Thursday, July 25, 2013

Afghanistan's First Female Street Artist

Shamsia Hassani and El Mac, Ho Chi Minh City, 2012. Photograph by the Propeller Group.
Shamsia Hassani and El Mac, ‘Ho Chi Minh City’, 2012. Photograph by the Propeller Group.

I went to the American International High School of Kabul (AISK), and left Kabul with my family before the coup that deposed their young and progressive King, a tragedy that threw Afghanistan into a state of endless war.  I always thought I would go back someday, but I probably never will. This is very off-topic from the events of summer Festivals and the sublime Lilydale, but I ran across this article thanks to a friend on Facebook, and felt like sharing the story of this courageous young woman, a "street artist" from Kabul, Afghanistan. It's easy, in our jaded world, to dismiss the vitality, significance, and sheer bravery of the arts.  She renews my understanding indeed.

“Art is stronger than war”: Afghanistan’s first female street artist 

by  Lisa Pollman ,  Art Radar Asia

Shamsia Hassani, 'Sound Central Festival', Kabul, 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.

Afghan artist boldly takes to the streets with a spray can and hope for a peaceful future. Shamsia Hassani, Afghanistan’s first female street artist, emerges as a spokesperson for women’s rights in Kabul. Art Radar spoke with the artist to find out more about visual arts in the post-conflict capital and her drive to prove art is stronger than war.

Throughout history, Afghanistan has withstood various assaults from outside nations due to its prominent location amid Central Asia’s trade routes. In contemporary times, the country has faced military advances from Russia (1978-1989) and currently, the United States (2001-present) in response to terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.  Born in Iran to Afghan parents, Shamsia Hassani is a street and digital artist working in the country’s complex and conflicted capital, where she returned in 2005 to pursue her education in Fine Art at Kabul UniversityA pioneer in Kabul’s contemporary art scene, she works to establish annual graffiti workshops across the country and, on a grander scale, to change the way society views women who refuse to conceal their opinions behind a veil of silence. Her work includes “Dreaming Graffiti,” a series in which the artist paints or Photoshops colours and images onto digital photographs to explore issues of national and personal security.

Please tell us how you began street art in Afghanistan.
I started to do street art at a graffiti workshop in Kabul in December 2010 when a graffiti artist named Chu came from the United Kingdom to teach us. It [the workshop] was organised by Combat Communications in Kabul.

As a pioneer of street art in your country, who or what inspired you?
After the graffiti workshop, I feel that I can introduce art to people by making graffiti because [by its nature] it is always in an open place. If you have some art exhibition, we cannot invite everyone, so not everyone can come. If we have artwork in an outside place, everyone can enjoy it.
I want to colour over the bad memories of war on the walls and if I colour over these bad memories, then I erase [war] from people’s minds. I want to make Afghanistan famous because of its art, not its war.

In your opinion, how is street art different than more formal kinds of contemporary art? Is it more or less important? Why?

In Afghanistan, graffiti is something different. In Europe and other countries, graffiti is something illegal. In Afghanistan, I use it in a different way for a different message, for different ideas. Every kind of art is very good for developing art in Afghanistan. I think that graffiti is better because all people can see it and it is available for all time. This is my idea.
Shamsia Hassani, 'Russian Cultural Centre', Kabul, 2011. Photograph by Kabul at Work.
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Russian Cultural Centre’, Kabul, 2011. Photograph by Kabul at Work.

How does your family feel about your artwork?
My family likes my art. They always like to support me. They do not try to stop my work and have ideas about my artwork. They like it and I am happy with this.

Is your family in Afghanistan? Where were you born?
My family is in Afghanistan. I was born in Iran. Iran is different [from] some other countries. Even if you live there 100 years, you cannot become a citizen. In Iran, I wanted to study in the Art Department but because of my nationality, I could not. We returned to Afghanistan around eight years ago. Originally, our family is from Kandahar province.

What is challenging or difficult about street art in Kabul?
In Kabul, it is different than in Europe, where one must be careful of policemen. Here, I have no problem with police. I have a problem with closed-minded people and I have a big problem with bad security. I worry all the time about security problems when I am in the street and maybe that something will happen, and I am afraid that I should leave.

