Saturday, April 25, 2009


Image result for istalif afghanistan

Photo of Istalif area

Istalif, outside of Kabul, was famous for its blue glass artisans, and its beautiful blue pottery.  Maybe it still is. I don’t know – my memories are of bulky azure glasses, and thick strands of cerulean beads that jingled on the camel harnesses, and occasionally the wrists, of nomadic Kootchi women passing through Kabul, where I lived as a teenager, in caravans.  My father worked for U.S. A.I.D., and I attended an international school in Kabul.

In the late spring, waters rushed down in cold, lively streams from fierce mountains still snow-clad, and many westerners went to Istalif to sight-see. An exclusive restaurant catering to foreigners afforded a good view with coffee and croissants.  

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Debbie Simon (my best friend) and I were, like all 16 year olds, eager to get away from the boring conversations of our elders. Dressed in our French coats, our high black boots and mod turtlenecks, with adolescent stealth we escaped the tabled terraces for a while, to walk below on grey granite boulders that overlooked a stream of cold spring water.We were young, fashionable, and elated with the prospect of leaving Afghanistan.  Debbie was headed home to New York, and I was going to "swinging London".

Debbie’s father worked for the Embassy, mine was with AID, both had completed their assignments, and we were going back to the states at last.To the Rolling Stones and boys and beaches and college.
As we talked excitedly, not so far away was a familiar sight – a group of local women doing laundry by the stream. Seeing us approach, they had dropped their chadoris over their faces, and now resembled a collection of multi-colored tents huddled among the grey rocks.

I didn’t notice when one “tent” disengaged from the rest and quietly approached us.But we grew silent as she stood, silently, before us, her face hidden under layers of pleated cloth, an opaque net before her eyes.Hands emerged from the chador to lift it above her face, and before us stood a girl of 16 or 17.  Black eyes lined in kohl shone with humor.She smiled shyly at each of us as she lifted her veil, dropped it before her face again, turned and walked back to the group of veiled women as Debbie and I stood silently on our rock by the stream.

I don't know why she approached us. Perhaps she just wanted to let us know that she also was young and pretty, reminding us of our common youth, and yet living in worlds so far apart. I never forgot that moment - it was a gift.  I also never have forgotten the enormous privilege my life has been.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


A month or so ago, my therapist, Jeaneen, asked me what archetype I thought my mother was. I couldn't answer, any more than I could have said which archetypes informed who or what my own life stories have been. So I put the question off for "later examination".

Yesterday I was looking at a photo I had placed on my altar, next to the photo of my brother. And I realized suddenly (actually, while at the riverbend hotsprings, which is a good place to get great ideas while inconveniently wet).........that a syncronicity had supplied the answer to my "for later examination" question. Sometimes, things work that way, once you begin to notice. Reviewing much of the stories in this blog, I see that I'm always recording and wondering at such phenomenon. The mythic dimension leaking through..........

The photo was taken in 2004 at the opening to an exhibit of my masks (which I shared with artist Catherine Nash MFA). Valerie James, an artist who lives in Amado, took the photo randomly. I kept it around because it's the most recent photo I have of my mom and me together...the last photo I have of her when she was fully here, fully cognizant, to be exact. And now Jeaneen's question is also within the frame of this photo, as well, perhaps, within the frame of having placed it upon an altar and thus imbuing it with sacred attention ..... at any rate, a serendipitous truth emerges that answers the question about archetypes.

My mother has the "Corn Mother" mask above her. That archetype of unconditional, self-sacrificing, idealized motherly love, devoted to the nurturance of her children without any limitations - is the very truth of what my mother has devoted herself to, both consciously and unconsciously, with its bright and "shadow" sides. She has lived the story of Selu. And for me, the picture could not be more appropriate. Above me, Spider Woman, the weaver, higher Self, the artist and divine co-creator, dedication to a vision of ecology, my most tangible mythos of deity. And beside me, Butterfly Woman, my personal "life story" archetype. "La Mariposa" is a story I wrote more than 15 years ago. And here in this one more living metaphor, one more poem about our journey together.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Goddess and the "Book of Eli" once more......

I can't resist showing some of the art from "The Return of the Mother"show which went up in Carrizozo, New Mexico this month. These photos were forwarded by my friend Georgia Stacy, who is one of the shows organizers. The entire set from "The Book of Eli" has been torn down, the gallery restored, and it looks as if the world that Hollywood created in this little town never was. I still can't get over the syncronicity and hopeful paradox of having a dark, patriarchal, post-apocalyptic vision arise, and then dissipate like a dream, replaced with beautiful affirmations of the "return of the Goddess"........ Just for contrast, I copied the earlier post below as well.


