In Southern France and the Gardens of Gapa.

     For those who had been reading this, I apologize for the lapse in keeping it updated.  I cant believe so much time has elapsed.  I am now in Paris, with only days left until I return to the United States. (Update: I am posting this about three months after I wrote it)  The last two months I have been farming on two different biodynamic farms in two different regions in France.  This and the next posting will cover that.  For now though, after laboring in the soil for the summer months, my arrival in Paris, and my shifting of lifestyle, is matched with a larger shift, that of the seasons.  I was surprised to see the first touches of autumn rising into the waning days of summer.  But without a doubt, as I move through the streets of this ancient city, the angle of the sun has lost its harshness, shifting from a white yellow to a more amber, and against street curbs and wedged between cast iron fences and hedges, are beginning to collect the fallen leaves of the season.
Mid June…
     I arrived around mid-day to the town of Lannemazan.  The hot summer sun had evaporated the early morning clouds, and a tangible buzz of growth could be felt and even heard.
     The town was small, really no more than the train station, its 20 car parking lot and a small hotel across the street.  I had had to change trains at the town of Lourdes, and while I was waiting I was able to send an email to the farm to let them know of my arrival time.  Did I mention that I had left my mobile phone on the train in Vienna some weeks back?
     I was able to check my email at the small hotel, and there had been no reply.  I waited around for a while, had a coffee and took in the noonday sun.  The hotel itself was a real treat.  Saturated in a layer of nicotine, from the paintings on the wall, to the wood paneling behind the bar in the lobby, to the kind but weathered bar tender who answered my every request in broken French with a sweet but crackled,  Avec Pleasure.
     It is not really a great story, but suffice it to say the one thing that was not handed out with pleasure at the hotel was access to the phone.  After some time and a bit of creative pantomime, I figured out how to buy a phone card and where a public phone to use it was located.  By half past one I was sipping the last bits of my second, or maybe third coffee (I had spent the last night half-sleeping on a bench).  And this is where I was when the big white van, what I have since learned to be a tell tale sign of French organic farming, came buzzing around the conrer.  At the helm wasGapa himself.
     Gapa is the main farmer at the farm I was to be working at for the next month.  In fact, he is the only farmer.  He manages the farm, completely by hand, with the aid of volunteers, such as myself.  He stood about five foot seven, dark brown skin with tightly curled, slightly whispy salt and peppered patchy beard, and tightly cropped hair.  His eyes were reserved and he didnt speak much.  The ride back to the farm was slow as he took the  scenic route to give me a feel for the area.  At least that is what I think he said.  When he did talk it was in a slow and accented French.  I later learned that Gapa was born and raised in French Guyana.  But accent aside, I was sleep deprived and had spent the previous two weeks in Spain.  My French skills at this point were essentially non-existant.
     As we wound through the French country side, and slowly up into the foothills of the Pyrenees, I was completely taken with the landscape.  Rolling forrest spilled down from the mountains and neatly framed, in organic non conformed shapes, the many, but not too many, grazing fields and gardens that dotted the country.  Small packs of amber and white Jersey cows could be seen slowly and methodically munching away, as the dull clang of their bells added to the hazy ethereal nature of the the scene.  And at the head of each clearing stood and old French grange that had often been converted into a home.
     These old barns looked as if the hillside had spontaneously heaved them up.  And in a way I guess that is what happened as these buildings, that could have been built 40 years ago or 400 years ago,  were essentially well stacked and arranged piles of stones that must have been recovered from the fields during decades of tillings.  The stone foundations gave a textured and gray appearance to the small and usually sparsely windowed homes.  But this grayness was offset with s plash of color, either a muted yellow or pale blue that was displayed as an aspect of the roof, a facade of the building or even as a door.
     We passed from the country through a series of smaller towns and it struck me that here as well, there was a lack, if not complete absence, of modern buildings.  The last town we passed through before our final ascent up to the farm, was constructed completely of stone; though it lacked the hand stacked quality of the farm homes we passed, it was quite clear that this town had stood in this fashion for some time.
     The van made its way up the winding hillside, and around a final graveled turn and into the homestead of Gapa and his family.  We arrived to a fully decorated table, a charcoal fire smoldering in a self made half drum bbq pit and freshly poured glasses of this seasons dandelion wine.  It was Gapa’s wife, Sandrine’s birthday.  Sitting around the table was Sandrine’s father, her grandmother, her sister along with her husband, their two kids and one grandchild,Gapa and Sandrine’s three kids and another farm volunteer.
     Though I thought this to be due to the occasion, over the weeks I spent with them I learned that this arrangement was quite normal.  Gapa and Sandrine lived with their kids at the back of the property in two yurts with a kitchen complex that connected them.  Sanrdine’s sister Flroence and her husband, also named Marcus (endless source of entertainment for every new person I met), lived in the converted barn with their small son; their other daughter lived with her baby in the next town over, about a 15 minute walk.    After being wined and dined for Sandrine’s birthday celebration I was shown to my living space, small but cozy camper, just off the  small garden on the house property.  I loaded my bag into the camper, and fell into a wonderful and much needed siesta, that laster for a few hours.
     The next day I set to work with Gapa.  The plot he farms is nestled in the gentle slope of a foothill, at the conjunction with an old forest,  about four kilometers from the homestead.  It had, in times gone by, been cleared as pasture, evidenced by the old stone farmhouse keeping vigil at the end of the field.
     Gapa had converted this plot over the past decade, into a vibrant garden.  All biodynamically treated, with a bit ofGapa’s own interpretation and flare to the classic method.  The garden  hosted four major green houses, bursting with tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant.  The open field had a variety of vegetables, from sweet pea, fava beans, potatoes, beets, carrots, leeks, onions, chard and a variety of herbs and berry bushes pushing up where they felt necessary.
     Gapa likened farming to a meditation>  At least thats what I gathered.  Like a true teacher of meditation, Gapa didnt speak much.  He would just sort of watch me, laugh when I was working too hard, disappear at times, only to return and give a critique of the work accomplished; usually a nod or a drawled out, “bon, bon.”
     The most striking thing was the pacing of it all.  Gapa farmed with his hands.   The plants were planted by hand, the soils moved by hand, watered by hand, even weeded by hand.  He had a gas powered tiller, and I think he derived a certain joy out of using it.
     The work was hard.  And the days were either hot and sunny, or raining.  On the hot days hawks and falcons could be seen and heard patrolling the neighboring hayfields for morsels.  Displaying amazing feasts of aerodynamics, it was a treat indeed to look up from the earth, wipe the sweat from the eyes, and watch these magnificent birds.
     The days on the fields were punctuated by the ringing of the church bells on the hour.  From our vantage in the foothills, we could see down across the valley, and one could pick out perhaps four or five different little villages.  The bells would ring on the hour, and most times the sounds would just ethereally drift into my sphere of awareness.  Like everything in the French country, the bells were slow and full and penetrating without being imposing.
     I have found an interesting side effect to farming.  For as I write this now it has been almost two months since I have written anything for this site.  The best word I can think of to describe this effect is satisfaction.  It occurs to me in two ways.  One being that my experience with my day, when faced towards it in reflection in the waning hours before bed, was complete.  I had no want, or need to further elucidate or expand on the experience.  my body was tired and my mind content.  So when faced with trying to keep current on my writing, I found that it was difficult to intellectualize my satisfaction.  It was so complete, that to even attempt to dissect it and qualify it, seemed an effort in futility, for any thing that can be said, would be merely an echo.  For instance, and this brings me to the second point of satisfaction, to write about the tasks of farming is rather mundane.  One day I spent four hours, with a hoe in my hands, moving soil for the potatoes.  It was hard work, but the mind was at ease.  Little games, rhythmic motions, internal musical accompaniment, all of this captured in one sentence, but not even close to relating the contentedness one feels to be swept in the process.  Like some earthly gnomic spirit, carrying out a task because it is just the pattern of creation, the energy exists for the work because it has to.  And this is all well and good, but the deeper levels of satisfaction come later.  To look over a field of potatoes, drenched in sweat, blisters on the hands, and to see the physical effect your energy had on that place in space, it is not an etheric feeling of elation or joy, but an earthly sense of calm, and again satisfaction.  But then to watch the effect of those plants over the weeks, to see your work alter the course of the growth, to see flowers appear, and new growth rush forth in a slightly more vibrant shade of green, that is joy that is the shared effort across genomic kingdoms.  Tired at the end of the day, there is always strength to take a slow walk around the farm and see whats all happening at the different plots.
     There are other little pleasures of the farmers life.  Coming off the field at around one pm, escaping the heat, and sitting to a hot meal.  this family having a non typical french background, our lunches were a fantastic mixture of vegetable curries, vegetable pies, pate, red wine and of course, bread cheese and butter.  After eating a large lunch, the only real big meal of the day, breakfast and dinner consisting of toast or maybe a light soup, I would go out to the trailer, strip down to my shorts and have a wonderfully food heavy nap.
     I would wake up a bit groggy, but within ten minutes was up to full speed and we would pile in the van and head back out to the fields for the afternoon.
     I became very close with the family over the time I was there.  They even lent me their car one weekend so I could drive their kids to their sisters house, and then take the car up into the mountains for a hike.  It was a spectacular, ancient place, the kind of mountain top one would expect to find the hidden castle of the grail knights, out of some Wagner opera.  I climbed my way all the way to the peak of the valley where a torrential waterfall splashed down after a 200+ foot drop.  As I came upon it, the intensity of the spray had me drenched through in less than 20 seconds.
     My last night with the family, we sat around a giant table that was once the lid of an oak wine barrel, and we each had to reflect on the previous month and how we had grown or changed.  It was a very fitting way to say farewell to this family, who after only weeks, had shared a very close feeling with me.  And I think this speaks to the life of the farm.  When you have a group of people who are all dedicating their day to very basic things, food, etc, there is a dependance on each other that creates a strong bond.
     The nights in the pyranese were very calm.  The moon had a way of highlighting all the stone farm houses in the area, so that even in the pitch of night, these structures were definable.  My first night I was taken with a sound that I couldnt place.  After trying to source it for some time, I allowed myself the possibility that this enchanted land was being sung to sleep by the chanting of faeries.  You be the judge…

The Rain in Spain

Granada. Southern Spain. Bleached by the sun.

