Friday, March 31, 2006

Thursday, March 30, 2006


At the Rainbow Gathering in Oregon in 1997 I arrived early with Del and we found a site for the Santa Cruz drummer’s camp. Del gave it the name Dunun Village. The camp filled up with Santa Cruzan and a few from other parts of the country who were connected to the drum and dance scene. Not many from other Rainbow camps found their way to us because we were far from the main circle.

One of the last days we held a council and the main issue was to get our own camp where we could share and practice the things we had learned in an atmosphere that was more like Africa and less like a class - and without paying an arm and a leg!
Brahm and Madu took the next step. They had become friends with the Mendoza family who owned land in the Mendocino National Forest and wanted to open the land for gatherings. This was the beginning of a symbiotic relationship out of which Dunun Village has grown to be the hub in the West African community on the West Coast.
The first gathering at the Morning Star Ranch in October 97 was called West African Village Gathering though we now think of it as the first Dunun Village. It was small, maybe twenty people, but it had a good feeling.

A second gathering was announced for June 98 under the name The Pacific Village West African Community Gathering, but it had not been well advertised and it coincided with the Health And Harmony Festival. I went with my friend Dominic, but we were the only ones and the river was too high to cross. We camped before the crossing and next morning Madu arrived and told us that everybody else were at the Health And Harmony in Sebastopol, so we turned around and went there too, and the PVWACG didn’t happen.
At the Rainbow Gathering in Arizona in July 1998 the Dunun Village was again quite far from the rest of the gathering in a beautiful meadow near the Hare Krishna kitchen. The showing was strong and it was at this gathering that the name Dunun Village was extended to the gatherings at Morning Star. I decided to make sure the next gathering was well advertised and collected a list of more than 60 names and addresses and sent them out with a newsletter. Another newsletter brought the invitation to the equinox gathering, the second Dunun Village at Morning Star. At this gathering we had our first African guest, Mustapha Berete from Guinea. The playing happened by the family’s fire near the house.
From here on, there have been two gatherings yearly at Morning Star and most years a camp at the national Rainbow Gatherings.

Dunun Village grew rapidly in 99 and got somewhat out of hand. Too many inexperienced drummers, some, to put it bluntly, plain hippie thunder drummers, made it hard for the dancers. At the spring gathering Kenyatta from L.A. did a lot to save the situation. In the autumn Dramane Kone from Burkina Faso was the first African drummer to visit Dunun Village.
We decided to give the gathering more structure by doing workshops and by signing people up for the chores necessary to keep everybody happy. In the spring of 2000 we built the first dance floor with a parachute for shade. It was made out of scrap wood and was a bit wobbly but it helped to give a focus and the shade was a great improvement.

I was a big job to build the dance floor and also to dismantle it, so in the spring of 2001 we went back to dancing on the ground and build a canopy with teepee poles and tarps for shade. That is how it has been since with the exception of one time when Camp Mandeng left their beautifully made dance floor for Dunun Village to try out. There was some controversy about the dance floor that I shall not go into, and in the end, for the sake of simplicity, it was decided to enhance the ground with sand instead of using the floor.

Many of our African teachers have graced the gathering with their presence. I want to mention Mamady Wadaba Kourouma who has come to every gathering with his wife Keio Ogawa since he came to the States.
The gatherings now attract from 80 to 150 people and the quality of the music and the dance is exceptional. They have also done a lot to cement the community all over the Western U.S. from Seattle to San Diego, from Oakland to Boise. The folks in Boulder, Colorado have started their own affiliated Dunun Village.
We have the joy to see the next generation at the gatherings. Every year there are more children and some of them learn fast!