Shamsia Hassani, 'Sound Central Festival', Kabul, 2013. Image courtesy of Shamsia Hassani.
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Sound Central Festival’, Kabul, 2013. Image courtesy Shamsia Hassani.

What do you find surprising about doing street art in Kabul?
At first when I wanted to start doing graffiti, I didn’t start in public right away. If I did it in an inside place, in some corners, that was more comfortable [for me]. Now, I am also doing graffiti [outside] in the street.

I had no idea what problems I would face. Because it [graffiti] is something new, of course people will have different ideas [and reactions]. I was ready to hear bad words from people who were not happy with the artwork. [When I paint outside,] people are coming to me, discussing [their feelings] with me. Some of them are fighting with me, and some people want to stop my artwork.  I was most surprised by those who said “why are you making the walls dirty?” Some people are also concerned that I am doing something that is not allowed in Islam. Others think it is not very good for ladies to stand in the street and do this kind of art. At the same time, I see a few people like my work.

What kinds of reactions do you get as a woman practising street art in Afghanistan? Are you threatened or do you feel frightened? Are you lauded?
There are different groups of people who see my work differently. Some of them are interested in knowing what it is. I like people to ask me about my work. There are some people who like the work but do not know it is graffiti or what it’s called. Others say “you are making some image. It is not allowed” and “why do you want to make the wall very dirty?” Some people think that I am very free, and have no job and that’s why I am dirtying the walls. There are many different kinds of ideas.

Shamsia Hassani, 'Dreaming Graffiti Kabul', 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Dreaming Graffiti Kabul’, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Please tell us about “Dreaming Graffiti” and what inspired you to use this technique? 
I am not always able to make or find good opportunities to do graffiti [outside]. Maybe only every two or three months I have an opportunity to do graffiti. Sometimes there are security problems or I cannot go to some area because of the people.  I decided to use large digital images, and [then I] can do graffiti inside my studio. I can do graffiti upon these images in my studio using brushes and can paint upon these images. So it’s kind of like a “dreaming graffiti” of mine. It is graffiti but only in my mind. It is not real.

Shamsia Hassani, 'Dreaming Graffiti at Darulaman Palace', 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Dreaming Graffiti at Darulaman Palace’, 2012. Image courtesy the artist.

Are you or any other street artists mentoring young street artists in Afghanistan?
Yes. I want to show them how they can use graffiti. It is not a formal class that I teach at the university, but we do have two-week long workshops where I teach graffiti to the students, where I can talk about graffiti, they can use their own ideas and they can [learn to] use a spray-can to do graffiti. They really like to do it because it’s a very new form of art. It’s different than drawing on paper, and it’s good because you can make graffiti very big.  I am the youngest teacher at the university, and most of my students at the workshop are the same age as me. The average age is between twenty and 26 years old.

Shamsia Hassani, 'Message Salon', Switzerland, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Message Salon’, Switzerland, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

Is there a strong interest in visual arts, or its history, in Afghanistan?
There is a tradition of miniature painting, started by an Afghani artist named Kamaluldin Behzad. He was the first person who made miniature paintings in Afghanistan. He was from Herat. He was painting at the same time as Leonardo da Vinci was making paintings in Europe.

Are the Visual Arts taught to students in Afghanistan’s educational system?
Yes, but there are still some problems with the old educational system in university. There is just classical training at the university, such as drawing. Slowly, there are different kinds of ideas and other art programmes, such as contemporary art.  I am also a teacher and faculty member of the Fine Art Department at Kabul University. When the students found out that I was doing graffiti, I offered to teach the students graffiti. Last year, I prepared a graffiti workshop for them. Every year, I’d like to hold a graffiti workshop for the students because I cannot teach graffiti as a normal subject. I can show them and teach them a new form of art and introduce them to it. There are now lots of artists in Afghanistan. When I came to Afghanistan eight years ago, I could not find any good artists or artwork. Now, everything is developing, and it’s much better than before.

Please tell us about your involvement with Berang Art Organisation.
“Berang” means “colourless.” There is a story about the Berang Art Organisation. I was selected as one of the top ten artists in 2009 in Kabul. After that, these ten [artists] together wanted to make a new organisation towards developing contemporary art. We came together and created a collection of art. At first we called it “Rosht” and now we’re called “Berang”. We have seminars and workshops. We still do not have enough funds and we are trying to develop it more.  We have goals to enable other artists to study. There are artists who want to work but have no place to work. We’d like to have a library [available] to all artists. We have lots of ideas, and we are working towards developing contemporary art in Afghanistan and we are going to develop it more.

