Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Midwinter Night’s Dream

Days grow tangibly shorter
And daylight more precious
As nights grow longer
Yet the dark provides
It’s protective embrace…

Life grows longer and stronger
With every heartbeat, each breath
As the pathways open their arms before you
Yet the quantum wave function collapses in death.

Don’t forget the Sea God’s Trident—
The summoning conch trumpet;
The Pharos Lighthouse stands
Sentinel before the harbor of your dreams:
Don’t forget.

This Holy Night sprouts antlers
That are golden boughs where mistletoe bristles
Where every whispering Druid plays his part
And remembers that sting of Lord Balder’s murder—
Antlers branch forth from the darkest heart.

Each one stands alone
Within the crimson glow of the four-chambered heart;
Ancestors stand in tender infinity
Of living, shimmering stardust
Empowered by sacred desire
Behind each living, arising form
Within each crown of creation,
Each culminating mystery
Of living atomic fire.

Bruce P. Grether 12.19.13

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

An Exquisite and Vibrant Epic Tale

Bruce P. Grether's review of THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER by Anne Rice

Though The Wolves of Midwinter, Anne Rice’s latest novel, arrived at my home on publication day, I’ve waited a while to write my review in order to carefully consider why I feel it’s so superb. Immediately upon receiving the beautifully printed and bound hardcover, I placed in the front one of the signed bookplates sent to me by the author. Let me apologize ahead of time for the over-use of superlatives…

Though this novel clocks in at no more than 388 pages, it exemplifies the best qualities of an epic tale. This truly is an epic journey that embraces and enfolds you and sweeps you away, and you don’t want it to end! It’s a journey in which a great deal of ground is covered and many, varied adventurers unfold, though none of them seems rendered in haste. At the same time, there’s no unnecessary padding—the prose is lean and clean, with a classic undertone and still it sounds contemporary. I feel that Anne’s somewhat “experimental” prose of Blood Canticle, the last Vampire Chronicle, with an almost jazz-like quality, and all of her writings since then feed into the quality of this one.

When I reached the satisfying conclusion, I would gladly have continued all the way through yet another volume of this series, that third novel which is hopefully on its way before long. In this fantastic follow-up to The Wolf Gift, various mysteries and revelations draw the reader all the way through.

Wolves may be Anne Rice’s finest writing so far, in my opinion, every bit as fresh and entrancing as her first novel, Interview with the Vampire, and as skillful, meticulous and alive as Christ the Lord: The Road to Cana. With this return to the realm of Nideck Point, the story feels like a genuine interval of life; several major plotlines gracefully interweave, and we encounter no less than two new species of immortals. (You could count three species, if you include a certain tormented ghost.)

Something I especially love about this tale is the fact that through most of the novel it is raining! The rainfall becomes intensely atmospheric and holds the entire book together somehow. The northern California coast and redwood forest setting, plus the magnificent old house of Nideck Point, and the nearby village are wonderful to experience and inhabit during the interim. I love the places as much as I love the people.

More than ever before, Anne employs a vivid economy of means to bring this journey alive in the mind’s eye, and in the heart of the reader.

Of particular fascination are the two entirely new species of immortals, the “Beloved Minions” and the Forest Gentry, both central to the story. The Wolves of Midwinter also offers significant developments in the story of Reuben Golding’s tormented brother, Jim, and their father, Phil, a man under-appreciated by his family. At one point, Phil asks a question important to everyone: “Why don’t people do what they really want to do, Reuben?”

Anne also delivers the kind of truly astonishing moments she is capable of rendering in the last brief chapter of the book, including a wonderful revelation that concerns Phil and one of the “Minions”—so anyone wishing to be totally surprised, don’t peek!

Bravo, Anne, and encore!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Roadrunner of Death

I AM not what you think
I stalk everything.

I AM natural recycling.
Sometimes I even take wing,

And from wherever they bask or slink
I pluck your squirming dreams.

There's no escape from
The towering fiery Eye's
Fierce blink.

Tomorrow or today
-No exceptions,
No shades of gray-
All must drink.

DRINK ME and you may
Smell the Roses.

You cannot know
If I come or I go
For my feet have two toes in front
And two in back;
So with equal ease
I retreat or I attack.