The Goddess and the Book of Eli (1) (photo by Georgia Stacy)

Corrisozo, N.M., set of "The Book of Eli", filming 3-2009. (Photo by Georgia Stacy)

I had a wonderful 4 day adventure into the "outback" of New Mexico, visiting a group of women artists who will be putting on a group show in Carrizozo, New Mexico called "The Return of the Mother". It will be opening on April 11th at Gallery 408 in Carrizozo. It was such a pleasure to meet these amazing women, among them sculptor Georgia Stacy, and fabric artist Karen Smith, who is creating a Sanctuary for the Divine Feminine called Kindred Spirits Sanctuary in the mountains of her beautiful home (she also has a labyrinth!).

"The Black Madonna and the Book of Eli" (composite photo with G. Stacy)

Inanna Champagne had been invited to speak to groups in the area about her work, and I was also invited to bring along my dvd about the Masks of the Goddess project. As we sat having coffee in prior to departure, Inanna and I both noticed that (this is the honest to goodness truth!) a tiny spider had slowly come down on its thread to hang eye level between us. We observed it move up a bit, and then down a bit, and then up a bit......back and forth for over an hour. At last, when we were ready to leave, I took it by the thread and placed the latest envoy of Spider Woman on my altar. We felt well aspected and blessed on our journey, and indeed, so we were! I may talk about a "webbed vision" in the abstract, but when these kinds of little syncronicities happen, well........the mystery of the divine has a great sense of humor. And our lives are always full of everyday Milagros.

Arriving at Carrizozo, which is a small town in central New Mexico, one drives through vast reaches of blond Georgia O'Keefe landscapes with brooding blue mountains in the distance. We saw that we were in time for the town's major attraction - the filming of a motion picture starring Gary Oldman and Denzel Washington. An entire downtown street (where the Gallery my friends' show will be) had been converted into a post-apocalyptic, "Road Warrior" type set, complete with rusting automobiles, foam core burned out buildings, and sad little "cubby holes" where, presumably, desperate children of the apocalypse lived. Dirty, dread-locked young people (extras) milled about, while armored cars raced up and down the street, and the sounds of "snipers" guns echoed in the crisp, windy New Mexico air.


Joyce, a local visionary, was our tour guide. She had been there since the beginning of the town's transformation, watching the sets being built over facades of the existing buildings. They took 2 months to create, and next week it will all come down, revealing again the gallery where "The Return of the Mother" will be in April, after the foam core and plaster is peeled away. There is a splendid metaphor in here! It was weird to see this contemporary nightmare made so vivid that I could actually walk around in it. Life and art are sometimes seamless.

  To read about the movie see THE BOOK OF ELI . I don't think they have a trailer yet......... Try also this link: Book of Eli, which describes the movie as:

 "A post-apocalyptic Western, in which a lone man fights his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind."

It's interesting that there are two post apocalyptic movies scheduled for release ( the other is The Road, with Viggo Mortenson) within the next year. Like the "Road Warrior" of the '80's, our world has a fascination with images of a future in which all that remains of our civilization is a grim landscape of warlords shooting it out with each other, grimly pre-occupied with power, guns, and unceasing violence. That's the mythos of a dominator, hierarchy culture. Yet in reality, many people right here in New Mexico live in a world of enormous cooperation and generosity. That is also a part of the human spirit, the future's challenge and potential. I know many, many communities all over this country who participate in a "webbed" life-serving consciousness, envisioning sustainable futures.

 Cooperation, negotiation, and a collective means is actually the basis of any civilization. We are capable of enormous violence, yes. Perhaps, the ultimate violence. But we are also capable of enormous, vast, cooperation. As we approach 2012, we approach the next evolutionary step for humanity, wherein we must understand and participate in the larger life of our planet, of Gaia the Mother, or we will face the possibility of extinction. I am saddened to think so many are conditioned by the media to think that a violent world is our only possibility. How poorly what Gloria Steinam has called the "Cult of Masculinity" prepares us for the real challenges of the future. Because our survival can only be achieved through cooperation.

 But I doubt we'll see a movie about the "end of days" wherein heroic people get together to vision quest where the best place is to settle might be, or gather to share their food supplies, or figure out a way to dig a new community well, or for that matter, hold healing rituals and prayer circles. And yet, that is what people do together, all over the place. So, I am pleased (and amused) by the synchronicity of a show called The Return of the Great Mother rising from the ashes of the movie set, a bright alternative to the current paradigm's dark vision.

