Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Cross-planetary Shadow-bathing

A much abbreviated account of Cross-planetary Shadow-bathing... read on or listen here.

A while back I was well known as a Total Solar Eclipse Chaser… but nigh on 8 years passed without such an excursion. So quite excitedly the inimitable Brooke Lyndon-Stanford (there’s an explorer’s name) and myself undertook a ‘smash and grab’ eclipse pilgrimage.

Halfway around the world in 80 hours we went… Four planes, a long cab ride, a long boat ride across the equator, another longer baking hot boat ride and a few walking adventures transported us from London Soho office to Desert Island hammock in the Gulf of Tomini, Sulawesi, Indonesia. 

Rather than plot my own course this time, I passengered the last leg aboard a spaceship of the imagination commandeered by the indefatigable Simon and Elsa, salt of the earth friends of Brooke to reach this uncharted ‘Pleasure Island’ in an azure to turquoise sea. We were sixty-eight souls aboard that vessel and not a drop of drink was left by the end of it… though god knows we packed too much of that and too little of water for our tropical cruise*. For this was not your average amateur astronomer brigade, this was a motley-crue of pirate-like solar eclipse chasers. Most, captivated like me by their first experience, had now been on many such excursions, all excellent and all well-seasoned travellers.

As natural phenomena, Total Solar Eclipses are primeval yet highly inspirational experiences. They become these dramatic ‘hourglass’ moments. As if all things in your life have inexorably lead to THIS moment and THIS place, when you are THAT grain of sand in the hourglass, FALLING, in THAT moment, in GRACE… sublime. And after that the whole world opens up again, your life lies before you and you return to it.

Of course all ‘moments' are the same and poignancy frequently found in the mundane… but these eclipse moments grab you in a primordial way… they demand complete presence and attention to the celestial drama. All else disappears, gone is the bank balance, the girl or boy, office politics, family feuds, fear you left the stove on and so on. Not gone is the feeling of being alive on this Earth and in awe and wonder, lapping up the silvery corona, people delighting, an all-round sunset horizon, stars, a chill and the weird otherworldly light as the Moon sweeps across our one true light casting a lucky few in shadow for a precious minute or two.

And here’s the photographic loot acquired …

This eclipse trip was all about the journey and while not restful it was restorative in terms of the need to have adventure. This world is not so small. There are many distant places not in cellphone or Internet coverage. Yet beautiful and friendly people live there and many more were met along the way. One cannot see the size of the mountain until one is far away so I am returned to English shores basking in the afterglow of an adventure well-had and affirmed that this is one hell of an amazing planet to be living this incredible life upon. 

Much Love

Doctor Lobster

A huge thank you to the legend that is Simon and also to Brownie, Hendra, Nuir and Elsa. Arch-organisers!

Sunset the day after the eclipse, Moon Island...  photo by Brooke
The Beautiful Things
selected to keep the
Eclipse Crystal Magic going... 
* As much as a lot of alcohol was consumed it was not by me, I had decided to give up alcohol, wheat, sugar and chocolate for Lent - possibly a daft thing as I am in no way religious. I was caught up with the idea of Lent coinciding with the supposed period of Jesus going into the desert for 40 days and being tempted by the devil… the devil of course just being the thing within us that is hard to resist… and I managed except for a final sunset coffee while humouring some beach kids slingshotting targets in exchange for our remaining rupiah. The imperfect thread weaved into the tapestry.

How many Indonesians does it take to change a light bulb?

I didn’t get the photo of that happening but it was an encounter in a hotel that crystallized what an amazing time I had in Indonesia. There has been a high level of competence on display from everyone and every local I encountered was exceptionally friendly, nice, took the effort to try to understand whatever vague issue I had and then to help. Such a good and positive visit to such a lovely country. Bravo.

Final note:
The next … 21 August 2017… USA… see you there… 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Leaping into Pupation


Its less common for me to put out a missive between the Chinese New Year and the Hot Cross Buns of Easter’s Good Friday but this year requires it as it is a LEAP year… and the 29th of February is a special moment of irregularity – if you have a hundred birthdays you will only have twenty-five 29th’s of February, a few of which you would not have noticed. Yet this rarity is almost never accorded much respect. Sure there’s the oddity that they’re known as the day on which the ladies are allowed to ask a man for his hand in marriage… How quaint… As if any self-respecting feminist (and I count myself amongst them) would settle for such old world tosh. So please accept this invitation to make something special out of the ordinary! It's a great day to think about the bizarre species we are and marvel at the wonders of this life.  

And here's a little something I wrote in partial relation to leap year in 2008... 

