Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Eagle Tree and other Magics

Yesterday I was in a parking lot when I saw a huge bird fly right across my line of vision, not 20 feet away.  It flew into a palm tree, where I was able to study it for about 10 minutes before it disappeared.  I thought it might be a golden eagle, but I suspect it was a  hawk of some kind.  While there are golden eagles here in Pima country, they are very rare, and especially rare in the city, although red tail hawks seem quite at home here, enjoying the selection of pigeons to hunt.  You can always tell when one is nearby, because all the smaller birds become very quiet or fly away.

But the experience of seeing that magnificent creature brought to mind  magic that happened in 2003, right around this time of year, that I never forgot, although I never told anyone.  To this day there is a certain small, stunted tree in downtown Tucson, in the proximity of where the former Muse Community Art Center once stood, that I will visit and salute when I happen to be in the area.
Specifically there is a branch on that tree, not far from the height of one's head, that I often find myself standing before, as if something invisible was there, regarding me with a fierce yellow eye.

I had moved into the now long gone Muse Community Arts Center, living in a little studio on the second floor there.  I had a show in their little gallery in process - a display of the Masks of the Goddess collection.  It was very early, just dawn, and I was walking with a cup of coffee in my hand a few blocks from the Muse.  I looked up at a this little tree for some reason and saw, not 12 feet from me, a gigantic bird sitting on it's limb, looking right at me,  I've seen hawks in central Tucson occasionally, but I've never seen a golden Eagle in Tucson, or for that matter, never in the wild either.
But that was what sat before me in that tree.  Far too big to be a hawk.  I stopped, afraid to move, and for a full minute or so I looked at the eagle, and the eagle looked at me.

Then the eagle spread its huge wings, rose into the morning sky, making that strange cry that raptors make...........and I stood in awe.

A few days later I found a note from Grey Eagle, a native American traditional Story Teller who had, by chance, seen my show.  He wrote that he wanted to meet with me to give me the Story of Sedna, which he had learned from the Inuit people when he lived in Alaska.  And that was the beginning of the best, and certainly most mystical, performance I ever produced, which was called "Restoring the Balance", and centered on the Story of Sedna.

I think this is what someone once called the "re-enchantment of the World".  Magic.......recently I was considering submitting  a possible paper to an academic conference on Magic.  But looking at their guidelines..........I imagine long papers on medieval alchemical symbology and the anthropology of magical rites in pre-colonial Borneo, or some such, and already I'm having a problem keeping my eyes open.  What is behind the  constructs of academia?  What is real magic?

I guess to me "magic" is about the great Web of interdependency and ecology that underlies, well, everything, the "entanglement" and "unified field" of a living universe  Synchronicity....... as Alice Walker put it, "the Universe Responds".

The Universe Responds
by Alice Walker

A few years ago I wrote an essay called "Everything is a Human Being", which explores to some extent the Naive American view that all of creation is of one substance and therefore deserving of the same respect. In it I described the death of a snake that I caused, and wrote of my remorse.

That summer, "my" land in the country crawled with snakes. There was always the large resident snake, whom my mother named "Susie", crawling about in the area that marks the entrance to my studio. But there were also lots of others wherever we looked. A black-and-white king snake appeared underneath the shower stall in the garden. A striped red-and-black one, very pretty, appeared near the pond. It now revealed the little hole in the ground in which it lived by lying half in and half out of it as it basked in the sun. Garden snakes crawled up and down the roads and paths. One day leaving my house with a box of books in his arms, my companion literally tripped over one of these.

We spoke to all of these snakes in friendly voices. They went their way, we went ours. After about a two week bloom of snakes, we seemed to have our usual number: just Susie and a couple of her children.

A few years later, I wrote an essay about a horse called Blue. It was about how humans treat horses and other animals; how hard it is for us to see them as the suffering, fully conscious, enslaved beings they are. After reading this essay in public only once, this is what happened. A white horse came and settled herself on the land. (Her owner, a neighbor, soon came to move her.) The two horses on the ranch across the road began to run up to their fence whenever I passed, leaning over it and making what sounded like joyful noises. They had never done this before (I checked with the human beings I lived with to be sure of this), and after a few more times of greeting me as if I'd done something especially nice for them, they stopped. Now, when I pass they look at me with the same reserve they did before. But there is still a spark of recognition.