I arrived here just before the Summer Solstice. This is a land of the sun, a land of elemental fire, hot and dry, spicy and fragrant.

The orange light from the cloudless and expansive sky cast down on the rocky earth. Large cliffs and valleys formed of dark brown stone were the only positional landmarks in this landscape. Dwarfed trees dotted the area, condensing in the crevasses of the valleys where the waters that did exist could collect. And these were adapted trees. None much larger than you or I and bearing the fruits of a parched climate; dates, almonds, figs and olives.
The city of Granada has a slight bohemian bent to it. A lot of young people gathered around the main city center, mostly due to the University. But the dress was loose, and adapted to the heat. The smell of incense and hashish mixed into tobacco was present at the street corners, and in the parks, next to the all to precious streams of water and slightly thicker local flora, many would gather in small groups around a guitar player picking lazily, yet skillfully at a flamenco rhythm.

I was not to stay in Granada proper however. I was headed to the small town of Lanjaron – home of many springs and a thermal mineral source, and host to the international congress of Medical Hydrology and Balneology.

This congress of the experts in research and practice of the medical application of water was to be the punctuation, the exclamation point finishing the sentence of all of my research here in Europe. And I got off to an amazingly synchronistic start.

I had missed the city bus stop for the main bus terminal where I was to catch the bus to Lanjaron. While riding another bus to get to where I needed to be, I met an American woman. Soon we realized we were both headed to the same place, and for the same reason. It turned out that she was the head of a brand new North American organization for the promotion of water therapies and the preservation of natural mineral springs. We had lots to discuss, and we did for the entire hour it took us to get to Lanjaron. I had, at this point been traveling for 12 hours without a shower, and as I attempted to keep my head together to sound as professional as possible, despite my travel weariness, I was acutely aware of how haggard I must have appeared on first impression. But despite that, we forged a strong bond and continued to deepen our shared interest over the course of the congress. She is really quite fascinating, a defender of the earth, promoter of access to health and a lover of Tibetan Opera (which each last around 9 hours.)

As I departed from the bus in Lanjaron, who should I spy wandering down the road (the only road in the small hillside town) but Dr Kelsi Ervin, my travel companion of weeks past. In our couple of weeks of separation, she had toured all around Northern Italy, camped next to a hot spring where no one spoke English, befriended a rocksmith/jeweler/wine maker, and generally spread her love all around Italy, Barcelona, and now was returning from riding horses in the hillside above the town. It was a good reunion.

The congress was an amazing mix of research into the effects of mineral waters on different illnesses, the history of different sites, and the efforts of different countries to navigate their domestic health policies to provide access to therapies for patients. Perhaps the most interesting, for me, was a French organization that is compiling data that shows the cost effectiveness of treating a host of illness with balneology vs contemporary chronic disease management. You heard it correctly, it is actually cheaper to the bottom line if you treat, not only preventively, but active illness with inpatient water therapies over conventional care. Despite this, even in France where there is an established tradition of balneology, and patients are informed and actively seek it out, there are hurdles to providing access, or more accurately putting the role of expertise into the hands of the physician.

Lanjaron was also a fine mixture of old faces that I had collected along the road from the last few months. Head of centers, researchers, colleagues and friends. It was a real treat. And of course the main act, for me, Dr Zeki Karagulle. We had met in Turkey in March, spelunked in Romania in May, feasted and danced the night away in Serbia and now here we were in Spain. Though, as president of the society, he wasn’t able to dedicate as much time to chumming it up with the new kids, we still delighted in each other’s company. He is responsible for transforming an interesting research trip into an amazing and enlightening experience. And it gave me a chance to see him shine in his leadership role.

Central to the discourse throughout the congress was the issue of terminology. What is balneology vs hydrotherapy, vs hydrology etc etc etc. Different countries use different terms in publications and different countries are attempting to standardize the field, but using completely different sets of terms. In the climactic presentation of the congress, Dr Zeki grabbed the mic and moved throughout the crowd for a good old fashioned balneological revival. Preaching patience and cooperation he brought the house down, and was able to criticize the works of certain groups, without discrediting their efforts. A real master of the art, and one of the most sophisticated minds in the field.

I met another great mind in the field of North American balneological research, perhaps the only mind in this region, Dr Bruce Becker. He has a long career of clinical treatment and research into the field of medical hydrology. I was very eager to impress him, and was able to spend many hours discussing the field, and life in general with him throughout the congress. We saw eye to eye on certain limitations in current research models (which I was hesitant at first to express, since he had built his career in this model) and when I dropped some obscure publications from the early 20th century on hydrology, he not only knew them, but had used them to write a history chapter in his own book on the subject. Damn cool. So I tried not to be too obvious about my professional admiration of him, you know I played it cool, but every so often I found myself talking a mile a minute like some spastic sugar riddled playground child telling about the dead bird he saw, and I had to remind myself, chill out, just chill out. Such a nerd.

One of the evenings we went back to Granada for a tour of the Alhambra, the old castle grounds of Granada. I will throw some pictures in, since I took over a hundred, but just a few words on the place.

Walking through the gardens, it was easy to lose the sense of time. This is a sentiment I feel that I have expressed a number of times throughout these entries, but there I was again, unstuck in time. In a land as harsh and dry as this, water is sacred and a constant reminder of life. And the sight for this castle was chosen due to its location above multiple springs. Even with the source readily accessible, the harsh summer sun was winning. Only the most hearty and climate adapted plants existed.

The stone of the buildings were the color of sand at the darkest points, and bleached bone white at the lightest. Moving throughout the gardens and into different vestibules was an entrancing experience for the visual senses. As you would move into a shaded room, you were immediately blind, the details of the walls surrounding you completely hidden to the closed aperture of the pupil. But as the eye adjusted, out of the shadows came the most intricate textures, moldings, tiled walls, wooden ceilings with gold inlay. Above stalagtight like drippings of ornate designs, tipped with a delicate blue. As the eye adjusted more, the wall designs above the tile became more intricate, and the interweaving endless looping could be seen. Mixed in with this infinity pattern was arabic script, the translation, written throughout the entire palace walls – Only God is Victorious. The story here is as an Arabic King arrived in the newly conquered city, the people shouted to him, You Are Victorious! To which he replied, Only God is Victorious.

As you exit from one of these peaceful and thankful respites of shade, your eyes, now wide from shadow and wonder are washed in light. Where before the shadows overcame you, now only white filled the visual sphere. But the adjustments here were less severe, for as the eyes came into equilibrium the world remained white. The stone courtyards were pristine and simple, another contrast to the room just exited. But here also another element was added, that of sound. The sound was coming from the languid fountains, just barley pushing the water forth from the earth into a variety of reception vessels. Rounded bowels that then tricked into long pools that reflected the white building above adding a new depth to the courtyard. The opening and closing of the senses in this way, as you move throughout the old palace was at once incredible and exhausting. Perhaps experiencing it all in a couple of hours was the issue, as a day of palace living would certainly entrench these sense experiences into deeper recess of the soul. I could feel the mystical nature of this human shrine to the precious gift of water, the promise of life.

I couldnt help also feeling as though I had been transported into the fantastical land of Dorne, and I was a guest of the gouty Prince Martel at his favorite site of the water gardens. Oh… you havent gotten that far in Game Of Thrones yet? You dont know about sandsnakes, the Dornish sea, blood oranges and sweet Dornish wine, stop wasting your time on these ramblings and go read Game of Thrones already, its awesome.

After the palace, Kesli our new Turkish friend Ahmet (a Hamam Architect) and I went in search of Gypsies. As we exited the palace grounds it was interesting to note that all the water ran down the hill into the city below. We followed its course through, perhaps the most lush park in the region. Deep with trees, cool stone, shade and the constant trickle of water, this natural monument to the element offered a completely different and more grounded worship to the life giving liquid.

We made our way down the hill into town and up another valley in search of the caves of the gypsies. Wandering through the streets we came across a few underground salons, packed with sweaty people sipping on wine and cold beer. In the middle of the crowd, a beautiful costumed gypsie woman dancing the soul of the flamenco guitar being played. The dancer and the music, the masculine and the feminine, the poignant staccato of the notes being planted by the pounding of the dancers feet, the clapping of hands in the room matching her step for step. the seeds of this planting taking root in her legs and blossoming in her skirts as she spread the pollen into the winds with seamless flowing movements. The heat in the room and the perspiration glow covering the dancers skin evaporating into the air to be mixed with the solemn and tired voice of an old man, singing songs my heart knew in a language my mind didnt. The gypsies of Spain seem to be born of the earth, as thought they are embodiments of the land, the physical seal of an elemental alloy specific to this at once thirsty and satiated land.

But for the rains. The last day of the congress was also the day of the Fiesta Del Agua in Lanjaron. I had no idea what to expect as in this sleepy little town it was difficult to distinguish siesta time from the rest of the day.

It began with a parade. Children in costumes, men in drag, elders parked on folding chairs as the streek choked with music and color. Each section was marked by a float, each float pulled by a car, each car blasting its floats music. This all lead to a cacophony of sound all being stamped into the ground by the growing and growing number of people taking to the streets. Ending the line of the parade was a tribal gathering of young adults, coated and caked in red earth, elven ears and loin cloths. Each carried a drum and in an amazing display of choreography marched down the street, dancing, drumming and storytelling with great ability.

Night fell, and as of yet the naming of the fesitval had not been apparent, apart from the towns hosting of abundant sources of water. Slowly the demnor began to change in the streets. Older people began to move indoors, and take up seats behind windows. Younger people where parading around in bathing suits, and displaying water pistols. Many people were toting small buckets.

