On Peace and Equanimity in the Arts

I’ve been an avid student of spirituality for over a decade. I enjoy spiritual literature, and at different times I’ve studied almost every faith and religion. Part of this comes from my upbringing, and a lot of it came from independent research, and the small library of paperbacks on a hot Texas day at the Rothko chapel. I’ve never shied away from the sciences, but I’ve always been interested in art out of the context of the requirements of exchange within our cultures, which is necessary, but the first patrons of art were in many ways non-commodification generation. Now that I’ve sold a bit of work and spent time in the NFT renaissance about a year ago, which at this point is almost veteran level, I’ve really come to respect art that continues in this tradition. I don’t make art for sale extensively anymore. I’ve really used it as part of my spiritual journey.

My writing is somewhat in this vein, yet not so much as my visual art practice. It’s where you can see my best work, and I try not to sway from difficult subjects, this is a very complex world we live in. But when you reduce or abstract everything into a thought of energy, the exchange is simply gift upon gift and secures a role in our society. With the rise of AI art our work as artists is lessened, and the exchange has been changed and monopolized by private industry, at great costs to artists who share their work online. At times this leads me to want to retreat from the world of sharing my work, yet my desire to share work is always there. I hope anyone who comes across my work is simply a record of my spiritual path, personal and in the highest ethics and good. I hope in the coming years that our art is respected and our ownership over our own work remains. It can destroy our confidence and many artists I feel are rightly outraged about it. Artists create their work after hours and hours of study, even when I make what at a surface level might seem like very simple work is a combination of years of analyzing my process and art strokes. Respecting art means respecting life, and all life should be sacred and respected. The first step to this is respecting our creations. In a lot of ways our art as artists is as sacred as our lives, it’s our way of really trying to make a difference in a really harsh world. It takes a lot for me these days to share my work, but I’m doing it anyway, for the love of the craft and a desire to share my work with the community.

But I hope one day everyone lets artists know how much we matter to the world. Please hold dearly to our artists. We do so much for the world. That’s how I bring my work to the world, with a true intent on sharing peace and equanimity to anyone that may come across my work.

Tarot

I’m really new to Tarot, even though in many ways I’ve been studying it for months. It’s powerful, it allows us to really investigate the wide scope of what it means to be human. It doesn’t shy away from the difficult things, at times it’s almost frightening. I really wanted to use our time in the forest to do deep investigations of exactly what we were facing in the midst of a crisis, of hate and misunderstanding. What I saw in my first reading was positive and uplifting. In the second round it was almost terrifying. It was really hard to take a look at. It was so terrifying that it was almost not safe to talk about. It could really be a trigger for a lot of people, but what was powerful was it allowed me to look at my own trauma, and realize everything I’ve been going through for the last few years, all the fear was in there, so much so that I have a new respect for the practice. If you ever do a reading for yourself, which I really recommend, be very careful, or do it under the guidance of a professional if you’ve been through what I’ve been through in my life. TikTok has a lot of readers, and you need to find your own style. It’s not easy to do.

When I looked back at the second reading, I realized that the world could be a very frightening place, which in all honesty really sobered me up to the crises facing our world. We don’t live in an easy time in our cultures right now, there is still so much hate, so much violence in our world, and the cards offer a glimpse into our greatest hopes, and also in deep tragedy. I see why novelists use them, it’s storytelling, and what I found in the second reading was not a book I would have checked out at a library, but it was there nonetheless. I walked in asking a question about which pathway I should follow in my comic work. It told me a few things. One, I’ve been reckless when sharing my artwork online. The speed at which I made my images was simply because I didn’t want my work to be stolen, and I now know I have to step away from that. The comics touch on very difficult subjects, and I now see what I need to work on next. I’m not quite ready to begin, but I didn’t realize just how difficult my subjects in the comics could be. Being thrown into the reading didn’t change my consciousness, it showed me the dangers of the modern world. I still believe we live in a good and decent society, but I never think about the things the deck showed me earlier today. It’s hard to take a look at these subjects, I may never investigate them, but the comics I make need heroes, I didn’t realize just how true this was. I’m building something important here, and I can’t wait to share this work. Sometimes we need a bit of guidance, obliquely situated in our thoughts and plans, and that’s what Tarot showed me today. I’m not ready to write the work that it showed me today. There are two series ahead of the work it spoke to, but I’ll get to it, but for now, this unexpected research was difficult. It’s powerful, so be careful if you use it. I’ve been under the guidance of readings for almost three months, and I’m still pre beginner in what it is and how to use it.

Home

Well, we finally made it to our home for the Holidays, a full week to rest and write, and really make sense of everything that’s happened in the last couple of years, If I could tell you what happened I would as if I could ever tell you what went on inside. In many ways this is the first time I’ve had any distance from the day-to-day hardships in the forest when I tried to make sense of the world and learn as quickly as possible so many things that I had never thought about before. All I did for the past couple of years was focus on learning, mostly in art but also in fields I was just starting to get a hold of. I’d been completely oblivious to the world for about a decade while I was in school, not even reading the news or participating in pop culture, so there was almost this kind of clamor as I tried my best to get a sense of what was going on. I did and I was almost shellshocked by it.