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Chimes Of Freedom

I think it is hard for those who didn’t experience the Sixties, or rather, for those who didn’t experience the times that were before, to understand what they brought about. What happened was truly a spiritual revolution, and it broke down old rules and opened up life in all areas. It did not, maybe, go as far as we were dreaming, for we were convinced that the old order would break down by 1984. Still, it changed the world for good.
I had had some hard times but in 1968 it turned around. My friend Nick told me that he now was living in an apartment with his girlfriend Lena and he invited me to come and live with them. His aim was to turn on as many friends as possible to smoke hash and eat macrobiotic food.
Every day there was a stream of visitors, and every evening they were offered brown rice with thoroughly sautéed vegetables, gomasio and tamari. Both before and after the meal the pipe went around and Indian ragas filled the air.
When I had enough of this social life I retired to my room for work, meditation, or sleep. It was here I began the translation of Dao De Jing and I also did this mandala of the Golden Flower according to the Chinese meditation book The Secret of the Golden Flower:

Cream was filming in Copenhagen and the hippies were to be extras, all dressed up in their best. My friend Gert and I, both in our Moroccan djellabas and turbans, were late for the bus that took everybody to the studio, but we were told to get on another bus. Here we sat in the back seat just about to light a good water pipe, when the bus stopped at a hotel downtown, and Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker entered. They were astonished to meet two Arabs in their bus offering them a smoke.
Nick invited them to his place that night and the huge Turkish water pipe went around well stuffed with hashish. Each one who took a hit had the same reaction: after a heavy fit of coughing they sat stunned for a moment and then keeled over and were asleep. When the pipe reached me, there was hardly anyone left upright in the room, and I decided I would rather go to sleep in my bed in my room. Next morning when I entered the living room the scene was eerie to behold; like corpses strewn on a battlefield they all lay as they had fallen the night before.
In the photo, Gert and I are number 1 and 2 from left, Nick is on the right.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


The only thing to fear is fear itself.
Fear drives me out of my dream
Like did the black panther
I saw in the tall grass this morning.

Now the dream is forgotten.
Only fear lingers as a spent condom
That still has loss inside.
-- I place my trust in Unity.

I have faith in the still point of the balance.
There are bounds to the bounce of extremes.
Birth and death are limits
To suffering and bliss in between.

Who knows how far suffering lingers
In the arcades of death?
The spirit has no limits;
Soon forgetfulness changes the game!

(Please understand that the Swastika here is the ancient symbol for spiritual energy. When turned 45 degrees it becomes a symbol of the thwarted spirit manipulation of the Nazis)

Friday, March 24, 2006


I amused myself by punching in my name on Google. It turned out that three of my old paintings from the early sixties are being auctioned away in Copenhagen. I really like one of them, though I don’t remember it at all. In my ‘cubist period’ the paintings were mostly monochrome, but in this one I am into a lot more color:

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


This is a continuation of the post ‘Reborn in America’.
I was asked how I met my friend Reggie and moved to Santa Barbara:

I first met Reggie one clear morning at Vajrapani by a blazing fire. It was like a volcano erupting through a big hollow stump of a first growth redwood standing in a clearing, in front of an empty house.
He came from the creek carrying a ridiculously small container with water. It was clear that he was the one that had set the fire, and I inquired about it. He told me how, last night, he had build a small fire inside the burnt out stump and how he had put it out with water and gone to sleep in the house.
I felt he was sincere and I told him not to feel bad about it. Soon other people from Vajrapani arrived. A water-run was organized and eventually the fire was put out.
I did not see more of him that day, but next morning I went early to the creek, wondering whether he was still around. I passed the house; nobody was there. But at the creek I found him. It was like a dream-vision: a young naked faun bathing, lighted by the sun that shone into the deep shady coolness of the valley. There he was, alert and amused by the meeting.
This dream feeling lasted all day and when the full moon rose we took mescaline and went up on top of the mountain. Painfully intense - beyond happiness and suffering - I felt my “madness flashing all over he place”. When he decided to leave next morning it was perfect. I had to get a breath. But when he said he might come back, it was perfect too!
And suddenly one day he was there, outside the kitchen, when I went out to investigate a noise. The boy of my dreams with bare, brown legs and shoulders and a glittering flash of eyes and smile.