Do you think that more people in Afghanistan are more aware of contemporary art because of the Internet?
I don’t know exactly. Maybe people are inspired by the Internet or are just inspired to make or study new types of artwork. I think that when people see that art has a message, they are not only thinking that it’s “art”, it [also] has something to say. Everybody likes to express their feelings through their images. Modern or contemporary art is not just an image, it has something to say.
It’s a very different situation in Afghanistan because everybody has something to say about politics and present day circumstances. Everybody is getting tired of the wars. They see an image and like to talk about it. There is a different type of topic here these days about peace and ceasefire. These are hopeful ideas that people want to develop.
Shamsia Hassani and El Mac, 'Ho Chi Minh City', 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.
Shamsia Hassani and El Mac, ‘Ho Chi Minh City’, 2012. Image courtesy the artist.

Are artists using their art as a way to voice their political feelings?
Yes. Not only political but other problems, such as education. Everyone wants to bring a political change with their ideas and highlight difficulties to the people. They also want to develop their art and change the way people see their art while having an effect in society with it.

How do you use street art to highlight women’s rights in Afghanistan?
This is a topic that I really like to talk about. I see that in different times and through different difficulties with war and the Taliban, the people faced lots of problems. For women, they faced many limitations because of many difficulties. In the past, women were removed from society and they wanted women to stay only at home and wanted to forget about women. Now, I want to use my paintings to remind people about women.

I have changed my images to show the strength of women, the joy of women. In my artwork, there is lots of movement. I want to show that women have returned to Afghan society with a new, stronger shape. It’s not the woman who stays at home. It’s a new woman. A woman who is full of energy, who wants to start again. You can see that in my artwork, I want to change the shape of women. I am painting them larger than life. I want to say that people look at them differently now.

Western media may see the burqa as a kind of “prison.” Can you address how you view the burqa?
There are a lot of people around the world who think that the burqa is the problem. They think that if women remove the burqa, then they have no problems. But this is not true. I feel that there are lots of problems in Afghanistan for women. For example, when women cannot have access to education; this is more of a problem then wearing a burqa. If you remove the burqa, they still have the same problems. It is not the main problem. We should not concentrate on this. We should think about the main problems, then the burqa is not so bad. You can develop your talent and still wear the burqa. You can work and stay in society and still wear the burqa.
Shamsia Hassani, 'Rote Fabrik', Switzerland, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Rote Fabrik’, Switzerland, 2013. Image courtesy the artist.

I can’t help but notice that you use the colour blue in many of your paintings. Why?
Blue is my favourite colour. I really like it. Maybe too much! I feel comfortable with that colour, and at the same time I hear people say that blue is the colour of freedom. For me, freedom is not the removal of the burqa. For me, freedom is to have peace.

Is contemporary art in Afghanistan important? Why?
Yes. People are getting tired of words [without action]. If you show them some image, it’s the same as words. The image has more effect. As you know, one word is just a word but an image, is lots of words. One image let’s us talk with others in a friendly way. We are discussing [sensitive topics] with art and we can change [old] ideas with art. We can make positive changes with art. We can open people’s minds with art. Afghanistan is now like a new born [baby]. It is like a child, learning to walk on its own. Other countries are trying to help it stand on its own two feet.

Do you have any plans for exchanges with artists from outside to come to Afghanistan?
Not yet because we have no money now. We are working with some proposals to get some funds and then we have lots of plans to work on.

Is it important for Afghan artists to have international recognition and opportunities? How could they be better supported?
Yes. They really like to have international programmes and do art programmes with other countries. As an artist, I like to share my ideas with others outside of Afghanistan. Some artists have this opportunity but not all of them. I like to travel. Some artists have different reasons [to travel outside Afghanistan]. My reason is that I like to meet other people from different countries then I can change other people’s minds about Afghanistan. Afghanistan is famous because of war. If people see that there are artists and art there, then slowly perhaps we can change the topic of Afghanistan. Then people can change their image of Afghanistan. I hope so. There is war, but behind it there is also art. We want to make the level of art higher than the level of war.

