The Field of Cultivation

Return to the Gate 


Rychard Denner

for Jillian

I drive to Fairfield
a fair field
I drive to the Riverside
a river side

I turn right, then left
our spirits meet
you laugh, I laugh
perfection is infectious

Fairfield Pagosa is a chaos of condos sprawling over a high mountain valley up Putt Hill from downtown Pagosa Springs, Colorado. This is where the new town grows, since the old town consists of a main street with a lone stoplight along a bend in the San Juan River. Cow town. Hunting and fishing paradise. Hot springs. Winter sports.

The Riverside is a restaurant right at the bend of the river where Jillian works as a waitress. To keep the management happy, she wears her dreadlocks tucked up in a scarf. Her parents own one of the condos in Fairfield, which they rent out most of the year, and they are letting her stay there while she's on vacation from film school in New York.

She has a new DAT video recorder, and we decide to make a video. A summer project. The idea is to document the relationship of an older man and a younger woman. We want to stabilize our friendship by exploring the power of our sexual attraction. Since both Jillian and I have a history of making love first and finding out about compatibility later, we plan to forego sex in order to create art-and thus establish a creative relationship.

With the help of Anne, a therapist, we find our way. Anne helps us with a hypnotic eye-movement technique that enables us to process the angst surrounding our issues. Blink. Angst is self-liberated.

Once the age discrepancy issue is neutralized for Jillian and my lust for the most beautiful woman in the world is put to rest for me, we get down to business. The script is a series of sketches which involves the two of us in different locations during the day and culminates with a dinner party. Not a great deal of plot, but it will allow us to work with the new camera and track our feelings.

We load the gear in her 4 x 4 and drive south, across the border to Echo Canyon in New Mexico. A blue sky day. Infinity at our fingertips. Voices of Mexican children bouncing off the walls of the canyon. I dance among the piñon pines and spook a murder of crows. We move to the multi-colored cliffs near Ghost Ranch. Red rock forms: a man in the sage. Jillian insists I get naked, and I work out an idea based on an experience I had on acid in Berkeley in the 60s.

I was wearing a black suit, and I thought my clothes were a shadowy specter. I literally jumped out of my suit. Quietly meditating in the sagebrush, I have a catharsis. A black day in Berkeley becomes a good day at Red Rock.

Next, a vision of Jillian, floating, a mirage in the heat of the desert. She's wearing a flowing black dress. Then she disappears, and I reaching out towards this illusion and lose my meditative center. Swirling around and leaping out of my suit, I drop my briefcase and run across the sand towards the highway. A car passes in the distance. Dissolve.

These are the things that happened, minute overlapping minute, things other people may not understand. Her parents say, "Why are you spending so much time with an older man?" She replies, "We have channels besides sex, stuff we do together."

The next sequence we shoot at the entrance to Piedro Canyon. Jillian loves driving my LTD, and she has always wanted to shoot a woman's legs stepping out of a car. Like they say in the biz: "This script has legs." I shoot this part, her driving, stepping slowly out of the rig, rolling a cigarette and smoking it on the car's hood.
"So, what's for dinner, dear?" We shoot at the house where I'm staying while my friend Doug is visiting friends in Vietnam.

Doug has a fetish for sunflowers, and everything in the kitchen has a sunflower motif. Wallpaper, hot pads, clock, calendar, cups, curtains, tablecloth: a study of sunflowers with Jillian in a sunflower print apron, cooking plastic sunflowers in a kettle and serving up sunflower soup in bowls on a sun-flowered tablecloth.

We embrace. The hug has sex energy, sexy touch, still saying one thing and doing another. Damage. Low self-esteem and power facades. Shitty feeling after promising not to manipulate, confuse or harm.

Our improvised dialogue reflects this tension. Sex tension. Uncomfortable. Jillian feels she has little to offer, wants honesty, no bullshit, wants a unique, creative companion. I'm tired of losing people, whole thing has become romantic crap, death, destruction. Neither of us wants to loose the other. Risks and dangers. Falling in love? Having sex is no accomplishment. Is this just a crush? Jillian not sure if it's a crush or not.

