"Yaaaaahhhhoooo!" I shouted as the white water took hold of us.
"Perfect, we took it Jus'Perfect!" from Alex as we went into the last chute. The rest of the river was Jus' Perfect also. The sound of the water singing and spraying your mind and body, the richness of the vegetation, the natural beauty of the riverside farmland was Jus' Perfect.
Out of the river, isn't so perfect. Jack has a job, bills to pay, children to raise-the same struggle and suffering that each of us face in an America that has lost its spiritual values. But, there are glimpses of higher consciousness as Jack explores his night time dreams and day time illusions. He touches on Esoteric Christianity through the teachings of Gurdjieff and Krishnamurti and gets a different taste of the white water.
Moments of Awakening
Tasting the White Water
By Jack Daley
Dedicated to those family members and friends who served as models for the fictional characters who people this work.
"Without self knowing all meditation leads to delusion and to varying forms of self-deception, factual and fancied." Krishnamurti
Two weeks before our first rafting trip, Alex and I were up in Greely Hill looking at a piece of property that we were thinking about going partners on. At four thousand feet and dotted with pines, twenty minutes from the north gate to Yosemite, the ten acre plots were a really good investment, Alex was telling me. But, I wasn't paying much attention. Somehow, I didn't have the spiritual high that I always get when I'm up in the Sierra foothills.
All I could think about was how difficult the last couple weeks had been. First of all, Stoke moves back after a year out on his own, and is not at all happy about it. He wants his old room back, but he doesn't want any rules. Vickie is cutting classes right up to her last week of high school, and, picking up on Stoke's hours, staying out passed her midnight curfew. Anne and I are disagreeing more and more on what to do about the kids. "That's you to a T, you want me to be the bad guy. You never back up what you say you'll do," she's telling me.
As we checked out a view of the snow capped Sierra from a high point on the rock strewn property, I was telling myself that things were no better in my economic life. "The worse case scenario actually happened. I didn't get my regular summer school job. My mentor proposal to add video filming to the classroom curriculum was turned down. And, my novel came back with another form rejection," I explained to Alex.
On the way down hill, as we pulled over to get a view of the Tuolumne, I told him, "You know, twenty some years now I've been trying to make it as a writer, and I still don't know if it's what I'm cut out to do. I know I don't want to stay in teaching. And there doesn't seem to be anything else. I keep asking myself, 'What is that one thing on earth that you were sent down from the stars to do?'"
Alex opened the pick-up door and shook his head. "Of course, you realize, Jack, that's the hardest question a man can ask. Though it's really, 'What is it that a man can be in life?'"
At the edge of the dirt road, we caught sight of the river winding its way some three thousand feet below. A definite feeling of power rose from the water and touched our very bones. We could both feel it. Above, white puffy clouds were pushing off the Sierra.
"I'll tell you though, Jack," Alex said breaking several minutes of silence, "I have figured out a way for you to get published. No question about it. Just string together that whole series of dreams. Your dream journal. Write it exactly as you dreamed it. No revision, no plot. Just a vivid recreation of all the detail. Call it, 'Dreams of a Madman.' Instant success!"
When his laughter died down, I had a little laugh of my own. "Well, you don't know. You haven't read the latest revision of the Alaska novel. I've inserted a whole series of dreams. Dreams that I've had in the past two years while rewriting. You wouldn't believe how they tie right in. What I'm trying to do is carry out what Jung calls the individuation process, to examine personal dreams that will lead to the collective.
"Like there's this dream I had last week. I'm in a long empty hospital corridor. A doctor in a white coat with a stethoscope around his neck is removing bandages from my arms. I have the feeling that some world wide catastrophic disaster has taken place, that the world will never be the same again. I'm one of millions who have been injured or killed, I'm telling myself as the doctor completes his examination.
"He tells me I'm free to reenter society and asks if I intend to continue my career in education. 'No, I got to get out'a teaching. It's not the same any more. It's not any fun,' I answer feeling a great sense of relief at my decision.
"Then, the scene shifts. I'm in some kind of large factory. It's my first night on the new job. I'm tightening a clamp that connects two big black hoses. I can see this white creamy milk flowing inside the hoses. A trickle spills on the sleeve of my white work shirt. As I turn the wrench, I wonder just what my job is, and what I should do next."
