In my 2012 morning pages I read of a dream that had been inspired by a recent Gauguin exhibition:
I am walking through Gate 5 in Sausalito. I have returned to the Spring of 1969 when I, an aspiring artist, first fled family and the frenzied suburbs of Southern California for the frenzied psychedelia of Marin County. The dream is suffused with the prismatic hue of dawn. House boats float on the sparkling water in fantastic shapes of blue and violet. An exotic woman in a colorful, patterned pareo approaches and tries to sound out my name-tag: “C-R-R-A…” She looks like one of Gauguin’s proud Polynesian beauties. I am on LSD. I have traveled back to California’s hippy golden age, lost in time, marooned on the desolate onramps of infinity.
Gauguin must have borne issues of self-identity and a cargo of repressed guilt after he fled home, family and the frantic, Parisian scene to set sail for the Polynesian Islands.
His thick jungle foliage casts blue, amorphous shadows that flood the pink, kelp-twined sands with death’s relentless vegetal tide. Nubile girls offer fruits to an adze-hewn god. A frieze of women sit on a low bench, their archaic gestures echo the stark, rhythmic symmetry of Egyptian art. The primary colors advance toward the picture plane, where flat, delineated shapes and pattern interweave with the rough weave of the sail cloth on which it was painted.
I see him ascending the green mountain with his poison vial, marooned in his tormented paradise; a man broken by syphilis, bourgeois aesthetes and the French colonial police. The last question posed by his magnum opus remains: Where have we been? What are we? Where are we going?
My dream–and it’s multi-leveled reflection in the morning pages–might shed some light. Why does Gauguin’s aura rise in the Sausalito dawn? How does his frustrated dream reflect my own rootless life? Can I find an answer among the messages to my past, present and future self? What am I? On what standard hoist the emblem of my younger self? By what vague tag made known?
I’ve been going over my morning pages from 2012. The morning pages were introduced by Julie Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Basically, you write 3 pages first thing every morning whether you feel like it or not and, after a period of time, read and annotate them with an eye toward finding inspired or meaningful passages. My own pages can be, by turns, inspiring, embarrassing or downright boring with my ponderous, self-centered trip.
I see I had been reading–in 2012–Joseph Conrad’s enigmatic meditation on identity and the shifting vicissitudes of fate: The Secret Sharer. This story tells of the narrator’s first command, and a pivotal event that marked his passage from dissolute wastrel to respectable sea captain. He had hidden a stowaway–his mirror image, a troublesome aspect of his impulsive youth–which he must leave ashore in order to “get on” with the responsibilities his new station demands. In the magnificent climax, the captain risks his career by sailing close to a Java cape to jettison his double. His ship is nearly “caught in stays” and wrecked beneath the sheer headland that looms over his limp head-sails “like the dark gates of Erebus.” As a final gesture of compassion, the captain gives his hat to protect his “other self” from the fierce, tropic sun. It is this hat–lost during the fugitive’s swim to shore–that provides the only visible waypoint on the dark sea; by it he accomplishes the delicate maneuver of bringing his vessel’s bow across the flukey breezes and pointed toward the the safety of deep water.
The captain’s twin is “now gone from the ship, to be hidden forever from all friendly faces, to be a fugitive and vagabond on the earth.”
The morning pages are like the Secret Sharer’s hat. They provide a clear–albeit shifting–waypoint whereby we can weather hazardous shoals and see the secret workings that shape our lives into a meaningful pattern. In these page’s sleepy scrawl we see our life’s dominant theme, descry our personal myth, and have the opportunity to show compassion for the errant soul who blathers on and on about the cruel hand of fate.
It is fitting that the Vickers memorial in Kane cemetery on Bainbridge Island’s north end stands high above the remains of Port Madison’s more illustrious and wealthy citizens.
Engineer Vickers was oiling the shaft on the venerable, paddle wheel steamer, the Politkovsky, when the crank fell on his head and sent him to this early grave. The local Masons then took up a charitable collection to order a Carrara marble statue from Italy.
Port Madison was then a hard working settlement of shipwrights, millhands and colorful characters who shared a love for theatre. I seem to recall reading that Edwin Booth appeared here. While I can’t verify this particular, historical trivia, I prefer to live in a world where America’s greatest interpreter of Shakespeare intoned his lilting, Hamlet soliloquy under the locally-hewn rafters of the Mason’s Hall.
More certain, is that their love for the arts resulted in this moving gesture to an unfortunate member of the working poor.
She gazes into the cedar canopy, her left hand elegantly steadying an anchor while, below, carved in low relief on the pedestal, is depicted the venerable Polly, her paddle wheels churning the stone-gray waters of Puget Sound.
Joseph Conrad once said that to raise an anchor you must first let it go. I’m not sure what he meant by this laconic statement. Perhaps it is a salty, zen koan referring to a living paradox at the heart of the human condition. Spiritual progress often involves a conflict between opposing impulses of wanderlust and a need to stake out a permanent domain. Perhaps such a dynamic led this British sailor across the Atlantic to seek his fortune here.
Perhaps Conrad’s words also suggest another dichotomy. More than a tribute to a single, unfortunate immigrant, the sculpture also commemorates our highest cultural and artistic ideals as translated into meaningful action. These values are true because they are based on the gold standard of love and charity.
She is an angelic presence whose power of flight seems to be granted by that very stone anchor; as if she were about to ascend loftier spheres by virtue of it’s symbolic weight as a weathered emblem of hope.
This is a first for a View from the wheelhouse: to venture into the convoluted world of politics. My readers-and I know they are legion- probably know this is not my forte. Nonetheless, here goes.
The latest scam concocted by Citigroup and Wall Street crooks called CRomnibus has brought the art of political chicanery to a new level of dizzying complexity.
Our “democracy” has been impoverished to the point where Citigroup can author bills that benefit only themselves and the billionaires who have the shrewdness, wherewithal and sheer balls to write US monetary policy.
They frame the language so that prohibition of bankster and Wall Street bailouts are put in the same category as a bailout of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC.) Their legal team of shysters have engineered this scam in such a way that a vote against the bill can be spun in the 2016 election as voting to weaken our defense and allow cuts to the hard earned pensions of the elderly. The fact is, depletion of the pension funds is due to Wall Street crooks gambling them away in the first place.
Could it be that this provision of CRomnibus was inevitable because a good percentage of pension funds have already been stolen, and the bloated profits of the uber-rich are partly due to the transfer of them into their own bank accounts?
Billionaires are now buying both parties and hold allegiance to neither. They will fund either if it fits their financial interests. In fact, as the term multinational implies, they don’t even hold allegiance to the US, and make no bones about cramming provisions into the bill that allow for the sale of sacred Apache lands to a foreign mining corporation. Are Republicans so stupid they consider such a system patriotic?
Big money also owns the media that keeps us endlessly distracted. I find the timing of the torture report’s release interesting. While the public is, rightly, outraged by these “revelations” we spend our energy in endless hair-splitting debates on what constitutes torture and when we are justified in its application-an illogical argument since-if we agree torture is an egregious practice that should not be used-there is no justification.
This latter point casts the Obama administration in a dubious light. Or could it be that, while the report is a welcome blow to the Bush legacy, it is also playing into bankster’s hands by diverting attention away from this heist? Still, Wall Street bankrolled Obama’s ’08 campaign to the tune of 16 million and they seem perfectly willing to sacrifice the Chaney gang if it suits their purpose..
Call me paranoid. Or maybe I’m starting to look beyond the wheelhouse windows to see a bigger picture of the phenomenal world.