Also a nagging question. A quest:
Last Friday I was walking in the French Quarter. A mule-drawn carriage tour passes me by. The guide points, "That studio there... That artist is color-blind." I look closer through the windows. There's a children's book illustrator, an artist with vibrant, fauvist imagination. The house that houses his studio and gallery is listed in the historic register... the plaque reads: "here on Good Friday, March 21, 1788 began the disastrous fire which destroyed much of the colonial city."
The Great New Orleans Fire destroyed 856 of the 1,100 structures on Good Friday, March 21, 1788.
A short 222 years ago.
New Orleans has a rich and varied history of null zones. After a flurry of rebuilding, just six years later in 1794 another thorough fire incinerated 212 buildings.
In the past ten years, I've had three null zones. (I don't really recall any prior to that.)
In a nutshell, the first was externally related to closing up the start-up I was chief technology officer at (in addition to entire dot-com collapse doubled with 9/11), a divorce, plus Taz our amazing golden lab's death at six years young. Makes for a cliched country song, I know. Second was triggered by surviving the Indian Ocean tsunami. I've written about that ad nauseum. It set me off on an existential monk-like quest to find out what was true and what was deathless.
I'm in the midst of "my" third null zone.
Friday I sit in what I've deemed "my secret garden." Although it's not truly secret, nor mine, as it's in the heart of the French Quarter. It seems walled off and locked away, yet there is a side entrance. Seated there on a cast-iron bench with St. Francis of Assisi behind me, it's hard to imagine it was the site of a bloody mafia massacre. The space is serene, and with the fountain in the center of the labyrinth turned off, it's also silent. The imprint of that disaster has cleared (alas, unlike many other sites in New Orleans and in other old places.)
Even in this eden, in this garden, the creme-colored camelias droop. Turn rancid like butter in the sun. Yet another season yields a new bloom.
I "accidentally" find a screenwriting book by Syd Field in a coffeeshop. I devour it because there is something dynamic as well as "visual" in the storytelling story-dwelling I wish to convey over the next few years in a serialized 54-issue faerie tale reminiscent in scope - not themes - to Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series (of which there were 75 issues spanning from 1989 to 1996).
What I remember most is how Syd states equivocally over and over and over how the writing process is "bigger" than the author. And to trust the writing process unfolding.
I've seen a singular pattern in each of "my" null zones.
They're all conspiring towards getting the "me" who thinks she's in control out of Its way. There, perhaps, in that spaciousness a true and aligned creativity can express.
"Control eliminates any possibility of being real." - Melodie Beattie
I listen to visiting Mark Plotkin, an ethnobotanist and president of the Amazon Conservation Team, speak three days after I express an inside wish to meet more shamans. He says an Amazonian shaman said to him, "You know what kills white people?
Worrying about worrying."
Now, it's funny observing that I want to "explain" myself, but here I go: I don't typically read self-help books anymore, yet instead of grabbing the Carlos Barrios book I'd intended when I walked into Borders in the first place, I found myself picking up Melodie Beattie instead. It was pretty much what I needed to hear this past Sunday, so thank god I didn't mind my own rules, including: I don't read self-help. (I think something's definitely deepened within her later work, plus it includes a lot of powerful first-person storytelling.)
Control is insidious. A woman in The New Codependency shares how even how we get dressed can thwart our natural will into scheming for control: "I put on twenty different outfits. None of them look or feel right. That's because I'm trying to control how others perceive me instead of dressing how I want to, in a way that feels comfortable to me."
"Power emerges organically from being who we are... The only way to accomplish anything of value is to act naturally on the guidance from our Higher Power." - Melodie Beattie
"The longer we walk a spiritual path, the more that will be required of us. Instead of trusting what we know, we'll be called on to trust what we don't know yet." - Melodie Beattie
Anyone used to controlling will probably feel like they are flailing and failing as they begin to trust something Else (well, it's not Else nor Other, but Us without the illusion of separation). William Least Heat-Moon describes how he ends up mistaken and in error, lost on the "wrong" road in Blue Highways. This wrong road finally leads him to a "place of clear beauty," a place he invariably would not have discovered if he stuck to his prescribed map.
He says the origin of the word error is from the Middle English erren which means "to wander about" as in knight errant. So, like many coming into their own embodied expression within Existence, I am a knyght erraunt in quest: Fake? Fake? Am I? I Am? Parsifal failed while he was Fake. Only when he was Real, did the fisher-king flourish. A null zone can be a blessing:
"When I bottomed out on codependency [way, way before she was an established author, an ex-junkie, she lived in poverty for 12 years], I didn't have a car. My husband had run up a $1,000 phone bill, the telephone had been disconnected. All I could find was an old Royal typewriter with an "N" key that didn't work. I started writing. Not having a phone turned into a blessing. I needed to communicate. I remembered my dream of writing. I started writing my way out of dependency to freedom and into my dreams." - Melodie Beattie, "The New Codependency"
"In nature, correct means harmony that breeds survival. Always to demand established routes, habitual ways, then, is to go against the grain of life; that is often the Indian impulse. But to engage in the continuing experiment is to reach for harmony. Hesse writes:
I am an experiment on the part of nature, a gamble within the unknown, perhaps for a new purpose, perhaps for nothing, and my only task is to allow this game on the part of the primeval depths to take its course to feel its will within me and make it wholly mine. - William Least Heat-Moon, Blue Highways
After William Least Heat-Moon circled home from his USA knight errant wanderings, he started writing. His partner belittled his so-called "forthcoming" book (I believe it took him eight years to write). Publishers stated they had no interest in his "travelog."
He was close to "abandoning my endless rewrites to take on what friends considered "real work." Then, one morning, I read in the New York Times that Robert Pirsig, whose about-to-be-become famous Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a challenging and curious philosophical tract built around a "travelog," had received 122 [publishers'] rejections. At that moment I realized my quitting would not be sensible but merely weakness, and on the spot, I vowed I would not give up until I had collected 123."
Ask yourself sometimes...