Monday, January 29, 2007

Saturday, January 27, 2007

By Nick

My friend Nikolaj Fenger did this drawing of me back in the sixties.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What is Real?

The present moment is the only thing in existence; therefore everything comes down to the contents of this moment.
But it is steadily changing from one mood to another, from one state of consciousness to another, and though we can categorize and name a good part of it, it still fundamentally remains a mystery.

There is a tendency to take some states as being more 'real' than others. For instance an event in the full light of day is taken for more 'real' than a dream.
I don't believe in this distinction.
If there are different levels of reality, I believe that they depend on the intensity of the experience. The reason that the waking state seems more 'real' than a dream is that we can think of it in conventional language. A recurring nightmare, that I had when I was a child, could not be conveyed because there were no precise words for the sensations and feelings it involved. It had the quality of a ride in an amusement park; there was simultaneous terror and elation at its relentlessness. I wanted it to stop but even as I woke up it had me in its grip.

Looking back, I think this nightmare was maybe one of the most 'real' things that happened to me at the time. I now believe that it contained a vision of the true reality, and it became a nightmare because it threatened to dissolve my emerging illusion of separate identity. I think that if I had been able to accept it and merge with it, it would have turned blissful.

What is most real is hardest to convey because it is furthest from language. I had an experience on the top of mount Shivapuri on the rim of the Katmandu valley that was to me a unique view into wordless reality.
We were a few friends who had climbed the mountain to pass the night on its top in view of the high Himalayas. We were only two at our campsite; the others were exploring the surroundings. Bob was playing the flute and I was making a fire. When I stood up after blowing on the fire I felt I was going to faint but I wholeheartedly accepted it and concentrated on the point between the eyes.
What followed were moments of reality that cannot be described, but their intensity has not diminished in memory.

I was aware and full of wonder like a new born. I knew nothing, I thought nothing, but things were happening that filled me with intense wonder.

Then, suddenly, I felt a pain in my shoulder, and with the pain came knowledge: I was lying down looking at the snow mountains but the perspective, of course, was unusual because I was lying down. The strange thing that moved my whole being was the sound of the flute, for Bob had continued playing though he saw me fall like a log, as he said.
I was lucky too. I could have easily hit a boulder when I fell, for the grassy terrain was full of them. But when I accepted my dizziness I consciously gave myself over to the Spirit with full trust.

Goddess Funk

is an all women band including friends of mine.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Journey to the West (New York)

In the summer of 1977 I took care of Tågarp school where I had been living with Don Cherry and his family. I had decided to go back to Nepal, and when Don insisted that I see New York I thought I could just as well go that way since Nepal was pretty much on the opposite side of the globe.
I had never liked America and all the Americans that I met had left their country in disgust and confirmed and reinforced my dislike. I was turned off by the foreign policy, the lack of social conscience and, above all, the racism. But Don’s insistence and a natural curiosity overcame my reluctance and early in November I flew to New York with Don.

The sheer size of everything was overwhelming and I loved it right away. Don had a friend, Sherab, a white guy who was a monk in the Tibetan tradition. He had a five-story house downtown Manhattan. Each story was one big room stretching from the front to the back with eight supporting metal rods from ceiling to floor.
Here I was installed, on the second floor in a closet-like room under the stairs; it was like camping out, and when, after Christmas, Sherab got a bunch of unsold Christmas trees and tied them to the rods, I was camping in a forest.

Many things were going on in the house. The first floor was rented to flea market sellers on a weekly basis and I became the rent collector. There was often problems with the heating system and when I went on my round to collect, I was met with: “No heat, no rent!” and had to let Sherab continue the negotiations. I was not held personally responsible for the lack of heat and became immediately friendly with some of the sellers who were real characters.
The second floor, where Sherab and I resided, was dedicated to the Samaya Foundation and used for avant-garde concerts and poetry readings and here I met a variety of New York artists and also two young black guys who worked for Sherab. I was shocked by the distance between blacks and whites in America and how easily the ugly specter of racism stuck out its head. One of the boys was suspected of theft and took it for granted that I also suspected him and I had to tell him how I came from a different place and grew up without racism.
On the upper floors construction was going on and here I met and befriended some of the workers and learned a few things that came in handy at a later time when I build my own cabin in California.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I am a cat-person but in 1993 a car had killed my cat Scarface and I was reluctant to get another cat because it had hurt so much.
Then one morning just after Christmas, when I was lying in bed half asleep, I had a clear vision: I saw a calico cat sitting in tall grass. It was such a forceful image that I could not ignore it and I thought, if I meet a cat like this I know we belong together.
A couple of days later there she was. My friend Ron had acquired a key to the cages at SPCA and when he went there to inquire about a lost dog he noticed a tiny kitten that stretched her paws out of the cage as if saying, please save me! There was no one around and he quickly opened the cage and transferred the kitten to his backpack. That night we played drums together and Ron said, I have a kitten in the car; maybe you’ll want it. She had obviously had hard times; somebody had cut off half her whiskers and one eye was infected and running with pus, but I fell in love right away; she was so tiny and trusting.

