he causes fear – and it is this he wants to work with. The disorientation and surrender in a patient who is put in a threatening curing situation is the very means by which a shaman finds a gap in the ego wide enough for him to create change.

But not all shamans are equal. And many you will find are not shamans at all – despite their feathers and their pretty websites. So tread this path with care…

 

Better than Bondi ~ surfing the Mother Swell

Huge surf, shark-free, with lashing of scones and piping hot tea – the Poms wax lyrical about Cornwall’s surf scene, but Jade Richardson smells a crusty wetsuit somewhere in the story.

 When lying back and thinking of England it is perfectly normal to edit out things like sun – let alone surf, ripped Adonis-like figures silhouetted against a peach-sorbet sunset… and sand. Thoughts of England are more likely to include visions of grizzled teapots,  pigeons and soggy fried foods. There are a knowing few however, who say they share a different truth.

Steve Lovett, for example. He’s an old mate of my travel agent, and entertains visions of a perfect, tubing eight-foot swell. He sees flocks of hibiscus-printed bikinis too. He feels the cool caress of an off-shore breeze and the sting of saltwater on sun-loved lips. When you ask him about England he goes visibly gooey-eyed and whispers, “Paradise”.

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“Take all your visions of a beach utopia – take out the sharks, stone-fish, box jellyfish, blue ringed octopus, the wave rivalry and the wankers. That’s England,” he says, dreamily.

Lovett’s so wrapped with the place he moved there from Sydney, set up a board shop on the cobbled corner of a southern seaside town, and called it Surfers’ Paradise – without the vaguest hint of sarcasm.

Likewise, when you ask Google to send you to the hottest surf destination of the decade you may not expect to find yourself looking at a flight to London.

And if you are as surfuk7impressionable as me, and end up finding yourself at Heathrow, there is nothing to remedy your suspicion that the whole adventure is a miserable example of how wrong things can go when you rely on internet marketing.

“You take the tube, a double-decker, a long distance train and a taxi to get here,” Steve had advised.

“You’ll probably be delayed by strikes, bomb scares, traffic jams and bodies or other debris on the trainlines.” You won’t find a decent espresso.

“If you’re carrying a surfboard or an Australian surf brand sweater, you’ll be treated warmly by the guards who inform you of the various delays. Australians go down really well over here, it’s a major advantage to be an Aussie.” he’d said.

I am doing my best to appear Australian to the millions of grey-suited commuters in their grey-faced melancholy in the crush as I wrangle my board, backpack and clip-on koalas through the Terminal, the tube, onto the train and into the bus. Nobody appears, frankly, to give a toss. In  fact, I get the distinct impression that I might just be annoying a few hundred of the ash-faced commuters I am flashing my Southern Cross at.

As the journey toward ‘paradise’ wears on, London billboards screaming Stop the Technology Madness fade into a confusion of picket fences, wooden sheds and finally – trees, farm houses and fluffy sheep. I am filled with awe and gratitude as I learn that the dirge city skies are no measure of the true weather in England.

As you approach the south there is sun, great sheets of it, splitting through the healthy cumulus and reaching long golden fingers across lush hills. Far, far away from London’s scuttling umbrellas and their never-tanned occupants, sunny fields are riddled with little cobbled streets walled by wild poppies and tall hedges. There are little stone pubs selling plowman’s lunches and Devonshire teas. There are sunflowers, fishing villages and, as you approach the Cornish coast; kombis, hatchbacks, with Quicksilver stickers, ramshackle folk in waistcoats and wonky hats, sun-blonded stragglers with salt-water stares, and the distant tones of Australian slang.

All the evidence, actually, that to a scientific mind like mine leads inevitably to a single word: Surf!

You’d better believe it.

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A biting wind snakes viciously up the seaweed-strewn sand as I stand astride on my first Cornish beach, clenching my teeth against an on-shore gale loaded with sand. Seagulls are screaming through a Banshee gale as a two-foot swell flings itself exhaustedly at the beach.

The sky is bruising. The ocean is grey and there in the water are the seal-like shapes of at least a dozen surfers. Hooded, gloved and blue-lipped, Britain’s early summer surfers brave waters around 10 degrees to ride the last of the big winter swells. It’s over winter, when the Atlantic drops to a grizzly 7 degrees, and the surf begins to peak, that British surfers really earn their stripes.

Woven into the legends of Cornwall surfing are stories about the Christmas when twosurfing-cornwall surfers died of hypothermia in icy swells. There’s tales of constant nausea, ‘ice-cream headaches’ and excruciating numbness.  Everybody knows the risks of blackouts during duck dives in these temperatures and the compensatory legends of massive waves, off-shore winds and perfect, thumping swell.

Local surfer Greg Quinn admits the temperatures are crippling but raves about the swell. “Definitely, it’s the sauce!” he says in a quaintly damaged, fringe-dweller British . “There’s massive storm swells, easily 10 foot. There’s the cribber, it’s a gnarly 12 foot reef break – only for the extreme guys, and there’s awesome winter swells. It’s absolutely freezing then though. Yeah, it’s actually mind-numbingly cold.”

Unless you’ve arrived mid-summer on a particularly good year,

your first duckdive in English sea feels very much like

somebody has cracked you with an axe,

right through the front of your skull.

Your brain screams, your mind freaks, your teeth go numb. “Once the initial pain has passed, you can’t feel a thing,” encourages Quinn. “You’re never quite sure if you’re going to pass out though. Once you’ve paddled out it’s best to lie on your board, recover from the shock and get your brain back together. After that you paddle. You just keep moving so your body doesn’t freeze.”

The cold is not conducive to selective surfing; you ride anything rideable – just so you don’t ice up. It does however, aid a process of natural selection making British surfers among the best of the world. The locals, in their converted barns, stone farm houses and little yellow caravans along the rolling headlands of Newquay may not sport the same deep tans as their Australian counterparts, but they have been weeded out through tests of devotion, endurance and other miseries to be a rugged and passionate elite.

