Friday, December 08, 2017

Chapter from "The Los Angeles Book of the Dead."



 
DOLORES 63rd MEMORIAL BIRTHDAY

A chapter from "Til Death Do Us Part?: How Death Taught Us Some of Life's Most Important Lesson," by Nyerges, available on Kindle, or from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com, for less than you usually give a tip at a local restaurant.   


I planned a gathering to commemorate what would have been Dolores’ 63 birthday.  It was for Saturday October 3, 2009, the day after her birthday.  The full moon was Saturday night – it was the “harvest moon.”  It may have seemed like a casual event, but a lot of planning and preparation went into our small gathering.
            Michael and I cleaned up the area around the two trees where we buried Dolores’ ashes earlier in the year, and we made sure that the many steps leading down into the Island orchard were safe and not slippery.  We set down strips of carpeting on the terraces so that guests would have a place to sit.  Plus, I’d noticed that a raccoon had been coming and digging around Dolores’ two Meyer lemon trees, so the layer of special rocks and quartz and handstones that I’d carefully placed under the trees was now tumbled and jumbled.  So I re-aligned these specially-placed stones as best I could.
            This is Dolores’ gravesite, I kept realizing.  This is where I go to commune with Dolores.  Though I often feel Dolores with me while walking, driving, or typing at home, the grave site is still that one unique spot where her final physical remains are buried, where “she” could overlook the burial site of our three beloved dogs, Ramah, Lulu, Cassius Clay.
            Our mentor Revve Weisz was also preparing a reading from Thinking and Destiny about the process that one goes through in the afterdeath states.  His editing of this passage took considerable work in the editing and retyping until we had a final draft.
            Finally, I did much research into corn and the mythology of corn in Native American traditions.  This was my way of continuing Dolores’ work, since Corn (and several related topics, like Bread, and Grass) was one of her ongoing research topics.  I began by finding all that I could on corn in her notes, and then following up with some of our books.
            On the Thursday before, I met with RW after I had spent the day at the farmers market in Glendale.  He told me that a major Occult Correspondence with the Dolores birthday commemoration and the tie-in to corn was that this year there would be a spectacular rising of the Harvest Moon shortly after the sunset.  The Harvest Moon was the full moon that occurred during that time of each year, which enabled farmers and Native Americans to harvest their corn (and wheat and other crops) nearly all night long because that moonlight was so bright.  Plus, after what was often a day of wiltingly-hot heat, it would be comfortable to spend the night outside. 

            I invited 50 friends to join us for the October 3 event, and by Friday – Dolores’ actual birthday – I felt pretty prepared for the gathering. 
The weather on Friday was remarkably cooler than it had been, with a cloud cover and light wind that made the day not only pleasant but mysterious.  I was working on the roof  that day with Robert Johnson, and we both commented on the remarkable weather.  Later, while speaking briefly with Revve Weisz, he told me that, yes, the “cloudy coolth” [his words] did in fact have something to do with The Lady Dolores.  I was overwhelmed to hear this, and found it difficult to hold back tears.  I very much felt the presence of Dolores, as if she was curiously observing the goings-on in her honor. 
Revve Weisz further told me that the unusual, remarkable weather was an honoration of the unique  kind of Real Love that “best friend Christopher” exhibited towards Dolores’ memory.  He further explained who or what that honoration was from, and though that is a topic unto itself, it had to do with the higher Spiritual Powers or Entities who “watch over” this earth.  Revve Weisz added that that LOVEPOWER which was exhibited and felt – he emphasized the word “felt” – by my “higher Self” had been broadcast worldwide since I’d arrived that day.  I felt overwhelmed, and felt good that I had been able to rise to this occasion.  But mostly, I still felt so much regret and sadness for all my past failures with Dolores, and all the things I should have done better.  So while I felt uplifted, I inwardly just went on with my needed preparation, knowing how much more I needed to do to get back to zero, in my own mind.
           
           Around 5 p.m., I got to the site of the commemoration and  was greeted by both Racina and Nicole, who’d arrived before me.  Nicole practiced her violin while I set out pictures and burned white sage.  Prudence arrived. Francisco Loaiza arrived.  Francisco never met Dolores but seemed to know her through her writings, and through me.  Helena arrived.  It made me happy to see Helena, since she, Dolores, and I were partners 15 years earlier producing maybe a half-million pencils for gift shops.  We had a good several-year run of the business and became close friends.
            We began with a toast.  We filled our cups, and as we touched them, I read the Shining Bear work called “Herbs and Meat,” which Dolores orated at the closing ceremony of the 1989 commemoration of the Trail of Tears in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  I pointed to a photo that I set up by Dolores’ tree.  It was Dolores reading “Herbs and Meat” in the Cherokee amphitheatre in Tahlequah.
            The sun was low and it was cool, and I felt an aliveness of the spirit of Dolores as we touched our cups in that act of communion.
            I then began the prepared Thinking and Destiny reading, which described each afterlife stage, and compared each lifetime to a day in our life, and compared the death stage to the sleep and dream stage each night.   After looking at some photos of Dolores, I told everyone how I intended to continue some of Dolores’ life’s work, such as the corn research I’d be sharing that day.
            We all then added some more quartz stones to Dolores’s grave site, and then we planted a little corn patch.  For this planting, Francisco Loaiza gifted an ear of blue corn that his father had raised for several generations.  I had soaked the corn in water for some time, and then we each made little holes in the patch with sticks and planted our corn.
            Prudence asked me if Dolores had ever worn long robes and beads.  In response, I read a paper Dolores had written about how she made and sold clothes when she lived in Hawaii. Prudence said that she “saw” The Lady Dolores there with us, adorned in what appeared to be blue and maybe tan long garments and beads – like braided with her hair and falling on either side of her face. It was as if the beads were part of her hair. It looked just right.
That made me happy that someone else “felt” and “saw” Dolores presence.  I couldn’t remember Dolores dressing like that though, except maybe when she did a SerpentDove reading on the Island and dressed the part like an older Native American woman.
            Everyone was quiet as Nicole played beautiful sounds on her violin.
           