 Georgia saw a Goddess shape in one of her photos of the Book of Eli set, and I couldn't help but play with the images myself a bit. Artists are myth makers.  We're weaving the future with the stories we tell. So what are they?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Links to Myth and Culture

This is the terrace at the old restaurant, beautiful and delapidated, at the lodge at Elephant Butte Dam. I love to hang out there. When I paint again, I want to paint some of these amazing "portals". In the winter you can sit on these terraces, and view the whole vast expanse of the lake, and not hear a human voice, only the cries of raptors and water birds circling miles away.

Today I got "buzzed" by a peregrine falcon that circled me and then later, by an amazing and rare yellow butterfly. I will consider this a good sign to seek, get the big picture, and keep being willing to change.

And the Butte sits with intense prescence, sentinal of the lake. New Mexico is a mysterious place, another country, with a very different time sense. The solace of open spaces.

I wanted to put on my blog some of the MYTH RESOURCES I am aware of, to refresh my memory as much as to share with any who may be interested. I am a long time disciple of Joseph Campbell, whose "Hero With A Thousand Faces" and his 1987 interviews with Bill Moyers (The Power of Myth) set me on my own vision quest.

* Mythic Passages
* Mything Links
* Cultural Mythology: American Notions of Self & Country
* Imaginal Institute- Ideas Like Rabbits
* Mythic Rhythm
* MythNow Blog- Joseph Campbell Foundation
* Mythopoetics in Culture
* The Endicott Studio for Mythic Arts
* Pacifica Graduate School
* The Journal of Mythic Arts
* The World Cafe
* Parabola Magazine
* Institute for Cultural Change

I'll get the links to these on the blog soon - but here they are for the Googling. And a few I've missed of course.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Ancestral Midwifery 2009

This is a recent piece, actually cast from the hands of Lori, who I met last summer at Brushwood during the festivals. She is a midwife at the Midwife Center for Birth & Women's Health in Pittsburgh, Pa. Syncronistically, she was the second midwife I met last year who had impact on me, the first being Ilana, who I met in my Kripalu workshop. The gesture was Lori's, the piece evolved on its own. Birth canal.

A few people have commented that the piece is disturbingly visceral - well, I don't know how to respond to that. We are numbed daily with the media's gruesome "entertainments" , and the daily body count in Iraq, or Cleveland, or Darfur. (It says something about popular culture that Hanibal the cannibal has become a cultural movie icon, and sex seems to be endlessly associated with vampires).

And yet, the suggestion of a BIRTH CANAL makes viewers squeamish. Some have commented that it seems uncomfortably sexual. But where else, exactly, does birth come from? Except for the immaculate conception, most of us enter the embodied state in pain, blood, sweat, viscera. Giving birth is one of the most excruciating experiences a woman can have, and also the most ecstatic. I wonder if some of the reaction to this piece has to do with some deeply embedded cultural/religious associations with birth...........I think about the mythos that imposed an "immaculate conception" on Christianity, or the long, involved taboos found in earlier Jewish traditions in which women are considered "unclean" after giving birth, and have to go through long periods of "purification". If so, then the piece has succeeded, and I should figure out a way to make it much more disturbing!

Judy Chicago, from "The Birth Project"

Anyway, I reflect on the synchronicity of meeting two midwives who affected me deeply within a few months. I have often felt that certain archetypes rise up from the "collective unconscious", bubbling up from some non-local ground of being - perhaps, artists, shamans, and madmen notice them, bubbling into the universal dream. We are surely "midwiving" a new world, a new paradigm.

Personally, because syncronicities are something I think about, perhaps I am also "midwiving" my own life in some ways. Truth is, I'm ambivalent about about many things that once were so clear, if not outright assumptions. It think it was Plato who said "the more I know, the more I realize I don't know".

I would like to introduce here a related work by an emerging young artist, Tabor of New York City.

Untitled, 2009

Diving into abstract expressionism with unbridled passion, Tabor is notable for the energetic gestures of his paintings. Notice the use of very bold brush strokes to create an obscured "vestica piscis" form upon a vivid yellow ground......suggesting, perhaps, the emergence of diverse life forms from the black depths of a metaphorical "birth canal".

Here's a view of the artist's studio with the work in progress:

And the artist at home with his favorite model, Shari, his mother. Tabor (who just turned 2 and happens to be my grandson) is well on his way to a successful career in the arts.

The artist at work: