Monday, December 29, 2008

Saga - Another name for "crone"

“…the word saga has been translated out of its original meaning, which was ‘She-Who-Speaks,’ that is, an oracular priestess, such as were formerly associated with sacred poetry. The literal meaning of saga was ‘female sage.’ The written sagas of Scandinavia were originally sacred histories kept by female sagas or ‘sayers,’ who knew how to write them in runic script. Among northern tribes, men were usually illiterate. Writing and reading the runes were female occupations. Consequently, runes were associated with witchcraft by medieval Christian authorities. To them, saga became a synonym for witch."     
”Barbara G. Walker, The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom, and Power*

I was thinking about Julie's eloquent comment below, reflecting on the depths that aging brings to the so-called "dark and light" within the stories of our lives, weaving an increasingly visible gestalt. And "Compost" (one of my favorite words, derived from the town of Compostella, wherein a famous "black Madonna" is housed)..... is another, more organic word for "Transmutation" wherein "gold" is distilled. Composting is the alchemy of life, going on all the time within the depths of Earth. Thanks again, Julie.

"Working with the archetype of the shadow means we are mining that darkness for its hidden riches...........Claiming the golden riches out of my compost is harder for me - but emerging crone hood makes it easier."** (1)

I was wondering if there was another word for the emergence of the "Crone" archetype, and I remembered a Saga Storytelling Festival I was once invited to attend. "Saga" is a Scandinavian word that means not only "a long, ancestral or heroic story". According to the dictionary, "Saga" is:

1. a. Any of the narrative compositions in prose that were written in Iceland or Norway during the middle ages; in English use often applied spec. to those which embody the traditional history of Icelandic families or of the kings of Norway….
b. transf. A narrative having the (real or supposed) characteristics of the Icelandic sagas; a story of heroic achievement or marvellous adventure. Also, a novel or series of novels recounting the history of a family through several generations, as The Forsyte Saga, etc. Now freq. in weakened use, a long and complicated (account of a) series of more or less loosely connected events.

”The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (1989), s.v. “saga.” 

 According to mythologist Barbara Walker, Saga also means "She Who Speaks". Similar to the masculine "Sage", a Saga is a wise old woman, a female mentor and teacher. Similar, but not, to my mind, quite the same in it's meanings, and that is because of the context of "story" that imbues the word and its origins.

She-Who-Speaks is the potent teller of story, because she embodies, within her long life, a long, interwoven, generational, story - a Saga. The Saga hold a thread that weaves through many lives into the distant past, and she casts her warp and weft with her telling forward into the lives of Sagas to come. Here is another one of Spider Woman's many names! 

I want to pursue this a bit farther - but will have to close for today with bit of information about a fascinating book along these lines (or threads), called "My Grandmother's Hair", by Ann Elizabeth Carson (2006). "Our stories", she wrote, "never leave our bodies." Here is a review about this important book, written by a contemporary Saga.

"Our family stories make our memories and shape our lives. "

"Poignant, honest and endearing, My Grandmother's Hair tells the story of how her art kept Ann Elizabeth Carson alive and showed her the truth as she re-membered and relived the stories her own life embodied. A study of power and psyche, My Grandmother's Hair delves into personal and social stories about how power is realized and suppressed in the body. The author explores how the connections of our memories are made in the body and tells the stories of those whose lives and memories are often ignored. My Grandmother's Hair cracks open with the life-changing story of Ann Carson's grandmother: the moment her husband demanded she cut off her hair, and the single cry of anguish she let out during the act. That story resurfaces, eventually becoming relevant in the author's own life. Carson shows how the myths and archetypes of our culture layer with our memories — spoken or buried, our own or our elders- -and have so much to do with the way we live our lives. She brings to light the tendency we all have to "live in that twilight zone where you say you believe one thing so you can be part of a community, while quietly living your own truth in order to save your sanity." Then she bravely shares her own healing journey of coming out of the twilight zone so we may all discover that tapping into the images and languages of our own experience — our memories — can nourish and encourage us."


*(San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), p. 52. (Quote is taken from the website of The SAGA Centre for Studies in Autobiography, Gender, and Age, University of British Columbia )

** Julie's very insightful Blog, "Emerging Crone" is found at


On the subject of composting, or rituals of transmutation, I'm going to tell something very personal here. My brother has had a brain stem stroke, and there is very little hope for his physical recovery. I do not feel, personally, that he is inhabiting his body now.

Glenn, in many ways, withdrew from the world in his later years, and the sweetness of his character I remember from when we were children became overcast with loneliness, and personal despair. He became obsessed with "survivalist" ideas, and subscribed to certain newsletters I personally found disturbing in their paranoia. In his closet I found a collection of guns. 

Last night, I prayed for his release from the dark dreams and loneliness that have encrusted his spirit for the past decade, and I made a ritual of burning that literature. The ashes I took to the garden, watering them so they could represent release and lightening of his spirit, and new growth in the "soil" of life. I sold the guns, and sent the proceeds to THE HUNDRED FRIENDS PROJECT in his name. Those guns, which represented fear and anger, are now turned into money that will build schools in Afghanistan (thanks to Marc Gold), and help children in orphanages in Cambodia and Nepal. I am certain that this is what he would wish.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Dark Side of the Light Chasers

I have resolved to chose a number of topics, and write short articles, as I've been invited to contribute articles to several on line magazines. I do not by any means consider myself a very good journalist, but I'm glad of the opportunity, and can use the discipline.