By midnight the street was so crowded with people it was difficult to maneuver. I had followed suit and donned my swimmers, not exactly sure what to expect. At midnight an explosion in the sky marked the beginning of the official celebration, as from the balconies of the buildings lining the street, water came pouring down onto the crowd of cheering people below. Buckets dumping, hoses spraying, good natured jeers being exchanged. Below the chants of Mucho Agua! came rolling through the crowd, as they would collect the falling water in their own buckets, fill their pistols with it or just spray it into the crowd. The drums began and the crowd was on the move. Around the first bend a fire truck unleashed its hose on the crowd, at the second a team of costumed youths had tapped the local hydrant with their own hose, dancing, singing chanting drumming. Mucho Agua, Mucho Agua Hey Hey! By 12:30 the street was literally a river as the flow of water soaked up and over the ankles of my shoes. A group of 20 or so people sat down and began mimicking a row boat as the waters rushed around them. Everyone in the street was soaked, thoroughly soaked. And as I stood there in awe of this neo shamanic rain dance of abundance, celebrating the waters and the life they gave and honoring and inviting their existence, I began to take stock of just how many people where around me. The sleepy town had transformed into a small city as, I estimate, around 10,000 people marched, dripping wet, through the towns street. Then, as it began with a bang, at 1 am another explosion in the sky and it was over. On the walk back to bed and some dry clothes, there were some stragglers, a couple who just didnt want the waters to stop raining down, but by and large, this mass of people just evaporated back into the ethers.

The next morning, my shoes still drenched, I boarded a bus and made the long haul all across Spain. It struck me, that I had never really given proper thought to the reality of the landscape of this country, which was altogether much more Mediteranian or southern californian than I had anticipated. For some reason I had just lumped Spain in with my conception of the rest of Europe. The bus dropped me on the border of France and Spain at about 1 am. From there I crossed the border by foot, no border check. I slept on a bench in a quaint French town across from the train station, and was on the first train in the morning to take me out into the midi-pyranese and three weeks of farming in rural southern France.

So as promised above here are some photos of the Alhambra.

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Oh and even wonder what 10,000 sparrows singing to a rising sun emerging in a Spanish valley on the day of the summer solstice sounds like? Wonder no more. The most amazing way to wake up ever.

Surfing San Sebastian.

It has been close to a month since I have felt at outward need to detail and catalog the goings on in my life. I have spent the last 2 weeks of that month in Southern France, on a small family farm in the Midi-Pyranese, which has sequestered most of my mental faculties and repurposed them for physical work. I have started to readjust to this new lifestyle, and finally felt ready to put pen to paper (metaphorically.) More on France in future entries, but for the sake of some sense of linearity, I must begin where I left off.

I arrived in Paris, and was instantly back in love with this city. My experience this time was rushed, and mainly consisted of moving through the metro lines from the train station to the bus terminal on the outskirts of town. But the little details of Paris is where the magic is kept. The little details that are equally as present in an underground tunnel as they are on the streets and in the cafes above ground.

The tiles that lined the walls, black and white, with green trim. Dull brass tinged metal hand rails guiding the way up and down the stairways into arched tunnels, lined with the same tiles, that wind through the stations to the different trains. Even though modern in reality, these tunnels give the impression of alcoved kerosene lamps and some near future time in which technology halted in the 1960’s. You feel that just around the next corner will be a tiny work shop, where a man fixed with a jewelers glass files rust from an old cog.

And the style, the absolute uniqueness of style. Parisians have this wonderful ability to abandon the trappings of American fashion and at the same time avoid the cut off or out of touch feel to the fashion of other European cities. Not one person could I definitely identify as attempting a specific look, and yet familiar elements of style were present, and accounted for. The amazing thing is that the over the top commitment to a look that can usually lead to a pang of, “ooohh,” or even a picture in Vice magazine’s Don’ts, somehow gets pulled off in a way, a distinctly Parisian way. They just have that , Je ne sais quoi.

As a harsh ending to the honeymoon of my love affair with the Parisian metro, I was gifted the experience of buying a bus ticket to Spain. It didnt seem to be an issue, I arrived with over an hour and a half to the bus’s departure time. But as I sat there and watched the minutes tick off the overhead analog clock, all the while the three ticket agents were working at an archaic pace as if the modern computer had been dropped into the 1930s, I felt a surge of All American efficiency swell up within me. I mean come on, it literally took 50 minutes to service the 12 customers in front of me. But I kept my cool, and just reminded myself that the worst case was that I would miss the only bus to Spain for two days, and get to be in Paris while I waited for the next one.

Though, all was going well and as I approached the window to buy my ticket, I was comforted that I still had over 40 minutes to catch this bus. That is until the large, thinly mustachioed, Frenchman working the ticket booth said in terse English, (although I had made my request in French, albeit broken and poorly accented) “You wait.”

Ok, wait. ….. wait, wait for what? Excuse me sir? He looked me in the eye as he rolled the shade down on his window just enough that I could no longer see his face, but not all the way, so I was privy to the fact that I was indeed waiting for him to unwrap and finish half of a sandwich. The baguette would disappear in his doughy hand, up and behind the nicotine stained yellow-white shade. And then a moment later the baguette would return, slightly less complete than before. I looked around to see if anyone else was seeing this, but the rest of the people in line seemed completely oblivious to the fact that the industrious nature of the ticket agency had just reduced by a third.

When I turned back, the baguette, doughy hand and the Frenchman they both belonged to where gone. In the absent space soon arrived a younger man, who promptly rolled up the shade, and fixed me up with a ticket on the over night bus to San Sebastian, Spain.

The bus pulled in just after sunrise. I made my way, in the early morning light, through the streets lined with old tightly packed and ornately trimmed buildings, to the central square off of which I was staying. San Sebastian, or Donostia in Basque (a dialect of the lost continent of Atlantis – look it up), has all the charm, class and obvious wealth and stature of its inhabitants as any Rivera coastal city. There is a grand beach promenade, that arches out from the cloistered and gridded cobbled streets of the old city. The promenade stretches well over a kilometer and is the front porch to some of the nicer buildings, in this baseline nicely built town. The beach below is a swath of fine yellow sand crystals that welcome into their concave arrangement, the lazy tides of the Atlantic that sneak into the cove.

Like many old coastal cities, Donostia was built behind a fortress that, along with the city, itself was hidden from the casual view of a marauding tall ship out at sea, by a large hill side; this now hosts a giant statue of Jesus that has a cellular aerial attached to his head giving a positively extraterrestrial feel to the statue. Spaceman Jesus, not exactly subtle. The old city that exists in the shadow of the mountain and the spaceman is now the center of the city’s nightlife. The street is packed full of tapas (Pinxos {Pin-CHos} in Basque) restaurants and many bars. The pinxos spots have a constant display of bite sized sandwiches, tartines and other creative concoctions. Mostly fixed with ham, salmon and sardines or a mushroom of some type, they where each pretty amazing. Each place also hosts a specialized menu of hot pinxos, the menu being written in both Spanish and Basque. This gave me a bit of a tiny adventure in ordering based on nothing but the sound of the dish. Best one: fois gras with a fried quail egg all on top of a small bed of roasted mashed vegetable. The truth is I got pretty tired of eating bite sized meals pretty fast, and found a cheap little grocery where I procured the provisions for my staple meal in Donostia- Rye bread with sardines and venison pate. I ate this pretty constantly for 2 or three days and the whole set cost me less than 5 euros. They say the Basque country is quite unique from the rest of spain, but honestly, except the language, I couldn’t see it. I guess my cultural astigmatism just nicely blurred the whole culture into something vaguely foreign. But there was one event that brought the autonomy of the region to my attention, and this was during the Eurocup quarterfinals Spain match. After Spain’s victory, I commented to some of the people at the place where I was watching, you must be happy about the win. One guy looked at me and said, we dont care about Spain, we are Basque!

During those first few days I laid pretty low. I borrowed a wetsuit and surfboard from a New Zealander I met and spent my days on the other side of town, where there was no protective cove to scare away the surf. A good sized canal separates the old town from the new town. Down the canal is a series of bridges, each with their own theme that speaks to the time in which it was erected. Statues, wrought iron hand rails, modern lamp posts, each one different. On the other side of the canal, in the new town, is where the surfer beach is. This beach has a slightly looser feel than the calm beach of the old town. Younger people, beach rugby, random naked old Spanish man jumping through the waves, and of course a healthy sized pod of surfers. The waves were pretty mild, and oh yeah, I have no idea how to surf really. I have seen some great surf films, have friends who surf and can body surf and boogie board quite well, but as for the real deal, I never quite took the time to learn. And of course I was far too proud to be one of the many tourists on the beach in the mornings practicing for an hour of a 2 hour lesson to paddle in the sand. No for me, being in the water, watching other successful surfers and then going home at night and reading Wikihow articles on the physics of surfing was the path I took. I caught 2 waves in three days, and almost rode the second one all the way in standing up, not bad. My buddy Brain has promised to teach me the way of the surfboard when i get back to California and after a little deprogramming from my foray into self teaching, Im sure he can fix me up.

After those initial days I was met by one of my favorite people, my friend Sarah from New York. From that point the trip took on the feel of a proper vacation. We spent our days reading at the beach, hiking to the different points above the city and eating frozen yogurt. At night we would wander through the streets, find amusing scenes being played out in hidden squares, drown ourselves in mussels cooked in a variety of fashions, and even manage to get a few dances in.

I had an incredible time with Sarah, as she is an intelligent and insightful soul and we share a common sense of humor and adventure. A couple of our adventures are worth note here.

Our first hike was to the top of the further point overlooking the town. It took us the full length of the promenade, which really gave an amazing reality to just how large this beach is, and how many people were occupying it. At the end of the promenade, we opted out of jumping on the rail car that traverses the hillside, and walked up through the old city streets, dodging cars and identifying medicinal plants. Then, as we rounded the top of the hill we saw it. An old amusement park. It had likely been built in the 70s given the aesthetic. It was filled with little statues of gnomes and giant anthropomorphized magic mushrooms. It had that groovy psychedelica vibe, that was popular in the 70s, that is kinda cool now with its retro lens of detachment, but also seems a bit nightmarish and vaguely disturbing to subject a child to. Like most things European, there were the obvious trademark infringements on American cultural items, like disney characters and vogue expletives, like Super, Crazy, Whowza. By the time we had made it there, a fresh roll of clouds had made their way in, and the park was more or less abandoned, which added an extra air of the bizarre.

