August 11, 2003

How to Go to Varnastrama

I’ve decided to make a trip to Varnastrama. Recent events here, in Lancaster, PA have left me totally exhausted, and I haven’t been to visit my different but wonderful family in that world in many months. However, I must take several precautions before I leave. Even though the currents of time seem to flow much more rapidly on Varnastrama than on this world, I will have to make sure that I can be alone in my apartment for several hours. If, for example, Ruth should enter, she would find my unconscious body and have me carted to Lancaster General Hospital by ambulance. Both Abe and Joe, my sons who live in New Jersey, would be notified along with half of Lancaster County. I’d lose at least one week to tests and other unnecessary medical “B.S.” that my HMO would fight and generate an avalanche of paper work and hassles too innumerable to think about. Additionally, while I’m in Varnastrama, I must make sure, if at all possible, that I do not see or hear anything in this world that might distract me from my journey. My last trip was ended abruptly when Tillie Herr, my next door neighbor, fell out of bed and broke her hip (She's Okay now.).

Trips to Varnastrama can be arduous and painful. In fact, it took two years of practice in Sanctuary to learn how to accomplish my first crossing. At the time I thought I was learning to travel through time. I would lay on the old day bed in the Northeast corner of the studio at Orchard Hill Farm, close my eyes, and try to visualize myself in the streets of ancient Rome. In order to accomplish this visualization I had spent many hours at Shadek- Fakenthal library at Franklin and Marshall College studying the history of Ancient Rome. I became a supporter of the college, got a library membership, and signed out many books on the subject. And, one of the first things I learned is that the city plan for Lancaster, Pennsylvania was based on the ancient Roman city model. I also learned that our Lancaster is placed on seven hills just like the ancient Imperial capital. Both at the library and in Sanctuary I poured over maps of ancient Rome, and stared at photographs of the Capitaline Hill, Hadrians Tomb, and reconstructed images of the Circus Maximus. I made drawings of a restored Roman Forum and visualized myself walking through it. I consciously developed a mental imaging capacity that allows me to place myself into imagined three dimensional spaces and view them from different angles, a virtual reality of the mind, long before the term was coined to describe software capable of creating that kind of an experience for a passive viewer. I say passive because the viewer of such software may be interacting with the software, but he, or she does not create or visualize the environment with which he or she is interacting.

One summer - 1952, I think - I took Rebecca and the children on a trip to Italy so I could visit Rome. I spent hours in the Pantheon following the movement of the occulus focused ellipse of sunlight upon the huge circular floor, columns, and walls of that classical prototype of all modern domed cathedrals, and capitol buildings. I roamed through the ruined colosseum. I watched from above as Rebecca and the children walked through the labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that had once been located beneath the massive floor of the stadium and I tried to imagine the throngs of Roman citizens standing and shouting around me. They would have been seated in the stadium according to rank, plebeians at the top, Senators and other persons of high rank at the balustrade barely 20 feet above the massive ground floor. I pictured myyself located somewhere between the two extremes watching gladiators fighting to the death, Christians being martyred, and the floor filled with water and ships floating upon it, engaged in battle.

However, all this background material and the months of concentrated visualization did not help me go to ancient Rome, but to the parallel world of Varnastrama.

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