Do you have any upcoming international exhibitions or projects?
As you may know, I just returned from a trip to Switzerland. In September 2013, I will have a chance to visit Denmark because of a youth programme called “World Images in Motion”. Also because of the graffiti workshop, I will be traveling to America in October 2013. There are lots of invitations and some of them are not confirmed as they are being held at the same time. I do have some difficulties taking time off from the university because of my travel opportunities. I just try to manage it some how.
Shamsia Hassani, 'Dreaming Graffiti with Banksy', 2012. Image courtesy of the artist.
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Dreaming Graffiti with Banksy’, 2012. Image courtesy the artist.

Lisa Pollman

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sirius Rising ends

The Sirius Rising Bonfire, with the Dragon burning at the top of the Pyre.........
 What began as an idea Roy had 20 years ago turned into another major Festival, Sirius Rising, held at Brushwood Folklore Center in July of each year.  This year had a magnificent bonfire, and a beautiful sculpture of the Dragon that eats his own tail, the Ouroboros, atop the pyre, bearing prayers and intents off to be actualized in its transformation amid the flames.  Thanks once again to Jason and Leslie and their Fire Tribe for a beautiful ending to the festival.  I shall miss so many people, and will just have find a way to return again next year.
Fairies in the Fairy Corner.......

Shrine for the ancestral Lighters

Artist Leslie working on the Dragon scupture that flies from the bonfire at the end of the festival

I do have to say that I was disappointed with  the "Spirit - Labyrinth" ritual this year.  It was a beautiful ritual that took place at twilight at a labyrinth illuminated with candles in previous years.
Sirius Rising developed the tradition of having 5 rituals, each devoted to a different element, which occur each day of the festival.  The Festival concludes with the bonfire and the burning of a Totem much the same spirit as Burning Man.   In the past my favorite ritual was the  Labyrinth beautifully created  by a group from Chicago.  In fact, I  have a personal investment – Frank Barney and I  dowsed the places where the labyrinth and the "Ancestor mound" are placed, finding ley crossings there,  atop a hill with a magnificent view.  The land itself is specially suited to raise energy, and as people climbed the hill at twilight they were  afforded a  panorama of sky and field.  They passed through an entrance, and prepared to make a journey led in silence into the labyrinth, with lovely background music affording ambient  backdrop.  It was magical as the skies darkened and people moved among the candles  awed by the sense of being "between the worlds".  You  walked out to see yourself participating in a spiritual journey shared by everyone else, a universal pilgrimage into the center of our lives, and out again renewed. 

But not this time.  There was neither silence, nor even a specific entry point.  No one led us into the labyrinth, with the result that people passed each other in confusion, many not even sure how to get into or out of the center.  People talked,  laughed, the music was barely heard above the babble.  And the so called “ritual” – someone portraying a  "circus ringleader" announced loudly, with a microphone, that we should "come and see the show!”  informing people that they could go “left or right” to get in or out.  Before people even began to enter, confused, from all 4 sides of the labyrinth, this same "facilitator" announced that they could “stay if you like, or come on over to the fire circle"........and promptly left, with a confusion of people wandering around field behind him.  And before that, where in the past people were invited to experience  a meditative entry into a sacred labyrinth.....between the “ringmaster” blabbing away (I wondered when he was going to announce the dancing girls and the beer), we also had a group in the middle,  giggling, and making an inept attempt at improv while they vaguely talked about the importance of "spirit".   Whatever energy  might have been there they drained away in no time at all, leaving behind them confusion and disappointment.  

Trying to walk the labyrinth, and bumping in to people who were actually going the wrong way because they were confused,  I felt very saddened.  I felt like I was having an "anti-ritual" - is this the sad truth of how we are as a civilization now?  Not knowing the difference between a true ceremony and a "show" complete with loud ringmasters and giggling in the Center where reverence and reflection ought to be. 

Perhaps I shouldn't write about this here, because there are so many people affiliated with this festival I both love and admire.  But there's something happened here that needs to be said - something we all need to think about.

Friday, July 19, 2013


Starwood's Famous Bonfire

You know, back from Starwood, and now 4 days into Sirius Rising, I'm a tad overwhelmed, not to mention  covered with mud. After dancing around the famous, huge, Starwood Bonfire, and a few here at Sirius as well, listening to Harvey Wasserman, Margo Adler, Diana Paxson, and numerous other activists, dreamers, and creators ...............heck, words fail me, and my pagan heart gets its fix for the year.  I guess pictures, for the moment, will have to do.