That night I didn’t get much sleep because she alternately wanted to come in under the bedcover or get out to breathe.
Next day I named her for the day in Kwanza that was her first day in my house: Nia, meaning purpose - we are here for a purpose, and we should think about it.
Most of my cats had been strays or had been left to me by friends that moved, so I hadn’t been with a kitten for a long time. It was a lot of fun for she was addicted to play; she didn’t ask for food but she begged to play. Already on her second day she learned to use the cat door and she had impeccable manners from the beginning though I spoiled her. I let her lie on the table while I was eating and if I had something that she liked I would give her a bite or two or let her lick the plate. But she was always patiently waiting to be offered.
One day I was drumming and I looked around and couldn’t see her anywhere until I looked down. There she was curled up, asleep right under the drum.
She was very independent but she loved to be with people. Often she would come when I was reading in bed and settle on my chest, purring loudly, with her face a couple of millimeters from my nose, and we would be together like that, face to face, for fifteen to twenty minutes and then she would leave.

The reason I write about Nia now is that today it is three years since she passed away. She had been sick for a while and when one day she lost her balance and fell over, I knew that she was dying. She was diagnosed with a tumor on the side of her nose and nothing could be done, but she didn’t seem to be in pain and she slept most of the time. As the end came close she wanted to be near me day and night. She slept next to me in bed and I had to arrange my cover as a tent over her so that she could breathe.
The last evening we were drumming and I closed my door to let her sleep in peace, but when I checked up on her she had crawled toward the door and since she wanted to be with us I put her on a pillow where we were drumming.
The next morning I awoke at seven. Her breathing was sometimes so faint that I thought she might die any moment. After ten I got up, had a bite of breakfast, and lay down again next to her. She got into a phase of rapid breathing that lasted over an hour, and then she had a spasm. It was terrible to watch; she flailed her legs in the air and gasped for breath. The breathing seemed to stop, and it looked like the moment of death had come, but the spasm started up again. It went back and forth like that four or five times before the breathing finally did stop and no spasm followed. She was gone.
Nia, farewell! May my love be like an angel at your side through the shadow lands.

A basket case.

Her favorite spot.

At ease with other felines.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Walt Whitman

We two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm’d and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving,
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.

From Leaves of Grass.

Monday, January 15, 2007


The best way to fight evil is to make energetic progress in the good.

(Richard Wilhelm in I Ching, The Book of Changes)

Peyote, the Sacred Cactus

When I had this peyote cactus it was perfectly legal in Denmark. One of the big flower shops downtown Copenhagen had the whole window full of them. That's where I bought this.
Then I painted it and then I ate it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


When I met Don Cherry in 1974 and he invited me to come and live with him in Tågarp in Sweden, he was about to go to a jazz conference in Poland with his family and he wanted me to join them.
To visit Poland was like time travel, going back 40 years to when I was ten years old. The countryside, which consisted of rolling hills very similar to the Danish landscape, was hardly touched by technology. The main road, two lanes with no painted lines and only a car or two passing every hour, was winding through small villages where women with kerchiefs chased the geese off the road. The grocery stores did not have an abundance of stuff, but what they had was old fashioned quality, like homemade.

At the jazz conference Don suggested to the other teachers that they all take time off to get together and rehearse a piece to perform at the end. That set Don in his element as composer, arranger and soloist; he knew how to unify and inspire and the show was a great success.

Because my participation had been decided at the last moment, I had only the three days visa that you could get when entering Poland. People seemed nervous about my situation, but there was no place to apply for an extension before the conference was over and we came to Warsaw.
When I presented the passport with the expired visa, the immigration officer was obviously perplexed; it had apparently never happened before that someone flouted the rules. Should he put me in jail or should he ignore the misstep? I was silently repeating the mantra of the powerful Guru Rimpoche for protection while he nervously leafed through the passport waiting for a solution to the problem. It worked! With sudden determination the officer stamped my passport and gave it back with a smile.
We went to celebrate at a restaurant and in our elation we didn’t notice the time pass until an hour had gone by and we still hadn’t been served. It could only be a case of racism, something we were unaccustomed to in Sweden and Denmark. In Sweden, driving once with Don, we were stopped and all Don had was an expired California driver’s license, but the cop was so thrilled by the meeting that Don could have shown him any old paper.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Painting

The winter nights are good for painting, especially Friday night when everybody has things to do. I finished this one last night. The design was made on the computer and then done over with watercolor and colored pencils.
I call it 'Radioactive mushroom and new life-forms'

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Soft Pad

The summer of 35 when I was ten years old I passed the holidays in Sweden with my mother and my aunt. We lived in a cabin and took our meals with other vacationers in a dining hall.
One day, just before lunch, I got something in the eye and my mother couldn’t find it and get it out. I felt miserable and didn’t want to eat, so my mother and my aunt went off to lunch without me.
Soon I began to feel lonely and hungry and the eye felt better. I decided to tie something over it and go to lunch before it was too late. I searched my mother’s drawer for a handkerchief but instead I found a marvelous soft, sausage-shaped pad with a string at each end – just the thing!
I tied it over my sore eye and went up to the dining hall. When I entered, a hush fell over the company and all eyes turned towards me. A wave of suppressed mirth went through the room and my mother got up and took my hand and led me back to the cabin to find a more suitable pad for my eye. When I realized the use of the pad I had found, I was embarrassed, but my mother just laughed it off and took me back to get my lunch.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My Corner

I love the beginning of the year. All the hulabaloo is over, things are getting on track; the light is coming back. It was a brilliant day today, warm and sunny. I went out bicycling twice but there wasn't much happening. When 4:20 came around I had already smoked a pipe and started painting, taking up the thread from, maybe, two years ago. Working on half done things.
When I go to the kitchen to get a plate, I think:

I am in a movie where I am spectator, actor, and director - and I hope: screenwriter too, but the script, I don’t know wherefrom it came.
How is this movie? Apart from the beauty, is it good? Is it the best I can do?

Maybe there is something in this allegory? I write it down on the computer.
Oh! My computer! What a toy for an old man.
Not so much running around, but the world at my fingertips. At least, the amazing blogger world. So, hey, I took some stills, like this of my corner:

Saturday, January 06, 2007


This is a mandala of the world outside and the world within connected by the senses, represented by the eye. A flower and the open sky symbolize the outer world, and the roots and a diamond hidden in the earth symbolize the inner world. This is a fairly recent painting in oil pastel.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable, and therefore, not popular.
(Carl Jung)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Truth Catching up with Me

After ten months I finished with the military and I had a job waiting for me with a consulting engineer firm, Birch & Krogboe. This was different from the dream that I had tried to sustain of building bridges or railways in exotic countries. My work here was adding and multiplying endless columns to decide the dimensions of pipes and radiators in a complex of high-rise buildings. I had less free time than I had as a student and the first summer I could not get a paid vacation. I was given the option of an unpaid vacation and decided for two weeks in France.
There I had a couple of experiences that were hard to reconcile with my belief that I would grow out of my attraction to men. I was now 25 years old and had hardly had any satisfactory sexual contacts in seven years. A few not very successful encounters with women; that was all.
While I was a soldier, I met a young actress, who fell in love with me. I dated her for a while but one night when we were kissing goodbye, she was in the throes of passion and my cold feeling of inadequacy so embarrassed and scared me that it spelt the end of our relationship.
One earlier time in Paris, I had an affair with a woman, Yvette, who worked in a bar. Here again I couldn’t measure up to her desires. I was not impotent but I was just not interested enough to satisfy her again and again.
This was as far as I had gotten with women.

Now I had two weeks alone in France. Going south, hitchhiking, I was picked up by a man in his forties in a shining black Citroën. I didn’t understand much French, but the way he put his hand on my thigh did not need translation. To protect myself I covered my lap with my hands, but he placed his hand on top of mine; then I pressed my fingers together making my crotch unapproachable, but he still had his hand on my thigh. By now I was aroused, and I finally gave up my defenses and leaned back pretending to sleep. He at once opened my fly and his hand found its way in. I had hardly come when he stopped the car and told me that this was as far as he was going. I had to get out, and as I saw him continue down the road I felt cheated and dirty. I had not liked him, and yet I had been excited.
Back in Paris I went to a café to have a drink. There were several young Senegalese men at the bar, and I could not help staring. Shortly after, one of them came over and asked if I wanted to go with him. I did, and we went to my hotel. He was very warm and open, but as soon as we were finished he asked for money. I said he should have told me before, but he became threatening and I had to pay up. Again I felt cheated, and I was shaken by the intensity of my desires and the letdown they resulted in.

These two events shook me up. They turned out to be a prelude to my coming out. You can read here about how this happened.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Summer Day

Happiness is laying in the grass looking through the branches into the blue sky.