            As it was getting dark, we all gathered up the hill around Dolores’ redwood table by lamps, and shared her favorite brand of pie, by Fabes, which had no processed sugar. It was a pumpkin pie, along with coffee-elixir, water, and fruit juice. 
            I shared some of the details about corn, and how the Hopi and others believed that humans were created way back in time from corn kernels.  Plus botanists do not know the exact origins of corn, adding to its mystery.
            Despina showed up and we read more from Thinking and Destiny.
At the same time, Racina and Nicole glanced at each other. Nicole looked at Racina and said, “You know Dolores is present right now?” Racina nodded knowingly. A very loving and sweet Dolores proceeded to give Nicole a beautiful “soul hug” and whispered very kind thoughts about her and Christopher right into her ear. Racina then looked at Nicole and said, “Oh my gosh! Dolores is here and she is making me smile!! I just can’t stop smiling….”  The next moment Dolores’ spirit lovingly moved around the table…a light and loving presence was shared by many of the guests.
And towards the end, even Mel showed up and joined in our conversation.  I also read some corn-related selections from the book by Dolores’ mother, Shiyowin Miller, entitled The Winds Erase Your Footprints, a true story of Shiyo’s friend, a white woman, who married a Navajo man and moved to the Navajo reservation during the 1930s.  The section I read pertained to the ma-itso, or wolf clan, which used corn pollen to “cast spells” in what was referred to as “Navajo witchcraft.” 
Here is what I read, from Chapter 7, The Sing:

   And then Shimah was telling him about the yellow pollen. Juanita could almost follow the story by her mother-in-law's excited gestures. Shimah's face was strong and tense, no room for gentleness, and her voice carried a new undertone--like fear. Only her hands seemed natural, although excited, as she gestured. Strange that Shimah should tell about the yellow pollen, rather than ask the rider about himself, about news which he was surely carrying. Of what interest could the yellow pollen be to him?
   But he was interested. He leaned forward as though better to hear her words; his eyes narrowed and his face looked very grave. He asked many questions. Shimah answered and sometimes Yee-ke-nes-bah. Through their conversation one word seemed to repeat itself until it began to echo and re-echo in Juanita's mind: ma-itso . . . ma-itso.
   ...And then Lorencito began to talk seriously to Luciano; Juanita heard the work ma-itso repeated again and again. Shimah sat nodding her head as her oldest son talked, occasionally adding a word to what he was saying. Luciano turned to Juanita; his face was marked with gravity as was his older brother's. "Lorencito says that it is not safe to keep this from you any longer; I should tell you now."
    Juanita waited. Her mouth and throat felt suddenly dry. She could not have spoken. Her thoughts raced: this is in some way connected, ma-itso and yellow pollen. Perhaps it's all connected, all of the puzzling and unexplained things that have happened. And somehow, the looks on their faces, Shimah's and Lu's, Yee-ke-nes-bah's and Lorencito's, are a little bit frightening.
    "Before we came here," her husband began, "when I tried to tell you about everything which might seem strange to you, I didn't tell you about ma-itso--the wolf clan. One reason, it no longer seemed as believable to me as it once had; perhaps all the years in school did that; anyhow, in Hollywood I seldom thought of it. When we came here, my mother told me the wolf clan was still strong in CaƱoncito. I didn't tell you then because I could see no reason why they would try to harm us. But to be sure you were safe, my mother and sisters watched you every minute.
    "There were times when I almost told you, those times when you were upset about things you didn't understand. And yet I hated to frighten you needlessly. Already there was so much for you to worry about. It seemed better to wait until I had a job, until we were living in town and then tell you. "But now two things have happened which make me sure the ma-itso is for some reason after us. I found yellow pollen in an X mark on my hat brim, and today my mother found pollen on our clothes. That is their warning. Lorencito thinks you will be safer if you know about this evil thing."    A hundred questions sprang to Juanita's lips, but her husband went on talking, interrupted now and then by Lorencito or his mother.
    "The wolf clan is as old as the Navajo tribe. From the beginning some men turned certain powers, which should have been used for good, toward evil things. Corn pollen, used for blessing, is used by the ma-itso as a warning to a person marked for death. And death does not come in a usual manner; it comes in a round-about way which cannot be easily traced. The victim sickens suddenly; sometimes his mind leaves him. No Medicine Man can cure him. Sometimes the victim meets with a mysterious and fatal accident.       

It was dark outside as I was reading this, all of us seated around Dolores redwood table, with a single electric light for illumination.  Everyone listened intently to the story. 
            Prudence said that while I was reading this, she could “see” Dolores shielding her face with her arm, as if protecting herself from this dangerous information.  I shared it to point out that all things have a “positive” and a “negative,” and the passage from The Winds Erase Your Footprints described how corn pollen was used for evil purposes.
            It was a wonderful gathering to commemorate the special being of Dolores, and to recognize how she affected each of us.
            When Prudence, and I, and Revve Weisz further discussed the event the following day, we recognized the positive influence that Dolores was now playing in our lives.

