Friday, December 14, 2012

The Girl with the Black Camel

I'm fairly set in my routines. For the last couple of years I have spent Wednesday evenings with my Wednesday Friends, and I spend Tuesday evenings with my meditation group. Until recently, I spent most of my other evenings at home.
What changed? Well, I went out to a particular club to hear a local band playing. It's as simple as that. Since then, I've spent most of my Monday and Thursday nights there, too. I'm not all that interested in alcohol, and I'm not all that interested in gambling. So why do I do this?
The first time I went, I took refuge from the volume on an outdoor balcony. It is spacious, providing several sets of tables and chairs and a bit of walking-room. It also is glassed-off instead of having a concrete or wooden railing. You can see across the club's mini-golf range, then one of their carparks, then a bit of a field that I believe some of the local schools use for team-sports. Past that is a fringe of native trees, planted as a sound aural and visual shield against the nearby arterial road, and beyond that are low hills, partly developed and partly left covered in bushland.
The day the band played, I took refuge out there a few times, and communed quietly with a cigarette. What the hell, it gave me a chance to be away from the crowd, the noise and the sweaty, human heat. At twilight, I was out there, looking into the distance and thinking of nothing in particular, when the girl with the black camel came over one of the hills, walking towards me.
She wasn't a normal spirit-shape - she looked as solid as the trees, and more solid than the cars, barely visible on the road behind them. She would have been in her early to middle thirties, I suppose, walking on the left side of her camel, leading her by a nose-string. She was wearing a long, dark robe of some sort that hid her hair, was very pale, and had bare feet. In fact, I still love watching her feet - those little white things that become visible briefly at the very beginning of each step before her weight moves forward and her robe catches up.
The first day she walked gravely down the hill to the arterial road, paused, looking both ways, then led her camel out across the road during a gap in the traffic. Then she walked across the field diagonally towards me, wound her way between parked cars in the parking lot, and before she emerged from the corner of the building which obscured her at that point, she vanished. Or, perhaps, took a different route than I was expecting.
Only when something else demands my attention do I miss out, now. I have been going back every Monday and Thursday evening to catch a glimpse of her walking in her slow, measured pace. She is wrapped in silence. She is wrapped in her own purpose. She comes only on twilight, never before or after. She waits for a gap in the traffic to cross the main road, but traffic never seeems to see her - in a town like this you'd expect cars to slow down to take a look at the unusually-dressed girl leading a camel, yes?
Usually she arrives from the northwest, coming over that hill and steadily walking towards me. Just occasionally she travels in the opposite direction, coming from around the building I am in, wending her way through the carpark, over the field and through the trees, where she waits gravely for a gap in the traffic to cross the road and climb the hill on the other side.
She must feel as solid as she looks - a ghost or spirit-shape wouldn't wait for traffic to pass, as it poses no danger to the traffic and traffic poses none to it. Yet traffic doesn't see her and people in the club don't see her. I often don't have the balcony to myself, and once when she was in the parking lot I pointed and asked the woman at the next table: "What is that?" The woman looked in the direction of my finger and said: "A Fiat, I think." If she had seen a woman leading a black camel, she wouldn't have been trying to identify car models, I'm pretty sure.
I watch for her twice a week, and I see her nearly every time. She never looks up, but after all this time I feel as if there is some kind of budding relationship between us. I feel her insularity, and her profound privacy. If she ever leaves her camel in the carpark and comes in for a drink, I can see myself sitting near her, but not to talk or even to look at her. Just to enjoy a companionable silence, something I love sharing with people on the occasions when I find someone who knows how to be silent.
As far as I have been able to find out, there is no history of camel-use in this area. And in areas where camels are or have been used, you wouldn't ever walk barefoot - the ground is either freezing or frying, and good footwear is a basic essential. Is she an analogue memory of someone from another area and/or time, which has somehow been transplanted here? She seems to know about modern traffic. She seems to know about the club. She seems to consider both of them irrelevant to her and her purpose for taking that walk.
After a couple of months, it occurred to me that I could learn something about her by looking at the camel. Its tack was very simple: brown leather straps buckled under the belly and tail, and a simple nose-piercing holding a string that she uses to guide the camel, a traditional way of managing their speed and direction. I noticed when I looked carefully, that the belly-buckle is clinched slightly to the left side of the camel. There is no colour, no glitter, no showmanship. It is not saddled-up - it is wearing some kind of dark pack, which I assume contains water, food, bedding, and the bumps in it are consistent that that - and with a lot of other things, too.
Does she stop at night in a sports-field or bushland, and pull out a swag or small tent? Does she light a camp-fire, refill her water containers at polluted creeks, campsite taps or service stations? Does she hobble her camel according to tradition, and let it graze at night? Does she eat at McDonalds? Does she not eat at all? Does she walk endlessly, steadily, through all the nights and days, on an endless route that only she knows for a purpose that only she understands, that just happens to bring her close to the club when I am there?
If other people could see her I would speculate that her guise would be a great cover for smuggling: is any cop ever going to pull over a barefoot girl with a camel? I'm certain nobody else can see her, though - none who have been around when I have been in her vicinity. They may be others like me, individuals in a population which ignores her, individuals that do see her and wait at other points along her route to catch a regular glimpse of her and wonder.
There is something very beneficial about unanswered questions: they allow your mind to play in a way that ordered thinking and finding answers doesn't. I enjoy it immensely, anyway. I am going to continue spending two nights a week sipping water and waiting for her to take her walk with her camel. I'm going to watch her fluid, graceful pace, and the lope of the camel. I'm not in the business of getting to know anybody at the club - these two evenings a week are not about being social, they are just about being me, in my strange, unconnected, silent relationship with her, with the girl with the black camel.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