"Wow, that's a big dream," Alex exclaimed nodding his head.
"Yea, I had a strong feeling for several days after that another disaster like the one in Chernobyl might occur. That it's a prophetic dream. From the collective."
"No, that's not a collective dream. That dream isn't about mankind. It's about you. Some kind of disaster within your personal unconscious. Though, of course, there are connections with the collective. What was there, milk flowing through pipes? I'm sure that's from the collective."
"Yea, I thought of my new job as connecting the lines where the milk is flowing. But, I felt so strongly that hundreds of thousands of people were involved. That's why I think it may be some kind of premonition."
"No, if it was from the prospective function, you would be able to pin point specific details. There are those kind of prophetic dreams. Jung describes several. But, they're always in terms of the specific facts they predict. Your disaster is inner. You know, if you have centers that are developing consciousness, that would seem catastrophic to sleeping psychological forces. There are complexes within our unconscious that don't want to come to light.
"It's a big dream, though. One you ought to work on. You know, I really find that Fritz Perls has the best method of looking at dreams. Remember, he says that everything in your dream is you, some psychological force in your unconscious. The doctor is you, the stethoscope, even the pipe where the milk is flowing." Alex said as we returned to the truck.
When we crossed the La Grange Bridge, Alex explained that we could put in there, behind the narrow wooden bridge, and raft all the way to Waterford. Remembering that we had talked about doing just that for several years, I suggested that we set a definite date. "What about in two weeks?"
"Sounds good to me. I have a patient who has a two-man canoe. I think he might just let me borrow it. I'd just as soon go down in a canoe."
"I'd rather take a canoe," I noted, picturing a couple trappers on the Delaware.
"You know, that's about the only way I haven't seen the Tuolumne, from a canoe. It’s really played a major part in my life the last ten years. Even before that, when we were still in the Bay Area, I started to fish her. I've covered every foot, from her source in the high Sierra all the way down to Modesto. Only fifty years ago they were taking salmon out that weighed forty pounds. One of the top rated trout rivers in the world before they built the dams." Alex told me.
He suggested that I check around to see if I could borrow a canoe also, just in case. We decided that if we came up empty handed, we'd rent one.
Back then; I didn't argue with Alex's contention that the important question is really what is it that a man can be in life. But, today, some ten years later, as I question the worth of my writing for the millionth time, I wonder. There is a very fine line between being a writer and wanting to be a writer. For years, I was a "wanna be writer." I dreamed about being a writer, and never wrote a word. The act of writing is in the present moment. It is a doing, an act of transcribing words. When one is in the act of writing, is one a writer, then? Does doing lead to being? And, when one discontinues the act of writing, is one a non-writer? Of course, Henry Miller said that when the muse was in, he never stopped writing. At the dinner table, making love, riding his bike, he was writing. The act of writing is more than putting words to paper isn't it?
Even back then, I realized how difficult the question. What is it that a man is sent down from a star to do? It is so easy to be carried away by illusion, by Imaginary I. And yet, if we don't follow our bliss, our life is meaningless, and empty. Just to be a conscious man? Is that all God asks of one? Instead of being a writer, just being a more conscious man?
"As a machine has life, so does the I and the me, a life which is fed by thought and feeling. Fact destroys this machinery." Krishnamurti
On the Thursday before the two weeks were up, Alex called and informed me that he was getting a raft. "Yea, I talked to a couple guys I work with who've been down that stretch of the Tuolumne. Both said this time of year it's running shallow. Parts where you have to portage through. I'm going to a boating shop in Modesto right after work."
"Good deal. I'll go halfer's with you."
"Oh, you don't have to. Though if you did, we could get the bigger one. I really liked the four-man raft. It'll run a little over three hundred by the time we get paddles and a pump."
Buying it! I thought we were renting it, I told myself biting my tongue. By this time, I had picked up a summer school job teaching migrant students in Grayson, a little farming town about twenty miles south. I'd have summer school pay after all. Still, I'd have to ask Anne. Alex said he'd like to be in the water by sun up. I agreed to be at his house by five.