On another day we made our way to the closest big town, where is housed a full fledged Guggenheim Museum. The design of the museum was a really interesting mix of organic and utility. I learned that the concept of the building was that of a heart, as you have to enter the main atrium every time you wish to move between different galleries, like a heart pumping blood to distal and separate points in the body. And there were two types of galleries. A traditional square room, and non traditionally shaped larger installation rooms; the former were lined with wood, while the later metal. Amazing sculptural installations, a few permanent and other visiting were the highlight for me. And a lot of the permanent collection of paintings is very remarkable. But of course, the big draw was the entire floor dedicated to the work of David Hockney. His use of color in certain studies of a landscape, some of which were reimagined during different seasons, was really rich. And there was a room of giant prints of Yosemite landscapes, that were all drawn on an iPad. My favorite, though was a room dedicated to his many versions of a classic painting of The Sermon on the Mount. There was one immense version of this and about twenty or so lesser versions. Each version was depicted in a slightly different style, or through a different lens. But what was amazing, was as you moved through the gallery, you saw how, by repicturing the same element in twenty different ways, he really told an interesting story abut each element within the original picture. If it was the mountain in the distance, a certain onlooker, The Mount or even Jesus, each reimagining of the element, within the context of its entire universe on canvas, gave a depth to the individual element. The whole experience of the museum was fascinating,and left me feeling thoroughly emotionally spent; a sign of a proper museum visit.

Soon after this I had to leave. Departing at sunrise, and getting a chance to once more walk the sleepy streets of San Sebastian, I made my way south, to the sun bleached land of Granada, and the conference that was to punctuate the entirety of the research aspect of this trip.

The Seer on the Swiss Hill

Rudolph Steiner was a mystic who lived in the early 1900s. He is responsible for the spiritual philosophy that has founded movements such as Waldorf Schools and Bio-Dynamic farming. The philosophy is called Anthroposophy, and the basic idea is that, spiritual phenomenon need to be studied and observed with a scientific rigor. What this lead to was many methods for building visceral and sense perception capacities within yourself for the non physical or supra-sensable world.

Steiner himself was a gifted clairvoyant. But unlike many others of his dispostition, he believed that the psychic capactites wre something that could be trained and engendered within anyone who seriously applied themselves to developing them. I wont go too much into it here, but for a quick example, he has a mediation practice based on the rising and setting of the sun. By observing this phenomenon and being attentive to ones internal processing, emotional state, etc etc during these mediations, you build a capacity for recognizing these types of forces in other spheres. Still there?

The head of this movement was, and still is based in Basel Switzerland, which is where I headed directly after Vienna. Basel is the home of the Goetheanum, a colossal structure built in the 1920s to house the headquarters of the Anthroposophical movement. With all the activity of the movement in Basel at that time, a lot of disciplines evolved in and around Basel. Anthroposophy not only encompasses, spirtual teaching, education, farming, but also archtecture, art, economics and medicine.

In the early days of the movement, 1910s, a Dutch physician named Ita Wegman moved to Basel. She and Rudolph Steiner worked very closely together all the years until his death in 1925, developing an Anthroposophic method for medicine and medical treatment. This theory views the human as a body and soul equally, and understands that both entities require healing for true healing to occur. So the methods and medicaments of anthroposophical medicine have a physcial and physiological basis, but are prepared and applied in ways that work with non physical and planteary influcnes, the same influences that have sway on the body. A very sophisticated method of understanding how plantary forces can imbalance, and how that will manifest as disease process, and how to correct it was devlopmed, and for 90 years has been widely practiced throught Switzerland, Germany, Austrian and France. Today there are anthropsophic doctors all over the world, but in Europe, specifically Germany, Switzerland and France, it is recognized as a safe, effective and reimbursable complementary medical treatment. Its strong tradition in Europe for almost 100 years, made the center of this movement a must see for my tour. The original clinic where Steiner and Wegman saw patients, and developed this medical practice still exists in Basel.

Weleda is a pharmaceutical and cosmetic company that produces Anthroposophical medicines. It had been founded in the early days of the movement to work specifically on the pharmaceutical aspects of anthroposophical medicine, as well as to make anthroposophical cosmetics as a method for financing the medical research. I had contact with the medical authority at the company, Dr Francois Hibou, and he invited me to Basel to explore some of the facilities and to see first hand how Anthroposophy has been brought into contemporary medical practice.

And so I arrived in Basel an hour before having to meet Dr Hibou and spend the day learning. I got off the train and looked a wreck. I smelled like the sweaty and stuffy train car I had not slept well in, my eyes were bloodshot and I needed a cup of coffee.

I got the coffee, and headed for the train station bathroom. The attendant commented to me about how tired I looked on the way in, I smiled at her and told her to look for me on the way out. A shave, sink douche, liberal application of Vetiver and Cedar oil, brush the teeth, pomade the hair, coffee kicked in, fresh shirt and pants, necktie, sports coat. When I walked out I asked her how she liked me now? She just looked and said, you are like superman. It was a good laugh, and it turned out that she had a sister in San Francisco, which for some reason, after being away for so long, was a really meaningful connection. And so I set out for Dr Hibou’s office at the Weleda headquarters.

I met Dr Hibou, who is a delightful and passionate physician. His grandfather was an anthroposophist and Dr Hibou has had a family practice in Anthroposophical medicine in southern france for many years before coming to work at Weleda. One thing he mentioned right off the bat was how much he had enjoyed reading this blog.

That really caught me off guard and there was a painful couple moments of me attempting to regain professional composure, as I thought about all the little rants and personal idiosyncracities that are included on these pages. I eventually came away with saying, well that is certainly an interesting introduction to me. We had a good laugh about it. And thought it came up a couple more times during my stay, I eventually became comfortable with the fact that when you write on a public space like a blog, you cant control who sees it and who doest. Not that I would have censored anyone from seeing my writing, but I realized that parts of my whole self, that I thought were nice and compartmentalized, namely my professional and creative sides, came crashing into each other. And really the result was fine. More than fine actually, I think it acted as a form of initiation for me. An initiation into a professional life that honors and integrates my creative side, and doesnt keep it sequestered away, even if it can appear raw, or more untamed.

Dr Hibou gave me a crash course in Anthroposophical Medicine, and talked me through some of the processes by which the planetary forces are harnessed in the medicaments Weleda produces. He also shared with me a lot of literature on safety, cost effective and therapeutic effectiveness studies done on Anthroposophical medicine in Europe. Very fascinating models for promoting non conventional medicine, and it was all paid for and produced by the state, as a method for ascertaining if state funded insurance should cover these therapies. As a result of these studies they do, and the financial access issue that is so limiting to those who can receive non-conventional medicine in the USA is effectively gone in Europe. So tell me why we dont want European styled socialism again?? Or right death panels. I forgot to ask about those.

Dr Hibou took me to an outpatient clinic in town that, aside from family practice, specialized in Cancer treatment. One of the most fascinating things I learned there was the therapeutic application of mirrors. Through a special process different metals are made into a mirror on a plastic sheet, that is then stitched onto a cloth. This cloth will be placed over an affected area for 10- 15 minutes a day. The doctor showed me a tin mirror and said it was his #1 treatment for rheumatic joint pains. The basic idea is that tin is the metal that hold the planetary vibration of Jupiter. The method by which the mirror is made activates the attractive force of the mirror, which draws in Jupiterean forces, and those forces go to work on balancing the joints. Sounds wild, but the doctor says it is one of his most fast acting and effective therapies, and he will use it, in rare instances with the addition of pain medication, until the symptoms subside, in usually about 2 weeks of daily applications.

I had a break from the Anthroposophical world over the weekend. And during this mini hiatus I made two really great friends; Cammie and Daniella. We clicked from the get go and spent the weekend exploring the streets of this small Swiss city. We went and saw Snow White, but it had been dubbed over in German. I told them I could translate it, and I think it became quickly obvious that I was making it up, but we had fun and a lot of stifled and restrained laughing. We were probably the most annoying people in the well behaved Swiss theater. They had a friend whose family owned an apartment on The Rhine, the river that runs through the city. We got the key and had a full day of living the high life four stories above the river, sun bathing on the balcony, cooking fine meals, lots of tea, wine, dancing, really quite a blast.

The girls left for school (they were studying in another Swiss town) and me back to work on Monday. Dr Hibou and I visited the Ita Wegman Clinic, the birthplace I mentioned above. It was a real paradigm shifting experience in what a hospital could be. The entire building did not seem like a hospital at all. It had the feeling of a meditation retreat. Warm colors on the walls, fresh flowers, warm colored art, nice scents drifting throughout, open windows, such a refreshing change from the sterile and plastic environment of every hospital I have ever been in. And the care was first rate.

They had an emergency department, that although couldn’t handle surgeries or intubations, did see a lot of acute emergencies and were equipped with state of the art diagnostic technology and treatments. And even in the emergency department, when appropriate, an anthroposophical adjunct is given to augment and enhance the healing process.

On the cancer ward, I was able to sit in on a hyperthermia treatment for a breast cancer patient. Perhaps the most famous medicine in Anthroposophical medicine is a Mistletoe extract that is used with cancer patients. The extracts are injected and infused intravenously at different strengths and have a potent effect on engaging the immune system in the fight against the cancer.

I got to eat lunch with the head of Cancer treatment and research and we poured through some charts, in which he detailed out some of the finer points of treatment. It was incredible to see how well documented and thoroughly documented the patients status and vitals were; an advantage of inpatient setting. it was really telling of how a thorough case history can be used as empiric evidence of effective non conventional treatment. During the lunch, a bio-dynamic meal with a Chicory bitters soda drink, we all got pretty nerdy with the non-conventional medical talk. Cancer, GI health, neutraceutical regulation, it was incredibly enjoyable to be among like minded folks. Beyond the typical science though, we were also able to talk in a very sophisticated and thorough way about subtle forces, etheric body’s, planetary influence and the soul. It flowed seamlessly between the two poles and really became an integration of a whole field. I think we would have made Steiner proud.

At the table was me, Dr Hibou, the head of the Cancer department and the tour facilitator. She was another fascinating person. She had lived all over the world, including New Zealand and Santa Cruz. We began talking about Santa Cruz and for an unknown reason I asked her if she had ever been to Jikoji, the Zen temple I had lived at for a short spell after Hampshire college. Turns out she was good friends with the founder. We became fast friends, and after touring some of the more historical sights, like Ita Wegman’s house on the property, that housed a lot of her personal artifacts, her death mask and the complete collection of Rudolph Steiner’s works – the whole place had a palpable energy to it, it was incredibly grounding-, she invited me to come up to the hill.

