Category Archives: ARTology Now

Nothing Dies – Part 2 – h

A pearl of clear water appears before my eyes – one of the occasional droplets that splash down cave walls to form rivulets and ripples made of stone.

After hundreds of years the rivulets cut channels in the limestone. After thousands of years the cave is deeply rutted with grooves. Sometimes the drops fall directly downward and deposit their microscopic loads of dissolved stone until small mineral piles grow straight up against gravity. The cave floor is alive with them – hardened gardens of ever-growing forms.

I am transfixed by this single droplet that has stopped like a dead man’s heart. I can see the entire cave reflected complete within it. The deeper I look into the tiny sphere the more I see – atavistic visions of ancient times, the first hand print on a cave wall, the long history of our species, an intelligent world – the end of the universe. I see the multicolor pointillist patterns of my art commingled with his sublimely ancient and futuristic imagery. I see everything at once.

Interconnected chambers of this cavernous place are repeated within the clear surface of the orb. The maze of tunnels is dense, yet I traverse each one in the blink of an eye. Each passage leads back to this oceanic droplet. It grows in size threatening to engulf me.

I call out to him.

The answer comes from within, “This is a dream. Just wake up.”

I can’t move…my jaw feels like it weighs ten-thousand pounds. No sound emerges from my open throat. I catch sight of him again – a reflection in a sphere. I raise my eyes and he is back. Alive again but not for long. In that moment I can see – he is dying.

A pearl of clear water appears before my eyes – it is not like the droplets that splash down cave walls to form rivulets and ripples made of stone.

This droplet is not like those at all. I look up to trace its trajectory. It did not fall from the ceiling like the other drops.

It is moving slowly, inexorably down his cheek.

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Nothing Dies – Part 2 – g

“Everything exists at once. That is the essential nature of things here in the mind cave. The abstraction, called spacetime, expands to infinity and contracts again in a nanosecond. It occurs in the brain of some unnameable entity that may or may not exist. It is the first and final flash of consciousness. It is your lifetime and mine.”

“Who are you talking to?”

“Just typing this out somewhere, Keith.”

“Somewhere like your life on Earth.”

“Exactly.”

“Have to get it out there. I used to be that way.”

“I know, man.”

I write.

The attempt to rationalize all this continues – if only for the occasional reminder that I need to keep myself grounded in some kind of objective reality. Why that’s important is one of several things that are beyond me at this point. I do alright on auto-pilot.

The boundaries that used to separate one type of awareness from another have disappeared. At some point in this waking dream I begin to see all people, places and times, all forms of life and states of consciousness are present simultaneously – in an infinite moment, called “my life”.

“Hey, check this out.”

The cave walls are alive with multicolor patterns and moving images – inner visions of the human mind.

“Amazing, man. Are you seeing what I see?”

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Nothing Dies – Part 2 – f

“This trip…is all there is.”

The rest of his words are drowned out by an onrush of cold air. I am swept into a vortex. Looking down to ground myself – I fix my eyes upon a single blue-green stone in an attempt to stabilize my field of vision. But I cannot focus.

Instead, I am gazing into a virtual tunnel of images. They form a shimmering cone of three-dimensional scenes stretched out to great length. Each one shows a world related in some way to this place. Starting out as pastoral landscapes, each leads from bright blue sky toward a darkening funnel of clouds far in the distance.

I scan every vista, searching for clues. They begin as vignettes, memories – moments I can identify. In one, I see myself as a child walking the path to Crystal Cave – a huge underground cavern near Kutztown and a commercial attraction. Walking with my parents, seeing things from a child’s-eye view, I can hear the muffled voices of other families behind me.

Descending into the ancient cavern, the summer heat quickly gives way to a chill as I descend for my first journey inside the planet. Everywhere around me, uncanny configurations of stalactites and stalagmites glisten in the artificial light. I have revisited this alien place over and over again in my dreams. It has become a familiar part of my mental landscape. I am not surprised to see it now.

Another scene springs up – the weather is crisp and autumnal. The place before me is Temple Cave – a rough boulder-bound series of subterranean cracks and crevasses I explored as a teenager. Known only locally, the entrance is a mere slit between rocks on a hidden hillside. As I move forward between the stones I can feel the humid atmosphere within. Once inside, there are yards of precipitous ledges to negotiate in the dark, before one can enter a space large enough to even turn around.

These visions coexist in my mind. I see them all at once. And yet, I can travel through each one individually, move around and explore. It is an experience of simultaneity – a hall of mirrors but each reflects a different time and place.

