Where the Tracks Switch
The first time I entered Cleveland, Ohio it was nighttime. As the car approached the downtown area I could see where the city met the waterfront. This was an area called the Flats. I would come to frequent this location for late-night dancing and other escapades.
The night was dark and inky, which made all of the city lights twinkle brighter and there was a low-hanging body of fog over the water. I remember wondering if Bill Finger (the original writer of Batman) had imagined Gotham City after spending time in or passing through Cleveland. I had arrived at a time when it was being reimagined in the hopes of a revitalization. Once a thriving city built on shipping and industry, Cleveland had fallen into decades of decline. There was a certain indescribable feeling, an edge. To me, it felt like a place caught between what it used to be, what it presently was, and where it hoped to be going. Or maybe I recognized it because that edge and similar experience had been milling around in me. I had now landed in a location that matched it and would provide me with the opportunity to fully experience it.
I was young, curious, wild, and naive. I had a ravenous hunger to experience as much of life as possible. I wanted to take huge air-sucking gulps of it. Bigger gulps than I could actually swallow. At nineteen I felt like a live and loose electric wire.
There is an entire novel that exists inside of me concerning the three years of my life that I lived in-and-around the Cleveland area. Many of the chapters in that novel might make for good reading but they also made for some hard, fast, and at times, incredibly dangerous living. Running alongside my wild and naive nature was an edge of unaware self-destruction. Looking back, I feel certain that there were angels or other-worldly forces watching over me. There is no other way that I could have possibly made it through those years. Dumb luck would not have been a strong enough force to do the job.
On one particular night of “Wild, Young and Self Destructive in the City'', my friends and I decided we were going to head out for a night of dancing, and, whether we intended it or not, probably too much drinking. We piled into my friend's car and headed out to a club on the westside of town. I had never been to this particular spot before. As we were pulling into the parking area, I happened to look up and in the direction of the entrance to the club.
I knew from the first moment that I saw him he would change my life forever.
There are those rare instances in life when time seems to slow down and you can sense that something is moving around you, or maybe it is moving towards you. Or maybe it has been waiting at this split second, in this exact pool of time, and you have finally caught up with it. Some may call it destiny. Whatever those moments are, they are poignant and powerful and whatever choice or decision you make, to walk towards them or to walk away, you feel the direction of your life turn. It can be a subtle and almost indiscernible feeling, like a railroad switch on a track. Right then, your life’s trajectory begins moving towards a new location or destination. Whether you know it or not, you have answered the “All Aboard!” call. The whistle has blown and you are pulling out of your familiar station destined for parts unknown.
My youthful understanding of love and how it worked (or didn’t) had been naturally absorbed by watching my mother and father’s interactions and relationship. Although they eventually landed in a more mellow and ease-filled space in which they expressed their love, I would not qualify the early part of their lives together as such. In my understanding and experience of love, it was supposed to be tumultuous, turbulent and perhaps most notably intense. Yes, dramatic episodes marked by large and loud fighting, periods of eerie quiet (like being in the eye of the storm), and the hope and possibility of sweeping romantic breakthrough moments where and when all was right with the world…until it wasn’t, again. Whether I had a natural predilection for this type of love, or whether I had watched and learned, I was about to arrive in my own moment and experience of it. He fit the bill.
As I made my way to the door of the club, our eyes met and the pit of my stomach contracted. This was the instant the track switched. As I maneuvered past him to the doorman, I felt him turning behind me. I made my way inside and headed towards the bar. When I paid for my drink and turned around he was standing there, waiting to greet me.
He and I spent the next year involved in a very intense and tumultuous on-again, off-again relationship. Part of the intense “on again” included one magical night in May. We spent hours on the bank of Lake Eerie sharing stories and dreams, and at some point, when the Moon was high in the night sky and her reflection was dancing on the surface of the water, for the first time in our relationship, we shared our bodies.
Make no mistake about it, this is a love story, however it may not be the kind that you are thinking it is.
During my pregnancy, I had begun creating again. As my soul opened to the mystery of creation and life. I once again searched for a means through which to express my experiences. Using magic markers, crayons, and any other cheap material that I could get my hands on, I was making sense of my world in a way that began to move me forward. Symbols and images made their way through my crayons and onto the construction paper whose commodity was gold. The miracle of pregnancy had returned me to the magic, joy, and experience of creating art. And, nine months after that fateful night, when my son swam through my body and made his entrance into this world, the fullness that his presence brought into my life assisted me in seeing where I was heading. The track switch had set me on the course of being his mother, of experiencing, learning and embracing the purpose that comes with being responsible for the life and care of another. From the first second that I held him in my arms, I felt the purest love that I had yet to know.
At the same time that I was marveling at life and creation, I became acutely aware that I was in an unhealthy and dangerous relationship with the father of my child. After a particularly long and terrifying night, I knew I had to intentionally switch the track. If I were to remain, the trajectory of all of our lives included the real possibility that one or more of us would not survive. As quickly and quietly as I could, I stuffed as many of my son’s belongings as I could into his large diaper bag, carefully picked his sleeping body up out of his crib and left everything I owned to disappear down the tracks and into the night. The love that I had for my son was bigger and stronger than what I had yet to learn to have for myself. My son was 6-months-old when I left Cleveland.
I never spoke poorly about my son’s father or what had happened. I didn’t want my son to take that on. I believed that the best of what his father had to offer existed within the life that we had come together to create. The nature of who we both were, and all of the complexities of the lives that we had lived before our meeting had led us to our moment in time and I did not feel that it was mine to judge or assign value. My job, passion, and purpose was to become the best parent that I could possibly be, to grow into the type of human being that I wanted my son to see as an example and possibility in this world. Perhaps, most importantly, I was aware that I wanted and needed to allow the love that I had been so graciously gifted to transform me. And it did.
Years later I would dream of my son’s father. In the dream, I am walking down a dirt road in the winter. It is nighttime and the moon is high in the sky, just like it was on that fateful night by the lake. It is providing light and casting shadows over the snow. Eventually I arrived at a large stone mansion. When I enter the mansion I notice that the furniture is covered in sheets and the house has been closed-up for quite some time. It is then that I notice him. He is sitting on top of the large mantle over the fireplace. He does not look the same, but I know it is him. He jumps down from the mantle and walks over to me. He tells me that this is the body that he will inhabit the next time that he comes back. He then holds out his hands and asks me to dance with him. As we slowly dance around the empty room he speaks only one more time, “Thank you for raising our son. Thank you for doing what I could not”. The song ends and I look at him one last time. I turn and walk out the door into the night.
I am a grandmother now. My granddaughter turned 6-months-old yesterday. It seems poignant and probable that her age, and the age her father was when I left Cleveland, has something to do with why this story rose out of me at this time. It is amazing and wondrous to me, all of the moments, decisions and people who have to meet and join in order for one person to become who they are. So many stories and so many different tracks converging, and moving on.
As I have been sitting here, I have found myself searching for a neat and tidy way to wrap it all up. It’s not happening. I am realizing that “neat and tidy” does not really exist. This is a complex and layered story. It is one that includes much larger stories and histories than are mentioned here. I think most stories do. Perhaps the greatest or most important message for me has become about the power of love, forgiveness and gratitude. They are the truly transformative “track switchers”. The moments which include the possibility of choosing them are always moving toward us and around us at all times. They hold the potential to transform our lives and destinations.
The Secret Ingredient is Love.
How did this all start? As I sat looking at the blank page of my journal, I couldn’t help but wonder. Where had my love of food, cooking and feeding others begun?
Perhaps more than food itself, I fell in love with cooking because of the magic that lives in and around places where food is prepared and shared; kitchens, tables, outdoors over open flames or in outdoor ovens such as hornos. These places all played a significant part in how I have become who I am, and why I am making the choices that I am at this moment.
Every night during my childhood, my family would return to the same place, the dinner table. My mother, father, two brothers and myself sitting in our respective seats. No matter what else was going on; what disagreements were happening, who was upset with who, if someone had a particularly challenging day, or had experienced significant happiness or joy, if something big and scary had happened in the world, or if something magical was afoot and cause for excitement, at the end of the day we all gathered around that table and ate together. Our table was in the very center of our small home. Who and what we were as individuals, and as a family, moved around and visited that table. It is strange for me to think that I was the first one in our family to leave that table in search of myself and who I wanted to become. It is only as I began writing this that I have wondered what it was like after I had left and my chair sat empty and unoccupied.
Then there was my grandmother’s kitchen. To me, this was a warm, inviting, magical place. She was my experience of unconditional love. She offered it freely without restraint or expectation. In my grandmother’s eyes, I had nothing but good parts. When I have tried to recall my earliest memory, I always find myself in her kitchen on Clark Street. My older brother is there as well. We are not yet as tall as the white metal cabinets and kitchen sink. My grandmother is holding out her hand offering us some sweet treat that was not available to us at home. In this memory, she is always smiling like there is absolutely nothing better in the world than looking at us. The decision to purchase my house was in part as a result of the white, metal, vintage cabinets that I saw when I first stepped into the kitchen. It felt like my grandmother’s house, it felt like home.
Family holidays consisted of aunts, uncles, cousins and relatives traveling from what at the time I considered to be far away and magical lands. They would all come, and we would gather around the table. Everyone brought dishes that they had made, or more exotic items that came from the city or other distant places, to add to the feast. These moments around the kitchen were pure magic. Actually, anytime that the adults could be found around the table talking, playing cards, laughing, crying, making art, or talking in hushed tones, were moments that I found irresistible. I was drawn to them like a moth to a flame. It was my preferred location and I wanted to be near it more than I wanted to be hanging out doing what the children were “supposed” to be doing. My child brain had somehow come to understand that staying close to the table would reveal everything that I needed to know about life and its mysterious workings. This was the place where stories were told, deals were brokered, tempers and excitements flared. And then, there was the food.
My mother was an amazing cook. The food that she prepared consisted primarily of solid down-home cooking and it was delicious. I cannot remember her making something that I did not like, except for Brussel sprouts, when I was young. Side note: I love those tiny cabbages now that I am older, especially when I smash them and roast them in harissa sauce and garlic—yum!
Part of our family's food supply came from our annual garden. We planted and tended a garden almost every year during my childhood. The garden became a direct experience with, and relationship to, the food that we ate. I knew how carrots became carrots and what bean plants, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes looked like before they became the food on our table. I also knew what it was like to wander through the garden picking peas from the vine and popping them into my mouth. Fresh and delicious.
As I grew older and planted my own gardens, I embraced this connection and relationship that I had with food on an even deeper level. My gardens became some of my greatest, beloved and most important teachers about life and about death. Tending and caring for the plants that graced my table with their bounty and who became the ingredients and stars of delicious and nutritious dishes to feed those whom I love and are in my care, is an act of deep passion and love.
When I moved to New Mexico, I experienced the enchantments of the land and its people, Felipe, his kitchen, his wood-burning oven and his magical hornos. To provide even a brief description of who Felipe Ortega was simply is not possible. He is a novel unto himself. In this particular chapter of this story, I will share that Felipe Ortega was an Apache Medicine Man, a master micaceous clay potter and the person that I know who has cooked for and fed more people than any other human being that I have ever met. I spent one extraordinary year living with him doing my best to keep up. It was during this year that the once separate places and experiences of studios and art, kitchens, cooking and feeding people, medicine and love merged and forever became part of my calling and purpose. Felipe’s last words to me were, “You have to cook, you have to feed the people.”
One of the last memories I hold of my grandmother’s later years is her sitting by the window, gliding back and forth in her rocking chair while reading recipes from magazines and cookbooks. Although she no longer cooked meals in the same way that she once had, the alchemy involved in mixing and combining of ingredients continued to hold her interest and imagination. The same was true for my mother in a slightly different way. As my mother was dying, she decided that she wanted to share one last Thanksgiving feast with her family. So in October, days before her death, we gathered at her house and all sat down at her table for one last shared holiday meal. Although she could not eat more than a couple of mouthfuls, what was important to her was to see us all together, sharing food, stories and laughing.
My mother, grandmother, and Felipe, left me with memories that continued pointing me in the direction of purpose and the path that I am currently on.
This past New Year’s Eve, as the old year gave way to the new, I sat looking at the page of my journal where I had just copied the affirmation that had accompanied my horoscope. I reread the words.
“With unflinching honesty, I come to the table knowing what I want to offer and what I need to regenerate.”
A seed that had been planted very early on in my life, one which had continued to be tended, watered and made visible in various ways suddenly began to sprout.
I had set the intention of leading and living this new year with love and authenticity. What if there were a way to bring cooking and food into the equation? What if me “coming to the table” was more literal than I had originally thought?
What happened next was a series of rapid-fire connecting thoughts that I am fairly certain were not entirely generated by me. What if I created a YouTube show about my experiments and experiences in the kitchen? What if I really put myself out there right now, exactly as I am. What if I stopped trying to maintain such a curated image of myself and instead shared my most authentic and vulnerable self. What if I stopped saying the big “When I’s” and “But I don'ts”? When I lose weight… When I have more time…. But I don’t have professional cooking experience… But I don’t know how… What if I let people experience me exactly how I am and this encouraged and inspired other people to do the same? What if there were a variety of guest hosts who would join me and while we cooked and shared food? We could have the type of conversations that people have in kitchens and around tables. Conversations about love, authenticity, being human, our challenges, our victories, our sadnesses and our joys. Yes! What if I married the magic of kitchens, tables, and food with the intentions of love and authenticity in order to foster connections and community? Yes again! What if I called the show “The Secret Ingredient”?
And just like that, within a week there was a theme song, a logo and the pilot episode was being shot in our kitchen. We have since filmed two additional episodes and now have plans to bring the show on the road. Because what if there is a little red van with “The Secret Ingredient” logo going down the street playing the theme song (much in the same way as the music from an ice cream truck) and what if we went into people’s kitchens and made their favorite family recipes with them?
I am purposefully saying “we” because it is already working — the fostering connection and community piece. My husband is my biggest fan, an unwavering believer and supporter in what I do. He has already begun doing some research into that magical little red van. My son has researched lighting and microphones. My stepdaughter is behind the camera and doing the editing. My daughter-in-law was my first co-host and will be a regular on the show. There are already plans in motion for future episodes with other guest hosts and recipes.