The home I grew up in and the world my partner and I created around our lives were kind and beautiful, and still is, but sometimes what I’ve learned about the world brings me to tears, this can be a very harsh place. It was in this context that visiting Dallas this time was so poignant, visiting places I thought would be the same but have changed so much. I realized I just couldn’t ever go home again, home is where Rachel and I are. Dallas is not the place I remember, nowhere is, and this whole constant thing, change, is happening so rapidly, slow down world, I think. Behind this digital veil something human must exist, sometimes it seems almost gone from the digital aspects of our lives.

I think if I stay here I’ll just try and be honest with you guys about the emotional details, not sharing too much but not becoming a mood ring either. A lot of you may have never even met me at all, I guess. I usually just try and stay quiet. My fiction is usually where you find my voice, untethered by the inherent style of the social media post. I’m tired but happy, and wishing for better days. I’m sure we can all get there eventually, it’s critical that we do. If I can wish anything for Christmas, I wish for understanding and patience, for all of us, for all conflicts, and all communities. We don’t need a revolution. We need a softening of our hearts, a brightness to light our way, and is anything more illuminating than the human heart, a bright fire from which we can see with more than our eyes, a promise that our lives depend on an inner faith, which drives our being at every moment. That’s what I wish for the season coming up, this winter, warmth in our hearts, brighter than any storm it comes upon. Happy Holidays everyone, sometimes I don’t feel like I have a home but I have good friends, and I hope we can all find that strength with each other here.

Shadowlight (Excerpt)

“Olamor, look out!” Valenia screamed, ducking underneath the arms of the Arolight as it fell, trying for anything it possibly could, to penetrate Valenia’s armour. Slashing haphazardly at almost anything it saw. It’s sinewy black body bubbling up in places as if it had a hell inside.“Valenia, this is out of control, what is it doing?” “It appears to be confused as to why we’re defending ourselves, it’s dangerous, but this looks like a monstrous outburst.” Leaping onto the back of the Arolight, now in a full blaze, Olamor thrust his sword deep into the black and silver body of the wild beast as it fell in pieces all around them. “It’s finished! Olamor exclaimed, right before pummeling off the back of a very angry Arolight, who apparently was unimpressed with Olamor’s piercing blade. “What do we do? it’s not dying!!!“ Olamor shouted, picking himself up and moving into attack position.” “It’s not supposed to!” Valenia said, we just need it to calm down. Valenia pulled her body through the green potsmold and oberon, until she was standing perfectly in front, a midpoint between crouching Olamor, gasping for breath, and the now, even more angry Arolight. “Please calm down, bizarre beast from beyond!” Valenia screamed. The Arolight pulled his body around and brought a hail of light onto Valenias shield, then suddenly, stopped. Everything paused. It was as though time stood still. “Oh OK, are we done then?” The Arolight spoke, in what sounded like a very astute,, studied, and well spoken retort for so vile a being from the depths of Frosthell. Olamor and Valenia both stood up. “Sure we can stop. Stay away from our village. We’ll let you go for now.” “OK, next time maybe ask me instead of trying to kill me, disdainful fairy warriors?” “Can’t promise anything.” Valenia said.  Lumbering slowly through Potswold forest, Olamor and Valenia watched the now calm Arolight, as it made its way across the canopies and back to wherever it came from. 

“Let’s get back to Novaria,” Valenia said. “It’s been a long day, can you call a swan? Olamor lifted up  his mythshaft and played a soft melody, like an upward sound of varying pitch, otherworldly to human ears. Within moments two swans appeared, gently guiding a leaf, form one of the trees that reached miles into the sky. “You drive,” Valenia said. “Um, we split turns, Valenia” Olamor said. “What? I drove us here this morning, it’s your turn.” Valnia shot back. The swans looked at each other, confused, and then pulled the leaf around. Valenia pulled a long reed from the ground, climbed onto the leaf and helped Olamor onto the back for rest. He really had the worse end of it with the Arolight, Valenia thought, “I’ll drive.” She said. They passed through the river, a wide expanse of calm waters, dragonflies fliting their way through the afternoon glow, golden ringshaft bathed in silverlight. They watched the forest in all it’s magic, even to experienced fairies, it was always mysterious and surprising. “I could never tire of this,” Valenia said. “The forest is a forever mystery.” “That’s helpful,” Olamor said, we’re not going anywhere anyway.” Valenia glared at Olamor. “You have a really bizarre attitude for a fairy warrior.  Were you brought up by Arolights? “ she said. ”You should know,” Val said, “You would have been too.”