Driving Jillian home, the camera is accidentally left on, and as the car cruises along the camera sways catching us at odd angles, sometimes out the window, sometimes part of our torsos, Jillian's legs and her hands rolling a cigarette, the wheel, smoke and mirrors, hands driving, us speaking natural and uncontrived about the relationship of freedom to responsibility and the need to awaken the sacred in our present commercial, progressively degraded mode of being without either of us having the slightest idea of our destiny.

for Bonnie

capricious horses graze
on pure mountain air
you lay on a bed
of pinecones and wild roses
the horses laugh
the river flows both ways

I met Bonnie when I first arrived in Pagosa Springs. She was from Idaho and was a waitress at the Hog's Breath, or as it is affectionately known, the Dog's Dick, a steakhouse with a bar and a dance floor where the locals can show off their shitkickers.

The Indians say the river ran both ways before the white men came. Bonnie and I find we have feelings that run both ways, and we decide to get AIDS tests before traveling further, but by the time the results come back, it's time for me to go into retreat and for her to leave for the Christmas holidays. I have the peculiar feeling this is rapidly accelerating our relationship towards the no-return zone. Something to think about while I'm in retreat.

After my retreat is over, I return to the bunkhouse on the horse ranch where I live, and I find Ashlee has moved in. She says she's shortly to leave on a road trip and doesn't have anyplace to stay. She's wearing my robe and sitting on the edge of the bed. The covers are mussed, and as I check out the scene, the robe opens and her marvelous breasts make a grand debut. So much for loyalty.

for Ashlee

o never always
would the mind
let go

even the grass
will attain

As Heironymus Bosch reveals in his painting, A Garden of Earthly Delights, lust is the downfall of man. I realize I have no desire to have a relationship with Ashlee or Bonnie, and although I can fantasize screwing two women at the same time, I'm not going there.

When I went back to the health clinic to get the results of my blood test, it seemed like the nurse was giving our relationship a formal benediction-some kind of post-modern marriage ceremony. I tend towards monogamy, but I have a hard time getting beyond the honeymoon stage. In the years since I've been sober, I've had considerably less interest in sex. I think my drinking was a way to create eroticism, in abandoned moments of drunken revelry. My days of gin and bougainvillea.

I no longer have the goals and libido of a young man. I've been married three times, and I have four children, six grandchildren and a great-grandchild. I wonder how much time in my life have I spent with my eyes popping out, my tongue hanging down, clutching my heart in total delirium over the turn of an ankle?


I see you see
beauty as we
share sunrises
join silences

hand on hand
smile on smile
I think and think
you do as you do

unhealed, the hurt hurts

It is so like me to create this melancholic situation by sabotaging my relationships so I can write poetry. I am the victim of my compositions.

for Cecil

all in order
on a plate of gas
Maxwell House
is avant-garde

"Post Dogmatism" is a manifesto that was created by my friend, Cecil, who is a collage artist powerfully influenced by Kurt Switters. A teacher, a musician, he and his wife run Café Cuernavacca on the main drag, and it is an extraordinary experience to have an espresso and eat fine Mexican cuisine in their establishment.
There was a duo who played there called Provinces. They played music from Central and South America and Mexico. Rural melodies. Different versions from different villages. The husband was the master of many instruments, and his wife sang in a lovely contralto and played tambourine. The combination of tambourine and harp was good to the last drop.

for Bruce

creations of ordinary reality
don't forget to burn the sun

do whatever it takes
to get that steak to your plate

Bruce and his wife, Jan, are dedicated drummers. Every year they travel to Africa to study, and they return to teach and perform. Bruce makes his living doing ironwork, and Jan is an established artist. She sells her paintings and does interior decoration. Bruce and I like channeling cowboy poetry in the hot tubs at the Spring Inn.

