Grooving on the Healing Nature of Art

 

Our well being, and our planet’s, depends on creating our asses off. I’m serious!

We need to bring beauty back. We need to honor the spontaneous expression of wonder and surprise. We need to remember what makes us hummmmmm, what makes us humane. We need to remember and commune with that mysterious source within called Soul, God, muse, mystery. It is connecting with that source that allows us to embrace living and enables us to thrive in dire circumstances.

Writing by Terry Tempest Williams always grabs me. Recently in YES magazine, Nov 21, 2013  in an interview with Devon Frederickson, she said this: When we were working in the village of Rugerero with Rwandan women who had lost everything from war, I saw a light in their eyes return when their children began picking up paintbrushes and painting the walls of their homes. Joy entered in. Creativity ignited a spark. In that moment, I saw that art is not peripheral, beauty is not optional, but a strategy for survival.

I first recognized art as a strategy for survival when I stood before the drawings done by ordinary people in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bomb exploding over Hiroshima. They used any scrap of paper, including toilet paper, to record the death and destruction they witnessed: corpses piled up at a well with arms still reaching for water; business men dead in their seats as they rode a bus to work; shadows of the vaporized recorded on the sidewalk, a form of graffiti I’ll vividly remember for the rest of my life.

I find that my art and my wholeness are inextricable. And Connie Hozvicka of Dirty Footprints Studio keeps revealing more of that bond for me. TODAY, about forty of us embarked on her latest online course called Painting the Feminine.

This is a journaling class and I have not journaled regularly in many, many years. I have trip journals from pilgrimages taken in the 2000’s and an occasional dream recorded, but that era of discovering personal truth by journaling has passed. So I entered this class with a ho hum attitude. That didn’t last for long!

Using the blank pages in my journal from the trip taken to see the Spirit Bear in BC back in 2002, I began by making a title page midway through the book and deciding to work in oil pastels and colored pencil rather than paint. Connie’s suggestion was to take a word that grabbed us from a list she’d made of feminine qualities and paint it, intuitively, spontaneously w/o forethought.

I surprised myself with my word choice: “eccentric”. But didn’t question the choice and responded by smearing oil pastel all over the pages. Abstract energetic stuff began emerging in the upper right and I could feel my entire body engaging in spontaneous line and color. Loving it loving it. Then I felt, rather than saw, the curve of a feminine head, my head bowing before the unknown honoring the void and its life affirming wisdom. The whole experience delighted me.

Eccentric

This experience affirms my eccentricity for having always been willing to follow my soul’s passions no matter the risks. I’d never considered that a feminine trait before. I always labeled my choices as being stupid by modernintellecturalupstandingproperstandards and obviously financial suicide, all that shitty stuff designed to keep me “in my place,” but I veered off center and did what felt right anyway. I realize now that if my own inner labeling had been more supportive, my path might have been easier.

So this has been a valuable exercise and a reminder of how making art can help us feel whole when life shatters around us.

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Light Obsession

Darkness calls me with its power.

I love night’s beauty. .. the magnificence of day blind stars, the aurora borealis yanking audible awe from my throat, moon sprinkling diamonds on snow, the forest breathing more slowly as trees, quite literally, fall sleep.

I am more invisible in the dark which makes me feel freer, more at home in my own skin – even, dare I say it, safer – no flashlight reveals my whereabouts, no fire reveals my face to the other. I can more easily slip into that sense of oneness with the black womb around me.

Creativity flows and dreams quicken in the winter. I love the inward turn of focus – possible only for those of us lucky enough to be able to adjust our frenetic schedules to account for seasonal changes. Like hot house plants, we northern urban two-leggeds live like summer all year long, forced by indoor heat and artificial light to keep producing. No wonder we have a new disease called SAD ( Seasonal Affective Disorder ). I doubt we’d feel so sad if we considered it normal to slow down in winter. With weekly regularity, perhaps, we might curl up under a blanket and sleep longer, respond creatively to the dreaming night, cuddle together near the living room fire and tell stories, sing songs with friends and families, share food and hot drinks.

I grieve the shortening of night, maybe because we never celebrated its lengthening.

mandala tree

We seem obsessed by the light as if it were our only guide,
our only friend,
the only medicine good for us.

                              Hog wash!

