Friday, September 16, 2011

The cove

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This is a place I visited quite often as a child. It's drawn from memory, but I could almost smell the river as I sketched this out. It's one of my happier childhood memories. 
Friday, September 2, 2011

The Owl and the Pussycat



Even though I got the color of the boat wrong, the drawing seems to fit this poem by Edward Lear:

The Owl and the Pussycat

The Owl and the Pussycat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are, you are, you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."
Pussy said to the Owl "You elegant fowl,
How charmingly sweet you sing.
O let us be married, too long we have tarried;
But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose, his nose, his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling your ring?"
 Said the Piggy, "I will"
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon.
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand.
They danced by the light of the moon, the moon, the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.


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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Underwater Wordless


     Lately, I have been stuck with my ability to communicate freely. In order to keep the momentum of the blog going, I will publish some of  the art work I've been doing with the online drawing program, Scribbler Too (and Photoshop). Since I've been a young girl, there have been times where it has been difficult to communicate with words. Developing images to express my inner life has helped me move through these darker periods. The above image expresses very well the feeling of  these transitions. Enough said for now.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Where Am I Going?


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Friday, January 21, 2011

The Storyteller

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     Even though the dinosaurs are extinct, and for the most part the wildlife in the world is somewhat controlled (sadly to the point that there is a danger of many creatures going the way of the dinosaur) there is still an uncontrollable wilderness around us. Even though humankind has created more "comforts" there are still monsters around us. Some of them are in the form of natural disasters, or creatures we run across in the natural world. Some monsters are in the form of emotionally damaged human beings who are predators, or even family members who fall into a moment of madness. How do we prepare our children for the monsters in the world? 

     It is one of the jobs of parents, and grandparents to tell our children the mythological stories that can help prepare them for the reality of the world around us. The world around us is not always fair, and some of what we experience we cannot always be prepared for, but stories; folk tales, fairy tales, fables and all our cautionary tales of both the literary and oral tradition help prepare us for the ever-changing world around us. It is a beautiful, joyful, disheartening horror show full of events that can both uplift us and plummet us to the depths of despair. 

     I remember as a young single parent I once became exasperated with my energetic precocious children. I started to scold them, and scream at them. My face was red with anger. My young daughter began to cry. I was immediately sobered, and went to comfort her. She finally exclaimed through her tears that I "had turned into a monster." This was far from my proudest moment of parenthood, but it served in making me aware of how sensitive these loving little beings were, and how they were entrusted into my care to nurture and provide safety for. 

     Honestly, I can't say that I became a perfect parent after this, but it did help to show me the consequence of my impatience, and to find better tools for handling my volatile emotions. 

     The world around us is filled with paradox, and events, and people that seem to be out of our grasp to understand. Recently, a young California boy (about the same age as my own grandson) was torn from his grandmothers arms by her daughters angry boyfriend. At the time of this writing the boy still remains missing...and I wonder and pray about his safety, and about the heartbreak of his family. I pray that their story will have a happy ending, that little Juliana Cardenas will walk in the door with his little red hoodie saying that he escaped the clutches of the big bad wolf. That he tricked him and ran through the woods to safety. I want to believe in a happy ending. I want to believe that Juliana feels his special mythical guardian surrounding him, guiding him to safety to the arms of those who love him. I want to believe that like Alice in Wonderland who met her mad hatter, that Juliana befriends his mad hatter and climbs out of the rabbit hole to a world that makes sense again. 

     On my desk I keep a little totem of a female figure with children climbing all over her back. In many aboriginal cultures this is the totem of keeping the stories of our ancestors alive. Stories of transformation, of overcoming obstacles, and accepting life on it's terms with gratitude. Some of these totems have only one child, but mine has many climbing on the storytellers back. It is her job to carry them, to play with them, and teach them. I'd like to think she's carrying them to the crack in the universe. Where there is only understanding and relief from the suffering from all that separates us from true happiness . 

     I'm not sure if any of us agree to life's terms before we are born. Does anyone really want to suffer the indignities that life can pass our way? But here we are. All we can do is hope for the best, and when the worst happens, support and love each other. 

