Posted by: Bruce Proctor | March 25, 2017

Dream of the Elephant God

Dream. I’ve been invited to the house of a couple in their late 30’s in Salt Lake City for an informal spiritual get-together. They have each written their own book on their takes on spirituality/well-being. They are beautiful, energetic, competitive: which book will prove the better spirituality? Spas, diet, spiritual retreats.

I am looking at the woman’s book. Its author photo in the back shows the author naked, spreadeagled, inviting. Some odd spirituality!

Then others arrive, a couple from India, in gorgeous Indian traditional garb. I’m lounging in the adjacent back room. The couple come in and recline beside me, the man throwing his arm across my chest in his gorgeous costume. Is he a prince? Such casual intimacy. I find myself holding him bit by bit, and he is welcoming that. Nothing sexual, just human warmth and love. I find it immensely comforting–maybe because it’s so rare.

In the front room there is now an Indian god idol, an elephant, lavishly, lovingly festooned, costumed, with intricate inlays of jewels, ivory. I realize that this god is a personification of the Indian couple’s inner selves and that each precious adornment is a loving, creative act manifesting their own inner perfection.

The host owners have a daughter, maybe nine years old, blonde, lively, and innocent– that they have raised in the most unusual manner, I assume, because: I’m lying down in the back room. She comes up to me and asks if she can “swap mouth liquids” with me. I say, “Certainly not, but you may pass me a Kleenex.” Later she expectorates into a basin and a great volume of orange juice gushes forth. Later the Indian man comes in and expectorates his own quart of orange juice! Is this some purification ritual?

The girl is most forthcoming to me, entirely at ease with herself, and, although not directly sexual, I realize would welcome sex with someone she likes–even me–even at such a young age. Such maturity, to do that in such openness and awareness at such an age!

On the kitchen table I notice a little creature, in translucent colors, like a gummy bear, but dazzling, two inches tall, moving and dancing about. I call attention to it, and realize now this whole evening has been a dream!  –which startles me so much that I wake up. The girl says, “Oh, that’s such a pity! By coming awake, you’ve lost the power you would have had by waking up in the dream.”

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Posted by: Bruce Proctor | March 25, 2017

Photos: Reflections off the foil on my mom’s new chocolate cake

As usual, these aren’t faked. I passed my mom’s cake sitting by the fridge on my way through the kitchen and said, “Whoa!” I did not manipulate anything in making these photographs other than rotate the cake this way and that and square up the camera to what I saw.

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Posted by: Bruce Proctor | March 20, 2017

Dream: the Russian children’s tale

January 7, 2017 1:30 a.m

I am on a crowded train heading east, at night. It could well have been in Russia, though we all spoke American. I was sitting toward the back of the coach, which was lit, but poorly. The interior was murky, a dark, musky red. Maybe the coach was made of red wood, or perhaps it had been upholstered in heavy, red-brown fabric. Maybe it was just bad light. The feel could have been quite old-fashioned.

Up several rows from me a girl, perhaps ten or eleven years old, was holding forth to a rapt group of half a dozen other children about the story of Dr. Zhivago. Finally, I could not contain myself any longer and moved up to join them. I put my hands out toward the girl and began to speak to them all about the deep meaning of the story, the grown-up meanings. They listened with all their being, which surprised me mightily as I was an uninvited guest–and an adult at that.

I broke off finally, self-conscious. We were now somehow seated on the other side of the carriage. They told me, “No! No! We want to hear everything you have to say!” The depth of my urgency broke through me: “As you know, Dr. Zhivago took place in the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. Many, many were killed, or starved, or were caught up in the turmoil. I believe that we have come to a time here tonight where we can and must resolve that agony of so many years ago!”

I spoke mainly to the girl story-teller. She seemed like the central figure–the bringer-together– of the group. And now I was the other center of the web of us all. Still I held back; I knew I myself didn’t know exactly what I was talking about. So there was now a palpable tension.

Across the table from me to my left, a little girl, the smallest of them, only five or six years old, thrust out her arms to me. Since she was so little and apart from the group, I didn’t immediately respond to her. But she was having none of it. She launched her arms again to me and grabbed me: “You must do this!” she cried: “Hold me! Hold me tight!” And she was at my chest, and I held her for dear life. I was afraid I’d crush her, she was so tiny. The rest of the group had me reach out my freer arm through them to the story-teller, and all of them grabbed on.

