Knowing how to approach or even think about the topic of spirit allies is a tricky one, especially when I’m trying to explain the concept to my students. I have chosen the term put forward by Kate Wilhelm in her book Storyteller, which is “Secret Partner.”
She says your novelist-within can be programmed to work on the story even while you’re doing other tasks. Students are receptive to the term “Secret Partner,” but lately I find that I also use the term “Wonderful One Within” for my students.
However, that is a simple binary of inner vs outer, and any artist knows the situation is more complex than that. So next, I introduce the idea of The Editor. I have them personify The Editor in writing and in drawing; in that way, they can externalize and begin to make choices about when The Editor does and doesn’t appear.
But the real situation is yet more complex than that. I have learned through Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art to externalize Resistance, which has revolutionized my ability to stay on task. So there we have four aspects of the personality externalized: outer me, Wonderful One Within Me, the Editor, and Resistance.
Then who are the rest of the figures who recur repeatedly in my drawings; for example, Turtle, and the woman named Nightwinds, and the crazy-eyed Cubist screaming head called Teecher, and the Silver Fox who showed me the way to the past and to a new direction in art, and the tiger cub who embraces turtle?
Spirit Animals Hoping to Be Adopted Together (Tiger Cub and Turtle)
These aspects of the deep personality enchant and empower even as “they” lend “us” –who ARE all these people? 🙂 — their unique gifts that help “us” navigate “our” lives. Secret Partners, Allies from the Dream World where our Night Vision guides the way…
Friday, February 1, 2008. Late night drawing-colored pencil. I am still on the market for gel pens which will provide more contrast. I have painted a lot this week. I am starting to log in long hours at the easel on consecutive days.This is my first ever opportunity to do that and certain things are becoming apparent.
I do not paint alone. I seems to me that I have many, many supportive helpers and I do not know exactly who they are. Sometimes I think a specific famous painter – I hear a wry comment from Kahlo in my head. But more often I sense entities that certainly help me and oddly enough, I think that sometimes I help them. I do not have elaborate theories about who these people are. The more I read about science, the more I realize that the idea that man is the only intelligent entity in the universe is almost certainly as ridiculous as the idea that the earth is the center of the solar system. As ridiculous as the idea that men are somehow closer to God than women. As ridiculous as the tragic and mistaken idea that man should have dominion over the earth.
It seems almost certain to me that there are many forms of life and I hope to the Goddess that they area more intelligent than we are. I am beginning to be suspicious that parallel realities are abundant and that none of this is even slightly woo woo. I am reasonably sure that science is a long way from nailing down the answers to most of the really big questions. I feel that it would be dishonest of me and a waste of time to develop a strong belief system. I guess I do not put a lot of stock in belief systems. In the meantime, I have allies in unusual places and my life seems to be working better because of their welcome presence in my life. And no, I do not hear voices and they do not tell me to do anything more threatening than “more thalo blue please.”
This blog post is commenting on Cheryl’s post and her dream sketch of 1/22/08 titled “Many dreams of a chicken with a golden egg.”
I read an article by Martha Beck, a life counselor, in current issue of The Oprah Magazine about the power of making a list of what you want. Several stories were recounted—one was about a woman named Helen who had been given a terminal prognosis of cancer by her physician. She pared her life back to the core (sound like anyone you know?) discovering only what was of supreme importance to her. Then her doctor said the diagnosis was in error—and she lives on a new woman.
However, she finds now that whatever she wishes for weirdly and magically appears. It is she who said the pull quote, “[From my Core of Peace] everything I think seems to materialize…I swear, if I held out my hand and said ‘apple,’ one would appear.” The author goes on to say, “She held out her hand in illustration. Another friend pulled an apple from her bag and put it on Helen’s palm. We laughed…nervously” (Beck 68).
Beck said that is because Helen’s desire now comes from her Core of Peace. She no longer concerns herself with living in The Shallows. She has passed through the Ring of Fire where all desire is burned up and come to dwell in her Core of Peace. From that center point “ask and it shall be given to you.”
I see this as a correlative to where we both are in our lives now; we have had experiences that have peeled us back to the Core; however, in part, we still know what it is to want something from “The Shallows.” And we know the heat from the Ring of Fire when we try to drag something from the Shallows through the flames to the Core—it gets burned up!