     My imagination has always been a double edged sword. It has allowed me to overcome tremendous challenges through a resort to a whimsical joyful reality through my writing, and through my drawing. The other side of that is when I let the mind wander without discipline I'm at times plummeted into a kind of purgatory, and at times there has been even hellish quality. No sight of relief in those moments but they are just moments. Perhaps long tiresome moments but I'm always restored to happiness eventually. Perhaps some would say lulled into a sense of security. There's probably some truth in that, but I'd like to think that as I get older I'm looking more for the tools to look at life straight on and say: "Okay, bring it, Life!" The truth is I cannot control much about this life, but I can keep making the choice to return to happiness.

     One of my favorite movies of all time is a movie created by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro called Pan's Labyrinth. The heroine is a young girl who moves with her mother to a country home owned by her new stepfather, Captain Vidal. On the grounds there is an abandoned labyrinth in which she meets many magical creatures. In the film they leave it open to interpretation as to whether these are manifestations of her imagination, or very real incarnations of the underworld. I was always wondering which was the real world, and where she would find her kindness and her safety. One of my favorite passages in the film is:

Ofelia: My name is Ofelia. Who are you?
Pan: Me? I've had so many names. Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am... I am a faun. Your most humble servant, Your Highness.

     This dialogue was powerful because this character Pan, had always tested her. He had a monstrous appearance that seemed to intimate an evil intent, but he reveals himself to be not only a mysterious force in the universe, but her servant. Pan's sternness is a ruse to goad Ofelia into assuming strength and to assuming her rightful position in the world. The charming, handsome Captain Vidal on the other hand reveals his true monstrous nature, and murderous intent toward Ofelia. He is the incarnation of greed and selfishness. He cannot see Ofelia's beauty, he only sees her as an interference: a roadblock in his quest for power. Which of Ofelia's worlds was real? Did she only dream Pan? Was her stepfather her living nightmare? Is life a dream? If it is true that the dreamer is all whom arise in the dream who chooses where the story of the dream begins and ends? Are we the monster, the servant, or the hero? Perhaps only through our growing awareness, and our willingness to express gratitude for the gift of life can we choose.

     I leave my storyteller totem on the table where I set my breakfast sometimes, so it is the first thing I see as I awake to remind me to live as a story teller with joyful children arising in my heart, and monsters turning into servants and protectors of the true divinity of all humankind.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Grandmother's Words

     


     Fairly recently, I listened to a Fresh Air interview with John Mellencamp by Terry Gross. I’ve never followed Mr. Mellencamp’s music very closely but I certainly will be making up for lost time after listening to this interview. Unlike some of our popular musicians, he has made a wonderful transition into his 50’s. He no longer holds up the iconic image of youth and teenage angst as some cultural ideal. He talks with wisdom and a respect for life.

The part of the interview, that struck me most, was when he spoke of his grandmother’s words as being the inspiration for the following song Longest Days:


Seems like once upon a time ago
I was where I was supposed to be
My vision was true and my heart was too
There was no end to what I could dream
I walked like a hero into the setting sun
Everyone called out my name
Death to me was just a mystery
I was too busy raising up Cain

But nothing lasts forever
Your best efforts don't always pay
Sometimes you get sick
And don't get better
That's when life is short
Even in its longest days

So you pretend not to notice
That everything has changed
The way that you look
And the friends you once had
So you keep on acting the same
But deep down in your soul
You know you, you got no flame
And who knows then which way to go
Life is short even in its longest days

All I got here
Is a rear view mirror
Reflections of where I've been
So you tell yourself I'll be back up on top some day
But you know there's nothing waiting up there for you anyway

Nothing lasts forever
And your best efforts don't always pay
Sometimes you get sick
And you don't get better
That's when life is short
Even in its longest days

Life is short
Even in its longest days


     The song so poignantly describes the cycle of life, and the reflective process our autumnal years bring. Also, underlying these words, is his real respect and gratitude for his grandmother. In the interview, he describes the incident that inspired the song. He had gone to visit his grandmother who lived to be 100 years old. She had always been quite healthy but when she reached 100 she began to get some dementia. He used to visit her in the afternoon, and she would ask him (she called him Buddy) to lie down beside her as she rested. While they were lying there she said, "Let's pray." Her grandson agreed, and she said "God, you know, Buddy and I are ready to come home." Mr. Mellencamp laughed when recalling this, and remembered that he responded "Whoa. Wait a minute Grandma. You're ready to come home. Buddy's only 45. He's not ready." She then turned and looked him right in the face, suddenly looking like a little girl, and says: "Buddy, life is short even on it's longest days."