The Hill is the local name for the Goettheanum. I knew that it was going to be big, but the size of this structure was really impressive. Not only that structure, but all the houses leading up to it, most of which had been built in the 20s and 30s and was built on Anthroposoiphic architectural principle, it gave the whole area a very other worldly feel. The architecture style is a bit art Nuevo, a bit Gaudy, but really its own thing as well. No squares and no hard corners, a lot of irregular lines and geometrical planes, at times hard to take in and busy, and other times striking and beautiful.

We went inside, which was a series of halls and rooms, all painted with bold warm colors, and smooth, rounded edges, oversized dull brass handles, energetically clean. We were on a mission to see s sculpture Steiner himself has fashioned and carved out of wood. It was about 30 feet tall and was an image of the christ impulse (very different from typical christian understanding) standing strong and balanced amidst a series of angelic and demonic presences pulling at it. It was moving, and the style of the figures was almost childlike, in a pure kind of way. We found someone who had a set of keys and convinced them to take us to the main auditorium, which is generally only open to the public during very specific performances that are held there at different points during the year.

The auditorium was one of the most striking rooms I had ever seen. Ceilings at least 60 feet high and covered with pastel colored murals representing abstract spiritual concepts, the balance between good and evil, fire and water, earth and air; the color palate of anthroposophic art is really atypical, and at first seemed a bit immature, but it grew on me.

The best part of the auditorium though, was a series of four pairs of solid stained glass windows, each at least 40 feet tall. There were four colors to the eight windows, pale pink, blue, purple and green. These windows were the only light source for the room, and after standing in there for about 10 minutes, the subtlety of the effect they have began to be made clear. The different light colors, mix with the shadows cast by the columns to create a plethora of bold mini spectrums of color, no color and combined colors. The colors shifted as your eye moved across the room, and never in a drastic way that brought your attention to it, but more in a subtle omnipresent way which created a completely surreal conscious experience. Honestly, double rainbow type of moment.

The next day, which was also this very morning (finally caught up) I went to the Weleda manufacturing plant. I was given a behind the scenes tour of how the plants are processed and combined and finalized into the Weleda products. It was a very cool experience to see how, on an industrial (albeit small industrial) scale, energetic principals were cultivated and preserved. For instance, homeopathic dilution and potentization techniques are utilized for certain products. As the lab technician is potentizing the mixture, by rhythmically mixing it, drawing into the mixture the etheric rhythmic forces, they are keeping a focused and meditative mind state. The process for focusing is actually standardized, and if a lab tech decides that they are feeling ill, or have a stress either from home or whatever weighing on their mind and they cannot remain energetically focused, they are allowed to opt out and do some other work for that day. Just like at Mc Donalds.

So after the tour I went straight to the train station and caught a train that sped me through the french country side at 300 km per hour. Really so fast that I could feel a buzzing sensation in my skin and the landscape seemed warped to look at it. Then I worked my way through the Paris metro, and am now on a bus heading south for San Sebastian Spain. I have a couple days there to do some other writing for the textbook and other projects, and then My friend Sarah is coming to meet me for a Spanish holiday. Phase 2.5 has begun, and the third and final phase of this whole odyssey is on the horizon.

In Vienna and the Transit of Venus

Rich have been the astrological events of this year. 2012 Mayan prophesy aside, the planetary and stellar forces have been very active in a short period of time.

We recently experienced the eclipse of the Sun with a simultaneous alignment with the pleidaes constellation, the seat of many ancient people’s understanding of source information for things extra-sensorial.

And just a few days ago, we experienced the transit, or passing of the planet Venus between the earth and the sun. What does this mean?

At the most basic level, Venus has positioned itself directly in our view, to be illuminated by the light of day. The forces of the planet Venus, have presented themselves for plain view. Not only that but conversely, the light of the sun is being directly filtered by the influence of the Venusian planetary body, and thusly is our daily outer life is colored. And what does this mean?

Of course it is different for each of us, as Venus holds an individualized place in each of our charts, but to speak from a place of broad understanding, Venus is the deity Aphrodite in the Grecian pantheon. Born of the Sea foam and the spilled seed of the castrated Titan Uranus, Aphrodite holds a mystery and power that is older than and unique among the gods.

And so it is with this force that she deifies in the world. So with the passing of this force through the sun, the planet of our heart and our immediate experience, the forces and concepts of love are brought to the surface, are powerful and palpable, are on our minds and very accessible to our senses and consciousness.

The best way I think I can attempt to understand what this means is to examine how I spent the time during which Venus was transiting. What is so fantastic about shining a light on the unconscious experience, is that in this case I hadnt realized the astrological event had happened until afterwards, and only in retrospect did I realize how palpable and on the surface these forces were.

I arrived in Vienna from Prague, and was invited to stay at the apartment of my friend Casey. I hadn’t seen Casey for about six years, the last time being in New Zealand where she happened to be studying while I was passing through. She and I have a good thing going, very cosmically linked, and able, with only a few brief visits a few times every few years, to maintain a very deep and spiritual connection with each other. Soul tribe kinda stuff, not our first incarnation sharing relationship.

I had the chance to see her only briefly however, as she was on her way out of town to attend a ceremony celebrating the birth of the buddah. She gave me the keys to her place though, and told me to stay as long as I needed. The only thing was that I would be sharing it with a friend of hers, a very learned Tibetan buddhist monk from the Himalayas.

I mostly laid low in Vienna, bought some groceries, had my first nice self cooked home cooked meal in a long time- Penne with asparagus and chantrelles. Killed it.

The one thing I did do however was go to an exhibit on Gustav Klimt. Though not exhibiting a single one of his finished works, the galleries dedicated to him were packed with charcoal studies, sketches and preliminary attempts for the finalized figures that are much more well known. I have always enjoyed Klimt’s paintings, but this was the first time I realized what a genius talent he was.

Beautifully curated, the exhibit really allowed for an understanding of his process. With side by side studies of the same model in the same pose, or a series of the same concept subject but with different interpretations, his development of his vision was playing out in front of your eyes.

In the side by side studies, he would have certain silhouettes completely identical, with slight alterations of certain lines here or there, that gave a different flavor of the subject. But the accuracy with which he reproduced a line from study to study was really remarkable.

As for the different interpretations, for instance one series was a lovers embrace that ended up being finalized as The Kiss, the themes of male domination and female submission, as well as support, and interplay and love were explored in drastically different ways, some much more obvious or sexual than what was used in his final piece.

And this brought me to the first exploration of the energy of Venus transiting. In the gallery space with me was a group of girls, probably 19 or 20 years old. The head of the pack, the alpha female as displayed by her confidence in leaving the other two girls, and leading the group from picture to picture, took an interest in me. In all objectivity, she was beautiful, young sweet, dressed in a denim skirt, nylons and a loose shirt; very Paris art house. For a younger version of me, she was quite my type. And to be honest, I enjoyed the attention.

As I would walk through the galleries, this group of giggling girls and their more stoic and juvenilely sultry leader, would be not far behind. As I would spend a minute examining a particular sketch, a presence would saddle up next to me, and a face would lean in, with a sidelong glance and a restrained smirk. It seemed innocent enough, but was persistent, and certainly at one point I felt the need to shake them, so as to enjoy the exhibit without this distraction.

I walked ahead a couple of rooms and found myself in a room curated to showcase Klimt’s series of reclining nudes. There was maybe twelve drawings, all delicate, and each utilized no more than three colored pencils, mostly just one or two. These drawing were incredibly arousing. He was able to capture the complex sexuality and power of feminine vulnerability. I cant really explain it right, and my attempts come off much more pornographic seeming than the sketches portrayed. Suffice it to say though, here was a room that celebrated womanhood. Each drawing was a different aspect of female sexuality, a private glimpse into intensely personal and erotic moments. Private, yet exhibitioned. The drawings were all so simple, not even incredibly detailed, but they captured the essence of female magnetism through a man’s eye. And when that 19 year old face re-entered into my frame of reference, with a slight blush displayed across her cheek and a pheromonic air about her that told of her own connection to what this gallery displayed, I could not help but only see a child in front of me. Someone bright with luster and freshness but so far from the full embodiment of the power on display all around us.

As I walked from the gallery I felt my own youth, and draw toward luster, dissipate or rather integrate into a more complete whole and complex and larger self. I had been fully tested, informed and initiated into a very real and deep experience of sensuality, and sexuality that until then, I had not let myself fully embody, but only peak at, or dip a toe within.

That night I arrived home to my monkish roommate. We sat and watched a film about a Buddhist teacher in the united states, who embodied this very specific type of teacher that uses earthly experience to teach. This made for a teacher who drank, smoked, slept with his students, slept with lots of women, not just his wife, but who did this all to teach about detachment and the nature of reality. It was interesting to hear all of his students talk about how effective he was as a teacher.

We talked about the film afterward. He said that in the Tibetan Buddhist path, it is a very special teacher who can embody this type of teaching. He also said that a lot of people try, but they hurt themselves and others. It is something you can only live 100%, to even live it only 90% will not work. It reminded me of the Heyoka of native traditions. The sacred clown that does everything backwards, and thus travels the path to arrive at a very holy place. Like in buddhism so too native ways, it is a full time gig, and lots of people who claim to be Heyoka, can cause a lot of pain by not having the total commitment, and really the calling to embody that type of walk. The monk said to me, it is much easier to be just a plain monk, that crazy wisdom (what they called that teacher’s way) is too hard except for those who have to live it.

We talked well into the night, and the a lot of our conversation turned to Dharma teachings and lessons on identifying the ego. And this is where the second experience of Venus transiting came forward. He told me that as we deal with issues, frustrations, jealousy etc, we are dealing with the ego. That the ego is tricky and is always trying to evade our detection. But that the one thing that always wins out over the ego is love. That love is the thing that is completely without ego. Because when you have the feeling of love, it is not about you at all. Enter the egoic trickery.