A calf graft is performed when a cow's calf dies, and you skin it out and put the skin on another calf. This confuses the cow, and she bonds with the new calf and lets it milk. If the calf graft doesn't work you might spray the nose of the cow with hairspray to over-ride the mother's pheromone receptivity. Just another creation of ordinary reality.

for Ilsa & Richard

when you come back
when you come back
bring me a drum

when you come back
bring me a leopard
when you come back
bring me a spot of soul

bring me back, bring me back
Africa, Africa, Africa

I lived on Ilsa and Richard's ranch for an idyllic year and took care of their horses while they traveled. When they returned, Richard burst in and said he was going to get a divorce, sell his house and horse, buy a boat and float the seven seas, and I wondered why heaven seems to exist without us?

for Brent

spring soon
still winter
still winter stillness

the brown ground moves
bees have no attainment
bees have no non-attainment

Two of my favorite people are Brent and Julia. They lived in the main house while Richard and Ilsa were in Africa. I had known them both in Seattle. Early on, I had been to a retreat with Julia and had once practiced Chöd with Brent, but I had no idea they were a couple until Julia phoned and asked me to help her rescue Brent who was stranded on the highway outside of Durango. She said we were to bring some large plastic garbage bags and duct tape. A mystery. A night without a moon. Do we have to dispose of a body?

Julia and I find Brent at an all night convenience store and gas station, and he explains the situation. He had been pulled over by a highway patrolman for having a defective tail light and discovered his driver's license had expired. He was then warned not to proceed by himself. The officer had been helpful and delivered him to a payphone.

The bags and duct tape? Brent was embarrassed to say he had a case of body lice, and if I was to get into his van, where he had been living, I would need some protection. Weird to get pulled over in the outfit Brent and Julia created out of that black plastic. Spooky. Lice have no attainment. Lice have no non-attainment.

One day in May, Brent is in the bookstore where I work, and he asks me if he can borrow a couple of my silver rings with Tibetan mantras. Sure, seems kind of strange, but knowing Bret, I guess it's ok. Later in the day, I get a call from Sharon at her dress shop Wituthka, and she tells me Julia has been trying on white dresses, and she thinks they're planning to get married without telling anyone.

I confirm her suspicions by relating my story about Brent and the rings. Sharon no sooner hangs up than Ivy phones from Café Cuernavacca and says she has just seen Julia with flowers in her hair and Brent in tow, and that they are on their way to the courthouse. We all manage to make it in time for the wedding, but while I'm standing next to Ivy, something magical starts to grow between us. I can see that ancient sparkle in her eye.

for Ivy

to be and not to be
to be is not to be
flower of life
heart stream
only a spark to begin
now, only a sparkle left

Ivy invites me to dinner, and I stay for a year, eating, sleeping, loving, watching movies, meditating. That is, until a day comes, and I say I am too tired to make love, and she says she thinks she is pregnant and starts to freak. Up to this point, everything is blissful, and it seems that we have a special deal on all the love in the world, nothing down and 0% Apr financing.

As it turns out, she isn't pregnant, but she feels she needs her space and wants to go on a small vacation, alone. Magic word, alone. And, as I am getting ready to move into my friend Doug's house, this is very good timing, and we decide to part friends.

She has since found a guy who shares her life's goals and special diet, and they seem happy. I know I channel some surreal and darkly facetious shit when the mood is on me, that my pursuit of the Holy Grail complicates things. But, to tell the truth, I just couldn't make the balloon payment.

Flower of Life. An ancient symbol of sacred geometry, said to contain all the information that exists. The key to the Universe, it is made up of interlocking circles which reveal a series of forms called the vicis pices, or Eye of God.

When two circles of equal radii intersect one and other at their respective centers, there is an area of shared space that is equal to pi and denotes the relationship of the circumference to the diameter of a circle, which can in turn be represented by the transcendental number 3.14159, here to five places, a sequence that never repeats until infinity. If you study the teachings surrounding this symbol you will be lead from the Atlantians to the Anasazi, from the Pre-Socratics to the Manhattan Project.

Ivy introduced me to Aryuvedic medicine, raw foods, Agni Yoga, Babylonian musical modes, and Richard Running Deer. Richard Running Deer is in a class by himself.

for Richard Running Deer

our love of the land
is our comfort and strength
this the Ute people know
this the Buddha people know

the sangha is a circle
here is where we are from
awake to the scent of rabbitear sage

ears hear fire
eyes see light
all one taste

garden of fire
garden of stars
garden of air

I see Richard Running Deer in his pickup truck at Tara Mandala Retreat Center, delivering water in a large plastic container. On one of his runs, he stops me and says, "You, there, you are always working. I want you to come to a teaching." I said I considered my clearing brush to be a practice. I'd been asked before, but it I had decided I wanted to do karma yoga. He responded, "I'm a guest teacher, so I'm asking you again to come to a teaching."