Food, what happens in kitchens and at tables and places where people gather to break bread, it tells stories about who we are: who we are as individuals and who we are as people. It speaks to where we come from and what we have experienced along the way to where and who we are now. It bridges nationalities, geographies, and generations. Food is the great unifier; connecting families and friends. Food can also connect people from various and different backgrounds and experiences, calling them to gather together around the table once more.
And…what if? What if that magical secret ingredient is now, and has always been, Love?
Thank you for taking the time from your day to read my words and take in my thoughts.
If you have memories of kitchens, tables, cooking and food that you want to share, I would love to hear them.
Life is short, make it as delicious as possible.
I pulled out the piece of paper that I had written five years before. This was no ordinary piece of paper. It was the one on which I had created the love of my life. Writing to bring that love into creation and form, molding my hopes and dreams like a potter would clay. On this piece of paper was the love that I had asked the universe to bless and provide me with. I reread the description of this magical being that I had so carefully imagined, and smiled. I wondered if a love like the one I had described could actually exist or if I was being idealistic and expecting too much from the universe. I folded the paper back up and thought, well, I no longer have the need to experience the love of a lifetime, but a little company would be nice. Now the question was how to make that happen.
I had moved to a small New England town at the southern end of Vermont. I knew very few people and I was in my late forties. Most of the people in my age range were already in relationships. I made what at the time felt like a very bold decision…Tinder.
After downloading the app and beginning to create my profile, I thought it would be a good idea to get a little advice from someone who had some experience and expertise. Enter my twenty-five-year-old son. He asked me questions about who and what type of experience I was hoping to find, and then schooled me on the dos and don'ts of the online dating world. He also provided consistent reassurance and steadied my waffling and wavering thoughts regarding Tinder being the way for me to approach dating.
Photos, geographic and age range determined, a minimal biography on my forty-some years of life added to my profile, and voilà! I was launched and making my debut into the curious and oh-so strange world of Tinder. Swipe right. Swipe left. In the first week of the launch, I matched with quite a few people. However every time I attempted to engage in any kind of dialogue, I felt little-to-no pull to set up a meeting with the stranger on the other end of the line. Until him.
I was at work plugging away when the magical notification chimes sang their song. I casually picked up my phone to see what new possibility might lie ahead, fully expecting to put it back down and continue on with my day. Right from the beginning, it was just different. It was a simple message saying that he was dropping his daughter off at college (which had moved him into the geographical range that I had set) and that we had “matched” and he was saying “hi.”
I am not exactly sure why or what propelled me to immediately respond. There seemed to be all of these games and tactics one is supposed to employ in the world of dating apps. I could excel at these games, however, at this point in my life, I really had little desire to. I wanted the luxury and freedom of simply being me right from the start. No games. Honesty, authenticity, playfulness and a desire to keep growing no matter what the age, were some of the top characteristics that I was looking for.
So…I looked at his current location and I looked through his photos. Okay; there he was jumping out of a Dr. Who TARDIS, and there he was dressed as the Green Arrow crossing the finish line in a charity race. And there he was looking, well, simply put, real. Not to mention that he had really beautiful hair and a hint of mischief in his eyes. So I responded. “You are only 30 minutes away. Too bad I have some work that I have to get done or I would come and meet you for lunch.” I don’t remember the exact details of how the messaging unfolded, but we decided to meet each other for dinner the following week.
Truthfully I almost bailed. As the day approached, my son did a great job of steadying my nerves and reassuring me. When the time came, I hopped in my car and made my way to the meeting destination. I walked into the restaurant, spoke with the hostess and was led to the table where he was waiting. What do I remember from those first few moments? I remember thinking, wow, he is a lot taller than I realized, he really does have beautiful hair, nice eyes – let’s see how the conversation goes. I sat down. We said hello. We looked through the menu and placed our orders. Do you know what I remember the most? It just felt easy. There were no awkward lulls in the conversation. There were no flashing warning lights going off in my head. There was just a beautiful ease that I had never experienced on a first date.
After dinner, we decided that we would head into town and walk around. We stopped in a coffee shop for an after-dinner coffee, then walked until we came across a bench underneath some lovely trees. As we sat down, I noticed that it was starting to get dark out. At some point, I realized that he had put his arm around my shoulder. Wait?! How did that happen? I am always so aware of where people are in relation to my space and body. How did he manage to put his arm around me without me knowing it? Again, it just felt easy. It just felt right. I happened to look down and noticed his hands for the first time. There they were; the most beautiful hands that I have ever seen. I have such a love of hands and there were his. It took me a moment to realize that I had actually seen his hands before. Where? I wondered. Where have I seen those beautiful hands before? The image slowly came into my head. I had painted them from a dream that I had had five years before. A dream in which I was being held by those exact hands as I slept. It was a dream that was so real that when I woke, I turned to look and see who had been holding me but there was no one there.
No, could it be this easy? It had NEVER been this easy before. Really?
It was. I never went on another Tinder date. He was and is my one-and-only. We met in July. In September we spent two weeks together in New Orleans wandering around listening to music, feeling the city, sharing amazing food, being with family. We decided to move in together after that trip. The following spring, the pandemic arrived. He already worked from our home, and I began working from there as well.
And, although I had decided that I would never be married after being asked four times before and never making it to the altar, in May of the following year, we pledged our love and lives together in a very small ceremony in our backyard. In attendance were our three children, their significant others, my best friend and a dear friend who officiated the ceremony. I wore thigh-high black velvet boots, a turquoise and black striped dress with red roses and the largest smile you could possibly imagine while I spoke the following words:
From the moment that I found myself sitting across the table from you there has been a consistent thread running through my life…Growth. And for this I owe you a debt of gratitude.
Years ago I wrote a letter to myself and in it I described the love that I envisioned coming into my life. Then I prayed, and I waited for this love or something even more. You are my even more. More than I knew to hope and wish for. More than I knew possible to be.
My promises to you are:
I promise to continue to grow and to continue learning about myself in the mirror of my beloved.
I promise that I will support you in also continuing to do the work of your soul.
I promise you that I will continue expanding my understanding that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. That together, what we create is greater than what we could conceive of on our own. That our love serves a purpose larger and beyond ourselves.
I invite you to reside in my life and in my heart. I have made a home for you here. A place where you and all that you love will always belong. A place where you are always more than enough, where you are wanted, loved and deeply cherished.
I promise you love and a home in my heart. Now and forever.
Dancing in the World of In-between
I drive by these two old trucks almost every morning when Sadie (my golden retriever) and I are headed out for our morning walk. Somehow, they always feel like an echo from my childhood. They remind me of my Dad; he was a mechanic and a lover of all things with a motor. On this particular morning I decided to pull the car over and take a picture. I found myself wondering if the passing of time, and our participation in it, leaves an echo. It did not take long before I found myself feeling certain that it did.
My Dad grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont; as did I. I think most places hold a certain energy and culture that is unique to the history, land and people who share its story. The Kingdom (as we like to call it) certainly does.
The Kingdom resides in the northeast corner of Vermont and includes three counties with a population of around 65,000. There are 56 towns in a land area of 2,027 square miles which is about 21% of the entire state of Vermont. 
Vermont is known as the Green Mountain State however, the Northeast Kingdom actually lies outside of that geological formation and instead is based on a set of long-ago volcanic islands. As a result, the views and landscapes differ sharply from those of the state's central mountain spine. 
I believe that we are formed by the land that we are born unto. The hills, valleys, and the shape and nature of the ground we cover form our muscles and our ways, making us more appropriately suited to live in and on that land. I also believe that the lives that we lead and how we live them contribute to the shaping of the land. Perhaps it is more of a rolling or reciprocal echo; an ongoing conversation between the land and us.
Newport (the town that I grew up in) and some of the other surrounding towns are also border towns between the United States and Canada. New-Port. Much of my family’s history actually lies on the other side of the border, with both my father’s and parts of my mother’s side immigrating into the United States through Canada. My father’s first language was French and everyone in his family was bilingual. As a child, the reality of a Borderland was present every day. The land that my parents had chosen to settle on was less than a mile from the Canadian border. The Border Patrol authorities often parked halfway up the hill that led to my childhood home. Their daily presence served as a reminder of the marked distinction between the two worlds and of the societal need or desire to guard the border from unlawful crossings or transports. Early in my life, I came to understand that there were lines that you simply did not cross; at least not without permission.
As a child I roamed freely through the land that surrounded our home. I spent many hours exploring the woods, open meadows, fields and shorelines of Lake Memphremagog. This natural landscape was my playground, a true friend, a valued teacher, and a source of nourishment. Large and impressive stones and rocks were far more than they appeared; they were magnificent stone altars that could serve as a forest princess’s bed or an imaginary cooking hearth that fed the community of animals and people that I imagined I served. Even the mud that remained after a rainstorm was a glorious gift that could be molded and shaped into a number of objects and magical concoctions. My child’s hands reached deep into the earth to connect with its rich and fertile substance.
My roaming also meant that I sometimes found myself standing at the border between two worlds. Standing in the middle of the woods staring at what is supposed to be an entirely different country that I was not supposed to enter. It didn't really make sense to me. It simply looked like the continuation of where I was already standing. The land that I already knew so well. At times I would run across and then run back. At other times I would dance on that dividing line. The crossing of borders or dancing in the world of in-between would come to be a consistent theme throughout my life.
There were, and are, many ways in which I belong to the land and the people of the Northeast Kingdom. If I had stayed in the woods, and my education and relationships remained focused there, well, things may have been different. However, I entered Catholic school, then public school, and as I grew into adolescence, I also understood that there were many ways in which I felt different and out of place.
In our community, there was a blending of cultures with our French-Canadian neighbors and relatives, whom at times were still referenced as “other”. Diversity of race, sexual orientation, or anything that seemed to stand outside of typically known and experienced life was considered strange, or not really considered at all. As of today, 89.9% of Vermont’s population is white. The Abenaki (the indigenous peoples of Vermont with whom I share ancestry) only won their hard-earned recognition from the state in 2011. They are yet to be federally recognized. When I look back, the only person that I am aware of being other than heterosexual worked at one of the local grocery stores. I only knew that piece of information as a result of the amount of unkind jokes and comments that could be heard circulating throughout the town.
As I approached the end of high school, I knew I had to leave. I had to get out and see what else the world had to offer. I had to get out before everything that was brewing inside of me; my thoughts, sexuality, my overall feelings of being “different” were exposed. I planned my escape and headed to the big city after finishing high school. There are many stories I could tell about that time period and all that took place over those next three years, but what is perhaps most important was what I realized about myself. Who I was capable of loving was not determined by their race, gender, socioeconomic status, cultural background, or society's rules.
This knowledge did not make the phone call that I had to make any easier. When I called my parents to tell them that I was pregnant, it was not a phone call that I made with joy or with anticipation of a celebratory reception. I made the call after weeks of deliberation and with full awareness that my news would not be received with congratulations. When I told my mother that I was expecting, the first question she asked was, “What color is the father?” I thought about addressing why that was such an inappropriate first response but decided to take what I knew would inevitably come without further delay. We both knew that she was waiting for a particular one word anyway.
“Black. Can I please talk to Dad?” I asked.
“I don’t think that is a good idea,” she said. “Now is not a good time.”
It would take months before it was a “good time”. If I am remembering correctly, my father and I only spoke once before I made the return trip to my childhood home and introduced him to his grandson. I don’t remember how I ended up getting into the truck and riding with him into town on the day of my return. I am fairly certain he must have asked because I do not think I would have done so voluntarily. I do, however, remember feeling incredibly apprehensive and nervous. I placed my newborn son in his car seat, strapped him in, and strapped myself in, in more ways than one.
He turned the key in the ignition, and his ever-present country music rose up from the radio and we started down the hill on the road into town. It was a fairly quiet ride for the first couple of miles. Me, staring out the window and thinking how strange it was to be back where I had grown up, wondering what it would be like to experience comfort in this type of familiarity. Around three miles down the road, my father pulled the truck over and turned off the ignition.
Shit, this is it, I thought. I emotionally, and mentally, braced myself for what he was about to say while nervously moving my eyes back-and-forth from the window, to my son in the back seat, to where my Dad was sitting preparing to speak.
“You are not the daughter that I wanted, and you are certainly not the one that I had imagined.” At this point, he turned and looked at my son, his first, and as of yet only, grandson who was nestled in the back seat of his pickup truck. “But you are the daughter that I needed, and you have taught me more about what it means to be a human than any other person that I know. Thank you.” I watched as tears welled in his eyes. “Do you understand?” he said.
With tears welling in my eyes and matching his, I said, “Yes, I understand.”
He reached over and put his hand on top of mine for a moment and then lifted it to turn the key in the ignition. The truck rumbled back to life and Waylon Jennings once again began singing about Luckenbach, Texas, and getting back to the basics of love. I turned my head to look out the window and watch as the road and landscape that I knew so well, and had traveled so many times before, flew by. As my heart rate began returning to its normal rhythm I wiped the tears from my eyes. I thought that somehow the road seemed a little different now. I wondered; would this conversation leave an echo? Is it possible that it could be sensed or felt by someone else at some other time?
I said earlier that I believed that the land we are born unto shapes us and I also believe that we shape the land - in more ways than just the physical. We (the land and us) are shaped by our ways of being with each other, the ways in which we are in relationships, our willingness to open our eyes and hearts to one another, and our willingness to live in authenticity, even when it feels different than what we may have previously known or have been taught.
I have a granddaughter now. I find myself wondering what echoes will fall upon her ears and heart. And I wonder, what will be the echo that she will make?
I sent a message saying that I was most definitely interested in taking her on. I heard nothing back for a couple of days and then received a message that she had already found a home. I thought this was interesting as my intuition is usually not wrong when it comes to connections and relationships with animals, but all right I thought; everyone is wrong about these things at some time or another. About a week later I received a second message saying that the person who had originally taken her had brought her back and asking if I was still interested in taking her on. Yes, Validation! Sometimes you do just know.
