Tuesday, April 20, 2021

"Our Lady of the Shards"..............Remembering Buried Lives

"The Memory Keeper" and "Our Lady of the Forgotten Midwives" (2019)

For quite a long time now I go into the studio faithfully just about every day, and I sit there, sometimes I fool around on the computer, mostly I look at all the terrifying blank white  canvases or the neatly stacked bags of clay or the big pile of leather I have next to the plaster casts of faces, also neatly stacked and displayed on a shelf ...... then I go get some coffee, pat the cats, pull some weeds,  check my email,  and somehow, the day is pretty much gone and I haven't done anything.  I wish I could say that I am an engine of new ideas and creativity these days, but I am not.  I am, perhaps, dormant, incubational, etc.  More of my own words coming back to haunt me.  

"Our Lady of the Shards" (2013)

So, at least,  I can look back at this rather huge body of work(s) that surround me (and if I were wealthy I would have a gallery again, where I and others would have  badly needed space to share our art, and we could do the teaching and community  creation that an arts district provides)..... but, I don't live in a place where art districts are much valued, except by real estate developers.   Tucson's so called "Art and Warehouse District", having once been lively, should now be called the "Fancy Wine Bar and Pretentious Restaurant" district, most of the galleries being now extinct.  Well.  If wishes were fishes.................

The Memory Keeper I (2018)

I don't know about other artists, but I always have about 3 to 5 series of works going at a time, and can't really say where one series ends and another begins.  Sometimes they begin with me just playing with a shape or a color, and the work itself tells me where it wants to go.  Magical, that experience of "Flow".  Stories themselves don't have an end, they just find new expressions -  they become a "trilogy", or a side character demands attention because it has developed a voice, or there is an undiscovered country beyond the borders that has sent out an exploration party, etc.  That is true in other art forms as well.

"The Weaver" (2018)

The Bone Goddess (2018)
I really love my continuing  series of ceramic ICONS "Our Lady of the Shards"  that evolved when I found myself staring at a pile of  beautiful shards of broken pots from the Clay Coop where I sometimes work.  They were half buried in the mound of recycled clay, and I thought of  
how archeologists might feel, sorting through the buried fragments  of lives and cultures  long lost, long buried, long forgotten.  Piecing shards together like a jigsaw puzzle to find the stories and see again the hands that made those artifacts?   How would it be, to see the faces of the forgotten rising from the buried past?  And, for me,  particularly the voices of the women, silenced in the long advance of "his-story" - the forgotten Midwives who brought our ancestors into the world, the Wise Women and the Weavers and Spinners of lives, the Goddesses cast aside in patriarchal monotheism?   The  tangible and communicative Spirits of Place, the "Numina", rising from the buried places, from the dry and broken soil of desert arroyos where they continue to sustain us,  or revealed by a storm or a sudden flood.  The Memory Keepers who keep the essential and sustaining stories, the "Water from Another Time"  that generates and informs the present?  Whether buried intentionally or not, these faces rise from the dreaming Earth, from the clay and the stone,  their eyes opening as they wake again. 

"Hecate" (2019)

What might they look like?  What might they tell us as we plunge into a future that seems so  uncertain in the face of ecological and social crisis?   I have been making works about "surfacing" for a long time.   Along with my colleagues I reflect that some of us are  "spiritual archeologists".  Faces, Myths, Presence:  surfacing from among the shards.  

"The Black Madonna" (2019)
"Our Lady of the Waters" (2014)

Saturday, April 17, 2021

She Who Hears the Cries of the World

Mana Youngbear as "White Tara" in Restoring the Balance (2004)



White Tara is the manifestation of complete Compassion, She is the Bodlhissatva who will assist the suffering of the world, assist us to move through the suffering to love, and the reealization that we are not alone, that we all belong to the great Circle.  Quon Yin, Tara, Mother Mary.............. all manifestations or archetypes of the Divine Mother, and the expansion of unconditional compassion and love.  I wrote this spoken word poem in 1997, when I was going through  loss of a home/dream/community that eventually led me to create a new life on the other side of the continent.  

I reflect, as I try to recall the experience from which this poem arose, that the opening of the heart that grief and loss can bring can also be a path into profound evolutionary change, but in my experience, to grow one must first go through it, one must experience the pain and the loss.

Which is something very fearful to do, and can take a long time to do.  Because the heart does not know or reason in sequential time like the intellect does! Having just lost a beloved cat, I am experiencing this right now.  The emotional body, it seems to me, suffers all the losses at once as each loss arises.  And the heart also partakes in a greater  Mystery that somehow knows all beings are One, remembering all experiences of  love and belonging within the Circle dance of life.  Grief can be a great teacher.

 "I went to meet that savage creature I have run from,  lifetime after lifetime,

 the shape within the shadows, huge, a creature of smoke and bared fangs. "

This line arose from a dream I had many times, in which I was being pursued by a vampire.  Always it almost got me, or was a shadowy presence just behind me, and I would wake up. I suppose Jungians would call this the "denial of the shadow" or some such.    I was always too afraid to confront the creature that pursued me in those dreams, because I was sure it would kill me.  Finally I had a dream in which I became tired of running, and a I stopped to face the pursuing monster.   And when, at last, the horror embraced me it turned into a young boy,  vulnerable, with tears in his eyes. 


