Thursday, October 27, 2011

Into the Mystery

"Treetops", watercolor on paper, 2011

A dark and wet morning. I come down to light the fire well before dawn, watching 
as a misty November light slowly fills the forest. If I could fly up above the treetops 
I would see the image above. We are in the dark and dying time, the ancient crone 
looking straight at us, if we dare to meet her gaze. 

"Ridges #4", watercolor, 2011

Many thought-threads have been spinning in my consciousness, inspired by Terri's 
posts on creative burn-out over at The Drawing Board and the resulting conversation 
in the comment forum. Worth taking the time to read the posts and comments, and 
to visit A Mermaid in the Attic for a related post. 

As is often true for me, my process is mirrored by the natural world, or possibly
that by paying close attention to natural cycles, I entrain with it. Looking around
me now, I see the brilliance of summer's fire being released in the turning leaves, 
as if slowly bleeding out into the atmosphere.  

In the garden, the architecture of decay is just as inspiring to me as the surprise 
of spring flowers, revealing intricate forms and structures. 

I almost never paint images of bright sunny days, a sky without clouds and mists 
seems a less compelling story to tell. As people around me speak their dread of 
the coming cold and the growing dark, I sink into my roots, release summer's fire 
through my fingertips, and begin the composting of the year. Dreaming into the 
dark, I tap the ancient well of blood-wisdom. In the spring, dreams will rise up 
through my veins like the sweet sap of a sugar maple. 

Learning to dance with the dark is not for the faint of heart, nor is it something 
we can avoid. In a culture determined to find a cure for aging and death, its no 
wonder we judge pain, illness and our dark internal journeys as wrong. There is 
another way - to know everything as a teacher. It is the path of least resistance, 
though embracing it is to know we must sit with the discomfort for as long as it 
takes. Deep within the singing stones and flowing through our veins is an archive 
of all the tools we could ever need to navigate life, placed there by each and every 
one of our ancestors. I imagine countless life stories coursing through my veins, 
there for me if I sit still and listen. If I lose my way with listening, there is a folk 
story to show me the way - a myth embedded with animal allies, elder wisdom 
and every imaginable challenge. 

Driving home one day, I came across a turkey vulture eating roadkill. This great 
composter will soon head south to warmer climates where her task of eating 
death and disease will still be needed. Here, the freeze will keep us safe. Did 
you know that the stomach acid of a vulture is strong enough to digest anthrax? 

As she takes flight and disappears into the forest, I think of how little of her
story, or the importance of her daily meals to our health is known these days. 
How might we move through life differently if we learned to sit with our 
pain for as long as it takes? Might we find we can digest and transform it into 

I leave you with two films I made recently to finally share some of my music 
with you. I chose to upload "medium sized" movies as I wasn't sure how long 
the best quality ones would take. So I'm not sure how it will go. The first track is 
from my CD, Breath & Bone, the song is Into the Mystery. I used some of my 
spirals for imagery, because the song and the spirals tell the same story. On 
this track, I am playing with harmonic singing, only a little echo has been added 
to the voice. My friend and producer, David Chandler, plays synthesizer. This 
is an improvised piece which came out the way it is, not much was changed. 
I have no idea how this will be, my first time using iMovie. This song, with just 
voice and synthesizer is very different from what I thought I would be recording, 
but it is now one of my favorites. 

This second film has drawings and a recording from the Widow Jane Mine in 
Rosendale, NY. Just my voice and drum, the amazing acoustics of an enormous 
underground stone cavern, and dripping water. The track is called Rattling the Bones 
from the CD Songjourneys, by BoneSong. Sadly we are no longer together.
Happy Samhain.


cloudgathererholdmedown said...

oh, such beautifully ghostly, atmospheric paintings of borders and boundaries and contrasts.

Ms. said...

Hi Ho to the wind and the rain, to the decay that makes the mulch to feed the new growth!

"if we learned to sit with our
pain for as long as it takes? Might we find we can digest and transform it into nourishment?"

Yes yes--that is also contained in the North Indian tales of the Peacock that gets the brilliance of it's coloring from eating thistles, digesting the thorny produces the rainbow through transmutation. And, herbalists know that the cure grows near the poisons of the plant world. Good therapists know that to learn to sit within the disturbing moment of thought produces the very strength necessary for transforming the disturbance to knowledge of self.

The film is enchanting, haunting, and very successful. Thank you again and again for sharing so liberally.

trish said...

What beautiful music and movie. It certainly took me into the mystery.
Your paintings are glorious in their darkness and depth of feeling. Great words of wisdom to go with them too.
Many blessings to you.

Velma Bolyard said...

well, of course, this is exactly what's happening to me this fall. thanks for reframing it for me.

kd said...