If your grant is written from your Core of Peace and sent out into the world, the answer will come one way or another. If not the grant, then from some other devious angle. But you cannot win if you do not play!
Your picture is interesting because the goose that is laying the golden egg is on top of the figure’s head where it can’t be seen! The brain is bubbling and the brain bubbles are coming out of the mouth—what is that? Soap for Truth? Rabindranth Tagore talks about laughter being like “foam on the flood” of being. Foam is a transitional substance combining air and water—so something about transition?
If I look at the face in another way, the foam represents hair coming around the shoulder–and is that a yellow ribbon or a pink ribbon and what does it represent to you?
The face looks like a Greek or Trojan mask–perhaps even Aztec?
Beck, Martha. “Go Tell Alice.” The Oprah Magazine. February 2008, 64.
So this is a learning curve, the technology needed to make this blog work well. I cropped this image but could not retrieve it to use it here. No matter. This is a scribble drawing and it is as good as anything to speak to my life right now. I finally renounced working a day job. It is now up to me to see what my life can actually generate. I never wanted to be an entrepreneur but now…
Today I packed my beat up 1999 red Subaru Forester full of paintings, carefully wrapped and packed. Expensive frames, original art. I made the short trip into Kent to hang the paintings, only to find that the facility was locked. No one there. I called of course. The woman I talked to was not drunk but maybe something more serious. She couldn’t think. She couldn’t string words and thought together. Lots of that going around these days. What is wrong with people? Really? I finally called her sister and she was well grounded. Hang art tomorrow at noon. This is good.
Today I received a new print order for a Mickey’s Dragon. This early evening, a call from someone that owed me money. A credit card number and then a new commission from the same person. I am giving art and my art business just about 100% of my focus and attention and many things are falling into place. I couldn’t prove it by money just yet but the art itself is moving along by light years, or so it seems to me. I feel just slightly crazy -it feels so right and yet so out there to concentrate so intently on what I have always wanted anyway. Giving in to such a lifetime compulsion could be viewed as neurotic. I think that many artists go down in history as somewhat crazy. I am beginning to understand how that happens.
I do not see myself as mentally ill but I suspect that most people do not ever become consumed by art. It is not something we choose – art is more invocation than inspiration and I can feel that in myself. I did not imagine this compulsion toward art – I do not have that power; it started so young. By 3 years old and unrelenting throughout my 61 years. Art is a stalker and a deadly one at that. I truly believe that it would have taken me out in one way or another if I had not said yes.
Although I loved his paintings, this exhibition is primarily lithographs in three themed categories, metamorphosis, Monsters and Tales. I believe he is popularly known for vases of flowers, but here we see his Surrealist visions such as the smiling spider and the hot air balloon drawn as an eye. Gauguin said that in Redon’s work, “dreams become reality because of the believability he gives them.” Redon draws from studies of nature then imagines alternate visions of hyper-reality from there.
Redon was a scholar, and I can see that intellectualism in his interest in Darwin and The Origin of the Species. His anatomical and botanical details are precise, even when imaginary.
Image to the left, “Smiling Spider”; yes, there is a wolf-spider smile down in the terrifying darkness…
“Caught between description and dream, the observed and the imagined, Odilon Redon’s (French, 1840–1916) work transformed the natural world into dark visions and bizarre fantasies. Delving into the imagination, Redon created a universe of hybrid creatures, offered his own interpretations of literary, biblical, and mythological subjects, and presented the environment in a singular way: we see grinning disembodied teeth, smiling spiders, winged chariots, unfamiliar plant life.” (quote from the online exhibition at MOMA)
The “grinning, disembodied teeth” refers to a wonderfully strange litho of teeth looming out of a library shelf–the reference is to an Edgar Allen Poe quote:
“The shutting of a door disturbed me, and, looking up, I found that my cousin had departed from the chamber. But from the disordered chamber of my brain, had not, alas! departed, and would not be driven away, the white and ghastly spectrum of the teeth.
Not a speck on their surface – not a shade on their enamel – not an indenture in their edges – but what that period of her smile had sufficed to brand in upon my memory. I saw them now even more unequivocally than I beheld them then. The teeth! – the teeth! – they were here, and there, and everywhere, and visibly and palpably before me; long, narrow, and excessively white, with the pale lips writhing about them, as in the very moment of their first terrible development.