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The Sacredness of Relating

This last month has flown by. Praying True, the global group on Facebook mentioned for the first time in my last post, grows in giant steps and deepens my commitment to living a life of reverence. And you know what that really means to me? It means seeing the interconnectedness everywhere in everything. For me, living in a sacred manner means responding to life in ways that  nurture relationships, no matter what the relationship is. Isn’t that a revelatory idea? I learned it first about five years ago from my friend, Kevin Emmons, a Druid Priest living in Maine. Since all of our world is related, one thing to another, then nourishing relationships is the most godly act, the most blessed act, the most reverent thing I can do.

Though I invited others on Praying True to join me for my regular prayers on the third weekend of the month, prayers for the salmon, now prayers for the humans, now prayers for the world and her waters, I didn’t have the energy to organize anything locally. Though my commitment is strong, my weekend was heavily scheduled, teaching Ecstatic Postures both days. I was “worried” that I didn’t have enough time to do justice to being on the land and decided I would just head for a brief walk by myself on the beach with my dogs in between events.

On Saturday, the Posture group seemed extraordinarily tuned in. From the get-go, I was seeing relationship everywhere. The altar candle for instance, a simply beautiful dance between flame and water. fire n waterWe held a Metamorphosis pose along with one from the category of Living Myth, and the afternoon was satisfyingly charged with the sense of being more than human…interconnectedness everywhere.

Afterward, babysitting for my grandsons ( a 5 year old and one 6.5 ) seemed charged with the mysteries of their being digital natives and I, as a “born before TV” elder, wondering how they will see the world around them as they mature, more connected as they are to the magic of virtual realities than the natural, more slowly moving ones. But as the evening wound down, I felt bliss. Hard to find words to describe it, but something was working me, wombing me with tenderness and a felt sense of expanded boundaries.

The next day, the hours ran away from me and suddenly, I had only 45 minutes for that walk on the beach, and yet, and yet, I felt as if I’d been immersed in prayer the whole weekend. Time expanded on the beach. I don’t usually take a camera with me but today I did and I knew why almost immediately. A woman in our posture group the day before had seen in alternate reality a red “native” canoe half buried in sand. Though not native in design, a red boat is mired in the sand in this waking reality. I had to take a photo of it for her.red boat

That started a journey of seeing relationship everywhere through my camera lens. Past, present, future  – all connected. animal mineral

animalplantmineralAnimal, vegetable, mineral – all connected. Light and shadow – inextricable. Water, earth, air – intertwined. earth water

Art in everything.

wood plasticHuman ingenuity contributing to the art in everything.

camels backNature, itself, contributing to the artistry that we humans imitate.

intricate naturelife complexity

suns magicHuman creativity totally interwoven with all that exists.

natural altar piece (2)We live interdependently and nothing stands without being tethered to source. Plastic chairs the creative expression of inventive humans somewhere who could envision that plastic shape being in service to the human rump -

nested chairshelping us gaze out to sea with an ahhhhhhh yes of WOW for the sky above, the sand below and the sea glistening its way to the horizon.

Out to Sea

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The Web

 

spider web 1 (1)

Dear Readers of my blog,

I am walking an unprecedented road and yet I forecast it back in August. Do you remember? I tell you about sitting on the couch with Victoria and sharing with her my last two months of praying for the salmon. Then I write: “As if I have suddenly stepped outside myself, I look down on the two of us sitting on the couch and SEE how my commitment to pray is already being fed and enlarged. I breathe a silent “thank-you.”

I felt the energy building then but I never dreamt how quickly greater clarity would arrive and planetary connections made. I published my post about praying on my own again in September and shared the epiphany that I am not praying for salmon but for humans. I ponder our purpose and wonder about the fact that we don’t seem necessary for the planet’s systems to keep humming and evolving. In fact we are an invasive species messing up most things in our path. I swear the moment I clicked to publish that post, Jane Cunningham in New Zealand clicked to open it. She contacted me and shared her song.
I fell in love listening to her voice, her spare yet all encompassing, compassionate words. I knew that I had found a compatriot for the passionate purpose that had just become clear to me

spider web 2

I have been praying – whatever that means – for humans to fall in love with our home. After painting Thread ( see it in the post before this one ), I began taking my monthly commitment more seriously. I suddenly saw, probably on a daily walk with the dogs in the wood, that I am meant to midwife a movement for humans everywhere who want to honor the earth with their open hearts and to share that experience of communion with others by creative expression. I suddenly SAW that our job as humans is to pray, to give back in word and deed to the energy of this place which holds us – the earth. Ten thousand years ago, we took that job seriously, but the trek of modernity, science and religion have distracted us from our original purpose. We can return to it but as more fully evolved creatures than ever before.

spider web  (5)

The name that comes to me is Praying True. I am blown wide open by recognizing the power of these two words. Though I have always lived reverently, I have never thought of myself as one who prays. So it strikes me as curious that here toward the end of my life I am gungho about praying. I’ll delve into that subject at another time, but here now I want to mention the power of true. True for me means behaving authentically. Authentically for me means behaving in a way that my bowels, my interior, tells me is right for me. When a thought, action or deed rings true for me, my entire body relaxes. I feel comfort inside, my heartbelly is warm and expansive and then I know what is right action for me.