Beautifully expressed the words, the music and the imagery. Thankyou

Margaret Johnson said...

Have loved your blog for so long, but have never left a comment before. your words and paintings are always so beautiful and enriching. Now to hear your singing! So achingly beautiful. The voice and images so perfect together. The second track so lively and thrilling! Thankyou for sharing so much of yourself. Vultures can be much maligned can't they, but play such an important role. thankyou many times over. oxox

india flint said...

exquisite watercolours

Nikiah said...

Powerful music and stunning images! Once again I come away from your blog feeling inspired and full of creative energy! Thank you~

Tammie Lee said...

such a wonderful post. i loved your music, it filled my wee cabin, thank you!

barbara said...

I love your voice deeply, and never before have I enjoyed and welcomed the dark seaeson as I do this year. Maybe because I am older, better rooting in my own darkness, and also I hear the world is calling for the process of healing you describe in such inviting words :-) This season gives us many chances.
Like this post gives us many treasures.
Beautiful watercolors. And when I see the blurred spirals in the first video, eyes and faces from sacred animal masks come to me.

Lynn said...

Wonderful to read your thoughts on this "mystery"; to see your images; to hear your voice. That second song in particular spoke to something deep and wanting within me. You always give so much in your posts - thank you.

Acornmoon said...

stomach acid strong enough to dissolve anthrax? wow!

I have told you before but I will say it again, I love your paintings of misty trees. They remind me of Japanese woodcut prints.

sarah said...

I have fallen in love at first sight with your beautiful weblog, your wonderful art.

Karen said...

Valerianna... Your paintings and music go hand in hand. Beautiful! you had me hynotised. x

Karen said...

That should have read *hypnotised* ....and I've lost the ability to spell. ;)

Thalia said...

What gorgeous and evocative paintings, and what an amazing range of things you do! And what a good, good, blog. I can feel my shoulders coming down reading it; you're someone who gets it in the same way I do, I think.

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

well..which words
convey anything at all?

i don't know.
the singing ~ harmonics ~

i have no words.

love, grace

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

i had to come back
listen again
this small home in the desert
wanted more
it was as if the sound had been
absorbed by the walls, the
the cloth i work on
and they all wanted more.
i wanted more.
like wood that is
and is given oil, a pungent oil,
a fragrant oil that seeps in to
its every cell.
i was not expecting this at all.
it is extraordinary and very ver

A mermaid in the attic said...

Oh, wonderful wonderful wonderful! I popped in on Thursday, but I don't think you had the second video up then (?). I knew the first track from your beautiful CD, but that second one was just...hmmm, I can't even think of the words! I just wanted to be there, listening intently in the dark of a cavern deep in the earth, connected to everything around me. I've just recently seen the film "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" about the discovery of cave paintings that are the oldest ever discovered, some 32 000 years old. Your singing took me right back there, and listening, I can feel my throat contracting and singing along, like an old song I've always known but had forgotten somehow!

steven said...

your voice circles and curves much like the swirls and whorls of your artwork. each line suggesting the next and yet not entirely parallel. you're such an astonishing and gifted person! steven

grace Forrest~Maestas said...

V!!!!...until reading just now
Mermaid's comment...where is info
re a
you HAVE one????
i was hoping with the inclusion of
these two pieces that it might
mean one was forthcoming...
but you ALREADY have one?????
how does one find it??????????????

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

Incredible, I love your wordcraft in this post and the message of those words, the paintings are evocative and beautiful as ever, and your music... wow!

I need to come back and listen again when I am alone in the house without bouncing children and bustle, I need to just sit and absorb and follow on the curves and breadths of sound... it calls to something ancient, ancestral, primordial, it draws me deeply.

I really feel the thread drawing together all your different works of art in this music and your connectedness to your human heritage and the natural world.
You are an amazing human being, thankyou for sharing!

Valerianna said...

withoutwordswouldyouknow - thanks, yes, borders and boundary contrasts, I like that.

Ms - You are quite welcome, I like sharing with humans, I do so much sharing with the trees, its nice to have a place to share a lot with humans!

Trish - thank you, I'm glad you traveled into the mystery, and thankful, too, that you seemed to have returned unscathed!

Velma - quite welcome, I like reframing... though words more than paintings!

kd- :)

Margaret Johnson - thanks for leaving a comment, and glad you enjoyed the music.

iN!@nA - thanks!

Nikiah - I often feel the same after reading your posts, so the gratitude is mutual!

Tammie - I like that thought, my voice filling your wee cabin, lovely.

Stille Linde - yes, I saw those masks, too.

Lynn - When I go to the cave to sing, I feel so connected to the deep, unnameable parts of me.

acornmoon - Yes, I remember you saying that before, I hadn't thought of that then. I look forward to having the new studio and being more free to make larger paintings. I love Japanese woodcuts and grew up in a house of Asian art. It definitely influenced me.

sarah elwell - thanks!!