I've had good response to my workshops, and feel like I'm learning some new approaches.  And so wonderful to see so many friends!
Glinda the Good Witch drops in for lunch back to Oz!   More to follow..........

All Hail Bob, Reverend Ivan Stang, and the Church of the Subgenius.
Margo Adler

Harvey Wasserman
Jeff Rosenbaum

Going Green at Brushwood

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Visitations, Mediums, and a Mythic Universe......

Luna Moth at my door
"I let my life be guided by a strange language that I call “signs”. I know that the world is talking to me, I need to listen to it, and if I do so I shall always be guided towards what is most intense, passionate and beautiful. Of course, it is not always easy.  If you trust life, life will trust you."
         Paolo Coelho

You know, sometimes the best, most profound  things can't be told, hence the origins of the word "mystery", which is from the Greek, a word identified with the Eleusinian Mysteries  meaning "that which cannot be spoken".  But this is a journal, and so I'll try.....perhaps that inability to express what I experience as a "mythic"  universe has to do with the coming together at times of so many different dimensions, multiple levels of synchronicity, metaphor, and perception.   See?  How do you talk about it  except through poetry, art, or metaphor?

"There's a crack in everything - that's how the light gets in." ~~~ Leonard Cohen

Once I got on the road synchronicities and insights  have flooded into my daily life - that's what happens when you enter "liminal zones", those places, times, and activities that are transitional, that put us into the creative space of becoming.  Travel can do that, art process and meditation can do it, and critical times in our lives can do it as well.  My wise friend Wendy talks about the "shamanic initiation", those events in our lives that "crack" us open, times that challenge our beliefs and assumptions.  Painful as those times are, they are also times when door open into new vistas of perception and possibility.
In Chautauqua county, my other life floods in, along with the rain and humidity I've missed in the desert.   Lilydale's and Brushwood's  energy is high, and there is  also such joyful elemental energy there, which you feel as soon as you arrive.  Joining a circle at Lilydale, I found my old sensitivity still present, if rusty, and was able to take several "messages"  as well as receiving significant information for myself from the facilitating medium, Stephanie.  She commented accurately on my bad ankle, saying that it was to make me "slow down"......and at a Sunday service, another medium singled me out (even though I was hiding in the back row) and told me I needed to "slow down" again. Hmm.......I need to think about that.

Stopped for several days to visit Wendy, a friend I met in 2003.  Wendy is a true Medium - her sensitivity began  at 4  when she suffered kidney failure and almost died.  She was also struck by lightning as a child.  She believes these two events brought about her sensitivity.  It  took her many years, and a painful childhood, to come to grips with those gifts.  Wendy amazes me, as she lives simultaneously in two or more worlds, all day long, every day - and it's difficult for people who aren't mediums themselves, or well educated in metaphysics and the "paranormal" to understand her.  She's a successful career woman, living in a town and profession where her gifts are completely unknown to her colleagues, and she's also a medium who sometimes chooses to do readings, helps with hauntings, is an artist, and for fun, goes ghost hunting with colleagues. 

I feel Wendy has helped me to understand my own perceptions  a great deal in the course of our conversations.  To work "inter-dimensionally", as mediums do, one must learn to think in,  as Wendy puts it, "Dream Time" terms, which includes thinking symbolically and without the construct of sequential time as we understand it "in the flesh".  For her, spirits are all around, familiar spirits come to help her or just to visit, people in need of help, people who want to contact someone (usually associated with someone close to her).  Sometimes she sages the room because she has energies she doesn't want there, or just doesn't have the time.

She has a "ghost hunter" machine, a little machine that makes white noise.  I sat for half an hour with her while she asked questions, and hear the machine produce scratchy, sometimes lucid, responses, from what sounded like different voices trying to talk through a very bad phone connection.  I clearly heard "hello", "Wendy", and other short phrases.  I also smelled pipe smoke, and Wendy's face lit up.  "That's my Dad" she said.