Then a deep wailing emerged from us, one and all, the littlest one, and me myself, all joined together with all our being. Locked together, we wailed and wailed. I felt from the urgency of it that I might have a physical-world heart attack, and I thought it might go on and on forever. But after a dozen seconds of this overpowering intensity, it suddenly and naturally resolved itself, and I was back in my physical body, coming awake, shaken but at peace.

Over many years I’ve kept a few sheets of spiritual advice handy for quick reference during my day. Over and over I’ve added items and subtracted items as I’ve grown. Below are my current list. Not all of these are obvious: you may need a context which you don’t have yet, Byron Katie’s Work especially. So check out her process. Her website is terrific. Many of these quotes allow me simple access to the essential inner turning.

Misc. sources

  • Self-esteem involves making yourself right rather than wrong and allowing yourself to feel good about who you are.
  • All choices are equal.
  • Use your death as an advisor.
  • Think “possibilities.”
  • No fear, no envy, no meanness.
  • Don’t take anything personally.
  • I will approve of and rejoice in my accomplishments, and I will be as vigorous in listing these, as I have ever been in remembering and enumerating my failures and lacks of accomplishment.
  • Look how far you’ve come!

The Work of Byron Katie

  • Who would you be without your story?
  • I don’t have control and that’s wonderful!
  • We are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens.
  • My thinking is all screwed up!
  • My life has a life of its own. I have nothing to do with it.
  • My life shouldn’t have a purpose.

Buddhist

  • The everyday practice is simply to develop complete acceptance and openness to all situations, emotions, and people.
  • Abandon any hope of fruition.
  • Do things properly for their own sake.
  • We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark.
  • Today I will judge nothing that occurs.
  • Keep up with your meditation, as there is no instant illumination. The mind moves slowly into this.
  • Finally, don’t take yourself so seriously.

Frank Kinslow

  • Being self-aware is not a process but a perception.
  • It is totally harmless and completely nurturing.
  • Paths only give the illusion of movement toward the resolution of suffering.
  • When I surrendered to what was and stopped trying to fix anything, the heavens parted. I felt marvelous! And when I examined that marvelous feeling more closely, it grew in intensity.
  • Be still for a few minutes, watching your thoughts–are you ready?: do absolutely nothing!                            (For readers, see if you “get” this, because, simple as it is, it can be the completely unexpected key to an easy, warm turning and realization.)
Posted by: Bruce Proctor | March 6, 2017

Dream: Movie of the Aztec Egg

I’m watching a movie on DVD with a couple friends.

In the opening scene, early morning on the shadow side of an Aztec pyramid,  we see at its top the silhouette of a warrior in full traditional regalia. He trips quickly down the stairs with white sparks trailing his feet. The sparks–or whatever they are–are white and round, cartoonish, and totally out of character for the scene. I think they must be lame special effects, but actually it’s not clear if the warrior is in control of his descent or falling, and I wonder if the “sparks” might actually be cushioning or carrying him on his way down.

He gets partway down when up at the top appears a monster with a huge, raging head, like a Chinese dragon. It plunges right down like a great slug, long and rippling (no legs or wings). We now see that the warrior is cradling in his armor, with great care, a large, white egg still covered with mucous. As the monster plummets past the warrior, it snatches the egg, and surges to the ground and to our left. Our last sight is a glimpse of the egg, nestled lovingly in a snarl of its mighty lips.

Posted by: Bruce Proctor | February 9, 2017

Dream: “The Sikh offers me a gift”

The party was still going on in the house. I stepped out of my room to go to the bathroom. I was passed by a Sikh dressed in full regalia: lots of color, a short vest, silk pantaloons, a short, fez-like cap. He was an older gentleman, salt and pepper beard and hair, a face of great character. He went directly into my room. I turned to inform him of his mistake, but he, in no uncertain terms, shut the door in my face. I followed him in. He was fiddling around in my refrigerator and turned to me with a huge smile, holding in his left arm a heaping still-steaming platter–must have been cooked in the house–while with his right hand the other, thrust out to me a huge, piping hot, chocolate chip cookie!

Posted by: Bruce Proctor | February 1, 2017

Dream: “Oh, My True Love is Dying!”

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“But OH, to be recognized ­­­–by HIM!–as he came through my door,” she said. “It was the HEAVEN of my life!”

I hadn’t seen her for decades, but I caught a glimpse of her saying this on a recent TV interview, and I knew she was dying. So I had to see her once again, at all costs.