Facts in my brain don’t alter my body’s truth.

spider web  (6)

True also means – again only for me though maybe it will resonate with you – being in balance, like the plumber’s bob, the pendulum swinging until it comes to rest. True as in straight arrow, true north as guided by the north star, unfiltered aliveness, naked voice, feet feeling rooted, body nestled in the cocoon of living energy all around us. I know when I’m praying true and I think the earth does too. The essence of praying true is simple, available to everyone and requires no creed, dogma or paraphernalia.

spider web 1(5)

And so here comes Southern Hemisphere Jane Cunningham into my life. What a blessing!. I ask for permission to share her song here in the Pacific Northwest of the Northern Hemisphere. “Of course,” she says. Though we are twenty hours apart and live in a different day AND season, we agree that we’ll sing together last weekend. AND WE DID! I’ll share that story next time.

spider web 1(4)

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What’s Your Thread?

I don’t know where time goes. Do you?

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A month has passed and I need more time so I have left my part time job at an art gallery.  I have no idea how money will flow, but I know it will. I need more time to live a meaningful life, guided by intuition and the wisdom of the natural world around me, painting and writing to express the inexpressible, to speak for those who are mute like mycelia, oxygen, salmon, turtles, and trees, to inspire others to do the same.

beauty

My commitment to praying for salmon on the third weekend of every month gives a rhythm to my weeks. I am making time to create ritual for an ongoing-ever-deepening purpose and it feels good, right – somehow important despite my singularity.

September’s prayer weekend coincided with equinox and that gave an additional edge. What is balance? How do we bring balance back to the natural cycles? Who and what are we humans to this earth anyway? We are beauty makers and meaning makers at the same time we are wreakers of havoc.

rad joy birdI am constantly bemused by questions only we humans can ask: What is our job here? What is our worth when the planet would thrive without us?

My job is to remember my dependency.

As I hike the trail back from the mudflats an epiphany showers me with “aha’s”. I am NOT praying for salmon but for us humans.

canine tracksraccoonmy tracks

I am sending my compassionate support to all those choosing to say, “What the f— am I doing to the natural systems that support me?” Ripping up another forest to plant a shopping center.  Losing myself online instead of sharing laughter with a neighbor.  Working at my desk until it’s too late to read my children to sleep or share the day’s stories with my partner. “What the F— am I doing?”

I pray for humans to come to their senses, literally and figuratively. I pray that we choose to live fully embodied lives rather than ones dominated by the head’s ego. I pray that we choose to remember what our ancestors knew:  giving back to the land is necessary for nature to continue providing.

light shadow

Science confirms that all life is inextricably and intricately intertwined, yet, we “moderns” keep taking as if there is no need to repay our debt.

As I walk back to the car, I recognize my own seamlessness with the world around me. My living and my dying belong to it. I am not cut out to be society’s paper doll propped up by the pretense of self-sufficiency, boundless abundance and endless happiness. Instead, I am plump with paradox and lean with simple truth: love IS the life force streaming through me, trees, rivers, creatures and the cosmos. Though my time here is brief, everything I do matters to that one great thread.

When I nourish the world, I strengthen the web which nourishes me.

smal thread

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Dead Zone – Part 2

I’m laughing at my stubborn refusal to post again until I have finished the salmon prayer painting for August.

I have just finished the painting and now I will finish the story of our traipsing through the wood along the banks of the lake that died a long time ago. Immediately we begin noticing the quiet. I mention that in Part 1, but it is worth mentioning it again because the silence worms into me. I am muffled by the silent world, feel like I’m wrapped in a shroud. The extreme silence may be exaggerated a little by my own projections, since I notice the next day that birds are relatively quiet in my “own” forest at this endofsummer time of year. There is, however, no lack of chatter and activity in the woodland near my home: insects, squirrels, deer, both young and old, coyote,  racoon and even beaver in the pond.

prayersWalking by the lake, shades of gray are brightened by the sunflowers that Victoria and James have brought along, by our day packs and tote bags loaded with ceremonial gear and our gamboling dogs tethered to their leashes. We chat about when to stop and decide we’ll know intuitively when we’ve reached the right spot. And we do. All three of us recognize the bend in the trail and the brushy bank where we are meant to land.