A couple of weeks ago one of my clients asked me to teach them how to ground themself. It was -er- an interesting exercise for me.
I was born with both my Sun and my Moon in Earth signs - I am pre-programmed to be grounded. I am in my body strongly, and it is connected to the earth. Between 2003 and 2005 I gained a lot of weight - not unwelcome weight - completely unconnected with my diet and activity-levels, further pressing me to the ground. Just today, someone who knows me very well indeed expressed my relationship with words to the effect of: "after all, you are rock. You find it hard not to be grounded." And this is perfectly true.
When my daughter was little, we spent a great deal of time travelling on the rail system recreationally. Just south of a particular town, the train goes through a tunnel, then immediately on a bridge over estuarine water, then into another tunnel again. I taught her to recognise the difference in energies, by noticing how she felt as the train passed through the tunnels, and how she felt as it passed over the bridge.
We used to walk a steep bush track behind the town we lived in, and we walked it when she was quite small - say, four or five years old. On an early one of those walks, she had difficulties walking because the loose pebbles and fallen leaves that she was walking on slipped around underfoot. I taught her to ground very quickly, by telling her to "put herself in her feet, and make her feet stick to the ground". In less than a minute, she wasn't slipping on the leaves and loose stones any more. She is a young adult now, and and still is firmly glued to whatever surface is below her feet.
It is important when beginning a meditation, pathworking, or ritual activity, to ground and centre. Grounding is important: it attaches you to the real. Centring is important: it allows you to access your inner-world reality immediately and powerfully. In my meditation group, a group of friends as opposed to a class, we take turns to lead the guided visualisation,  and I've noticed that many of the members when they lead, pay a lot of attention to grounding, which is healthy, and less attention to centring, which is just as important. When I lead, I tend to incorporate both processes subtlely into the induction routine, so that by the time the whole group is in trance, they are both grounded and centred. When others lead and they do only a grounding induction, I automatically centre myself at the same time, because I never have to waste time grounding.
Over the last couple of weeks, since I've been thinking about this blog-post, I've been watching myself, and the only times I've caught myself being ungrounded is when I've been reading particularly enthralling books, into which I have immersed myself and "left this world" to enter the world of the writer. The last occasion, I took a book along when I left the house, and I sat somewhere reading. When I got up after a couple of chapters to go outside and catch some air, I noticed I was walking unusually gracefully for me, and could barely feel the floor beneath my feet. I was ungrounded. I stamped my feet on the ground and suddenly I was fully there again, fully in me, which also extends into the earth.
During the conversation earlier today where I was described by my friend as being a living rock, I talked about an incident a few years ago, where I slept overnight in a friend's living room a few floors above ground-level. All my life I have slept on ground-level floors, even when I lived in a two-storey house, and my imaginary dream house is a sprawling bungalow - one floor, its space stretching sideways on the surface of the earth, not upwards into the air. I routinely fall asleep by settling my body, then rolling out of my body into the earth below me. In that room I slept badly: rolling out of bed, I had to roll through a succession of rooms and what felt like a huge distance before I found the earth below me. It was really unfamiliar to be so ungrounded.
I also have problems with things like skis, roller-blades, skateboards and even boats, anything that moves around under your feet. After all, I like my feet to be well-anchored at all times, one of the signs of more-or-less permanent groundedness. In many of the public rituals I have attended as a participant, after energy has been raised, the leaders of the ritual tend to get people to be grounded. I always do whatever physical acts they ask for to that end, but feeling fraudulent - I've only ever once needed to ground during ritual in decades, the rest of the time I was already grounded.
It is less easy for people who are not pre-programmed to be grounded. I have a number of dear friends who are water-signs - I like to think of my friendships with most of them in the terms of them being the waves that lap around my rocky shores and erode me into sand. I have Fire-friends: I like to think of them as the heat that melts my rock to lava. I have Air-friends, too - they are the wind that rustles my leaves, moves my sand-dunes and rises my dust.
Many of them, and even Earth-people, have trouble grounding. They don't seem to be able to sense the minerals in every cell of their bodies. I understand that on an intellectual level, but will never understand it on a visceral level - it is foreign to me, as foreign as trying to think in Japanese.
There seems to be a problem, too, with people who know only a little about the Chakras: such people mistake the name of the Base Chakra, which is about labelling its location in the body, with its function, regarding it as somehow "base", dirty, unworthy. Many people who talk freely and often about "opening their heart-chakra" or third eye or crown chakras, seem to want to avoid the lower chakras. In many years' practice, I find that all chakras are important, are healthy, are spiritual. Focussing towards some and away from others leads to physical, mental and spiritual imbalance, which can only be unhealthy. In practice, I find that people who do this, need more help learning to ground than the rest of us, and find it harder to ground when they know how.
Get to know the soil - it is real and spiritual. Get to know the substance of your body: it is real and spiritual. Get to know the element of Earth - it is real and spiritual. And ground - feel your feet, your lower torso, and how they connect to the real world. Without this, you are only half the person you could be.