Saturday, February 22, 2014

Myths, Chickens, Alarm

My son recently turned me on to Joseph Campbell, the American mythologist, writer and lecturer, so one day this week, when we were sitting around the big table painting, we listened to some of "The Power of Myth", with Bill Moyers. (Highly recommended.) It's deeply affirming, powerfully moving stuff —and I'm still in the early stages of digesting it, so I won't venture to comment much yet. But in the midst of the second episode, we were interrupted by two men picking up a large shipment of work for the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art gift shop, and one of them began a story of their most recent house-sitting adventure, which I'll write here in my own words:

"There were goats and chickens on the property that we had to take care of, and the owners said that we needn't do much with the chickens, just throw them some food every day, because they were old chickens and long past laying. 

Well, chickens were new to me, so I decided to see just what they were about. I swept up their sawdust every day and sprinkled new sawdust. I brought fresh water and food, and just hung out with them at least once a day. 

And I began to cluck, you know, those little buck buck buck sounds. And they began to talk back to me. It was really sweet! They were kind of a kick. I really liked them.

And guess what — they began to lay again. Eggs! We had fresh eggs from those old hens who supposedly were done with their laying days."

Well, of course I couldn't help but tie this in to what we'd been listening to — the serendipity of this man walking into our afternoon with his unassuming story of the traveler who appears one day and changes the shape of things, who performs miracles, a kind of refigured loaves-and-fishes tale. Our very own living myth-maker, our teller of parables.

These were the gifts of the week — Joseph Campbell, and then the interlude of the chicken story.

Outside of this, the week was swirled in a kind of chaos — our show materials shipment arrived back home from the east coast, three pallets full,  and as it was unpacked, I had to examine and polish each piece and then repack in new configurations, to go to the photographer. (Hundreds of pieces.) Shipping materials everywhere, and we work in a small space. And glass being sand-blasted, painted, fired. Orders going off to all corners.

We're also sifting through legal issues and fallout concerning last summer's glass-smashing, as well as recent events (of which I won't write here). Issues of security and law-breaking, of locks and keys, and violation. We've been on the cliff-edge of alarm.

I'd much rather spend my days contemplating things like this:

"Eternity isn’t some later time. Eternity isn’t even a long time. Eternity has nothing to do with time. Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off. And if you don’t get it here, you won’t get it anywhere. The problem with heaven is that you will be having such a good time there, you won’t even think of eternity. You’ll just have this unending delight in the beatific vision of God. But the experience of eternity right here and now, in all things, whether thought of as good or as evil, is the function of life."    —Joseph Campbell

That about sums it up.


  1. What a lovely post. Love the chicken story mixed in with Joseph Campbell and mythology. Good luck with the rest of it!

    1. Thank you, Helen. Delighted, as always, that you stopped by!


  2. Nice post. I recall reading Joseph Campbell long ago in university. Might be interesting to revisit now that I'm older. I think I'd take away different things from it now. As for eternity: I think much more about miniscule moments now. Time doesn't stretch out in front of me with such importance. More than that, this moment, however seemingly simple or lacking in meaning, matters most.

  3. Michelle, but isn't that what Joseph Campbell is talking about here?

    "Eternity is that dimension of here and now that all thinking in temporal terms cuts off."

    And you're right: it's never simple or lacking in meaning.

    I try more and more to adhere to this practice of being present in the moment, and it's so often very difficult. I suppose that's why it's called a practice — we'll never get it quite right, but we can indeed continue to try.