Friday, August 31, 2007

Afterward - Syncronicity and Spiderwoman in Indiana

The moon is full and the night is very hot, somewhere in Missouri. Cicadas drone their mating calls, an August chorus. I’m still allergic to everything, wondering if my dignity is forever gone along with the use of my nose. But Magic has been afoot. Quite often I don’t write or talk about days like this, because I doubt others will see the wonderful intersections and weave that I see, worse, we'll try to figure out what it all "means".

Syncronicities are Spider Woman's way of saying "hello".

When synchronicities chose me, or I blunder into them, they flurry about with such literary qualities that I sometimes think its like being inside a novel where the plot is about to become clear. Ephemeral, transparent, funny, poetic strands.

“Tse Che Nako, the Spider,
is sitting in her room thinking of a story now.
I’m telling you the story
She is thinking.”

I had my map on the motel bed, ready to open yesterday a.m. I was thinking about two things. The first was the fact that I was 30 some miles from industrial Gary, Indiana, and the road was apparently flooded there. This could mean hours getting through Gary. And then there was Chicago. The prospect was not appealing. The other item on my mind were my friends Morgana and Phil, who live in Indianapolis. I’d been thinking of visiting them since Spring, but now assumed it was too late to just “pop in” unannounced.

I glanced at my dog-eared map, which had long ago lost its cover. Now the cover was page two of “Routes of Interest”, and my eye fell on “Indiana” (right in the center of the page, with “Louisiana” below it.) The authors suggested I take a scenic drive through West Baden and visit historic French Lick Springs. The prospect of possibly discovering a new hot spring seemed attractive, and I opened the map to find that I could head on down to Indianapolis, maybe convince my friends, on short notice, to have dinner with me, and if not, take a hilly route to a possible soak and end up on 64, which would eventually lead me to route 70, across Kansas, and the welcome road to Colorado.

The moon was fulling, and butterflies kept flying in and out of my field of vision. I decided a trip to Indianapolis was a good idea, and headed down the road, taking my bearings at Roseville. I would follow the “rose line”, a symbolic idea related to the Goddess that I’ve been thinking of before the Da Vinci Code.

I wondered why the place was called French Lick. I later learned that the area, before it was settled by white people, had been an important migration route for buffalo because of salt licks in the area. The new settlers had literally followed the buffalo to the wells. The first Europeans to settle at French Lick were French Jesuit missionaries, and one of the first businesses established in the area had to do with salt mining.

“Routes of Interest” informed me that I could have a soak at the Pluto Baths for $20.00. This is no longer true - any soaking areas where the public might have once taken the curative waters are now replaced with expensive spas. I don’t know why they were called Pluto Waters either, but there on the ceiling of the French Lick Spa were huge, Rococo, paintings of Pluto, Persephone, Orpheus, Eurydice, Cerberus, and the Underworld.

I felt a bit like I was within a personal mythic event, because the myth of Persephone and Hades has been significant to me for many years - my little novel, THE SONG OF MEDUSA, was based on it. I have identified with the Persephone archetype strongly in my past - Jennifer Barker and Roger Woolger wrote eloquently about this in their 1989 book "The Goddess Within", a book that informed much of my interest in Goddess spirituality. A page mark in my own story. It is interesting to note that Pluto means "wealth". The wealth of the below, the hidden, the depths of the earth. Or, as Robert Bly has pointed out, the inner life of the psyche:

"Pluto, or Hades, took Persephone downward and inward. She went to live with Pluto, whose name means "wealth", and so all of us go, when we go into "walled garden" to encounter the wealth of the psyche, which is especially rich with grief." (Iron John, 1990)

What the area meant to the native people who lived there, I do not know, although I’m sure it was, like all places where healing waters bubble out of the earth, a sacred place. Maybe it was a place of pilgrimage, in the same way that people still go to the Chalice Well in Ireland. It is still a place where native people make Vision Quest. Where they go to "talk with the Earth". I thought of Phil making his prayer ties while he was there in the Spring for his ceremony, I thought of the Irish who still tie “Klooties”, which are essentially prayer ties, on bushes near holy wells and springs, and I thought about the prayer ties Kathy Space and I just created in Midland, resting on a podium at my show just a few weeks ago.

