|Image created by John Ashbaugh|
Heart of the Stone
The framework of the structure begins with the twin rectangles
at the Heart of the Aztec Calendar Stone.
The tapestry of the mythological symbols
are rooted in and grow from the geometry
of the intersecting rectangles at the center.
The symbol is the message.
The book of drawings and writings is the vehicle.
I did not plan to come up with this “Outline for a New Mythology”
when I began my series of drawings when I was thirty-three in nineteen seventy-seven.
I was simply an ex Peace Corps volunteer who had served in India,
who then studied Cultural Anthropology, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shamanism,
mythology, symbology, and linguistics,
and who then turned to the art of painting pictures
and writing short stories and poetry.
I had been painting since the fall of ’73, and was continuing my studies
through university libraries, without the framework of a formal program,
for my interests in my chosen fields of study never waned.
I was mystified by the quadrilateral geometric structure
at the Heart of the Aztec calendar stone,
embedded as is in mythological symbols.
Nowhere in my reading did I find mention of why the design is this way.
The series of drawings emerged spontaneously, one after another.
I began geometrically deconstructing the design.
There is simplicity, perfection, and gracefulness
in the geometric figure of these intersecting rectangles.
Here is the universal symbol of the quadrilateral,
the four directions, the four quarters of the Earth,
the four seasons between the Solstices and Equinoxes,
all things that come to our minds in fours,
presented in a way that has not been seen
since the time when the makers of the calendar stone
set their chisels to the rock.
I continued with my series of drawings until I had completed my visual poem,
and published them together in a book,
placing the keystone symbol of the intersecting rectangles on the cover.
The title: The Gathering of the Tribes of the Earth,
was intended to convey the universal significance of this symbol
and the drawings which precede and follow it in the series.
This is three years before I wrote any poetry about this sequence of drawings.
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Turquoise MountainGather and set the circle of rocks
Gather and pile the wood to be burned.
Strike the match in mid afternoon,
when sun is bright and sky crystal blue.
Burn it all down to when stars come out,
and evening star Venus
slides behind juniper groves.
There are no stars in the sky of the city.
Here is what I came to see.
Beneath the summit of snow capped Mount Turquoise.
Watch a wispy cloud turn pink in the fading light of sunset.
Feel the chill begin to seep through old shirtsleeves.
Watch stars emerge from the darkness above,
until the sky is bursting with points of light,
like a shattered pomegranate.
Look for the pictures in the stars I know.
Watch the turning of the wheel of Time.
The final log is burned in half
by the blade of the flame nurtured with small sticks.
The log separates in a snap.
The final embers glow.
The flame has spoken with the stars.
Fragments of dreams at the end of a story
leave me wondering about all that went before.
Perhaps the final understanding is all that matters,
and how I got here, is irrelevant.
At the top of the mountain with fire and stars,
everyone whom I have known is here.
Around the fire, between daylight and starlight,
thought disappears, memories disappear,
the inside of my house
with its reminders of who I have been,
all of that is disappeared, in the circle of Earth around the fire,
in the juniper grove on the side of Mount Turquoise, under our sky.
Feeding the fire, stick by stick, becomes the order of the day,
deciding when to burn high, when to burn low,
deciding when to throw on a log and how to place it
in the deepening bed of coals,
making plans for the big log,
and how to burn it through.
Our Sun arches low to the silver horizon.
Follow the lengthening shadows of pinion pines.
Catch first sight of evening star Venus
as she shines brighter than a sapphire in the darkening sky.
Fireball of a meteor with tail of a dragon
falls towards the western horizon
amidst the ocean of stars.
Here I can take the time to have my private conversation
with you, my friend, my brother, my sister.
These words we share through the dancing flames,
under the shattered pomegranate of stars above,
reach their conclusion with the final snap
between the two ends of the great log.
There are no more sticks to burn,
The embers glow red in the darkness around,
the circle of stones,
the circle of trees,
the circle of our horizon,
the circle of stories,
our dreams in the stars.
February 9, 2015
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