            RW pointed out something that both stunned me and made me feel uplifted.  He said that there was something I should HOLD in my forethought.  It was my (The Christopher’s) miraculously Loving interaction with Dolores (The Lady Dolores, as he referred to her Doer, her Divinity) that totally altered The Lady Dolores’ Doer.

We discussed that for a bit.  It was obvious that my interaction with Dolores during her last days changed me, but I had not considered how I had changed her.  Prudence and I both witnessed an incredible new being arise within Dolores in those last weeks. 
RW added that this radical alteration of The Lady Dolores’ Doer will never be known by anyone else, because I (The Christopher) did it all alone, at a huge personal sacrifice, only to benefit The Lady Dolores and not at all “for show” to anyone else.  I cried as I re-lived and re-membered those days.

It was late Sunday, and we were ready to depart.  RW then shared what was a final “farewell” message from The Lady Dolores, something that Dolores conveyed psychically to him. It was her URGING for how all of us should begin interacting with each other.  But it was also such  a universal message that is needed by all people, that I share it here:

FARE WELL SONG TOO-SELDOM SUNG


This could be the last time that I see you;
either you or I could die before we meet again;
so please know that I deep-admire your admirable traits
and laud your ceaseless efforts to perfect your soul
and elevate your character (and that of everyone you interact with).
I hope we interact again (in this life or the next);
but if we don’t
I want that you should know
my heart has been enriched by having had you in my life
and hereby do I wish you Godspeed
in your up-and-onward sojourn through Eternity.
           

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Weinstein Saga



THE HARVEY WEINSTEIN SAGA

[Nyerges is a teacher, and author of such books at “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Til Death Do Us Part?”, “Extreme Simplicity: Homesteading in the City,” and others. He can be reached at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com, or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041]

The Harvey Weinstein saga was the opening salvo in what can be described as the latest Pandora’s Box to be opened for public viewing.  Why now? Who knows? The timing was right, apparently, and the pendulum has swung – in a good direction.

I’ve had many discussions in the past month as revelation after revelation has come forth, almost at a dizzying speed. The nature of this particular Pandora’s Box is unique, and it has ignited deep-felt discussions by both men and women.  I’ve had discussions with just men, just women, and with mixed groups.  I’d like to share some of my observations.

First, by whatever divine timing occurs to allow such nasties to be revealed, it is clear that women have had enough!  Women everywhere know how they have been treated for so long, almost automatically, and they want it to end. After all, let’s face it -- the world is largely run by men, and many of them haven’t gotten used to the idea of a woman in the work place which is his equal, and should be respected as such.  Or, the men who have been running things for so long have come to expect – even demand – certain perks from the women who are part of their solar system. 

Once, many years ago while having lunch with my mentor at the time, he noted that I glanced over at a very attractive woman in the next booth over. My mentor said nothing at first. Then, in a short while, he said, “Most men have no clue how hard it is to be a beautiful and attractive woman.”  He did not specify the woman that I  had glanced at, but let’s just say that she had all the assets that a man seems to not be able to not stare at.   “Imagine if you  were such a woman,” he continued.  “All day long, men would whistle at you, yell at you, taunt you, and they would interpret your every move as a flirt or an invitation to them.”   Honestly, I’d never quite thought about it that way before. I’d figured, as a male, that it would be quite awesome to be the most attractive woman in the room where every guy wanted to… well, you know.

My mentor continued.  “The curse of being highly attractive is that it is nearly impossible for most men to see beyond your body, and get to know the person inside.” I had to admit that was true. Sad, but true. 

In our recent Weinstein-related discussions, most of the women were a bit surprised when I declared that nearly all men are natural predators, and that they have to work hard to overcome their animal nature. Women are not that way, and so they are too often surprised when a man’s animal nature strikes.  That’s no excuse for the man, of course – it’s just a fact.

I found it interesting that not a single man challenged my assertion that nearly all men are predators.  Why? Because they are men!  They know what it is like to be inside a man’s body. 

I was asked if I thought any of these women were lying with their sexual allegations.  I said no, I didn’t think so.  I mean, maybe there are one or two exaggerations, but I didn’t see any reason for deceit in this matter.  One man asked me, “Well, don’t you think it’s odd that some of them waited 30 years to speak up?”  No, I didn’t find that unusual at all. After all, if you lived in an environment where you had to prove something happened, you would end up in the so-called he-said-she-said situation, where it could not be decided by a court who was lying or telling the truth. So why would any woman under such difficult situations bother to again put herself through the wringer of the courts?  I believe most of the women.  The timing was right and they are speaking up, saying, I didn’t like what you did to me. I did not consent. What you did was wrong.

And men should really sit up and listen.  A woman does not like a man to push himself on her. A woman who rejects a man (for whatever reason) is not playing “hard to get.”  Guys, get over it. If the woman does not care for you, keep  your hands to yourself and move along smartly. The world is a very big place.  Remember, it is always the woman who chooses in a relationship.  Get that into your head.

The Weinstein saga has brought up a lot of touchy issues, some of which will probably not be resolved any time soon.  For example, there are some who want to revisit some of Bill Clinton’s sexual allegations. But, they aren’t interested in Bill's extramarital affairs – something that occurred between two consenting adults and therefore only their own business – but only in cases where Clinton forced himself on a woman, and used his power to influence her to do something she did not want to do.