From their ranks come the likes of UK legend Carwyn Williams, World Circuit competitor Spencer Hargreaves and  Russell Winter. “It’s a bloody mystery how it all took off,” says surfuk3guru surfer and founder of European surfwear giant GUL Wetsuits, Denis Cross. “Nobody says it’s comfortable surfing here – it’s no picnic at all. Back in ’63 there were about a dozen guys going out on logs in old scuba suits in temperatures less than 10 degrees. Everybody thought we were crazy. We had to make our own designs for wetsuits so we could surf better without dying.” Since then the British surf scene has exploded.

“Surfing’s a way of life for a lot of people in Cornwall – it’s the backbone of their businesses and the thing they love to do so badly that a bit of cold or a little storm won’t keep them out of the water,” says Cross. “What we’ve got here are surfers created in extreme conditions – these guys are probably the most committed, the most hardcore in the world.”

Still, it’s the Australian legend of perfect surf, laidback board riders and reliably hospitable beaches that fuels the fantasies of the English. “Over here, Australia is the mythical paradise,” says English surfer Clare Cross, making tea and toast while a light drizzle sprinkles her coast-side caravan. “If you arrive here as an Aussie, with an Aussie board then you, my friend, are the business.”

I have arrived with all these critical factors, but, being actually unable to ride anything other than 1-foot whitewater in pristine Indonesian conditions, have failed, sadly, to be idolised or even noticed after a full week in Cornwall.

“It’s a bit of an irony that we’re all here idolising the Aussies, while over in Australia everybody thinks we’ve got pebble beaches, no surf, perpetual rain and freezing cold,”says Clare. “They don’t even believe we have sand, let alone 10-foot swells and weather that can be better than Spain’s – sometimes,” she muses, wistfully.

In my experience in England, if the sun breaks fully through the early summer cloud-cover there are immediate cries of Heatwave! – often followed by several deaths (shock, spontaneous combustion etc) and then it rains.

“Conditions aren’t always great,” agrees the Lifeguard at Constantine Beach. Pete Bunday, 29, has been Lifeguarding in Cornwall for six years and is philosophical about the surf. “But you can get an 8-foot swell through here, I’ve seen it as good as I’ve seen it anywhere in the world and with uncrowded beaches, no competition in the water and no sharks! Sure, there’s a very small window for that kind of swell but surfing’s become a big thing, a really big thing.”

 Cornish beaches have names like Newquay, Tolcarne, Lusty Glaze and Whipsiderry. They are fringed by grassy meadows, dairy farms and the occasional castle. Summer visitors exceed 3.5 million, with a value of 460 million pounds. Bondi, Sydney’s most famous beach strip, receives only about 1.5 million tourists each year.

“There’s a crew of guys here who go out no matter what. And then there’s literally thousands of others who come to learn, to live out the dream of a weekend surf safari,” says Pete whose own surfing career was founded in similar fantasies.

It’s a dream tended in homes all over England where the pale inhabitants are willingly seduced by soap operas and advertising campaigns leaning heavily on the classic trilogy in British fantasy: sun, surf and sand. Surf labels like Quiksilver became high street fashion in England  where people who may never even have laid eyes on a beach will pay twice as much as their Australian contemporaries for the coastal ‘look’. Surfboards are in huge demand too, (mostly as wall hangings for London flats).

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Perhaps it’s a result of the national pastime of watching Home and Away twice a day for the past 10 years – or perhaps it’s another ripple of the Red Bull phenomenon. When English daydreamers open their weekend edition of The Sunday Times their surf fantasies are fanned to a frenzy by feature writers telling of “Waves – just like the ones in surfing magazines…”

“You don’t have to be a Surf God to enjoy a weekend out among the breaking waves,” the Times reporter coaxes, “…and it’s bucketloads of fun.”

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Mmmm….  Bucketloads!

 The busiest beach in England is Newquay. Here, in Europe’s surf capital, ex-pat Australian Lifeguard Dave ‘The Gore’ Gorman is cocooned in a mess of old blankets and sweatshirts waiting for the dawn of another UK summer. It’s a grey day, a low ice wind is snapping at the sand, penguins are being blown in on a rusty foaming stormswell straight from the Faulkands – the surf is choppy and cold but the beach is already filling up. Grommets in wetsuits, grinning madly through lilac lips are descending from the car park, wrestling the wind with their squeaky foam boards.

“Everybody’s gone surf mad over here,” mutters ‘The Gorm’, stumbling in the darkness with his sunglasses on. “It’s still early, but when summer hits you won’t see sand on this beach –  you won’t believe the stuff you will see though,” he groans.

When the European summer is in full swing water temperatures in Cornwall hit 20, the sun can stay out all day and it’s virtually impossible to move on the beach or in the water. The surfers arrive in droves, the surf schools are swamped and the Lifeguards have more than a little trouble keeping things afloat.surfuk8.jpg

“Surfing’s new quite still and the English aren’t known for their love of the sea,” says ‘The Gorm’. “There’ll be guys out there who’ve come with thousands of pounds-worth of the best gear, Australian gear, and they’ll be standing on the beach with their wetsuits on back-to-front and their leg ropes around their necks.

“Most of them won’t wax their boards. I’ve seen guys getting on their boards with the fins facing up. I kid you not.”

Utter confusion probably accounts for an average of 1,000 board injuries treated by lifeguards over those three short summer months. “Yeah, well – we’re pretty good at first aid,” muses The Gorm.

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They come in from the east. Great hordes of them in snappy little London 2-doors, in caravans, kombis and Land Rovers. Surfing is big business in England. A tiny surf school like Barry Hall’s on Fistral Beach can take 60 or 70 students a day. There are dozens of others competing for the thousands who arrive each day. But the lucrative swarms of wannabes are not welcomed everywhere – not even with their Australian surf-brand boardies.

“Australian lifeguards have a bit of a reputation for partying and hell raising,” confesses Head Lifeguard John Broad. “Surfing’s always been an excuse to party. Scientists say it’s because of the negative ions caused by waves crashing on the beach, creating ozone and good energy.”

