Nov. - Dec. Travel Dreams at the end of 1999.
- I'm on the campaign trail with some lame candidate as all of my experience,
good, weird, and inane, turns to finely composted silt in my mouth. We're
searching for the place on the trail that needs this (spoken) compost: where
to bury it?...
- I'm leading a sister on a blind horse, for a last ride.
- Shooting the rapids in the Grand Canyon, without a boat! Feet first, keep
- Accompanied by an elder in ancient Greece, I am about to take an
initiatory Medicine that made me sick once before. ( Very afraid.)
- I'm test-driving a big old Lincoln; a male friend says "it's too much for you,"
but a girl friend says, "All right!" and suddenly it is MINE! Then, parked in
the next slot is a stalking Demon in his beautiful black pimp-mobile. My
friends have all run away, but I confront him and demand that he hand over
the keys ...
- Bicycling slowly through the mall, cruising for new lovers.
- Equipping for departure in a huge camel caravan. ... and finally,
- I have customized a fabulous hot rod, and joined a huge easterly migration.
In Texas I encounter a recently reincarnated Jimi Hendrix. We are moving
on different 'sleep' (reality?) cycles, he and I. I tell him, "when you wake up,
I might still be Here." And maybe I will, because I am the coolest Road
Chick in the cycle! I can read all of the Signs, and translate the jokes! And as
I awaken, I realize that I am Jimi's Road Angel.
November,1999. While in Austin for Mike's wake, George and I had lunch
with his old religion Teacher, who is his walking partner on the Travel card.
By the time George took me to visit his alma mater in 1983, Patrick was the
Dean of Students, and I was big pregnant. Along for the ride. Pat took us to
a marvelous garden called Innisfree for a memorable walk. A little lake, and
ground cover straight out of Tolkien. A path into Faery. And I was carrying
my old Canon. Before eyeglasses, before auto-focus. Drunk on novel
hormones and a few extra pounds. Following the boys as they walked, heads
down, as if addressing spells to the land. A man and his Teacher,
transformed over time into peers, into friends, and graphing maps of
consciousness, as they walked the Beauty Way. Tagging along in their
etheric wake, I could only manage to photograph them from behind; a nice
snapshot of the day.
The inception of the photo-collage which became this Travel card waited for
years, since I didn't begin hand-coloring until 1986. It had to wait for the
color, and for the collage, as the other half, the 'background' from Hawaii,
wasn't photographed until 1988. That was when we visited a psychedelic
plant preserve in Hawaii. Terence would start each day saying, "Now, we are
going to the weirdest place in the world!" (Weirder than jungles with wild
orchids? Hot lava covering the only road? Black sand beaches with florescent
fish? Lead on!) Then our leader would outfit and Drive us There, and back.
The jungle. The jungle is so dense, you can only photograph some portion
of its texture. The jungle is so dark, I had to use a flash. Too weird. But
sometime in 1989 I was wandering through a book of proof sheets, and these
two images caught my eye. The walkers. The jungle. The foreground and
background. The medial horizon. The contrast of seasons. Very early
photo-collage. It's a pretty crude work, really. But I love it; I love the
mirrored postures, the hands clasped at their backs. George and Pat Take a
Walk: a pedestrian title for an other-worldly journey. The mind-travellers on
a day trip. Casual-like. Heads toward the path, they have little concern for
any version of the event horizon looming ahead ...
My husband George is an advanced Traveler. Walking through dimensions
of reality, this is his card. Pat taught him about thinking and dreaming, and
he teaches me about Medicine, about the journey. When George was 20
years old, on summer break from Vassar, he decided to become a psychiatrist
during an LSD experience. Before New York, he thought that all drugs
'rotted your brain', but a friend told him that he 'learned things on
mescaline' and it didn't take much more encouragement than that ... His
naturally fearless attitude provides a powerful vessel of security.