As since the beginning of time, men like women, women like men, and we all need each other, as friends, partners, and associates.  Learn to give the respect that you want and expect others to give of you.

These are some of the things that my friends and I discussed.  I think it’s good that the cat came out of the bag, and I hope that we might see positive changes in the male-female relationships of our society as a result.

On Relationships...



ON THE NATURE OF RELATIONSHIPS
Your “friends” should never tell you who you can associate with



Human relationships are forever fascinating.  I’ve long been interested in the interplay between two partners, and what can be called the “chemistry” between them.  What, for example, really brings two people together?  Is it common interests, or different interests?  What makes the relationship tick, and what tears it apart? 

I have concluded that each human relationship is very much like a chemistry experiment, whereby different chemical-soup mixtures combine or don’t combine with any of the other chemical-soup mixtures that we call the dynamic human.  One day I hope to publish a book on relationships and perhaps I’ll be bold enough to make some meaningful comments and suggestions.

For today, I want to explore one issue that I have experienced all my life in various relationships, though it tends to pop up the most in business relationships.

Someone will say, “If you do business with that person, you cannot do business with me!”  I have had it said to me, and my knee jerk reaction is nearly always, “OK, then I will not do business with you. I do business with whom I choose, and if you have a problem with X, that is your problem alone.” 

I can recall as a child in grammar school when one of the popular boys told me the same thing.  “You cannot be my friend if you are going to pal around with so-and-so.”  Really? I was usually too frightened as a child to openly challenge such a statement, and I would maintain my friendship with the outcast anyway.  I  learned – in time - that the bossy boy was very insecure and he wasn’t really my friend anyway, not in the ways that mattered. 

And as I continued to “pal around” with the new kid in school, who I was told to not associate with, I found someone who was different, unique, and who became a lifelong friend.  It is perhaps because I often felt like an outcast myself growing up that I have found myself attracted to the so-called oddballs and misfits of the world, most of whom are far more fascinating and interesting than the so-called normal people.

More recently, where I conduct a regular outdoor public event, some of the local residents would hang out at my booth where I conducted the administrative aspects of the event. My assistant told me privately that I should not allow one particular person to stay around my booth.  The young man in question lived locally, and was known to be affiliated with a notorious L.A. gang.  Some people felt intimidated by this man’s presence. 

However, it has never been my policy to expel or repel anyone based on such things; as long as his behaviour in my presence was appropriate, I had no reason to repel him. I gradually got to know this man.  He needed income, and so little by little I put him to work doing various small tasks at the weekly outdoor event, much to the dismay of my assistant.  Plus, this was a public space, not private property, so I did my best to make this a good situation for everyone.  Through my comments and suggestions, this young man gradually was able to refine his communication skills when talking with my customers, and even began to dress a little better when he came to our market.  From my perspective, I may have been one of the few people who interacted with him in a positive way, even encouraging him to get more work, and where to find it. I never looked down my nose at him, so to speak.

To my surprise, there were a few times when other individuals harshly criticized me or our market, and this young man strongly  and eloquently defended me.  I was shocked because I didn’t expect it, and it was not necessary, and yet, nothing more needed to be said or done.  I chose to view it as “what goes around, comes around,” as this young man felt so much a part of our market that he would stand up to defend us.

This is just one small example where something positive flowed from a situation that others viewed as negative.

Yes, like everyone, I like to surround myself with good friends. And yet, I have never forgotten the insightful words of Moshe Dayan, who said “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer.”


Friday, November 24, 2017

More on Thanksgiving



MORE ON THANKSGIVING (but no more until next year, I promise!)


[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Foraging California,” “Enter the Forest” and other books.  He leads courses in the native uses of plants.  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance..com]

I met a man who began to discuss with me my Thanksgiving column, about the historical origins of Thanksgiving, and what happened, and what didn’t happen.

“I was a little puzzled after I read it,” Burt told me.  “I wanted to know more.  I understand that the first historical Thanksgiving may have not happened the way we are told as children,” he told me, “but how did we get to where we are today?  What I understood from your column was that there are historical roots, and that we today remember those roots and try to be very thankful, but the connection was unclear.”  Burt and I then had a very long conversation.

A newspaper column is typically not long enough to provide the “big picture” of  the entire foundation of such a commemoration, as well as all the twists and turns that have occurred along the way. But here is the condensed version of what I told my new friend Burt.

First, try reading any of the many books that are available that describe the first so-called “first Thanksgiving” at the Plymouth colony that at least attempts to also show the Indigenous perspective.  You will quickly see that this was not simply the European pilgrims and the native people sitting down to a great meal and giving thanks to their respective Gods, though that probably did occur.  In fact, the indigenous peoples and the newcomers had thanksgiving days on a pretty regular basis.

As you take the time to explore the motives of the many key players of our so-called “first Thanksgiving,” in the context of that time, you will see that though the Europeans were now increasingly flowing into the eastern seaboard, their long-term presence had not been allowed – until this point. Massasoit was the political-military leader of the Wampanoag confederation, which was the stronger native group in the area.  However, after disease had wiped out many of the native people, Massasoit was worried about the neighboring long-time enemies – the Narragansett -- to the west. The gathering of the European leaders of the Plimouth Colony and Massasoit and entourage had been more-or-less brokered by Tisquantum (aka Squanto) who spoke English. 

Yes, there had been much interaction between the new colonists and native people for some time, and this gathering of 3 days in 1621 was intended to seal the deal between the colonists aligning with Massasoit.  The exact date is unknown, but it was sometime between September 21 and November 9.