So we quickly got ready and drove to pick her up. She was a hot mess. She had worms, a respiratory infection and an infection in both of her eyes. She was on deworming medication, antibiotics and eye drops and was oozing from almost every orifice. Abandoned near a farm, she had somehow found her way to a neighboring house. The woman who had written the post then began feeding her on her porch. She explained that over the years she had taken on many strays but currently she could not take on any more; although she wished she could with this particular one. The man who had previously taken her, had brought her to the vet for an examination. After assessing her, the vet was unclear if she would ever get the use of her eyes back. If she did, it would be very limited in its capacity. From the photos that I had seen, I had suspected that this might be the case. What I had not expected were her massive and glorious paws with eight beautiful toes on each magnificent foot. She came equipped with grounding rods that looked like snowshoes and they were marvelous.
We took her home and I immediately began nursing her back to health. We named her Disco Kitten and set her up in my studio where she could begin to learn to navigate one room and adjust to her new home. She was given a special bed to sleep in and was pampered beyond belief. It was amazing to watch her navigate her world. She had an indomitable spirit. Everyone who came into contact with her was enchanted by her. It is my experience that every being has its own unique energy signature and hers was a deep well of love.
We took her back to the vet for a follow-up appointment after she had finished her first round of antibiotics. There are not many cats that I have known who are pleased to be put into a carrier and taken to a vet office. When we returned home from the appointment I brought her back into the studio, opened her carrier and held her in my arms. As I held her I could literally feel the gratitude pouring off of her. She clung to me while covering my face in kisses. The energy that she was emitting was so filled with love that I began to weep. In that instant I understood that she was teaching me how to embrace my own vulnerability. Not only was she teaching me to embrace it, but she was also showing me how to do so with love and deep appreciation. At that moment, on that particular day, I felt something old deep inside of me begin to melt.
Her sight never did come back. Time went on and Disco Kitten learned how to navigate her world without the use of her eyes. She played with toy mice, got on and off the bed by pulling herself up and lowering herself down backwards, and even learned how to go up and down the stairs! She continued to navigate and open hearts.
My husband (we were married about 6 months after Disco Kitten came into our life) also succumbed to her amazing powers and fell in love with her indomitable spirit. I would say that he became her favorite but what I really think is that she offered everyone the love and understanding that they were most in need of. Everyone who met her fell in love with her. She was irresistible.
When she was about 3 months old I saw her have a seizure for the first time. More veterinary visits, including a holistic vet, resulted in placing her on a completely raw food diet and the use of an herbal tincture to assist in treating and managing her epilepsy. This approach effectively managed her seizures for quite a few months and then they started to increase in frequency and in severity. She was placed on medication that she took twice a day and we were again given a window of time. Eventually, there came a cluster of seizures that were too damaging and that she was unable to recover from. Over the following two weeks, it became clear that the seizures had done irreparable damage and her quality of life had been significantly compromised. Fourteen months after she had arrived in our life we made the decision to let her go.
On the day that we made the appointment at the vet’s she again offered us her amazing love. For that last and final day, she spent time with each of the special people in her life. She gave each of us a moment, letting us know that she acknowledged the relationships that we had shared. For that brief and shining moment, she was once again the indomitable spirit that had so beautifully entered and blessed our lives.
There is a difference in the grief that I am experiencing around her death. I think it is a result of the quality of presence and the way in which we experienced each other in life. We met each other exactly where we were at and were grateful. There was no no need for our relationship to be other than it was. We loved each other by simply being fully who we each were. I miss her sweet energy. Her playfulness and her gigantic paws. I think I will for quite some time to come. I do not have regrets or wish to pull her back to me. Just as our relationship was fully in the present moment, so is the grief of her passing. Perhaps this is a strange word to associate with grief but it feels clean. Beautifully clean.
Rest in peace you amazing beautiful creature. Thank you for teaching me lessons on love, vulnerability and the preciousness of every moment. It was a privilege to be known by you. Until we meet again.
I Don't Want to Wait Until Tomorrow
Last August I found myself walking through the most charming and inviting cemetery that I have had the pleasure of discovering. My introduction to this place of bones and lives past came about as a result of the birth of my granddaughter. Yes, I know that all of this may sound a little strange, hang in there with me.
When my daughter-in-law went into labor, I was on dog-walking duty. Prior to the arrival of the greatly anticipated day, I had been shown the walking routine to which Dodger (the canine in need of walking) was accustomed. If you were to go on this journey you would find yourself on a short walk through a small New England neighborhood, going up a hill and entering into, well, an enchanting cemetery. The shift and difference in time and energy can be felt as you crest the hill, even before any stones or markers come into view. The multiple paths of this particular cemetery meander around corners, along the edges of woods, around a centrally located gazebo, and then loop through rows and rows of eclectic, ornate, simple, crumbling, unique, impeccably kept, and grand tombstones. Along the way you may find carefully tended fairy gardens, children’s shoes immortalized and resting atop headstones, pinwheels, wind chimes, kneeling angels, flowering plants, blossoming trees and more. You may also find yourself listening to the breeze and the movement of branches and leaves, wondering about the lives and stories of those whose bones rest beneath the ground that you are walking upon. I did.
Simultaneously, I experienced a shift in the work that I was creating in my studio. I had recently come across a series of illustrations created by Dr. Louis Crusius in the late 1800s to early 1900s which consisted of skeleton figures. I found these figures so curious and oddly compelling that I engaged in a little research and discovered that they had been utilized as advertisements for the Antikamnia Chemical Company. A company that was founded by two former drugstore owners in St. Louis in the late 1880s. The purpose of which was to sell a medicine designed to combat pain and fever (the name comes from Greek words meaning “opposed to pain”).(1)
The story of the Antikamnia company is an interesting one unto itself, but what I was more interested in was my own curious feelings around the strangely clad skeleton figures. I felt compelled to extricate them from paper. I began creating a variety of collaged scenes through the layering of frames and images of different objects and placing the bone people inside moments of everyday living and life. This resulted in a growing collection which I called “The Other Side”. I began thinking of them as an ongoing exploration into echoes. The echoes that are left behind by those we have loved and lost, the echoes of parts of ourselves that we have left behind, or pieces that are frozen in the past.
Life moved on and we welcomed our beautiful granddaughter home and into the arms of our family. By this time I had become so enamored with wandering the enchanting cemetery in the early morning hours that I began taking my dog there for morning walks. The more time that I spent wandering the rows and markers the more curious I became about the lives of those who had come to rest in the cemetery. I began noting dates on the tombstones and would on occasion find myself commenting when passing by. Saying such things as “It’s your birthday tomorrow, Henry. I wonder how you passed your birthdays when you were here walking among us.” As we were solidly in the second year of a pandemic, quietly wandering through the cemetery as the sun rose on another day and contemplating the nature of life and death seemed natural and somehow necessary.
Time continued to pass and so did the daily reminders that for all living things life includes death. They are inextricably linked. The numbers of those lost to this pandemic continued to climb. The sweet canine who I had first walked with among these rows closed his eyes upon his last day; as did another sweet familial companion who had gifted all whom she encountered with important reminders and lessons of love, vulnerability and indomitable spirit. I continued using sharp razors to extricate the images of skeletons from paper and reinsert them into new scenes of life.
Underneath our clothing, the color of our skin, our gender, our familial ties, our lived experiences, and all the other myriad of ways in which we claim and establish our identities lie our bones. Bones that seemed to be pointing us toward our shared humanity and the quintessential way in which we are alike. More than anytime before I found myself aware of how short our time on this earth actually is and how the time we are given is truly our most precious gift. Every atom of calcium in our bones was created inside a star before the earth was born. We began as the dust of exploding stars. How magnificent and precious is a life that begins as the last evolutionary stages of a massive star? The poetry and beauty of the life and world that we have been given make me weep.
The other night as I was about to lay my head on my pillow, I found myself wondering what artists before me had worked with the images of skeletons. I consulted the great internet oracle and quickly discovered the term Memento Mori.(2) In short, a Memento Mori is a Latin phrase meaning ‘remember you must die’ and is an artwork designed to remind the viewer of their mortality and the shortness and fragility of human life.
What does all of this mean? It is a message about willingness and connection. I no longer want to wait until tomorrow to have the conversations that seem too hard to have today. I have become deeply aware of the gift of someone offering me their time and the gift of my own. We all carry and have individual gifts to offer. I believe that we also carry a unique purpose in contribution and service to our collective story. It is through connection and context with one another that these gifts can be most effectively offered. We need each other.
I have run out of the vintage bone people images that spurred such curiosity and creativity in me. Now new bones have found their way to me. They are different. They are without clothing and there is no way to discern who they may have been in their individual identities. I do not think of them in the same way. They are not stuck in the past or pieces that have been lost. I am placing these within scenes that tell stories of how we are all connected. They shall remember their dance among the stars. They shall entwine and share stories with nature and mystery. They will be stories of finding our way home and of finding our parts, purpose and each other.
“A people do not throw their geniuses away. And if they are thrown away, it is our duty as artists and as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children and, if necessary, bone by bone.”
In willingness and the spirit of connection,
I truly appreciate hearing from my readers. Please click the comments button below to share your thoughts with me.
Did you see the sunrise this morning? Breathtaking. Absolutely breathtaking. Talk about some divine artistry. I am actually sitting here writing at this very moment while glancing through the window and continuing to watch the unfolding. It only lasts for a very few moments every day at very specific time. This photo is what I am seeing in this very moment. I almost cropped the parking lot and cars out of the picture, but then decided that leaving them in told a much fuller and expansive story. Divine sunrises, cracked parking lots, cars (some functioning and some not), buildings, telephone and cable wires cutting across the view: they all serve there own unique purpose and they are all part of my reality. I decided to give them all a 'seat at the table' so to speak.
A 'seat at the table' and what it means has been a point of reflection and a theme of mine lately. In practice it looks like when I experience something uncomfortable, instead of dismissing it, barreling past it, distracting myself with some other activity, pretending it does not exist or thinking that I will deal with it later; I invite it to have a seat at the table. I hang out with the awkwardness and uncomfortably. I turn it around and look at it from different angles.
Not too long ago I discovered that I had a very effective trap door mechanism. There were and are certain experiences, emotions, events that I realized I had not been giving space to. I am a very visual person and when I say I discovered a trap door, it means I could literally see one inside my body. At other points and times in my life this would have become a painting, at this point and time I am practicing painting with my words.
These undigested pieces of experience and emotions would slip pass and through the trap door which I saw and experienced as being at the base of my neck, and take up residence. They would hide in various locations and sometimes make surprise guest appearances in ways that until recently seemed unexpected or unrelated. I often labeled my ability to keep moving without dwelling on them or their impact and effects as being strong. I got this. I can handle this. There was even a sense of pride related to how much I could take and keep on going. To be honest , kind and fair with myself, there were many ways in which being this way insured my survival, allowed me to work full time, be a single parent, get a masters degree, and the list can go on.
But here's the thing...those undigested emotions, feelings and experiences, well they don't just go away and the tricks and mechanisms that are needed to sustain them come at a cost. A couple of weeks ago I began experiencing some significant headaches. This is not a typical experience for me. The headaches also came with some very strange occurrences such as eye twitching, teeth grinding, weird ear sensations. The headaches did not go away and so I went to see my doctor. The x-rays she ordered revealed that I have bone spurs and severe degeneration of the disks in my cervical spine - which is right at the base of my neck. Is it a coincidence that this is where I saw the trap door? Maybe and maybe not. I have been seeing the chiropractor twice a week and doing what I need to and the headaches and most of the symptoms have stopped but this is something that I will need to pay attention to and care for the rest of my life. I have also been doing a lot of work on those unmetabolized bits of my own story. I am choosing to embrace all of these experiences as an opportunity.
As much as possible, I am embracing beauty as it exists in the entire and whole picture. The more I increase my ability to not filter out aspects, bits and pieces, to see how it is all related and connected, the greater my ability is to frame the story in a way that shines light in all of the corners.
Here is this morning's sunrise one more time. Breathtaking.
Here is a bit more of the story. The building directly in front of the sunrise was salvaged and renovated in the last couple of years since I moved here. It is now a building which houses a community of industrial arts business. There is a large building in the distance which is a shell of its former self. It is the old papermill that once upon a time was central to this town and inhabitants. It currently stands as an echo and at times provides shelter for well...happenings that society does not always like to experience or feel such as homelessness and things people do in dark abandoned buildings. The house that I own was originally built as housing for the mill workers and their families. I believe every house on my street was. The cars in the parking lot, well for me they remind me of my dad. He was a mechanic and I grew up around his garage and cars in various states of repair and disrepair. The mountain you can see is Fall Mountain and it is on the other side of the railroad tracks and the Connecticut River which acts as a boundary between here in Bellows Falls, Vermont and Walpole, New Hampshire. This is the Y or intersection of where the Saxtons River meets the Connecticut River and was a fishing site for the Abenaki peoples. The papermill played a roll in the decline of the fish. Down the river is an archaeological site containing panels of some of the oldest petroglyphs in North America.
These are just a very few and tiny pieces of the story. There is so much more that I could tell you about the stories and what exists in within the frame of this photo. There are layers upon layers upon layers. So...for this morning I decided to leave it all in; completely unedited and unfiltered and all of it kissed by a divine sunrise and light.
I hope your day is blessed with some gorgeous light shining on some of the detailed, complicated and beautiful parts of your story.
Today is day 97 of Project 365. There are 268 remaining.
I am not quite certain how old I was when the battle between ugly green sweaters, pink sparkly unicorns and the mirror took up residence in my psyche. I think I was probably around 9 years old.
Up until the age of twelve I attended Catholic School and as a result, much of my wardrobe consisted of catholic school girl uniforms. You might be able to imagine that my young creative soul was yearning for something a little more expressive with a larger color palette. The details surrounding the circumstances of the warring factions of the ugly green sweater, pink sparkly unicorns and the mirror are a little fuzzy, but the exact moment that the war was declared is vibrant and clear.
So, some of the fuzzy details are as follows...
