Anyway, I digress. Our grandparents, Doris and Lester had a small family farm in Mt. Vernon, Washington. As a small child I spent many weekends there with time on my hands. Chickens are entertaining for adults and fascinating for small children. I liked their feathers, the way they had free run of the plowed fields to cluck, peck and scratch for bugs all day. I didn’t understand the roosters; they seemed pushy and demanding and mean to the hens. I told my grandmother she should only have hens but she said, oh no – without a rooster the hens stop laying eggs. I ate grandma’s giant breakfasts of scrambled eggs and biscuits smothered with gravy, so the roosters had to stay. I knew that the roosters did not lay the eggs though, so that seemed odd to me. Strutty rooster showed up in this scribble drawing once again. He is among the oldest of my stock characters.
I returned yesterday to a scribble I did in class with my students earlier in the week. What emerged was this lovely older woman with long hair sitting cross-legged in turquoise harem pants on a tasseled pillow. She is holding something close to her heart, securing and protecting it. My thought as I was working on it was that it was something I created that was to be held close. Later, I thought it might be the soul or a dream. She is sitting in a zazen lotus pose, so perhaps what she holds close in the result of long practice.
At first, I thought she held a spiral shell, Peter said snake, but now it seems like the strong unfurling of a frond, but larger, like a tiger lily or a monkey-faced orchid.
It is growing and unfurling naturally from the core of her zazen practice, and as I have just started to read and introduce to my classes Natalie Goldberg’s new book, Old Friend From Far Away, which as always emphasizes writing as a spiritual practice, and because the image emerged from the classroom, I think it is the soul of my teaching and writing practice unfurling into the light under my protection.
I paint and draw from forms created by indigenous
peoples because I believe that I may feel what they felt; maybe begin to know what they knew. I am trying to capture strains of knowledge from the akashic record. This is not an outlandish idea. Art students have copied the great masters for centuries. Their goal is to sense, to intuit and to learn from the great artists that have now passed.
I can do the same for much the same reason.
Black Birds Just Want to Have Fun and, I might add, they appear unbidden when I am trying to get to sleep. Birds posing, flying, eating, pecking, chasing, somersaulting for no apparent reason. So I assume they just want to have fun and they come to me because I am willing to give them a form on paper on a Friday night, to reside forever in my Mysterious Night Vision Field Journal.
I sometimes worry that I might run out of images. OMIGOD, what if I go to the well one day and it is dry. It is a profoundly irrational fear – what can I tell you. I have more ideas for paintings than I can possibly produce in this lifetime. The ideas sometimes come from a place I visited – or a particular experience. But more often than I would expect, they emerge from the ethers, rather fully developed and all I need to do is put what I see behind my eyeballs on paper. So it is with playful black birds. A sketch now – and almost certainly the ingredients for a more developed piece later.
Perhaps they are giving me a tip: winter is nearly over. Buy some pink and yellow tulips and put them on the dining room table for your husband to see. Prune the roses, clean the winter drudge from the windows, let the February sun stream through the open door onto the hardwood floor.
The light and hammered surface of the sea;
the guessed-at life of gulls;
pale chalcedony calm
of anemones locked
in the orange death embrace
of a starfish arm.
Agates: only think
and the light catches the blood egg red
in the black sand—
What is still? The rock.
What moves? The sea.
What blows? The surf.
What blazes? The sun.
What rises? The moon.
What gathers? The dark.
What thinks a long, slow thought through time
up through moss? Cedar ascendant and red.
All childhood, all tragedies,
all things both broken and complete
rise up the resinous thoughtlines of wood.
You and I are flat
cedar fronds for this season only,
extending over a remote bluff,
itself millions of years old ,
itself crumbling into the sea.
Fronds the shape of spindrift,
the way we catch the light—no one
sees us and yet
this cedar rises. We point her anonymous fronds
at the sea and the sun and the moon and the night and the dawn and the day and the sea.
Feb. 17, 2008
February 13, 2008
In my Creative Writing classroom at Linfield College, we are using the book Writing and Being: Embracing Your Life Through Creative Journaling by G. Lynn Nelson. He poses an exercise: in personal quiet, search your body for places of tightness, feel where pain has created “fists,” and write that fist into a flower. I invited my students to first represent that fist in image, then transform it into a flower, and then move to writing that process.
I always work in the classroom with my students. This time, I imagined all of their fists together in the center, hands in different stages of unfolding to the flower they are, and as I thought of them, I drew.
I have often had the eerie experience of feeling that the classroom was my brain and the students all held within it, that my action of drawing or writing with them affected us all, moved us along through time as a more coherent whole, as I did on this day with this drawing.
This image, “Fists Into Flowers,” was like a Navajo or Tibetan sand painting–created in a room where I was centering others who were moving their emotional fists into flowers.
This meditating Goddess is connected to invisible source above. The life force moves through her endocrine system like sap through a tree, and indeed her body is deeply rooted into the earth. She provides a safe home for owls, ferns, leaves and stones, cradling them within her.
The night of February 3, the crows and the cormorants come with a message of major change. They fly over a calm ocean with an active, but not foreboding sky in the background. When they arrive this way in huge flocks, organized and purposeful, they always bring news – a psychic heads up if you like. The next day, February 4, I received an invitation to a wedding in Tulum on the Yucatan Penninsula in Mexico. This will be a very special trip. My husband Tom and I will be meeting the people who live there – our friend Xan is marrying a Mexican citizen.
To me, going to Mexico signals a major life change. My friend is moving there, opening a gallery there, offering me a place to show and sell my art. This is a passport to jungles, Mayan ruins, iguanas, white beaches and Mexican art. The crows have me learning Spanish and ordering books on Mayan art and culture. The crows have me painting 6 shaman, etched into a canyon wall. I will eat, sleep, think and dream of Tulum until I get there and perhaps for ever after.
Dream of the Crystal Flower
In this dream, I am leaving a place which is both WSU, where I went as an undergraduate in 1968-71, and Camp Zanika Lache, where I attended Camp Fire Girls Camp for so many years when I was a child and young girl. Mom and Daddy are here on the campus, too, also getting ready to leave. I am walking just at dusk to find them.
I walk under a Doug fir past a closed up log cabin, following an old path that winds past the cabins and connects them through the forest. Quartz chunks line the path. In the dimming light, I spot a particularly large piece of rock crystal and pick it up.
It is a huge quartz crystal surrounded by crystalline shapes like petals. I look at the other quartz pieces lining the walkway and many are partially defined crystal blossoms, but none so fine. I decide it is okay to keep it, and I hold it in both hands as I round the backside of the cabin and walk into the deepening gloom of the forest toward my parent’s cabin. The crystal emits a low, yellow light.