Yes, historians say that a grand meal followed, including mostly meat.  The colony remained and there was relative peace for the next 10 to 50 years, depending on which historians were correct in their reading of the meager notes.  The historical record indicates that the new colonists learned how to hunt, forage, practice medicince, make canoes and moccasins, and much more, from the indigenous people. Even Tisquantum taught the colonists how to farm using fish scraps, ironically, a bit of farming detail he picked up during his few years in Europe.

Politicians and religious leaders continued to practice the giving of thanks, in their churches and in their communities, and that is a good thing. They would hearken back to what gradually became known as the “first Thanksgiving” in order to give thanks for all the bounty they found and created in this new world, always giving thanks to God!  But clearly, the indigenous people would have a very different view of the consequences of this 1621 pact, which gradually and inevitably meant the loss of their lands and further decimation of their peoples from disease.  Of course, there was not yet a “United States of America,” and it was with a bit of nostalgia and selective memory that we refer to this semi-obscure gathering of two peoples as some sort of foundational event in the development of the United States. And it is understandable from the perspective of a national mythology that the native people were forgotten and the “gifts from God” remembered. 

My new friend Burt was nodding his head, beginning to see that there was much under the surface of this holiday. I recommended that he read such books as “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Mann,  “Native American History: Idiot’s Guide” by Fleming, and others.

As I still believe, giving thanks is a good thing – good for the soul and good for the society.  Just be sure to always give thanks where it is due!

Eventually, in the centuries that followed, Thanksgiving was celebrated on various days in various places.  George Washington declared it an official Thanksgiving in 1789.  However, the day did not become standardized as the final Thursday each November until 1863 with a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.

The gross commercialization of Thanksgiving is a somewhat recent manifestation of the way in which we have tried to extract money from just about anything.  One way to break that cycle is to just choose to do something different.

When I used to visit my parents’ home for annual Thanksgiving gatherings, I disliked the loud arguing and banter, the loud TV in the background, and the way everyone (including me) ate so much that we had stomach aches!  I felt that Thanksgiving should be about something more than all that.  I changed that by simply no longer attending, and then visiting my parents the following day with a quiet meal.  It took my parents a few years to get used to my changes, but eventually they did.

This year, before the actual Thanksgiving day, I enjoyed a home-made meal with neighbors and friends. Before we sat down to eat, everyone stated the things they are thankful-for before the meal. Nearly everyone cited “friends and family,” among other things.  It was quiet, intimate, and the way that I have long felt this day should be observed.  Yes, like most holidays we have a whole host of diverse symbols, and Thanksgiving is no different.  And like most modern holidays, their real meanings are now nearly-hopelessly  obscured by the massive commercialism.  Nevertheless, despite the tide that is against us, we can always choose to do something different.   

Holidays are our holy days where we ought to take the time to reflect upon the deeper meanings.  By so doing, we are not necessarily “saving” the holiday, but we are saving ourselves.  As we work to discover the original history and meanings of each holiday, we wake up our minds and discover a neglected world hidden in plain sight.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thankgiving Day Commentary



THANKSGIVING DAY:  It’s Roots, and other Commentary

[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Foraging California,” “Enter the Forest” and other books.  He leads courses in the native uses of plants.  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance..com]


Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of the year.  Even moreso than Christmas.  It is our uniquely American holiday where the family gathers, where we remember our roots, we share a meal, and we hopefully “give thanks.” 

But look how quickly such simple and profound holidays get perverted. Today, we hardly know what “giving thanks” even means, and so the act of giving thanks is lost on most of us.  Newscasters talk about “turkey day,” as if all there was to the day was eating turkey.  Interestingly, most folks would not know whether or not they were eating turkey, or eating crow, and most of the time we’re doing the latter, figuratively speaking.  Then, when we have barely taken the time to consider the notion of “giving thanks,” we get up early on the following “black Friday” to rush around with the mobs “looking for a good deal”  to help us celebrate the consumer-driven commercial craze into which we’ve morphed “Christmas.”

Wow! How did we get here?  What can we do about it?  Let’s take a moment to look at the roots of Thanksgiving.

In the history of North America, we are told that the first historic Thanksgiving Day was in October of 1621.  After a successful harvest that year at the Plymouth colony, there was about a week or so of celebrations.  The local Indians and the colonists joined together, with the Indians generally showing the colonists (mostly city folks) how to hunt for the meal which consisted of fowl, deer, duck, goose, and fish.  Corn bread, wild greens, plums, leeks, and many other vegetables (wild and domestic) were shared in this celebration.  Interestingly, there is no recorded evidence that wild turkey or wild cranberries  were part of the menu. And we tell and re-tell this particular American story as if it is all about food!

In fact, some (but not all) historians question whether or not there were any religious overtones at all on this “first Thanksgiving,” citing such evidence as the archery and firearms games, and the running and jumping competitions, which they say would never be done at religious ceremonies by the Puritans. The “competition” was more likely the men on each side doing their shows of bravado with weapons and physical feats  before sitting down to eat.

What then is it, if anything, that sets the American (and the Canadian) Thanksgiving celebration apart from any of the other myriad of Harvest Festivals?

Not widely known is that this “first thanksgiving” feast had mostly political overtones, which seem to have largely backfired.  Tisquantum (“Squanto”) was the interpreter for Massasoit, who was the political-military leader of the local Wampanoag tribe.  Massasoit was worried that his weakened tribe would be taken-advantage of by the stronger Narragansett, because his own group had been so reduced from disease.  Massasoit would permit the European newcomers to stay as long as they liked, as long as they aligned with Massasoit against the Narraganset. (Read all about it in your history books). Tisquantum spoke English because he’d been to England and back, and had his own plan to re-establish his home-town village near what became the Plimouth colony. 

