Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Blueberries and crack

I spent the weekend leading a playshop in a wonderful octagonal meeting house amidst blueberry gardens in Ashton, Maryland. Of course, the berries were not on the bushes in mid-January. The absence of blueberries inspired me to recount an incident that took place in high summer on the other side of the continent, when the berries were ripe and full at Mosswood Hollow, the magical retreat center where I lead some of my longer adventures in Active Dreaming.
During our lunch break that August day, I ranged with delight from bush to bush, grazing on red huckleberries and fat juicy blackberries and salmonberries and wild raspberries, always coming back to the perfect blueberries. As I was picking and munching, a stranger's voice carried across the bushes. It was slow and sweet, dropping the syllables like honey from a pot. "I see you like the berries."

I had to stand on tiptoe and tilt my head to one side before I could see the speaker. I found a man with honey-colored hair and a soft honey-colored beard. His shirt was also the color of honey, and on it he wore the figure of a bear, hanging from a thong.

"I do like the berries, very much."

"Which ones have you had?"

I rattled off the list.

"Have you tried the salal berries?"

I had not yet tasted these, and was interested, because I had heard that salal was a staple for the first peoples of the Pacific Northwest and for early settlers.

The honey-colored man offered to show me where the salal berries were growing. He led me along a track beside the deep evergreen forest, and pointed out the purplish berries. I tried a couple and found the taste somewhat bland and woody. I turned to thank my guide and found he was gone. The moment before, he had been as near to me as my shadow. I looked between the red cedars, to see if he had gone into the woods. Surely he could not have gone more than a few paces. He had vanished out of the sunlit day as if he had never been there.

I went back to the house and described my guide to the owners of Mosswood Hollow. They disclained any knowledge of the man I had met on their land.

Reflecting on this, as I gobbled a few more blueberries, I remembered the native stories of animals that can appear as humans, and humans who turn into animals. If a bear wanted to show himself as a human, maybe it would be like this, as a honey-colored man with a great love of berries.

Near the end of our story-swapping last weekend, an Irishman with a dry sense of humor and a poet in his soul clapped me on the shoulder and said, "Great crack."

"Are you accusing me of being a drug dealer?"
"Not crack," he laughed. "C-R-A-I-C. It means you tell a fine story. Grand entertainment."

Craic Dealer. I see you can buy a T-shirt with that inscription in Irish pubs. I've been called worse. Craic addict is another T-shirt choice. Well, craic addiction can be no more dangerous than bibliophilia, and I'll be happy to supply the necessary even when that requires me to talk the stars out of the sky.


Justin Patrick Moore said...

Being addicted to Craic ain't so bad, me thinks.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful story! It wouldn't surprise me at all if you had a visit from a bear turned man...
Just this morning I fixed blueberry waffles - yum!

Irène said...

I love this story! It reminds me of one of my own.

I was in Canada, for a 5 day retreat to work in the Heart Space. At one point during the workshop a woman got up to tell us how when she facilitates her own workshops, she prepares, but does not fix the program because she is guided by the Arch Angel Michel who suggests to her throughout the workshop which activity would be most appropiate during every step. She then descibed in detail how Michel appears to her and what he looks like for her.

I had never told anyone about my inner experiences and was furious & lividly jealous for the woman described him exactly as I see him, including details that could not be a simple coincidence. She even repeated word for word advice he had given her which also corresponded to what he had often told me.

I felt so deeply hurt thinking that I was not as special as I had thought and so, in a fit of emotion, ran down to the lake, took off a turquoise ring that I wore at the time as a kind of "alliance" ring to Michel, and threw it violently into the water.

To my surprise the ring never hit the water for it landed in a small row boat that had just appeared from behind the lake side bushes to my left.

In the boat, there was a beautiful man who said, "This must be yours," while picking up my ring.

I said, "I don't want it anymore. You can have it."

And he looked at me kindly, held out his hand with the ring in it and said, "I think it's better if you keep it."

So I walked down to the lake, took the ring out of his hand while admiring the intense yet peaceful beauty of this man. He smiled & rowed off.

Later in the day, a friend I was with asked me, "So what happened earlier? You seemed so upset just before the (workshop) break?"

And so I told her everything.

She then said, "Irene, there couldn't have been a man rowing in the lake this time of year. The lake is completely frozen."

And so for the second time of that day I found myself running through the forest, down to the lake which I found completely frozen.

I never share these kinds of stories with others for fear that I'll be judged as insane. But I figure that if bears speak to Robert, desguising themselves as men, perhaps it's not so crazy to think that Michel took on human form to return my ring to me.

I will never really know who the man in the row boat was or if he was real or imagined, but I've always been grateful knowing that such wierd, unexplained things, happen.

And I'm happy to finally share this story.

Robert Moss said...

"Michael, row the boat ashore...." What a marvelous story, Irene. Thanks so much for bringing it to us. In the way of synchronicity, as I read your post I am in the midst of writing another story in which I am seated on a bench in front of a frozen lake, and am joined by a person for whom the water is not frozen at all.

Robert Moss said...

Justin - Yes, I think I'm in favor of craic addiction.

Margie - That sounds like a great breakfast for the Bear. Bear sightings are rarely reported in Florida, but you never know...