We unwrap our drums, rattles, a bit of sage and a candle. Victoria has brought her ceremonial kit from Peru. I’ve brought a little Buddha to leave behind in a hidden spot. We begin by sitting in silence simply witnessing what lies around us. The sky is leaden. The lake shimmers with dark ripples interspersed with silver and grey. A bug a bug a bug. We thrill with signs of life. A dragonfly has found us and graces our spirits with several fly-bys. Then I spot a big bird with white breast swooping at the far end of the lake into the trees. Then Victoria sees a small bird. James wonders if they know not to drink the water.

We begin to rattle and drum and that eventually carries us into giving voice. Someone suggests that we pray out loud one by one and place our prayers into the sunflower. Tenderly, we pass the flower and bathe it with our heartfelt words. Momentum builds and we begin to drum again as James hurls the sunflower into the water. A few petals fly off and it feels to me as if our prayers are spinning out beyond this place. I’m not sure who begins singing – but all three of us raise our voices in free form song. The song grows and grows and becomes a chant channeled through Victoria: Get out of her way. Let the earth heal herself. Get out of her way. Get out of her way. GET OUT OF HER WAY.

Dead Zone - small)

The radical importance of this edict brings tears to my eyes. Tears for the beauty of this notion/tears because I know how tightly humans hold to their hubris. Science can find the antidote, technology can make an alternative. We keep thinking we can wiggle ourselves out of the messes we’ve already made but often make bigger messes with the solutions. David Suzuki says it well in his book titled: The BIG Picture. “ If we truly hope to ever live in balance with the natural world that sustains us, we really have to get over ourselves. Forces bigger than humanity are at work – forces that we mess with at our own peril.” P74

Salmon prayers in August enlivened me in ways I hadn’t expected. While still sitting on the bank, James reflected on how alive he felt, how sharing our anguish and our willingness to engage deeply with a natural world out of whack brought companionship and resiliency. Together we can weather any storm.

I am grateful.

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Dead Zone – Part 1

 

At a friend’s birthday party two weeks ago, I reconnect with James and Victoria, dear spiritual kin who live about an hour’s west of where I do. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we haven’t seen each other in many moons. Victoria and I settle down on the couch to chat while the rest of the party hunkers around the dining table engrossed in off-color hilarity spawned by a card game. Bathed in peals of laughter, Victoria and I catch up.

She discovers I’ve been praying for the salmon. “I used to do that, too,” she says. “I helped restore a salmon stream near Chimacum a long time ago. Artists have built a huge salmon to commemorate that. . .so big you can walk into it. The belly is filled with salmon stories in imagery and writing. Would you like to go see it?”

As if I have suddenly stepped outside myself, I look down on the two of us sitting on the couch and SEE how my commitment to pray is already being fed and enlarged. I breathe a silent “thank-you.”

Of course I say, “Yes,” and we make a plan to meet half way between our homes the following Sunday – the 18th of August.

V texts me on Thursday to tell me that we can’t meet at our original destination because a huge county wide event is happening at that park on the same day. She tells me she knows a lake nearby where we can go instead.

We meet at a gas station in the early afternoon. THEN she tells me the lake where we are headed is dead. The water is toxic and has been for a number of years, that our dogs can’t go near it, nor should we. She asks if I still want to go and of course I say “YES!”

This, obviously, is a wounded place and needs our prayers, just what the Global Earth Exchange is all about.

We drive the short distance to the State Park where the lake is located. Only one other vehicle is parked but I notice there is a resident summer caretaker living there. We have to pay a $10 entrance fee, which seems a bit paradoxical, doesn’t it, when no one can swim, wade, or fish in the main attraction…

To my eye, on this gray day, the lake looks benign, shimmering in response to the moody sky. . . no signs of scum or algae, the water seemingly clear. But yellow tape is strung up across the boat ramp as if a crime has occurred, which actually is accurate! Warning signs proliferate along the banks: Toxic. Do not drink. Do not touch. Symptoms such as tremors, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and diarrhea can occur within minutes.

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We leash up the dogs, gather our ceremonial gear, including a bouquet of sunflowers, and head out along a trail following the lake’s contours. The forest is silent, watchful and waiting. We notice no birds calling, insects buzzing, animals skittering. The forest is silent, the day is gray and we walk on.

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