It must have been the weekend or school vacation because I did not have to wear the green and blue plaid uniform. I remember being excited about being able to wear different clothing and I had selected a pink, sparkly shirt. Truthfully, I cannot remember if it had a unicorn on it, but as the revealer of my own psyche, and the writer, I get to take some creative liberties. I do remember bursting out of the bathroom in my my magic sparkle freedom state and thinking I had pulled off something wonderful.
My "burst" was short lived. On the other side of the door was my mother and she had a look on her face that I would come to identify as the, "this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you" look. Immediately outside of the bathroom on the wall to the left was a mirror. It was not quite a full length mirror but it was long and I could see all the way down to the top part of my legs. Now we are at that sharp and very clear part of the memory and the decisive moment. If you listen closely you should be able to hear the warring sides lining up and taking their positions...
My mother stood me in front of the mirror and from under her arm she pulled out a large bulky green wool sweater. As lovingly and gently as she could, she told me that when someone is shaped as I was, it is better for them to wear large things that cover and hide and do not draw attention to their body. She then proceeded to pull the pink sparkly unicorn over my head, and the ugly green sweater dropped down, successful in concealing what only moments before I had been convinced held and was filled with sparkle and magic - me. The ugly green sweater was also scratchy and from the moment forward it itched my skin and my sparkly soul.
This is the first time that I was aware of wearing the battle garments. This is also the first time that I can remember knowing and understanding that something about me was wrong and did not measure up. It needed to be hidden, concealed and remain as unnoticeable as possible. I remember something inside of me (perhaps the hidden sparkle) wanting to revolt. I was angry at my mother. I wanted the pink, the sparkle, the magic of a unicorn. I also remember looking up into her face and seeing and feeling her sadness. My decision was made. I associated her sadness with disappointment in me and whatever it was that I needed to cover and hide. If hiding my "sparkle" could make her happier then I would do it. I desperately wanted her to be happy with me. I desperately wanted her to be happy in general.
So...the point of this story is not about what my mother did wrong or how angry or hurt I was with her. I love my mother immeasurably and deeply. She was an amazing human and she too was in possession of some of her own metaphoric ugly green sweaters. On that day she simply handed one down. This story is only a moment, albeit a decisive and memorable one. This is a moment in a very complicated and layered story and one that extends beyond my mother and myself. The story stretches beyond this moment and includes gender, society, culture, families and how beauty, value, and worth are determined.
What I am most interested in in this story is the role of the mirror. There is a saying that mirrors don't lie. Perhaps this is true from the perspective of the mirror, however what truth is seen by the persons looking into the mirror is determined by their stories, memories, and what they have come to believe. In other words, the particular lens that they are looking through. I believe that what we see when we look in the mirror is formed and defined by the stories that are looking back at us. I have lost over 100 pounds twice in my life. I have looked into the mirror with many different external versions of myself looking back. All of these versions have worn parts of the battle gear that came into existence on that day because I was on both sides of the battlefield.
Three years ago I made a very conscious decision to purchase and wear a pink fuzzy sweater. If you click on those words you can read more about why. I believe this was the day that I made a decision to call a truce with myself. That does not mean that everything has been fine since that moment on, there have actually been some really challenging and uncomfortable moments. The laying down of your own weapons of self destruction, well...its a process.
A few moments ago I was dancing around my kitchen cooking a meal (this includes the Pots de Crème from my previous post) for my family who will be arriving shortly for our weekly Friday night gatherings. As I was dancing I was thinking about the contents of this blog post. I was also thinking about my mom, she was one of the most amazing cooks that I have ever known. I took a moment to acknowledge how happy and grateful I truly am. Every single moment in my life has led up to this beautiful one, and every one of those moments has been exactly what it was meant to be. Every single moment has led me to right here and right now; in which I am wearing large pink and purple glasses, sparkling from the inside out, and cooking for my family. I understand that the work I am doing undoes the curse of the ugly green sweater for myself, for my mom, and assists in preventing it in others such as my beautiful and fresh, four month old granddaughter.
I am beginning to trust what I see when I look in the mirror, and that my friends is a freedom that is immeasurable indeed.
Today is day 90 of the 365 Project.
The next time you look in the mirror I hope there is someone looking back who is sparkling, smiling, kind and loving you back.
My morning begins with waking up and going downstairs, getting the hot water for the coffee going, and then feeding the manimals (which is my made up word for the collective of 3 animals that we share our lives and home with). Once the coffee is ready, (which is always Café du Monde coffee with chicory with half and half), I had back up the stairs to the studio. I sit at my writing desk (which used to be my great grandmother's desk), light a candle and begin writing in my journal. Almost every morning I light some sage and pull a card after asking the following question...
What message/information do I need to receive and hold in my consciousness today in order to place my feet on the path of my purpose?
After I have pulled a card, I spend a few moments writing on its meaning and reflecting and its relevance in my life. After this morning ritual, I usually feel ready to sit down at my computer and begin writing the entry for the daily blog. However, it did not work like this today.
When I made the decision and commitment to practice sharing my writing on a daily basis I knew there would be days like this. Days when I get in front of myself and convince myself that I do not know what I want to say or how I want to say it. I was sitting here staring at what was right in front of me. Then I started to really look at what was right in front of me. I would like to share it with you.
There is a slip from a fortune cookie which reads, "You will soon have the opportunity to improve your finances." I have kept this tiny piece of paper for over six years. I opened this fortune the last time that I ever ate with my father at a restaurant. Some part of me understood that this would be my last visit with my father . What I did not know at that time was that his death, and my mother's five months later would be one of the most challenging periods of my life and would also shift my financial situation in a way that had not yet been possible in my life. I still get choked up when I look at that tiny slip of paper, I actually am right now as I am writing this. It is so much more than a tiny slip of paper or a fortune cookie, it is a piece of a larger story.
Next there is another tiny slip of paper from a teabag which reads, "Life is best lived by focusing on your goals and dancing through all other distractions." In my world, this is not a slip of paper but rather a message of great wisdom which was gifted to me by the Great Tea Oracle at a particular moment in time.
Teabag oracle is followed by a nametag that was made for me when I was the Managing Director of an arts organization and it reads; Heather Geoffrey, Goddess of all She Surveys. It is a reminder of a special moment in time and well, hell yes!
There is a beautiful paper quilled card of a Dragon given to me by one of my dearest and longest friend. This would make it enough for it to land in this board, however it is the last handwritten line on the inside that makes my heart sing and at times has helped me remember the beauty of deep friendships and the importance of connection. "Keep shining brighter and know that you are loved beyond measure."
There is a photo of one of the beings that I have loved most in my life. His name was Eros and I would say that once upon a time he was my dog, but that is not quite accurate or true. Instead I like to think that for a period of time we were fortunate enough to belong to each other. He moved on sixteen years ago and I still dream about him. He taught me much about wildness, beauty, dignity and how there are always parts that should not and cannot be tamed. I know we will meet again.
The words Legend and Genius, well, we all have our aspirations. Insert smiley face here.
Below these words is a card from another friend (who was once the coworker who made the nametag) with an Oscar Wilde quote that I love. "The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention." This is something that I strive to remember and live by every day.
To the right of all of this is a tapestry that I purchased while I was in Peru. As with most weavings, this is a much larger and longer story. (Aren't they all?) But for now and for the purposes of this post, I see and think of my mother and her story, of where and how it is connected to my story, of my cousin and her story and a journey we made together to honor my mother, and stories about mothers, daughters and sisters that long to be told.
To the left of all of this are the following post it notes with reminders that I like to look up, see.
"When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless and intelligence cannot be applied." - Herophillus
That's my little way of reminding myself to take care of myself and that my health and well being have importance and value.
The artist both creates and is created by the artistic process.
Truth. Enough said.
My daily reminders for living.
I make a commitment to experience the freedom of forgiveness when I notice that I am holding people, conditions and circumstances hostage in my mind. I am willing to change my thoughts in that moment, and release myself and all others to the benefit of a greater good.
Yup. That is also a daily practice and requires the development of a muscle.
So...below all of this is a microphone. I am someone who constantly is interpreting and reading signs; divining what is around me in order to create meaning and ensure that I am open to receiving the message that the universe is passing along. So what does all of this tell me...
Keep looking and seeing where the stories are connected. The little details matter. Everything you need is right there in front of you. You are never alone and you cannot do this alone - we need each other and connection. When you see and make the connections it is important to use your voice and share them.
Today is day 88 of the 365 Project.
I hope when you look at what is right in front of you it carries the messages and meaning that you need today.
I recently decided that I wanted some new glasses. My body, the astrological transits in my chart, signs and messages and my intuition are all telling me that I am in a place of transition. I think the new funky glasses are part of the way I am trying to express the shifts and changes that I am feeling internally on the outside. It is also my way of playing with my identity. This shift I am experiencing feels significant and at times I feel uncertain as to exactly who I am or perhaps more accurately, who I am becoming. So why not play? Why not try and shake up how I am used to seeing myself in order to make room for whatever wants to come forward.
Speaking of whatever wants to come forward...
I was recently posed a question: Am I ready for something new or are there loose ends to resolve? What would be the something new? This is where the Pots de Crème enters the picture. I want to learn more about cooking and baking. I have fantasies about being a contestant on the Great British Baking Show. I also have fantasies about having a large kitchen and house filled with family, friends and fascinating acquaintances for whom I cook the most delicious meals and delicacies. I believe that food can be a most potent medicine. Cooking is also one of my love languages and I want to shower people in love. Is cooking school in my future? I don't know the answer to that question at this moment. I still have significant student loan debt and being an artist is not always the most secure of incomes (at least not yet).
So for the moment I have decided that I am going to train like I am a contestant on the Great British Baking Show. This Friday I will be making Honey Vanilla Pots de Crème. This will be my first Pots de Crème and I am so excited. I will be going on an adventure to see if I can find some local honeycomb to place in the top of the tiny pots of goodness. I would like to pair this bit of deliciousness with Lavender Shortbread Cookies. I have ordered some ingredients that I need that I cannot find locally. If they get here on time for Friday (this is when my family comes over for a weekly meal) then I will include them in the line up. If not, they will wait for a couple of weeks because next week I am trying my hand at a bread recipe. This excites me.
Now for the pause. Some days I still wear my old or previous glasses. Some days I know I need to be quiet and alone in a cabin in the woods. Some days I soak in the bath longer than is "necessary". Some days I wander around the cove listening to the geese and eagles flying. In this transition, my rhythms are changing and it feels important for me to incorporate moments of pause and stillness. These moments can feel cocoon like. There are whispers that come through in the stillness. Hints about where I am headed, messages about what remains to be resolved, and guidance in learning about how to be more fully present. Pauses are important, especially in large transitions.
About yesterday's lack of a post after my announcement to do one daily - It was a busy day and I am still adapting my schedule and routine to include getting this post out. I would say I am sorry but that is one of those behaviors that I am trying to leave in the past. Apologizing for something that there is really no need to apologize for. As a woman, it is one of those things that society has gotten comfortable with us doing. It no longer feels comfortable to me. I am learning and growing. I think some of the magic may lie in waking up the next day, being grateful and picking up where you left off.
Today is day 87 of the 365 Project.
I hope your day holds some delicious sweetness, playful fun and moments of pause.
Recently I made the decision that I needed some time alone with my own thoughts so I booked a log cabin in the middle of the woods and spent the weekend with myself. There are moments in life when you know that you are in transition from one way of being to another. This is one of those times for me. The dreams that visit me at night are shifting and changing. Dancing in the Sea of Morpheus takes on a whole new meaning and feel at these times.
If you were to look up synonyms for the word menopause you would find climacteric, midlife crisis, crossroad, juncture, decisive point, critical stage, and head. I know because I looked it up this morning and I have to say that these words feel like they all apply. I would have liked to have also found a few lighter feeling and less intimidating words such as celebration, new start, next stage, however in my practice of inviting all of my feelings and experiences to the table, I am going to sit with what I have found for the moment.
Lately I have found myself drawn to, and more curious about abstract and less delineated imagery. Where the clear lines do not necessarily form a distinct or recognizable shape, much like the beauty of the frozen and frosty window panes that greet me early in the mornings of the winter months. The images that are in this post are from a 15 minute period of time as the Sun rose and illuminated the window in my studio this morning. I was captivated as the crystals and light shifted and played across the glass. I also took a moment to think about how the glass itself is liquid sand suspended in place. So many immense and tiny moments and miracles lining up to create the changing beauty of the window that I was watching and looking through.
This sentiment is similar to how I am learning to view and experience my life at this point and time...so many immense and tiny moments and miracles lining up to create the changing beauty of the window that I am watching and looking through.
A while ago I wrote a little something about how I had set out to reframe how I approached my relationship with myself. Instead of looking for what was wrong with me and what needed to be fixed, I had started wondering what was right with me. This will be an ongoing practice and it really is a practice of rewiring my brain. It also involves being gentle and kind with myself. Being open and vulnerable. As someone who tattooed the word "warrior" across the top of my shoulders when I was in my 20's, being gentle and kind with myself does not always come easy.
I needed that energy then. I see myself, the world, and my role in it differently now. Both of these versions of me were and are right. Just because I am changing does not mean that who I was before was wrong. I like to think of these versions of myself shaking hands or giving each other a hug. They can call on one another when need be. I say this out loud and write it more as a reminder for myself then an explanation for whomever happens to read this. Growing is not always easy but staying as a past version of yourself is not an easy thing to do either.
As I look over at the window in front of my writing desk it looks very different than it did when I took these pictures early this morning. Very little of the frost crystals remain and the sky has shifted from its dawn colors to an early morning sunrise. I can see more through the window than I could just two hours ago. Or maybe it is that I can see through more. There is a subtle difference in those ways of seeing.
Welcome to Sunday. I hope your eyes have moments when they land upon immense and magical beauty today. May you be blessed with gentleness and kindness and may some that is offered to you come from within yourself.
This is day 85 of the 365 Project.
i am not ready yet
This year on my birthday I began a project that I call:
365: What Could Possibly Happen?
It is a project that I have wanted to do for some time now. Today is day 84, which means that there are 281 remaining. I have shared some of the moments from this project on my social media channels and at one point I thought that I would share something on those spaces everyday. However, I have realized that I wanted a place where these moments could be collected, allowing for the creation of a more cohesive story.