Travel is the first of the seven Powers. The first force to move human
consciousness. Earth is the first Elemental - you Travel across it. You Travel
across Earth under the light of the healing compassion of The Moon, the
first Persona. This is Elemental Geometry, in all its primacy. We learn to
crawl before we learn language. We crawl to apprehend novelty, and to grow
the brain (under The Moon). We go, then learn to initiate speech to recount
the experience. (Exodus! Movement of Jah people!)
The Apache and the Inuit (Eskimo) are related peoples. They both speak
an Athabaskan language. The Apache could be Eskimo who wandered
south. Apache stories are marked by a full description of the locale in nature
where the event occurred. The story is fully embedded in the matrix of the
landscape - otherwise the events of the story "happen nowhere," and are
completely meaningless. In non-writing cultures, songs and stories serve as
auditory mnemonics for orienting to the land. When the Apache sits by a
Fire and rehearses place names in a chant, he journeys in his mind.
(Lord, I was born a ramblin' man!)
Travel is a basic archetype that propels human consciousness. It pushes the
human collective in the form of nomadism, the cyclic movement of tribal
peoples. Early human interaction with the Elements preceded the evolution
of consciousness. The Powers, the seven cards in the middle of the Deck,
mark the onset of humanity, of the personified Self. Nomadic people are
people of antiquity. They are purebreds. There is little interruption in their
lineage/knowledge; they are deeply themselves, and as 'themselves', the
collective is their primary identification. Humans became people as they
Traveled (and survived) together. Successful hunters and gatherers would
exhaust a locale's resources, and have to move on. Much later, pastoral
nomads would follow their flocks through grazing and reproductive seasons.
Then came the tribes who subsisted on the efforts of others (raiders), or on
skills and talents they used in interaction with people they encountered on
Nomadism is an ancient and persistent way of life. There are signs that
nomadic life existed in east Africa 1,800,000 years ago. In Spain, humans
gathered to hunt and butcher migratory animals in mountain passes 300,000
years ago. (Animal domestication began only 10,000 years ago.) Among
nomadic peoples, freedom is the highest value: freedom to Travel, to make
and break alliances. Though disappearing at tragic rates today from the
incursions of settled people and exploitation of habitat, nomadic tribes still
exist in every part of the world.
The Bajau live their whole lives fishing the seas of Indonesia in houseboats.
The nobility of the Tuareg were once raiders who now keep camels and
cattle, adapting to climate change and the politics of their neighbors. The
Bambuti, a pygmy people of the Ituri River in Africa, will shift camp
frequently for better hunting, or just for a change. The Bororo of the Niger
herd zebu cattle and follow the grass. And there were all of the many tribes
of Plains Indians of North America, who followed the buffalo, revered the
eagle as a totem of the highest Spirit of freedom and wisdom, and developed
a sign language to bridge their innumerable languages of origin. Who, in
increasing numbers today, hit the Pow Wow trail every summer to gather,
sing and Dance in celebration of the endurance of the Spirit of the Good
The Gypsies are people who originated in northern India, and today are the
only nomadic people of highly settled Eastern Europe. The hallmark of the
songs of the Roma is a sense of rootlessness: there is no particular place to go,
and there's no going back. Are they nomadic by nature? Or have they only
just come to be that way, having never been allowed to stay? Gypsies were a
slave population in Romania from the 1360's until the mid-1800's. Living on
skills as metal workers (tinkers) and traders, they never cultivated land, or
herded animals. In Albania, where they were settled by force under the
Communist dictatorship, the impression of nomadism remains in the way the
Roma keep apart from their neighbors, and make no attachment to land or
material possessions. They are self-identified through the commonality of
the Romany language, but have no interest in their own history, or in any
map of their origins. Home could be anywhere. And the road is always
having to begin again, and it is always a long, hard journey. (The early Tarot
Traveled, probably carried by Gypsies from the Mid-east into Europe, the
picture stories moving with the Flow of Alchemy across the continent.)
