Day 6: Mudbound

Friday, 18th June 2021

It was time to deepen the journey and spice things up by drawing some Tarot cards. This wouldn’t be as much fun as the “Psychedelic Glass Bead Game” I had played twice with geeky friends, but it would be more personal. I went for one of the simplest forms described in the book “Tarot Basics Crowley” by Johannes Fiebig and Evelyn Bürger: draw three day cards that represent your situation, task, and solution. Easy.

Situation: Queen of Cups. Water of Water, Great Mother, anima mundi. Trust your inner voice and let it flow. Go to a river or lake and meditate there.

Task: Knight of Cups. Fire of Water, Percival, wounded healer. What do you believe in? Seek the holy grail. Unite heart and intellect. Balance the opposites.

Clearly someone has got their work cut out for them.

Solution: The Magus. Hermes Trismegistus, active, vital, decisive. Expand your horizon. Walk your unique way and discover the yet unseen.

Even without these hints, I knew it was time for a close encounter with water. But first I needed to find a replacement for the cool white hat that I had lost – alas! – along the road trip through Germany. I went to raid the nearby town of Elmshorn, earning the spoils of a new summer hat, a magic cap, swimming trunks of awesomeness, and sunscreen. A homeless man and I exchanged smiles twice in passing. His friendly gaze resembled that of a Bodhisattva – not that I could explain to you now exactly how a Bodhisattva gazes, so just take my word for it. I intended to return a third time, but when I looked for him he had disappeared. So I wished him well, wherever and whoever he was, and recalled the many times in 2012 (and since) when I had chatted with homeless people on the streets, or with street artists; these encounters had often turned out to be the true blessings of the day.

Low tide …

I drove to Kollmar beach with the intention to swim in the Elbe river. The tide was so low that in lieu of actual swimming, I only buried my feet in the soft mud that covers the riverbanks. At least I’m touching water. It was an uncanny feeling to sink almost knee-deep into something you cannot see. It also felt strangely comforting, as if Gaia herself would wrap me into her semi-solid, semi-liquid body of mud & moisture.

Meanwhile, two young men went further into the water to play with a ball, and unsuccessfully tried to convince a group of teenage girls to join them. (What I did not know: further upstream in Hamburg, a 15-year-old boy tragically drowned that evening while swimming in the same river.)

… begets muddy feet.

With little time left, I went on to Friedrichshafen and sat cross-legged on the slope of a dike, casting a meditative gaze across the shores of the Wadden Sea. Then I steered back home to raid some fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farm shop, as well as a loaf of “Shield Maiden” bread from a small bakery that knows how to name their goods. At home Annika already awaited me in the garden, herself having ambitiously taken a bike tour amidst the scorching summer heat (at least 35°C) all the way from central Hamburg to Groß Nordende.

Gazing across the Wadden Sea.

Annika finalized slides for her upcoming presentation, while “we” (myself, Mary and Francesco from the Mindful Researchers “gardeners” group) prepared to open our first “Mindful Presentations” session – a new format that one of our community members, Niko, had proposed a couple weeks earlier.

What makes this meeting format special is that instead of a dry “classic” presentation for academic peers, we encourage each other to share and discuss our work in the context of “our deeper reflections on why and how we care about our research, as well as our non-academic ventures, ambitions, motivations, inspirations, contemplative practices, and questions in life that matter to us” – to quote from our newsletter. Or in Annika’s words:

A space where researchers can experiment, explore, test-run “less typically academic” (whatever that means in their specific discipline) reflections. Stepping deeper in our work, or branching off into new directions tends to involve uncertainty – and others willing and able to (joyfully, calmly, wildly) hold the space for us to do so. We want to offer such a space (to ourselves, and we invite others).

Barring a couple minor technical issues, our session went extraordinarily well. Willeke, Annika and Niko presented their research and life passions among a group of 17 participants. This was followed by a highly engaged “open conversation” / Q&A, for which most attendees stayed way beyond the official closing time. What a blessing!

After this highlight, I felt incredibly hungry and made pasta with veggie sugo, spiced up with swiftly sautéed mushrooms and, well, spices. It stayed warm outside way beyond nightfall. Annika had beer and fruits, I had wine and pasta, and we reflected on mind and life.

Finally sinking into bed, I wondered … soon the midpoint of this journey would be reached. What more was to come, when meetings and other duties were behind me? What magic was dawning, which places were calling, whom else would I encounter, and whose secrets were awaiting their revelation?

Soundtrack of the day:

Corvus Corax – “Sverker” (album), “Skál” (album)

To be honest, I cannot remember what exactly I was listening to on that day. But it’s a good moment to plug the earthy medieval music of Corvus Corax. You cannot go wrong by listening to Corvus Corax … you might only go a bit crazy and perhaps surrender your body and soul to ecstatic dance. :-)

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