I have a daily practice, part of which includes a prayer in which I ask to be shown the path of my purpose. For a while now (6 years being quite a while) I have continued to receive the message that part of my purpose lies within writing. I write everyday within the pages of my journal and there is writing connected to almost all of the art that I have created. I believe that I am supposed to be finding different ways in which to share it.
My first language is visual. The video above is a moment from my morning walk yesterday. A moment in which the beauty of this precious and magical world that we have been so blessed to live in and with filled me with reverence, gratitude and awe. These are everyday moments for me and they assist in balancing the more challenging parts and pieces of being a human in this world.
The writing in my journal this morning began with purpose (it often does) and then moved on to thoughts about tension. At 51, I am realizing that I carry a significant amount of tension in my body. Places where I am tightened and braced for impact. There are of course reasons for this, however much of this is old patterning and cellular memory. Even the new experiences and reasons that cause tension, well, I am learning to meet them differently. I am inviting them to have a seat at the table. I am not pushing them away or pushing them down or ignoring them. I am doing my best to be present with them at the moment of their arrival.
I made the decision today that I would share some of my writing here everyday. That continuing not to share was actually a point of tension. This is a way of honoring the messages that I have continued to receive when asking about my purpose. This is also a way of getting out of my own way and the tendency to say that I am not ready yet.
It is my hope that those who find their way here will also find messages and clues that assist them on the path of their unique purpose. That perhaps we can all begin to trust that we are more ready than we know.
I will be back tomorrow. Until then, I hope your eyes land on beauty that nourishes your heart and soul.
Since my Dream of the Painted Face in 1995, I had understood that my art, studies, purpose and daily life had become a medicine story. This medicine story was the unifying thread of my life and the passion which fueled it.
2016 was the year of my mother and father’s death and included a series of events that challenged my health, heart and understanding of who I was and my place in the world. I found myself exhausted and depleted on physical, emotional and spiritual levels.
I am not exactly sure when I first began thinking and eventually saying that I was going to take this medicine; what I had learned, the story of how I had lived, who I had become and what I understood my purpose to be, and I was going to put it in a box. Not only was I going to put it in a box, I was going to put it up on a shelf. I no longer knew how to make sense of the story, my relationship to it, or who I was. In this new life that I was living in, I did not mention to anyone that I had been given the responsibilities of a medicine woman and what those were or what they meant. Looking back now, I understand that part of what I was trying to do was ensure the medicine and the story's survival. I no longer trusted myself to carry it, so I placed it in a box for safe keeping. The dreams faded and so did I.
Life moved on and in 2019, I began designing boxes. What had started out as simple gifts for my beloveds quickly became an obsession. I could not really explain why or how it had started. I could not really explain why I could not stop. This was also the first time in my life as an artist that I did not consider what resulted from my artistic practice as an ongoing conversation with spirit or the source of my existence. Soon there were boxes everywhere and I began to think of these boxes as part of my artistic product or output from the studio.
The box making went on for almost a year and a half until one morning when I was writing in my journal. I had the dawning of a realization regarding what had been happening. Over and over again, I had been designing and creating boxes in an attempt to take the one that I had closed the lid on and “put on a shelf” back down. In that moment, I understood that my artistic practice and process had continued to be an ongoing conversation with the Divine; I had just been unaware that I was still involved as a participant.
This understanding was enlivened through ritual and the first Medicine Box danced into being holding my promise to carry the responsibilities and the medicine that had been placed in my hands. Each of the creations that has followed is prayer and part of the greater and ever unfolding conversation. Each box carries Medicine and each is part of the Story.
Perhaps one will speak to you and the place where our stories touch. I look forward to sharing them with you.
In Love, Art, Beauty & Spirit,
the "outside the box" collection
Click on the images below to enter the individual galleries.
As the pandemic continues to reach out and wrap her fingers around all that she can touch, and as the weeks of quarantine and social distancing stretched into months, I found myself becoming more keenly aware of the preciousness of life and the beauty that exists in what may seem like simple everyday moments. These moments have become so precious, and so comforting in a time when there has been so much uncertainty.
Moments filled sitting side by side with my love while reading, sipping coffee, lingering in bed, watching movies.
Moments filled with the sweet softness of a warm cat curled and purring on my lap while I sip tea and watch as the snow falls outside the window.
Moments filled with the wagging tail of a golden retriever as she bounds down the trail in the woods that follows the river.
Moments of quiet introspection and reflection as I wander the neighborhood in the small town that I call home.
Moments of cooking meals and feasts to be packaged and left on the porch to be picked up by friends and loved ones who cannot sit down to share a meal.
All of these beautiful, everyday, seemingly simple moments began to reveal what the Christian mystic Thomas Merton knew, “Life is this simple. We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable. This is true.”
Nostalgia can be defined as a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one's life, to one's home or homeland, or to one's family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time.
What you cannot see in the painting is perhaps more important than what you can see. On one particular day before COVID settled into our daily lives, my beloved and I drove to the Country Girl Diner in Chester, VT for lunch. I have a love of diners. I have a love for vintage and retro aesthetics and I had not yet visited this particular one. We sat across from each other holding hands, listening to the bustling sound of diner customers and the clinking noises of the preparation of diner food. We people watched as booths filled and emptied. I looked around wondering when I had begun to find vintage and retro imagery so appealing. I was content in that everyday moment. I also had no way of knowing just how much everyday moments would grow in their meaning and in my appreciation.
As I worked on the painting I thought about how it is understanding and remembering that someone’s hands had built the walls, table, counter and stools in the diner and that somehow this understanding and remembering was what really seemed to be of importance and mattered. I thought about how someone’s hands had filled the salt, pepper and sugar shakers. I thought about how someone’s hands had tended and cut the flowers in the bottle and how someone else’s hands had placed them in the bottle and on the table. I thought about how someone’s hands had turned over the closed sign to open early in the morning hours. I found myself wondering how all of those someone’s were doing in the world. I wondered if they were nostalgic for a life that once had been. I wondered if they too were noticing all of the precious everyday moments. I thought again about how what is not seen in the painting is in many ways more important than what is.
I do not think we will be able to return to the happiness of a former place and time. The world is changing and I believe we must change with it. I also believe that happiness can and will be found in those most beautiful and sacred of seemingly simple everyday moments. So...I am going to keep looking into them and welcoming the understanding and beauty that is shining through.
Maybe, just maybe, when the world opens up again and we can safely share spaces I will find myself sitting in a booth in a diner somewhere next to you and, if I have used my time wisely, and I have done my job well enough, I will be able to look and see the divine that is shining through you.
Until then, I wish you millions of beautiful everyday moments.
“It seems to me that all the things that we keep in boxes are both alive and dead until we open the box. That the unobserved is both there and not.”
For the last year I have been fascinated with designing and creating boxes. It has only been in the last couple of months or so that I truly began wondering what creating all of these boxes was really about. My artistic projects and creations have always been seeded and seated within an ongoing dialogue with the source of my existence. Every painting, photograph and creation that I have made has been the result of a moment of the imaged and expressed conversation between myself and God. In my artistic statement I refer to them as “...messages or moments of awareness and contact. They are whispers from the place where the veils between worlds are thin.”
So how do these boxes with images of pin-up art, various fantasy worlds, retro and vintage images and creatures fit into this same frame of reference? Honestly, when I really began to think about it I was stumped. When I really began thinking about it I found myself wondering how I had not really thought about it before now. I even found myself thinking that maybe it would be best if I stopped making them and returned to my easel and yet I found I could not. Over and over again I found myself sifting through images, delighting in the use of a razor blade to extricate them from where they had previously been bound, and then arranging and rearranging them with other images and the shapes and contours of the boxes, utilizing various painting techniques to prepare the boxes for their arrival upon them. I was and am absolutely enchanted with the entire process.
Although creating boxes is new for me, a love of boxes is not. I am one of those people who will experience a deep sense of satisfaction at the discovery of a box, whether the discovery be on the shelves of a thrift store, a gift that someone has given me or through a random and joyous act of the universe. This love affair has gone on for quite some time. So in some ways, I guess it is not so surprising, and yet I continued to feel like I was missing something. The something being “the point”.
The point, albeit hazy at first, started coming into focus over the last month or so…
2016 was one of the most challenging years of my life. By the end of 2015, I had undergone months of slow carbon monoxide poisoning in the casita that I was living in in New Mexico. My father would pass away in May of 2016. In August I would end the leases that I had on the 4 properties that I used as my business, empty all of the contents from the houses and studio and load them into a Budget rental truck and begin the journey across country to Maine in order to move to my then boyfriend’s home where we had decided to move for financial reasons and as a way to be closer to my mother following my father’s death.
Looking back now, I know that I could not truly take in that I was actually leaving New Mexico. I began traveling there in 2008 to study and by 2012 I had moved there. She and all that she held had become one of the greatest love stories of my life. As the rental truck moved across the border of New Mexico and into Colorado to begin the trek to New England, I remember feeling so disjointed and unclear as to how or why this moment had come to pass. The 3 years that I lived held within her desert and mesa filled arms remain among the most formative of my life. I had dreamt of those arroyos, mesas and canyons long before placing my feet upon their soil.
Dream of a Winged God
Above is an ocean of cerulean blue.
Cliffs formed from layers of sand and story rising to greet the sky
A solitary wind howls and moans.
The wind’s voice seems to carry the sound of a name that I cannot quite hear.
I am holding my son’s hand and we are walking through this pregnant canyon
There is a slight pause,
an irregular beat in the rhythm of space
It is enough to reveal that we are in the land of dreams
Off in the distance I see a large bird soaring through the open sky.
The great bird approaches
my mind tries to comprehend the truth of the message that my eyes continue to send.
As the distance between us closes, the illusion fades in its entirety and I am left standing in the presence of an approaching god.
In his wings span the centuries of time
painted in the flame of turquoise, gold, white and copper
Trails of wind left by his soaring wings push down upon us with the force of a gale.
In passage of the wind from his wings is a song that sings of the deepest rivers of sadness.
In the passage of the wind from his wings is the hope for a people and of a place.
In the passage of his wings are the threads of songs that are unraveling and forgotten – lost in the holes of time.
In the passage of the wind from his wings is an embrace, which holds the breath of hope – eternal return
Tears swell from in ancient eternal river and I weep at the aching love story,
An ancient, rooted song so old and so fragile,
As the feathers of his wings brush by my head,
he rises and shoots straight into the painted sky.
The sky opens and an emblem of beauty is revealed.
Ancient symbols dancing to form a magical portal, a door.
Designs formed from the color of clouds, gilded feathers, stones that sing, and the metal made from stars receive him into the heavens from which he came.
I am left in the wake of a passing deity
holding my small son’s small hand
Listening to the wind echo the lament and sadness that has been conveyed by his proximity.
The wind’s voice seems to carry the sound of a name that I cannot quite hear.
…blowing through the canyon from the time in the memory of before.
There are stories upon stories within those years. Stories of clay pits, vision quests, sweat lodges, bears, arroyos, monsoons, gardens, studios, love, loss, life and medicine but for the purposes of this moment what I will say is that when I left there, part of me stayed behind and it has taken quite a long time to catch up and find its way back home.
The Budget rental truck continued rolling down the highways between here and there and eventually we arrived in the tiny coastal Maine town that was to become home. After my years in the desert, my heart and soul longed to sit by the ocean and to be held by her embrace. However, my time sitting at the edges of her shore was to be brief. Within a week of arriving my mother came to visit and in her visit held the news that she too was dying. Within 2 weeks of arriving in Maine, I found myself at the doorstep of my childhood home. I would sit in what was only months before my father’s chair and I would become my mother’s caretaker as she prepared to leave this world.
There are stories upon stories that were held within those six weeks between the time that I arrived on the doorstep to become my mother’s caretaker and when she slipped into a coma and took her last breath. I wish I could say that the time I spent with my mother before her death was what I had imagined it would be like. I had always known that I would fulfill this role and that this was part of the agreement that she and I had made. There was the part of me that had envisioned this as an opportunity for my mother and I to wrap our relationship in a neat and tidy bow but life and death tend to be messy business and a daughter and mother trying to hold hands as one’s eyes close to this world can sometimes look like both struggling to breathe.
I made the decision to spend the winter in my parents’ home, my childhood home. I spent the days and nights keeping the stove burning and cleaning out their closets, room and life. Everyday I would walk past the urns that held their ashes and think about how one day I would write a book called “My Winter in the House of Ashes”. I was surprised when spring came knocking and just as they had in every year past, blades of grass began pushing up and the days grew warmer. In April, I drove out of the driveway for the last time and headed to the place where I would begin to start again.
Are you wondering how all of this circles around to the boxes? At some point, I am not really sure when, I began saying that I had put part of myself in a box. I had put it in a box up high on a shelf and I refused to take it down and look at it. There was too much to pull apart, too much to try and reconcile. I did not know how to begin to make sense of who I had become when I was in New Mexico, who I was as an orphan with both of my parents dead. I did not know how to feel like a woman who was not a grieving daughter. Who and how I had known myself to be no longer seemed to apply and neither did my understanding of divinity and God. Those pieces of the story were in the box up high on the shelf in a closet.
But how do you go on like that when everything in your life has been about cultivating a relationship with your higher power? How do you go on knowing that there is a box that holds the most sacred part of your existence and purpose and you are actively choosing not to open it and look inside?
“It seems to me that all the things that we keep in boxes are both alive and dead until we open the box. That the unobserved is both there and not.”
I think for me, the answer is that I began making boxes. Each box being a representation of pieces of myself. If you look at the images that I have selected for the boxes they are not dissimilar to the imagery I use in my paintings. Some of the boxes explore the work of other artists - artists whose shoulders I have been standing on while I have once again begun standing on my own two feet. As soon as I began realizing the role that the boxes were playing and how I actually had been in conversation with the source of my existence the entire time, the boxes began to shift and change. The most recent shadow boxes have become like stories. They still include images of artists who have gone before me, but then “Artist as Keeper of Ancestry & Lineage” has been one of the themes that I have consistently explored. Just today I realized that there is also significance in many of the most recent boxes not having a lid but becoming shadow boxes.