Though Tisquantum successfully helped Massasoit broker a pact with the newcomers from across the ocean, Tisquantum died about a year later.  The truce that Massasoit hoped to cement lasted perhaps another 50 years until there were too many Europeans flooding into Massachusetts and all of what was to become the eastern United States. 

Despite the varied history of this day, Americans have chosen to see this as day set aside so that we do not lose sight of our spiritual blessings.

But we should  not confuse “giving thanks” with “eating a lot of really good food.”   “Giving Thanks” is an enlightened attitude which accompanies specific actions.  Perhaps sharing our bounty with the needy would be a better Thanksgiving activity than eating large volumes of food.  More to the point, perhaps we should use Thanksgiving to give thanks where it is due -- to the indigenous peoples who have become the “forgotten minorities.”  Rather than “eat a lot,” perhaps we could send blankets, food, or money to any of the American Indian families or nations who today live in Third World conditions.

To me, the essence of Thanksgiving was the coming together of two cultures, trying to work together under trying circumstances.  Yes, they shared a meal.  Food sustains us.  But it was not about food, per se.  They practiced with their bows and guns, a sign of mutual preparedness. And in their own ways, they “prayed to God,” in the ways that were appropriate to each culture. 
 
But we really should not forget our national roots.  Don’t just give lip-service thanks to the Native Americans whose land was taken.  Rather, find those organizations that are actually providing real assistance to Native Americans in poverty, such as many of those living in the third world conditions so prevalent on today’s reservations.  (IF you have trouble locating such organizations, contact me and I will make some suggestions).

Thursday, November 09, 2017

ANCIENT WRITING ON ROCK

a view of the first inscribed rock found -- see transliteration below



 [Nyerges is the former editor of  Wilderness Way magazine and American Survival Guide. He is  the author of How to Survive Anywhere, Enter the Forest, and other books. He has led wilderness trips into the Angeles National Forest for over 40 years.  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]

[An extract from Nyerges’ Kindle book “Ancient Writing on Rock,” also available from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com, which goes into much more detail about the site and various opinions about it.]

On Halloween day in 2001, I was leading a birthday outing for a 10 year old boy and his friends at the 3000 foot level of the Angeles National Forest.  We were getting late, so I led them down into the stream so we could make soap from the yucca leaves. It was a spot where I would never ordinarily go.  As the boys and I made our yucca soap, my gaze was drawn to the back side of a large, 10 foot wide boulder with unusual markings on it.  There were two large horizontal cleavages and numerous markings across the cleavage that bore an uncanny resemblance to ogam. 

I pointed it out to every one and explained ogam to the adults, who seemed underwhelmed at what such a rock might mean.

I returned a week later with Dude McLean to take photographs and sketches.  McLean had also been there when I first noted the rock.  After carefully comparing my sketches with the ogam alphabet, I was amazed to see that all the marks were consistent with ogam.  So I then sent photos and sketches to perhaps 50 “experts” in ogam, linguistics, archaelogy, and other fields and eagerly awaited their response about my exciting discovery.

Ogam is not to be confused with the more ornate runic writing. Ogam employs straight lines across what is called a stem line. The stem line can be a natural horizontal fracture in a rock, or the corner of a standing stone.  The 15 consonants are expressed by from one to five lines above the stem line, one to five lines below the stem line, or one to five lines across the stem lines. The vowels, where present, can be a series of dots or other symbols.  It is certainly possible to see natural fractures in rock and think you are looking at ogam, especially if you have not studied rock sufficiently to see the difference between what nature does and what man does.

Gloria Farley, author of “In Plain Sight,”  responded, saying it certainly looked like ogam, but that she had no idea what it might say since she had all her discoveries translated by Barry Fell, who had passed away.  One expert from England responded, saying that since the rock inscription was in California, there was no chance that it was bonafide ogam.  Another told me that it was clearly a significant find, but he felt it was more likely some sort of tally system, not ogam.  But most of the various world experts ignored me.

So I laid out what I felt was a fairly reasonable scientific method for ascertaining if the inscription I found was, or was not, of some significance.
1.      Were the markings consistent with the ogam alphabet.  If so, I would proceed to the other steps.
2.      Did the ogam letters actually spell anything.
3.      Could the inscription could actually be dated.
4.      Was  there was anything else significant about the site.
5.      The final step – if I got that far – was to determine who may have actually inscribed the rock, and under what circumstances. I also reasoned that if I got this far, others could jump in and attempt to answer this question.

Since all the markings were consistent with the ogam characters, I then proceeded to determine the actual sequence of letters.  It took me approximately 6 visits in different lighting conditions until I arrived at what I felt was the correct letter sequence.  I attempted to confirm my deductions by carefully feeling the indentations in the rock. 

Next, with my sequence of letters, I tried to determine if it spelled anything.  Ogam was used primarily to express Gaelic, but had also been used in some known instances to represent both Saharan and Basque.  I needed experts or dictionaries. 

One night, while staring at my photos of the rock and the letter sequence, the two letters MC jumped out at me, and I realized that the rock inscription was most likely written in the most common language of usage for ogam, Gaelic.  MC is a very common abbreviation for “son of,” as in McDonald, MacAllister, et al.

I obtained a copy of  Dwelley’s “Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary” (copyright 1902-12) and one rainy day about two months after finding the rock, I spent about five hours going through Dwelley’s page by page, looking for letter combinations that might mean something. All the letters I had to work with were consonants. There were no vowells, suggestive of an older or earlier linguistic form, akin to several of the Middle Eastern alphabets written without vowels.

Based on the manner in which the markings were made on the rock, I broke the letter sequence into the following groupings: B- MMH- BL- ?MG-MC-MM-DH-B.   I then tried to find words for which those letter groupings would represent.  Part of this search was to see what was commonly written on other such stones.

After a few months, I came up with the following possible transliteration:  To-memory-Bel- Thy Young Hero- Son of – Mother – Deep/depth/ darken- stone. “Bel” was actually written above the main line of the inscription.  So my translation reads: To Bel, in the memory of the young hero, son of the mother (prince?), laid to rest with this stone.”  I found at least one stone in which scholars translated “DH” as “laid to rest.” Thus, I had achieved Step Two in my process, and proceeded to the next Step.


Two different geologists, one a PhD, told me that such inscriptions could not be definitely dated.  The PhD said that based on his educated guess, the inscription was made between 1500 and 2500 years ago, and he’d say it was 95% certain that it was made by man, not natural forces.

I proceeded to Step Four with various informal surveys of the surrounding area. First, IF the rock inscription was formed by natural forces, it would be logical that there would  be many or more such carvings in the  vicinity.   Within a quarter mile of the stone, I found one possible standing stone, one triangular pointing stone (pointed up a side canyon), and a nearby site that had all the appearances of being an ancient graveyard based on the placement of stones – though I did no digging.  A few years after the initial discovery I found another rock near the standing stone with an ogam inscription of B-EA-N-EA, which I eventually concluded must be in reference to Byanu. In time, other features were identified at this site, such as two dolmens, acorn leaching rocks, and other enigmatic features.


Thus, amazingly, everything suggested that this was a foreign inscription, probably someone from Western Europe who came up the canyon and died, or was killed. I shared  my work with my friend who was the editor of the local paper, and he sent a reporter to write a story about it.  The ensuing newspaper story accurately represented my work on the rock and inscription, and also included interviews with others who said I was making fanciful claims, though none of them had ever gone to see the site.

Though the final chapter of this rock has not been written, it has enforced the belief that our history is not as we’ve been taught in school. Indeed, the schools are often the official gurgitators of  the best that academia has been able to collectively come up with.  They get a lot of it right, but they fail to see their own blindnesses and prejudices. 

My rewards for taking all this time on this multi-faceted research:  I have been called a fraud numerous times.  I have been listed on a college web-site as an example of “fringe archaeology” and explained away as a fraud. 

On the other hand, I was made a life member in the Epigraphic Society.  According to Wayne Kenaston, Jr., who bestowed that membership upon me, “Welcome to the frustrations that come with dealing with rock –writing, or epigraphy.  You did a very good and scholarly job of deciphering, transliterating, and translating the Angeles Forest Mystery Rock inscriptions.  I congratulate you and encourage you to pursue your efforts to learn more about the provenance of the ‘young hero’ whose grave is probably marked by the inscription.” 
               

Monday, November 06, 2017

Eating Corn from my own "Field of Dreams"


An excerpt from Christopher’s “Squatter in Los Angeles” book, available from Kindle, or from the Store at www.SchoolofSelf-Reliance.com.

[circa 1978]
I think I was just a natural dreamer and I believed that I could magically earn a very sufficient income by freelance writing and teaching, so this period of squatting gave me the luxuries to choose my life’s activities.

I continued to write newspaper columns, though I never earned much from them. I  began to work more actively on my first book about the uses of local wild plants. I continued to engage in metaphysical studies, and gardening, and conducting occasional wild food outings.

My garden never seemed highly productive but  I had a few of the tall red amaranth plants, some squash, a corn patch, some greens, and wild foods. It was probably my first successful corn patch. I didn’t plant the rows of corn that you see so often in gardens and on farms. Rather, in my approximately 10 by 20 foot corn patch, I had corn more of less evenly spaced.  I had wanted to try the so-called Three Sisters of the native Southwest, of corn, beans, and squash.

In the arid soil of the Southwest, the corn was planted first, and once it  arose, beans were planted at the base of the each corn. The beans’ roots fix nitrogen and this acts as a fertilizer to the corn. Squash was then planted as a sprawling ground cover to retain the valuable scant moisture of the desert.

I planted my corn in my wood chip patch, three seeds per hole about two feet apart.  Corn came up, and then I planted bean seeds.  Beans are usually an easy crop to grow, but not that many came up. Who knows, maybe the ducks ate them. I planted squash too. Not a desert squash but ordinary zucchini which did a good job as a ground cover and food producer. I loved the little garden, and at night when I sat at my plywood desk with my typewriter, I’d look out my window through the several feet tall corn patch to see the lights of the city below.  During the day, little birds would flock to the corn patch and eat bugs. I enjoyed the fact that this little garden that I created with my simple efforts was now teeming with wildlife.  It felt good just to look at it. It provided food for my body, food for wildlife, and food for my soul.

Not long after I started this patch – it was near Thanksgiving – David Ashley came by for a visit.  David had already moved into the neighborhood from wherever else he’d been living. He came up to the top of the hill where I was an illegal squatter. My housing status didn’t cause David to lower his regard for me.

I took David out into my garden, and we stood there talking about life. I pulled off a ripe ear of corn and handed it to him and picked one for myself.