I made a committment to write in this blog, and whether it should be information or aesthetic resource, I haven't yet really determined. I am not uncomfortable, exactly, with the notion "personal", because, as a feminist, I've been saying that the personal is political for a good 30 years.

How can the personal not be spiritual, political, and what informs our aesthetics as well? As above, so below. I think what I am uncomfortable with is ironic: because of the often spiritual or metaphysical nature of my art work, I've become afraid to express the dark, the painful, the depressed, the "negative". Which of course only makes me want to do it more, the same way I used to end up dancing around with a lampshade on my head at formal occasions after a few rounds of tequila shots (in my much younger years). Make something taboo and watch how interesting it suddenly becomes.

Although I've read everything from Quantum Psychology to Peace Pilgrim's Memoirs and Caroline Myss "Anatomy of the Spirit", in reality, I am not a "positive" person by nature, and often have to work very hard to shift my consciousness away from habitual dark tracks. Sometimes, I don't want to. A good depression can inform one of authentic needs, a tantrum releases blocked or stagnant energy, getting pissed off is sometimes not only appropriate but absolutely necessary. In fact, with Cronehood, I've become outright irritable. And all of my pretty and charming masks have dissolved.

Don't get me wrong..........I absolutely agree with the necessity for positive thinking and affirmation. Equally, as someone who has suffered with depression, who wakes up remembering that thousands of species are passing out of existance every week, That all that cheery seasonal consumerism comes at the expense of the planet's health, as one who personally must deal, as most people must, with the suffering to be found in a hospital ..... I confess I have a horror of the "dark side of the light chasers" (this is the title of a book by psychologist Debbie Ford (1998). One of my favorite quotes is by (again) Ursula Leguin: "Light is the Left Hand of Darkness".

Sometimes the soul needs a wailing wall, and sometimes the spirit needs to ferment and incubate in its depressions, and sometimes the heart needs to tell its dark story in order to heal. Any actor knows that a full spectrum emotional affect is necessary to create a profound performance.
And those who are too preoccupied with their "purity" have a tendancy to project their shadows elsewhere..........

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spider Woman on the Road

Great Mother, Thank you for this day, My life, My strand on the Web, the Vibration it makes. Keep me in tune, in Harmony with Your Purpose. Let me serve. Xia, The Temple of the Goddess, Los Angeles

I woke up this morning feeling very sorry for myself, as I often do, the "victim act" being my primary character flaw, a "weaving" of my mind that has depleted so much of my creative life force........then I remembered, again, that Spider Woman and the great Divine quite literally "dropped in" for a little wake up call not so very long ago in the form of a wonderful syncronicity. Flooded with that miraculous memory, I kicked myself in my metaphorical butt, dedicated some of my morning coffee as an offering to the rising sun and the great privilege of being alive another day, and here I sit to tell the tale. It's a long, barren stretch from Hatch to Deming. Vast treeless desert, blue shapes of jagged treeless mountains in the distance, fifty miles without even a gas station. Driving west, the setting sun is blinding, so I wear a baseball cap pulled down low over my sunglasses when the glare is especially brutal, just before the sun tips below the horizon. With that glare before me my mind wandered to an astrological consultation I had, on a whim, recently. The astrologer did something called astrocartography, and I was surprised with his accuracy. He pointed out that Indonesia was a well aspected place (Bali has indeed been a huge inspiration for me). And the places he mentioned on the east coast - are the very places I've been drawn to in heart, over and over again. It seems that Tucson and Phoenix are just about the most unauspicious places I could find to live. In the corner of the chart, he pencilled "born teacher". I was thinking idly of that, how aimless I feel about my goals these days, how out of touch with what I used to call "guidance". Specifically, I was thinking wistfully "they want me to teach", and wondering if I had anything worth teaching anyone. Suddenly a tiny spider dropped down on its web, right before my eyes in the glare of the setting sun, from the hood of the baseball cap. It startled me so that I swerved the car........then it dropped down onto my lap and disappeared! Syncronicities are like waking dreams, an engagement with the greater conversant intelligence we are a part of. I ponder them as I would ponder a dream. Because I dream so little, they are far more significant to me. I don't think this is difficult to interpret - I was thinking of teaching, and a spider dropped down literally before my eyes, weaving it's strand. When you're as stubbornly dense as I am, I suspect Spider Woman, who has a great sense of humor, needs to manifest in not so subtle ways! I'd call that a "Webbed Vision" in dynamic progress! (Well, I'll return to this a little later. The rock and roll noise level in this cafe is winning, and I am going to have to flee until I can find a place one can think in. I like Wi Fi, but forgot that there is nowhere left as far as I know in Tucson where one can drink coffee without being blasted with loud adolescent sex music. Did I say that?.......) Well, I was just packing up the computer, and would you believe, they switched the music to Christmas music by Frank Sinatra? So with pleasure and relief, I sit a bit longer and sip my delectable coffee. I note one more syncronicity. My motorhome is in a strange but very appreciated rv court in T or C - it is full of people over 50 who are basically amiable hermits, living frugal lives in their rv's or trailors. Most of them are sensitive souls, educated and full of stories about interesting lives. Joanne, next to me, was a professor somewhere in Maine, and her trailor is so full of books she can hardly move. When it's cold, she's like a hermit crab that never comes out of her shell. Down the way is Jeff, who organized the local poetry group, and has committed to writing a poem of the day. There's a new trailor on the other side of me, occupied by an elderly but spry man named Carl. We've been introduced, but that's about it. Yesterday, as I was packing my car, he spontaneously started telling me about his near death experiences, and the several times he has had what is called an "out of body experience". He said that when that happens, we instantly know that we are far more than physical, and all the fear of death disappears. I thanked him, took off on my long trip to Tucson, and Glenn. It was a surprising comfort from a stranger.