Next, I experience a night in late summer. I am with a group of amateur spelunkers – friends who have invited a few of us to explore a new cavern they’ve discovered just south of Gettysburg. The characteristic shift from the external world to the bowels of the earth is more gradual, as the entrance here is larger. The damp green moss lining the slippery clay walls at the cave mouth disappears into the rough and rugged passageway within.

After ten yards or so, there is a small opening in the stone floor. One-by-one we lower ourselves into the earth. Holding tightly to a nylon line, I slide down through a long rock-edged tunnel barely wider than my shoulders and I am blinded by utter blackness.

Even as these spaces engulf me with their overwhelming presence, I sense us both still at rest, lying on the field of grass from which we will awaken later in the day. Above, the constellations of late-summer shine like laser beams from behind a midnight sky.

These ever-changing scenes appear solid and palpable, yet they are strangely transparent. They seem to rotate within my cone of vision, each one juxtaposed upon the other. It is as if I am enclosed inside a vast crystalline structure, sphere upon sphere, encasing the myriad moments of my life as internal reflections within some incomprehensible mind. And in that mind my dreams are real.

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Nothing Dies – Part 2 – e

I wake up on the grass. A brilliant sun is in the eastern sky. Allover patterns remain in my eyes and over everything I see. I feel a cool mist upon my face and hands. It sparkles everywhere in this green valley.

He is beside me, sleeping still. I recall only the tropical place and the moment we silently agreed to revisit the cave. My mind strains to make sense of what I am experiencing.

He stirs.

“Keith.”

“Art…I guess we fell asleep.”

Smiling, he looks around and says it is morning and we must have slept all night. I find the thought strangely soothing. The way he acts and the clarity of his statements create a sense of reality, of normalcy, in me.

And then, I feel a sense of panic.

“Oh man. That means the car was on the side of the road all night. I didn’t lock it when we stopped!”

He grins as I run back through the brightening woods to check. There, about 10-feet off the roadway I see the copper color of the Mustang and feel calm. I reach the car. It is shining, studded with dewdrops.

He has followed me back here.

“Everything’s OK, right?”

“Yeah, no problem.”

“So let’s go check out the cave,” he says.

My tongue feels so thick I can barely speak. The sound of each faltering word echoes in my head.

“Keith. Do you know what’s going on? What kind of reality is this, man? Are you really here?

“Why does all that still matter to you, Art?”

I see him standing just a few feet in front of me yet he speaks as a disembodied voice.

“Just stop trying to make sense of everything.”

I can’t let it go. “Can we just talk about this for a minute?”

“We’ve been talking about it for hours. Look at the tape.”

There, on the hood of the car, is a micro-cassette player. The tape is pegged at the stop position with the full 90 minutes of recording time expended. He tells me that the tape ran out over an hour ago.

The dew has disappeared and the mid afternoon sun is on our backs. I have no idea what has occurred in the past hours. This analog tape recorder is from the 1980s. It is the little Panasonic I used to record our dialogs. But that was thirty years ago. I use a digital recorder, not this ancient relic.

“…this ancient relic…” I hear the words repeated as echoing sounds in my head. The words collide, reverberate and…slow…down. Time stops.

Shifting memories swirl through me. I experience, in an instant, a concatenation of moments, once discrete, separated by decades, but flooding me in a tide of recall. I strain to arrange them in some sequence so that I may study them, see them in some chain of causality – to have something make sense.

“Wait a minute. Listen. We’re on our way back to the city, right? You want me to pullover. We stop, park on the side of the road, and stand by that fence over there. I look at you and see you looking back at me. OK? After that though, it’s just flashes, scenes in my mind. Like a dream. And anyway…this trip…the whole thing – it happened a long time ago.”

He does not respond. For an instant, he stands silent, as if frozen in place. Then, from somewhere else, I hear his voice as though it is coming toward me fast and from a great distance.

“This trip…is all there is.”

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Nothing Dies – Part 2 – d

 

The balcony is strewn with scattered detritus of a day at the beach – porous coral, pearlescent cowrie shells, sandals, and scattered sand reflecting moonlight. The air above the canal is warm, sweet and pungent. The Scorpion, well above the horizon at this latitude, seems to crawl across a billion suns of the Milky Way. A bit above and to the left of the stellar arachnid, I search for Sagittarius A. I home in on that nebulous area at the center of our galaxy as a familiar and mysteriously comforting place to rest my eyes.

An instant before I hear his voice, I know I will hear it. I feel the familiar onrush of sensation, waves of pressure arising from within me, and the inexorable refashioning of my field of vision into rhythmical patterns. All this signals his arrival. And yet I cannot avert my gaze from the night sky.

“I am here beside you now, Art. You don’t need to look at me. Just keep your eyes where they are.” I hear his voice as a soft echo within me.

