Friday, June 22, 2018

Saraswati, Mangoes, and a Butterfly

                               Mango Season 

Struggling with unexpected fate
my tropical imagination
carries me still,
among volcanic archipelagos,
remembers the Island of the Gods
in mango season.

Here, heat rises
from waterless pavements.
I walk to the "Memory Care" unit
the long beige hallway, too familiar now.
Bewildered eyes regard me from wheelchairs.
The old man says, 
"Take me home. I don't belong here".
If I could,
if I only could,
I would take us all home.
Instead, I bring fruit
to share
imagining for them
mango season
in all its splendor.


Lately I've been looking back at old poems, old performance, archiving and re-discovering them as not only souvenirs of my past, but bits of myself that have become lost and need to be re-glued into the scrape book (or epic) of my life.  To be honest, I am also sometimes so overwhelmed by the ugliness of what is happening in this country that I go back to find strength in Beauty.  Careless I used to be, taking so much for granted.........but now I find my memories a treasure, and I praise the Beauties  I've been privileged to see, taste, hear.  

 I was a caretaker for my mother and my brother for years, and became familiar with nursing homes, watching strong people diminish as their souls gradually withdrew from this plane of being......and I had many days spent running urban errands, my vista a hot parking lot or a Fry's pharmacy.  Into the picture window of my mind at such times would often come the strangest and most vivid landscapes:  Bali and the great black volcano Kintamani  I once stood before,  or the sweet, sensual shapes of ripe mangoes, their great generosity and abundance always offered.  These poems come from that time. 

Love is Saraswati's river
flowing through our lands.
She will feed the rice fields,
She will accept our woven offerings.

She will bear our ashes
and the fires of Kintamani
to the sea.

Formless, she neither takes nor gives;
we impose these significances
upon the flowers we cast in her. 

From birth to death,
Saraswati's river sustains us to the sea.

a butterfly
hovers before me
in a parking lot 
no less a messenger of hope, 
vanishing at last
into some blue distance:
whole, winged,
always going home


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Summer Solstice Blessings to All!

by Denise Levertov

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension—though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it “Nature”; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be “Nature” too.

Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal—then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.

No one discovers
just where we’ve been, when we’re caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
—but we have changed, a little.

Denise Levertov

I woke early, on this longest day:
the light rose among
 the green conversation 
of  trees, a fading star, exultant starlings,
  two grey squirrels 
performing their morning ritual
greeting the only God 
they know, 

the Sun

Lauren Raine

Friday, June 15, 2018

"When the Word for World Was Mother"....... a re-discovered Performance from 1986

"Once upon a time the Word for World was Mother"

In 1986 I labored on a series of paintings, and an accompanying  electronic audio piece based upon re-mything the Biblical "Adam and Eve" story.  The performance was in collaboration with the wonderful Tucson artist Catherine Nash MFA.

 The painting, which was shown only once for that show, was big - 9 feet by 5 feet, and did not long survive being dragged around the country.  I still love it, and since I've been trying to archive my work these days, I confess that I still am sad that my "Gaia" painting had such a short existence.  I wanted to speak about the Tree of Life and our Mother Earth as being untended, degraded, forgotten.  The three figures represented the three aspects of the Goddess, and I wanted also to talk about how they were rising again in the world, confronting us all with the damage to our planet, our Mother Earth, and to the human spirit.

Only recently have I fully realized that these themes have never left me, occur over and over in, well, just about everything I do, one way or another.  I also recently realized that in pre-Biblical times, and also in early Judaism, the great Mother Goddess Asherah 2 was symbolized by a tree, and her devotees carried what was called an "Asherah pole", a piece of wood, to symbolize Her.  I think I have been a devotee of Asherah for a very long time, and perhaps this painting was my own attempt to speak for Her.

Much of my work then was inspired by Starhawk's Spiral Dance  and Charlene Spretnak's 

The Politics of Women's Spirituality: Essays on the Rise of Spiritual Power Within the Feminist Movement.  1  Years later it was my privilege to work with Starhawk and the Reclaiming Collective, and I made the "Masks of the Goddess" Collection for the 20th Annual Spiral Dance in 1999.  And I was also privileged to meet Charlene Spretnak in the 90's. 

The Performance piece that accompanied this show, and others,   I also lost in the course of the years,  until just recently I found some old cassette tapes.  I had them turned into CD's, and then my friend Kathy Keller re-mastered them a bit for me.  And now I have them back!  So I'm delighted to share and archive "When the Word for World was Mother" on my Blog!  



It is typical of establishment thinking to call, as Wikipedia does, an Asherah pole a "cult object" and Asherah a "fertility Goddess", even though this deity was regarded as a great deal more.   With an established patriarchal biblical backdrop,  it would not occur to the powers that be to call the biblical God "a tribal war god", or  the "Fall from the Garden of Eden" cult myth.  Paradigms are viewed through the language.   The  Wikipedia authors discussing Asherah  also mention (right away I might add)  that she is the "consort" of  a male god, establishing, mythologically speaking, her subordination.  When one considers that western religion has evolved to include a monotheistic male god who creates completely alone with no wife, has no mother, nor a daughter.........well, no surprise there.  The Mother archetype  is long gone in western theology.   What artists, scholars, spiritual leaders, archaeologists and mythologists were doing in 1982 to return the Divine Mother to the more important than ever.   