Morgana and Phil are extraordinary people, extraordinary healers. They’re a rare and complimentary partnership, Phil specializing in massage and physical therapy, and Morgana is a Reiki master, intuitive healer and psychic. In the past year they had begun working at a metaphysical store in Indianapolis, and their dream had long been to open a healing center of their own, but the financial means was never available. When I met them two years ago while we were camping at Brushwood, we took an immediate liking to each other, and I traded one of my Earth Shrine sculptures in exchange for body work with Phil, and Morgana gave me the first degree Reiki initiation and I’ve often used the Reiki to ease breathing when I’m asthmatic. Both Morgana and Phil exude energy. Phil has participated in the Sun Dance for years.

When I got to Indianapolis, I met them at a Border’s bookstore, and they took me to the metaphysical center where they worked. Indianapolis - my mind was full of judgmental images of hostile rednecks, motorcycle races, and my fear of Baptists.

Many of my lessons this year have been about tolerance, and learning that I also am walking around with many assumptions and judgments that get in the way of what I preach. If the “Hoop of the Nations” Black Elk envisioned is going to manifest, if the unity of diversity within Spiderwoman’s Web is going to harmonize - well, the process begins within each one of us. And so, waiting for my friends in a bookstore in Indianapolis, I idly picked up a local paper, which had a beautiful painting of Gaia as the Tree of Life right there on the cover. How many times have I painted this image myself?

“Never Make Assumptions” The Four Agreements

Morgana gave me the 2nd degree Reiki initiation. Then Phil worked on my eternally stiff neck, and I joined Morgana’s healing class where we did a meditation, and invoked Thoth, also called Hermes by the Greeks, god of healing, the god who brings “messages“. (He was on the ceiling of the French Lick Spa as well. Go figure.) By the time we had dinner, I was buzzing with energy.

My strand to weave this summer has been about coming out of the depression and disillusionment (and health issues) I’ve been mired in for so long, to become clearer, detox my spirit as well as my body, and begin a new year truly new. To re-weave my spirit back into the Web, into a renewed experience of connectedness. To open my heart again, which has become closed in many ways, for all my talk of unity. I’ve just had my birthday, in fact, I left Michigan on my birthday, August 19th, which seemed fitting. The ritual process was not just designed for the community of Midland, Michigan, but was my personal ritual process as well.

I learned that Phil went on his Vision Quest, preparatory to doing the Sun Dance this summer - at the state park in French Lick. The heart of French Lick is the recently restored white towered building behind formal gardens - West Baden Springs, “The Carlsbad of America”. This historic building was once called the “8th Wonder of the World” because it boasted the largest suspended glassed dome in the world. Restored finally only within the past year to its original turn of the century splendor, 6 stories of guest rooms, spas, restaurants, and bars encircle a huge sunlight center, with inlaid marble tiled floor, and statues of the muses. Its stunning, an amazing architectural feat. I felt the ghosts all around me of a more elegant time, the guests come to "take the waters".

Here’s the synchronicity that tops them all. After the stock market crash of 1929, the owners. Bankrupt, sold the famous resort to the Jesuits for a dollar. For years it was a Jesuit seminary until 1967, when it was purchased by the Whitings of Midland, Michigan, and became a campus of Northwood University until 1983. Northwood, on whose campus I had just spent the summer! After that the building sat desolate until it was restored just this year!

Spiderwoman is still with me. I proceed down the road, awed.

Monday, August 27, 2007


"What is in my mind is a sort of
Chautauqua - like the traveling tent-show Chautauqua’s that used to move across America, an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer. The Chautauquas were pushed aside by faster -paced radio, movies and TV, and it seems to me the change was not entirely an improvement. Perhaps because of these changes the stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. In this Chautauqua I would like not to cut any new channels of consciousness but simply to dig deeper into old ones that have become silted in with the debris of thoughts grown stale, and platitudes too often repeated.

There are eras of human history in which the channels of thought have been too deeply cut and no change was possible, and nothing new ever happened, and “best” was a matter of dogma, but that is not the situation now. Now the stream of our common consciousness seems to be obliterating its own banks, flooding the lowlands, disconnecting and isolating the highlands and to no particular purpose other than the wasteful fulfillment of its own interna
l momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for."

Robert Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

Now that the project has ended, or at least is going to grow without needing me - well, what's next? Should I end this blog? I haven't been the most faithful blogger, and I honestly don't know what's next. But it gives me pleasure to see the process of the past few months archived here.

I know I called this journey a "vision quest", but it would be better to call it, as Robert Pirsig wrote - a Chautauqua. I happen to be in Chautauqua county again, at this very moment, enjoying the green saturated, moist light that inhabits this place, a peculiar place of geomantic potency that has been called “the burned over zone”. Because so much religious fervor, utopian dreams, and spiritual experiment has occurred here in the past 150 years, from the Suffragettes and Lily Dale school for mediums, to the Shiloh Community and the origins of Mormonism.