Whether it is a painting, a photograph, writing, or boxes I believe that the creation of art is medicine.
It feels good to be off the shelf and out of the closet again. It feels good to choose to be open once more.
In art, love and beauty,
A strange passion is moving in my head.
My heart has become a bird
Which searches in the sky.
Every part of me goes in different directions.
Is it really so
That the one I love is everywhere?
Over the last couple of weeks I have found myself in more than one conversation which has led to reflection and sharing of my experiences and the roles of religion and spirituality within and throughout my life. For me, this has been a winding journey and path of discovery which has led to many forks in the road and many stops and visits in temples, churches, and caves along the way. I believe that in many ways I will always be a traveler on this winding road. I also know that in this human walk I was blessed to find my home very early on.
Before I ever stepped foot in Catholic school or in church, I grew up wandering the woods, the stretching and waving fields, the thorny thickets and along the edges of lakes, brooks and streams. Fields of milkweeds and stone altars and the delights of oozing mud after a rainstorm, well, these were my first holy places of mystery and awe. Nature was my first experience of ecstasy and remains where I find myself on my knees with tears in my eyes over the beauty and divinity that is the fabric of this world. My artistic and spiritual practices are inextricably linked and both are born of places and lineages that honor the experience of life as a great weaving of time and a layering of multiple worlds.
As your footsteps continue tracing mine along this journey there will be times when the “tense” or “time” seems to slip or move to the past, present, future, and the unknown – if this seems confusing and slightly disorienting, then you too may have entered into the great spiraling Ouroboros with me. It is, after all, the name of my studio and its meaning is woven through my artistic practices and creations.
Just as the Ouroboros spirals around through time with the mouth always seeking the tail and the tail always seeking the mouth, my creative process is the same. Images and expressions rising to the surface of my awareness at a particular moment in time will return anew or live again in relation to the ongoing Story or in relation to another image sometimes painted years later. My life and my Story are alive within these nonlinear communications - it is how I have come to live my life. I am following the images, whispers and clues in an attempt to thread them back together, to remember them, to remember the Story of my creation and the creation of our human kind.
Each image and word that passes through me is dancing on a web; their relationship to each other and the worlds that they are born of in many ways exceeds the importance of an isolated image removed or excluded from the unified whole.
When I was a small child, I believed in the power of magic and the world of enchanted beings. I walked in the woods and was certain that the swaying of the tree limbs and the rustle of their leaves were meant to announce my arrival. “She has returned. She has not forgotten us.” I was certain the trees spoke to each other, and I was certain they spoke to me.
When I was a small child, I spent time lying on my back on the surface of the Earth, looking up into a sky that painted stories with the color and form of clouds, the sun, the moon, and the stars. I was certain that those stories were being told for me. I was certain that whatever or whomever was the storyteller, they knew that I was content when in their theatre.
I do not remember when the magic ceased to exist. It took a while before I thought about the magic again. At first I thought that I had hidden it away so that I could no longer see it. Then I began to think that perhaps I did not hide the magic after all, for it was never mine to hide. I kept wondering, I kept asking and slowly, oh so slowly, the magic began to come back. It would visit me in my dreams. When I started to think as a child again, I realized that the magic could never be hidden, for it is far too powerful to be put away by any one human being. I began to understand that it was I who had gone away to hide. I was hiding from the magic. I was hiding from myself.
Now that I am a not so small child, I believe in the power of magic. Now that I am a not so small child, I walk in the woods and I am certain that the trees can talk. Now that I am a not so small child, I look at the sky and know that the storyteller has many more Stories to tell.
I have come to understand that there are Stories that Call. Ancient Stories that whisper and speak through symbols, messages, and dreams. Stories that remember ancient agreements and the meaning and purpose of our existence. Stories that are Medicine in the truest sense of the word. I believe that these Stories find ways of reemerging and being born again into our modern society so that we as a people may remember who we are and consciously move towards who we are becoming.
We are the magical and physical realization of our ancestors. Whether we know it or not, I believe that we are carrying the medicine bundles which have been passed down to us through generations. Whether we are aware or not, I believe that we are seeking to fulfill a legacy of our ancestors’ grail quests and dreams. We are a walking legacy.
In our “modern” society we have been conditioned and trained in the externalization of power and in this training, we have suffered a deep loss in ability to internalize power. We have sacrificed our internal power and our nobility as human beings and in this ongoing sacrifice we are in danger of losing something even bigger, our luminous planet, our Mother, our home. I believe that in this disjunction, there lies the potential in finding meaning at the moment of
losing it again.
The Ouroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. It is a symbol that represents the perpetual cyclic renewal of life and of coming full circle. It is an ancient whisper that speaks of the eternal return: the cycles of life, death and rebirth leading to immortality. Like an old and ancient beautiful thread, the colors of the Ouroboros are woven throughout time in the Stories of phoenix, dragons, serpents and snakes.
I have come to believe that inside the belly of this ancient snake who eats its own tail, lies the ooze of primordial unity. Primordial unity related to something existing in or persisting before any beginning with such force and qualities it cannot be extinguished. Within that ooze lies the undifferentiated infancy experience of both mankind and the individual. The ooze from an ocean from which all is born and where all is One.
As I followed the trails of this Story, I found myself wondering; could our lives, our personal Stories, our collective Stories, the Stories of all mankind, the Stories of all kind and beyond be from the vast waters of this primordial ocean, from this place which, like the Ouroboros, has no beginning or end? Is it possible that the waters from this ocean swell and rise within us giving rise and fall to our memories and the memories of our origins? Do these waters direct the rhythm and flow of our Stories and our lives? A perpetual pumping of liquid memory that flows through the vessel of our beings in a way that allows us to be continually reborn. If we are reborn in this manner does our birthing hold the possibility of remembering the source of our origins and the agreements that we have made with the source of our existence? Could this liquid, this memory, be a form of Medicine that could benefit humanity and the magnificent world that we all share and which is in desperate need?
I wondered if it is us/we who navigate the rivers and oceans of our lives or are the rivers and the oceans the captains of our sailing and sinking ships, navigating us on a journey that reveals our individual purpose within the Story that we are all a part of? Are we like that ancient snake, both swallowing and disgorging ourselves in an all consuming yarn: each of us following our individual threads in order to be lead to our collective and shared story; a beautiful, expressive unraveling? If we become aware of our relationships with these waters, if we become aware that we are not separate from these waters, are we then able to see its and our own passage through time and space? Are we then able to see that we are all swimming in the same primordial water?
I began to think that perhaps the answers to these questions were unimportant. Perhaps what matters, what is of importance, lies within the seeking of these questions and their answers? Perhaps what matters is being willing. Willing to enter into the mouth of the serpent knowing that you will eventually become the tail that will spiral its way back around and enter into the mouth once again. Willing to become part of the food and part of the Story. Willing to acknowledge our individual responsibility and part in an eternal return. Willing to live a life that
is an honoring and remembering of the cycles of life, death and rebirth that leads to the feeding of an incomprehensibly beautiful dance.
The creation of "In Transit" began in 2012. I believed this image to be completed on 2 separate occasions. The painting would come down from the wall on 2 different occasions as her story continued to unfold. She currently hangs on the entry door to the studio.
“Our whole business in this life is to restore to health the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen.”
In love, beauty and art,
"I would love to live like a river flows, carried by the surprises of its own unfolding."
Rivers have been flowing through my dreams and conversations. They always seem to call to me, and in their powerful and mystical way, they always seem to be calling me home to myself. There is no definitive thought or tidy conclusion in the writing that follows. Perhaps, as you proceed, you could think of these words as a winding river. There is no end destination that you or I need to be aware of. Rather, we will move, flowing together. I suspect that we may still be in mid-current by the time the words cease to move across the page.
I once had a teacher who spoke to me of rivers. Pointing down to the flowing river and then pointing up to the sky she told me how, "as above, so below" is a truth revealed by watching and knowing the movement of the river and its sister river flowing in the sky - the air stream. They move along the same currents. Did you know this? A body with circulatory systems in the ground and in the sky.
I used to believe that I fell in love with rivers when I lived in New Mexico, however. I have come to understand that I have always been drawn to these winding fluid bodies. Perhaps, it is more accurate to say that the time I spent in the desert illuminated my love and longing. Interesting how time spent in a desert was the inception of my actively seeking the footpaths that follow their movements, always on my way to or in search of spots along the bank where I could rest myself and wait. Wait until I could begin to hear the song and sit in moments when time is intersected by eternity.
Each river has her own language and each river sings her own song. Movement over the rocks, the formation of the riverbed, the direction in which the waters run , the creatures who move within her waters, along the banks, all in relation to one another, all contributing a thread of the melody of each river's song. If you sit still and listen she will sing her song for you. If you ask, she can assist in carrying away heaviness and the worries which tug at the corners of your heart and soul. If you are patient, curious and respectful, she will reveal herself and her nature. When her movements are just so, and you see the light jumping across the surface of her skin and her shimmering scales, do you feel wonder? I do.
The Banks of My River
Will you sit by the banks of my River?
If I welcome you to my shores
Will you wait until you can hear the rhythm of my blood?
If my heart begins to beat in the knowing of you
Do you know your presence can change the banks of my River?
If I swell, if I recede, If I rise to meet you, If I quench your thirst
Do you wonder where I am moving to or where I am moving from?
If you look into me and see your own reflection
If you leave will you return?
When I am tired and the rains do not come
If you learn my song will you remember it?
When I no longer remember my name
Rivers have been flowing through my thoughts and through my body. I have been practicing noticing, becoming aware. Aware of the sensations that arise within me. Aware of where I have constricted the flow. Aware of where I have built dams and diversions. In much the same way as I have sought out the banks of rivers to listen and come to know their song. I am attempting to tune in and listen to my own.
You see, if it should be that there comes a time when I am called to your banks, to your river, I wish to know how to be in your presence. I wish to know how to hear your unique and beautiful song. This means that I must come to know my own. If I am welcome and you offer me a seat at the bank of your river and I look into the surface of your waters I want to have befriended the stillness that would allow me to see my reflection in you.
When I rest my head on the pillow tonight I wonder if I will again dream of rivers. I wonder if I will dream of you, waiting with me by the river. I wonder of we will be waiting for the rains to come.
I Am Carried by the River, The Saxtons River, VT,
The Language of Rivers Collection, Vision Shift Gallery
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?" That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
In Love, Beauty & Hope,
I have been thinking a lot about what is required to grow beyond who we have been in order to become who we need to be. What parts of our identities and how we have previously known ourselves do we need to acknowledge, relinquish, expand and what parts are in need of tending and care in order to experience the fullness of our humanity?
On a cold night in February of 2005, I walked into the tattoo studio and sat down to wait for my appointment to begin. “Are you sure that you want to do this? This is your last chance.” “I am sure.”, I replied.
I sat on that stool for two hours as the word WARRIOR was engraved across the top of my back. Upon my arrival home, I went into the bathroom and turned to look in the mirror. All of a sudden it was very hard to breathe. The knowledge of the commitment that I had just made to myself and to all that I believed in felt very large. Too big for my lungs to breath in and exhale out. That night as I slept, I dreamt of wild horses running free through the streets.
In September of 2018, I would once again step into a tattoo studio in order to refresh the ink in the WARRIOR tattoo. At the time, I believed I was recommitting to my original idea and understanding of what this word means and what it means to have this intention permanently marked into and upon your skin and body.
Speaking of words, how about the word "strong". What does it mean to truly be strong? Throughout my adult life, strong is a word that has been attached as a descriptor for me with a certain amount of regularity. Strong for being a single mother. Strong for standing up for what I believe in. Strong for being an activist. Strong for not giving up on my vision of being an artist. Strong for surviving abusive relationships. Strong for putting myself through undergraduate and graduate school while being a single mom. Strong for raising a child whose skin color is not the same shade as mine. Strong for directing organizations. Strong for having an identity other than straight. Having a strong constitution. Having a strong will. The list can go on.
At the beginning of this then unimaginable year of 2020, something shifted deep inside me. I cannot say that it was the result of any one particular experience or event. I actually believe it was the culmination of many. The culmination of many "strongs" so to speak. Strong had lodged itself inside my identity and I believed it to be such an established component of my makeup that whatever the other side of strong was or is...well...it terrified me. I was terrified to admit that I did not always want to be strong. I was even more terrified to admit that I wanted to experience the other side of the coin. I wanted to experience vulnerability. I wanted to be open. I wanted to learn to soften.
This shift did not look like what you may expect. In fact, the only way that I was able to continue to see and honor it for myself was through the acquisition of a pink, fuzzy, luxuriously soft sweater. I needed a way to signal to the world and to myself that there were times that I needed and wanted to be treated with care and with gentleness. A way to signal that I was more complex and layered than perhaps even I had been wiling to admit in this regard. I needed a way for me to physically feel my willingness to embrace vulnerability and the softening that I longed to experience.
When I was a little girl, I boycotted the color pink. I believed it was the color that had been invented to ensure that girls could not do what boys could do. I believed that pink was a signal to the world that you were anything but strong. Enter the pink fuzzy sweater. The first time that I wore my emblem of vulnerability it was quite a surprise to the people who knew me. Every time that a comment was made, I explained that I was embracing my softer side and enlisted them in shifting the way that they had grown accustomed to seeing me. I am still a warrior. I will always be, however my definition of what that means and how it feels to wear it has expanded.
Often while I was painting Warrior I burned sage and incense. The smoke trails that resulted often played tricks with me, revealing faces that would be visible only out of the corner of my eyes. On one occasion I was certain that someone was standing slightly to the right hand side of where I was painting. When I turned to speak I realized that no solid, human form was there at all. The canvas itself continually revealed faces or images that I did not intentionally place there. These faces emerged, transformed and shifted as the painting progressed. The faces are still there, watching and looking. I sense the majority of them reside in the background, the colors of the red earth holding the spirit of those gone before me and those yet to come. Profiles are also evident in the middle division line of the canvas. These are closer to the surface, closer to this world. Their energy and spirit are closer to the line of crossing over.