What to make of this?

I think I am telling you that the animals of the planet are in desperate peril, and that they are fully aware of this. No less than human beings are doing in all parts of the world, they also are seeking sanctuary. But I am also telling you that we are connected to them at least as intimately as we are connected to trees. Without plant life human beings could not breathe. They are the lungs of our planet. Plants produce oxygen. Without free animal life I believe we will lose increasingly the spiritual equivalent of oxygen. "Magic", intuition, sheer astonishment at the forms the Universe devises in which to express life - to express itself - will no longer be able to breathe in us.

But what I'm also sharing with you is this thought: The Universe responds. What you ask of it, it gives. The military-industrial complex and its leaders and scientists have shown more faith in this reality than have those of us who do not believe in war and who want peace. They have asked the Earth for all its deadlier substances. They have been confident in their faith in hatred and war. The universe, ever responsive, the Earth, ever giving, has opened itself fully to their desires. Ironically, Black Elk (the Lakota shaman) and nuclear scientists can be viewed in much the same way: as men who prayed to the Universe for what they believed they needed and who received from it a sign reflective of their own hearts.

I remember when I used to dismiss the bumper sticker "Pray for Peace". I realize now that I did not understand it, since I also did not understand prayer; which I know now to be the active affirmation in the physical world of our inseparableness from the divine; and everything, especially the physical world, is divine.

(From: "The Universe Responds: Or, How I learned We Can Have Peace on Earth", Living by the Word, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, N.Y., N.Y., 1988.)

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Poem for Light

"God's abstention is only from human dialects;
 the holy voice utters its woe and glory in myriad musics,
 in signs and portents.   Our own words are for us to speak,
 a way to ask and to answer."

.....Denise Levertov

There are some gifts that come to us
just once or twice in a lifetime,
gifts that cannot be named
beyond the simple act of gratitude.

We are given a vision so bountiful
we can only gaze with eyes wide,
like a child in summer's first garden.

We reach our clumsy hands
toward that communion
that single perfection
and walk away speechless, blessed.

And breathe, 
in years to come
breathe our hearts open 
aching to tell it well

to sing it into every other heart
to dance it down, into the hungry soil
to hold it before us

that light, 
  that grace given
  voiceless light

Lauren Raine

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thoughts on Pax Gaia at the Holidays

Pax Gaia (the Peace of Earth) is the most compelling challenge of our time. Geologian, Thomas Berry introduced this theme after 9/11 in an essay reflecting the urgent need to embrace a cosmology of truly comprehensive Gaian  peace. It is a peace that transcends Pax Romana (the peace of an empire) and Pax Humana (peace among humans). 

"We are called as an evolving humanity to the Great Work that engenders Pax Gaia. To this end we create and foster deep cultural therapies that address the deep cultural pathology of our time that has brought about such ecological damage."

 (T. Berry, Evening Thoughts, 2006) 
"Only now can we see with clarity that we live not so much in a cosmos (a place) as in a cosmogenesis (a process) -- scientific in its data, mythic in its form."  
~ The Universe Story by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry  

The Winter Solstice was perhaps the earliest universal holy day, celebrated in different ways   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, sensed as Presence in the depths of caves........ even then, the Return of the Light was a holy day, a day of celebration. 

Long ago ancestors lit fires to welcome the "shining god" who was the sun returning from mysterious underworld depths. They built stones or made circles or created doorways to be aligned with the sun's pathway. They lit fires as sympathetic magic, fires to light and imitate the Sun's passage (which is why we still light candles, and Christmas lights, today, although no one remembers.........)

Welcoming the Sun, they left offerings of food to show their gratitude, and invented songs or danced throughout the longest cold night, encouraging, helping the Sun on its  difficult journey to the promise of new life.