This past Solstice there was a tragedy at Brushwood - a young woman had heart failure and died suddenly.  I remember seeing this young woman several times before the event, and being unable to stop looking at her for two reasons - she looked  very much like a very young version of my own daughter, very vulnerable, and she also "glowed" - there was a luminosity about her and I couldn't stop staring at her.  When I told Wendy about this sad event, she said that people who are dying always have a "glow" to them.  She said when she sees that in people, she knows they are getting ready to leave, because time, in the spirit world, does not have the same meaning it does here.  When I went to the area she died in, I did prayers to the Mother for her - and was surprised in my meditation there to clearly see the image of a tall woman taking the hand of a young person, and a sense of peace.  What I take from this, having talked with Wendy, is that I also saw this young woman as looking like my daughter because, perhaps, that energy of Mother, her own and the divine Mother, was what was needed to help her spirit.  I am no expert on this highly subjective experience.........

Spending time with Wendy can be intense!  I hope someday, perhaps when she retires, she'll become interested in perhaps living and working at Lilydale, because she's a powerful healer on a multitude of levels, a true shaman.   She gave me a great gift, which it's going to take me time to unfold, although my friend said that in the spirit world, it's "already done", because all time is happening at once.

We had been talking about the very convincing  documentary on Animal Planet about mermaids washing up with whales after the navy's horrific sonar testing.  It's a hoax, of course, although tragically the death of so many whales is not.  We were sitting at the table drinking coffee and Wendy's eyes misted.  She said "Excuse me, but someone is here, and I think it's important".  She said that a very tall, thin, very black man in a flat, disc like mask that was black with a white band across the eye holes and a red spot on the "forehead" was standing right behind me.  He put his hands on my shoulders (as a blessing?).  He told her he was something like "samarai" but it was a difficult accent for her to understand, and that he wanted me to help in some way.  He said that I would help to "revive Yemeja". 

Then Wendy said she perceived a large number of people, his tribe.  They were showing her images of the ocean, and offerings to the ocean, fruit, baskets, fish, and small white shells.  Tears were running down her face (Wendy says that when the energy is very intense this happens) and she said that he was thanking me.  Then they were gone.  Wendy said this was "high voltage", and for a while she continued to have tears in her eyes.  For myself, not perceiving this, I said that I was grateful, I thanked him and them, and said that I would do what I could to the best of my abilities.

I think this will unfold in the future, its meanings.  But I reflect that Yemaja, Mother Ocean, is an Orisha* originating in West Africa among the Yoruba people and perhaps others, is often shown as a black mermaid.  The destruction of intelligent life in the ocean, the whales, the dolphins, by navy sonar testing, is very real.  We are, indeed, killing Yemeja as well as the whales.   I am among many artists, mythologists, and activists who are trying to change consciousness about our living earth, to revive the sanctity that our ancestors once had.  Before it's too late.

I looked on Google for flat disc masks such as a tribal shaman might wear, and found that there are indeed many such in Africa, although I have not found one such as Wendy described.  However, I did discover that there is an extensive group of people with a long cultural history called the "Songhai", which sounds quite similar to "Samarai", and some of their domain touched the western ocean on Africa's shores.

*Orisha are Spirits  of nature and are responsible for the rules which govern nature.  Orisha are anthropomorphized with human characteristics for the purpose of understanding their essence and being able to extrapolate psychological constructs.Orisha Worship came to the Americas with the African slave trade over a period of 400 years.   In addition the slaves blended their African practice with the Catholic religion to hide their overt practices from Europeans.  In this manner, the traditions of Lukumi and Santeria were born.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Where I'll Be This Summer

My schedule so far - and I'm so grateful to those who so kindly allow me to participate in these wonderful events:

July 9-15:  STARWOOD FESTIVAL, Wisteria, Pomeroy, Ohio

"The Mythic Mask:  Sacred Masks for Personal and Community Ritual" 

For Information:
Brushwood Folklore, Sherman, New York

"Masks and Personal Transformation"

For Information:


RavenWood ForestAugust 3 (Saturday):   
Shutesbury, Massachusetts

A one-day workshop for women on The Masks of the Goddess. 

For information:


August 9, 10, 11THE STUDIO ON BROADWAY,   Newburgh, New York

For Information:

Show of art from 

readings and discussion about the evolution of the deck.  

Also, a presentation and discussion
 (Sunday, 3/11) of the film 

The World According to Monsanto.)

August 27 - October 4:    HENRY LUCE CENTER FOR THE ARTS AND RELIGION GALLERY, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.   