The gratitude, peace, and love that I feel as a result of this creation are immense. It is a humble prayer. I ask to be a warrior. I ask to be constantly aware of the connection between all life and all that is. I ask that my life reflect the wisdom that each thought, decision, and action has an impact on the entire web. I ask that I have the courage to face my fears in a way that will create true strength. I ask for the courage of a warrior to do what is right and not what is easy.
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness
comes as an unexpected visitor,
Welcome all and entertain them all!...
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in,
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond
In Love, Art & Spirit,
There is a Wind Horse that runs through my Soul.
I am learning to recognize the sound of its approaching hooves
by listening to the thundering echo that remains when yours passes by.
First, thank you for taking a moment, pausing your day and being willing to stop and step into mine.
I am blessed. Every morning I wake between 4 and 4:30am. I make my way downstairs, fill the kettle with water and go about the early morning business of feeding Pebble the cat and Sadie the golden retriever. If there are dishes that have waited overnight in the strainer I will often pad around the kitchen and the pantry returning cups, bowls, plates, pots and pans to their various locations. Next, I pour the steaming water over the waiting coffee and chicory and as it makes its way through the grounds, I prepare the morning meal for Disco Kitten who is patiently waiting in the studio, staring up from behind the most beautiful blind eyes that see more than most.
Once the coffee is ready, I make my way back upstairs and enter the studio. I sit at the old desk that was once my great grandmothers, I turn the light on next to the desk, light a candle and then I begin. There is always 3 pages of stream of conscious writing in the journal. Dreams, thoughts that are caught in corners and refuse to let go. Questions that continue to be asked. Cycles and rhythms. Stories of love, joy, grief and the everyday. Next is the writing that is done as reflection and self examination. This is the writing that allows me to examine my character and keeps me in touch with what I know to be my truth and, to the best of the ability, live a life of integrity. As I engage in this process, I ask that God continue to hover over me.
This time before the sun rises, and while the world is between sleeping and waking is my favorite time of day. The magical pause before the rest of the world comes to life. Sometimes as I am writing I can hear the squeak of the bedframe down the hall as my beloved rolls over and sinks deeper into sleep. Sometimes, the gentle snoring of Sadie who has followed me in and lays next to my feet on the floor keeps time to the rhythm of my moving pen. Sometimes Disco Kitten rolls between my feet and playfully sinks her tiny razor teeth into my toes and ankles. My extra fine point pen continues carving the lines that form the words that comprise my life across the page as I sip coffee. To me, this is a truly delicious life and I am poignantly aware that I am blessed.
This morning as I moved through my morning routine, I was both grateful and comforted by the ritual; the tending to the seemingly simple nuances of my everyday life. I also moved slower, feeling into the surrounding sadness and beyond. I, like many of of us in this country, slept tenuously last evening. We are such a deeply polarized and divided people. I sat at the writing desk that was my great grandmother's and I wondered what my ancestors would say...what they are saying. I wrote about children in cages separated from their parents. I wondered what my ancestors (only a very few of which came from this land and the majority of whom immigrated to these shores) faced upon their arrivals. I wondered about families and friends whose lives and configurations have been altered by a pandemic and who turn to face empty space where loved ones once stood. I wondered about many things (pepper spray, confederate flags, boarded windows and storefronts, climate change). I opened my most recently completed journal and reread the poet's words that have continued to remain with me throughout the last month.
I want to love more than death can harm.
and I want to tell you this often
that despite being so human and so terrified
here standing on this unfinished
staircase to nowhere and everywhere
on this night
we can live forever and we will.
Among the list of things that I thought about this morning is love. Truth be told, I actually think about love a lot. What does it mean to love your neighbor? What does it mean to love your fellow citizens? What does it mean to love those who are less fortunate? What does it mean to love this beautiful planet, our home? What does it mean to actively practice choosing love?
I wonder, what is the sound that remains after our lives touch another, once we pass by?
I will end this blog post in the same way that I ended my writing and prayers this morning.
God, please, hover over all of us.
Yours in love, creativity and art,
...the kind of change and transformation that you can feel occuring deep below the surface of your skin, muscle and bones. The kind that is like a wind which can steer the vessel that you move in in strange and unexpected ways. You know that you are being set on a course...
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I get up very early in the morning...before the Sun rises. I typically will go and sit outside for a few moment and take in those glorious moments before the dawn starts to shine her light. This mornng as I was sitting outside holding my cup of coffee, I was watching the play of light and shadow and remembering the dream that had come in the night. This particular dream came on the back of another dream that I had received two days prior. I have been "calling" for a dream. I did not expect to wake from that first dream gasping for air and desparately looking around trying to determine which reality was the one that I found myself in. It was a "shock" dream. One in which you have no choice but to acknowledge or "wake-up" to the message that the dream is trying to convey. I am usually very skilled at dream interpretation, especially my own, however, this one left me shaken and unsure of aspects of its meaning.
If you have been following these posts then you may remember the one in which I shared the story of the painting The Creation of the Firmaments. The dream that came the other night had some of these elements...a completely white building perched on the end of a vast and expansive sea. The arrival of a great whale...except this time the whale arrived transported in the arms of a massive and swirling storm. I am still unravelling the message that were sent in that night vision. The dream that came last night provided a clue or a further unravelling of the first one's meaning.
So...back to me sitting with my coffee, watching the veil between night and day shift and looking up at the night sky. As I was sitting there wandering in my thoughts and the waking of the world, it happened - a shooting star went streaking across the sky. In my life story, shooting stars have historically signalled that a large shift and/or transformation has begun. One night, a long time ago, as I laid on a pile of wooden boards in a small rural village in New Mexico, it was a shooting star that was the final determining moment that precipitated my move to that land of sky and sand. So, this morning, I watched as that streak of stardust tore acrcoss the sky. I have felt its coming for some time now - its arrival confirmation for what I could feel but struggle to have words for. What I still struggle to have words for. What I do know is that I am changing. Of course we are all always changing, for how could we not be, but I am talking about the kind of change and transformation that you can feel occuring deep below the surface of your skin, muscle and bones. The kind that is like a wind which can steer the vessel that you move in in strange and unexpected ways. You know that you are being set on a course. For me, this always simultaneously occurs with a feeling of uncomfortable restlessness.
My most recent painting, The Becoming of Persephone also speaks to this feeling.
This was not how I originally envisioned this painting. In some way, shape or form, all of the paintings are autobiographical - how could they not be. It is not unusual for the paintings to take on a life and/or will of their own, but this one snuck up on me. I am typically working on more than one painting at a time. This number can range from 2 or 3 up to about 9 or 10. At some point while I am working on all of them one will jump to the forefront and let me know that it is ready to be completed (at least in regards to my role in the process). If you would have told me that when I originally began this painting I would later title it, The Becoming of Persephone, I would have been extremely doubtful for I never envisioned it/her becoming what she did or having the feel that she does. This is not one of my facorite paintings. On the day that I completed her, I found myself choosing colors that I would not typically combine in order to convey the feeling of unease or uncomfortableness that I was experiencing as I watched her morph from the original inception that I had for her.
There are certain paintings that have marked a transition or a moment when my painting style shifts or changes, or when I am in the process of incorporating some new aspect of working with the paint, brushes, my soul and the images. This is one of those. She is what I think of as a transitory painting; a painting "in-between" larger movements of my life. What will follow...well...I do not yet know. I do understand that it is about rhythms and cycles that are at play. I do know that in order for her to return in the spring she must let the previous season sleep, become the compost that will nourish the new growth of the following season.
What will I do now? I will go after the riddle. I will spend time researching the images that swim through the dreams, I will research Persephone in all of her various forms throughout time. I will look for the clues that have been left for me to follow. What else will I do...keep painting and keep dreaming...
In Love, Gratitude & Art,
Perhaps I should sculpt chocolate nudes...
OK. I lied. I made a post/announcement that I would not be doing the scheduled blog post today. As I stepped away from the computer and walked through the house and returned to my thoughts - the ones that have been turning over and returning for the last couple of weeks I rethought my previous statement.
If this blog is what I say it is - a journey into artistic process and the life and art of one woman - then writing about these thoughts and the artistic shift that I can feel is in process, perhaps writing about it is just what I needed to do. I feel certain that there are other artists out there...and other human beings who do not call themselves artist (a point of thought that I also think about often)...who know exactly what I am talking about. Those periods of time when you can feel something shifting on an internal level but where it is going, where it will lead is unclear. I dreamt of snakes last night for the first time in a long time - I know when this happens that there is a change coming - a shedding of the skin so to speak.
So what does this "feeling of change" look like in my world? It kind of looks like the photos of my library above. Typically my sleep schedule will change and I will find myself waking in the early hours of the morning, like at 2 or 3 am. I then began prowlling through the house with a cup of coffee in my hand and my thoughts roam and settle, roam and settle. I often get much done during these wee early hours in the morning. I also love the sensation of walking through my home with a few small lights on and watching the light shift and change as the sun rises.
I am fairly certain that the 2 main creative projects that I have committed myself to in the last months have led me to exactly where I am currently at. NAKED: The Art of Exposure and Vision Shift are projects whose inherent nature were intended to reveal and transform my experience of myself and the world around me. So...I suppose I should have expected a shift in artistic direction to arise. The unsettling feeling is that of not knowing exactly where it is leading. But then do we ever really know where life is leading? We can move through our daily life with set intentions and goals, but I believe that part of living life artistically also means watching were the flow of life is changing and being open to what you had previously not seen. I spoke with an artist friend of mine the other day. She too mentioned experiencing a similar feeling. When she said that she thought she might be going crazy I laughed and thought - well, we are both in good company then.
This morning I was doing the early morning task of responding to emails, messages and social media scheduling and I was drawn to an article that anothet artist had posted on facebook. The article was from the NY Times and was titled Is the Age of the Artistic Recluse Over? This is one of those topics that have been milling over in the melting pot of my brain. The vast majority of pantings that I have sold over the last years have happened as a result of social media. It is an interesting time to be an artist. Unless you are in the big leagues and/or are dealing in the world of galleries, in many ways social media is a necessary vehicle for getting your work out into the world. Although in many ways I would be content to do what I do and not have it be public - that does not pay the bills and I also believe that sharing your work with the world at large is part of the definition of being an artist. So I am both grateful for social media and I also find myself feeling ambivalent about it. As much as it can be a useful tool it can also be a sucking vortex of time. I also do not want to live a life in which a social media persona becomes my identity. Who someone is on social media can be a very far distance away from who they are in person. Not to mention that spending any time watching or waiting for LIKES and SHARES begins to feel like a strange way of determining any sort of value for your work, time or effort.
So...where does this leave me?
Well...walking around the house at 2 or 3am...at times contemplating becoming a sculptor of fine chocolates and then laughing because knowing me I would begin to sculpt chocolate nudes - but that is a whole additional topic for another time! Other contemplations include my beliefs that the way I, or any of us, lives our lives is a fine art onto itself. Sometimes I wonder if I could disappear from social media and still accomplish what I believe is my purpose. But in this moment in particular I am curious. I want a conversation with other artists. I am curious regarding who amongst us is also feeling a shift of undetermined origins? I want to ask you my fellow travellers how you really feel about social media?
So today's blog post is a bit of insight into the ramblings of my mind and soul. It is also an invitation for my fellow artist (and any other human being who does not think of themself as an artist) to comment, leave a message and let me know how you feel about feeling or knowing that a shift in your work is in process but not yet realized. Are you wondering around your homes at 3am too?
Perhaps by the next blog post I will be back to the regularly scheduled programming...but I have my doubts.
In gratitude, love and art,
I believe that if we can find our own voice in the world, our own creativity and unique sound, our song, we can metaphorically and literally sing ourselves into existence.
I am awake. It is hours before the Sun will rise and wash over the landscape; bathing what is now unseen in light and making the unseen visable.
There are nights that as I lay sleeping the dreams wash over me and I am awake in other worlds or perhaps I am awake in other layers of the world within which my sleeping body lies. At these times the unseen is also made visible. I am a dreamer...in many, many ways. There are certain dreams that come in the arms of sleep, dreams that carry a message and leave such an imprint upon the eye of my soul that they are impossible to forget. Within the multitude of these dreams there are a handful which always begin with the Moon. She is always full and she is always dancing above the vast expanse of the Ocean. For as many of the Moon dreams that I have received, there are an equivelent amount of paintings that move through me and find there way into the world. The dream that whispered of the image below began over 15 years ago. Periodically the dream has returned, or rather the dream has continued over the course of the last ten years. Each time it returns it begins with the opalescent Moon; heavy, full and hanging over an unending expanse of Ocean.
Dream of the Animals from the Sky (2002)
In the dream, it is night and I am looking out a window which is very high above the ground. The Moon is full and bright and hanging above a vast expanse of water. When I look down I see that the expanse of water reaches to the foundation of the building. From my viewpoint high above there is no shoreline that is visible. There is only water as far as my eye can see. There is a brief moment when my thinking mind kicks in and I wonder if the building that I am in is rising from the Ocean herself.
I turn from the window to look inside the room in which I am standing. I am in a small bathroom and my young son is witg me. Although I understand that the room I am in is a bathroom, I also understand that it is something else. It resembles a long hallway and leaves me with a strange and surreal feeling that I am somehow within a tunnel. Everything in the bathroom is white in color. Everything in the bathroom is pristinely clean and emminates with the same opulesence as the Moon.
I turn to once again look out the window and accutely focus my eyes upon the water searching for some understanding or a clue as to why we are here. A shadow begins to surface upon the waters. The shadow rises and a dolphin breaks upon the slow rolling waves. Once it has broken through the water it turns and looks directly at me. I know that it has come for me. I tell my son to look out the window. When he looks out the window, he tells me that he can not see anything. I look out the window again and see that the dolphin has come up on the land which has mysteriously appeared around the building that I am in and it is underneath the window that I am looking out of. We make eye contact and the cetacean turns and reenters the water.
