Friday, June 27, 2008

Chautauqua County revisited......

"Inspiration Stump" at Lilydale, New York - gathering spot for mediums at Spiritualist Church service.

"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 internal momentum. Some channel deepening seems called for."

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

I can't resist doing the "tourist thing", and sharing some photos, and one of my favorite quotes, about Chautauqua County, New York,, where I am at present. I've sent years visiting here, at Brushwood Folklore Center in Sherman where the big Pagan festivals are held in July (Sirius Rising & Starwood), at Lilydale, the oldest spiritualist community in the United States (150 years), and the Chautauqua Institute in Mayville on the great Lake Chautauqua.

The bad news is that it's been raining for pretty much the entire month of June, and my allergies are kicking up a storm as well as the Great Lakes. Who would have thought that my major battles at this point in my life are with microbes. Sometimes it's hard to maintain one's dignity when you are sneezing all the time, but I'll do my doddering best. Here is some of the beauty of the region.

Storms rolling in dramatically over the great Lake Goddess Erie.

Blue Heron rookery just south, near Pittsburgh.

This was a gift from my friend Wendy, who took me here. The Blue Heron has always been a guide, a messenger of beauty and inspiration to me. Imagine seeing hundreds of these solitary creatures in their nests in the trees!

A medium hangs out her sign in Lilydale.

Leolyn Woods - a rare old growth grove in Lilydale.

I love to walk in Leolyn Woods, and imagine what the entire rain forest of the East Coast must have been like before the coming of the European settlers. The deep presence of the great old trees here, maple and chestnut and oak .......they speak with such amazing voices.

Maplewood Hotel, at Lilydale

They say the Maplewood is haunted, but at Lilydale, where they have been "talking to the dead" for 150 years, as well as hosting runaway slaves, suffragettes, and many other progressives, a little haunting wouldn't be anything particularly interesting.

Chautauqua county in western New York has a peculiar kind of geomantic potency. Historically it 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 in Joseph Smith's "visions".

For myself, if all goes well, and I can keep from sneezing and hacking long enough, I'll have another summer of my own kind of "visioning" here, and some good work will come of it. Currently I'm finishing my book on Spiderwoman, and working on a very challenging book about the "Masks of the Goddess". I think a lot these days about what making art means. I wrote this a year seems worth copying here again.

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, Art Making 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"


Anonymous said...


How inspiring to see the things you are seeing and to hear that you are continuing to wander...

I just spent two days in a creative arts intensive and it reminded me of you because before we met - I was timid with my art and now I make big messes and just figure it out as I go along.

You wise woman are a dear friend and powerful inspiration and guide.

Thank you!

Greg Fletcher-Marzullo said...

Thank you for sharing these photos and thoughts about creation.

In working with the Fae lately, it's become more clear to me that engaging in the arts - visual, dance, music - helps us to connect to one another, the Fae, our ancient heritage and the Earth herself. Thanks for another reminder of this and that following that path is a blessed adventure.