Driving across the great valley at four A.M., I watched the orchards and vineyards turn to larger and larger dairy farms and cattle ranches. Scattered beacons of light spread out wider and wider. A feeling of vastness and peace entered my very soul. Stoke was spending the weekend at a friend's. Vickie had made it home just a minute or two after midnight and even kissed me good night before going to her room. Anne was asleep in our bed. Not a worry in the world, I was telling myself and thinking that just a few years ago I would have been making my way home this time of morning; finishing up a night at the Black Hawk in the city, or maybe ending a song fest at the Overland House in Jack London Square. Still, even when you're just starting out, there's that four A.M. tingle.
It was still dark when I reached Alex's house. Spotting a strange car in the driveway, I figured he must have an over night guest. I tapped softly on the sliding glass door, waited a couple seconds and stepped inside. As I entered the kitchen, Alex and a girl who looked to be in her early forties were coming out of the bedroom hallway. Alex was in his Saturday night clothes; flowered short sleeve shirt, Calvin Klein's jeans, and white tennis shoes. The girl, wearing a basic brown blouse and slacks, didn't have a whole lot of sex appeal. He introduced her as Lucy, a neighbor who he had run into at "Sleazy Street," and related that she told him that her car wasn't running right. After they closed the place, she was following him home. "Lucky thing. You'll never believe it, man. I ran a red light. Cop sitting right across the street, waiting. They had me walk the line and the whole bit. Wrote me up for running the light and made me park the truck. Told me if Lucy wasn't there to drive me home, they would 'a written me up for drunk driving. We'll have to go back for the truck."
On the way to Modesto, Alex described how he had just put out a dube. Was watching Lucy in the rear view mirror. Came up on the blinking red and thought it was orange. "Soon as I started through, I knew I was had. I jumped out'a the truck and admitted my mistake. Couple years ago, I would'a fought it and probably gone to jail. Lucy couldn't understand. Here I get written up, and I'm laughing about it. I got off easy, man."
Back in Waterford, the sun was just rising as we changed into shorts and loaded the raft. I followed Alex to Robert's Ferry Road and parked.
"Remember the last time we were in a boat together?" Alex asked as he steered a climbing turn a mile or two from the put in.
"Yea, that was up in Clear Lake. What, twenty years ago? You know, you won't believe this, but I can remember that moment, right now, as if we were still there, the four of us. Anne and Sarah in their swim suits burning to a crisp. You and I fighting over who's gonna steer the boat. And, the motor quitting on us right in the middle of the lake. Looking at it in psychological time, I can feel it as if it were not separate from this moment."
"A lot of water under the bridge since then, that's for sure," Alex laughed. "But, I know what you mean. There are flashes when it all comes together."
"And if you hold those flashes, that's what Nicoll calls Self Remembering. He says it's possible to reach a higher level in yourself. A level where you enter the fourth dimension; a different time zone where there is no separation between past, present, and future. All our past is alive when we step out of chronological time."
"Yea, you have to step out of time," Alex agreed.
Outside, miles and miles of grassland waved in a silent breeze. A glimmer of river came into view. I rolled down my window and breathed in the dew fresh air. Peace and beauty filled the contour of the land. Green leafed ancient oaks spread the soft rolling meadows right to the edge of the shimmering waters. Sun and shadow played the curving two-lane road. Swallows flashed from their nests in the sheer left bank of the ancient riverbed that rose above us. As we slowed to cross the La Grange Bridge, a sign caught my attention. Something about a dangerous drop if the sluices are open. "Did you see that?" I asked Alex.
"The sign?" Alex answered nodding his head and turning on a slight grin. "There's a fifty foot drop if they're putting in water. Get caught in it and you're dead meat."
"Yea. Sure, fifty foot."
"Well, maybe not fifty feet. But, you can't ride it down. You have to portage 'round the drop. You do realize don't you. Once we get on the river, there's no turning back. I mean, we're on our own for a good five hours or more. If we put a hole in her or something."
A rush of fear struck deep within my heart as Alex parked and we climbed out of the truck. My eyes focused on the only other vehicle in the lot, an old camper with a boat rack on top. In my mind, a scene from Deliverance mixed with choppy white water swamping the whole front end of the raft. Jesus Christ, I told myself wondering just what I had let myself in for. Alex was already at the rope untying the partially inflated blue and yellow four-man raft. It struck me that the guys from the camper were probably watching. Searching the bank, I found no trace of them. Better give Alex a hand, I told myself and started for the other side of the truck.
"You run the pump right off the battery, huh?" I asked Alex as I opened the hood and listened to his explanation of the pumping procedure. He showed me the pressure gauge for the inner and outer liners, but I couldn't figure out which was which. I watched him fill the first valve, and took the pump to the next one.
"No, that's for the back decking. You fill that last," Alex told me and pointed to the pumping chart. All the time we were inflating and loading the raft, I had the distinct feeling that someone was watching my every move. That someone could see that I didn't have the slightest idea of what I was doing.
As we carried the raft to the water's edge, a chill hit me. I was wishing I had left my long pants on. Christ, I didn't even remember the strap for my glasses, I told myself while I tried to lower my end of the raft without getting my leather K-Swiss wet.
"Why don't you take the front? We can trade off every hour or so," Alex said as he held the raft steady. I climbed in and wondered if I should put my life jacket on. "You really control everything from the back. The guy up front just balances and watches for rocks," he told me as he pushed off.
While Alex continued to share his newly acquired knowledge of rafting, I was wishing I had read up on it a little like I had planned. Christ, what'll Anne say if get myself drowned or something?
Then, the peace of the river touched me. Gently lapping waves. Wisps of wind. The cry of a killdeer. Alex had both oars in the rings working us out to the center. His legs stretched halfway across the raft leaving just enough room for mine. "Man, this is something else," I marveled as we studied the wooden planks on the underside of the bridge. From both banks, tree covered earth spread out to meet the water's edge. Morning bird song filled the air.
Before we hit our first rough water, we had changed from one man rowing to two man paddling. For some reason, Alex had decided that the man in the front of the raft should row with his back to the water. This meant that I had to work my paddle just the opposite way from how I normally would. As Alex called row right or, hard left, I would stop and ask myself, which right? Which left? More than once I got the two mixed up and rowed us straight into the rocks. Other times, when I found myself in the rear of the raft, I'd misjudge the flow, over compensate, and row us into the over hanging branches. Lucky for us, the rapids were so shallow that we had to work harder at keeping our weight off the bottom than we did at steering.
Lucky for us, there were long stretches of deep quiet water where we could practice. Stretches where schools of twelve to eighteen inch trout flashed just beneath the surface, where snowy egrets fed along the edge. A stretch where two blue herons lifted skyward and followed the river on and on and on until they finally disappeared from sight. There were stretches where hardly a trace of civilization touched our senses, where deep red clay canyon walls spread the river into a wide lake, where you no longer felt the heavy hand of time, where you sensed the same Tuolumne that the Chulamni felt for thousands of summers.
Just before we hit the campgrounds two hours this side of the take out, the river narrowed down again, and flowed a little faster. We began to see other craft in the water; canoes, rafts, and inner tubes. In a water slide like drop, we rushed passed the campers showing off our stuff. Balancing the raft, with our heads at times in the chop of a wave, we were taking it left and right, riding the crest in perfect harmony until we hit a drop that spun us three times and shot us sideways toward the right bank. Leaning back with my ass off the bottom and my oar above my head, I spotted this abandoned cow pasture coming down on us. Before I could get my oar in the water, strands of barbed wire aimed straight at my face. Without thinking, I jabbed with my oar and fended off the attack.
"Good thing you saw that. Do you know what that wire would'a done to the raft?" Alex asked.
"I was thinking how it would'a ripped out my eyeballs."
Then, calm again, and a long stretch where the sun beat down. "Damm it, I knew I should'a brought some lotion. Doug warned me about how hot it gets," Alex said. Three miles of river where we tried to row in unison to make time against the stillness, where I got really pissed at Alex for trying to row both sides instead of waiting for me, where Alex yelled, "God damm it, Jack, you're on the wrong fucking side again," just before I rowed us into the trees, where the wind blew us backwards and I began to think about Monday morning.
"All esoteric literature agrees on that. First we must awaken, then we die, and only then can we be born again."