Olamor and Val reached the far southern gateways into Novaria right as nightfall was about to start, it had been a long day and they were tired. The swans knew the way by then so Val placed down her mythstaff and let her mind drift in an Opallium field. All the fairies could do this. Within the village gates, and for a short while thereafter, dream started to seep into reality, and an ecstatic series of images, as if a latticework, or cat’s cradle, appeared and flowed within her body. Placing both hands on Olamor’s wounds, within moments they were both healed. They drifted past the village houses and Fairy outposts, waved at the lookouts, and finally came upon the village shores. It was here that the Fairies built their home. About 15 minutes away from the town center and meeting house, Val and Olamor stopped at their families hearthstone. Potswold and ivy covered the walls, leaving a mix of pale blue, white, and green as if nature and garden combined into every part of the walls and nooks. “Armor off,” Val said. They both went to their respective rooms and met again in the garden behind the ivy walls. “Here, I poured us both a draft of water from the cerulean pools. There must have been rain while we were away, they’re full.” “Thanks,” Olamor said, and thank you for healing me on the way home, I knew you would but still, it was a nice gesture.” “I saved your life and it’s a gesture?” Val said. “For an ethereal being you really need to adjust your priorities.” Olamor smiled. “I love you Val..” He said. “Thanks Olamor,” she said, “I don’t need to say it, you know I do.”

“I need to tell you something,” Val said. “What is it?” asked Olamor. “In the Opallium field,” Val paused, thinking. “I saw something. The lattice work was more delicate this time, there were parts of the further reaches that seemed to be darkening in a way, and not the delicate black fields of the centercore. It was imperceptible, but I felt it.” “What does that even mean?” Olamor asked. “I’m not sure, but I’ve never felt it before.” She sat and thought. Silence filled the garden, there was the sound of the forest in the distance. About an hour went by with Olamor and Val just stiting there. It could have been less, and in many ways time didn’t exist within the village walls,.Val looked up after awhile and seemed on the edge of tears. “Olamor, the forest is dying.” 

At once the glade of the outer forests gave way to a series of stone and granite, carved rock, that currently like crystals into the cool air. Val and Olamor peered out into the golden, flowing horizon leading up and into the inner city districts of the village. “Let’s go to the council gates”, Val said. there was a note left by the Viridian League that they had something to attend to. Winding staircases in Valenia stretched out for miles. There was no quick way up the slope to the upper chambers of the Chloroform precipices, glowing in, but they never tired, and time seemed to drift here in the city, like a mountain in the sky, moving past clouds into the upper atmosphere, the trees still within view. 

An Empty Cup Holds the Soul of a Dream (Excerpt)

It was early in the morning, almost night, the sun not quite shining anywhere around, but Kyle somehow knew that it was somewhere, just not there at the right moment. It was somewhere else he was certain. He knew this from a science class in highschool, on the last few days of a poetry seminar, examining the life sciences. He remembered the moment. He would graduate and leave town to head to a larger city, something he had been dreaming about for months. Would he be like the sun then, still in the town he grew up in but not around anymore? Would anyone miss him? Walking out into the morning air,  there was only the soft hum of streetlights, rustling electronically in the morning before dawn. There was a strong wind, unusual for Three Corners. As he opened the door he thought he heard something behind him. Still half asleep, he whirred around enough to catch a glimpse of something he’d never seen before. It was clear and cloudy, like a moving shaft of raincloud. Kyle shook his head, trying to wake a bit more. “It’s too early. I’m half asleep, it’s probably nothing.” He got in the car to head to work, fumbling in a pre morning coffee brain fog, as he somehow found the magical ability to find the playlist he had been listening to on his phone: something classical, just to cure the house music he listened to getting ready for work. He found a black sweater somewhere in the closet, taking from a clean pile he hadn’t put up yet after a trip across the country to Chicago. He felt uneasy, until he fit his black ball cap close to his eyes and breathed deeply in the crisp morning air. 

For the first time he realized he couldn’t stand it. All the songs he used to listen to, all designed perfectly but by someone else or an algorithm he didn’t understand. Was an algorithm a person?Rithm just a design? Algo? “I don’t know,” Kyle said, for another time. He chose a song absentmindedly, the third or fourth one to break up the monotony to try to convince him it was real. Automatic morning. He turned the car on the street, and headed down the hills and into work. Past the one street that ran through the town, he watched the cars as they passed, unknown drivers only described by license plates and headlights, and he wondered about the aspects of this, how the soul describes the contours of an inner world, somehow in a dance with external reality, or was it like that at all? “I guess.” Kyle said, ignored the thought, and headed down city street, onto the highway, and headed toward Old Mill, a mix of classical piano, engine sound, and the sound of passing cars, headed to some destination he would never know. “Thank God I don’t know where” Kyle said, and eventually, almost painfully, made the 15 minute drive into the town square of Old Mill, finding a two hour parking spot, and opened the door and walked out onto the street.