I remember at this Holy/Wholly/Holiday  Day that holy days begin among our most ancient, instinctual roots, taproots that reach down, deeply entwined within the visible and invisible web of  Gaia's life

Planet Earth turns her face toward her star again, circling in brilliant orbit, bearing every evolving, responsive, living, infinitely intertwined be-ing within her fragile, exquisite azure skin on her long journey.   

Perhaps we sense, as the sun rises,  that pre-verbal, instinctual knowing, found hidden 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, luminous beneath the oldest pages.  A veneer peels away, revealing a pentimento, an ancient heartbeat, shared again with all beings that keep vigil on the long night of the winter Solstice.  

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Defending the Arts on the Holidays

WomenArts - Create, Connect, Change the World.

For many people working in the arts, the holidays can be extremely challenging. Many of us are on tight budgets, but we are bombarded with advertisements telling us that our rich emotional lives and spiritual connections are not enough – if we want to show people we care, we should be buying them stuff. Then, once we are finally done shopping, many of us must attend family gatherings where we know certain relatives will attack us for doing the work we love.
Happy Holidays from WomenArts
If you come from one of those rare families where everyone supports you in your arts career, then you can skip the rest of this column.  But for those of you who may need to defend yourselves at holiday gatherings, WomenArts has compiled a list of responses to four of the most annoying questions/comments that artists are likely to hear.   No matter what anyone says to you, we hope you know that we love artists here at WomenArts. We think your work is essential, and we hope you have the best holiday season ever!
Martha Richards, Executive Director, WomenArts

It used to be possible for artists to sacrifice everything they loved to get a boring but stable job that would provide enough income to support a family, as well as health insurance and a pension. But it's a lot harder to live that life of quiet desperation these days.
Middle Class Income is Shrinking (Graph)
Data from the Center for Economic Policy Research
The truth is that there are not many "real jobs" left that can provide the stability and benefits that previous generations had. The middle class is shrinking and two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time. Many of the old jobs have been outsourced to other countries or automated out of existence.
As the gap widens between the rich and the poor, job insecurity is a growing problem for millions of Americans.

We desperately need imagination, inspiration and innovation to find our way out of this mess. Instead of telling artists to chase after non-existent "real jobs," we should be encouraging them to focus their creativity on the real work that needs to be done, i.e. helping us find ways to live in harmony with each other and with Mother Nature.  As recent events have shown, that work is far more urgent than any other task.

Are artists really more self-centered than people in other professions?  What about the investment bankers who have destroyed our economy, the real estate speculators who are driving up home prices,  the oil tycoons who are wrecking the environment, or the billionaires trying to control our political system?

Trampling on other people and destroying the planet so that you can make money is self-centered. How many artists are guilty of that?  In fact, most artists are much more focused on giving than taking. They look deeply inside themselves in order to find something beautiful to share with the world, and their best creations will inspire people for generations.  The world would be a much better place if more people gave as much to their communities as artists do.

Actually, the urge to create is a basic human instinct.  The cave men and women drew pictures on the walls of their caves, and throughout history people have written, performed, and created visual art. In our own times, millions of people share pictures and music over the Internet every day. Almost everyone has a favorite song, film, or television program, and almost everyone engages with some form of art every day.
Paleolithic Cave Painting
Paleolithic Cave Painting
The perception that the arts are for the rich stems from the fact that tickets are often so expensive at our major arts institutions.  In other countries, people can afford to go to the theatre, ballet and even the opera.  The reason is that many other countries provide much more arts support than we do because they cherish the arts as a human birthright that needs to be protected and celebrated. For instance, the German government provides over 40 times as much art support per capita as the U.S. government does. When arts organizations have enough government support, they can keep their ticket prices lower so that more people can afford them.

When the National Endowment for the Arts was created in 1966, everyone hoped that the U.S. government would finally join other civilized countries in making the arts accessible to all. But the National Endowment for the Arts has been under constant right-wing attack ever since President Reagan put it on the chopping block shortly after he was elected in 1980.