Yes. I AM predatory.
I AM beautiful.
In me, you can trust.
Do not fear me.
I AM discernment's knife.
I AM common as stardust.
I AM the appetite for life.

I AM the One
Everyone requires to remain awake
To the miracle of each heartbeat-
To how irreplaceable is each breath.

I AM the Roadrunner of Death.

Only be my friend and ally
And I will bestow this gift:
Though you're totally aware,
I may be merciful
And swift.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Revisiting ARMAND

It was Marius—when I recently re-read BLOOD AND GOLD—who ushered me back to revisit Armand. THE VAMPIRE ARMAND has always been among my favorites of Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, only partly because of its strong homoerotic and bisexual themes. The historical periods and places come vividly alive, and the story deftly weaves strands into all of the other VC novels. As usual, those who may think Anne Rice ever repeated herself with this series are not paying attention. Each of the VCs creates a totally new experience. While sometimes they examine familiar portions of the web of narratives from very different viewpoints, each look yields truly unique aspects of events and characters.

Armand manifests two strong and parallel tendencies of human nature, both as a mortal and as an immortal, which are the desire to belong to someone and depend on them, and the desire to have others belong to you. Neither of these—and of course they most often co-exist to some extent—is necessarily perverse in any way; however, such needs always amplify the bitter-sweetness of both human and vampire existence. The bitterness includes rejection, betrayal and terrible loss. The sweetness may seem to make existence worthwhile, yet it can also evaporate at any moment.

Though I appreciate the performance of Antonio Banderas as Armand in the film INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE his appearance was not quite right for me. I prefer how Armand appears in the novels: an eternally beautiful teenager with flowing red curls. His angelic appearance belies the fact he can suddenly become the Angel of Death. Yet I always sense a deep inner core of Armand that not even kidnapping, slavery, prostitution, emotional turmoil, killing, horrific loss and other travails can quite destroy. His Original Innocence seems to survive somewhere beneath any tarnish upon that lovely, ageless exterior, even if it lies buried and he often keeps it well hidden.

Like many other readers I absorbed ARMAND for the first time in 1998 still unsure of when, or even if, our beloved hero Lestat would ever emerge from the comatose state in which he lay since the wild conclusion of MEMNOCH THE DEVIL. (SPOILER ALERT! LOTS OF THEM!) That remarkable adventure left both Lestat and us as readers uncertain whether Memnoch actually was anything like the Christian Devil, or merely some kind of potent spirit playing cat and mouse with him.

However, there was some evidence: the veil Lestat brought back. Lestat claimed it was the actual, original “Veil of Veronica” from the legend of a woman who was said to have wiped the face of Christ on his way to Calvary with her veil, when the cloth received a likeness of his face upon it. Considered a great relic, the fate of the actual veil was unknown for certain in modern times—until (in the VC universe) Lestat brought the veil back from his experience of some kind of “Other Side” or time travel about two millennia into the past.

All this serves as a preamble to Armand consenting to tell his own story to David Talbot, now an immortal and sort of scribe since THE BODY THIEF. While Lestat remains out of it, Armand agrees to David’s request. Clearly Armand survived his evident burning in the sunlight at the end of MEMNOCH, when he went to view the veil on public display. We learn that he was badly burned as he flew up into daylight and tumbled into a building. (Thus the inverto of the original cover art.) Though damaged, Armand managed to telepathically contact a girl and boy named Sybelle and Benji, who rescued him and when he recovered, he had fallen in love with them both.

Armand’s journey seems to broadly echo that of Anne Rice herself, from a childhood of faith, young adulthood of questioning and moving away from faith, and an eventual return. ARMAND was published in 1998, the same year Ms. Rice returned to the Catholic Church, and though in 2010 she publicly disavowed Christianity and all organized religion, she retains her own strong personal, private faith.

Long before ARMAND was published, I viewed the VC overall as a journey in the direction of faith—not organized religion—so much as a quest to retrieve the spiritual significance of existence. Armand journeys from icon-painting Eastern Orthodox boy, to become master of his own satanic vampire coven who no longer feels God answers prayers if God exists at all, back to such a shattering return to faith that he feels ready to end his existence—or thinks he is.

Near the end of the novel, Marius asks Armand about his own vision of Christ when he looked at the veil. Armand repudiates all typical religious descriptions of who and what Christ may be. David presses him for more specifics and, Armand says, “He was…my brother. […] Yes. That is what He was, my brother, and the symbol of all brothers, and that is why He was the Lord, and that is why His core is simply love.”