“What’s this?” asked David.

“To eat,” I responded as I began to peel off the leaves and hairs on my average size ear of corn.  He took a bite of the sweet kernels.

“I didn’t know you could eat corn raw,” said David in a surprised voice.

“Yep, you can,” I told him as I chewed on my sweet cob.  David began to peel his and take some bites.

“Wow, that’s really good!” said David, chewing on more kernels. We stood there for a few moments, eating our corn, looking at the outside world through the stalks of corn that were taller than us. It was a quiet, special moment.

Eventually, David left, and over the ensuing months, I would occasionally hear David telling someone about his surreal experience eating raw corn in Christopher’s little corn patch, our own little “field of dreams.”


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Hallowe'en: Should it be about Fun and Fear? A Mayan Perspective...






MiguelAngel Vergara speaks about the Mayan culture in Guatemala
 

[Nyerges is the author of numerous books, including “How To Survive Anywhere,” "Til Death Do Us Part," "Self-Sufficient Home," etc.   He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]

I have often wondered how the commemoration of All Hallows Eve, or Hallowe’en, has devolved into a day of choosing to face our fears in a fun way, and to eat a lot of candy.  It is what I did as a child, dressing up in a costume, screaming, pretending to be frightened, and collecting lots of candy.  Yes, it was fun, but it was also somewhat unfulfilling. As I grew older, I wanted to know what it was all about, and why we all went through the motions of the day, year after year.

When this time of year was commemorated by past cultures, it was believed to be a time when the dead are very close, and perhaps could be contacted.  It was a day to confront our fears and conquer them, and a time to acknowledge our dearly beloveds who have passed away.

When we speak of conquering our fears, it is worthy to note that the root of the word “conquer” is “with” and “query,” meaning that “to conquer” is not so much about vanquishing an enemy, as it is about seeking knowledge, with others, about those things which trouble us, of which we know little.

In that sense, part of conquering our fears means that we should not pretend we have no fears, and avoid the subject, but we should face them directly, and seek the root of the fear.

When I was in Guatemala a few years ago, one of our teachers was a man who operated a jade store and Mayan museum.  He talked to us about the creation myth from the Popul Vuh, and then began to speak about the Long Count of the Mayan calendar.

“But it seems like a lot of people really want the world to end!” he said, as we all laughed.  He went on to explain – as my group heard over and over – that there are no predictions from the Mayans about the “end of the world” or doom and gloom, referring to the infamous 2012 date that so many were frightened about.  Some poor journalists must have thought they heard “end of the world” when it was only “the end of one calendar cycle.”

“Yes, anything could happen,” he continues, “but it’s good to stick to facts.  The Maya don’t say anything about the end of the world. In fact, they have dates listed for several thousand years from now.  If they thought the world was coming to an end, why did they use those dates?”

Our main teacher, my mentor, Miguel Angel Vergara, spoke after the laughter died down. 

Vergara asked us to list our fears – in general, and about the 2012 date – as we wrote them on the board.  It was a very predictable list.
THE UNKNOW.
DEATH.
SUFFERING/PAIN.
FAMILY.
LOSING THINGS.

Vergara then addressed these “fears” one by one. 

Yes, the unknown is a mystery, he told us.  He paused, and then emphasized to us that the past is the past, and is over.  The future is the unknown.  It is only the present that is our real gift.  There fore, we need to simply focus on the present, and not let our minds run away in the past or the future.

Death. Yes, we will all die.  We will.  And so?  Accept it, and then live your life fully.

Suffering and pain.  Again, Vergara said, yes, life is full of suffering and pain. That’s life. It has nothing to do with 2012. 

Concern for our families.  Vergara smiled and said, “They will survive without us.”  He acknowledged that everyone is concerned about their families and this is natural.  But we need not have an imbalanced worry about whether or not someone else might or might not survive a situation.  Just carry on with living your life.

Lastly, he addressed the notion of  losing things.  We will lose things, he said.  That’s life. Whether in catastrophe or in ordinary life, we lose things.  And when we die, we don’t take physical things with us!

Vergara paused and said loudly, “Think!  You all of us have ALL that you need. (He was speaking to an audience of mostly Americans and Canadians).  You have cars, money, homes, and you still suffer.  What are you fearing?  You are all like millionaires [sometimes he would say billionaires] compared to most of the people in the rest of the world.

“We buy what we need at the supermarket,” Vergara told us.  “We have lost our inner warrior.  We are weak and we are comfortable.  We don’t want to fight.  So what should we do, asked Vergara. What is the best formula to recover this part of ourselves?

He offered many solutions.  He described ceremonies that we could perform to reconnect with the earth, and our divinity.  He said Love, Real Love, is a part of our solution. Vergara added that “Ninety-nine percent of the time we fail to solve our problems because we don’t knock on the door of divinity.  We think that our ego will solve our problems.  We know all the things of the outside world, but we don’t know our Self.  Are first task is to Know Thy Self.”

Vergara emphasized the need to avoid fear, and go forward with our purpose in life.  He explained that most people in the poorer and lesser-developed parts of the world are not worried about “the end of the world” predictions.  Why?  They are working hard, every day, for basic survival.  “Always keep in mind that the main purpose of life is Self-Realization.”

During my studies with Vergara, and other Mayan teachers, I found that they never shied away from talking about death, or fears in general. They taught us to look forward with open eyes, and to embrace others who are on the same seeking-path.  As Eric Fromme stated in his classic “Art of Loving” book, Love is the solution to the problem of human existence.