 For information:

"Our Lady of Perpetual Exhaustion":  Group Show

September 6, 7, 8GODDESS SPIRIT RISING International Conference, 
Malibu, California. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Travels Part Two

Super Full Moon reflected in pond at Brushwood on Solstice night
to know the composing of the thread
inside the spider's body
first atoms of the web
visible tomorrow

to feel the fiery future
of every matchstick in the kitchen

Nothing can be done
but by inches.  I write out my life
hour by hour, word by word
imagining the existence
of something uncreated
this poem
our lives

from "Incipience", by Adrienne Rich
 I don't know why I urgently wanted to excerpt from this 1972 poem by Adrienne Rich, except that I did.  It seems to me that traveling partakes of something this poem speaks about,  life lived between "points of departure and arrival", lived by  increments, mile by mile receding and proceeding. 

Stopping for a few weeks now.  The  familiar forest, the cluttered common studio, even the moss garden I made deep in the woods to honor a lightning struck patriarch of an old-growth maple tree, even that remains much the same after 7 years of snow, melt, rain, spring and falls.........I reflect on how we exist in a different frame of time than does the land.  Max, not even born to Teresa when I made that moss garden is now 7, tall and bright and talkative.  Frank, who suffers from Parkinsons, is no longer talkative, and every word he speaks he strains to produce and others strain to hear or comprehend - I remember our conversations in previous years......and I turn away, disturbed, a little ashamed,  not knowing what he thinks behind those tired eyes, not knowing how to communicate anymore.  Here is one who should not be left mute in old age
"Stump Service" in Leolyn Wood, Lilydale Spiritualist Community
Travelogue  #2:

I was happy to arrive at Lilydale Spiritualist Village in Chautaqua County, New York, several days before the Summer Solstice, where I stayed for a few days.  I immediately went to walk in Leolyn Woods, an Old Growth Grove that has been preserved there, and is an important place for their "stump services" during the summer season of Lilydale.  For me, it's the true Temple,  the tall trees and deep silence of the wood demonstrating what the entire east coast was once like before it was mostly deforested.  The trees have potency, presencee - it reminds me of the feeling I've had when I was in Muir woods, or among the Sequoias in California.  To walk in an ancient grove like that, feeling keenly the elemental powers, the breath of the world being made there, the trees silent with generations of prayers invested in them.    

Lilydale, like Brushwood Folklore Center in nearby Sherman, is a kind of home to me, and both places embody the unique qualities of Chautauqua County.  I'm not alone in feeling the "burned over zone" is another Vortex area, but fortunately, it's a pretty well kept secret!

Maplewood Hotel in Lilydale
Lilydale is, for anyone who hasn't heard of it, the oldest and largest Spiritualist community in the U.S.  For many summers people have come to this charming town, with it's haunted hotels that boast large paintings presumably manifested by spirits, the Grove with its Stump Services where the mediums come and give impromptu readings, and the beautiful Healing Temple where you can experience hands on healing.   Lilydale offers many workshops, from mediumship development to native American sweat lodges, and many Circles one can join to receive and learn how to share messages from the Spirit World.  Not to mention the crew from "Ghost Hunters", SyFy's long running reality show, who also show up yearly.  Apparently, they feel very comfortable with the mediums.

It's easy for people who know nothing about the beliefs and practices of Spiritualism to call it "Sillydale", but  if you've ever spent time at Lilydale and felt the uplifting energy of the place, you would leave with a different mind.  For myself, I'm hoping I will have time this summer to work with several of the mediums here I respect.
Circle on Lake Cassadega

Memorial stones in Leolyn Wood

Registered medium's home and sign

Stones at pet cemetary

The Stump at Stump Service

And here's a few photos from the beautiful Summer Solstice, which featured a Full Moon this year, in fact, the Moon was its closest to the earth. Real magic.   And with the odd eclectic nature of this rural area, just over the hill the nearest neighbors are an Amish family, their buggy visible from the road when one drives by.   How strange drumbeats in the woods must seem to them.........or maybe not.  Different worlds coexisting here.

Well, it's 115 degrees in Tucson right now, which, no matter how used one is to it, horrifying.  I'm very glad to be here in the green conversation of the Northeast.

Drums in the Woods and dancing the Spiral Dance