“What might we see, how might we act, if we saw with a webbed vision? The world seen through a web of relationships…as delicate as spider’s silk, yet strong enough to hang a bridge on.”

Catherine Keller, Theologian

From a Broken Web

I want to thank those who left entries on this blog, again, for your wisdom.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Still from movie "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly", 2007

I'd like to thank the kind people who responded to the previous post with sympathy and wisdom. I genuinely appreciate your generosity. It is so good to know that there are kindred souls literally all over the world.

I may not be able to be consistent with blog entries for a while, as the demands of my family's needs press me. My mother is 91, and my brother has lived with her as her caretaker. They have taken him to Phoenix, which is a 100 mile drive from Tucson, so the visits are long endeavors. I'm working to get the insurance necessary to bring him to Tucson. What the longer term prospects are for him, I don't know. Glenn has had a brain stem stroke, and the prospects aren't good - it is hard, with such, to know what kind of recovery he may make, if there is to be a recovery. This is something my mother and other brother will not, or cannot, contemplate, and so I am also isolated in this. As it is, Glenn may have "locked in" syndrome, which means, he can perceive, hear or perhaps see, and cannot communicate.

I have tried asking him to blink, or to move his feet, but am unable to determine whether he responds with volition or not. I do not know what kind of therapy he will get in Phoenix. I am overwhelmed, frankly, with this situation. These circumstances leave me mute..........I do not know how to ease my brother's suffering, I also do not know how to come to terms with the aspects of myself that are overwhelmed with the needs of my family and my own needs. I will do my best, and the best I can do ultimately is to be aware. I will try to not deplete myself with guilt or the other emotions that follow.

I'm in T or C for a few days, a friend from NY will be taking the studio I just finished, which leaves me with a wistful feeling. In my imagination it is full of paints and canvases ready to become interior universes...........well, someday I hope, and the best laid plans of mice and men, etc................ here is a quote by my favorite author (who has created many, many universes that I've come to visit and occasionally inhabit). I put it on the inside door, alongside a yin/yang symbol. It will be a blessing for the fecundity of the place. Sometimes, I wonder about my obsession with painting and renovating rundown storefronts and motorhomes and rooms and yards and circles of stones in woods ........ I think I'm always running around making studios, theatres, sacred places, shrines........making creative wombs for the Divine to manifest, even if I can't be there to see it happen. Making containers..............

"To create difference - to establish strangeness - then to let the fiery arc of human emotion leap and close the gap: this acrobatics of the imagination fascinates and satisfies me as no other." ......Ursula K. Le Guin

I wanted to share something about an extraordinary book, and now a recent movie based upon the book by Jean-Dominique Bauby. This book would not have come to my attention had my brother's stroke not occurred. I take the liberty (and I sure hope I never get caught with all the liberties I take in this blog of copying the writings of others.......if I do, I hope there is some humanity in the publishing world that sees it is from admiration, and I am careful to give the credit due).........I take the liberty thus of copying below a review by Thomas Mallon, with links to the review. Also, should anyone want to purchase the book, here's how you can buy it from Amazon:

"I can weep discreetly. People think my eye is watering."

Jean-Dominique Bauby

"I think you need to go into his world in order to get out of his world. And he said the only way he could escape his diving bell was through his imagination and his memory."

Julian Schnabel, Director The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

June 15, 1997
In the Blink of an Eye

After a devastating stroke, the author dictated this memoir using only his left eyelid


By Jean-Dominique Bauby.
Translated by Jeremy Leggatt.
132 pp. New York:
Alfred A. Knopf. $20.

A year and a half ago, following a catastrophic stroke and weeks of deep coma in that same hospital, Jean-Dominique Bauby gradually ''surfaced'' into a new existence as a victim of ''locked-in syndrome,'' mentally alert but deprived of movement and speech. Just 44 years old, his body useless but still painful (''my hands, lying curled on the yellow sheets, are hurting, although I can't tell if they are burning hot or ice cold''), he was forced to recognize that his former life in Paris as the witty, high-living editor in chief of Elle magazine had become as unreachable as the books and trinkets across his hospital room, where he now lived ''like a hermit crab dug into his rock.''

His time ''as a perfectly functioning earthling'' ended, one might say, in the blink of an eye. But it was blinking -- that age-old image of heedless speed turned into literal, concentrated labor -- that saved Bauby from becoming just another object in the room. By moving his left eyelid in response to an alphabet rearranged according to the letters' frequency of use, Bauby managed to write a book as moving as Job's and as expansive, in its way, as any composed by the wheelchaired, boundless Stephen Hawking.