Looking back at the meter, he thought about the persistence of time. “Life is like that, I guess,” Kyle thought. “I don’t want to pay the meter but I have to.” Kyle approached the meter and saw wires and plastic dangling from what was once the casing of the device. “I guess I don’t have to pay.” Kyle said, “Time doesn’t exist here anymore.”Kyle smiled. It wasn’t a really exciting moment though, the streets were never monitored and it was possible to just leave your car for days at a two hour meter and never get a ticket. It was a sleepy town, and thus needed more coffee than everything else. The coffee shop was right across the street.

A few doors down was the employee entrance. Walking through the empty street (Old Mill hadn’t woken up yet) Kyle put on his apron and went down each step to the employee meter, passing boxes of unopened drinks and buckets for no apparent reason, punched in and headed upstairs and into the shop. Coffee shops in the morning, usually before the music starts being played by a store manager, are a symphony of sound. From the whirring of a bean grinder to the first shots being tested on the espresso machine, the whisp of the steamers, the hint of the inner machinery of the machines, made visible only in sound. Once again trying to stay positive in the morning before sunrise, he greeted his colleague, nice people, yet absent in the morning fog of waking up. It could be a passing train in a small mountain town. Kyle was always imagining mountains. He’d never been on one but the hills almost seemed like it. Sometimes he thought he never would.

Passing behind the counter and into the floors, a narrow pathway with a small kitchen, the espresso machine, the machinery of the coffeeshop, unremarkable, essentially unchanged since his first coffee gig years ago. It was Kyle’s third day. Kyle packed the cups in, which were a few inches to the right of his hand. He had quickly learned a rhythm of taking an order, preparing a cup in the other hand and finishing a coffee order in a matter of seconds. There wasn’t much room to feel any kind of achievement in the gig so he kept timetables in his mind of how fast he served each drink, at least until that morning.

It wasn’t the first customer, maybe the end of a sprint of folks in the door in the pre morning wave that started around 6:35. The sun was beginning to shine through the window outside, the streets becoming more busy. In a few minutes, Kyle thought, he would be locked in, steadily working the job and greeting the community one after one to help the town prepare for the day. He loved all the customers who came in the shop, he wasn’t lying when he seemed happy to greet them all.  It was just as he was settling into a hum when Miles tapped him on the shoulder, “Hey, Kyle, you haven’t met everyone yet, this is Amala” 

Kyle paused midair, performed a quick and automatic “Hi Amela! Good to meet you!” and tilted his neck around to see who he was speaking to. Amala was in a black apron like the new employees, but far different from Kyle, she was tall enough to reach the upper cabinets of the highest espresso shelves. For a moment, their eyes met, and Kyle immediately flashed through a series of images he didn’t know where from. “Hi Kyle,” she said, kindly but distantly, like she was very far away. Kyle proceeded to drop the coffee, spill it on a patron, and brilliantly, in an acrobatic moment, tripped and fell to the right, precisely where the coffee pot was kept.

Saved by design and the production in a factory somewhere of study materials, nothing was broken, and neither was Kyle, saved by design and production of the human body, and something else, Kyle thought, “Why didn’t I fall down”. He almost perceived that he had been held by something invisible, something in mid air. No one could detect it, but he was certain something caught his fall. “Still asleep,” Kyle thought, and quickly poured a Cold Brew, took it to the backroom and slammed it, to try and get the caffeine into his system as quickly as possible. 

Doing a quick yogic stretch, Kyle splashed water over his face, wiped it up with a paper towel, threw it in recycling, and went back to his daily duties. Looking to his left he noticed Amala was steaming milk in the espresso line. She must be three weeks in, he thought, gauging from the time the training would take to move from coffee bar to espresso area. 

Hours went by. So many people, all who Kyle loved, or tried to love, because what other choice did he have? The Coffee shop was so busy, and especially in the early morning hours Kyle felt like at times he was standing against darkness and discouragement, doing absolutely anything he could to make sure everyone he came across had a good day. No one ever did that for him, so he thought, hey why not, how is anyone different from talking to myself at all. Within a few hours it was time to go on break. 

Kyle walked out the door, said hi to Steven and the customers he knew, went around the corner and sat on the street, which by now was as busy with traffic as a downtown in a larger city. It was amazing how quickly the streets transformed. Kyle did almost nothing on breaks. He glanced at his phone, but it was more out of habit than anything else. Drinking what was now his third or fourth coffee drink, Kyle watched the clock until 10 minutes went by, then walked back inside and got on with the days work. 

The music was so annoying. He really wished there was no sound at all, just the rhythm of the machines, the sonic footprint of the work behind the counter, the announcements of orders. There must be a reason for this, Kyle said, imagining that it must have something to do with studies at the retail level, but he wasn’t sure, and even though he was curious, his culture had told him to “know his place”, which he was starting to perceive as a kind of classist system. 