Now - are you a caterpillar or a butterfly? Do you know how to tell the difference?
One way is ask yourself just how hungry you are? Another might be to note how thinly spread you are. Where is your level of satisfaction and what is your level of delight? Interpret all of that, as you will… 
I’ve certainly been munching on the buffet of life for my two score and more years on this wonderful nearly round world and have always felt I was a caterpillar even though I’ve had more than a fair share of flitting about. 
A caterpillar I truly loved in the Big Apple
But I have felt a yearning for metamorphosis, that it was time to shift from what I am to what I will be so that what I become will be entirely different from what I was. Well over a year ago I was offered the opportunity to work on Tim Burton’s next film, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and jumped at the chance despite it meaning moving back to London from New York City. I did and London welcomed me back like an old friend treating me like the prince it always has.

I arbitrarily concluded that the duration of this film shall be the period of my pupation and being whimsically prone to dramatic gestures I assigned the Leap Year day as my ‘due’ date for emergence into my new existence. Of course such plans mean nothing to the gods… and so with great luck, for this film experience is proving to be even more fun and extraordinary than I imagined it would be, I remain gainfully employed on it for several months still to come, well past this 'incubation date' and right now I can’t see any dramatic change occurring on the 29th… I’m guessing I’m going to be an overdue cocoon-baby.

Click on this image to reveal the creeping horror of Pupation Time!


It’s quite a challenge trying not to plan for this future as a butterfly, moth, fly or whatever it is I’m becoming… One simply wants to plan. But can a grub or caterpillar ever dream big enough to do grace to what she shall be when first she unfurls her wings and blinks her new beads to the sun’s cheering light after sleeping for what was going to be eternity? I remind myself gently just to rest easy, enjoy the comfort of the chrysalis* while it lasts… for to be sure it has not been as simple and restful as expected, it has been buffeted by many a gust, even surviving the storm known in Nordic parts as Mama Rabbit but that I call Love-monster Wronski… not the peace and calm required for simple transmogrification… but an excitement previously unknown. The intensity available after such a short period speaks volumes of connection as well as commitment to the cause of Adventure… tis true that Safety is Third… Love and Adventure being well ahead of it… Yet I do wonder if my pupation is something being cast aside, am I cut out from the cocoon too early or is it yet ongoing and consequently just the date of my metamorphosis postponed… or am I growing into an even stranger thing - larger perhaps than previously thought?

Which brings me to just remind you all the beauty in this phrase: “Just as the caterpillar thinks his whole life is coming to an end he turns into a butterfly"

And the delightful HP Lovecraft “That is not dead which can eternal lie and with strange eons even Death may die."

Much love and leap year mirth

Doctor Lobster

* I know there are differences but pupa, chrysalis, cocoon… they’re all the same to a white privileged mammal trying to impress his friends with a funny tale. 

Ps –Total Solar Eclipse in Indonesia 9 March… Sulawesi… just saying…

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Monkeying About

Phew friends, I don’t know about you but for me the last months of The Goat have seen some Herculean trials. Not the least of which was head butting up the slopes of Mount Relationship. But even though the way has been hard and steep, if Love beckons, you follow...* So it’s with great relief we welcome some light simian guile into our lives on Monday 8th Feb as the New Moon heralds in the Year of the Monkey...

However the respite is slightly leftfield as this year is that of the FIRE Monkey which rewards bold curiosity rather than indecisive caution even more than usual.

It is in adversity we will find our victories so go further than the normal expectation and risk failure. For Success is a shallow teacher providing but part of the lesson… rather boldly fail where you haven't failed before… it’s there you’ll grow the most… in short, fail up… challenge your edges… test your mettle… for this year is indeed a test… 

Jackie the Baboon
Space Monkey
Donate to Save the Chimps

But its a test designed for you to pass… the only real failure comes in not attempting… to sullenly sit, refusing to play will serve neither you nor the troop. Rather swing your way though the canopy of life, trusting instinct and knowing that failure is most likely just landing on your arse… everyone does… and everyone laughs… after all, do you mind when your fellow friendly fuzzies are a little foolish… hell no… whoop de woo you’ll show them how its done until just like them you too crash on your bum. And they’ll laugh and delight just as you did with them. And another and another will follow attempting the same providing further mirth. So learn to laugh with and at yourself. It’s such a gentle and mature thing to do and takes great care of the part of pride that knows only to hurt itself.

This year the thing you seek is not the thing you will find. What you find instead will lead you back to where you were when you wanted to be where you are now and that might be a place you’d prefer to be... either way like the epic journeys of legend that end back in the hero’s village you will be wiser. Most positive change felt painful in the beginning… and most courage is found unexpectedly. So don’t shy from the challenge rather shy a coconut at the baldhead of Seriousness and laugh while you scamper back to the jungle of Joy your life can be. 

And if you ever hear someone say ‘There’s nothing there’ about a place, be certain to go because then you have the chance to see something ‘that-isn’t-there’ and learn what can only be taught through a strange experience.

Much love 

Doctor Lobster (aka Hal Couzens)

* Apologies to Kahlil Gibran