When we love someone, only briefly is that love pure and beyond the ego. Soon the ego stars to involve itself, so the love transforms from completely selfless to possessive. Here we start to define ourselves, value ourselves, color our experience by the love we have, or the imagined quality or quantity of that love. So then we love so intensely another person, but we are really yearning for the definitions of self that we experience through the love we are feeling. I know, heavy right?

There was more, about the male and femal nature, and wisdom and skillful means, sexual union as a celebration of the timeless, true and universal reality, and the orgasm as the only tangible experience most people will ever have of what the joy of an egoless existence can feel like, for we forget ourselves in orgasm and are only, in those moments, a being of pure joy. Fear being the last gate of enlightenment, as the Ego clings to its place of power. I am still reeling from it all, it was one of the most significant spiritual teachings, and illuminations I have had and I am sure that even as I write it down, the real impact and teaching is still just a seed in the soil of my spiritual body.

So a pure love, that can release its need to posses, is that conquering element of nature, that acts completely contradictory to the rest of the world, that builds where the natural impulse is to decay, that expands where the natural impulse is to contract. Love, Aphrodite, born of the primeval forces, a child of the old gods, is the only way to transcend the limitations of this world of illusion and release our soul from the cycle of suffering and reincarnation.

And so without going into my own natal charts position of Venus and what else that brings to light, which is really fascinating, I will say this about the transit of Venus and what it has meant, at least for me. Venus transiting has brought to the surface old and forgotten patterns of what I thought love and attraction was, and allowed for me to transform and reintegrate those forces within me. Furthermore it allowed for a deepening in my understanding on the nature of love; that is, true love, egoless, non possessive love.

So I will light my candle to the Temple of Aphrodite, and honor this force that defies all other forces, this impulse that counteracts animal nature, that squashes selfishness and heals illness.

The Crucible of Prague

Beginning with Alchemical works, and surviving into modern chemistry, the crucible is a vessel whereby a substance is transformed under an intense and quick heat.

The process was classically known as calcination, whereby the form of the substance was completely destroyed.

So I arrived in Prague.

Prague itself has a deep Alchemical hstory, as evdinced by the imposing gothic cathedral that overlooks the city from within the old Palace walls. During the time this Cathedral was being constructed, the royal dignatiaries sent all across Europe, searching for Alchemists and inviting them to come and live within the graces of the monarchy.

Once arrived to Prague, the alchemist was given boarding and a laboratory within the palace. There, they could carry out their experimentation and investigation into the nature of Nature.

The ideal that the Alchemist was obsessed with the transformation of lead into gold is wholly hyperbolic. Though, the true investigation of Alchemy is the property by which material is transformed. And by studying nature, and replicating her processes in the laboratory, the Alchemist’s true aim was to come to understand and expediate natural transformative forces.

Prague as a city, has managed to preserve much of its medieval aesthetic. Very few if any modern buildings within the city center, cobbled streets, winding alleys and roadways that wind like a labyrinth in and around the city. Much of the city’s inhabitants also maintain this classicism. Though not a city of high fashion, most everyone was well dressed. Store windows all had very quaint displays, with a lot of shoppes dedicated to craft work, like marionettes, old style apothecary, parfumerie, and of course cafes. Probably due to the pedestrian friendly atmosphere, the whole city seemed to move at a slow pace.

I occupied most of my time by meandering through the streets and absorbing the Pragueian vibe. I found one cafe that I visited multiple times. It was right out of the 1930s. Large mirrors, art deco lamps, wall trimmings just so, all done in hues of salmon white and pale pink.

They had a carrot ginger soup that was literally the best version of this favorite of mine, that I had ever experienced. Also the cappuccino there was done perfectly.

The founatin in the lobby had four small white proceline elliptical bowls balanced on a black slate of marble. The bowls would slowly fill, and as the water reached the apex of the ellipse, it would tip the bowl, and spill the water out onto the black slate, then the bowl would rebalance and begin to refill. I take the time to write about it, only because I spent so much time watching it. It was really meditative, and every-so often, the back splash of the rebalancing bowl, would contribute enough to the bowls around it to create a perfect sunwise procession of tipping and spilling and waveforms. I was very impressed by this.

I found out, from a small plaque, that this cafe was known to be the favorite hangout of Albert Einstein, when he was at the university in Prague, as well as Kafka and a few other interesting names of note. Though the place had been destroyed during the Czech conflict with the Soviets in the 1968 and was rebuilt, something about the space still retained some classic impulse. The cafe was on the second floor and overlooked the street below, with bustling pedestrians and caterpillar like tram cars. Everything done with taste, class and intention.

But for the crucible. The personal experience of burning away. That happened in the basements of Prague. During this whole trip, save for maybe my birthday, I haven’t really been engaging with the party element. I have been out, seen some bars etc, but hadnt made any time to get down on it.

My travel companion, Kelsi, when we were in Budapest had put me to shame. Every night I would go out with her and after a bit say, oh I am tired, I must go to bed. She would reply, yeah i am tired too, i think I will stay for a bit longer, I will see you at home. The next morning we would catch up and she had, in very organic and fortuitous ways, found the most amazing secret parties and stayed out till past the sunrise. So I made the choice to really absorb the Prague experience.

To start out the night however, on my way to meet Kelsi, I ran into an old street musician. He was the epitome of an old withered wizard. Frail, teeth missing, a hissing laugh and a cocked brow. His clothes envolped him as he sat hunched over the most unique contraption. It was a box with a lever on it that he was turning like a crank. That lever powered a small bellows the made a drone emit from the wooden box. There were about ten wooded hand carved keys affixed to the box, that this vagabond cleric would press with rhytmic certainty, each key adding a slightly alternating tone that would contribute to the overall tone of the box. To this, the man sang. Chanted really. It was like he was weaving some spell of antiquity, long forgotten by all save those initiated into its mystery and the workings of the box. I sat transfixed by this man’s spell, as it weaved around me and through me. If it hadnt been for the fortuitous snapping of the band that turned the drone, which brought me out of the hypnotic affixitation, I may well have been led from the city into some dark and ancient dungeon. Happy that that didnt happen. But here, at a safe distance, is a recording of this rogue organ grinder.

After escaping the clutches of almost certain doom, I met up with Kelsi. Most of Prague had originally been built on a flood plane, and when the floods eventually returned the whole city needed to be build up another story. As such, many of the old buildings have two or even more levels of basements. We found our way into a dim lit sub sub basment that was bumping some dub and rocksteady. There was a thick smoke in the air that mixed with the deep blue and green lights that cast onto the brick and stone walls; the mixture was a composite of tobacco, incense and an unsourced ganja.

It was here that the night began to take on a mystical nature. After feeling quite ire, sharing some good laughs and vibes with each other and the local dog at the bar, we decided to wander into the streets to see what Prague would provide.

Wandering in a direction we more or less figured would take us somewhere interesting, we stumbled upon an absinthe bar. It was dimly lit and had a bit of an eerie feel to it. Kinda perfect, we figured. Inside we had our traditional absinthe drinks prepared, with the absinthe poured over a sugar cube and ignited. The flame had a very intense nature to it, and danced with a firery passion; and I realized how the Absinthe drinkers of 19th century Paris saw absinthe as the spirit of a green fairy.

We only stayed for one drink, but this began a real departure from reality into a dreamy existence. I have an ongoing debate with my friend Dan, about the nature of drinks like Absinth or Fernet; spirits with strong herbal components. My view is that the herbs have an added or altering effect on the consciousness, his view, that the alcohol gets you drunk and your drunken mind attributes the imagined effects. I have had absinthe a few times in my life, and have never been able to conclusively determine whose view point was correct. But this night was very different. One drink of what was very high quality absinthe had a definite shift on my reality. I cant even describe it as psychedelic or hallucinogenic, but there was a softening to the world around me, everything took on a more dreamy air, and time seemed to not be so definite.

Kelsi and I intuited our way down an alley, thinking it would bring us closer to the main part of town. But we were wrong. We ended up in a very non- tourist accommodating section of Prague. No one spoke English and we werent really sure how to leave. We ducked into another bar to have a small beer and recollect.

This bar was a dark cave. Candles adorned the walls and tables which were carved of a very old and dark wood. There was some classic Czech music softly playing, and the rest of the patrons were speaking in hushed horsey Czech with occasional bursts of laughter and joviality. We sat there discussing the gem of a location we had found and absorbing this unexpected treasure.

After our beer we decided to see what else we might find in this unforseen detour. Not far at all from this place, we could hear the soft sounds of a piano being played. It was coming from an unmarked building, and through a crack in a window shutter we could see people in a room playing piano and some other instruments, singing along and having a grand time. There was no clear way in however. But in moment of dreamworld understanding, I knew that the old door that looked chained up would open for us, and sure enough it did.

We entered into this menagerie of personalities and slowly began the further unwinding from reality. The music was going strong, the laughter was as thick as the cigarette smoke. Here a harmonica, there a drum, everywhere and everyone was playing along, singing along, having a great time. Each person there was so happy to meet us, some spoke english, they were excited to have us there.

And as with most dreams, the shift happened without any warning. The time to leave was upon us, and we needed to get back to the part of town where we were staying. Confident that I knew the way I led our pack of two up the alley. We turned a corner, another alley, then another corner, wait lets turn back, wait I think it was a left, wait no its a right, wait lets go back there and start again, wait where are we, wait , wait, wait, where are we? Prague had been transformed into an ever shifting dark city. We had a map and were consulting it, and we would end up somewhere completely different. And it kept happening. Slowly the map began to deteriorate, and we decided to split the pieces up for safe keeping. Every time we realized we had either walked in a circle, or completely in the opposite direction of what we intended, we would take out our individual pieces and assemble the puzzle in the air under a lamppost or other source of light. Each time we would be convinced we now had the right direction, every time we would end up somewhere else. I began to lose my patience for the trickery that was obviously afoot. I felt that we were puppets and pawns of some ancient initiatory test carried out by the master alchemists and medieval sages, in control of the spirits, gnomes and lesser demons of Prague, with David Bowie in the castle and Jennifer Connely just a few blocks away.

I decided to take a stand and I transformed my, up until that point, humorous and joyful disposition into a fierce posture. I made the declaration of needing this madness to end. I took two steps, tripped and hit hard.