Friday, June 8, 2018

Chubasco! Monsoon! Waiting for the Rains...........

"Our Lady of the Desert Spring", performance from "The Awakening",
 a Play directed and produced by Annie Waters in Willits, Californis (2013)

In Southern Arizona, June is like January in, say, Minnesota - we just try to endure and survive it.  It's mind boggling hot in June, and dry, the month when fires start, when plants and people wilt, when kids fry eggs on the pavement a few times before becoming bored with it all.  Shimmering heat waves seem to rise from the asphalt pavement of parking lots, and people hurry from one air conditioned space to the next.  

We, and the parched and thirsty land, await Monsoon Season.  Chubasco, the great magnificent storms that, if all is well, begin in mid July and last sometimes into September.   The storms that seem to roll in the afternoons, announcing themselves with thunder and lightening, the delightfully scary and loud darkening of the sky, and then Boom!  A blessed wall of water descends (if the Thunder Gods are so inclined). 

Suddenly the streets fill with water, a river runs down Broadway, cars stop, and a few of us just stand in the rain getting drenched by the blessing of it all.  And then, just as quickly as they rolled in, the Katchinas, Chubasco, the Numina of the waters.........blow away, off to some other part of the desert.  Then you stand amazed at the river your street has become, the sound of emergency vehicles and car horns are heard (because there are always fools who try to drive in the midst of the downpour), magnificent rainbows are seen over Tucson, the pungent scent of chapparell is ubiquitous, and all are refreshed.  

Within two hours, the streets are dry, and seemingly overnight, the desert has greened and flowered.   Most of our water for the coming year comes from the Monsoons - if these patterns of rain should change, life here would cease.  Water is life.   Yes, we love our Monsoons!  

Sunday, June 3, 2018

"The Human Heart"........a poem by Campbell McGrath

"The Heart Sutra" (2009)


We construct it from tin and ambergris and clay,
ochre, graph paper,
a funnel of ghosts, whirlpool
in a downspout full of midsummer rain.

It is, for all its freedom and obstinacy,
an artifact of human agency
in its maverick intricacy,
its chaos reflected 
in earthly circumstance.

Its appetites mirrored by a hungry world
like the lights of the casino
in the coyote's eye. Old
as the odor of almonds in the hills around Solano,

filigreed and chancelled with flavor of blood oranges,
fashioned from moonlight,
yarn, nacre, cordite,
shaped and assembled valve by valve, flange by flange,

and finished with the carnal fire of interstellar dust.
We build the human heart
and lock it in its chest

and hope that what we have made can save us.

Campbell McGrath

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Wendell Berry - A 2013 Interview

"Accept what comes from silence. Make the best you can of it. Of the little words that come out of the silence, like prayers prayed back to the one who prays.  Make a poem that does not disturb the silence from which it came."
“It’s mighty hard right now to think of anything that’s precious that isn’t endangered.  There are no sacred and un-sacred places -  there are only sacred and desecrated places. My belief is that the world and our life in it are conditional gifts.” 
Wendell Berry

I was moved to share an interview with Wendell Berry, who has sometimes been called a
prophet of responsibility,” by another "prophet" I admire, journalist Bill Moyers.  Berry  lives and works on the Kentucky farm his family has tilled for 200 years, and is a true visionary and advocate  for the Earth.  He is a prolific writer, a poet, and an environmental  activist.  In 2011, he joined a four-day sit-in at the Kentucky governor’s office to protest mountaintop mining, a brutally destructive method of extracting coal. Moyers explores Berry’s views on civil disobedience as well as his strong opposition to agribusiness and massive industrial farms. They also discuss Berry’s support for sustainable farming and the local food movement.

“We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. 
And to take good care of it we have to know it.  And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.”

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry: Poet and Prophet is a collaboration between Mannes Productions, Inc. and Schumann Media Center, Inc., headed by Bill Moyers, which supports independent journalism and media programs to advance the understanding of the critical issues of democracy for the benefit of the public.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Barbara Gregson's Book on Community Theatre Arts

Theater Artists Play is a new book by my friend and colleague Barbara Gregson, and for all those interested in Masks, Performance arts, Mime, Storytelling, and perhaps most importantly, creating meaningful and beautiful theatre with all kinds of people and all kinds of communities - this is a book well worth owning.   Barbara has worked with many communities to create theatre, including schools, senior centers, prisons, handicapped - you name it - in the course of her 40 year career.  She has more knowledge and energy about how to help people "tell their stories" than anyone I've met.  Bravo Barbara, for publishing this seminal book!

Theater Artists Play    is  available on Amazon and also from her Website.  If you order from her directly she will send it back signed.  Gregson Theater brings mime, acting, masks, performance/mask making, set design, playwriting and other theater arts training to individuals and organizations of all types from schools to prisons and nursing homes. 

Theater Artists Play is an inspirational guide to creating  your own theater work. The book is for all would-be, used-to-be and wanna-be actors, mimes, storytellers, dancers, musicians, writers, and those who want to heal and tell our stories through the magic of theatre arts.