Almost immediately after this scene, some of the contemporary vampires are gathered under the stars, and Armand is adjusting to the fact that Marius gave his mortal children, Benji and Sybelle the Dark Gift against his wishes. Unexpectedly Lestat returns to them, conscious though he seems groggy and still weakened, Sybelle’s piano playing has awakened him.

I do not suggest too strong a parallel between ARMAND and the author’s own journey away from religion and eventually back to genuine faith, still it’s among the greatest themes in existence. This time as I re-read this magnificent novel the return of Lestat seemed to me a kind of resurrection with genuine emotional impact.

I’ve always felt that a major theme of all the VCs is how, mortal or immortal, we hunger for the warm-hearted companionship of others at least as much as we wish to survive in some form, and Armand exemplifies this in many way. His return to some variety of faith also inspires him to try to have more trust in others, such as David and Marius.

I do love Armand himself, though his role in the destruction of Claudia still troubles me. Now he points me back to Merrick Mayfair. She is the one who eventually, fully awakens Lestat from his hiatus, after Louis attempts to destroy himself over the matter of Claudia, and Lestat must help revive Louis. Ah, what a tangled web!

Thus the next VC for me to revisit is MERRICK.

Bruce P. Grether

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Why I Believe in Faeries

Dear Friends and Loved Ones:

"Of all the trees that grow so fair, ancient lands to adorn, / Greater are none beneath the sun than Oak and Ash and Thorn."

Last summer when Tom and I attended the Fairy and Human Relations Congress near Twisp, Washington, we had the great privilege and immense honor to meet R.J. Stewart and to take several workshops with him. The Congress is a most unusual and fantastic event held in a beautiful mountain valley. A variety of people attuned to Nature and what some call fairies or devas gathers yearly to celebrate and to study with prominent presenters of events.

The Congress is both playful and serious, in that we humans must swiftly restore our relationship with Nature and the environment for the sake of all life on Earth, as well as our own species.

Over the years, Tom and I have read many books by Scotsman R.J. Stewart. R.J. is perhaps the world's top expert on the Faery Tradition originally associated with the UK, though it has global relevance. What this tradition speaks of is not just the little winged sprites of Victorian sentiment; these Faeries are a race of ancient spiritual beings more like the High Elves of Tolkien.

They resemble beings known in many other cultures as the Elder Gods, such as the Titans, or the Toltecs, in the old and new worlds. They are said to be related to humanity, yet we have estranged them by our behavior and our beliefs and driven them away. Of course, many adults of today may feel that we know what is "real" and believable. And yet, even a scientific view reveals how little we actually know, how deep the mystery remains. The world continues to surprise us with remarkable discoveries "if we have eyes to see and ears to hear."

Yes--I'm coming out of the closet as a believer in these Faeries, this ancient race of older beings closely allied with the power of Nature itself. I've always believed in them, though it's only in recent years that I can admit it even to myself. It may seem irrational, but rationality only gets you so far--sometimes you have to go with your gut and your heart.

Why do I believe in Faeries? Because I've always known, deep in my cells and in my stardust that they exist and that our relationship with them is crucial--now I can admit it to myself, regardless of what anyone may think!

AND NOW FOR SOME EXCITING NEWS! Tom attended a wonderful workshop with R.J. in Boulder late last year called "The Faery Oath of Oak, Ash & Thorn," and now we are bringing R.J. and his partner Anastacia Nutt to Wimberley, TX to present this remarkable teaching. The workshop will be on SATURDAY AND SUNDAY, AUGUST 10TH AND 11TH.

Don't miss the opportunity to participate! For more information please email Tom with subject line "OATH": ... you can also look at the Facebook page:

Peace & (((HUGS)))
Twitter: @BrucePGrether
Nada Te Turbe*
       -- Theresa of Avila
*(Let Nothing Disturb You)

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Place Where Part of Me Lives

Part of me lives at Nideck Point… only I had not realized how much until I recently returned to those vast rooms.