“Nothing I can do about it”, Kyle thought. Passing behind Kyle just then, Amala said “Good third day, Kyle, good to meet you.” “You headed out?” Kyle asked. “Yep,” Amala said, and walking out the door, Kyle noticed something fall from her backpack. Kyle rushed to pick it up, but was caught in line by a customer. “Non fat, flat white, extra hot, dry latte with oat milk on the side, large cup, double with an extra cup and two lids” it happened so fast that it caught him off guard. He kept an eye on the paper on the ground while entering into order mode, a particular modality of thought during which no memory was required, everything sat within short term focus and rendered into the order system. 

“Thank you!” Kyle said hurriedly, and rushed out to the floor and picked the paper up. Amala had left by this point. Kyle took it to return it to the drawer to give to her the next day, promising he wouldn’t look at it. Sliding it underneath the money drawer he went on with his day. But order after order the anticipation was building. What was on that paper anyway? He was so transfixed, he started to make mistakes taking orders, he was getting off sync. He fumbled and managed his way through all the orders until he finally got to his break for the day. 

“Can I take a break?” Kyle asked his manager. “Um, that was the full day Kyle,” George said. You forgot to take your last break, this is it for the day. “Oh thank God,” Kyle said, rushed back to the register, scrambled through the desk, found the note, opened it, and stared. It was a part of a map. It looked really old, the letters in a script he didn’t understand. “What’s that?” George asked. “Oh, nothing” Kyle said. “Amala dropped it.” 

“Oh, OK,” George said. “Just keep it in the desk. We’ll tell her tomorrow. Remember, you’re off.” Kyle tried to not look disappointed. “I really want to see what’s on that map!” Kyle thought. “”Oh, and Kyle,” Could you take the trash out before you leave. It seemed to always be one last thing, Kyle thought, at least he didn’t have to close tonight. Kyle rounded up the trashes, loaded them onto a pushcart, and wheeled them down the street and into the area for garbage, tossing pounds of espresso and milk containers into their prospective parts.

“Why are these bins all white?” Kyle thought. It made the exteriors even more apparently gross. Wheeling everything back around, Kyle passed from passerby to passerby. everyone seemed off work at those moments but the shopkeepers. Kyle waved to those he saw often, and then thinking he was right back at the cafe, absentmindedly wheeled the cart into the wrong door, realizing he was in an a vintage shop. “Oh my God, I am so sorry” Kyle said, wheeling backwards. The shopkeeper smiled warmly, suppressing a laugh. 

Within a few moments, with actions not so specific, Kyle was packing up and ready to head back home. He clocked out and went back to his car. He thought he saw a ticket on the window. Great, out of all the times I was finally given a ticket on today, if there’s a map out of here I’d love to see it at any moment. The job was hard, sometimes Kyle wanted to leave but he couldn’t. He loved it at times but on days like today he just wanted a reset. Maybe sleep would bring that on. Getting in the car there was bad traffic which always happened at this time of day. 

It was back to classical music. He often wondered what composers of classical music thought about their work being played in cars for “relaxation”. How could anyone from the 17th century think that they would be listened to mostly in machines that could destroy an environment to be a distraction from congested highways and freeway entrances. In any case, he was soon home.

Walking inside the apartment, a few flights down in the hills of Three Corners hills, Kyle rushed to his bedroom, flopped on his bed and stared off into space. Maps, he thought. At least that’s somewhere. It would all happen again tomorrow, Kyle thought. Sometimes every day seemed the same, and while he loved the community, it was such hard work that he couldn’t do anything at night, just sit and try and detox from remembering coffee orders for 7 to 8 hours a day. He had some dinner quickly, opening the refrigerator and then deciding to do something quick. Pasta again. He was exhausted so went to bed. Climbing onto the bed, blowing out any candles he had lit when he got home, he had the first few moments to himself for the full day, and he dared to dream a little.

Sometimes the days were so hard at the shop he couldn’t dream, but he slowly broke free of the remaining thoughts burned into his mind, and thought about the map piece he had found on the ground. Why would anyone be carrying this to work? It was odd. He knew almost nothing about Amala. It was so busy at the shop he realized he may never get to know her, or ask about the map again. Probably she would have it by morning when he arrived.” I need to let this go,” he thought. “The map doesn’t belong to me and it’s none of my business.” Watching a series of reiki videos online, it was so early in the evening, but he was exhausted. At least for a few moments, even seconds, he felt a kind of gentle peace. He immediately fell asleep.

