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Valley Oaks and fog at sunrise, Ahwahnee, California 2010

Through spare woods with bowed oak limbs heavy with old man’s beard, and the diffused ray of an afternoon sunbeam shooting from nowhere, he walked his usual path, no trail marked the ground.  Past the cushioned damp deadfall where mushrooms often bloomed after the rain. Past the rock outcropping that big as a bus cut in half, marbled with nearly every hue of the natural world and having a location that could only conceivably have come from falling out of the sky and arranged in rugged upshot forms, thick, girthy towers cut from the minds of genius, tormented architects.  Around the corner was another spread, another grove freckled with granite, softened by the tan dewy grasses matted from the past days’ wind and the hooves of migrant wild animals criss-crossing, who’s following who?  Nevermind.

This tableau hamlet has been in his journey for years, in his family for longer and part of the foundation of the earth before time.  To see it today is only that, myriad realizations through the interplay of light and atmosphere, every day a new place, fresh for the mind.  To breath in one moment and exhale the act of ownership.

Standing on a quiet city street, a cemetery behind him and a row of shops in front, he realized he recognized everything around him, but had no idea where he was. He looked at each object and spoke them out in his head, thinking “that’s the copy shop, that’s the convenient store, that’s the coffee shop.”  But he was paralyzed in his spot, unable to think where in the world he may have been.

His immediate fear was that he was he experiencing a broad loss of brain power, or worse. He reached his hands into his coat pockets and fumbled with the random objects with his fingers, hoping one would trigger a moment of powerful re-drawing-in wherein he would then gain back whatever abstract loss of place he was experiencing.  As the train rumbled by he felt a vulnerability that was unmatched at any point in his life.  He was not afraid of being hurt, or being struck by lightning or  car or a bull.  He was the man he had always been, awash in a dimension he had never known.

Later in his life, there were moments of intense vigor where he stood alone, perched above a massive cliff overlooking miles of expanse in every direction.  The wind pushed against his goose-bumped skin, drying the perspiration of walking uphill for miles, across a broad ridge that people from their cars down in the valley below would wonder at, thinking “how can that be right there and yet I know nothing about it?”  With his outstretched hands he embraced without holding tight, the fluid of the world coursing through him.  He stood on the cliff delighted with himself, giddy with his detached heart, he sang without noise.

After a few minutes on the sidewalk with the cemetery behind him and shops in front of him he regained his sense of place, exhaled, and followed the route he had walked thousands of times back to his housing.  Still slightly aware of what transpired in his time of absence, he walked back tired and confused, but satisfied to be back.

The people in their cars continued to drive, flabbergasted.

~ The Mayor

He sunk his hands into the dusty dirt up to his wrists, lackadaisically wiggling his digits, and pulled them out, the heavy lines and creases somewhat filled. It reassured him when the fill from his plot possessed his hands, blurring the lines from his annual effort to harvest in an area otherwise profitable for solar energy and thin, tan weeds. He lived with this condition, to live out a life out by nowhere and no one, uncomplicated from the dynamic of where he had otherwise found too many choices to choose from. What didn’t grow, didn’t bother him, it was all moot in the big picture.

He thought on the first time he found the mountain parcel. It was August and his brother had taken him out there to get away from the tremors he was experiencing. They were not real, he told his brother, but his hands felt shaky when he thought about going back to his life away from the mountain retreat. It was when he placed his hands on the old growth for the first time that he sensed something lied deeper in the tree. He exhaled quitely, stood there for a resting second, telling the story of his tremors, his fear, silently.

It eased him through his flesh and spine, lucidly spilling out of his hands. It was the first time he felt this spirit in him, rushing as if a dam had finally given way. Looking around he felt a new connection, a connection he had been longing for. For years he forced this, turned brass into fools gold, trying to sell it internally as the real thing. He knew what sparkled did not always shine. For the first time he felt a shine. He walked the property line and everywhere in between that evening, he weaved his hands in the ivy and rinsed them in the spring.