As a result, the NEA budget has been frozen for decades.  Its 2015 budget allocation was $146 millionThat is $16 million LESS than its 1984 budget of $162 million.  For contrast, the National Science Foundation's budget is $7 billion a year, and our 2015 military budget is $598 billion.

To reclaim the arts for the general public and not just the wealthy, we need to persuade our legislators to take away 1% of the military budget and give it to the arts. Think about what we could do with that $6 billion! Arts organizations all over the country could offer free performances, screenings, exhibits, and educational activities. Everyone would be able to attend whatever they wanted.

That cultural freedom would have a profound effect on all of our lives.  In fact, if we made a substantial investment in arts projects that were designed to build cross-cultural and cross-class understanding, it would probably go a long way towards breaking down some of the persistent race and class barriers in our country.

It is true that non-profit organizations deluge the public with solicitations at this time of year. The reason is that they are trapped in a terribly inefficient fundraising system that burns out their staff members and annoys their donors.

Back in the day when more government funding was available for the arts, a grant-writer for a large arts organization might spend a week or two creating a strong proposal, and then they could get a grant of $10,000 or more.  But these days those larger grants are few and far between.

To replace one $10,000 grant with small donations from individuals, the non-profit has to find hundreds of donors, and that is a very expensive and labor-intensive process. Instead of one grant-writer, the non-profit needs a whole team of people to write and distribute solicitation letters, to create an email and social media campaign, and to organize fundraising parties and follow-up calls. Many small non-profits can't compete because they don't have the staff to do this extra work. Also, as more and more non-profits struggle to find funds, the potential donors get overwhelmed with requests and become less responsive, and so the non-profits must re-double their efforts to woo them back.  This means that the non-profits have to run faster every year just to stay in place.

This system is nuts and needs to be changed.  We are wasting everyone's time and resources by making non-profits chase individual donors one-by-one instead of having a fair and orderly system where people pay their taxes and then government agencies distribute the funds to worthy organizations. If you want fewer fundraising letters in your mailbox, it is time to tell your legislators that you want a government that supports essential public services like the arts and education.


Thanks so much to Robert Reich and our friends at for inspiring this blog with their excellent video, Your Holiday Guide to Dealing with Uncle Bob.
We hope this blog is helpful to you at holiday gatherings this year. Please feel free to send us your comments. If you would like to donate to WomenArts, please click here or click on the Donate Now! button in the top right section of any page on our website. Thank you!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Another Solstice Wish: The Prayer of Saint Francis

It's funny how sometimes a thought, or event, or insight, is preceded by itself,
 it seems to announce itself  first.  I posted this yesterday, and today found myself waiting
at Saint Francis In The Foothills Church, where I had turned up to do some volunteer work.
Turns out the event was cancelled, but while waiting in that beautiful place I walked the Labyrinth on the 
Church grounds.  And I found myself repeating this prayer.  I thank the Spirit of Saint Francis, who seems 
to be active in the world now, for my own inspiration at the Solstice.


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.  
O Divine Master, 
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.


St. Francis lived his life with joy and appreciation for all things created. 

I had an artistic vision of St. Francis surrounded by the animals and birds of the desert Southwest. I wanted to show the calm and peace the animals might feel while in the presence of Francis. The beautiful Sabino Canyon and the blue Arizona sky are the background of my mosaic. The tiles have the texture of rock and vegetation.

I painted the tiles of my birds and my lizard “Marco” using my photographs. They are frequent visitors to my garden. My inspiration for the Bobcats and the Coyote were from amazing wildlife photos by Sam Angevine, He has allowed me to use his images for my models. The roadrunners in the foreground, “Bella” and “Edward”, are feathered friends of artist Geri Niedermiller, .

    Ginny Moss Rothwell       

Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter Solstice 2015

luminaria on Serpent Mound
You, Darkness

You, darkness, that I come from
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes a circle of light for everyone
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything –
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them! –
powers and people –

and it is possible 
a great presence is moving near me.

I have faith in nights.

