Tuesday, April 12, 2011

imagine blooming flowers falling from the heavens

I picked up BEYOND RAIN OF GOLD mostly because of the illustration on the front of the book jacket (by Steven Yazzie).

That painting shows what I take to be a young man — his back is to you, but his hair is dark and not grey or silver and he doesn't look overweight or disfigured or bent over with age. He appears to be conducting the orchestra of a desert. The shirt he wears appears to be split at the bottom like the back of a tuxedo is. His arms are raised, and his right hand holds a baton; his left hand is opened and a bird sits in its palm. The sky is blue with a few clouds on the horizon, the mountains in the distance. The desert is out ahead and all around the conductor, cacti and other desert flora covers the landscape out to a ridge. The sun is peeking into the picture in the upper left-hand corner. For the most part, the artwork looks like it is set in the physical here-and-now. It seems to suggest that the book is about a confident young man who is egotistical enough to think he can lead the music of a natural setting familiar to him, and perhaps tame it.

Of course, I had kind of an agenda in picking up the book because of the cover. I had myself, an old, once redheaded but now white headed Caucasian, been writing the fictional story of a boy born in the desert as his parents crossed the border from Mexico into the United States some fourteen years ago. (Oh, the arrogance of me to take on such an endeavor.) So I was interested in reading about the life of a Mexican-American first-hand, and the book seemed to have that flavor from what I read on the jacket and saw in that painting.

But then, in the artwork on the jacket of BEYOND RAIN OF GOLD, blooming flower buds are falling unnaturally from the sky all around the conductor. And I reminded myself that that little bird was sitting there unnatural-like in the young man's palm. And I asked myself, what's with all of that?

Please excuse me for a little tangent. I have lived most of my life in Mormon country. Recently, Gary Lawrence wrote How Americans View Mormonism. One thousand randomly-selected Americans were asked fifty-five questions about Mormons. The results indicated that those individuals saw Mormons as friendly, honest, kind, having strong family values, willing to help the needy, and patriotic. Conversely, they also saw Mormons as self-righteous, out of touch, insular, brainwashed, fanatical, and narrow. Mormons in the Mormon area I am from for the most part see themselves in the positive forms indicated but not in the negative ones.

I think a similar dynamic is at play with respect to Victor Villasenor. Often, the problem is that we seldom associate very closely with groups of individuals who aren't like us. We often don't know how to talk to other people about what we believe in ways that they can understand or find useful. Furthermore, often we don't have a clue about our own naïveté and talk past other people.

Now it is quite obvious that Victor Villasenor sees himself as the youth in the picture, the conductor of an orchestra of his desert. The falling flower buds in bloom seem to speak to "magic" or the "spiritual" — some say fantastical — elements in the "musical" score of Villasenor's life as a writer, conducted by him but influenced by all of the characters in his life, including his parents, Lupe Gomez Camargo, his mother, and Juan Salvador Villasenor, his father, and his wife, Barbara. You a lot of individuals who says have passed away and gone before and have come back to him.

For instance, he writes: "It was like heaven had really come down to Mother Earth. For instance, every morning my writing room would fill up with these Grande Masters from the Other Side – like Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Frank, Confucius, though Stravinsky, and many others — and they all wanted to help me.

"Also, I didn't know my dad's cigar anymore. No, now I smelled wildflowers, just like I smelled outside of Phoenix, Arizona, when I heard OUR SYMPHONY OF CREATION!"

The book is classified, among other classifications, as a biography of a twentieth century Mexican-American author on the copyright page. It is published by Hay House, a "new thought" and "self-help" publisher.

I won't reiterate all of the faults and irritants that I, too, found in the narrative characterized as Villasenor's autobiography . Other critiquers have more than adequately covered them, even ridiculed them, and I, for the most part, agree, except with the ridicule. Despite them, however, I did find enjoyment as I read along and contemplated the spin Villasenor tried to put on his life, the spiritual and fantastic elements of living.

For me, it is easy to contemplate that when the "downs" in life exceed the "ups" that it can have an effect upon your perception, and can make it sometimes difficult to separate reality from what is hoped for and believed in. And when you get to that point, it might be difficult to communicate with somebody who hasn't had that experience or contemplated it.

I'd say if you read this book, read it with curiosity, trying to understand the elements of Villasenor's life that took him where he is. Try and imagine blooming flowers falling from the heavens in all of the music.

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