An Empty Cup Holds the Soul of a Dream (excerpt)

When Kyle woke up, again it was not quite dawn, but he was so exhausted from the day before that he noticed the edges of the blue sky starting to come up, seeming to embrace the sun in a warm glow. “That’s really not how science works,” he said to himself. Maybe in art though. Once again he walked through the apartment, turning on the lights and quickly putting on some house music to wake him up, which sounded at such a high frequency on the laptop speakers that it was almost like a compression had been put on all the tracks (Kyle was at one time a musician, and sometimes still was.). “I know how this feels,” Kyle thought, did all the morning things, and then headed out up the stairs, into the car, and out into the day. “Coffee.” Kyle thought. Coffee. In a few moments, he was down the hill and back onto the highway, headed back into Old Mill. He knew the shop would be open, and he got free drinks as part of his employment package. In a situation where there were so few benefits, it was a welcome addition to the income he received. That and the tips, that’s what really kept his head above water sometimes. Besides, and more honestly, the exact reason he got to work so early in the morning was to take a look at the map. He couldn’t help it, he had to know. “Hey George, hey Jose, could I get a blueberry scone and a shot of espresso? Actually an Americano, thanks so much, how’s the store this morning?” “Hi Kyle, we’re slammed, could you ring yourself up?” “Sure,” Kyle said, and quickly turned into the counter and rang himself up, punching precisely on the menu screen he had memorized in his mind. It was a matter of nanoseconds. The register automatically opened the drawer in a sound that was so satisfying to him. He placed his percentage for the pastry and looked around. There were no customers at that exact moment. I have to see what this is. He thought, he reached underneath the drawer and pulled out the map piece, photographed it with his phone, put it back, and closed the register, all in a matter of seconds. 

He needed to wait for the Americano, so he sat down with the pastry and looked around the room. Sometimes it was strange to sit as a customer and look back at what he did all day, as the baristas moved about their motions against the whirr of coffee machine sounds, espresso shots, and steamed milk. There were apparently a lot of mobile orders since it seemed to be constant work behind the register, he knew it would be a few minutes and so he sat and opened his phone, flipped to the photo library, scrolled horizontally to the map, and studied it. It looked really old, the paper frayed at the edges and an almost pale brown surface, splotched like dabs of sunlight across the surface. The script was something he had never seen before in real life, but it felt familiar. He must have seen something like it somewhere. “I know what to do”, he thought. And smiled at his cunning, yet completely obvious and not necessarily cunning at all, realized that he could do an image search on it. Passing it to Goggle, he quickly saw a series of images that were similar, all of them Tibetan manuscripts. After a bit of scrolling, he found the exact one. Clicking on the image took him to a very strange site. It looked like it hadn’t been updated since the dawn of the internet. The page was a light violet, and the images looked bitmapped, probably before JPGs existed at all. It was technical and didn’t matter. But what he read was fascinating. 

Reading in a voice he had never heard before, Kyle often thought about the audio imagination in context with the written word., he read each HTML bold headline and what it said. The script apparently was part of a map leading to something in a mountain range he had no idea where. He would have to do some more research to find out, he could do this at home, he thought. He was lost in thought,. “Kyle, Americano?” Came Jose’s voice across the floor, he looked up quickly and then saw it. Rising above the steamed milk section, a series of steam forms moved up into the ceiling and dissipated into the crisp morning air, coming into the coffee shop from the enormous open windows. It looked like a Dragon from Asian myth. He quickly remembered a parade in when he was very young in Chinatown, holding his mother’s hand, frightened but really happy to see the flowing costumed dragon as it passed through the street, the sound of drums and bells. It reached up into the air and became, at first imaginary, and then absolutely clear. Kyle was stunned. Quickly, like steam, disappearing quickly, It made its way out through the window in a last powerful, beautiful arc and disappeared. 

Kyle rushed to the counter. Placing both hands on the surface as if to brace himself.“Did you see that?” Kyle asked, in disbelief. “What,” asked Jose. “What?” Asked George. “Here’s your drink. Sorry, we’re slammed.” “Ok, I’ll talk to you guys about it later, but there was a dragon in the shop.” “George and Kyle looked at each other and shrugged. Get some sleep Kyle, you need some rest.” “OK. I guess I’m still too groggy,” Kyle said, “See you tomorrow.” Kyle waved and then walked out the door, Americano in hand. He turned to the left after he walked out the door, and with the window wide open for the shop heard the patter of conversations. Passing right before the shop windows would be out of sight and heard Jose’s voice., talking to George. “Can you believe Amala quit?” Kyle heard. “Yeah she told me she had to take care of Family,” George said. “It’s fine, she was seasonal and not on contract.” “Woah,” Kyle thought, putting his phone into his pocket and getting back into the car. He didn’t realize his apron was still on. 

Back at the apartment, Kyle was focused. “I have to look into this,” he thought. Something told him it was important. Moving from page to page, Kyle found more details about the map, and finally found an image to translation beta of Goggles that he quickly loaded the image into. After watching a loading bar for over 15 minutes, he got up to get something to drink. Looking back at the French Press, he opened the cabinet door and looked into the area for coffee. He had forgotten to pick some up from the store before he left. He could head into town and get some but remembered he had some Kombucha, opening the door and scanned to the bottom of the shelves. Right next to the Oat Milk he saw he had one left, grabbed it, and hurriedly went back to the laptop screen. Not only had the progress bar completed, but he realized his screen had an intricate map of what he was looking for. He couldn’t believe it. He had never seen anything like this before.