But it seemed to work. Things began to calm. And within a few mintes the birds began to herald in the rising sun as the first signs of dawn made their impression on the streets and houses. And with that the spell was broken.

One last look at the map under the true light of the sun and we were on our way back home, and safely asleep in no time.

Now what does that sound like? Fantasy, extreme inebriation… neither. The amount we consumed could not account for our experience, and it was a shared experience. We both, recounting the events the next day, could not reconcile the facts with the experience. But for me this shifted something.

As I have been working for years now on developing my subtle energy, and the more etheric forces within myself, I think that it really makes me more susceptible to these types of forces in the world. When we add alcohol into the mix, it shifts the interaction point and understanding of these energies. Its like some latin american spiritual ceremonies that use rum to invoke the spirits within themselves. Except we invoked a fairy, mischievous and mysterious. The ritualization of the drink and the setting of the ritual only acted to intensify the invocation. Or maybe that wiry old musician’s spell played out exactly as he had sung it to me, complete with snapped drone string.

But for the crucible. We left Prague that next day making the total stay just over 24 hours. The experience packed with fire, and I left Prague with a whole new respect for the non-physical.

The Bath House of Budapest

I arrived in Budapest late at night. Having no Hungarian Florens, I primarily set out to find a means of getting myself some currency. There was an exchange office at the train terminal.
I dug out a twenty Euro note that I had stored away and approched the booth, when, as if from the shadows or some camouflaged vantage, a man was standing next to me.

“My Friend, do not waste your time with these theives. Allow me to exchange your money. As you can see what they offer you, I will offer you 10% more.” He deftly produced a calculator and showed me the exact amount he would trade me for my twenty Euro note.

I figured it seemed on the level, despite the nature of the exchange.

It was late and I was travel logged with achey feet and shoulders. I decided to use my freshly procured money, with the wink wink nudge nudge bonus, to arrange a taxi to my accommodation.
I hailed the cab from outside the train terminal, and showed the driver on a map where I needed to go, which wasnt too far from the train depot.

Immeditaley my spidey sense began to go. He kept looking at me in the mirror. Making u-turns, and driving around the same street corner multiple times. When he figured out I had figured it out, he dropped me at the corner I had asked him to, and presented me with a price tag for about $30. I made like I was going to pay, got my bag from his trunk, and then told him that I simply did not have that much money. He feigned anger, and I feigned confusion. Not knowing what a cab fare should be I ended up over paying by about 4 times, but still got away for about half of what he had asked.

The next morning I set out to explore the city. In my fashion, I chose a direction as I walked out the door and kept at it. I had the basic intention of reaching the Danube at some point in the day.

Budapest is an incredible city, rich in victorian era architechture that creates seemless megalithic strucutres lining the street with ornamented window dressings and intricate molding on the edges. The houses are all either faded yellow or green and all have a black sooty tinge to them. And although to look at them from the street one would think the city composed of enldess block like units of housing, in fact each of these buildings opens into its own courtyard. So as you enter into the building you realize that it is not nearly as dense as it appears from the outside, and inside are completely charming courtyards that extend the total height of the 5 or 6 floors of the building. This gives each home in the building a surprising amount of light and fresh air, despite being a component of urban density.

The streets are wide and open, and perhaps due to the weather, but everyone in the city seemed to be out walking. It was bustling. And a variety of characters that marks a modern city. Fashionable young women, men in suits, angsty punk teens, rollerbladers. Actually rollerblading never seemed to catch the stigma it did in the states, all throughout my travels I have seen lots of people shamelessly roller-balding in broad daylight, and by all accounts fully enjoying themselves.

Before I actually hit the river Danube, I chanced upon a beautiful structure. It looked to be a church of some sort and had a tarnished green copper roof dome. The entrance way was intricately adorned with tile work telling of the former Austro-Hungarian empire; rich in bright marigold and striking cerulean.

I ventured inside and quickly learned that this building housed the city’s applied art collection. The internal structure was no less striking, with bold white marble staircases and a three story open atrium that terminated in a stained glass window affixed to the dome. The museum housed classic works of Hungarian furniture, ornate chests, and delicate glass pitchers, porcelains and complex astronomical clockworks. A more recent exhibition detailed the modern art influence on furniture circa the early 20th century. Basically it was Hungary’s answer to Bauhaus and though the mark of the modern art aesthetic was there, bold lines, dynamic rhythm to the pieces, rich and deep colors, there was an authentically unique approach to these pieces. The only way I can think to define it, is that the pieces seemed more solid, more utilitarian, but that is not to say simple. This era of design, of print work, or fashion, really moves me. I get lost in the colors, in the craft and idealism of it all. I believe that in the 1920’s the world really had thought it had seen the end of war, and violence, and the attempt at idealization, at remaking the world in an artistic and colorful image, was a very real and tangible goal. (although,I just finished Dr Zhivago, and really Russia in the 20s was a whole other reality, though I think the idealism of anew world was still there)

The upper most floor displayed some contemporary pieces. Interesting concepts, all very organic and space aged feeling. There was a woven fiber-optics piece, storage containers made from zippered felt that took on an almost pea pod look, clothing with large sweeping hoods and star wars-esque texture and a display of bizarre looking, almost human seeming flutes.

After this, I found the Danube. I walked North along the Buda bank (the city is actually two cities divided by the Danube; Buda and Pest). After a spell of taking in the majesty of the old palace and some of the other buildings from that era, and soaking up the hot noonday sun, I began to look for some shade and a place to rest for a while.

I turned up an alley away from the river and chanced upon a church yard where w young man was setting up a table.
On the table he was tuning an odd little instrument that looked to be one part dulcimer, one part violin and one part celtic harp. He presently began to play this beautiful little contraption, and I sat on a bench and was transported somewhere else. It was like listening to a Sitar and a Hungarian version of a Raga. The music was less lofty and dreamy than its Indian cousin, had more direct and sharp points to it. But the drone and rhythm of it all was mesmerizing. I managed to record a bit, see for yourself.

After this I set out to find the modern art museum, which was supposedly a myth. Well it existed, but required a walk of mythical proportions. The museum was pretty good, some abstract architectural works highlighting the use of negative space were on display. Also a collaborative show on politics in art, with a very strong anti-capitalist bent. A lot of it seemed obvious, but there were some seriously interesting photo pieces. But the highlight was the Robert Maplethorpe exhibit.

For those who spent last summer reading Just Kids by Pattie Smith, you will recognize the name as Pattie’s partner in crime as well as the face that graces the cover along with her. There was a whole section of the floor dedicated to Pattie Smith. A lot of produced portraits, but many polaroids as well. It really gave the sense of their friendship and creative co-inspiration. There were also a bunch of his still lifes and celebrity portraits, which were bold and very striking. A series of his self portraits in and out of drag, showed a real intimate side to his work. And of course there was a lot of nudes. Maplethorpe is known as one of the first photographer artists to really document homoeroticism as a subject, which he came under controversy for in the 80s, and there was a lot from that era. And one series that was included featuring a female body builder. All very evocative, but I left feeling like he had more to say, that he died before he was able to fully realize his vision.

That night I went out to a couple of venues in my neighborhood, know as ruined bars. They are called this because they occupy the abandoned courtyards of ruined buildings. Each one has its own type of theme, and in different areas of each place, different DJs play music and people congregate. I left pretty early in the night as, though interesting to see, all of the places were jammed to capacity and mostly with English speaking tourists; it is definitely the party scene of Budapest.

The next morning I headed straight for the Baths. Budapest is built over a wealth of thermal springs. And a testament to this is the large number of bath houses and spas that are located within the city. Each boast slightly different themes or attract different cliental. I made for the Szechany (say-cha-nee) baths in the Heroes Square park.

This place is big and old. The main building is of that mustard yellow type, with bold brown column. Inside a hulking statue of the Centaur Chiron holding a small cherub, or possibly the young Apollo in the air. Above this is a mosaic of the zodiac in midnight blue and gold tiles.

The baths themselves are the most extensive collection of pools I have ever visited. There are about 20 different pools all varying in size. Some can hold 5 people comfortably, others 30 others 100 and the main two pools easily held a few hundred each. The water of each pool boasted a different temperature from any of its fellow pools, and the water was sourced from one of two springs. The one spring gave off a powderblue water that had a slightly acidic and calming effect (trace lithium). The second spring was pea green and had the tell tale scent of a sulphur heavy source.

Most of the pools are indoors, in a series of rooms, each boasting different light sources; skylights, windowed walls etc. Along with this was variable internal architecture, such as columns, burgundy moldings, statues, benches etc.

It was my delight to meander through the rooms and find the pools that gave me the specific vibration I was after.
I ended up spending most of my time divided between a hot sulphur pool that was large and well lit and surrounded by burgundy coumns and banisters, and a smaller neutral temp carbonic pool with a domed skylight above.

After a few rounds alternating between the two, I really started to get in it, meaning that I was getting a bit blissed and relaxed. In the neutral tub I began a mediation whereby I would inhale the light from the dome and exhale through my skin, relasing any toxins etc into the water. After about 10 minutes of this I had a sensation of full body relaxation, as if every muscle in my body at once decided to just let go. At the same moment a beam of sunlight burst forth from behind a cloud and lit me up in the pool, it was an amazing feeling.

When you get bored of the tubs there are a series of saunas in the facility. Ranging in temperature, some boasting features like aromatherapy, or different color lights, you were free to find the hot room of your particular interest. I opted for the super hot room with the other heavy sweaters. Mostly made up of old Hungarian men, some Turkish guys and a group of Brazilian women, you would stay in the heat until you felt like you were hallucinating, then you could opt to rub yourself down with crushed ice, take a shower, or plunge into the cold pool.

The cold plunge I particularly enjoyed was atop a small flight of stairs. There was a small domed skylight above it, with a wrought iron design of an eight pointed star. After a day of bathing, sweating, cooling and grooving on the vibe, I was able to stay in the cold water for 15 minutes or more. I would just keep absorbing the cold and fixate on the star. The acoustics in this tub were particularly good, which I began to explore around minute 7. Chanting and singing, creating a reverberating chamber of my own resonation- well it was amazing; though I did catch a couple of odd looks.