We passed three days together. The last evening his girlfriend came with her little sister, and I liked them. We all had food and tea and sat and talked in the kitchen, and my mind was in peaceful balance. This was in August of 78. I did not believe that there would be a continuation of this adventure, did not even long for one. I let it sink into the forgotten.
When a letter arrived months later with an invitation to a party in Santa Barbara, I did not want to go, but it wetted my appetite to the point that I decided to visit when I was passing on my way to Topanga for Christmas.
Before I left I had a vivid dream: I am in the ocean with someone at my side. An extraordinary wave begins to rise further out and I feel: this one is too big, better gain firm ground. I turn - but also there a huge wave is rising. As I realize that I must negotiate a wave I feel elated and ready.
When I came to Reggie's house I freaked out; I was too emotional, and after one day, I left.
In Topanga I had another dream: I am at a party and is shown a photo of “Ellen”. There are many persons, all women, on the photo and I don’t see Ellen until in the lower left corner, behind a lace curtain, I discover her. The photo becomes reality and I am looking in the window with the curtain. Ellen is there, naked. She looks like Mary Erwin, Reggie’s friend whom I had just met. She is in the act of slipping her pants on; she sees me and is apparently not pleased. Behind her I see couples having sex. I look in another window and see two men passionately caressing each other and I look at a friend, who is sitting next to me, and we both smile indulgent, but I feel that this is not a quite genuine expression of my feelings, since I am strongly affected by the sight, both attracted and repelled.

The dream photo

Next in the dream, I walk away from the party, barefoot and feeling liberated, like I once felt when I walked back from an acid trip in the king’s garden in Marrakesh. Next to the street where I walk is a park with flowerbeds, benches and ponds. It is a Nordic summer night; the sky is rosy over the row of houses on the far side of the park. I cross the street with cobblestones and pass in front of an approaching car, model nineteen forties. I want to cross through the park, but as I turn the corner of the massive gates I come upon a scene: Under a retaining wall, half into a niche, sits a young blond singer with a guitar. Around him, on benches and on the ground, many people sit. He is singing the last notes of a song with utter sweetness and softness, and I think: now I must stay here the rest of the night and listen. Then he turns towards me and smiles warmly, and it is Thorkild, a boy that I was in love with and whose rejection of me was a bitter experience.
The following night I had third dream: I jump off a streetcar (named “Desire”) and start walking with my companion along a busy street. Suddenly I realize that I have forgotten my two bags in the streetcar. I stop and ask my companion: “What shall I do?” He says: “Catch the tram at Rådhuspladsen (Town Hall Square in Copenhagen),” and he jumps on his bicycle. I run after him but cannot keep up. Then, suddenly, I have my foot in a plate of the old English china from my home and it is sliding along like a skateboard. People on the street laugh and try to grip me, but I slide in and out and arrive at Kongens Nytorv (King’s New Market) in Copenhagen just as the streetcar pulls in from Bredgade (Broadway). I know it is the streetcar because it is wrapped up in brown paper!
The first dream was like a premonition. When finally the wave raised and I turned to escape, the two other dreams occurred and forced me to go back to Santa Barbara and come to terms with my emotions. The foot in the plate comes from the French expression ‘Mettre le pied au plat’ meaning ‘Putting your foot in it’. The dreams gave me the courage of desperation; I knew I had to act. I went back and stayed two weeks.
During my stay I painted a mandala for Reggie, and I decided to come and live in his house when I had tied up lose ends at Vajrapani.

Sunday, March 19, 2006



The principal undertaking of my life has been the translation of the classic Chinese book, Dao De Jing.
When you translate, you have to understand every single word, and with such a book especially, that was a challenge. I had no idea how much of an adventure it would become when I began the translation in 1968, but I worked on it in four extended periods through the years until the final publication in 1998.
“The only virtue of a good translation” says Vladimir Nabokov, “is faithfulness and completeness. Whether it reads smoothly or not, depends on the model, not the mimic.”
Faithfulness and completeness is what I strived for.
First I translated into Danish and published a limited edition in 1969 bound in Chinese fashion.

The proceeds from the sales were enough to get me to India and Nepal. The money was mostly gone when I arrived, but I managed to stay over three years. My studies of Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism increased my understanding of Eastern religious thought and practice.
After I settled down in America I did a new translation, this time in English, and some of the problems that I had not cleared up in the first translation were now solved. Still, it seemed to be an undertaking without end, and it was not until the late nineties, that I was ready to publish.
I decided to do this myself, in part because I did not find a publisher, in part because I wanted to make all the decisions myself: the cover, the layout, and the illustrations.