Gypsies live not so much off of the land, as off of the societies through which
they pass. They are tribal people who always moved through lands of settled
The Gypsies of Europe are truly wanderers; all places are the same. Their
Travels exist in stark contrast to the Patterned movements of the aborigines
of Australia. Among these people, few of whom are able to still live in their
pure nomadic state, the landscape is an embodiment of tradition. In a
millennial refusal to exploit the land beyond its capacity for renewal, they
did not farm or mine, or keep herds or make any changes at all in the
landscape that might tamper with the Dreaming that made it. Human and
nature interact as equal actors, with no levels of primacy. Their nomadism
stems from obvious survival needs, and also from a primordial antipathy to
being too closely associated to any one place. All places are not the same. All
places are special to the events of the Dreamed Creation, and you sing the
story of the land as you walk the "ways through", the songlines.
Travel is mobility. In 1970, when I attended nursing school, a general
systems approach was attempted instead of the old 'pathology of one organ
at a time' way of Teaching. Accordingly, one of the main organismic
functions one learned to monitor in the wellness of humans was that of
'mobility.' Basically, when the capacity for movement fails you begin to die.
Balance and homeostasis of all systems will begin to fail when we lie in bed
for more than day or two. "Keep those clients out of bed!" we were exhorted.
When you go to bed, you start to die! Bodies are engineered to live through
movement. Hydraulics of cardiac circulation, peristaltic elimination of waste,
metabolism of lactic acid in muscles, fluids draining from lungs, maintenance
of adequate calcium in the bones, elasticity in joints - all depend on some
certain amount of skeletal movement in a gravity field. Babies develop
speech centers in the brain in part by crawling. Mobility is life, and a broad
repertoire of movement yields a healthy, creative life. All living things have
some capacity for movement. "How do you know it's really dead?" the child
asks. When it doesn't move anymore. No heart-beating, no brain-waving, no
lungs breathing, and it covers no more ground. Stagnation of fluids breeds
infection. Stagnation of mental movement, of spiritual movement retards the
growth of consciousness. We must walk, we must go, but where? We must
go, - over There! We must Travel.
All life moves, and many species migrate, but only humans Travel. Travel is
an excursion into novelty, while the observing consciousness incorporates
the subsequently new information on many levels.
"Like a parachute, a mind only works (moves) when it's open."
"To know a man, one must walk in his shoes."
"Are you a tourist, or a Traveler?"
"You Go, Girl!"
Santa Fe is a very cosmopolitan place, for all that it is so small, has no major
airport, and sits near no river nor any ocean. People do visit here from far
away and many stay for decades. Traders, ex-cult members, refugees from
New York, California, Texas, South America, and Nepal. Germanic lovers of
native culture, healers, Artists and Medicine people, all come here for love of
this place. They may have come here to settle, but they are still Travelers.
Most of my friends are big-time Travelers. They commute to Austria, Brazil
or Big Sur just to work. They scuba in the Falklands, buy trade goods in
Bali, kayak in Idaho, and explore exotic botany in Hawaii. They visit sacred
sites and friends, ski in winter and always have at least three trips planned
ahead, and their frequent flyer status is such that they never seem to ever
pay for those plane tickets. When they work so hard in order to go and Play
so hard, and moan about how much they need a tropical vacation, we snicker
at their yuppied-up sounding lifestyle. The truth is, however that they do,
need. To go, to Travel. To be away from what-ever routine. To move
consciously in exploration. They all pull this card, and they laugh. They pull
it preparatory to leave taking - and when they've already begun to walk
without even noticing.
"The longest journey begins with a single step." Confucius
"Slow and steady wins the race." Aesop
"The slower you go, the more you see." (me)
"Speed kills! (traditional drug lore)
My pulse tends to run a little fast, and at times of great stress (in late
pregnancy, with chronic fatigue) it loses coherent rhythm and becomes
'irregularly irregular'. All stimulants, therefore, are become poison and I
suffer to be hurried more than most people, and fast cars and jet planes
threaten to scatter my atoms beyond a retrievable Pattern. I will never ski
downhill (or enjoy a roller coaster) or drive easily over 65 mph. It's not really
possible to keep up with my friends. (Embarrassing to get so wrecked by
merely crossing a few time zones!) In terms of world Travel, I just haven't a
clue. That is not the way this Power works on me. My Travels are
intellectual and shamanic, or walks in nature: journeys of the mind, or
pilgrimage (slowly) on foot.