Later, sitting and meditating, I asked myself, "What am I doing here? Am I here because I need to prove something to myself? Do I need affirmation that what I am doing is right? Where is my inner teacher?" I was a nest of questions.

I go to the fire circle and watch Richard Running Deer move his feather fan through the flames and speak to us from his heart. He tells one girl she has an important decision to make right away, and I know, from having talked to her earlier, that she has to make up her mind whether to stay in retreat or leave for Boulder to enroll in school.

He tells a new doctor in town that she will be known as the "smiling doctor" after she has establish herself in the community, and I've come to know and study with Pam. She's a delog, a person that has had the experience of dying and returning to life. Besides her medical practice, she councils on death and dying and is loved by everyone.

He nods toward me and says, "You are always standing back, watching. Are you a teacher?" I answered, no. "Don't be so quick to answer; you have more to offer than you know. You need to come to the front and be acknowledged, but you must learn to give yourself credit for who you are." He spoke thunder.

for Jimi Hendrix

a diamond guitar
spirals out of Sagittarius

a god in his constellation
digs the celestial choir

he moves East
to meet us in the West

Local artists created an "Altar Show" at the Many Hands Gallery. I got my idea for my shrine after listening to a crazy I met in the parking lot in front of my bookstore. He said his name was Ezekiel and that Jose Arguelles had it all wrong. The End of the World had nothing to do with the Mayan Calendar. That the end was coming in June. Going to blow the month of July away. He said he had a vision of a 3-D constellation in the shape of a guitar, a diamond guitar that spiraled out of Sagittarius, another out of Taurus made of galactic gold.

I thought of the connection to Jimi Hendrix because he was born under the sign of Sagittarius. Also, Johann Kepler, a 17th century astronomer, spoke about the music of the spheres, and I also thought of my friend Steve's CD, 448 Deathless Days, that has a choir on a tape loop which sings backwards.

for Steve

start with two marks
wispy world on the cusp of chaos
and in this corner
a hint of disclosure
about a continent in stasis

ambient poetry
elevator murmurings

Steve Fisk is a music sampler. This describes music that is collaged from taped bits of prerecorded music or sounds that are composed with studio equipment and then mixed into a final version.

Not to say Steve can't write music or play traditional musical instruments because he does have a degree in music from Central Washington University in Ellensburg. We met there, and we were both in the supporting cast of the infamous video The Fertillachrome Cheerleader Massacre, which featured three band members of The Screaming Trees -"Yes, Dr. Stimson, in the desert, you have to live like a snake or die."

Ask me, go ahead, "What is this poem about?" It's abstract, oblique, and cryptic. It's what I call a screen saver, and it came out of an idea I had at a reading at Many Hands Gallery where I asked the audience to look at the art on the walls rather than at the poet, while I read my poems standing in the center of the room. Kind of like listening to ambient music in a furniture store, while you try out a recliner.

for Priscilla

clouds are familiar sensations
only their positions are uncertain

a pink diver above square top
a dark hood caps little brother

a chorus line of kachinas kickstep
a bony dakini with a skullbowl
soft clouds become hard
quiet clouds become loud

lightning has struck her, so
she sings while she paints

Opening with the Uncertainty Principle and moving into an unfamiliar landscape. Square top and Little Brother are two prominent rock outcroppings east of Pagosa Springs. When the sun sets, their western faces are soaked in pink light. To the south, the mountains are known as Sangre de Christi, the blood of Christ.
There are striking similarities between Tibetan Buddhism and the religions of the Southwest Indians. Kachinas are small dolls used in Hopi religious ceremonies called Skypeople, and Dakinis are female energy forms, a word that means Skywalker.

Priscilla lives among the clouds in these mountains and paints the vistas. She camps with a minimum of gear, her paints and canvas, a gadget to filter water, a few clothes. She has broken off the handle of her toothbrush, to save space. She hikes and paints the panorama, and she sings as she paints. Lightening struck her.

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