     His story describes such a beautiful intimacy between a grandmother and her grandchild. He carried her words in his heart, and it still informs, and carries him throughout his creative process, and his journey through life. It got me to wondering which of my words will be remembered by my children and grandchildren. Will they think of me as kind and wise? It is not for me that I wonder, but there's a growing longing to leave them with wisdom and humor. That is the only thing that makes separation from our loved ones bearable. There is no escaping that final day where all that we've loved, and clung to, will be taken away.


     I remember my own grandmother. Her consistent humor, and vulnerability has carried me throughout my life. She wasn't perfect but she loved me unconditionally, and even when I got the occasional perfunctory spanking from her, I never doubted it. It's a mystery, but I never felt unloved by her for even when she made a mistake, I understood there was love behind it. Her words come to mind now and then, I remember one day when I was complaining that I wasn't as pretty as so and so, she simply said: "You're always going to come up short if you compare yourself to other people. Just be the best you can be."At the time her words weren't very consoling but it planted a seed in me to understand myself rather than measure my self worth by comparing myself to others. It's taken me awhile to appreciate her words, but still they stay with me, as do the words of other wise elders I've met. There are so many things that have been said to me that have stayed with me to both haunt me, and  guide me throughout my life.


      I wrote a lot of this blog entry a couple of months ago, but the question of what words I wanted to leave my grandchildren with has really been pressing to me. I even made a few changes in my life to help me restore some integrity to my word. I began the process of fulfilling a life long dream of writing a book for children. I started brushing off the dust on my books on spirituality, and actually take time to read them every day. I started eating better, and I even got a life coach to help me keep on track with some of my goals. 

      There is an urgency to writing this blog, a need to express  gratitude for all I have been given. So much of my life has been spent feeling sorry or bad about the content of my life, that somehow, the gifts of having a "normal life" had passed me by, and that I would never measure up to my more successful friends. I now see that it has all been a perfect reflection showing me what I needed to learn. I have a growing appreciation for all those around me, even those who test my limits, and "bring out my Irish". I will remember John Mellencamp's grandmother's words: "....life is short in its longest days." but I want to hear them without fear and regret. I also want to honor my own grandmother's words to "be the best I can be." but even more pressing is to be rested in what is true and real so when that final day comes that there is the ability to do so with humor, clarity, and gratitude.
   


If you'd like to hear more of John Mellencamp's interview with Terry Gross go to:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129303836
Thursday, July 1, 2010

My Death/My Life


                                                 Surrender/The Emergence and the Departure

     This last weekend, I attended a consideration on the Death process in the Way of the Heart. The speaker was a long time practitioner of  Adidam, a way of life  founded by the spiritual master Adi Da Samaraj. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I felt enlivened (ironically perhaps) by this consideration of human mortality, and while not free of the fear of my mortality, at least moved to make my death an easier transition, not only for me, but for my family.

     For many of us when we  get into our fifties, things start to fall apart. I've started to notice that I'm not at all where I expected to be at this point in my life, and the need to prioritize has become very key to my day-to-day existence. I have to take better care of my body and mind. I can't waste as much time on negativity, or trivial pursuits, without suffering the consequences. My body needs more rest, and my mind needs more refreshment. My heart needs to feel openness.

     Last year, I was rushed to the emergency room by my son-in-law with extreme gastrointestinal distress. I had to carry a basin around with me, because I couldn't stop throwing up. Turns out my "huge-ass gallstone" (as one doctor referred to a few years before hand) had created acute pancreatitis. Surgery was required, and on top of that, I managed to catch a viral form of colitis that manifested after the surgery. A surgery that should have been an hour was four. A hospital stay that should have been a couple of days, turned into almost a couple of weeks. I had no idea, that the body could suffer so much, and still not die. My fear of death started to take on enormous proportions, just as my gallstone had. I felt defenseless; powerless to control my situation. Being in the "sterile" hospital environment is a kind of sensory deprivation. While there were some wonderful people who were helping me along, I could not seem to control the wild mind that was terrorizing me, and my body could not be consoled. I somehow developed an allergy to the pain medications, and while they helped with the pain, they didn't help with my growing foulness of spirit. I was quarantined for the last week of my stay, and I began to panic. They would not make my release easy until my tests clear that I was free of the colitis, but I felt like I was dying of shock. I had to get released. I wanted to feel the fresh air on my skin again.  I almost snuck out one night, but being so weak, I couldn't really do it on my own, and in all good conscience, I didn't want to expose anyone to the virus I'd been exposed to.

