radical is the new sensible . . .

Gratitude Like Rain Falling In the Desert

A Message from Rivera Sun

dscn5457This morning, I rose and stood in my black wool wrap as a gentle desert rain fell on the dry earth. The scent of sagebrush drifted with the low clouds. I reached down and placed my palm on the damp ground. Gratitude is the sensation of rain falling in the desert.

While I slept, angels and bodhisattvas swept through the realms of dreams and wishes. The Community Publishing campaign that we’re running for the newest novel, The Way Between, met its goal just two days into the month-long endeavor. We will continue the campaign, offering the Author’s Edition of the book to excited friends and fans, and opening up the possibilities of dedicating more focused writing time for the whole series that follows this first volume. (If curious, you can find it here.)

To say that I am grateful is an understatement. Behind numbers and dollars is a longer story, one woven with mystical encounters and unusual experiences. In gratitude for the faith and belief of everyone who has supported the new book, I’m going to share some of my personal story that brought me to this day.

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-7-55-13-amI was a shy redheaded child with only one foot in reality. The other was traversing the realms of story, daydreaming and imagining in a continuous stream from dawn until dusk, and then into dreams. While this caused terrible problems in learning multiplication and getting my chores done, it meant that behind the daydreaming, I was growing the sort of rampant imagination that is the bread-and-butter of novelists, the foundation for our work. I wrote my first “novel” in third grade instead of memorizing the times table. If I remember correctly, it had something to do with a baby chicken. My second novel died a painful death on the vagaries of computer disks of the late 1980-90s. I have since learned that the same disks that ate my novel are also running our current nuclear weapons arsenal. Reality is far stranger than anything I could invent.

dscn6018At nineteen, while spending the summer apprenticed to a pair of blacksmiths (father and son), I spent an afternoon on the granite rocks of the Maine coast, staring at the ocean and wondering what to do with my life. As much as the blacksmiths fascinated me, I could tell hammering iron was not in my stars. Wracked with an existential angst of nineteen-year-old proportions, I glanced down beside me. Wedged in the rocks, carved by the tides, was a piece of driftwood in the perfect shape of a feather quill. The symbol of writers! I picked it up and held it in my hand, awestruck, feeling a bit like King Arthur pulling a sword out the stone. Except, in my case, the pen is mightier than the sword, and it was wordsmithing, not blacksmithing or sword fighting, for which the Universe had just clearly shown me a sign.

I carried this wooden feather quill with me to college (where I was awarded a writing scholarship and proceeded to spend four years studying dance) and then to California. One day, in a fit of mysticism and madness, I flung it into the Pacific Ocean in a ritual of releasing and renunciation. A year later, I kicked myself for that action. Who throws back the sword in the stone? Who rejects such an obviously mystical creation of Earth?

Later, while visiting my family’s farm in Northern Maine, three thousand miles away, I opened up my trunk of old writings and photos. There, sitting on top of the stack was the wooden feather quill. I cannot make up fiction as unbelievable as the reality I have lived. I sat in the cabin, stunned, looking out at the swaying golden grasses of the fields and the glossy darkness of the pine forests.

My parents, in all their infinite wisdom, had raised my siblings and I on the obligatory trips to church at Christmas and Easter. Then they turned us loose into the wilderness of Northern Maine to find our own path toward God or spirituality or whatever connected us to the depths of the unknown mysteries of the world. After teenage years spent drunk with the beauty of the Earth instead of alcohol with highschool friends, I moved to California for a seven-year sojourn of dancing, redwood cathedrals, ocean waves thundering the mystics’ messages in my ears, and countless hours drinking tea in hidden teahouses populated by contemporary Kabirs and tea-drunk Taoist masters and Laughing Buddhas, compassionate Kwan Yins and whirling Shambos. I was steeped in the companionship of the mystics of all traditions, and, by the end of those years, I had a sense of the faith-crossing lineage to which my life belonged.

dscn6021Here in the desert, I reach down to touch the Earth, the great being-body that has held me through every moment of this journey. My life has been one long series of stepping stone miracles that often emerge as I’m mid-leap into the unknown. Yet, the Universe has been tracking me, catching me, guiding me again and again toward writing. There were times when those miraculous stepping stones rose up suddenly and slammed into me painfully to stop me from going in another direction – such as the bicycle accident that ended my career as a bike messenger and the booming voice that told my dazed mind to “Remember!” Or perhaps it said, “Surrender!” Either message suffices. The Universe had a plan for me. It was time to get off the bicycle and back to work.

Then there was the dream, or rather, one of the many dreams. In it, I was being attacked on all sides by the shadowy demons of the human soul: Hate, Fear, Violence, War, Destruction, Greed, Cruelty, Domination, and so on. I flung my books at them like spinning discs of a strange kung-fu fighter. Whirling, I cut through these delusions one-by-one. At the end, the darkness cleared and in the daylight, I saw that the books had become a foundation of a world that humanity could stand on together.

The stories go on, but from what I have heard, it is not common to have received so many undeniable, mystical, and clear-as-day messages about one’s path in life. It is a great honor and a deep responsibility. It is a charge that cannot be ignored or done in half-hearted ways. I have this one lifetime with the particular alignment of storytelling in my bones and a pencil in hand and a world that desperately needs new stories. I have been honored by the support, faith, and vision of so many people who have continued to keep me on this path.

Today, awed by all of this, I crouch with my hand on the Earth, bowed in reverence and dedication, overcome with a gratitude that sings like rain falling in the desert.

Thank you, Rivera Sun

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