Today I’m writing about magic, hope, and beauty.
It’s an odd optimism, isn’t it? Midterms loom, the world seemingly sits yet again on the precipice of America’s ideological bipolar disorder, the planet burns, and our economic systems collapse into we don’t yet know what.
But I believe that our metanarratives of struggle and empire saturate us with beliefs, language, behaviors that diminish ourselves and reality: we are born magic makers, capable of genius and flourishing.
I believe we are called to succeed in our Divinity, now more now than ever.
This kind of faith is trivialized as convenient fiction, wishful fantasy, or ‘magical thinking.’
Why? Because the world’s lost its magic, the magic from long ago, the magic of the ancestors. Lost as we relied more and more on our minds, ignored our intuition, and developed a collective, compulsive addiction to thinking.
I’m not anti-science or anti-intellect. I’m pro-discovery, pro-awareness, pro-learning, pro-life, and I think all these things are the heart of good inquiry, and of good science.
And for these reasons, I’m pro-magic, because the ‘either-science-or-magic’ stories are bad ones.
Those of use who’ve lived in and navigated through our psyche’s painful depths know that pessimism is a privilege, and we know that despair is a siphon of this precious life that was born to be lived fully, for ourselves, and for others.
There’s an understanding opening that ‘miracles’ were never supposed to be tethered to one tradition, but they exist as the nature of life.
This is magic’s reality, the wisdom before religion, and the synchronicities of the embodied, intuitive, creative life.
No religion required.
If this is the age of the Great Awakening, and I believe it is, it’s because we’ve never been called to such deep magic, healing, awareness, and love.
I celebrated my birthday in a week-long blowout, because I deserve it.
Every detail of my trip to Deer Isle and Bar Harbor is worthy of a treasured, uncanny story.
And perhaps I’ll write more at sometime, but, for now, in the interest of clean writing, I’m going to stick with one majestic story.
I can use the word majestic because it’s about my adventures to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest elevation on the U.S. eastern seaboard.
The highest elevation on the eastern seaboard, please read this again.
Cadillac Mountain isn’t just a mountain, it’s a place of unlimited views, island vistas stretching beyond the eyes, mountains in the distance, and the Atlantic Ocean spread like a blanket past the horizon on a clear day.
And it’s ancient, full of magic, memory, awe, wonder.
Some might say “sacred.”
My trip fell into place after I heard “Bar Harbor” in my psychic ears one morning, when I realized and felt and knew that I needed a vacation.
“Bar Harbor” that’s for people with money, I thought.
Some habits die hard.
But I followed that voice, and within hours I had a car reservation, and beautiful, affordable accommodations in both Deer Isle and Bar Harbor. None of this required any money down, just a belief that it would come together, because it felt right.
I didn’t know that Cadillac Mountain existed.
And I didn’t know that my charming, environmentally conscious, vegan friendly, B & B Bar Harbor room was just 2.3 miles from the Cadillac Mountain Summit entrance.
I’m not sure how I learned about Cadillac in the planning frenzy, but I did, and I knew that going to the summit was something I wanted and needed to do.
I mentioned my trip to a friend. This friend’s traveled to almost every continent on the planet, if not every continent, and he told me that I had to go, that Cadillac was really special.
But there’s a caveat with Cadillac: sunrise tickets are considered the premier view. The thing, the draw, the pitch, is watching sunrise from Cadillac, the views of a vast horizon, watching the sun’s approaching light break the night sky one glorious moment at a time.
There were over four million visitors to Acadia National Park last year. Cadillac is the park’s great gem, and Recreation.gov releases only 102 tickets each day for the sunrise viewing. They release them at 10:00 a.m., two days ahead of time. That’s it. Tickets sell out quickly, and you’ve got to be online, in queue, ready to buy them at 10:00 a.m., or be prepared to be out of luck.
Only one ticket per car, every seven days.
I’m watching the weather forecasts during my first three days in beautiful Stonington, Maine, anticipating my trip to Bar Harbor and Cadillac.
