~a love supreme~

April 9th, 2007

The first chunk of A Love Supreme comes through the tinny car speaker. I lean back and let it slide over me. We are driving upstate for an Easter egg hunt and brunch, to hangout with Germans, fags, dogs and the women who love them.

Ali has been teasing me all weekend about being a “Rocker!” while he is a “Popper!”—this returns to the age-old discussion from one of our first dates–Beatles vs. Stones. I am a Keith Richards fan through and through. The raspy speech, gobs of eyeliner, pirate scarves, strait-up hedonism, I simply can’t resist. The Beatles are great sometimes–Abby Road, The White Album–but it’s cerebral. I’m in my head enough, sometimes I need to “shake my hips” as poncy Mick puts it. Nevermind they ripped their shtick off from Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller, Blind Blake, Blind Willie McTell. They all stole from each other anyway. But today somehow all that dark flashy gritty Performance/Kenneth Anger stuff seems silly, put on.

I flip through the songs on the ipod I have not updated since MacDowell and look for life. I stop on John Coltrane. It’s Sunday, the day of Coltrane in my house, in honor of the Church of Coltrane in San Francisco where each Sunday three-hour jam-sermons take place under the Byzantine haloed portraits of Coltrane, Mary and Jesus. Ali teases me about that too, and then he hums along. A love su-preme, a love su-preme.

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Coltrane wrote this in 1964, seven years after he quit heroin cold-turkey, three and a half years before he died of liver cancer at forty. He wrote this at my age now. In the liner notes he talks of his spiritual awakening. The work is in my mind a gesture of gratitude to the Universe and himself. The whole piece—made up of four sections–was recorded in an evening, one take for each chunk.

The first section—Acknowledgement–opens with a gong, spare piano, and rolls into the grumbly chanting that gives the piece its name: a love su-preme, a love su-preme. This is my favorite section–all possibility, vast, moving along. It reminds me of San Francisco, of driving through Golden Gate Park, of early mornings, coffee and cool spring breezes.

I tell Ali about Easters past, the way I was the only kid at the egg hunts of my childhood. My grandpa hid eggs all over the backyard, and when he ran out of hiding places he put tree branches and bits of 2 x 4 on the short grass lawn and tuck eggs behind them. He perched colored eggs in the branches of the rose bushes planted for each of his daughters.

I describe the special outfits I was treated to each year–and the one in particular I wear in one of my favorite pictures of myself from that time. The dress was white with a huge Chinese dragon in red across the skirt. The vest was red too, from the same fabric. My hair hangs in long blond ringlets, a giant red bow sits on top, rather ridiculously. I gingerly hold two stuffed rabbits—a momma and a baby–and stare down at them with intensity and melancholy.

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This image has entered my friend’s lexicon as Serious Bunny Girl. I love it because it is a portrait of a time when there were seemingly endless afternoons spent in reflection. Epiphanies, self-knowledge, universal knowledge were elements I embraced as natural in my private life, though I did somehow know not to speak of this. I never liked my nickname Kimmi, but I spose I wanted to avoid even more so being called Kimmi the Lil’ Mystic.

I see this image now and I am comforted: there I am, here I am, the I is changed, but not fundamentally.

After brunch Ali and I wander the forest looking for eggs. Our straw basket fills quickly; everyone else is searching in the garden. I root around the dry, pale leaves and think about Pagans, fertility, children I likely won’t have.

I ponder the fortune written on a strip of pink construction paper and buried in the faux grass and cheap chocolate of our basket that reads Follow Your Heart and the Doors will be Open. That I chose this basket and not the one whose fortune was May Your Dream Man be Dipped in Chocolate is no coincidence. I trust in the Universe and because of this, it speaks to me.

But what do I mean by that exactly? Do I mean I trust in myself? I think if I keep my hand open, if I am open and willing, the Universe will give me what I need. I put much stock in my desire to grow, reflect, change. I know it is the key to my sense of right-beingness, my feeling of knowing my place in the world. Only once have I seriously wavered in this pursuit of self-reflection and it is as close as I’ve come to wanting to die. Instead I went into therapy against my best judgment. Turns out all I was doing was guiding myself back to the path of query and fattening my toolbox.

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The second piece in a Love Supreme is Resolution. It doesn’t really sound like a resolution, to my ears anyway. It’s more searching, carrying on, an expression of coming to terms with the not-knowingness of it all. As is generally the case, the lack of Coltrane’s other signature emotion–melancholy–gives way to something tinging the edges, something you could call anger.

I don’t feel anger toward the Universe, not even in the face of death. I do feel it when confronted by what I see as a willful disregard for this fact of life: nothing can be known. Blind faith bugs me. I judge it, I see it as a sign of weakness, unwillingness to face life head on. I wish this were not so, that I was more “tolerant” of other’s beliefs, but it is difficult to manage this.

In my early twenties I made a series of self-portraits as saints: Teresa De Avila, Lucia, Vitus, Sebastian. In the latter I wear nothing but a pair of 1940s silk tap pants and a look of ecstasy. Even now I like this picture–the precisely placed arrows, the thin trickles of blood, the twist of my torso. I was curious about ecstasy, the pain and glory of it.

Teresa De Avila wrote
It pleased the Lord that I should sometimes see the following vision. I would see beside me, on my left hand, an angel in bodily form. In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one’s soul be content with anything less than God. It is not bodily pain, but spiritual, though the body has a share in it — indeed, a great share.

The third and fourth movements of Love Supreme, Pursuance and Psalm, are played as one. In Pursuance the tinge of anger is fully explored. It’s a lovely, fierce, rageful piece completely at odds with Psalm, in which Coltrane plays a syllable for syllable interpretation of the poem to God he includes in the liner notes. Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts, fears and emotions-time-all related-all made from one…all made in one. Thought waves-heat waves-all vibrations-all paths lead to God. The universe has many wonders…it is so wonderful.

Our host says, “The Special Egg has not yet been found!” and a murmur rustles through the egg hunt crowd. I didn’t hear the rules of the game, and know already I’m breaking one by being partnered with someone I know. So it goes.

I think “If I was a special egg, where would I be?” I scan the naked trees, the carpet of dry pale leaves. Follow your heart and all doors will be open.

My eyes fall on a crumbling statue of a Victorian cherub holding a basket aloft. I walk toward it and reach into the basket. I am not surprised to feel the smooth surface of the egg, though I am not expecting it to be decorated with the smiling face of Caroline Kennedy. On the backside in thick permanent marker it says YOU ARE OUR WINNER.

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