A few moments later I hear the sound of wind it is a whistling sound which is progressively getting louder and stronger. Within a few moments, a large white whale falls from the heavens and into the water. There is a great splurging of water which is displaced and set in motion. In the splash and displaced water that results from the whale’s arrival, I begin to see a multitude of shapes and shadows surfacing from the depths. The water is filled with a multitude of creatures. As I look at the creatures, I realize that some of them are from times that we consider to be pre-history. At first I think that all of the creatures are from times past; and then I realize that there are also present day animals and animals that I have never seen or heard of before. Somehow I understand that they are the creatures and beings that are still to come and they have not yet been seen on our present day earth. Some of the creatures begin to surface and walk upon the land. As I am watching them walk upon the earth I realize that they are entering the building that I am in. They ascend the internal structure of the building and find me and my son in the white bathroom. One by one, they singularly parade by us, each one pausing to ensure that eye contact has been made as it passes by and exits through the window back into the primordial waters from which it came.
The final creature, which is similar in shape to that of monkey and is entirely white in color, jumps onto the sink near where I am standing and waits for me to look at it. We lock eyes and I see my own eyes reflected in the creature’s face. I then realize that we are standing in front of a mirror and the reflection shows that we share the same eyes. In as much as we are different, we are the same. We are reflections and images of one another. The actions of one will affect the world of the other. The creature moves toward the window, takes one last look and then is gone. I watch as the water enfolds and engulfs the creatures of my dream and returns them to the place of their origins. The Moon's lights begins to fade and I am washed in darkness and sleep.
A couple of years passed after this dream occurence before I would once again awake in the dream world to find myself in the depths of the ocean. This time I was a whale. I was swimming with a pod and I was singing there song. Each sound reverberating through the depths of the water.
In 1991 an all white male humpback whale was photographed passing Australia's most eaterly point. At the time of the sighting this whale was the only documented all white humpback to have been recorded in the world. The Australian Aboriginal community named the whale Migaloo, the word that they use to describe a "white fella". Migaloo is suspected to be an an albino whale, but without definitive evidence for the moment he is known as a “hypo-pigmented” humpback. Humpback whales are an endangered species. Migaloo is part of the east Australian humpback population, suspected to number around 15-17,000 individuals in 2012. This population was likely around 30,000 before commercial whaling began, but was possibly as low as 104 individuals after commercial whaling on humpbacks ceased in the 1960s.
Humpback whales grow to be about 12-15 metres long, weighing 25-40 tons. The females are slightly larger than males, as with all baleen whales. The four-chambered heart of the average humpback whale weighs about 195 kg about as much as three average adult human beings. (Really think about that for a moment.) Humpbacks travel in large, loose groups. Most associations between humpbacks are temporary, lasting at most a few days. The exception is the strong and lasting bond between mother and calves. Up until September 2011 Migaloo was thought to be the only all white Humpback Whale in the world. Then amazing footage emerged of a 100% all white baby humpback calf.
The humpback whale is a baleen whale that sings amazing love songs. Humpback whales are renowned for their ability to produce songs of remarkable beauty, complexity, and duration. But despite decades of research, scientists still aren't sure why these whales engage in such elaborate acoustic displays.
To hear the song of the humpback whale you may click on the Download File button below.
Coastal shamanic cultures rely on whales for a variety of reasons. Different tribal cultures believe that sound holds the world together and that the whales are the record keepers and their songs are the record of Mother Earth. They are the caretkaers of the stories. Many indigenous peoples believe that Creation was sung into existence.
I believe that If we can find our own voice in the world, our own creativity and unique sound, our song, we can metaphorically and literally sing ourselves into existence.
In Gratitude, Love & Art,
If you are interested in learning more about Migaloo the white humpback whale I invite you to check out the following website - http://migaloo.com.au/
I am often amazed when I look back and see what has caught my eye and imagination each day. They (the images), much like my paintings feel like communion. An interchange or sharing of thoughts and emotions and a process in which messages, whispers and stories reveal themselves through a process of co-creation.
A Sense of Place (2007)
In 2007 I began a project that I called A Sense of Place. A project in which I made a commitment and a promise that I would actively and consciously engage in a practice of strengthening my relationship with the land that I lived on and the community that I was part of. The commitment was simple; everyday I would carry a camera and I would walk through the community in which I lived. My definition of community included my neighborhood/town and the natural world that was embedded, inseparable and interwoven with the constructed world of of our human interactions, inhabitance and the society had been built up around, through and upon it. I carried the camera to document my adventures, what was revealed through the process, and what my eyes had been opened to that had previously gone unseen.
I experienced and learned much in that year. I learned about the watershed that supplied flowing life to my everyday world. I learned about the cycle of life, birth, growth and death. I learned of the plants and animals that I shared the geography of my existence and the world that we all knew as our home. I learned about the impact that we curious humans have on the world around us. I also learned that the more I became aware of the movements of the world around me, the more I knew of my own rhythm, impact and my purpose within it.
The "framing" of this mysterious and gorgeous world through the lens of the camera allowed me to shift my vision. It afforded me the opportunity to slow down and see from a different perspective what on other occasions I had been moving to quickly to acknowledge, notice and see. There was something exquisitely beautiful in returning to and/or passing the same giant pine tree everyday and watching as its gorgeous, aromatic, sticky life force flowed in the spring, gummed in the summer and froze into magnificent blue, purple, white and pink crystalline structures in the arms of winter.
Interestingly enough, I do not enjoy carrying a camera when I travel to a place that is new to me or when I am a "visitor". I have a natural resistance to doing so. The further away from where my life is centered and lived on a daily basis - when I am a "tourist" so to speak, the carrying of the camera can somehow feel rude or strangely wrong. My eyes, being and senses are already so engaged and swimming in the multitude of new sounds and sights that the camera can feel like an unnecessary intrusion. In these times it can feel like I begin to rely on the camera to shift my vision and only succeed in creating a distance between myself and the newness of the environment and experience. It can also feel like I am using the cameras ability to "remember" instead of my own. I travelled to New Mexico twice a year for 5 years and completely moved my life there before I ever took a photo of that land.
However...in the place that I inhabit, in the place that I rely upon as a daily source of my existence; the camera becomes a pause and a shift in the way that I can see. It is an opening and an invitation to the world around me. I am called to notice, to see differently, to not take for granted what surrounds me as a result of the regularity with which I pass by and/or my familiarity with it.
Vision Shift (2017)
I have now been living in my current home and location for little under 6 months. I have once again found myself carrying a camera for the same reasons I did in 2007. The reason or intention that I am engaging in the process is the same as it was ten years ago. It is the process itself that is now slightly different. Technology sure has come a long way in the last 10 years.
After taking an initial photograph I do a very similar process as the one involved in the creation of my paintings. I "shift" aspects of the image; altering qualities of light, hue, distortion, inversion, contrast, etc. I think of the process and its actions as a series of doors. One door opens to reveal the next - each door revealing what had been previously unnoticeable or unseen to my eyes.
Writing on Communion (2007)
Sometimes the way a painting begins and takes form is a disorienting experience for me. Although I always feel at peace and at home within myself when I am holding the brush in my hand and watching the colors swirl into formation, sometimes I feel as if I am being deconstructed. Through the experience of creating, I am being taken apart and then recreated in ways that I do not always understand.
When a painting comes into being in this way, it usually happens with a simple and yet overwhelming feeling that some intangible form, feeling, force, thought or aspect of change is lying just beneath my surface. It feels as if it is lying in wait underneath my very skin until I am ready to accept where it will lead me, until I am ready to allow it to rise to the surface and transform my existence from the world and messages of my inner being. It is reminiscent of an alchemical process in that my senses, body, and spirit have taken in ingredients that are being mixed and transformed within, in order to be transmuted and thus transform the outer.
I have learned much from the paintings that have come through me in this way. One of the most important things I have come to understand is that I do not always need to understand. The messages of the paintings that come in this way are not meant to be instantaneously integrated, understood or easy to dissect. They are the very reflections of change themselves. Some aspect of myself, my spirit, my body, or my being is in a state of transformation and change. I have learned to accept that I do not always have neat explanations, eloquent prose, or a nice, neat, pretty bow to wrap a painting up with.
The images that take shape in this way, often continue to transmit their lessons to me for years to come. I have had the experience of looking at these paintings years after they have been brought to the canvas and understanding things that I did not, or could not have understood when the painting came into existence. I often find myself chuckling at such moments, for what I have come to understand or see has been literally right in front of my eyes for quite sometime. I will chuckle again after additional time has passed, and I come to the realization that what I thought I had finally understood had an entire additional layer and depth that I had not yet been privy to. They are my teachers and I am their student, and I experience and accept them as gifts from places and realms that are Mystery to me.
As I look at “Communion” now, I have more questions than I do answers. Is the sun setting as a result of society’s disregard and inability to be aware of the gifts and beauty of our Mother Earth, or is the sun setting because of the simple and glorious beauty that is a sunset? Is the figure on the top layer of the Earth male, or is it female? If the top figure is male, does it represent the suppression of feminine energy and the dominance of a patriarchal society or does it simply speak to the beauty of true intimacy and communion between all living forms? These are just a few of the questions that I am left with as I walk away from laying the paint on the canvas.
In Gratitude, Love and Art,
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There is a space and time that exists only before the first rays of the rising sun can be felt and seen. This is when I wake. It is the pause before the world starts to stir. It is the pause in which what has come in the blanket of the night begins to turn and retreat into the richness of the shadows. It is the space before the stillness has been broken. This is when I most fully know myself. This is when I am most able to hear, see and touch my soul. This is when I consciously engage in communion with the source of my existence.
Prior to August of this year, I had experienced a period of time with a multitude of major life transitions. Throughout this period much of who I had known myself to be was called into question. The voice of my Mother as she prepared to leave this earthly plane formed swirling eddies out of what had been flowing rivers in my identity and psyche. Her words and thoughts of who I was or was not swirled with all of the other changes that had so recently occurred. I found myself struggling to hold on to who I had conceived and believed myself to be. Time and life continued to move in an erratic and previously unknown way over the next six months. There was no "normal". There was no getting back to "normal". Normal would never again be what normal once was.
I found myself and my identity being furthered called into question by the relationship that I had begun ten months prior to my Mother's passing. The truth is that I was not who I had been before. The truth is I was exhausted; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I needed time. I needed space to sit with the parts of me that remained. I needed time to grieve the loss of the parts of me that no longer knew their own name. I needed to enter the silence and sort through the rubble. When asked to prove that I was still who I once had proclaimed myself to be; I could not, for I was not. The relationship ended and I began.
In those early morning hours, before the light reveals the day, I began the long walk home. Who was I when I was stripped bare? Who was I when I turned off the cacophony of sound, stimulus and opinions of the world and those who believed that they knew me? Who was I when I stood naked in the mirror and saw myself through my own eyes and the eyes of my Creator? Could I dissolve my own entrapment? Could I set myself free and welcome the form that I would take? In solitude, could I reach into myself and find my truth, my beauty and my soul?
In the solitude I found myself to be spiritually pregnant. Once again I began to hear that music, the hidden song that my soul was revealing. A deep and lavish richness is gathering within me and within my hands. It is from this palette that I shall paint.
In Gratitude, Love & Art,
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I am not who I once was. I am who I have always been.
Those of you who know me on a personal level have probably on occasion heard me say, "both of these things are true simultaneously".
A few days ago a strong storm came through where I live. I woke up feeling like the storm that had passed through during the night had somehow become part of my internal landscape; a disturbance of the normal condition of the atmosphere, manifesting itself by winds of unusual force or direction. Throughout my life there have been periods of time when I have been deeply aware that I am in the middle of a significant transformational shift. I believe that for the most part we are all in a constant change/state of transformation (if we so choose, welcome and allow). What feels poignant about certain periods of transformation is my level of awareness regarding the shift that is occurring.
I could feel the storm inside me. I could feel it changing, rearranging, cleansing, and breaking previously constructed parts of my identity. I cannot say it is a comfortable feeling. It can be rather unsettling, especially when the feeling is particularly strong. It feels like an electrical storm deep in my core. I have had similar experiences before but this felt different. I believe the difference lied within the sharp level of my awareness regarding the significance and impact of my choices on where this transformation would lead.
What did I wish to leave behind? What was no longer mine to carry? What had I forgotten and sat aside that I needed to be willing to pick back up and walk with? What parts of me had formed around others beliefs about who I am or who I should be? Could the storm that I am feeling assist me in shaking loose what was not solid and core? Could it move away debris and reveal what is strong, rooted and growing inside of me? There has been one other time in my life when this feeling came on with such intensity. I started pouring through my journals to try and connect the pieces. Eureka! I found it. It was 10 years ago and it was one of the most prolific years of my life and artistic practice. It was also when I was working on a piece that I called Remembered Pieces.
Interestingly enough, I never considered this piece completed. It had always been my intention and desire to construct a room out of the panels of canvases. A room that when constructed would create a universe and beyond.
When I reread my original writing for this piece I knew that my feet were once again being placed on a path that I believe to be in alignment with my purpose.
A Prayer of Re-membered Pieces
Beyond the Veil of my human existence
deep in the Ancient Womb
where the creative Soil is rich with the dust of a galaxy of Stars
I Cry out to the Divine
on tears formed from the Waters that rise and fall in my body
rhythm takes form and my Soul begins to Sing
I am a song of Re-membered Pieces
the Call is returned, whispered on the Winds
moving the delicate strands of the Web
with the echo and reverberation of the Voices of the Holies
I Cry out to the Divine
on Winds formed from the direction and intention of my Breath
Life takes form and is carried from one Being to the next
I am a Story of Re-Membered Pieces
buried deep within this Temple of Skin, Bone and Flesh
a powerful medicine is known
cooked by the Fire that in its hunger devours all illusion
I Cry out to the Divine
Mountains and Valleys sculpted by the heat and movement of my Blood
a landscape of great Beauty and forgotten history
I am a body of Re-Membered Pieces
on the other side of the mirrored Looking glass
the Eyes of the Snake are clouded
preparations are being made to Shed its Skin and cross between the realms
I Cry out to the Divine
milk of transmutation moving, warmed by swelling breast and beating Heart
nourishment crossing the physical Boundary of skin
I am only part of the Re-membered pieces
the interface is Created
the Veil shimmers and the illusion falters
Re-Membered Pieces merging in a Symphony of sound and color
I Cry out to the Divine
All Life Answers
In gratitude, beauty, love and art,
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