He tried looking for the URL but he realized he wasn’t online at all, in fact, he didn’t know what had happened to the computer. He looked directly into the screen and saw a north passageway marked on the map, through a mountain pass, and onto a seemingly remote part of the valley somewhere. The only option was to hit print on the computer screen. His dusty printer made a whirring sound, and slowly produced tile pages of an intricate map. OK, Kyle thought, found his scissors and some tape, and proceeded to make a large map he could fold up and put in a notebook. He had no idea why he was doing this. It was almost automatic. 

Kyle was not a geographer and knew very little about locating exact countries on a map, but he could tell from studying Indian history in a class in college that this was of Northern India, specifically an area north of Dharmashala. From there the map showed a long entrance into the mountains. There were also unknown markings, that apparently Google couldn’t translate. They were what looked at a surface level like ideograms, but he wasn’t certain. He had no clue what to do next, but he was locked into studying the mystery. I have to find out what this means. He picked up the phone and called George. “Hi George, I came down with something, I may not be able to make it tomorrow,” he said. “Hey Kyle, OK, but could you come in sometime this weekend to make up for it, I’ll have to find someone.” “Sure thanks, Hope everything goes well at the shop today,” he said. Kyle looked out the window at the hills below, Maybe he would find a mountain someday. Was this all a test?” 

Kyle remembered, from a meditation class he took, that there was a meditation temple on the side of one of the hills to the east of Three Corners. He shut off all the lights in the house, and headed up the hill and back to his car, got in, and automatically, music from a spy series he had forgotten on his phone started playing, “Not this again,” Kyle thought, then thought, maybe no sound this time. Placing his phone down, turning corner after corner until he was back on the highway and headed West. Within 15 minutes he saw the meditation hall in the far distance, pulling up at an open space, uncommonly close to his destination (parking was awful in this part of the county) He climbed a set of stairs through a wide expanse of double doors and into a courtyard, a woman, in light yellow robes, sat at a fountain and looked up at him. “Can I help you?” she asked. “Um, hi, I thought someone here might be able to help me with something,” Kyle said. At first, there was the sound of a gentle silence, with inflections of water sounds as a fountain slowly and gently settled into a pool of water, reflecting light in the afternoon sun. 

Arrow

I prayed last night, after meditating for hours.

I lit three candles, and laid down in bed to rest

The sound of ambience and calm tones as it entered my mind

I felt deeply into my heart center and held my hands there

And my mind was at peace, my body with currents of energy

I could feel every aspect of being alive

Compassion wild open

And then I perceived the three candles like an arrow of light

lit by prayer and aimed directly at my heart center

I let it enter my body and it reached throughout my spirit

Until a deep love came over me, cradling my heart like a deep embrace

I held it there, and could have forever, it’s still in me now, even as I write

This is a reminder to myself never to drift back into cynicism

And know the presence of the divine

And that this world may not be what it seems, but its deeper and deeper still

And not every moment matters, but in focused prayer, and gentle peace

Our shackles don’t break as much as they are unremembered,

and all that is left is an open heart that remains.

Our Wings Were Always Invisible to Everyone But You.

“Hey, wake up”,  the moon said, at least something like the moon, a light in the darkness. Isabelle’s black wings, infinite with stars in the sky, slowly opened. She had become enraptured in the nighttime air, the moments of dawn slowly opening. They unfurled into an invisible wave, echoing the reflections of the roofs of the houses as she gazed into the distance. She yawned. “Moon, I love you but you can be so annoying when you’re about to disappear, I needed rest.” Moon smiled silently. “Sorry Isabelle, you know how it goes,” she said. It’s time to get ready.” Isabelle stretched, folded her wings, and sat down. “You know, moon, I have to ask, how did I get here?” She was sitting in the grass outside her small apartment in the woods, her home a few feet from her. “Did I sleep outside again?” “You fell asleep while tending the moonflowers in the garden,” moon said. “I dreamed again,” Isabelle said. It was a long day yesterday. “A lifetime” moon said, You want to talk about it? “Later,” Isabelle said, “I have to feed the cat, and I have to do inventory this morning.” “OK, Isabelle,” Moon said. Time accelerated,

 in a few moments, it was the beginning of dawn. “I can’t stand it when she does that,” Isabelle said. As Moon drifted quickly into the bright morning air, Isabelle folded her wings out of sight and walked inside her apartment, made some coffee, and started getting ready for the day. “Everything is alive,” Isabelle thought, greeted the coffee cup, said hello to everything in the house, one by one, walked into the kitchen, and looked at the spells in the cupboard. “I’ll need to head into town,” Isabelle thought, “We’re out of St. Johns” “Read the label this time,” she read from a parchment post-it note on one of the shelves. “I’m so forgetful,” Isabelle thought, “No you’re not, it’s just self-confidence.” Moon said, “Moon are you in the cat again?” “Sorry, Just for a moment!” Moon said. “Mew” cat said. “At least things are back to normal, ” Isabelle said, walked outside, drew with chalk on the ground, and disappeared.