Jean-Dominique Bauby was the victim of a stroke that left his mind and one eye functioning -- enough to enable him to dictate "The Diving Suit and the Butterfly" to Claude Mendibil before dying of heart failure. (Jean-Louis Sieff)

''It is a simple enough system,'' he explains. ''You read off the alphabet . . . until, with a blink of my eye, I stop you at the letter to be noted. The maneuver is repeated for the letters that follow, so that fairly soon you have a whole word.'' Fairly soon! Less soon when the amanuensis anticipates and makes mistakes: ''One day when, attempting to ask for my glasses (lunettes), I was asked what I wanted to do with the moon (lune).''

Bauby allows that his ''communication system disqualifies repartee,'' but it does beautiful service to all sorts of physical and emotional description. ''There comes a time,'' he explains, ''when the heaping up of calamities brings on uncontrollable nervous laughter,'' but in this strong, slim volume the author displays a writerly control equal to his honesty: ''One day . . . I can find it amusing, in my 45th year, to be cleaned up and turned over, to have my bottom wiped and swaddled like a newborn's. I even derive a guilty pleasure from this total lapse into infancy. But the next day, the same procedure seems to me unbearably sad, and a tear rolls down through the lather a nurse's aide spreads over my cheeks.'' There are scenes in Bauby's narrative -- his discovery, in a windowpane, that he is not just ''reduced to the existence of a jellyfish'' but ''also horrible to behold'' -- that one might be inclined to describe as unbearably sad, if ''unbearable,'' thanks to this book, were not a word one will never again use quite so loosely.

The diving bell of Bauby's title is his corporeal trap, the butterfly his imagination: ''There is so much to do. You can wander off in space or in time, set out for Tierra del Fuego or for King Midas's court.'' Childhood fantasies of war heroism alternate with elaborate dreams of cooking, in which his pantry is a previous lifetime's memories of smells, tastes and textures: ''You can sit down to a meal at any hour, with no fuss or ceremony. If it's a restaurant, no need to call ahead. . . . The boeuf bourguignon is tender, the boeuf en gelee translucent, the apricot pie possesses just the requisite tartness.'' It's as if he'd reversed the most famous moment in Proust and used memory to bring back the madeleine..........

The author cultivates strong feelings, especially anger, to keep his spirit from atrophying along with his limbs. But despite occasional sarcastic eruptions, the book's tone, in Jeremy Leggatt's translation, is dominated by a sweet, even humorous, lyricism. Bauby notes with pleasure how, in his reordered alphabet, ''T and U, the tender components of tu . . . have not been separated,'' and he recounts his practical distribution of all the prayers coming his way: ''A woman I know enlisted a Cameroon holy man to procure me the goodwill of Africa's gods: I have assigned him my right eye. For my hearing problems I rely on the relationship between my devout mother-in-law and the monks of a Bordeaux brotherhood.''

to read the full review

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Waiting Rooms

Things have changed. My brother has had a devastating stroke, and has been lying in the Tucson Medical Center on life support for the past week. He is paralyzed - it seems that he can hear…….that he can respond by blinking his eyes, and possibly he has some control over his feet. It is terrible to imagine what he is experiencing, if he is fully conscious. I think of a book called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A week or so ago I was finishing off my studio and ordering paint. Now my day begins with going to the Intensive Care Unit to visit Glenn, dealing with insurance, then driving around Tucson unsure of where to go or what to do next. It’s strange. Yesterday I found myself at the Friends Meeting House downtown, talking to the woman there, but mostly just wanting to hang in the peaceful white room with the good energy, where they all meet to be silent together.

Here’s the deal. If grief teaches anything, and it is a GREAT TEACHER if you can stick around long enough to do some listening instead of running off in constant search of relief of the pain……(which is ok also)…….if grief teaches anything, it is that it levels away all the crap, and shows, unequivocally, that we really are one. One. One being, one world, one family, one humanity, one sorrow and story and beginning and ending. Energy that is consciousness moving in and out of form. Which is no consolation at all, when one is dealing with our individual lives, and all of the pain associated with simply being another finite animal on the breast of Mother Earth.

Glenn and I have been at conflict since we were very young, sibling rivalry that never resolved, just hardened and became more and more habitual. The truth is, he was the sensitive middle child, and became the family scapegoat, sustaining the brunt of my father’s abuse, and later, my mother’s dependency. As time went by, perhaps the only way he could survive at all was to wrap a thick, hostile wall around his psyche, with a huge “keep out” sign on the door. Every so often, he peeked out, but as the years went by, less so, and I never knew how to reach him. His anger and cynicism and the deeper depression was something I fled from, and in the past few years, absorbed and reflected in myself as well. Grief has a way of cracking the shell. All these years, trying to run away from my family, trying to sever the “ties”, and here I am. I don’t know how to help him. I sense that he’s getting ready to leave, and why should he want to stay in the body, with such a life?