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Saraswati Synchronicity (and a poem)

I've been having a lot of synchronicities lately, and sometimes I feel like my guides or higher self or even the pixies are trying to tell me something.  Sometimes, as anyone who studies synchronicities knows, they are rather funny, sometimes they are very helpful, and sometimes they seem like a riddle I need time to figure out, if I ever do.

I recently purchased a book by Bernard Beitman MD on synchronicity called Connecting with Coincidence - the New Science for Using Synchronicity and Serendipity in Your Life.    I learned about the book from a Blog I follow on Synchronicity and Consciousness by Trish and Rob MacGregor - I have, over the years, shared some of my synchronicities with them.  I am somewhat embarroused to say that when I encounter a new non-fiction book, I often will open it at random, reading parts before I commit to reading the book from the beginning.  Which is exactly what I did with this book, opening to a section called "Internet Angels".   

The first sentence I read was "Raine believed an outside agency was helping her to find what she needed.  Her need was helping to create the response shee sought from someone tuned to wanting to share and help." 

I thought "Huh, someone with the same name as me."  I read on, and then realized that it was me!

"Author Lauren Raine wrote, 'I've often had the experience, especially with the Internet, of having information I needed come to me.  I even am not surprised any more, having faith in some kind of invisible means of support.  I remember in 2000 when I was working on descriptions of Goddesses for my book, receiving several emails out of the blue, from someone I didn't know, that discussed eloquently the Goddess Saraswati.  Which was information I needed.  I still have no idea of who that person was who sent me those articles, or why, or even where they got my email address from.' " (page 139)

I had completely forgotten about that, but it's true that often I received help with my Goddess projects that did seem to come from "an invisible means of support".  I must have emailed the story to the MacGregors,  and they shared it with Dr. Beitman.  But what are the odds of  opening my new book to the exact place where my own 20 year old story of synchronicity is?

So, I have been thinking about it ever since, and felt like sharing it here. Specifically I've been thinking about Saraswati,  Her presence in Bali which I strongly felt when I was there, the masks I've made for Her over the years, and what gifts the Goddess brings to those who ask.

Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of Art, Language, Communication, Knowledge, Learning,  and creative Inspiration.  She is often portrayed with instruments in her hands, demonstrating the tools of art and expression.  In India the Goddess is sometimes invoked at the birth of a child,  and a bit of honey is placed on the infant's tongue so he or she will be "blessed with good speech".  When I was in Bali (which is also when I wrote the below poem)  I understood that Saraswati was very important to the Balinese people.  I remember once seeing a flock of geese making their way up a street,  with a whole line of mopeds behind them.  When I asked a Balinese friend why no one moved them out of the way, she responded:  "Sacred to Saraswati".  That was apparently answer enough.

According to Wikipedia, Saraswati is:

"Originally associated with the great river known as Saraswati..........(the name) also means "she who has water"  and  "she who possesses speech". It is also a Sanskrit composite word of surasa-vati (सरसु+अति) which means "one with plenty of water".  The word Saraswati appears both as a reference to a river and as a significant deity in the Rigveda. In initial passages, the word refers to the Sarasvati River .................the Rigveda describes Saraswati as the best of mothers, of rivers, of goddesses."

".......Her importance grows in Vedas composed after Rigveda and in Brahmanas, and the word evolves in its meaning from "waters that purify", to "that which purifies", to "vach (speech) that purifies", to "knowledge that purifies", and ultimately into a spiritual concept of a goddess that embodies knowledge, arts, music, melody, muse, language, rhetoric, eloquence, creative work and anything whose flow purifies the essence and self of a person. In Upanishads and Dharma Sastras, Saraswati is invoked to remind the reader to meditate on virtue, virtuous emoluments, the meaning and the very essence of one's activity, one's action."

I can't help but think that that provides an excellent description of "Sacred Arts",  which might be viewed (also, along with geese or swans) as "Sacred to Saraswati".  I reflect also that what profoundly impressed me when I was in Bali was the presence, and practice, of art absolutely everywhere, within everyone's lives.  Not in any western sense - all arts there were done as a religious offering, as communal and devotional. Everyone is engaged in some way, whether that is participating in the music or masked dramas, as dancers, making the elaborate offerings for rituals and celebrations, painting.......the making of art is everywhere, a part of daily life.  The Balinese have no idea of the "great alienated artist" and they have no discourse about the "meaning of art".   I remember again what a revelation that was to me,  and that also later inspired me to offer my masks as "Temple Masks for the Goddess"  when I returned from Bali. 

One other word about the "River Saraswati":  there is no actual Saraswati River  in India - the great purifying river of Saraswati is rather a spiritual or metaphorical river that sustains the soul rather than the body.  To bathe in, or seek pilgrimage to, the river Saraswati (like the pilgrimages made to the actual river Ganges) is to be purified, to be given highest inspiration and vision, and to join with the great beauty and mystery of life.  So it seems to me. 

The poem below I wrote when I was in Bali, actually, when I stood looking across a valley at the great volcano Kintamani.  A body of water was beneath it.  For a long time I used a false Balinese name as the author, because it has a Balinese "voice".  But it came from my heart, and my response to this "Land of Saraswati".

Love is Saraswati's river

flowing through our lands.
She will feed the rice fields,
She will accept our woven offerings.

She will bear our ashes
and the fires of Kintamani
to the sea.

Formless, she neither takes nor gives;
we impose these significances
upon the flowers we cast in her.

From birth to death,
Saraswati's river sustains us to the sea.