Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Winter Solstice

To day I remember that the Winter Solstice was perhaps the earliest universal holy day, celebrated in different ways in different places throughout the world from the earliest days of human culture. When language was young, when even the gods and goddesses had not yet taken human forms in the human imagination, but ran instead with deer in the forest, flew with the wings of crows, or were glimpsed nameless from the awed depths of every numinous pool........ even then, this was a holy day, a day of celebration.

Long ago ancestors lit fires before cave homes to welcome the shining god who was the sun return from mysterious underworld depths. They built stones or made circles or created doorways to be aligned with the sun's pathway. They left offerings of food to show their gratitude, they invented songs or danced throughout the long cold night, grateful, encouraging, hoping to help the Sun on his difficult journey to the promise of new life.

I remember today that holy days begin among our most ancient, instinctual roots, taproots that reach down, deeply entwined within the visible and invisible web of life. Planet Earth turns her face toward her star again, circling in brilliant orbit, bearing every evolving, responsive, living, infinitely conversant be-ing within her fragile, exquisite azure skin on her long journey.
Perhaps I can regain, for just one instant, that pre-verbal, instinctual animal knowing, found beneath the pages of any book written with five fingered hands, beneath each inscribed layer of words, signs, hieroglyphs, pictures in jet or ochre or sepia, the primal light, luminous beneath the oldest pages. Veneer peels away, revealing a pentimento, an ancient heartbeat, shared again with all beings that keep vigil on the night of the winter Solstice. The light is returning again.

I pledge allegiance

to the soil of Turtle Island,

and to the beings

who thereon dwell

one ecosystem in diversity

under the sun

With joyful

interpenetration for all.

Gary Snyder

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Weavers" sculpture installed at Wesley

I feel very honored that I received an email from a personal heroine, theologian Catherine Keller, who wrote "From a Broken Web - Separation, Sexism, and Self", the passionate, visionary book that has been a source of inspiration for me. I leave grateful on many levels.

"What an honor to be thus woven into your healing web! I love your combination of the themes of Spiderwoman, eyes and hands—vision and action. Interesting how the web metaphor keeps unfurling. I was uncomfortable at first with the WWW, but get its potentiality for transformation too. And these days quantum entanglement rocks me with its cosmic web of instantaneous linkages. I also appreciate the earthiness of your medium. You are truly enacting the oscillation of vision and hands in the content and the process of your work. "

Catherine Keller

Catherine Kapikian's hands, "The Weaver"

"Eventually, I found what I was looking for. Layers of petroglyphs on adjacent was a place that seemed infused with numinous power. And scattered throughout, like a motif or underlying texture, there were hands, painted or incised on the rocks. I wondered, why the hands? Hands among hunters and big horned mountain sheep, near metate holes that once ground mesquite, protecting solarized shamans in their ecstasy, seeming to touch odd shapes and circles. Shadow hands scratched into the rocks, weaving stories as they were being told, touching me now from the prehistoric past.

For one quiet, imaginal, illuminated moment, I saw them become fully fleshed, emerging from beneath the transparent, dreaming surface of the canyon. I realized I was looking at Spider Woman’s many hands.....which are also my hands, our hands, appearing on the canvas of another time. " (2007)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Seeing in the Dark.....

Sweet Darkness
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.

Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your womb
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Little conversations with the world

Yesterday, while sitting on a curb, a little whitish spider came walking across the pavement, stopped right in front of me, and raised its front legs several times, which was about the only gesture Spider could have made, definatively, if it wanted to say "hello". Because I noticed, I radiated delight, and we sat thus in companionable mutual observation, until I had to leave. This occured, I have to add, while on a cell phone to a distant friend in California who is one of the few people I know who also is delighted by magical encounters with animals. I note this because, like dreams, all things occur within a context.

I thanked the spider and felt somehow encouraged. I've been troubled of late, and I've been having dreams to ponder, after years of sleeping like a stone, dreamless. I watched her wander off, pursuing whatever it is that spiders pursue after having concluded an appearance as a very small, divine Messenger.

In the worldview of people like, for example, the Sami shamans of Norway and Finland, all life is interconnected and conversant. And symbolic, interpenetrating and in context with the dimension of dreams. Artist Rafael Ortiz called this "paleologic", a holistic form of consciousness shared by many indigenous peoples throughout the world.

Dismissed as "animism" , today these archaic forms of "primitive magical thinking" are being examined by the leading edge of transpersonal psychology and consciousness studies. A spider can be just an insect.....or, an ally that brings encouragement on a wintry pavement....just as an angel in a dream might bring a message of hope. It's all in how your paradigm, personal and collective, allows you to see it.

I remember reading an article by Gloria Feman Orenstein, a writer and professor of women's studies at USC, who apprenticed with a hereditary woman shaman of Sami land in the 1980's . In writing about her experiences, she noted that, when in her home in Los Angeles, if some kind of contact needed to occur with her far distant mentors, mosquitoes would usually turn up.

When we see the world, and our participating within the world, "in a sacred manner", when we can imagine that all dimensions of life are sacred and interpenetrating, then it's possible for all beings to become part of the conversation - even mosquitoes.** Or, friendly little spiders, reminding me that a "webbed vision" is something that has to be continually renewed, in mind, and in heart.

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


** "One of the main features of summer in Sámi land is that suddenly the marshes become swamped with mosquitoes. The Sami love their mosquitoes, because they realize that "the white man" cannot stand them, and so the mosquitoes have, in some sense, kept their land from being taken by outsiders. Most people cannot bear to live with those mosquitoes. As I mentioned before, Sami Shamans communicate with their mosquitoes, and they understand that they can be messengers, guides, and protectors."

The Woman Shaman and Shamanism,