Last year when I read THE WOLF GIFT by Anne Rice, I was pleased to find it as good as anything she has ever written. A major setting for the story is the great house and home among the redwood trees in northern California, a place called Nideck Point. The architecture is lovingly invoked and the interior is richly and comfortably furnished. This highly civilized bastion is set amid the primeval majesty of ancient redwood forests. In parallel, the main character Reuben is challenged to embrace both his civilized humanity and the animal nature of the actual Wolf Gift.

The social networking site Facebook plays a role in the novel, and I soon learned why some call Ms. Rice the Queen Of Facebook. Her page there is among the most active and interesting, full of news and discussion, and she's remarkably gracious and honest with her beloved "People of the Page." That's how I learned that THE WOLF GIFT would have a sequel; when someone asked about it, she responded, "Done." Finally we learned that the next book would be titled THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER and that an excerpt would be added at the end of the paperback edition of the first novel.

So what other reason had I to seek out and purchase the trade paperback edition of THE WOLF GIFT, except to savor that preview?

What happened when I began to read that 18-page except is a testimony to the superb creative power of this author… without elaborate descriptions, employing the deftest touches of narrative and no need to grab for attention, the first sentence immediately swept me again into Nideck Point.

THE WOLVES OF MIDWINTER opens thus: "It was the beginning of December, deeply cold and gray, with the rain pounding as always, but the oak fires had never burned brighter in the vast rooms of Nideck Point…" When I read these words, I returned there!

I realized it's a place where part of me lives--a place as real to me as any in the material world, for such is the power of great stories. This is the magic of human imagination.

I look forward to my further return to Nideck Point on October 15th, 2013.

Thank you so much, Anne!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Sound and Scent of Life Itself

Dear Friends and Loved Ones:

Following a severe period of drought, to hear and smell the rain falling upon the world becomes the sound and scent of life itself!

That gentle hypnotic sound on our metal roof wakes me sometime before dawn. I get up, come downstairs and begin my day with that sweet, steady sussurus for my foundation. I'm keenly aware that my spiritual practice of constant cleaning within me--using gratitude and love--has an unexpected side-effect. I directly experience the subtle behavior of cells, molecules, even atoms, and subatomic energies.

For example, heating the water for tea, I FEEL the heat swiftly conduct through metallic lattices of the kettle like express trains and how this stimulates the elegant dance of the H2O molecules into a wild kinetic frenzy.

Sometime after my first cup of tea, and reading for a while, the sky grows pale and the rainfall lets up. I go outside and wander quietly through Paradise Garden. Even such a light touch of rainfall immediately heightens the green! Plus at this time of year dozens of different things bloom in the garden. Every plant here is a great and intensely aware being! I feel deep and profound respect for their vegetative intelligence. The moist scents of soil and vegetation reaches me from every quarter. Birds embroider the morning with song and response.

My heart swells with gratitude and love for everything (no exceptions!) like a bicuit in the oven.

When I consider this, I realize that the rain has always spoken deeply to me. It speaks to something deep within, perhaps at some level of ancestral memories. Epigenetics has recently revealed that we do inherit some acquired predispositions. So did my ancestors experience drought?

It may or may not have been drought. However I do know that many times they felt immense gratitude for the simple reprieve from need and suffering that Nature can unexpectedly bestow. I can feel this  grace, not only in my cells--but also in my jeweled molecules and the ecstatic dance of my atomic stardust.

*   *   *

For the last 33 years I've studied how the elements that compose our human bodies influence what and who we are. Now I offer a service based on my awareness and on everything that I AM, a service called Ancient Egyptian Shapeshifting Oracle (or A.E.S.O.). Please SEE: which also has a link to the A.E.S.O. Facebook page.

Peace & (((HUGS)))
Twitter: @BrucePGrether
Nada Te Turbe*
       -- Theresa of Avila
*(Let Nothing Disturb You)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mr. Porcupine in the Tree

Our friend seen eye-to-eye
Has a face like a caboose
And appears to me
To have philosophical depth --
He seems a bit shy.
Tom leaves him a snack -- a carrot and celery...

As night falls -- Mr. Porcupine begins his day --
Backs down the barky oaken branch and trunk
Backs down all the way
With old-man-in-corduroys caution --
Long tail alive feeling behind him,
Helps to find his way down.

Didn't eat his snack -- we learn next day --
And he's gone on his unknown way.

Now, as my final touches here are done --
You, me, and Mr. P.
And the live oak tree
Everything on this good green Earth
All things are no more and no less than One.