Then came the full fury of my monomania, and I struggled in vain against its strange and irresistible influence. In the multiplied objects of the external world I had no thoughts but for the teeth. For these I longed with a phrenzied desire.
All other matters and all different interests became absorbed in their single contemplation. They – they alone were present to the mental eye, and they, in their sole individuality, became the essence of my mental life. I held them in every light. I turned them in every attitude. I surveyed their characteristics. I dwelt upon their peculiarities. I pondered upon their conformation. I mused upon the alteration in their nature. I shuddered as I assigned to them in imagination a sensitive and sentient power, and even when unassisted by the lips, a capability of moral expression.”
At any rate, it is 8:30 am, and the snow is coming down at a very brisk pace. We like to be inside and “watch the woods fill up with snow.” Peter is reading bits out from a book on Elizabethan Stratford–that ducks weren’t allowed out into the streets, and to gather goslings in the morning, the goose girl shakes a paper bag with pebbles in it–I didn’t think they had paper bags back then?
I teach a class in Creative Nonfiction, and another in Creative Writing, and journaling is at the heart of these classes. I have been journaling constantly, daily, but in image rather than words. Sometimes my mind has been so full of words that my head rattles with them the way the goose girl shakes a bag of pebbles to call the goslings in the morning.
It has always been my longing to have time to dig deep for a pure language, rich and clear, complex and comprehensible. But so much teaching on a daily basis of language skills of all sorts has obscured the time it takes to find the road of silence that leads to depthful writing.
Cheryl gave me the black journal and showed me how to use colored pencils to keep a journal of “memories, dreams, reflections,” starting with non-threatening scribble art. I still scribble, but I find that less interesting than journaling to active imagination where I let the image emerge on the page, open to the influences of Dali and Kahlo, the greatest autobiographical Surrealists.
I love the way Surrealism takes disparate pieces of memory, image, and emotion, and makes a new landscape of truth. It is a way of representing fractured time and the shifting canopy of memory in art. There is an emotional satisfaction in that.
Lately, I have taken to drawing the landscapes of very specific memories. Like all humans, I suppose, I fear losing my memories, so often are they reduced to fragmented emotion, the flash of image. We are haunted by these every day, as if we walked in the perpetual drifting haze and snow of our own dreams and memories without acknowledging them.
My Mysterious Night Vision Journal is like an infrared camera that sees in the dark. These sketches are snapshots of lost worlds.
T.S. Eliot in “The Wasteland” spoke of his method in that great poem, which was to assemble those “fragments shored against my ruin.” I am a scrap booker, a crazy-quilt maker, a journaler in word and image trying to look past daylight to give life and line to the parts of me that live in the shadows.
I do feel that I live in the eternal Zen present, but that in the present moment are the many wavering veils of the past.
This morning, I remembered sledding with my siblings down the hill in front of our house, and I tried to draw that memory as I sat in front of our big picture window blowing snow and memory…This shows larger and better on the Picasa site at: http://picasaweb.google.com/sandramardene
Jan. 28, 2008
When I look at my picture of us four kids sledding, the small figures of the children become as elements of the landscape. What predominates is what was supposed to be Horse lake Road going down to the bus turn around at the bottom of the hill where the mail boxes, the creek into the hills and road come together. Instead, it looks to me like a terrifying train tunnel through time that pulls the viewer without lingering into its maw.
I don’t know if you saw the also new image called “Oppressive Forces at Dinner Plate Rocks.
Not all the images have coherent stories behind them, but that one was about being at Dinner Plate Rocks up on the Malaspina Strait and learning about a shipwreck where a family, including a seven-year-old girl had drowned–their kitchen crockery, including their broken dinner plates, washed up on the beach, giving the name Dinner Plate Rocks. I wrote a poem about that, but the sense of the place has lingered in the dark.
Shipwreck at Dinner Rock, Malaspina Strait
Can you scry the patterned stone, trace the crystal surfaces of stone? (Salt and green, salt and green.)
Because it is said the stones remember all. you explode pink granite (quartz, feldspar, mica) crystal by crystal until molten molecules spin in a slow, rose mist; and still they tell you nothing. (Salt and green, salt and green.)
It’s not for the rocks to say, here a child, shipwrecked, lost all seven years of her life. That is the speech of the cross on the rock; but when the splintering mind splits the silvered wood of the cross, a hand reaches out for the dust. (Salt and green, salt and green.) The light, the light, the light.