A thousand nights lost in dreaming, scanning each fluorescent horizon for a glimpse of him, wondering, wondering why, and wondering when I would see him again.

“You’re still with me, then, Keith.”

This conversation takes place inside of my body. The soft earth-bound sounds of night birds, crickets, and splashing water are not interrupted by our words.

“Sure, what do you think?”

“I think…I’m ready. What do you want to do?”

“Let’s go back to the cave,” he whispers.

 

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Nothing Dies – Part 2 – c

Aloft in a dream, I scan the expanse below – windswept sand in scalloped patterns mirrors my movements. The hypnotic undulations induce uneasiness, vertigo. Soon I am spinning wildly, uncontrollably. I repeat the phrase that has served me throughout my life, “This is a dream. This is a dream.” but it does not calm me. I am aware I am dreaming but I am unable to steady myself.

My eyes are moist. I am swept up in a maelstrom of emotion. Weeping now, I reach up to wipe away the tears. Upon withdrawing my hands I see blood-red. I am bleeding from my eyes!

My tongue swells. I am drifting in and out of consciousness and I can feel myself falling earthward. A cocoon-like darkness engulfs me and stifles my onrushing panic. Soothed, I understand I have achieved a threshold – a dream within a dream.

Looking down at the sun-bleached desert, I come upon a vast blue-black crescent that cuts directly across my view of the landscape. All movement stops and for a moment I am poised above the dark arc. One half of my body is in the area of the light and the other half in darkness.

An instant later and I am spinning above the terminator making countless transitions from day to night. On the light side, I can see the sun speeding by, completing hundreds, thousands of iterations from west to east. In the darkness the stars move in their paths at an ever-accelerating pace.

After a desperate effort to fix my gaze on something stable, I locate Polaris. Rapidly, it traces a full circle around the dome of the universe. The idea of precession of the equinoxes occurs to me and I calculate a passage of twenty-four thousand years.

As the thought of this enormous timespan takes hold of my mind, I start to decelerate. Soon I am hovering again above the dividing arc. The sun, the stars, the moon, and planets take their places in the new epoch. Rushing forward now, I feel the cool dry air of this nocturnal space – so very different from the tropical atmosphere from which this dream was spawned.

Miles later, in the star-flecked darkness, I find myself once more moving toward high ground. This time though, the higher I climb the colder I feel. Ahead, near the side of a bare hill, I see another entrance to still another cave. I hear my thoughts: “But I’m still inside the cavern on the warm plateau. Is an exit up ahead or another entrance?”

The hillside is split before me. Before I can consider the slim dimensions of the aperture, I am through. This is no exit. I am in a new chamber, surrounded by wet rock walls, smooth and shining. Rippling reflections from pools of water ricochet around the perimeter and I catch quick glimpses of dripping stalactites, ceiling, and walls.

And suddenly – without warning – I awaken. The sheet I kicked down at bedtime is now wrapped tightly around my torso. It is too sheer to have warmed me in this chilled bedroom. The air conditioner is stuck – pumping out cold air. The room temperature reads 55 degrees. Out into the hall, I press the reset button. The machine shudders to a halt, the fan stops, and the unit falls silent. Grabbing a towel to wrap around me, I walk out on the balcony into the damp heat of the island at night.

 

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Nothing Dies – Part 2 – b

The cave entrance is at the summit of an insurmountable highland. I am far below, moving within a tropical forest. My eyes trace the shapes of foreign alphabets among stringy vines, moss covered branches, and sharp palm fronds. I’m scanning the vegetation for each patch of radiance that manages to pierce the canopy.

Soon though, I sense light throughout my entire being and feel myself moving more quickly. My feet are barely touching the ground. The jungle seems to clear slightly. More light shines through and I am surrounded by a warming wind.

A flurry of butterflies circles my perimeter and swirls upward in airy gyres. As the humid valley fills with the beating of countless fluttering wings, their upward motion endows the environment with a sense of weightlessness. The airborne Monarchs, Clippers, Sulphers, Julias, and Swallowtails create a vacuum in which I feel myself lifted up and through the verdant landscape. Joyfully, I hear myself repeating the phrase, “I’m flying!”

Soaring toward the distant plateau, my confidence builds until I am able to maneuver easily. Before me lies an ancient cavern. The sharp crack of the cave mouth is too slim, yet I seem to slide in with ease. And instead of the utter darkness I had anticipated, the space before me is endless, bright, and open.

In the far distance, a gateway appears, comprised of two pillars of flowering cactus rising a hundred feet or more into the air and covered by a floral arch. The sight of it rushing toward me stuns me into the sudden realization that I am free to let go, to explore, to fly ever farther through this infinite moment.

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