Croatia

Departing from Serbia came with some pangs of separation. In each place I have been there is a definite sense that, if I decided to stay for a more prolonged indefinite time, I would eventually mold into the land around me, and be another note being played in the cacophony of that location. Serbia though, holds a certain special place for me, as I didnt expect to go there, didnt know what I would find, and was continually and wholeheartedly immersed in the flow of the country and it’s people.
But despite this, I know that I have built a temporary nature into my traveling. Done maybe to help seek out and extract the gold from each experience, but also for the practicality of returning home. And so I headed West into Croatia. I had long ago decided that Croatia would not be part of this adventure, but having played into all sorts of whims and having them reward generously, heading for the coast of Croatia for a couple days of Adriatic beach sounded pretty good.
I arrived in the town of Split, which could easily be Italian. The people look Italian, and have Italian mannerisms, and even the language, though a dialectical cousin of Serbian, is spoken with Italian flair.
I didnt stay long in Split mainly because at the ferry dock was a boat leaving for the island of Vis, departing in 30 minutes.
For those who read my ongoing (though stalled at the moment) series on the Curious Nature of Nature Cure, the Vis, is the short hand term for Vis Medicatrix Naturae, latin: The healing power of nature. A central tenant to health and a core principal in my field. I took the sign as one to follow, and boarded the ferry.
The town of Vis, on the Island of Vis is the definition of charming. The island has been a point of territorial contention for hundreds of years and has belonged at times to Italy, Croatia, I think even Germany during WWII, but despite this, the seaside cove remains a monument to Adriatic Seafaring culture. The houses hug the coastline, and are built of faded pink flatstone. The main road is cobbled and boats litter the harbor. There are three churches in the town of Vis and at 8pm they all ring a call and response pattern across the harbor, which creates an incredible array of harmonic overtones and resonances, it is actually very magical paired with the sunset.
The island, beyond the beauty and charm of it, is a bit boring, but I busied myself hiking around the hills above the town.
The island has been inhabited since antiquity, and they claim (along with about 5 other places I have visited on this trip) to be the birth place of winemaking. But due to its long history, the entire island is cherckerboarded with rockpile walls. They thatch their way up the hills, across the valleys, right down to the beach. I have to admit my 10 year old self took over, and I became the leader of some special ops resistance force, running up the walls, ducking into clearings, collecting the plants i knew to be medicinal (still an herb dork) spying on the little village clusters I could see below, dodging imaginary bullets. yeah I am 30.
When I lived in New York, when I was really 10, my sister and my friends (the Watson boys) would run around in the forest by my house and adventure all the time. We would embody our favorite super heroes and tramp through big piles of autumn leaves. In the winter, we would take the sleds out and race thorough the trails, but we may well have been tobogganing the swiss alps. Before that me and my cousin Peter would initiate ourselves into the mystery trainings of the Ninja brotherhood in the creek behind his house. This would entail standing still for long periods of time, throwing rocks at a big frog who owned the pool at the bend in the creek, and the final initiation of over coming fear and crawling through the spider filled tunnel. Point is, make believe makes life more interesting. In fact, I dont think I have ever completely divorced fantasy from reality. Even as recently as when I was living in Brooklyn, racing my bike up Kent avenue, I would get to a speed where in my head I was this steam punk goblin on a rocket powered flying motorbike. Yup, people trust me with their health.
Ok but back to the island of Vis. The adventuring through the hills was delightful, but I decided to really get a better idea of the island. So the next day I hired a bike form a guy in town and did a 50km loop of the island.
The inland of Vis is essentially rolling vineyards with small hillsides sheltering them from direct exposure to the coast.
While approaching the other main town on the opposite side of the island there was a steady climb up, but when you crest the hill you are on a coastal road that slowly descends into a massive grey craggy cove filled with deep aquamarine adriatic waters.
As I took a moment to take it in another natural phenomenon caught my attention; the roll of thunder. The rains began very lightly, and in fact never picked up on land with any force. But it made my descent so blissful. A cooling rain hitting my face as I leaned as far forward on the handlebars as I could, so my field of vision was free of the bicycle beneath me and only presented me with the illusion of flying. So there I was again with a break from this reality, fully embodied behind the eyes of a hawk, soaring down a coastal jet stream.
I think only now that I am writing this down do I realize that the awakening of this fantasy faculty within me, this touching of my childness innocence and wonder of experience, that was the power of this island.
We talk in medicine of stimulating someone’s inherant Vis. or in other words, stimulating physical, energetic and emotional/spiritual resources within them. For me this reconnection with my playfulness unlocked those resources within me, and my detour to the island of Vis (power) was right on.

The Curious Nature of Nature Cure; Prologue.

For over 50 years, medicine has held a singular and fixed vision of progress; namely new science and technology.

Naturopathic Physicians, creating our own course through guiding our field by the lamplight of traditional medical wisdoms, have taken a lot of flak during the last century. From having our profession reduced to a handful of torchbearers and fire-tenders in the 1960’s, to today where Naturopathic Physicians are dubbed with the monikers of “Alternative to”, or the venomous “Supplement Pusher”, or even just plain “Quack”, there is a huge medical-cultural bias against looking to the wisdoms and effectiveness of simplicity when it comes to health care.

Naturopathic Physicians are not luddites. We love science, and are always looking for a deeper understanding to the manners by which nature affects healing. Much of our philosophy was developed before the use of double-blind-placebo-controlled studies defined standard of care. And now, as the dominant medical pardigm races towards ever increasing and nuanced levels of sophistication, Naturopathic Physicians still confidently paint with determined and bold, broad strokes and are guided by practical thinking.
It is a great folly to see our methods as less than, or even as alternative or supplemental. The theory and methods of the true Naturopathic Physician are beyond compare as a model for primary healthcare; precisely because it is “health” -care. Naturopathic Physicians use health, are intimately aquatinted and expertly trained in recognizing the signs of health, and the methods by which health is stimulated in the organism.

I belive in bridge bulding within the health field. I think that the sophistication, investigaation and nuanced care we see excelling in some of today’s hospitals are an amazing testament to the field of medicine. And though I wont go into access of care issues, or ethical issues surrounding for-profit research drving standards of care, in this entry I would like to point out that most medicine today, as practiced in the “conventional” field, is excellent for emergency care. That is to say, most of the interventions are created for people who, without intervention, would be dead within a short time. Whether it is due to trauma, a triggering event or illness, or a lifetime of poor health, standard medicine today is designed to treat very sick people.
And there is a problem to solely modeling health care this way in our society. Namely that it is not healthcare at all, it is disease management care; important yet incomplete.

As the research paradigm begins to turn its eyes to natural medicine, and more conventionally trained doctors are crossing over to the light, I believe it is prudent for the Naturopathic Physician to place a flag in the ground, and lay claim to aspects of our practice that still distinguish us from alternative medicine MDs. It is necessary because no matter how heavily they look to herbs or diet in their practice, there is a fundamental training that is lacking for primary healthcare in the conventional medical paradigm.

There is more to the practice of Naturopathic Medicine than the therapeutic agents we employ. And as science gets more sophisticated within the field of natural products, I belive that our profession runs the risk of being derailed (as already happened in the 1930s), by sects of MDs who will claim that this science belongs to them, and that they are the only ones who should be credintialed to use these agents, since science has now proven them to be medicinal.

Admitadley, many may see this as a paranoid jump. I will reiterate that this has happened in the past, and I only bring it up now to help highlight why a good Naturopathic Physician will always have a place in primary care and why we are so much more than a degree and knowledge of natural therapeutic agents.

What the next two (and maybe three if the fire stokes) entries will show, is that beyond preaching to eat organic food, beyond knowing which herb to use for what diagnosis, beyond knowing how to balance biochemistry through nutraceuticals (medicinal grade supplements), Naturopathic Physicians are using a far more effective and universal healing agent, Nature itself.

The how, what and why of it will all be explained in detail, but to close for tonight, there is an impulse of health in this world. Health is more than an abstract concept, a definable set of biochemical states, or even the subjective experience of wellness. It is a force, a presence that can be recognized, worked with and enhanced. I dubbed it an impulse, because by it, other things, more tangible and practical to our experience, are set in motion. Health is brought through the individual and by the art of medicine in the face of disease.

So I invite you now to stay tuned as we explore the mannerisms of true healing and The Curious Nature of Nature Cure.

The Electric Mind of Nikola Tesla

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Back in Belgrade for a night or two. One thing I made sure to do was to see the museum of Nikola Tesla. A small two room building, one half dedicated to his life, boasting artifacts, correspondence and personal effects. The other side was set up with actual units of his inventions. I was lucky enough to latch on to a school tour, and was able to see the activation of the different motors, and the functioning Tesla Coil.

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Tesla was one of, if not the most important mind of the modern era. His contributions are largely unknown, and unseen, as many of his inventions have led to inventions that we know, components that allowed for radio etc.
Tesla determined the resonant frequency of the earth and determined that there must exist a vacuum layer in our atmosphere. This wouldn’t be proven for years after his realization. His mind painted three dimensional pictures of his inventions, and he is said to have often been seeing drawing diagrams in the air as he promenaded through the park. His grand invention was a method of applying and preserving a charge into this vacuum layer of the atmosphere (now knows as the Schumann Gap) through wireless transmission. Once there, the charge would revolve around the earth, and every time it returned to the origin point, the transmitter would give it an electrical “slap.” Because of the nature of a vacuum, the charge would continue to increase with each slap, making an enormous potential charge. Then, Tesla envisioned, a series of large receivers that would be yolked with smaller receivers, and eventually personal receivers. His method would have led to a method of providing electricity, wirelessly to anyone and everyone on the planet.
He was well on his way to developing this, when his finacial backer, realized the scope of what he was proposing. Whats more, he realized that without wires, there couldn’t be meters, and without meters, there couldn’t be charges issued. This was Tesla’s goal, but it did not do well for the bottom line, and the funding was pulled.
After this blow, Tesla had a lot of trouble, and he died years later a poor man in his New York City apartment. His relatives were contacted, but before their arrival, the US government had raided his room and taken all of his papers and notebooks, detailing his life’s work, realized and theoretical. Much of this confiscated material, still remains inaccessible to the public, including Tesla’s family.

He is one of my heroes.

This is his memorial containing his ashes.

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