Cedar bones and granite stones, you reach for meaning here, cheek flat to the flat, silvering hair, passing light; but all there is is all there ever has been, maybe less: salt and green the sea, the sea, the rock, the light, the light, the light, the light.
I had a hard day yesterday, teaching in spite of a bad sinus infection–a student left the room and showed up sobbing in Susan’s office—I got home and it was dark and cold and my arms were full of packages and I couldn’t find my key and the outside light kept going off and on. It was all very disorienting. When it was over and I was in my jams, I drew this picture called “GR-09-01,” which can viewed on my Picasa site also, at: http://picasaweb.google.com/sandramardene
GR-09-01 was our telephone number in1957-58. Animal graveyard, lost in the backroads of Whidby Island, lake reflecting moon, bird with a banner that reads, “Peace, Mercutio, peace. Thou speakst of dreams….”
In the middle of a lecture, I had suddenly thought, “GR 09-01.” The images that emerged with it are of a bird with its head cut off and a snake chopped in two with the axe beside it. There are small animal headstones–all this relates to a really mythic experience I had and subsequently constellated with other images, in Edmonds. My sister Cheryl took me to an animal graveyard she had constructed with other kids her age; she led me up a path in the woods (the stepping stones you and other kids had built are in the picture). She showed me a chicken with its head cut off on the side of the path. At the top of the path was a snake that had just been cut in two–it was still writhing in a terrifying danse macabre, and I saw only the heels of a boy disappearing up the trail ahead into the woods.
On the other side of those woods was a lake that was still wild in those days (a golf course water hazard now), and the moon is reflected there speaking also to the Tarot card called The Moon and its depthful meanings.
When Cheryl and her first husband Frank were living in that cottage on Whidby Island, siblings Lisle, Toren and I were in a car with Mom–she was driving. The road was narrow and winding; the trees closed in on both sides illumined only by the sweep of headlights. We kids were doing “looking for a short-cut they never found,” when Mom cut us off sharply, and we suddenly became aware that she wasn’t sure where we were, so we were afraid, too. There was a double thump and Mom screamed–she had run over a raccoon. I said, “It was just a raccoon,” and Mom said, “Every life is a precious life. I hate killing any living thing.”
At the end of my drawing session (and I really do need to take drawing lessons), I added the bird with the banner in its teeth with a message from Shakespeare:
Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace! Thou talk’st of nothing.
True, I talk of dreams, Which are the children of an idle brain, Begot of nothing but vain fantasy, Which is as thin of substance as the air And more inconstant than the wind, who woos Even now the frozen bosom of the north…
End of my post.
Cheryl e-mailed me, humorously, I hope!
“Well, I am a bad sister and that is for sure. I recall the little animal graveyard with delight because I built it. I do not remember showing it to you or any corpses laying around. I obviously used poor judgment and I traumatized my little sister for life!
Actually, you use everything past and present to make passionate art.”
The Night Vision Journal has really evolved for me. I started with scribble art–I would close my eyes and scribble with a silver gel pen, then open my eyes and use my colored pencils to find the images in it. In fact, I did one this morning and put it in the journal, called “Birds and Goat Go to Market.”
Then I did a few pictures just drawing what I saw, either in front of me or from memory–like the tree on right left that is “Shapes in the Fog” or “Autumn in the Willamette Valley.
Of course, some are dreams, and then some are what is called active imagination, and those are images I just imagine as I draw and are often connected to free-floating feelings, like “Oppressive Forces at Dinner Plate Rocks,” and “Unsettling Effects of the Pale Lemon Sun.”
Lately, I’ve started to draw memories–I’ve only put two up so far, “GR-09-01” and “I Made a Huge Bowl of Chocolate Pudding (just before my mother screamed).” I’m working on another one of a childhood sanctuary under a juniper tree high on a steep hillside. These are the most electrifying to me; I feel like I’m starting to jack in to my central compulsion to do this art.
It is a very private art for me. The site is up primarily so I can discuss it with my sister Cheryl, who is a very talented professional artist–have you seen her website at cherylrlong.com? It’s beautiful. I showed it to Nancy Rose and to Lloyd and Renita Driedger, oh, and my Mom. That’s about it. It’s really about talking to myself and a few people who understand the hidden faces of the soul. I know you’re out there…