Yesterday I sat by his bed and had a picture come into my mind – he was standing before me in his ridiculous hospital gown, waving at all the plastic tubes and bottles that are attached to his body, jumping up and down, as if to gesture “no more, no more, stop it”. But that could be my imagination as much as an actual psychic event………..I have, to be honest, no confidence anymore in my psychic abilities, especially where the concerns are personal. What is so terrible about this is of course the feeling of helplessness, that there is nothing I can do to make Glenn better, or to free him from his pain. I cannot speak for the desires of another, but I know that if this happened to me, I would want the plugs pulled, and release from a life that is no longer worth living.

Is this appropriate for me to put this entry into this Blog? I don't know. But it's the truth of my life at this moment. May the light of Grace come to Glenn.

I remember the good times, brother, we've travelled together in this family, seen some things together. I love you. I don't know what to do.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Yellow Leaf Press

Since I seem to be on a roll these days with the sheer delight of making (and finishing books that have been long in the process), I've decided to inaugurate (the timing seems good as well) YELLOW LEAF PRESS.

YELLOW LEAF will produce (along with my 4 books - THE MASKS OF THE GODDESS, THE ARTIST'S ORACULAR COOKBOOK, A HOUSE OF DOORS, and SPIDER WOMAN'S HANDS. I hope that in the future I will be able to facilitate, design, or produce through my very humble publishing empire unique, beautiful limited edition books for other artists, poets, and innovators.

Even a decade ago the technology did not exist for people like myself to get their work published ....I know from experience, having had literary agents and submitted many proposals for books to publishing houses.........that it was a very daunting, and disheartening, process.

What I enjoy about the technology that is allowing artists to create professional, beautifully illustrated books through self-publishing is, well, that they can. We can publish on an individual order basis, rather than having to make a huge outlay for a quantity of books. We can market ourselves to our clients, collectors, and at the events we attend, as well as to bookstores and museum shops.

The disadvantages are obvious - the books are more expensive than a commercially printed book would be, and would not generally have the distribution of a commercially printed book.

Which is why they are unique, limited edition, special collectors books.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A House of Doors ~ open poems~

The deep parts of my life
pour onward,
as if the river shores
were opening out.

It seems as if things
are more like me now

that I can see farther into paintings

I feel closer
to what language can't reach.

Rainer Maria Rilke

I feel enormously grateful to have finished  my 5th book, A HOUSE OF DOORS - my little collection of poems that span 40 years.   (update -  I have just made an EBook edition:  cost: $1.00)  (

Most of these poems are mine, but also included are "found poems", the collection of poetry by Joanna Brouk and Felicia Miller, with the illustrations I did for them back in the early '70's when we were young artists in Berkeley.

I have never been a prolific poet by any means...........I am a visual person first and foremost in my communicating and thinking processes. All of the poetry  worth sharing I put into this little book, and I'm well pleased, as I was to finally complete the MASKS OF THE GODDESS book. Honoring the Past, the Muse, the Friends, the Communities, Myself, and the Divine is what this 6 month writing project has been about, and with this book, I feel free to move on and give my attention to new projects.


the cool moon

bound by occult cords

through the houses

of memory and sleep

distills night in a bowl

But on the night 

of the full moon
what is mirrored

in a still pool?

Felicia Miller (1972)


At the river's edge
I laid my armor down
laid down my sword and bow
untied my hair

this I did for you

I approached you
lying in the grass

at the river's edge

your body brown
graceful as a tree

you waited for me

I approached you
with desire

O my enemy

Lauren Raine (1975)

                                                            light of morning

                                                            the fairest light,

                                                            the fairest light
                                                            has come
                                                            I feel its coming

                                                            night has given

                                                            night has given
                                                            a place to morning

                                                            breath returns

                                                            and moistens the grass
                                                            the bird's feather

                                                            no longer do I hide

                                                            no longer do I hide
                                                            gone into darkness

                                                            light has come

                                                          Joanna Brouk (1972)

  (5/2009)  As a footnote, because I published those poems on my website in 2006, Felicia found me on the Web, which resulted in us corresponding, and my finally going to Puerto Rico this August to meet her in person again. She's still a mermaid spinning stories about Undine, still the soul I remember well, still beautiful.)

(5/15/2015)  As a footnote to this footnote, I did indeed meet my friend Felicia again, near water as always (in Puerto Rico).  Felicia passed away  in 2010. I've written about her, and our meetings, in this Blog.   And I found Joanna again, in San Diego, in 2011, still beautiful, still making music and poetry, still a friend.  In fact here I sit at her kitchen table, visiting for the weekend.  Below is a pastel I did of her back in 1976.)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Truth or Consequences on Halloween

It's been a strange few weeks, since I moved to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I will be in and out of Tucson, but I've rented a small studio here, and have bought "Lucy" to an old trailor park with a 1940's bathhouse (T or C is famous for its hotsprings), just a few blocks from the peaceful Rio Grande. Since I've been here I've kind of lost my sense of time.......what locals refer to as the "New Mexico Effect". Land of Enchantment indeed.

Here's something wonderful that is happening very soon:

Festival of the Cranes, at the Bosque del Apache wetlands. This is where the migrating cranes wonderful! An event attended by thousands, and drawing many artists as well.

I can't believe that I'm living now beside the RIO GRANDE ("Great River"), in TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES. There's some kind of metaphor in there. As the painter Alex Grey said to me a long time ago, "I don't know why I do these things. There's an internal logic that doesn't necessarily reveal itself at the time".

Here I am........I think, to heal, and to open. And that is what this place of ancient hotsprings is admirably suited for.

Legend has it that before the Europeans came, this place was sacred to a number of native peoples, and they had an agreement to cease all traditional feuds and warfare when here so that all could enjoy the healing waters. Geronimo came here. When the white settlers came they actually filled in the hot springs (I'm not sure why, but it certainly says something interesting about our cultural heritage). They were not opened again until decades later, when the "wild west" was much tamer, and "taking the waters" became popular, and the railroads made "New Mexico Hot Springs" (which later became T or C because of the game show host) accessible. There are many old bathhouses, some of them crumbling, from the 1930's and 1940's. There is also a building with the legend "Magnolia Ellis" on it, currently occupied by a chiropractor. Apparently Magnolia was a famous energy healer and medical intuitive who practiced here in the 50's. They say people would wait to see her in a long line whenever she was open.

My mind clears in the extraordinary brilliant high desert light of New Mexico, my spirit clears beside the peaceful river, my body eases in the hot waters that come right up out of the Earth here. The urge to paint, to just immerse myself in vision, is so strong here. Theres a community here of artists and mystics as well, living simple and frugal lives to pursue their spiritual and creative means..........I am surprised at not only their friendliness and the clear openess in the eyes I look into here, but their sophistication as well. I've heard some potent poetry at the (only) poetry group's meetings on Sunday at the (only) coffee shop, which is also a used bookstore. The same coffee shop I bought a copy of the Nag Hammadi Library from (a steal at $4.50).

This community, because of its isolation, poverty, and because, I believe, the spirit of place as well, fosters a feeling of fellowship and mutual concern. What use competition or judgement here? There's nothing much to compete for, no one to impress! I guess I've spent so much time in Brushwood because I crave the same small community good heartedness. I've been here barely 2 weeks, and already have a short stack of books people have given me, food, and (of course) lots of helpful advice.

The Universe provides.

I think of a movie I saw a while back called "Off the Map". It's about, well, a group of people who live "off the grid" in New Mexico, and the way the land itself changes them. I can't help but feel that Spider Woman is alive and well here..........after all, the logo of the state is Spider Woman's Solar Cross.

I finished finally the hopefully last edition of my "Masks of the Goddess" book, a rather massive undertaking. It features many beautiful photographs by Thomas Lux and Peter Hughes. Its available to view on

I realize now that I've been so obsessed with finishing this book before Samhain because it was Samhain of 1999 when I began the project, and first saw that miraculous procession of living Goddesses emerge from the darkness of Ft. Mason Center for the Invocation of the Goddess at the Spiral Dance. That will always be one of the most wonderful moments of my life. Finishing the book is really my way of honoring the Goddesses, and the many people, as I now conclude and document my 7 year project. May this book keep the inspiration alive, and do justice to the privilege I was given.

This is what I found on the grid in the front of my motorhome, when I parked Lucy. I will take this as a little blessing for, once again, my new life.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Feast of Samhain (2.)


I offer now bread, red fruit, red wine

To life:

To the dreamers, planters and gatherers, 

to makers and unmakers, the innocent and the wise.

To the inarticulate, lost, hungry, and fallen, 

to every transparent lover

wandering these grey bardos in their solitude.

Come to the table, all. 

Here is a rich conversation harvested from the last living garden.

A dappled pear, an apple, a pomegranate.

A butterfly in it's chrysalis, winged, moist,

the slow rebirth of color deep in the depths of this dream.

The weathervanes will turn again.

The wheat has new life in it yet. 

The blessing will still be given.


The Feast of Samhain (1.)

"Skin Shedder" 1986

Where do the dead go?

The dead that are not corpses, cosmetically renewed
and boxed, their faces familiar and serene.
Or brought to an essence, pale ashes
in elegant cannisters.

I ask for the other dead,
those ghosts that wander
unshriven among our sleep,
haunting the borderlands of our lives.

The dead dreams,
The failed loves.
The quests, undertaken with full courage
and paid for in blood
that never found a dragon,
a Grail, a noble ordeal
and the Hero's sacred journey home.

Instead, the wrong fork was somehow taken,
or the road
wandered aimlessly, finally narrowing
to a tangled gully
and the Hero was lost,
in the gray and prosaic rain,
hungry, weary, to finally stop somewhere, anywhere
glad of bread, a fire, a little companionship.

Where is their graveyard?
Were they mourned?
Did we hold a wake,
bear flowers, eulogize

their bright efforts
their brave hopes

and commemorate their loss with honor?
A poem?
An imperishable stone
to mark their passing?

Did we give them back to the Earth
to nourish saplings yet to flower,
the unborn ones?

Or were they left to wander
in some unseen Bardo, unreleased, ungrieved.
Did we turn our backs on them unknowing,
their voices calling, whispering impotently

behind us
shadowing our steps?

Lauren Raine 1997

As Samhain approaches (Halloween to many), I feel a sharp kind of loneliness that has it's own brand of sweet melancholy. This is a new community for me, and I don't really know much of anyone to celebrate even profane Halloween, so I'll make my own Samhain remembrances alone. Although I do see some Dia de los Muertes posters, so the outlook for a celebration may not be that grim. I remember the Spiral Dances in San Francisco that I've participated in and created the masks for..............