Mobility / movement of ideas / analysis
Exploring the past, interrelationships of the present - movement through the
Tripping and opening.
As the universe expands in complexity from the Big Bang, the primal Fire, it
So - I abhor flying on planes, get anxious away from home and my man, but
I love the Medicinal journey. I'm so tight, so concentrated in my whipcord
thin, wire-stretched-to-the-singing-point body that the expansion, the facile
opening through the Medicine is a Grace of mobility. There are alternate
realities, other modes of consciousness, other intelligences to encounter.
There are places no jet will go, where no path leads. Though the 'places' be
non-corporeal, There are Ways and markers. (In the Native American
Church, the main Element of the Medicine experience is The Road itself.)
The fledgling steps of the toddler brings her into contact with the novel
sensory input of its expanding world. The baby's physical movement
facilitates the movement of consciousness. The Earth turns beneath her, and
awareness journeys the continuum from Sleep to waking. Before the
development of logical thought and the sophistication of defense
mechanisms, the juvenile mind is a Play ground of pure awareness, fantasy,
primal drives and a variety of psychic receptivities.
In his classic, The Natural Mind, and subsequent works, Andrew Weil
makes a strong case for the existence of a basic human drive to alter
consciousness, and its ensuing evolutionary power. Weil cites the ubiquity of
children spinning to fall down dizzy, holding their breath to 'see stars', and
their attraction to day dreams, fantasy and sniffing solvents. Forgetting
oneself as the 'doer', which is the goal of many meditative practices, is the
essence of mastering any skill - becoming one with the archer's bow, or with
the Road ... The act of forsaking the observing ego is a subtle but profound
alteration. Leaving the normal waking state, and assuming this less
differentiated and therefore more primal state, makes 'room' in the mind for
learning a new skill - like hunting, or healing, or crafting wood, metal or
In the early '90's in New Mexico, legislation was introduced to prevent the
use of any form of 'creative visualization' in elementary school classrooms.
(Some Teachers in Albuquerque had had children lie down, progressively
relax their bodies and practice exploratory fantasy to music.) Some parents
who feared Satanic mind control captured the ears of reactionary legislators.
The educators bravely and creatively responded that to prevent alteration of
consciousness of children was to literally kill the mind, as 'the process of
learning itself causes increased myelination of brain and nervous tissue.'
They maintained that such brain change, i.e. learning, is an altered state.
Therefore one cannot Teach, (or learn) without an exploration of those states
both more and less receptive to such change. The proposed legislation was
dropped - learning is a trip. And even though this drive to alter, (to Travel),
exposes the organism to certain risks - its suppression may cripple individual
and societal creativity, imagination and aspirations.
Evidence of human's use of Medicine to alter consciousness goes back to
antiquity. Humans probably learned to eat fermented fruit from animals, and
cultivated plants for Medicine long before learning to grow food. (Cannabis
is one of the earliest of cultivated plants.) Medicine use for alteration of
awareness is ubiquitous. In this deck, Medicine is an Elemental card. A
universal force akin to Creation. The Element of Medicine is basic to the
basic Power of Travel, for the journey can heal. Shamans use various
practices to heal members of the community, the foremost of which is the
Medicine journey. On the journey, the shaman Travels, sometimes
medicated, to another world to gain healing knowledge for the supplicant.
The information brought back is 'homework' for the patient. It is a healing
prescription. But in addition to that, the journey itself is healing. The
experience of the journey. The voyage.
The Power of Travel is a magical force, and the Medicine Walk, the Trip,
has magical potential for healing. Deep in the matrix of the drive to Travel is
the knowledge that reality is a multi-faceted and many splendored jewel.
Medicines of practice or psychoactive plants tunes our receptivity to a critical
threshold; it catalyzes an intensity of focus. One who Travels is open to
novelty of place, dimension, and wisdom. One who Travels witnesses
boundaries, witnesses all, with respect, and continues to move across the
gradients of gravity or inertia encountered. We are students of geography
What is Travel? What is it to hold on to enough self as the Way transforms, to
keep moving through, and to register the effects of witnessing without being
absorbed, dissolved or trapped by the landscape?! What is "lost", and what
the "map"? How to begin, choose direction, what sampling methods, where
to pause, to rest and Sleep, what is safe to eat, what risks to consider, how
much, if any security to employ? The Traveler goes ahead, often with no
baggage nor any preconceived route, loosening ties to old territory.
This first Power grows in complexity as it helps to develop consciousness.
Pure nomadic tribes have almost disappeared from our world. Wild game is
also disappearing, and the world climate changing. Capitalism drives
valuation of property and land-holding. The highly resourceful and
individuated children of the West are culturally and spiritually lost. Travel
impels on many levels of consciousness, from the old hunting brain, to the
shepherd, to the trader, the explorer, the refugee, the tourist, the pilgrim,
the student of consciousness, and thence back to the shaman. The basic
nature of the Power realizes in nomadism. But the world is over populating,
and consciousness is changed by behavior and experience. The Power may
be corrupted into colonialism, into noisy tourism. Most humans Travel
heavily upon the land. Even when one 'leaves only footprints' - enough of
these will erode habitat. And what of the 4-wheelers, SUV's, dirt bikes,
BMW's and jets that carry us to the 'trailhead'? And even though Americans
have great legal freedom to move about the planet, we are often plagued by
maladies of movement in the dissociation of having no coherent (tribal) Way.
Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces, a horrid, crippling perversion of the
natural urge to 'go'. Panic attack, social phobia, and xenophobia are some
reactions to the increasingly chaotic stimulation of over-crowding. Or there's
the counter-phobic response of the daredevil and extreme athletes. There is
also the disorder of claustrophobia, fear of being trapped, of being in 'tight'
places, which can be seen as a natural response to the restriction of Travel's
thrust. Such response could lead to those cases of native people (or animals)
who just fade into Death when incarcerated, or who actively suicide. The
archetypal Powers work primarily through our unconscious mind, propelling
our under-selves. The great task (assisted by the Elemental of Alchemy) is to
realize a conscious awareness, to grow from being carried, or from being
driven, to exploring with awareness.
When you pull this card: Travel plans are fermenting, or recent Travel is still
integrating. Take notes. The Powers develop consciousness. You must stay
awake, and not move merely in blind response to tropisms of sun and gravity
... The evolution of the archetype promotes Travel for pilgrimage.
Pilgrimage is Traveling to a place of power in order to be changed in Spirit.
Scouting for oneself within a cultural or personal context. When the faces of
the goddesses of compassion grow and emerge from trees and living stone,
the Tibetans explain this phenomenon as one of devotion to a place. Over
time, the devotion of pilgrims to a particular site interacts with the Spirit of
the land to reveal the face of love.
Aborigine children are 'conceived' at the moment of quickening, when they
first begin to move arms and legs in utero. At that moment a 'spirit child'
moves from the Earth to the womb, and the place on the songline where the
mother is walking is the child's spiritual home. Your mother walks your
unique Spirit into you. Men and women do not make babies, babies are
Created and given by the land. Where did we all quicken? Were our first
steps actually taken before birth, before conception? Did we notice the
beginning of the journey, or happen to awaken in progress? Can we find the
places on our own lost and fractured songlines and sing them back to
Have a good trip!
Travel with angels.
And may the wind be ever at your back.
-- Field notes from the end of the millenium.
Dec. 19, 1999
© Requa Tolbert, 2011
Travel - The First Power