Rainer Maria Rilke

December Moon

Before going to bed
After a fall of snow
I look out on the field
Shining there in the moonlight
So calm, untouched and white
Snow silence fills my head
After I leave the window.

Hours later near dawn
When I look down again
The whole landscape has changed
The perfect surface gone
Criss-crossed and written on
Where the wild creatures ranged
While the moon rose and shone.

Why did my dog not bark?
Why did I hear no sound
There on the snow-locked ground
In the tumultuous dark?

How much can come, how much can go
When the December moon is bright,
What worlds of play we'll never know
Sleeping away the cold white night
After a fall of snow.

May Sarton

Pledge of Allegiance

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Completely Unrelated to Christmas..........Mermaids Enroute to Needles

Found in my photo files and never before shared.  A gas station Oasis in the middle of nowhere, on route to the desert town of Needles, California.  No less than 4 mermaids in their pools.  Bless the woman who refused to give up magic in the middle of nowhere. 

surrounding area

surrounding area

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Telling the Trees: Wassailing

In a previous post I shared the practice of "telling the bees" - here's another old custom along the same line, which is the practice of "telling the trees" at the Solstice celebrations, in essence, thanking them for their bounty and generosity, and sharing the celebration with them.

I love that!  

Although Wassail is popularly a spiced cider drink, often with brandy added and served hot, originally it meant the Yuletide custom of  singing to the trees, in particular, the orchard of apple trees.  The spiced cider also was offered in ancient honor to the trees for their generosity, and around the time of the Solstice, wassailers would prepare  traditional wassail – soaking pieces of bread, cake or toast in it – and travel from apple orchard to apple orchard singing and talking to the trees, in order to ensure a good harvest for the coming year.  Wassail-soaked pieces of bread or toast were then buried at the trees’ roots or hung in the trees’ branches to appease the tree spirits and feed them well until the next harvest.

Like the Romans'  offerings and small farm shrines dedicated  to the "Numina", the spirits of place that assisted them with their crops and orchards (the indigenous Roman Goddess Pomona, whose name meant "apple",  originated as a Numen), this custom, which is still practiced with a lot of good cheer  in some rural areas of  England, reflects that ancient pagan sense of "reciprocity" with an intelligent, spiritually  inhabited natural world.

I read that our habit of "toasting" may go back to Wassail revelries.  "Waes hael"  revelers would say,  from the Old English term  meaning "be well".  Eventually  "wassail" referred less to the greeting and more to the drink.The contents of the Wassail bowl varied, but a popular one was known as 'lambs wool'. It consisted of hot ale, roasted crab apples, sugar, spices, eggs, and cream served with little pieces of toast. It was the toast floating on the top that made it look like lamb's wool.  The toast that was traditionally floated atop the wassail eventually became our "toast" -  when you hold up your glass and announce, “Let’s have a toast,”  or  ”I’ll toast to that,” you’re remembering this very old ritual of floating a bit of toast in spiced ale or mulled wine or wassail in celebration.

Wassailing – visiting neighbors (and much appreciated, friendly trees), singing carols and sharing warmed drink – is a tradition related to the Winter Solstice with ancient roots indeed.

 I found a good Wassail recipe, which I've taken the liberty of sharing at the end of this post.  I don't know if I'll be going out to sing to the Saguaros  this Solstice, but who knows what I might end up doing if I drink enough Wassail with brandy.    Huzzah!  Happy Wassailing!
Photo by Martin Beebee

Apple Tree Wassailing Apple Tree Wassailing Chants and Rhymes

Compiled in The Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton

From the South Hams of Devon, recorded 1871: 

Here's to thee, old apple tree,
Whence thou mayst bud
And whence thou mayst blow!
And whence thou mayst bear apples enow!
Hats full! Caps full!
Bushel--bushel--sacks full,
And my pockets full too! Huzza!

From Cornworthy, Devon, recorded 1805:

Huzza, Huzza, in our good town
The bread shall be white, and the liquor be brown
So here my old fellow I drink to thee
And the very health of each other tree.
Well may ye blow, well may ye bear
Blossom and fruit both apple and pear.
So that every bough and every twig
May bend with a burden both fair and big
May ye bear us and yield us fruit such a stores
That the bags and chambers and house run o'er.