I hit the road looking for vision and adventure, and succeeded, although mostly its been about weaving into a more harmonious pattern various loose threads and frays of my self. Among other things, a lot of shadow work - getting to know on a more familial basis my demons, and realizing the real value of the conversation. I think I understand now why the fallen angel was called "Lucifer", which means "Light bearer". Because the shadow brings so much illumination, if we can but engage the dialogue.

But this has, now that I think about it, been a Chautauqua for me. Bringing forth what I know and have to share to a new community. It hasn't been easy, which is what makes it most valuable for me. I've learned a lot.

So, the question that rolls west with me now is - how do I define myself as an artist now, what is next? If I'm going to continue with my Chautauqua, then it will require a rigourous discipline on my part. Matt Burke, the other resident artist I made good friends with this summer, shared not a few conversations with me about this subject. The fact is, very few people do care, even those who are close to you. After years of returning to Tucson with my new work and adventures, I've become used to few if anyone I know acknowledging what I bring back, artistically or intellectually. That's how it is these days.

You have to let it go, and not concern yourself with how many people care about what what you're doing, not care about how much money you make or don't make, not care about what any institution or magazine or even colleague thinks art "is". Ultimately, it has to become your spiritual path, your meditation, your thread that weaves you into harmony and depth.

"The truest art I would strive for would be to give the page the same qualities as Earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding. Finally, the lessons of impermanence would teach this: loss constitutes an odd kind of fullness, and despair empties out into an unquenchable appetite for life"

Gretel Ehrlich
"The Solace of Open Spaces"

Thursday, August 16, 2007

reception tonight august 16th at the Midland Arts Center

Tomorrow I leave Midland, Fellowship completed, and Spider Woman's Web spun and still spinning. The show and talk last night was a great success! And I am very pleased that Kathy Space, and the Creative Spirit Center in Midland have decided to continue this Community Arts Project and will have another exhibition of the pieces, with new work as they include new participants, later in the year.

My sculptures will remain with Kathy to be included in the future show. Beyond that, I'm very happy indeed that the Web was woven, and continue to weave, even if I'm not here!

No artist could ask for more.

My gratitude to many: to Kathy Space and Space Studio, my collaborator. To the participants who worked with us to create this project. To my friend and colleague Matte Burke, for his insight and creative inspiration in the course of this residency. To Christiana and Nancy from the Center for all of their support and help. To the Midland Arts Center, and Northwood University for housing and resources, as well as the many days I've spent in the forests around the University.

And especially, to the Alden B. Dow Creativity Center - and the spirit of Alden Dow, whose presence is deeply felt here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Show at Midland Arts Center

"Thought Woman Weaving the World"

I wanted to post some of the images from the show that I'll be having with the other Fellows next week at the Midland Arts Center (August 16th from 7:00 to 9:00). My community arts project "Hands of the Spiderwoman - Weaving Ourselves Back Into the Web" will be on display, and I'll be giving a brief talk. I look forward to seeing participants there! And also look forward, after the residency ends next week, to some "down time" to process the work and insights of this summer.

Thanks again to so many who made the work possible, and most of all, to the Aldon B. Dow Creativity Center.

"Hands of Spider Woman - Healing the Rift"

Icon #7"We are the Weavers, We are the World"

"The River Face"

"Dancing on the Bones"

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


What we call fate

does not come to us from outside:

it goes forth from within us.

Rainier Maria Rilke

Friday, August 3, 2007

Progress Report

I've not had a chance to write much of late, as I and Kathy have been working with the small group of "weavers" here in Midland, casting faces and hands and thinking about what it means to "weave" our ways back into a greater sense of connectedness with each other, and the world.

Naturally, the realization that when one invokes ("to join") a ritual, a deity, a process, the web expands, and the changes happen in our own lives as well. That will take me a good day or two to write about sometime soon.

I like the pieces I did (as above) that have lively, chaotic threads coming out of hands, mouths, noses..........the vitality emerging from hands and mind. More on this later as well.

Mostly, the great joy of getting my hands in the good rich dirt, in this case, terra cotta dirt, and sculpting. I post here just a few pieces. Sculpting in clay, painting with delicious colors, dancing. All the same ecstasy.

The exhibit will be at the Midland Arts Center on the 16th of August, at 7:00. 17 people have participated, and we will be mounting 17 individual "icons" to create a mosaic, each hand connected to the next with the prayer ties we're weaving. I think it will be beautiful.