Thursday, June 28, 2007


Blood like holy water
shrouds each birth;

Waves that curl and sputter;
the forest veined and lined;
The earth is all the grace we need on earth

excerpt from "Contra Hopkins" by Arthur Naiman

I'm finding this blog difficult to maintain, although it was my intention to document the progress of this residency through August.

I've been given an apartment close to the river, surrounded with considerable forest, and I find the solitude more difficult than I imagined it would be, bringing confrontations with self and circumstance. Who am I, to ask to speak to the Earth, with art or anything else, who am I to try to talk about "connectedness"?

And yet........I woke up this morning with all of these questions, and the first thing I saw, as I turned on the light next to my laptop, was the "Book of Grace" by the Terma Company (1990), which I had been reading last night. Next to it, on the table, was a little spider that jumped (yes, jumped!) on to it. And sat there, right on the cover.

A spider on the Book of Grace.

Here it is, that living metaphor, the hand of the Spiderwoman.

How do we talk to the Earth?

Perhaps the Earth is talking to us all the time. With the mythic imagination, with synchronicity, with dreams, around and through each other and all the beings we encounter, of which we are only one variation. The dominant species, but only one among many.

The real question is, how can we learn again how to join the conversation, and urgently, how can we speak for the Earth. For all those Relations voiceless before the forces of modernity, the momentum of the 6th Extinction - and for those, like my own new grandson, who must live within the consequences of my time.

Stephanie and Yugi, my dancer colleagues, have decided to collaborate with me on the short performance we will give at the end of the residency, for which I'm very grateful.

And while walking in the forest near me yesterday, I saw how the collaboration with Kathi from Space Ceramic Studio here could work. I think I'll call it Prayers for the Earth, and we'll invite the participants to make terra cotta (bisque fire) masks from their own faces, along with casting their hands in the same manner. Each hand will hold a "thread" from the Web, knotted to symbolize their experience of connection, and with a personal prayer written into it. I think it will be both a beautiful work of art, individually and collectively, and a wonderful affirmation for all of us. I'm grateful indeed to Kathi Space and her husband for the inspiration.

I've been reading THE GURU PAPERS - Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. It's a brilliant and disturbing book that examines and challenges many of the assumptions inherent in both Western and Eastern spiritual traditions, as well as contemporary manifestations of these systems. I don't have the means to discuss the depths of this book at present, but the most important point the authors develop, for me, concerns the evolution, the "masks" of authoritarianism inherent in our "renunciate" traditions.

They illustrate, over and over again, from Animism to Polytheism to Monotheism (including New Age variations on these themes ) the ways in which our religious and spiritual systems have increasingly abstracted humanity from any kind of conversant relatedness to the earth. Indeed, even to our own embodied existence.

As I read, coincidentally, the word "numinous" kept coming into my mind.

"Numinous" derives from the Roman word "Numen". Interestingly, the dictionary defines the word as:

“ 1. Spirit inhabiting a place or object such as a tree, and 2. A guiding force”

The Goddess Pomona, Goddess of orchards and fruitfulness, was originally a local Roman “Numen”, a beneficent spirit of place, such as might be worshipped in the form of offerings at a sacred grove or spring, before she became a goddess as Roman culture evolved and became more complex.

To our ancient ancestors, perhaps the people who built Stonehenge, or Chaco Canyon, or the stone cairns in Putney Mountain, Vermont, or the Serpent Mound in Ohio, or those who made pilgrimages long ago to the beloved well of Brigit in Ireland …….. Perhaps to them, speaking with the Numen, the Spirit of Place, was not an abstract idea at all. It was an exchange.

"And there was colloquy
and conversation upon this world
and standing stones remain to bear a testimony
older yet, and lovelier far
this mystery, and I
will not forget."

Robin Williamson

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