My love for her–and between us–was almost of the magnitude of her legendary love, but it had not survived. She was living in the same ramshackle rooftop apartment where that legendary moment had occurred, and I had lived in an upstairs apartment in the building next door, both buildings at the top of the hill by the overpass looking down on the highway below. That apartment forever overrun with hanging and potted plants, perfume and incense, a sliding glass door leading out on the wide patio roof.

For me, it had been very much the same as, earlier, it had been for HIM, a life-changing love affair, with this dramatic, troubled, tempestuous beauty: unforgettable. And the world had not quite forgotten her, either. How could it?!

She had a gypsy manner, sharp features emphasized by lipstick, mascara, flashing eyes. When we had known each other, it was like being physically overwhelmed by a tsunami of such power that it blew us together and turned us inside out as it carried us along and through, beyond our control, wherever it would, however it would, and finally deposited us, gasping, and uncomprehending, far apart, wondering who we were and how we had gotten there.

Now I approached that same familiar door, the curious dogleg entryway on the third floor walk-up of the old wood frame house. Just as in the old days, she opened the door. Her sudden gasp of recognition thrilled me. In a moment, all the power of our love for each other those decades ago swept over us again like a revelation. She was trembling.

In a sense, neither of us had ever wavered in our passion and love for each other. We had never “broken up.” Not in the slightest. Rather, whatever had swept us held us in its torrent for as long as it demanded, and by the time it deposited us, dazed and lost, again on our own two feet, we were irrevocably far from each other, and on to other fates.

Now, at the famous–or infamous–door again, here we were, in full recognition and remembrance of all that we were to each other then, and in fact–realized now–still were to each other. It was a heartrending moment for us, realizing now that the flood that had carried us then was still silently carrying us even through all the decades of our separation. All that we had shared. All that we had meant to each other–and still did.

Yet, now, would we stay together?

No. We could see the love that supported us was still here, undiminished. The tenderness was still there, the power, and now the mutual recognition. But our fate had joined us for just this one last time. We had no idea why; it was simply obvious.

Her fate was to die a legend, larger than life. Mine was to continue, never a public figure, hardly a shadow in the eye of the world, hardly an afterthought to her blazing comet of–not a career, so much as a bursting through the great, wide world, lighting it ablaze everywhere as she went.

But in our chapter, she and I were everything to each other–and we fully saw it now–and not discounting everything and everyone else in our lives–still were, our tears and emotion carrying us through to the end, on to eternity, in some way still together.

Posted by: Bruce Proctor | September 22, 2016

Photo: Pine Tree, Campbell Island, Popham Beach S. P., Maine

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I’ve been making a print of this photo I took 5 years ago. I’ve finally got the print I wanted, although of course I don’t think a viewer online can see its subtleties. The issue I faced with this piece is common for me, but a real hassle to address, one I’ve often put off and never really mastered, to date. The backlog of such images now demands I finally get this right.

The problem is that with digital cameras/photography, I can’t get the full dynamic range of my subject if the contrast is too great. I’ll lose deepest tones or lightest tones, take your pick. In practice, I usually end up blowing out skies, as in this photo.

You can bracket exposures, then combine them in Photoshop. Often however I don’t notice that I’ve blown out the highlights until later, as in this case.

The solution for this piece was to find another image from the same shoot where the sky is well-exposed, matches the original conditions, and fits this composition. In fact I found one made just a couple minutes after the main shot here, so compositionally the match is close. Emotionally, it’s a fine match.

I then selected certain tonalities of the second sky, and dragged the resulting layer into the first image’s sky. Issues now revolved around the edges of the selection not matching well with those of the first photo.  In this case I needed a lot of doing and thinking. Tutorials I’ve found about this matter only take me to a certain point. This is the tough part of the process: it should match up, but doesn’t, quite.

The final result however, in this case, feels well-resolved. Not quite fastidiously perfect, but fully satisfying for me as a print.

 

 

Posted by: Bruce Proctor | September 18, 2016

Chair-Cleaning Day on Our Porch

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Posted by: Bruce Proctor | September 2, 2016

Curator Bruce Brown’s visit

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Curator Bruce Brown, a fine gentleman, visited our home today, and looked at a huge number of my photographs. Thank you so much, Sir.

This is the one he spent poring over for minutes, trying to make it out, utterly engaged. The print he looked at had no written title, so he was on his own.

That is the point of so many of my photographs: to disorient the viewer so they must see the world afresh.

Beyond the familiar world we recognize, there lies a deeper, unsuspected world of immensity and wonder.

Many of my photographs are intended not to be looked at, but, like this one, to be entered.

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