Eccentric Women living simply : free spirits
The beauty and simplicity of eccentric women. Living simply on the craft of the rosary.
A book excerpt from the Iconoclast Press online library.
"One such self-exiled woman springs instantly to mind: a fifty-five year old American lady who had changed her name to River Eagle, had dropped out as far as one can drop out of convention, had lived the last ten years or so without a proper home, building squatter’s shacks out of whatever materials were available wherever she ended up- which, previously, had been the American San Juan islands and their vicinity- and had made her way up and down the coast by trading her labor, finding odd jobs, and selling the most delightful, authentic rosaries I had ever seen, let alone smelled. As a matter of fact, before I had met her, I thought a rosary was a string of fake gem-stones strung along a cord which tired old dowagers somehow found solace in fondling after everything else worth living for had died or deserted them. River set me straight on that presumption. She had disinterred the historic art of rosary making- boiling up a large vat of fresh rose petals in a viscous, glutinous mixture of wax and oil, and then rolling this concoction into little balls the size of marbles, setting them to cool, and then stringing them into a genuine rosary, fit to lei the pope with, which smelled deliciously like newly opened roses for an inexplicably long time.
This was her main craft and venerable vocation. And yet she was an incurable gatherer, tinkerer, and artist in almost any medium available; and on the Charlottes that largely meant nature’s ever-present offal.
To stroll around and watch her gathering sundry stones, shells, sticks and boughs, wild hops, berries, reeds, and flowers, and to see nothing but an armful of compost of it, and then to view, a few hours later, the outcome of her free inspirations and imaginings, blending these disparate items into an incredibly unique work of art and beauty was to witness a lost way of being- a way in which the earth and humanity melded together from different directions and out of which the spirit was made visible. She was a Renaissance sculptor carving out the essence of existence in the wilds of the twentieth century, an animated sprite come to life on the living canvas of Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights.
In her early years River had done many things in many different places around the world. She had lived in Europe for a while, had been a surrealist painter, an actress in New York, a seeker of the mystical arts all over the globe, and had spent time studying the esoteric likes of Gurdgieff and his inverted universe. And then one day it seems she just sort of floated away from it all without even trying, and began her new life of mendicant homelessness, gathering, wandering, and living in a way that had become her own. She would even smoke dope in a way I had never seen anyone do it before, or since- carving out a thin tunnel through the center of an apple, and then, at one end, creating a little bowl to put some marijuana in, then smoking it through the tunnel, and passing it around, and when it was finished she’d claim the pipe and consume the apple. Then she’d be off again, meandering on her easeful way, taking facile observation of this or that, then turning away, taking hold of something else, and letting go of another. I understand now why she had changed her name to a most fitting label- River Eagle; because she had learned to flow on her own course with life, to not obstruct the gifts of the Giver, and to take and cherish and modify the beauty she alone could see with her subtle, artist’s keen vision.
She was a delightful breath of fresh air which I inhaled insatiably during the few days we spent together; a stray flower floating about in the wind and loving life for its own sake, without needing everything else that most of us need without loving any of it at all."
(excerpted from In and Of: memoirs of a mystic journey, by Jack Haas)
Books by Jack Haas: Autobiography, Memoir, Spirituality, Mysticism, Comparative Religion, Poetry, Art, Photography.