Traditionally this was the time to celebrate the "Witche's New Year", the last Sabbat or sacred day (which is why it's called "Halloween", or "Hallowed evening". It is the closing of the old year, the last harvest festival, a time to honor the ancestors and all the events and gifts of the dying year as they prepared for the entry into the darkness and the long dormancy of winter. The veils between the worlds were very thin, and places were set at the banquet table for the spirits of those beloved dead who had passed on. You might see in any number of ancient Celtic communities people enjoying the last fresh apples, honey mead and beer, toasting and remembering the invisible ones, seated at the table, their plates heaped high as well. "Welcome, Welcome". Inherent in this celebration was a profound respect for the wheel of the year, always cycling, through human generations and through natural cycles of death and re-birth.

This, of course, is the real sacred origin and meaning of Halloween, which, although fun for kids to be scared and for adults to stage masquerade balls, has slid far away from it's sacred potency. Spirits, coming close to this world to join the feast, sometimes like to play tricks, hence, "trick or treat"'s not good, of course, to fail to leave a place at the table for Uncle Angus on such a high holy day! And of course, the skeletons and ghosts and funny it is to me sometimes that people love these things so much on Halloween, while they have no understanding of their origins or meanings.

Like the "Witch and her broom". The Broom is associated with many folk traditions of "sweeping away the old bad energies" - purification rituals for the home and Hearth (Heart).

Here is my gratitude to the year that is soon to pass away, and to all of those who have passed away from my life as well, people who have gifted me and created with me and evolved me - among them:

Peter Hughes, the photographer whose photos of my masks I am eternally grateful to.

Judy Foster, whose face became the mask of "Hecate", and who so magically gave me a home and community years ago, when my wandering spirit found its way to Berkeley.

Sequoia, fiery redhead activist I knew there.

Ilana Stein, who I met in my April class at Kripalu, and whose vision of the "White Goddess", and her poem and masks ....... was a true gift to all of us from the divine.

Dellie Dorfman - Cranky mentor and friend from my days as a psychic reader.

Bob Meyer - beloved friend from Vermont, who always gave me a couch and good advice.

and so many others: Here's lifting that glass of mead to all of you. A place is set at the table.

"So much in American life has had a corrupting influence on our requirements for social order. We live in a culture that has lost its memory. Very little in the specific shapes and traditions of our grandparents pasts instructs us in how to live today, or tells us who we are, or what demands will be made on us as members of society. The shrill estrangement some of us feel in our twenties has been replaced by a hangdog collective blues. With our burgeoning careers and families we want to join up but its difficult to know how or where. The changing conditions of life are no longer assimilated back into a common watering trough.

Now, with our senses enlivened – because that’s the only context we have to go by – we hook change onto change ad nauseum."

Gretel Erlich

Monday, October 13, 2008

Artist's Art Park Trailor Park?

On a prosaic note (especially in light of current economic news) I would like to introduce my new low-energy (at least, when standing), recycled & remodeled (by me), reasonably priced ($3,500.00), alternative energy (solar panels coming), no mortgage, no property taxes, movable HOUSE.
Who says you can't buy a house for under $4,000.00? Her name is "Lucy".

For obvious reasons, motor homes are quite inexpensive these days. While they often don't last long in the demanding weather of the East Coast, my Lucy was created in 1988, and was lovingly cared for by an elderly couple here in the Southwest. I have all the luxuries, of course, microwave, tv, bathtub, refrigerator, oven, air conditioner, etc. The only times my new home gets expensive is when I drive her anywhere, which is something I don't plan on doing very often - soon she will be settled in for the winter in a nice trailor court in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. I've had a lot of fun renovating the interior. Maybe not Architectural Digest, but I'm proud.

I was reading recently about a group of artists in England who are converting old trucking containers into affordable community housing.

and the artist's community Cove City in Scotland:

I'd like to point out that the same can, and has, been true of trailors and motor homes, especially if they are taken off the road and kept in a more or less permanent setting. Building a roof cover can eliminate the problem of roof leaks, floors can be preserved by mounting on cinder block, etc. I think of some permanently housed 1960's trailors I saw at a community in Mimbres, New Mexico which had been built into larger housing complexes (and still going strong) - one had even been incorporated into a "rammed earth" design.

The advantage of recycling trailors and motorhomes for housing is that they are cheap (and used ones are getting cheaper all the time), ubiquitous, can be moved just about anywhere because they incorporate the marvelous invention of the wheel, and they are already (usually) fully equipped "houses", saving the problem of having to do wiring or plumbing, etc. They are designed to run on propane as well as gas and electricity, and solar panels can be adapted. I once saw a school bus that had been outfitted with a woodstove as a portable sauna.......perhaps something like that could be done to a trailor as well by a creative carpenter.

The point of all this is that for years it's occurred to me it's an option for artists and other cultural creatives, at least for those seeking a place to winter. Imagine what would be possible if there was an "Art Park Trailor Park", and artists were invited to live and work there, provided they did something innovative and creative to the trailors they brought? (as well as some central planning and shared facilities).