My birthday’s on Tuesday, I’d like to go to the summit for my birthday, it’s a great metaphor, being on the highest eastern seaboard summit, nearly unplanned except for all this magic, on my birthday.
But the weather’s not looking good.
I must decide, because I have one day, one ticket.
My friend calls to see how my trip’s going, I tell him my predicament.
I think to ask him if he can get me a second ticket, but I don’t want to impose. Tuesday’s my birthday, the weather will be bad. Thursday’s weather is looking perfect. But something about being on Cadillac on my birthday feels important, even if it’s ‘just a metaphor.’
I don’t say much too much more, and as we’re talking, he insists that I need to get to the mountain summit for my birthday. He gets why, he gets that it’s a great metaphor to be there for my birthday. And he wants me to see the views when the weather is good, because he knows the summit’s views are special.
He offers to get me a ticket for Thursday.
I’m all set.
It’s the morning of my birthday in Bar Harbor.
I’m awake at 2:30 am, because it’s raining, I don’t want to miss the day, I want to do my practices, and I know that because the weather is wet and miserable, I must leave early.
The B & B owner told me when I arrived that I might want to forego the trip, the weather was going to be bad. High wind gusts, torrential rains. As bad as it will be on the ground, worse on the mountain.
No, this is my birthday summit.
I’m going to do it. Come hell or high water, as my Gram used to say.
The Waze GPS app tells me it will take me 16 minutes or so to get there.
Yep, I’ll definitely need more time.
My ticket gets me into the summit at 5:30 am.
I leave at 4:55.
It takes me ten minutes to get out of the B & B parking lot. I’m not used to driving, I must navigate around the SUV-semi-truck hybrid that decided my little rental didn’t need much room for navigation, there is zero visibility in this storm which is getting worse every five minutes, I’m using Waze on an android phone, and I’m wondering how in the hell people can use an android interface, and I can’t believe I’m having to use this damn android while I’m driving a car that I’ve not even taken the time to learn which buttons turn on the defoggers, because how often do I drive.
The road is black, the lights were set to ‘Auto’ by the Enterprise rental people, and I’ve not yet figured out that I can get a high beam by pulling the arm forward. The windows are fogging, I haven’t a clue where the defogger is, and the storm is dropping leaves everywhere in an indiscriminate and joyous ode to fall. There are no road lines, there is no way to drive except one foot at a time.
It’s terrifying and hysterical all at once.
The Waze lady tells me to turn left, but I can’t see anything, so we get a course correct . . . . beep, beep beep, what the fuck, then another course correct, then another. Beep, beep, beep.
I’m going around the summit base in circles, over and over, traveling the same damn road, one foot at a time.
The 2.3 miles to the summit road entrance takes me almost an hour, in what I can only describe as another wonderful lived ‘crazy ass stubborn’ life ode.
Crazy ass stubborn.
I stumble into the summit entrance, finally, I must have passed it before without seeing it, I haven’t a clue how I saw it this time, but I’m here without having an accident, driving one foot at a time.
This park is usually full at this hour, but not today. There are ten cars maximum. I didn’t count. I’m being conservative.
And I’m certain most of the folks in these 8 or 10 cars knew how to use their headlights and defoggers.
Cold, rainy, miserable. Only a handful actually get out and walk around, because it’s raining, the wind gusts are all over, and there is nothing to see, what’s the point.
I’m at the top of the mountain, despite myself.
On my birthday. Here I am.
I’ll raise Gram. I made it come hell, high water, piles of autumn leaves, mountain winds, headlight conundrums, and foggy windows, up the small mountain road.
I stay until the rain stops and the light breaks. The mountain’s blanketed in clouds. I use the facilities, chat it up with the woman cleaning the bathrooms, and then make a slow trip back down the mountain.
Thursday morning was the last day of my trip.
I took the Bar Harbor sunset cruise the night before, Wednesday.
The cruise was a glorious close to a magnificent six days. Clear chilly skies, new friends, music, singing, sparkling wine, and there was a sweet release into nature and beauty and freedom as we sailed the harbor in a schooner. As the sun lowered on the horizon, a rainbow spanning the harbor appeared. It bridged the bay, from one side to the other, an arc of possibility painted itself above us, and I felt its promises in those colors that we languidly sailed under.
Thursday morning I was up at 3:00, because I wanted to pack and leave after my second summit visit.
It was a disarmingly black morning.
But I’d figured out the defoggers and working the high beam.
I made it in thirty-five minutes the second time, not the promised sixteen, because it really is black and dark in Federal Lands before sunrise where there are no road lights, only the dark, the cold, and nature.
And there’s nothing wrong with one foot at a time: slow and steady gets to the summit.
It was cold, clear, and hypnotically dark except for the brilliance of a million stars stretched above the summit that morning, and the reverence of a 102 car passengers who arrived as tourists, but left as initiates.
It hits, deep, real.
This is it, the land, the night, the sky, the moment.
Cadillac is an international tourist hot spot.
But that morning, I didn’t see tourists, only initiates.
The ancient wisdom, you can feel it there.
Everyone becomes quiet, there’s only wonder, awe, and cold, the chill of the elevation, the bitter chill of your smallness, and the pettiness of your life’s worries shattered like ice.
The Mountain also gives vistas of promise, of hope, because it’s a world where time and human activity are put in their proper place.
Shaken, reoriented, set right.
That morning was the perfect antecedent to my first visit. If my first visit affirmed the magic of will and intent against all circumstance, one foot at a time, the second visit gave me the gift of grace beyond all will, life’s magic beyond all intention, freely given, in every way — even the ticket.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect Cadillac sunrise, or a more perfect awakening of ancient memories collectively shared, 102 cars at a time.
With the sun’s rising, blood and the bones come alive with memory on Magic Mountain, and the exquisite fragility and beauty of our earth and existence are felt in the body and breath.
For hundreds of thousands of years, this mountain has been special and revered, and there is no question of that truth in its sublime, dwarfing beauty, and the body’s response to this reality.
At the base of Cadillac, in Bar Harbor, is the Abbe Museum.
Through more serendipitous, unplanned circumstances, I visited the museum after leaving Cadillac, and before leaving Bar Harbor.
Abbe confirmed my felt experience, after the fact. This land is ancient Indian land, and it’s soaked in the memories of hundreds of thousands of years of precolonial existence.
You can feel how special the land has been for eons upon eons upon eons.
I don’t know enough to know how all this works, but I felt enough to know that the mountain — calling it Cadillac seems wrong, for so many reasons — is an ancient spot of magic and deep reverence, and that day in mid-summer when I heard ‘Bar Harbor’ and started planning a ‘vacation,’ I was given something extraordinary, beyond myself.
An initiation into a larger part of myself, and into a shared story, a story deeper than all books.
The planet’s burning, autocracy’s a looming threat, yet, I know magic now more than ever, because I heard Bar Harbor, followed my intuition, and magic unfolded in multiplicities of embodied experience and meaning.
I now believe that the land, the mountain itself, called to me, then gave me these multiplicities, in those moments, through rain and through sun.
That morning, I saw 102 cars with their tourists, and these tourists became initiates through no will of their own, and I understood that these folks now carry a wisdom beyond themselves into the world.
Not because of them, but because of what the mountain, and the Wabanaki ancestors, gave them.
Changed by forty minutes on Magic Mountain.
They now carry bits of the Mountain’s wisdom in their experience and memory, for generations to come, just as the Wabanaki ancestors understood in their connection to this land.
When it’s in experience and memory, it’s in the DNA, and it’s passed down for lifetimes to come.
Science confirms what wisdom knows.
This entry is part of that magic.
The invitation to “Bar Harbor” wasn’t for a vacation: it was a calling to carry these felt memories and realities larger than my little life in my body and experience, and into the our shared world.
It was wisdom and magic giving itself to me in this lifetime, for these times, and for these words.
And for a million things I can’t begin to understand or know.
(Dedicated to the Wabanaki Elders.)