Sunday, March 25, 2018

Airport Bardo: Earth Mother Trumps the Trickster

I arrive at my local airport and check in for my trip to Oakland and a weekend adventure in Dreaming with Jung that I will lead at a charming location in Berkeley. All is calm and easy at the Southwest deck, in a morning lull. I clear security, get strong black coffee, and pluck a book from my carry-on library to do morning bibliomancy. The book is an old favorite: The Language of the Birds, a collection of texts and poems involving shamanic traditions and interspecies communication edited by David N. Guss. It is full of pencil notes and post-it stickers from my previous readings.
    The book falls open at a photo I had failed to examine closely before. It shows a disturbing masked figure from a "winter dance" of the Kwakiutl of the Pacific Northwest. From the caption I learn that the dancer in this outfit embodies a mythic figure called the Bringer of Confusions, who uses his wiles to ensure you get lost and can't get out of the deep woods.
    Not the best portent for the journey I am beginning. I tell myself that the image the book has given me relates to the chaos in the country and the Bringer of Confusions who is watching TV and swinging a golf club in Florida this weekend. However, as above, so below. It is soon clear that the Trickster is directly at play not only in the affairs of the collective, but in my personal situation today.
    We are lined up by the numbers to board the first Southwest flight to BWI when we are told to sit down while a possible mechanical issue is assessed. Mechanics are on their way. It may take five minutes or 30 for the problem to be fixed. Half an hour later, the mechanics have not arrived. We are told to stay in the departure area because the plane could be cleared for takeoff as soon as they come, and we'll be left behind if we are not in the boarding area.
    I hover near the Customer Service desk, ready to seek alternate flights if necessary to get to Oakland today. 
An odd-looking man walks past me carrying a heavy staff topped by a decorated skull, half the size of a human head. Hard for me to read this as a good sign.
    The mechanics arrive. We are told to wait where we are. An hour later
 we were told that the plane is definitively broken, has been pulled to pieces, and won't go anywhere today. They will provide a replacement plane but it won't take off until 6 1/2 hours after our scheduled departure.    It takes another half hour for  me to get to the head of the line at customer service to see whether there is any way to get to Oakland airport today. Nope, nada. How about another Bay Area airport? Nothing. The best they can do is put me on a Saturday flight arriving after the scheduled close of the first day of my workshop. How about other airlines? "We don't work with other airlines."    So I cancel and am told I can retrieve my checked luggage at the ticket counter downstairs. I stop at other airline desks on the way. "Can you do some magic and get me to Oakland today?" I ask a United lady. "I don't do magic well, " she demurs. However she tries. "IF only you had come an hour ago," she says, "we had one seat then." But an hour earlier Southwest had me captive upstairs. Same story with other airlines.    No seat available on any itinerary that will get me to the Bay Area today. Not even when i offer to pay for first class at staggering cost. I am willing to do this because i don't want to let down the 40 wonderful dreamers who have signed up for my weekend workshop in Berkeley. How am I going to explain to them that I have to cancel? I'm afraid I am starting to lose my sense of humor and this always a very dangerous situation.    At the Southwest ticket counter, a nice Earth Mother with Ireland in her face hears my story and goes to look for my bag. When she comes back with it, I try again, "I wish you could do some magic." "I'd love to do magic for you," she says.
    Another lady at a computer shakes her head. No seats. "Let me look." The lady who's ready to do magic takes over and finds a seat that wasn't there two minutes ago. So I am scheduled to get to Oakland at 11 pm, just six hours late, in good time to launch our adventure in Dreaming with Jung. Magic happens, especially when you are open to it and invite it, even when The Bringer of Confusions is in the field. And it seems that Earth Mother trumps the Trickster.
    However, Trickster is always in play. 
Coyote Man greets me at the door of my new plane several hours later. I recognize him at once. Tall, lean, hungry, sharp-nosed, keen-eyed with a scraggly red beard on his pointy chin and spikes of red hair standing up on his head. The flight attendant confirms my impression by laying jokes on us - some dreadful, some funny - for much of the flight. Southwest is notorious for cabin crew who play stand up comics, but this one is outrageous and incorrigible.    We get to Chicago Midway on time. Before I step off the plane in search of my connection, I say, "Thank you, Coyote Man,"
    He's intrigued. "Tell me about coyote."
    "Trickster, comic, sometimes too tricky for his own good."
    "I'll take that as a compliment."
    "Go study Coyote," I suggest and then add, "No wait. You embody him."
Safe landing at Oakland airport after 19 hours in airport/airline Bardo, arriving at midnight instead of 5 pm. Surrounded on my last flight by 113 young musicians in a school orchestra en route to play Fantasia at Disneyworld. The shapes of the luggage on the carousel in baggage claim were a wonder.

1 comment:

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