     Previously, I had maintained a good attitude during the first week of my stay. Getting bodywork, walking to keep my strength up, and even visiting other patients to cheer them up, but the quarantine and the painful colitis on top of the surgery,  was more than I was equipped to deal with. Finally, my test came back clear of this particular contagious inflammatory illness. I was released from the hospital with a warning that this didn't mean it was gone, but still it was enough to send me on my way. My surgeon joked that I had experienced enough problems for two people during my stay.

     The day I was released, it just so happened to coincide with a time that my family couldn't pick me up. A friend came, and helped me gather my things. The nurse wheeled me down to the front of the hospital. It had just rained. It was an early spring day, the sun was now shining, and I sat in front of tree full of pink blossoms still wet with the rain,from the previous day. Each blossom reflected the light like small magenta crystals. The fragrant smell of earth caressed me. I sat there and wept uncontrollably. My friend asked why I was so sad. I simply said, " I didn't think I'd see this again." It was true enough, but really the truth lie more with the fact that was that I was overwhelmed with gratitude. I saw that this was the tree of life before me and my connection to life's inherent divinity was always present. It was I who had abandoned "God." My friend was his usually abrupt self, but he was patient enough and kind, but still I felt very aware of how different our perceptions of the reality around us was. I felt raw - exposed and sat gently unto myself on the ride home.

     It is only in laying this story out today that I realize the profound gift of that moment. I was given the gift of insight into my relationship into life and death. The tree before me reached to the "Bright", and the roots to the underworld of existence. The "Bright" is a term used in the writings of Adi Da Samaraj to describe complete spiritual enlightenment. The paradox of human existence branched, literally and figuratively out before me. Also, I was able to see that even the suffering, although unbearable at times, was a necessary experience for me at that time. It was necessary because it showed me where I was limited, and that I still had a lot of work to do to transcend my fear.

     In exploring this experience, I see that I must give myself to preparing for this process much like I prepared for the birth of my children. Searching out a midwife, reading books that helped me prepare, and giving time to others to help them in this process of preparation. As the old adage says: "No one gets out of here alive.

     A few weeks ago, I started making a series of collages. I had photographed myself, with the appearance of death. It wasn't my intention to be morose, but to bring light into that inevitable experience. Also, the "me" who "I" think to be is no more than an abstraction really. I can no more really know what "I" am in total than an ant can describe it's work ethic. It exists for the whole of its clan. We humans want to live under the pretense of being separated individuated egos as if there is some ultimate fulfillment that will immortalize us. For the most part we want to be like rock stars famous for our contributions. The truth of it is, perhaps our contributions may be more humble. Even those of us have more monumental contributions, face the unknown realities that death brings. I won't pretend to have mastered any great yogic skills that will lift me out of the painful aspects of this process, but it is my heartfelt wish to turn to my greatest help:

"Death is a necessary, purposeful, and ultimately benign psycho-physical process. It is similar to the process of giving birth, except that it happens to both males and females. You must study the death process bodily and through observing others. Above all, tension and fear must be relaxed during the death process (as it must be by a woman during childbirth). You must relax and release, as when going to sleep, in a feeling of deep trust, love and surrender to the Divine Reality on Which the process depends."
                                                                         EASY DEATH / Adi Da Samaraj

      By no means, is my exploration here, a kind of suicidal ideation. It is more a way of holding my life closer. By admitting my death, I can embrace my life as is.  As they say in 12 step programs; "Gratitude is the attitude."

     I'm including another collage here that I initially entitled "Forest Goddess". I realize now that my unconscious was pointing me to that experience outside the hospital where I briefly looked inside the door of the Divine Reality, The Tree of Life.

                                                           The Divine Reality/The Tree of Life



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I'm a mother, and a grandmother. 

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