Just as a virtual reality can be created digitally with 0 and 1 so the old Chinese philosophers saw reality characterized by yang and yin. The original meaning of yang and yin is sunny and shady. I made this linocut for the book:

and these linocuts of the ancient characters for Dao and De are also used in the book:

If you, my precious reader, are interested, the book can be purchased by sending $10 plus $3 covering tax, shipping, and handling ($4 to foreign countries) to Seven Hawk Publishing, 326 Wilkes Circle, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

1000 pics (6)

Rasa checking the situation.


When I was a kid our usual summer resort was Kullen in Sweden. That was only about 50 miles from Copenhagen where I grew up, but altogether different from Denmark. A massive granite ridge, 650 feet high, jutted out from the otherwise low coast. On the southern side was the popular tourist town Mölle, where the steamship from Copenhagen berthed. From there it was an hours walk to Arild, a fishing village on the northern shore, where we rented for the summer.
Arild was situated just where the granite began to rise. The path between Mölle and Arild went south of the highest part, and the north side was very steep and wild, with fields of scree, and without any paths. This was my domain, where from countless expeditions I knew my way around, penetrating dense forest, stuffing myself with blueberries, balancing on the scree, climbing the rocks by the water or mounting the peaks, from where the Danish coast could be seen far away to the south, and Hallandsåsen across the bay to the north. It was a paradise of freedom!
Once, when I was about ten years old, I had an epiphany in an enchanted sunlit clearing. This is one of the moments that have stayed with me, as fresh in memory as when it happened. However ordinary the circumstances it became unforgettable by the intensity of feeling. For an eternity, sitting in the tall flowery grass, I was one with the humming of summer around me.

1000 pics (5)

Tonight Nabi Bangoura taught dance class in Santa Cruz. He is my favorite African dancer.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Monday, March 13, 2006


I had heard of Lama Yeshe’s center in Boulder Creek before I came to America in 1977. I was staying with students of Lama’s in Berkeley and when Lama Yeshe arrived in the spring of 78 I told him I would stay at Vajrapani over the summer.
“So short?” he said.
Two words from him could have a lot of power; I ended up staying more than thirteen years!
When I came, only a year had passed since the land had been given and all there was, besides a multitude of redwoods, was a few makeshift cabins and three tepees. We thought it would take a couple of years to build the center, but it took about 15 years. I assisted in designing the main building:

It never was painted quite as fancy as this sketch, but it did get the eyes of Buddha:

I did some of the carvings:

I also painted the altar in the meditation room for small group retreats:

and I build my own cabin:

During these years I painted mostly thankas (Tibetan paintings). Here is one with the Vajrapani land as background – later I will post others.

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Mamady Wadaba Kourouma, master drummer from Guinea

Saturday, March 11, 2006


I was contemplating this for yesterdays post, so here it is one day late!

Friday, March 10, 2006


Five years ago I began to take portraits of drummers and dancers in the West African drum and dance community. I wasn’t fanatically strict about the subject matter; I have included some group pictures and portraits of children and pets associated with the community. I have about one thousand pictures. Now I want to show you the ones I like best here on the blog.

By the way, I know I have five readers because I have heard from them. If you are not one of these five, I would love to hear from you too – just add a comment saying you were here or send me an e-mail. Let me know what you prefer to read about and what kind of pictures you like.
Here is one I know you’ll all like:

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I had a friend who studied thanka painting in Kathmandu and he let me copy his templates. Here is Green Tara, the protector of Tibet:

My friend also took me to visit a studio, a long room where the master sat on a dais at one end with his first apprentice below him and down through the room the lesser apprentices according to their level. Two or three persons worked on each thanka: a beginner filled out the basic colors, a more experienced did the shading and the master or one of the most accomplished finished by drawing outlines with a brush and laying on the gold.
With the help of the templates and examples of thankas I taught myself, and later, when I lived in a Buddhist center in France, I taught others:

This poster shows the template for the Buddha’s head.
To illustrate how a thanka is built up I have the following sequence of Yamantaka and Vajrayogini:

Finally one of my favorite thankas, the Sakyamuni Buddha, painted for the center Kagyu Ling in France:

Click on pics to enlarge.