Gordon Leech has other ideas. From the neatly manicured lawn at his Surf Beach Hotel he bites his fingernails gingerly, and watches over Fistral Beach. “The ordinary surfers are lovely people,” he concedes. “But they attract a bad element. Yobs! Beer drinking yobs. They’ve very bothersome and cause terrible trouble.”

It’s no secret that Cornwall’s famous tea and scones set have clashed with the surfers. There are thousands of holiday-makers whose dreams of lonely, artistic walks along blustery beaches and lashings of Devonshire teas are compromised severely by the negative ion-absorption of the hundreds of thousands of surfers sharing the coast.

“The police have had a dreadful time of it,” tells Gordon. “They’ve had to bring in all sorts of things – water canons and army helicopters, but the villagers are still being terrorised.”

It’s not the surfing that long-time Cornwall residents like Gordon object to. In fact, Cornish farmers, in their terry towelling robes and slippers – striped towels across their shoulders and planks under their arms, are not an unfamiliar sight on an uncrowded beach. “All I’m saying is surfers get a bad name around here. They’ve made a rod for their own backs with all that boozing and yahooing.”

Still, business isn’t exactly suffering at the Surf Beach Hotel. “We’re packed all summer,” says Gordon, reaching eagerly for the visitors’ book. “And even the Australians love it over here. Look…,” he points to his favourite entry.

“Better than Bondi,” it says.

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Totally Addicted to BASE

Blue Mountains, NSW, Australia: Something very odd is coming over Dwain Weston.

Staring over an endless grey chasm at Bridle Veil Falls, he makes out scars where the earth has been eaten away by sky. Cliffs, valleys and waterfalls. Drops of water scream into the abyss and slow-motion cloud spins through the valley.

Weston’s perceptions are beginning to warp.

The view ripples, the distance swells and pulses. Empty spaces left by cliff faces work like magnets on his mind. It’s a sensation somewhere between sinking and swimming. Not vertigo. Not madness. It’s a long, sucking craving that begins in the eyeballs, boils in the stomach and ends up in a single word; Jump!

Weston remembers this feeling as a small boy, visiting the Falls with his father. “It scared the hell out of me,” he says. “I said, ‘Dad, I feel like jumping’, and he said; ‘Son, a lot of us do.’

 So I knew it was normal, to be sucked off the edge like that. To tempt the idea, play with the instincts. Back then I scared myself, now I know there’s no sensation more immense, more complete, than BASE jumping.”

The seduction of that fatal step into air is no longer a mystery for the 30-year-old who has 600 massive leaps behind him and knows what it feels like to step into his fear. To have the edge crumbling beneath his feet, to crouch low over the drop – close the eyes for a moment, clear the head with one long breath and push off into open space. It’s no longer just jumping that tantalises Weston. What he wants is bliss. The lust that drives Weston is a quest for extra seconds of an extraordinary ecstasy each time he shatters the standard space/time/thought matrix of human experience in freefall

Standing on the edge of 300 feet of sheer, raw rock with hard earth under you and a huge sky biting at your head, you could be forgiven for clinging to the guard rail. Weston, however, would be more likely to be standing six feet back, eyes fixed on the last inch of loose earth and long blonde hair raking on the updraft. If you could hear what he was thinking it would horrify you even more than the realisation he is not just looking at the view, but getting ready to run at it.

“Okay,” he’s counseling himself. “Logic says I can do this. I’ve made the calculations, I’ve trained the turns. Just run, don’t slip at the edge, get good traction for the spring and turn. Reverse somersault, twist, lay out and turn. That’s five seconds, please God – I know I can do this.”

If you happened to be there, watching his body take air, tumble gracefully into diving acrobatics at speeds approaching 200 ks per hour, chances are your mind would fail to compute. He would look something like a bird, or an angel – spinning and falling with a grace, tender and terrible. The sight of a human body falling so superbly through air induces a sublime kind of terror.

They call it BASE jumping, and even after the frenzied attention of marketers for soft drinks, light beer and fresh mints rendered most extreme sports passe last decade, the idea still scares most people stupid. BASE is simple; you find the highest objects in the world – buildings, antennas, span bridges and earth, and jump off them.

In true ‘extreme’ sports, where the sanity of competitors is more frequently disputed than the stunts they perform, BASE jumping remains the wild card in the deck. “People have a lot of trouble understanding what it is about BASE,” agrees Weston. “It’s the challenge of cracking the logic, taming the fear and then pioneering ideas that makes BASE jumping work. It’s nothing to do with conquering fear, facing death or anything like that.”

“What it is all about is a kind of grace, maybe 6 seconds in the arms of the most incredible grace that swallows you whole somewhere between jumping into space and falling to the earth.”

Weston knows every fraction of a second of every jump he does. His apartment walls, like the digs of a modern Galileo, are posted with charts, meticulous diagrams of angles, wind flows, figures and numbers. “From 300 foot, with complicated aerobatics, the margins are fine – you need to know every inch of them. There are five seconds of freefall, but only three to play with. If I achieve the turns I have precisely 1.5 seconds to deploy the parachute – there would be 0.5 seconds for a margin of error. These things are knowable. If you do the sums.” What separates the good guys in BASE from the rest is the willingness to invest time, lots of it, in the possibilities of seconds.

But why, exactly – may we ask?  low light

“You’re only here once,” says Weston.

“It’s not for long. If you want to make the most of it, to find out what exist beyond your fears and see how sweet life really is – you need to explore the edges.”

Troll Wall,Northern Norway, is the edge in BASE jumping. With a full drop of 5,700 feet and views across a massive open canyon, it is not only the highest jumpable cliffwall in the world, but one of the most spectacular. Because of projected rock, BASE jumpers leap to a final possible drop point 4,000 feet below – for the best that’s about 28 seconds of freefall. “It’s theMecca,” says Weston, “For surfers it’s Hawaii, for climbers it’s Everest, in BASE the Troll wall is it.”

Troll Wall is also legally off-limits to BASE jumpers. It’s killed a lot of people. Access is a six-hour climb on mountain and ice through a three-hour northern European night. “It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s beautiful,” says Weston. “When you arrive at the jump site you’ve walked from dusk to dawn knowing you are about to fly off the most intense drop there is.”

He makes it sound romantic, but the truth is that while the world around him may be dawning in a state of grace, before a jump like this Dwain Weston is freaking out. Seriously.

“Let me tell you about the element of fear,” Weston says. “It sucks!

“And it never goes away. People who tell you they do these things for the fear are lieing.

on a 100 cliff“It’s a different feeling to the fear of being mugged or bashed – it’s a fear you bring yourself forward to. But that depth of fear – it’s miserable, gut-wrenching. Every living thing has a survival instinct and when you put yourself in front of a huge fall, walk to the edge and get ready to jump that instinct knows for damn sure that it’s not a normal, healthy thing to do. It jumps up and down, it screams and kicks. It has to go to the toilet, it gets a headache, it shivers and wonder if it left the iron on. It begs at you not to do this thing, to go home! and it’s a very difficult thing, an excruciating thing to get on top of it.

“If I were standing on that edge with a parachute on my back getting ready to jump and some idiot walked up wearing a No Fear T-shirt, I’d know they had no bloody idea. The most logical thing, the natural thing, the only normal thing to be saying at a time like that is ‘I’m scared to death, please – don’t let me wet my pants’.

 After that, he jumps. “The fear disappears the second you step off the edge,” he says. “Once you’re there and you’ve committed, your body shuts down from the panic. The conversation ends and you have to deal with what’s happening right now.” What’s happening ‘right now’ is that approximately 4,000 foot of sheer rock, boulders, trees, escarpment and earth are rushing past your body at a velocity of 200kph. The air, which your body is surfing and slicing and cutting through, screams in your ears. “The noise is incredible,” says Weston. “It roars!”

“And now your resistance is gone, you are fully committed, well… this is where life starts to get extremely interesting,” he grins.

clifFalling off a cliff face toward solid earth with just seconds to accomplish complex turns and surfing moves in freefall, hitting speeds most people will never see on their car’s speedos while calculating the last possible moment to pull out your chute is not easy to describe. “It’s everything; every emotion you ever felt rolled into one. That moment; it’s all moments. It’s pure life, nothing else matters.”

The essence of BASE jumping, the thing that they go back for, is a remarkable inversion caused by the intensity of the experience, the shattering of a time/space assumption in left-brain logic and complete surrender to overwhelm. Mid-fall a BASE jumper hits a point where reality bends backwards. It’s no longer the body that’s falling, but the world accelerating. “You feel motionless, it’s all happening around you,” says Weston. He describes a state of grace when he is able to perform his aerobatics, surf currents, ride the air and tumble turn the abyss. “It’s a sort of purity,” he says. Saltando sobre la luna

“Those are pure, pure moments. You’re in freefall, you’re at that moment, you’re tearing at the ground, you’ve got seconds to go before impact and you’re holding on, holding on because what you’re feeling out there is an indescribable ecstasy. Utter peace at 200ks.

“There’s so much complexity in a person’s life; taxation, crappy relationships, career, promotions, money, time – but for those moments none of it exists. You’ve stripped the crap off life and got to the source. You realise, in that space, what’s really important, what the intensity is. It’s not the end, it’s not mortality, it’s not the thrill of staring death in the face – it’s just so simple…. it called being alive.”

Dwain was participating in a skydiving stunt at the Royal Gorge Bridge near Canon City, Colorado where he and another parachutist jumped from an airplane intending to do an acrobatic maneuver around the bridge. He was killed when he struck the bridge railing and fell into the Royal Gorge in front of 200 horrified spectators. He was 30 years old. I am grateful to have had the chance to speak with him and to have had this view into his world.

This article published in Panorama, and Australian Penthouse.

Wild Justice – who shot the fat guy?

Drugs, guns, cheap booze, cheap land and a lawless expatriate community hell-bent on making it big on this little hamlet… there was always going to be trouble in the Andean paradise of Vilcabamba, Ecuador. But will the right people pay?

Kapow! .. pow! … pow!  A single gunshot ricocheted, ricocheted, ricocheted… along one after the other of the grizzly eroded flanks that buttress the little mansion in remote southern Ecuador where fat Josh, the Danish guru, was home alone.

It was the crack in the night that had been coming a long time. A flash of fierce brightness across a horizon of dark magic, hell-bred schemes and violence that have been simmering in Vilcabamba for two decades.

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Whoever shot the gun, in whatever circumstances, set free a little silver bullet that landed fair in the elbow of an obese Danish expatriate who was tussling with masked ‘thugs’, armed with metal bars and at least one gun, and had allegedly broken in to this rented luxury mansion in the fully-walled, policed, gated compound known as Hacienda San Joaquin.

This one bullet, according to gossip, flew after Joshua attacked the intruders. Which is easy to believe. Despite his obese condition, Joshua is well-known in Ecuador and his previous lairs in Thailand for boasting about his skills at Martial Arts. There are plenty of people who can confirm that fat Josh loves nothing better than the chance to spa some un-trained ass.

I’ve seen him at it myself, as a guest at his previous residence, where he and my boyfriend, Scott, would kick box about after heavy work outs in Josh’s private gym and sessions in fat joshJosh’s private infra red sauna, and business meetings on the lawn, about how to make it rich as online pimps and prophets.

On one occasion Josh, surprisingly agile for an aging fat guy, pushed things too far with Scott who is an exceedingly able pacifist, vegetarian athlete ex-lawyer, with an obvious but untapped potential to crack bones. Josh was landing hard side kicks to the face beyond what seemed fair ‘play’, and taunting Scott to ‘man up’. So Scott, losing touch with his pacifist steak, puffed himself up like the Hulk, picked Josh up, threw him to the ground, placed his fist in his face and warned him, “don’t fucking push it, mate.”

It took Scott about a month to recover from this incident. But Josh really gloated on it. He took a real shine to Scott after that – it was the start of some very sick business for me.

So yes, it’s not hard for me to imagine Josh ‘pushing it’ with armed intruders. He’s the kind of guy who relishes a fight. Who lusts for a fight, actually, and who has had one coming for a mighty long time.

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Fat Joshua and Kacper Postawski.. victims, or… what?

He was constantly provoking trouble in his previous incarnation in Thailand, and here as well, in Ecuador, where he had allied himself with a dubious elite, and was among the most hated Caucasians on the valley.

There are people who moved to the valley on nest eggs fertilised by pensions, one-off marijuana crops in the US, internet scams, or dealing between the port cities and the Andes, and have come to escape the law, tax, misery.. whatever, loafing about in obscurity in Ecuador.

They drink a lot of booze. They smok a lot of pot. They take a lot of acid. They also indulge in public brawls, bullying, open drunkenness and all manner of behaviour that would be unacceptable (and unaffordable) back home, and causes horror and dread among the local Ecuadorians – who provide a quaint backdrop to a lot of what goes on in Gringo-bamba.

Others came here fat from online pimping. Or from making it rich on whoring plant medicines, spiritual workshops of one sort or another, and exploiting the powerful evil helix spun between the Anxiety Dollar and the internet.

The formula works something like this:

  1. pick a surging social problem; insomnia, obesity, shame, depression, a popular neurosis or fashionable curiosity, like Tantra..
  2. Discredit the established wisdom and offerings in this market – especially undermine medical, pharmacological, legal, social or moral constructs around it.
  3. Invent your own solution.
  4. Flog the hell out of it online, through viral marketing, meems, and thorough exploitation of social media.
  5. Locate yourself offshore to your native country, in a place you can hide from legal, tax and other scrutiny, and milk it till the next big idea.

A surprising number of people arrived in Vilcabamaba on this ticket since 2008, gorged on superfoods and supplements and cheap rent. The richest and most brazen became famous. The second best just stuck it out in the mountains,  hosting parties where they could make friends and schemes with other scamsters, and providing free music, drugs and sex to the local youth – bored expat kids, and Vilcabamba kids who had never seen anything like what debauched gringos can get up to when they feel immune from the law, and far far far away from God.

But it’ s not these new-comers who get written up as criminals. No.

Even though people like fat Josh and his partner, Kacper Postawski have been implicated in scams which deceived, if not actually harmed LOTS – even thousands – of people, and got rich out of it, they have so far successfully dodged the bullets.

You can see Postawski being outed by Mike Adams here for his part in an ongoing scandal over a ‘detox’ product called Adya Clarity and then re-named as Water Liberty. This ‘miracle product’ is marketed by Postawski at over 4000% profit, according to critics, and alleged to be dangerously toxic. Serious safety warning over Postawski’s ‘decalcifyer’ led several of his peers toapologise for their part in the business and issue recalls and refunds.

But not fat Josh and Kacper. They openly exploit Ecuador as a hiding place from the consequences of their actions, a place to benefit from cheap labour and costs of living, while indulging in the spoils of their dirty exploits, and contributing a big fat nothing to any body.

So, when one of these characters is picked off, roughed up, challenged – I find myself wondering… if it’s not about time.

When violence began rearing up in Vilcabamba, the media reported that it was those who confronted the expatriate elite who were thugs and criminals. The Latinos, that is.

Everybody happily over-looked whether those receiving street punishment had in any way earned it. Either by their own repugnant, illegal, overt nasty behaviour, or, you know.. by way of karma.

I lived in this valley for three years and can fairly say that all is not anything like it first seems in quaint little Vilcabamba. The white guys are not all glowing with fair-play and country goodness – some of them are dangerous, and some are gloating from the sheer thrill of how much they have got away with.

My own experience with fat Josh was an instant, profound and terminal case of mutual revulsion. I immediately smelled a rat on him. And he took a strong dislike to me after I started investigating his and Kacper Postawski’s exploits in drug dealing, internet scams and excruciatingly flaky spiritual counseling from their luxury digs in Vilcabamba. You can read more about Postawski’s track record here – ouch!

As revenge, Josh used cash bribes, drugs and persuasion to undermine my relationship, smear my reputation and throw me to the dogs. He spied on Scott and I, would turn up at our house at odd hours demanding interviews with Scott which went on for hours, and eventually exploited a miscarriage I had in Vilcabamba in 2013 to engineer an extremely traumatic series of events for me.

He saw me at parties where he and others were supplying gringo and Ecuadorian kids with free drugs, where there was all manner of hell was going down, where the foundations for his own undoing were perhaps being laid.

But it’s not being told like this. Not so far. When fat Josh got shot after tussling with alleged intruders this month in Vilcabamba, it was reported as if he were just a regular guy, home alone in a gated mansion in the remote Southern Andes.

FROM FACEBOOK: Anubuddha LeeFebruary 23 at 2:29am

With a very heavy and shaky heart I share this latest tragic news. At 8;30 pm last night, Joshua’s rented house in the Hacienda San Joaquin was broken into by 5 masked thugs. He was alone, and found them in his basement where he exercises daily. They had a shotgun and metal bars for weapons… he got smacked in the head, but managed to get the metal bar from them… then they shot him in the arm (elbow very damaged) and fled the scene… without anything. Anasha and I were right next door, visiting Chris and Lily when we heard the gunshot… the loudest I ever heard. Josh was screaming, so we run and find him bleeding profusely. We rushed him to Vilcabamba hospital…..”

But there was not only one gun in the house. That is for sure.

Because Joshua, and most of his Vilcabamba mates, are part of a powerful, paranoid elite in the valley who have been preparing themselves for the End of the World, Alien invasion and attacks by other enemies for a while now. They boast that they have a shoot to kill philosophy in case of trouble, and as keepers of cache of food, ammo, porn and whatever else is required to survive Armageddon, are well rehearsed in what violence might be served to those who dare breach their maximum insecurity mansions.

A week after the crack of gunfire and all the squealing, reports of a crime wave in the remote Andes, of nasty indigenous thugs marauding the hillsides and bashing all the innocent expats were rife online. Ecuador’s President, Raffael Correa, re-routed a speaking engagement to appear in person in Vilcabamba this Saturday, a local Security business made a motza on surveillance gear and weapons, and Josh appealed to the world to please send high dose vitamin k2 to regrow his bone tissue.(mk-4 or mk-7)

“i cant wait 5-6 weeks for the mail to arrive, besides im in guayaquil now for surgeries.if someone has k2 and are willing to sell i can have my friend in town contact you to buy it and he can ship it to me ASAP,” he wrote. “im on bone growth protocol and this one is the missing vitamin. hope someone can help.”

This is exactly what you might expect from Josh who is, as it happens, a bit of a dark wizard at chemistry. His traceable roots lead to Ko Samui, Thailand, where fat Josh made quite the illegal, tax-free killing peddling the psychotropic drug ibogain to tourists.

Josh was a sort of Jabba the Mystic Hut out there in Ko Samui, where a steady stream of sick, suffering, questing Westerners were lured by his clever online marketing to pay considerable $thousands for the Danish snakeoil salesman to blow them out of their minds with heavy doses of this African heritage plant medicine.

He made plenty cash dollar on that enterprise, while harvesting a pretty sum in State benefits from his homeland, in Denmark, on a disabilities payment. He split when things got ‘complicated’ in Thailand. A string of complaints began to thread itself together. Unhappy customers began to whisper, greener pastures were required, a new harvest sought, and plenty of googling was no doubt done.

Over in Ecuador, things were looking extremely fertile for entrepreneurs hunting Spiritual Quest Dollar. The tiny South American nation was recently dollarized, a charismatic ‘people’s’ President was promising stability, growth, wealth and some extremely influential leaders of the New Age movement had already primed the pump for a major cascade of liquid gold out of Ecuador.

IMG_2382

The so-called ‘Health Ranger’, Mike Adams, was one of the first. Founder, editor and writer for his own online title, Natural News, Adams was well ahead of fat Josh on the easy pickings to be made in Ecuador. His online power as educator, influencer and peddler of products to a massive following in the wellness, conspiracy, healing and expatriating markets can be measured in $millions.

It was Adams who was first in this pack of savvy entrepreneurs to set foot on Vilcabamba soil. I can see him tilting his chin to the sharp Andean sun, scanning the gentle local folk hunched quietly over crops of corn and potato, and sniffing dollars. Lots of easy, tax free, nobody’s watching … dollars.

IMG_2476

He bought into a 600+ acre ranch for a song, gated it and made it famous as Hacienda San Joaquin. He and his partners worked up the land, sold plots to wealthy foreigners to build ‘dream homes’ on cheap Ecuadorian labor, re-valued the enterprise in seven figures, sold single plots for more than the value of the entire ranch, and started feeding out information to his millions of followers about how he had discovered paradise on Earth.

Adams took interests in land all over the Vilcabamba valley, and then set off to market the heck out of the place. In June, 2010, he wrote Top ten things to love about Vilcabamba, about the wonders of then little-known hamlet.

The piece reads like any other shallow travel whip, until you get to the bottom, where Mike helpfully provides access to his own real estate networks should you be so seduced as to buy the land in what he called the Valley of Longevity. Which many people did.

Hundreds, actually.  His email address is listed there as vilcaland@gmail.com, and by all accounts it was busy. You can see the list of sales here.

Natural News marketed events in Vilcabamba to its audience around the world, promoted tours and superfoods from there in which he had a vested financial interest, spruiked the culture and healthy lifestyle angles in a cascade of articles talking up his cheap as chips new paradise.

Adams set the stage for land hungry expatriates, looking for upward mobility and status.. “The cost of living in Vilcabamba, Ecuador is surprisingly low, even if you’re hiring a lot of help. A typical garden worker makes from $10 – $15 per day, and locals are always looking for more work,” he wrote.

Real estate soared. Expatriates arrived in droves. Foul-mouthed failed author, Nick Vasey, settled in from New Zealand to reap the benefits as a real estate agent. The Health Ranger moved out, and a new crop of spiritual entrepreneurs including David Wolfe, Matt Monarch, Kacper Postawski and fat Josh turned up take second lick at the honey pot.

You can see some of the world’s superfood millionaires positively having the best time ever, plugging Vilcabamba as the land of eternal youth on Youtube here -creepy!

david wolf

David Wolfe, lampooned recently on faccebook – oh dear.

Was any of this actually wrong?

No. Not actually. It’s just that what happened in Vilcabamba was not the result of natural growth or even a trend in lifestyle change. It was a carefully, meticulously, beautifully planned strategy that benefited a calculating, foreign elite who had the power of influence and absolutely no interest at all on the impacts on the culture or the people they were exploiting to make it rich.

That these people dress themselves up as crusaders for truth, freedom and happiness online as they exploit that trust the same as any other developers would is not illegal, it’s just .. err… treacherous?

For example, here’s Kacper, plugging himself and other North American entrepreneurs in Vilcabamba, talking about how much awesomeness is in his life, and selling that on to others, after having spent most of 2012 making liquid cash online about how to survive the end of the world at Silent Furnace, when he was cashing in on the (failed) 2012 Apocalypse.

Note how they claim to have unplugged from the Matrix IMG_2193in remote Ecuador, contrasting their paradise to a collapsing North American society, while failing to notice that there is indeed, crisis all around them for the dark-skinned impoverished indigenous who are now enslaved to … them! Oooo!!!!! What about their “soul essence”.. ey?

Most of those who made the first big cash dollar from the exploitation of the Vilcabamba valley are no longer there – which is interesting, isn’t it? I mean, you’re rich, you’re only going to get richer – you’re free, you’ve found your el dorado, so why would you ever leave?

Perhaps they knew that things were already going sideways in paradise once they destablised the economy and disenfranchised the ‘lovely local people’.

Canadian real estate agent, Glen Sanderse, was murdered in Vilca in 2013. A series of rapes and assaults on expats and Ecuadorians have gone on since 2010. Very recently a woman was bashed during a break-in at the residence of Postowski’s mother, Catherine, who, hitting 70, made herself infamous in this heavily Catholic town, for her open and well-advertised adventure in intimate relations with a local Ecuadorian, not yet 20!

Coincidence?

The Ecuadorians, ancestral heirs to this remote river valley, who Adams described in 2010 as “exceedingly nice, polite and very friendly to visitors… who… go out of their way to try to communicate with you in simple words that you’ll easily understand… and spend hours chatting about various things: The climate, gardening, horses, tourist activity, politics, health and much more.” were getting pissed.

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You could see them, bleary-eyed and staggering around the main square, drunk as newts and scowling into the biting sky as the years were rolling on, and the land was rolling over.

Every housing estate, luxury villa, permaculture farm and gringo mansion sprouting on the hillsides represented the dispossession of at least one farmer and all his dependents. Every new property, each gringo household, represented at least one actual Ecuadorian – usually more – now employed at poverty-line wages of around $3 an hour as staff.

At fat Josh’s house, where I was a visitor several times in 2012, there was a house keeper earning $2.50 an hour. She cleaned up after the kick boxing, the raw food banquets and the pot, ayahuasca and san pedro sessions for more than a year, had an inside view of exactly how the relatively rich new immigrants lived, and was never called by name at work because Josh and his Russian partner, Irina, never bothered to learn it.

She was one of hundreds of local people feeling more and more dejected, terrified, actually, about what the changes in their home town were leading to.

I interviewed Vilcabamba towns people and heard tale after tale of escalating poverty, sickness, misery and anger. One mother of five there drew her finger across her throat when I asked her how she was doing.

A Canadian professor came to town and undertook an official study of the impact of migration on Vilcabamba indigenous.He wrote in 2013 that what he witnessed among the Ecuadorians was displacement, depression, hopelessness and a climate of what he called moral panic.

What is moral panic? Wiki calls it –  a feeling of fear spread among a large number of people that some evil threatens the well-being of society.

Were the locals wrong? What were they to do?

As a Western commentator wrote on this blog, having watched the scene in Vilcabamba awhile…

Maybe the increased crime on gringos in Vilcabamba could have something to do with the inflation in the little town causing poor Vilcabambans to demonstrate an act of desperate outrage against the problem. I’m sure their are an increasing number of poor Vilcabambans that may not even have enough money to feed their families because of the increase in food prices, what would you do if you could no longer afford to feed your kids because some rich selfish foreigners decided to ignorantly alter the economics of what used to be fair price.  Dan

In the square one Sunday I was introduced to a miserable group of young men, dressed in shredded work wear, drunk on local brew, red-eyed and hunched over bottles swaddled in brown paper. They had finished their 6-day week, working 10 – 12 hour shifts on gringo building sites, with no access to proper tools, water, toilet, shade, food or protection, and were swallowing their weekly earnings of less than $100, blowing the poverty out of their circuits by getting utterly, gutterly, properly pissed – Latino-style.

IMG_0243These were the kind of ‘thugs’ polite society would avoid. Drunk boys. Powder kegs of hard muscle with sly eyes and a short fuse woven from humiliation and anger.

I liked them though. They were beautiful young men being treated like shit, with no other option than to take it.

We talked for ages while they coyly and gratefully smoked all my cigarettes. They were worried, they said, for their mothers. Who cry at night.

For their fathers, who are raging in the dwindling pastures, pecked at by real estate agents and bankers.

They are worried for themselves, about how the hell to pull out of the downward suck of becoming low skilled, landless coloured workers for white Colonialists in their own town! In 2015! Under  a ‘people’s President!

They were angry, and they were right to be. When their stories touched raw nerve, they would swig and wince, and glare across to the grizzly hills that flank the gated Hacienda San Joaquin, and its clutch of armed gringo mansions.

“We know they have guns in there,” they would whisper. “And they have a man with a gun at the gate. And walls everywhere, surveillance. Ha! Why do you think they create a prison for themselves? Why here, in this place of peace and quiet  – this paradise?

Do you think they know how much we hate that place? What it stands for. What they’ve done. Do you think they know how we dream of coming in there, over the walls, in through the darkness, and staring those men in their faces, making them see that we, too, are real. We too, are men. We too, are armed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to a rich man at dusk.

Today I met a rich man. He was packing up his 4WD after a long weekend at the country house, over-looking the ocean, nextdoor. His face was heavy with several decades of Camembert and expensive Shiraz. He seemed embarrassed about his dog. He shook my hand as if he were going for a home run, and scowled at my pajamas.

He’s going to retire, he said. He’s rich now, he has been for ages, and well, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It wears off, doesn’t it, that glow?

I mean, he asked me, what’s needed is just that one thing, isn’t it, at the end of the day – to be, mmmm, content. Yes, to be content, with ocean views, a Weber, marble surfaces and perhaps, a better dog too. To be content, he drifted off….. to maybe live here, in the bush – connect to nature, buy a boat….play golf…. fish…..

he developed a look of such terrible sorrow that I wanted to adopt him. I wanted to say…..

this….

 

Go to the mountains,

Let them grind you to dust.

x

Go to the road,

and learn each of her flowers.

x

Go to the bottom,

have your heart made honest

by that sweet poverty;

patience, solitude, the kindness of strangers.

x

Go to the suffering places;

the theatres of war

and the suburbs.

x

Hear the morning birds,

praise the sun in voices, clear with belonging,

while inside their safety boxes,

far from the dew,

the good people writhe in silence,

as a cascade of living bliss

curdles against their Dulux.

x

Watch the little flowers that unfold in dawnlight,

see how they offer a glittering seed to every dawn

while the women, inside, toss their bedsheets asunder,

strap up their breasts and scowl at their mirrors

for their right to be men.

x

Smell the eucalypt, lavender, wet soil and sunshine,

stiring up under canopies of quiet leaves

as the men try to forget

how many of their bones

were cracked and shucked and fed to worms

for this empire of endless be-coming.

x

Feel every thing.

and learn the dignity of that.

x

Take the difficulty

with gladness,

for the tenderness it provides.

x

Let all your sorrows sweeten your soul.

Give in to them,

and see what ripeness unfolds

x

… let it all be worth something.

This falling apart.

x

.. let the pieces find their proper places

and be still.

There is a paradise we abandon

when we hunt for peace.

x

Let the bud be ripped open

the petals stripped bare.

Let the robes turn to rags

and the rage into prayer.

Be defeated in all battles.

Be torn at the throat.

x

Take your will

to the mountains, and have it crushed into seed.

Throw your hope

to the wind, and let the cosmos inspire you.

Tear your heart on true stories of beauty

and see…

what radiance awaits those

lost

in space.

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Through the window

dragnfly

I hit the boy in a daydream. He strolled his motorbike straight out onto the highway where my 50km an hour cruise in flipflops and sun dress was abruptly confused into a squall of bent metal, shredded petals and grating skin. It was a bright morning, the scent of papaya and grass smoke on the wind.

The impact caused two broken ribs, a concussion, knee wounds to the bone, a torn ankle and a wonky side mirror.

It made a tear in the fabric of things that let my dying lover find me, and gave me this poem.

Through the window

wet with rain

we linger together,

–  my broken bones and a galaxy in stillness –

you, winged creature,

bespangled with light.

xx

Dragonfly

quivers once

and lends me her eye.

xx

Through the fineprint

in raindrops

silver maps appear,

and poems

xx

assembled in fractions,

held still on the brink

of this long moment

across the liquid veil.

xx

I see her fractal universe

spinning with flying cities,

a geometry of rice paddies,

hoola palms,

and shaggy clocks, swinging aerial time.

xx

The big-winged banana trees

tear their leaves into feathers.

xx

Hibiscus flowers,

those cherry bells,

stir tincture of raindrop,

with essence of cloud

for the sunbaths of songbirds tomorrow.

xx

All of this, repeating, repeating…

xx

as the view reaches out

an invisible trapeze

on our exhalation.

xx

and all of this, repeating, repeating…

xx

as the fall of mirrors

rushes in – glittering and spinning

prickling and singing…

xx

This moment!

This moment!

xx

On glossy flutes.

xx

The Bali postcard

explodes into splendour,

implodes into silence,

and swells with the beauty

of the excruciatingly untouched.

xx

Bali, tosses her head and anoints her full belly.

xx

In this most raucous of quietude

she pulls a shroud of monsoon wetness

across herself,

lets wild rain

tease at her nipples, fill her breasts

and coax her flesh into ripples

and eddies, burst edges and rivulets of

living mud.

xx

She breathes hot

into the chamber of her storm.

xx

She arches her back and presses her curves

into the swelling edge of puddles,

across flooding paddies,

and into cups

that reach

an aching fullness

while

those

ecstatic

globes

of liquid mirror

drive on

in fleets

their chariots

xx

flying to earth in explosions of ecstatic math.

xx

Through the dragonfly’s eye

I see them ride their exquisite parachutes

in from Himalayan adventures

to burst

all their stories

into rivers.

xx

To write them down the backs of cuddling ducks

to draw them in  haikus

upon the tendrils of a passionfruit vine.

xx

Trickling…

Extending…

The curves of their perfect orbs

Slowly

Descending

xx

as they take upon themselves

the caress of the wind,

the cool cheek of sky,

the frenzied swirl of the spinning palm

and a shrapnel of flight

from their abseiling sisters.

xx

Red leaves, orange berries

A lost bird.

Gardenia flowers

and the tiny things that swoon in their skirts.

xx

All these drawn on their bodies,

tearing mud-bound in crystal,

as battalions of sweet ammunition

fall and explode

catastrophically

every

one

and create the world

all over.

 

my America

he touches my four symbols

on his alphabet piano

and rips my heart into

an unseasonal bloom.

x

His five birds come to roost

and a landslide

of tiny

xxxxxlittle

xxxxxxxxxflowers

demolishes me.

x

Our poles connect

with Aquarian velocity

and suddenly, I

feel the gravity of his bones,

catch a scent of American earth,

see his dark beauty,

cloaked in tree, swathed in mountain,

riding across the moon.

x

My tender Australia,

timid on her feet

and fragile of borders,

clatters her pretty tea set.

x

The skitty birds hush

inside the dripping gum

and

a lava sunset

turns suddenly coy.

x

His American shadow,

ripe in musk

and heavy with legend

casts a Wuthering spell

across the nervous wattle.

x

Erotic shapes appear.

Strange flowers bloom.

A flinch.

Then disarray

across the virgin garden.

x

My menagerie of dinosaurs

and refugees,

struck clumsy with desire

for the sharp

xxxxxxxxxxxedge

of American charm,

push against

the scythe blade of

heavy lashes,

for that long taste

of frontier lust.

x

The dew, remaining

quivers bright

with rumours of his

deadly graces.

Each bead a’quiver with

gossip

of his fateful elegance

with weapons

of seduction.

x

Hysteria afflicts the marigolds

and the daisies act silly.

x

Little herds of snapdragons pout

and blush

beside the birdbath

while a cuddle of mushrooms

becomes breathless with

a most exquisite panic.

x

Gondwana’s prim bouquet of

lemon and honey, red earth and gum

is utterly disheveled

by this exotica

of hot pine,

leather,

gunsmoke

and sweat.

x

x

America still…

just has to touch those four glyphs

and a pantheon of winds

unleash their deadly

graces

into the manes

and nostrils

of stallions,

riding now,

on this full moon

across the Field of the Pacific

on hooves of wild foam,

with Isis, the moon, at the whip.

x

x

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