Yield: 10-12 servings,  Prep Time: 5 minutes, Cook Time: 4 hours

Wassail Recipe


  • 1 gallon Musselman's Apple Cider
  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 4 hibiscus tea bags
  • 10 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp. whole cloves
  • 1 Tb. juniper berries
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into slices
  • 1 apple, sliced into rounds
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds


  1. Place all the ingredients in a slow cooker and cover.
  2. Turn the slow cooker on high heat and cook for 3-4 hours, until the color has darkened and the fruit is soft. Remove the tea bags and serve hot.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Telling the Bees

Artwork by Rima Staines

I'm always talking about "a Conversant World", a conversation that includes all living beings we interact with, not just humans.  (With cellphones, I'm beginning to wonder about our capacity to interact with humans either, but, oops, sorry about that.)  Here's a wonderful practice, still done in some rural areas of England, called "telling the bees".  I was glad, when I learned about this, that my tendency to talk to bees has historical precedence. 

Bees have always been magical creatures throughout many cultures.  In ancient Greece there were Bee Priestesses - who no doubt were also bee keepers - called the "Mellisae", and many myths of the Goddess include bees, the Queen Bee, and the creation of honey.  Also the Semitic name "Deborah" or "Devorah" means "Bee", and its origins may also go back to a time when there were women who were Bee priestesses.  

Bronze Age Bee Goddess
Reciprocity, the sense of intimacy with all the other lives and evolutions and intrinsic Spirits of Place  all around us..........I loved the movie "THE SECRET  LIFE OF BEES", where Queen Latifah explains to her young apprentice that it's important to just love the bees.  That "everyone needs love".  As the founders of  Findhorn demonstrated - there's a sacred collaboration that is going on all the time, or can be.

In New England there has long been a tradition called  "Telling the Bees", in which a death in a family farm, or among beekeepers,  is "told to the bees" so they will not be upset by the loss, or can participate, perhaps, in the remembrance, a folk custom that remembers as well that bees are "part of the family".

 According to Wikipedia:

"The telling of the bees is a traditional English custom, in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper's lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household. The bees were most commonly told of deaths in their master's family. The custom was prevalent all over England, as well as in a few places in Ireland and Wales but not in Scotland.If the custom was omitted or forgotten then it was believed a penalty would be paid, that the bees might leave their hive, stop producing honey, or die.
To inform the bees of a death their hive might be hung with a black cloth, while a "doleful tune" is sung.  Another method of "telling the bees" would be for their master to approach the hive and knock gently upon it. The house key might also be used to knock on the hive. When the master of the house had the attention of the bees they would tell the bees the name of the person that had died.  Food and drink from a beekeeper's funeral would also be left by the hive for the bees, including the funeral biscuits and wine. The hive would also be lifted a few inches and put down again at the same time as the coffin.The hive might also be rotated to face the funeral procession, and draped with mourning cloth. If a wedding occurred in the household, the hive might be decorated, and a slice of wedding cake left by their hive. The decoration of hives appears to date to the early 19th century.  The custom spread with European immigration to the United States in the 19th century. "

Telling the Bees

 by Deborah Digges  (1950 - 2009)

It fell to me to tell the bees, 
though I had wanted another duty—
to be the scribbler at his death, 
there chart the third day’s quickening. 
But fate said no, it falls to you 
to tell the bees, the middle daughter. 
So it was written at your birth. 
I wanted to keep the fire, working 
the constant arranging and shifting 
of the coals blown flaring, 
my cheeks flushed red, 
my bed laid down before the fire, 
myself anonymous among the strangers
there who’d come and go. 
But destiny said no. It falls 
to you to tell the bees, it said. 
I wanted to be the one to wash his linens, 
boiling the death-soiled sheets, 
using the waters for my tea. 
I might have been the one to seal 
his solitude with mud and thatch and string, 
the webs he parted every morning, 
the hounds’ hair combed from brushes, 
the dust swept into piles with sparrows’ feathers. 
Who makes the laws that live 
inside the brick and mortar of a name, 
selects the seeds, garden or wild, 
brings forth the foliage grown up around it 
through drought or blight or blossom,
the honey darkening in the bitter years,
the combs like funeral lace or wedding veils 
steeped in oak gall and rainwater, 
sequined of rent wings. 
And so arrayed I set out, this once
obedient, toward the hives’ domed skeps 
on evening’s hill, five tombs alight. 
I thought I heard the thrash and moaning 
of confinement, beyond the century, 
a calling across dreams, 
as if asked to make haste just out of sleep. 
I knelt and waited. 
The voice that found me gave the news. 
Up flew the bees toward his orchards.


** There is also a wonderful folk group from the UK called "Telling the Bees"..... I couldn't resist posting them here now as well.  (Many thanks to Valerianna for all of this!)


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

"Do it because you love it".....

"Emergences II;   Anima/Animus" (2015)

Sometimes the Oracle speaks.  Sometimes the Oracle Speaks in the form of a Chinese fortune cookie..........

Recently I decided that, since I have so many bodies of work wasting away in closets and boxes  it is time for me to tackle the "Art World".  So I have been dutifully sitting down every day writing Proposals and Applications, pulling out the Art Speak Dictionary, and going to it.

It is a grim business.

For one thing, I feel more "out of it" than ever, a virtual relic in a strange new world of stunningly obscure Artist Statements (what?  what on earth is he saying there?  And what is that thing?)  which sometimes leaves me feeling like it's a bad case of "the Emperors New Clothes". Other times I feel intimidated with it all, and it is clear that I have early onset dementia or I need another MFA because they are speaking a whole new language here.  Everything is so Conceptual now, and so much about technology. Who paints anymore?   And then there is Raw Art, which is a whole other matter.

I learn that I'm too old, and have been around too long, to be an "emerging artist", so that is a buzz word in the applications that stops me in my tracks with a shudder. But most of the stuff to apply to seems to be for "emerging artists", so it's a catch-22.   That makes me, I guess, an "established artist", although I'm not sure where I'm established, since I generally don't get paid for doing art, nor do I have Curators doing Retrospectives of my 40 some years of work.  Darn, I have to do it all myself.

Can you be 65 and  "emerging"?  I always feel like I'm "emerging", but my sense of the word may be somewhat more metaphorical.

I also noticed that, in all those applications, it seems Curators expect to get paid for Curating, but the artists generally have to cover their own costs and don't forget that $30.00 application fee.

I think of it as Artist Bingo.  Sometimes you win.

There seem to be some unwritten rules.  One has to do with subject matter, which has been around for a long time - this is a predjudice toward anything that is too overtly "spiritual" or "religious".  I'm not sure where the Visionaries went either......I don't much see them in the august pages of Art in America either.   Political is good, and highly valued.  Craft and "Beauty" is not, in "high art", much valued, but "Statement" is.  And it seems that the darker and grimmer or intangible the statement, the more Depth and Meaning it seems to have,  No Pollyannas allowed here.

Ok, I'm exagerating.  But I do feel like a relic, and wonder if there is anyone out there that is going to like my stuff enough to let me hang it in a gallery and bring some wine for the Reception.  I love Receptions.

Feeling very depressed by all of this, I went out for lunch to a nearby Chinese restaurant.  And at the end of lunch, what did my Fortune Cookie say?

"Do it because you love it"

Perfect!   And one of the things I realized is that  most of my work are Shrines, Reliquaries, and Icons.  Even the Masks of the Goddess are really a form of mythic Shrine, waiting to be collaboratively activated.  My art is my spiritual practice, my way of conversing with the Divine.  When I work, it centers me, it connects me, it integrates me.   That's all I need to know, really.  Do it because you love it.

Earth Shrine (2007)

Friday, December 4, 2015

An Irish Blessing by John O'Donohue


On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.

~ John O'Donohue