Posts Tagged Joshua Tree Retreat Center

“What Do You Mean, Mumbo-Jumbo?” (Remembering Conrad Birdie and Energy Healers)

After a recent sojourn into the Mojave Desert to capture stories of healers, I guess that I was still overwhelmed even several weeks later by some of the testimonials. A typical snippet of what I had come back with would be Dianne’s story:

After showing my son, Damon some of these, he mused about doing a testimonial himself about some of his life experiences. Although he has a wealth of such experiences, there was no doubt in my mind that his stint in front of the camera was going to be something between tongue-and-check and irreverent. This presumably would be meant to confound all attempts by me to get to a deep level during an interview.

Knowing that he, like most photographers that I know would prefer to stay on the other side of the camera, I attempted to encourage him by adorning him with my favorite sets of Love beads and filling his hands with a sacred musical wood block, complete with mallet that I had retrieved years ago from the Yucatan.

“Camera is rolling, sound is speeding, and … ACTION!”

(Pause and silence).

Damon: “I don’t know … I’m not feelin’ it!”

Boy, have I heard that before! It has become my current obsession to figure out how to get someone in front of the camera beyond that spot and to dig deeply into those feelings to bring out something real. I try to remember the times spent with directors Rod Menzies and Shayde Christian to see if I can remember how they did it. I am not sure exactly what to do in every situation, but I instinctively feel that the performance in front of the camera springs from that twilight area very close to our fears and passions, like some artistic serpent coiled and ready to strike forth. As the photographers delving into video, we attempt to invite the serpent to strike, without invoking its ire.

As Damon continued to silently express his feelings, I saw in the camera moments of supreme facial realities that would rival any actor. These moments confirmed my feelings about that twilight area from which art springs from the deep subconscious. But the words, probably immovably blocked in some cerebral lobe would have to wait for another day to amaze me.

Finally, I couldn’t take it any more. Overcoming my own fear of being in front of the camera, I burst, “let me give it a try!” I took up the ceremonial musical wood block, left him standing there in the forest with the Love beads, and gave it a try.

Not to bore the reader with my impromptu script, I will suffice it to say that my sister, upon seeing the performance wrote, “what a bunch of [explicative deleted] mumbo-jumbo!”

“You’ve gotta be sincere?”

I don’t know, I thought it was pretty sincere, if not in a mumbo-jumbo sort of way.

Maybe this whole story is just an excuse to pay homage to the late performer, Jesse Pearson, who created one of my favorite characters, the man with the gold lamé jumpsuit, Conrad Birdie. Maybe I need look no farther than his performance for the answers I seek: “You’ve gotta be sincere — honestly sincere!”

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Joshua Tree Retreat Center – A Place of Inspiration

I never get tired of visiting the Joshua Tree Retreat Center. I guess in part because it was here that the Native American flute first appeared in my mind’s eye. John Stillwell is nearby this place, making the magic wands that are his flutes. Through the years, I have tried to capture the magic that is here. The following video attempts to do just that:

Joshua Tree Retreat Center – Inspiration in the Mojave Desert. from Bill Leyden on Vimeo.

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