Once committed to living there, he washed his hands daily in the spring, raising them up above and out from his face and watch the amber sun pass through, lighting up his palms, and spreading through his fingers. He appreciated the lines that had been worn there on his hands. There were marks from where he had absentmindedly picked up the sickle by the blade one afternoon and his blood steadily dripped into the soil. It was not pain, he remembered fondly. He bled furiously and he rejoiced in the experience watching his blood infuse in the earth that had become a shelter without roof for him. He had several lines and marks on his hands from his efforts on that piece of shelter. No more from shaking, rather, from deliberately hard living. So when he pressed his hands into the dirt and watched the dirt fill his skin, he thought of how he was home-coming, having already been there, and he rested with that.

~The Mayor

A couple days ago, while meandering through the mustard blossoms that comes alive in our area during the winter months, I was reminded of a funny ritual where men in their suit jackets and top hats somewhere back east like to pull a groundhog out of his slumber in front of a large crowd of people.  They do this, holding him up, exposing his loins to cameras and the crisp clap of winter air to see if his shadow is cast, therefore declaring an early spring.

I found this amusing in a quaint manner while the sun beat down on my face warming my brow.  Within this magnificent world we reside, thriving with color, scent and texture, we endorse the confinements of the seasons to days and months.  If we are to live like the sun and rivers that truly etch the shape of the world, how can we follow such meager definitions of the seasons.  Let the winter of introspective reflection and the spring blossom of fair love of be one within us all at once.  To live like rich Kings, we must know the taste of dirt like th earthworm.

I rejoiced in this cool breeze of thought and headed through the greens with their yellow-burst top, laying my hands out to feel their bristly golden hue.  Each one a world unto itself.

~The Mayor

Indeed, when the modern European explorer set out and saw the bounty of plentiful earth that surrounded him in the new land, the industrial boom was only a short time away, historically speaking.  The Great War sprang up and changed the face of our world culture forever.  Before long major cities of thousands were tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, man and his iron and steel set forth to build earthly temples up to the sky, large pointed fingers, (or perhaps some other appendage) monuments to our belief that we are all powerful and our terrestrial prowess was limitless.  What not to love about that sentiment!  In the far reaches of our minds, we have been blessed with a infinite range where the waves of thought lap against our imagination, the reaction a series of intricate circles spreading out like light eventually diffusing in to the deep blue abyss.  The monuments we build in our minds, temples of psyche and personality can live on forever in our the infinite, but how often do we feel the frail human body pale in comparison to the dangerous and unsuitable temporal housing of our cities and towns?

A modest cabin that develops a leak is undoubtedly a quick fix, but what about man’s urban decay, a blight and hideous aperture  where we could all slip though one day, falling into the crevasse of our own doing?  No no my friends and fellow community.  We are orchestrators of great accomplishment and massive achievement.  When we see the pass of by-gone industry, it is the same as the bulging Dahlia flowers in July that eventually turn brown and wilt in November.  The bulb that keeps industry and Dahlia’s alive through the Winter months, the bulb that contains the abyss of potential is a special gift we have in connection with the world.  Although we are only tender flesh and brittle bone on the inside, even when we may turn brown one day and proceed into the ground, we come back in a new season with new flowers of creation, perhaps even new industry.

I find the work of  Miru Kim  to be a stunning contrast of what we build and how it can feel as directly opposed towards our natural state.  The photos contain a wealth of insight and alienation, fear and confusion.  However, they also express a profound sense of our own tender state as humans.  Below are some of my favorites from her “Naked Spleen” collection:

We are so fragile and our time here limited, best to be where you feel most safe and at peace.  It is fear, alienation and aggression that is turning the world upside down in so many ways.  But there is also an infinite amount of room to be at once positive, and generously giving with your heart, spirit and soul.  Let these harsh images be reminders of all the love and understanding you have been given this year and in the past so that we can remain to be open-eyed, looking out over a stand of trees towards the horizon of our next adventure.

In all my years of dreaming large, the mind outstretched like the low, gnarled limbs of the majestic Valley Oak that speckle the hunched hillside, would I ever imagine to be standing here, The Mayor of Burlytown. Such high hopes for what can come of this great union of voice and spirit! This agora will be where like-minded individuals come to rest their haunches and revel in all the diverse night sky of ideas, madness and cool breeze of inspiration. I welcome any and all seekers of the Burlytown lifestyle to join me, as we embark on the great hike out into the limits of the mind, edge of the trail, off, stunningly into wilderness.