Anyway, fun to imagine. I've found nothing like that in my searches. Now to head to New Mexico.

Rainbow in New Mexico (off of Route 25)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Post Script.......

In the liminal landscape of the traveller who can, at moments, be a pilgrim, there is a thin line between synchronicity and dream.

I'm interested in syncronicities, and so I notice them, and perhaps, because I notice, I create a resonance on the web. In other words, perhaps the Web itself "notices" me, and enfolds me in the enormous generosity of the "great conversation"

To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings.

The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. Everything is waiting for you.

-- David Whyte

from Everything is Waiting for You

©2003 Many Rivers Press

Friday, September 12, 2008

Spider Woman at Wickliffe Mounds.........

"Sun Circle" & "Spider Woman's Cross" on gourd
(and "the threads" reflections on the glass case seem to have created!))

I have always felt that my imagination is most open to the ubiquitous, syncronic voice of the Divine when I'm on the road. In other words, like many Americans who grew up in cars (and were probably conceived in one as well), I do my best thinking when I'm behind the wheel of on a highway somewhere. Travelling puts me into the creative liminal state of "between"- free from all the demands and paradigms that "destinations" impose ( the people, duties, reality tunnels, and potent unconscious imprints that "fix" the mind into "place"). Travelling is one of the ways I can hear the "conversation" ...... it turns down the noise.

I went to Paducah, Kentucky, on a lovely bright day full of vast green oaks, and later, heading south, decided to take a detour and visit Wicklife Mounds, an archaeological site that was once the home of a tribe of prehistoric Mississippian Native Americans. Going back as far as 1,000 years, these people built ceremonial areas, chief's houses, and burial houses on earth pyramids and stepped rectangular mounds. Over time, the mounds grew in elevation as houses were destroyed and rebuilt. Art, pottery, and religious and tribal iconography belonging to these diverse peoples are found throughout the Southeast, with iconic associations as far as Central Mexico, the Southwest and the Gulf of California, and as far north as Canada.

I didn't expect to find Spider Woman everywhere! But there She was! Casting her threads my way. I guess I'm not really surprised though - the first thing I encountered as I walked into the little visitor's center was the "Spider Gorget" above. Later, I thought of my "Spider Woman's Hands" piece when I saw the ubiquitous "Hand with Eye", also found on ceremonial jewelry (gorgets made from shells), and pottery.

No one really knows the specific meanings of these symbols to the peoples who once lived, warred and traded throughout the Southeast. Yet within them, I personally find a continuing beauty, a familiarity, a continuing trail. The cross is ubiquitous, the symbol of the balance and ultimate unity of the the 4 directions. The Sun Circle is also completely ubiquitous. I find it interesting that the cross is found on the back of Spider in their (presumably) ceremonial gorgets - perhaps why, when it occurs in Navajo rugs (much later and among a very different people who migrated into the South West) it's still called "Spider Woman's Cross". Yet here as well as in the religious symbolism of the peoples of the South West, it seems that Spider is associated with the Earth Mother, and with creation.

To me, the "Spider Gorget" will always be profound. At the center is the weaver "Tse Che Nako", "Thought Woman" to the Keresan Pueblo peoples. Spider, spinning the world into being with her imagination, in partnership with the illumination of the Sun, spinning and weaving all things together with her "silky essence". From her very own body, from her own substance, she spins and creates.

The cross represents (to me) divine balance within an ever expanding and infinitely interconnected web of life. The Hand with Eye may represent the Divine manifestation, as well as consciousness itself.

I was amazed to see objects with this Hand in circles (and I think of my own obsession with "Spider Woman's Hands". Here is a quote from an anthropologist who studied Zuni petroglyphs in the South West, among them the occurrence of "hand" symbols. (I apologize for the use of "primitives" in the description. A more ethnocentric era.).

".......when hands were so at one with the mind that they really formed a part of reconstitute the primitives' mentality, he (Cushing, in the 1880's) had to rediscover the movements of their hands, movements in which their language and their thought were inseparably united.......the Zuni who did not speak without his hands did not think without them either." 1

And so the Hand with Eye is a symbol of active consciousness (?) Perhaps, to create (weave) with active intention.

Here's another little synchronicity I found in the course of following this thread, one that is a kind of personal poetic, as I am always fascinated with words and their origins. "Wickliffe" might become "Wick - life", which I have little doubt is it's origin. "Wick", from which we get "wicker ware", "wicca", "witch" and "wick" as in the wick of a candle (this association is with an English word that meant both "weave" and "alive").. ...... so, I'll take WICKLIFFE to mean "Weaving Life" with a double affirmative!

What really matters is the necessity, profoundly so now, to understand that we are all intimately interconnected, entrained, entangled, and woven together into World, interconnected within the processes of manifestation. We absolutely must develop a webbed vision now. And that's what artists can do, provide potent and lasting vision.

Great Mother

Thank you for this day, My life,

My strand on the Web,

The vibration it makes.

Keep me in tune, In harmony

With your purpose.

Let me serve.


*Here's a lovely article I found by an astrologer about Spider Woman -

1 Levy-Bruhl 1985: from ROCK ART SYMBOLS OF THE GREATER SOUTHWEST, Alex Patterson, Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado.