Monday, April 7, 2014


I was around five years of age when our mother, exhausted from having to tuck us in and soothe us at bedtime, rebelled. We would get into bed and yell for her to come in and dutifully soothe us to sleepiness by placing a hand on our backs to gently rock us. Well, one night she would have none of it. Who can blame her ? Two boys a year apart racing around the house and yard all day, making ludicrous demands, torturing each other, screaming and crying, climbing over mom. And when bedtime came around we would demand more, me first, you rocked him longer, rock me again. That night she just got up from the side of one of our beds and announced clearly, do it yourselves! and left the room.
    We did do it ourselves. That very night my brother and I devised a way to rock ourselves to sleep, a habit that lasted embarrassingly late into life. John had his technique and I had mine. I would sleep on my side, pillow case flap sandwiched by my hands in a slight prayer position against my cheek and I'd rock my shoulders back and forth. This rocking replaced the previous pre-sleep habit of lying on my stomach and with legs bent at the knee, kick repeatedly into the mattress. Anyway, we rocked.
    Very rarely a strange sensation overtook me. It was as if the palms of my hands, separated in reality by only a thin layer of fabric, started growing apart from each other. Very apart. It felt like the whole world was between my palms, as if they simply kept moving away from each other, with no end in sight. This rare sensation was accompanied by a distinct flavour or feeling in my mouth. I can't possibly describe it better than that. I grew up and these sensation were buried in my memory.
    As a teenager I dabbled in meditation an a similar sensation bounded back into my life. In a sitting position I would feel my body grow tall and my head would bob feet above where I knew it to be. Sometimes I felt my body rolled up, my head now sitting between my knees. On other occasions my hands felt like they were swelling up indefinitely. Imagine your hands the size of giant well rounded balloons, whose core is a thin nervy hand like structure. I experienced balloon hands a few times.
    Years later, I must have been in my mid thirties, I started casting circles as an exercise in performing private ritual. I'd trace the circle, moving clockwise and then call attention to each of the four directions by way of thanking the elements they represented. Air you're amazing, thanks for letting me breathe you, Water right on, oceans are great and you quench my thirst, Fire hot stuff, you keep me warm and you're also wicked cool, Earth where would I be without you ? Actually not like that at all. Way more purple poetics and medieval grandeur. All my fantasy reading paying off big time. Also, totally earnest. Ritual without earnestness is hollow and ineffective. I waxed poetic at each point of the compass, enthused and energized.
    This led me to experiment with prayer. I would sit myself down within the etheric bounds of the circle and roll out a fervent prayer to deities small and large, the majesty of nature from atom to galaxy cluster, thanking animals for their various attributes, thanking life itself for the privilege of being alive surrounded by great family and friends and on and on. As I did this I felt that familiar expansion set in. I was no longer the size I was when I commenced but inflating rapidly. It was all I could do to keep myself from getting so giddy that I'd snap out of it.
And then for the first time since childhood my mouth felt that familiar odd feeling. A word came to me, out from long unused parts of memory - plasticine.
    Of course I had this modelling compound as a kid. What I had clear forgotten was that I, to myself, called this expanding hand and funny mouth feeling 'plasticine' when I was small. This came back to me, head light, body expansive, mouth alive and childhood memory restored. Pliable energy body, from rocking myself to bed at night to deep vocalized prayer. We are the clay.