I was not that well acquainted with the deceased. In fact, what I did know of him, I didn't like. However, his girlfriend and I got along fairly well. We might have even made out once or twice, early twenties between any commitment type of things, but that's another story. She, of course, was devastated by his death.
I may be the worst kind of bastard with the morals of an alley cat, but, on occasion, I've been known to something that could be construed as kind. Sometimes, I'll mention I'm full of metta, the Buddhist concept of loving kindness. Sabina, in an attempt to enrage me, will say I'm full of something. Fucking woman.
As a philosophy and theology student who was digging on far, far eastern mysticisms and philosophies, I went to the Bardo Thotol, more commonly called the Tibetan Book of the Dead in western circles. From there I copied down in black India ink a prayer translated as the Main Verses of the Six Bardos. I gave that to the devastated girlfriend with as much sympathy as I could muster for the deceased. It was the best I could do.
Over the course of the next month I had three very vivid dreams of a distinctly Buddhist flavor. Being in my early twenties, hanging out with Pagans and others of mystical inclinations, I took this as something of an omen. I was already rather intrigued by Buddhism. It made sense. So, there I was, suddenly calling myself a Buddhist with Taoist and Shinto leanings, which sounds like a mental disorder. Then again, ask an over-zealous atheist, and they'll say any religion is a mental disorder. I'd later shorten it heretical Tibetan Buddhist by virtue of how I used to smoke, I drink, and I'm not above eating meat-hey, for me to live, something's got to die, be it plant, animal, or fungus, deal.
I'd call those set of dreams my religious experience. A few years after that, I postulated to a doomsday zealot evangelical preacher on the Sixteenth Street Mall how my experience was sort of like the apostle formerly known as Saul on the road to Damascus. The way I figured it, the Divine, were it anthropomorphic, knew I was the questioning sort, and the fact Buddhism didn't like the idea of blind faith was the reason for me being pointed in that direction. That preacher actually liked my argument. We had a few on the street theology discussions before he abruptly disappeared one winter.
I'd just turned twenty-nine when I went on that daytrip with my parents and siblings to Phantom Canyon and up through Cripple Creek and Victor. On the way back out of the mountains, I half-dozed. In a brief flash, I saw the silhouetted figure of a girl in a cowboy hat dancing in a mountain meadow against the warm late afternoon sun. The dream got me to smile as I opened my eyes to lovely Colorado sunset.
Years later, in the half-light of a gin joint, I'd see Sabina in a cowboy hat. I confess I did a double-take, although, I didn't know why at the time. We weren't going to be that way to one another for another year yet. Never mind the dream I'd have of the two of us living together far and away from the greater metroplex but a month later.
That summer, I had a dream of Africa, which reawakened my fascination with that stretch of geography. I still mean to travel there some day. I've always been drawn to mountains, and my dreams have featured those. Objectively, I blame this on having been born in Colorado, and, with the exception of those three and a half unfortunate years in North Carolina, I've always been able to at least see mountains. I could further suppose the Tibetan aspect of my Buddhism, and, well, have you ever seen images of Tibet?
Not like I can be blamed for this...
I admit I oscillate between hard-boiled skeptic and queerly superstitious. It used to drive some of my more fantastical-minded Pagan friends mad as I'd dissect their mystical explanations. A sadistic man would have taken glee in it, but I am full of metta.
Yet, and perhaps it is where and how I live, but there are those times of magic and mystery and coo-coo-kachoo, which can render me speechless. Perhaps that is paradoxical of me. There are those whom have said-baselessly!-I am contrary and otherwise paradoxical.
I can remember the dreams of Alaska starting whilst I was reading The Blue Bear, but I can think of a thousand documentaries and episodes of Northern Exposure that may helped feed that dragon. Perhaps even those stripped copies of trail magazines Sabina sometimes brings home-the hiker version of Vogue or Cosmopolitan, like Shambala Sun and Tricycle are for Buddhists...there, I said it-with their images of the Land of the Midnight Sun added fuel too. There is something interesting about the juxtaposition of the wild cold Pacific kissing against mountains, some taller than the Rockies. Like the environment I live in, but oh so very different.
In my dreams, there are whales. Humpback leviathans prancing and cavorting in the vast blue against a backdrop of grand peaks. I've never done a bucket list because I have no time to die and that's what one of those lists imply. Be that as it may, like Africa, like Tibet, I'd like to see whales other than as photographs and video images someday.
Years and lifetimes ago, during my exile in the rural south, I remember speaking with a mystical fondness and mournful homesickness of the Rocky Mountains. Of Colorado. Of home. The cat I was talking to spoke in the tongues of a lobotomized shangha when they said there was possibly something for me up in the mountains and one day I might just find it.
It took me years and lifetimes to get to the mountains. Really get to them. What I have found here I am still excavating and dissecting and learning the shape of. There are still so many secrets and stories to find. I still remember those words from so long ago, and, in the context of my dreams, it begs a question;
What is there for me in Alaska?