Within moments she was in town. It was early, the shopkeepers were opening shop, quiet in the morning air, music softly drifting, greeting the day. “Coffee first,” Isabelle said, and walked down the cobblestone streets, a song in her heart and a sunrise in the sky. The liminal space between night and day, those were her favorite moments, a blanket of light in the midst of a dream. She had to be careful. It wasn’t always safe for a witch outside, even a good one. Anyone might be moon today, she thought and smiled. Opening her heart, quartz in her pocket, protection spell activated, and the clouds in the sky.

Just Going on a Walk

When my art retreat finally ended I finally did my last tidying up of things, cleaned the studio and set back on my day. One year. I couldn’t believe it. It was so much more than just making marks on a page. It was difficult, isolating but I found my footing with every challenge just dedicated to the art form. I couldn’t take for granted that I had an opportunity to study like this, and so much of traditional school just sets up that stage for an artist. It led me to many things. It was not an easy time so close to nature. I understand why people move to cities. I didn’t realize how urban I actually was until we got here. I’ve lived in cities all my life, and often lived as you often find yourself as a young artist in industrial districts. But I’ve changed, and so has my practice. I can make art anywhere. The last piece of this period of art study, through which I mastered analog manga drawing, 3D overpainting and impressionist landscape design, character design and vector drawing, was a science fiction story about a veteran who returns home after a long war to her homeland. And today on veteran’s day I think of those moments I was drawing.

I’ll never understand what it’s like to be in an actual fight. It’s not something I think I can understand. But what our heroes go through is something we can’t forget. I intend to study and think, and listen to their voices today, and even more while I try and make a work for them that can help call attention to the circumstances of peacetime, after a conflict that is something so few of us really grasp. The walk I took to the end of the street and back to adjust to this new beginning of healing, after so much I went through making my work, was uneventful. It was almost on the surface what might be considered boring. But I know that we can only live in those peaceful moments because people we do not know fought for all of us. Just going to the grocery store and back takes so much that I’ll never be able to repay. I hope we all think of these things today. Not a single second of ordinary life can be taken for granted. It was not easy for any of us to get here. It’s time we appreciated each little moment we have, we have been given life through countless generations, and all of us are protected by men and women who we may not know, but believe in our freedom almost more than we can ever understand. I hope we can always protect them when they come home. I’ll do what I can. I’ll help tell that story, even if it’s in fiction, because our veterans deserve it, and while I can’t finish it soon, I will finish the story. Nothing I can ever do can repay what we owe to them, but every moment we have is one more reason, that we need to thank them. They are the best of us. Thank you. I hope our world gives you all the love you need and deserve. And I’ll do my best in the same small way I can. You’ve given so much to us. It’s only fair that we give to you whatever we can.

Namor vs Aquaman: Which Hero Would Win A Showdown?

It’s inevitable that at any range of issues, or entire comic arcs, heroes become villains and villains become heroes, in what could be thought of and related to as the day-to-day difficulties as we all navigate our relationships. And in comics two of these characters who are so similar, Namor and Aquaman, have a definite place to begin to think about those differences that matter. Either could win a battle of their abilities, from telekinesis of sea life to flight, but we could most easily see the differences in something they are quintessentially depicted as doing: sitting on a throne and looking serious. Who would win this battle? Who rocked that pose the best?

Of course, that’s up to the artist, and there are hundreds if not thousands of artists who have taken on this task. First, there’s the throne. Both Namor and Aquaman have intricate shell shapes they sit on top of looking serious toward no one in particular, and so many artists have created small architectural masterpieces just envisioning the same scene. It’s a place for wild invention, and an opportunity to unleash ethereal blues and greens upon which both sit as the caretakers of their realms.

But Namor, in many cases, just looks relaxed. He kind of slides into the space, almost like he’s sitting on a beanbag chair just kind of chilling out. When he stands up he’s super powerful, but when he sits down he’s essentially saying through body language, “Bitch, please”. Aquaman could walk in and Namor would just sit there, with Aquaman, psychic abilities in full display might detect clairvoyantly a “meh”. Bored to the point of confusion, Aquaman would probably give up and just say, “Alright then, I’m going to go play with the dolphins, this isn’t interesting at all.” But does he do that? Absolutely not. 

What would Aquaman do? Just to prove a point he could direct the ocean waves and catch a current to perform somersaults in the air, and then go back to his kingdom, with both enjoying their respective parts of the ocean, and competing publishing companies. So neither win, and because of that, they both win, and can go on exciting adventures ready for each generation of artists and writers, and inspire the minds of countless readers. Thank you Aquaman and Namor, and all of your writers and artists, who inspire all of us every day, take a step back today and sit on that throne, you all deserve it.