Karen - hynotised works, too, I think! Hope you've regained your spelling by now, I'm afraid mine has never returned.

Thalia - thanks all around.

Grace - Well!

mermaid - that's right, I didn't add the second film until the following day, glad you came back to hear it. I'm looking forward to seeing that film, I hear its wonderful. If you ever come to the US, we'll plan a trip to sing in the cave!

steven - I'm humbled by your words.

Swan Artworks - I'm glad you see the threads weaving my work together and I hope you came back when you had some quiet time to yourself, and then could rock out to music inside the rocks! Thanks for your support.

Donna~Q~ said...

"Deep within the singing stones and flowing through our veins is an archive
of all the tools we could ever need to navigate life, placed there by each and every
one of our ancestors. I imagine countless life stories coursing through my veins,
there for me if I sit still and listen."
... This, oh yes, THIS!

The music that you posted is so rich and sacred-sounding, and the art to go with is paired perfectly. Brava!

Jo Potter said...

Hi Valerianna,
It is good to be back blogging again after being away for so long.
I don't know what is going on with the strange weather at the moment. We have had the warmest October on record, here in the UK!

Anyway, I just love this post... Your paintings are like the misty mornings I see outside my window and around the Wiltshire countryside.
Your work is magical and WOW!
What a voice you have. It is really hypnotising. The videos are great!
Lovely to see you and Pasha cat again.

Many blessings for Halloween!
Jo and Zigsa cat.

goldenflower said...

Dearest Valerianna: Your blog has been nourishing me for months now. And today.... I discover your music "Into the Mystery". So beautiful and deepening, I encourage you to post it on Youtube so more people can enjoy its healing benefits. In love, GF

nancy neva gagliano said...

enthralled by the 'architecture of decay'...

wise words leading down that path of least resistance.
LEARNING TO DANCE: your prose is poetry

Ms. said...

HEY Ho! I sent you this by email today but just in case I'm sending it here too-SPIRALS-

Joe Madl said...

i just love the contemplative, and mysterious nature of your watercolors! beautiful! simply beautiful!


ArtPropelled said...

I had no idea! Your music... your voice, quite extraordinary. I'm deeply moved. Thank you Valerianna.

Valerianna said...

Donna ~ Q - thanks, I've been wanting to share for a while, but its step by step with the technology of everything!

Joanne - Nice to have you back and visible again. I look forward to hearing more about your new place! I feel as though I've only been able to grab moments of painting here and there, but the in the newest work I'm really getting at something I've been looking for for a long time. Once the new studio is built, I'll take a lot of time for myself and PAINT!

goldenflower - thanks for commenting, its good to get a sense of individual followers. I might eventually post on youtube, for now, I'm just happy I figured THIS out!

Nancy - thanks!

Ms. - thanks, cool stuff.

Joe - thank you... When I lived in the city, I painted so that I could fill my walls with the quiet of nature, now I travel deeper into it and find the calm center, while making and after, its definitely the mystery I want to speak about.

ArtPropelled - thank you! I love it when something I offer moves.

Anonymous said...

so very beautiful
the music and those spiral paintings

deep bow


Anonymous said...

Beautiful watercolors & photos. Hope you are keeping cozy.
~ Zuzu

Heather said...

Your images and music are very integrated. Wonderful and grounded. Yes, embrace the change - darkness is part of life, compost for the soul.

Valerianna said...

Mo Crow - thanks, deep bow back.

Zuzu - yes, cozy... especially because its in the 60's today, and that, a week after a 2 ft snow storm, go figure.

Heather - I did think the music and images went well together. I was glad to see this as sometimes I feel a little like I have my hand in too many pots.

ramona said...

Wonderful singing!! Beautiful images!! Thank you!!!

Reading Tea Leaves said...

Wonderful to hear your voice Valerianna. A powerful sound reaching deep into the earth and the psyche. I can see that your music and your art are as one.

Your thoughts on the vulture's place in the eco-system is truly thought-provoking. Your words too help me make sense of this 'dark season' of death and decay. That without it we would not have the longed-for spring re-birth.

Thank you dear friend.


gz said...

I feel drawn to the light in the third image. There is hope.
Beautiful music.
and lovely cat.

Bright Blessings, with the new beginnings of Samhain

Alexi said...

The paintings are beautiful - so atmospheric. I love going within, retreating at this time of year, I find it easier to nourish my imagination and be creative. It's lovely to feel in tune with the natural world. - And your music is amazing! - quite unusual and haunting! I was captivated. Thank you very much for sharing this.

Mel said...

Your blog is such a lovely place to visit. I found your videos beautiful to the eye, the ear and the soul.

I love your photographer's eye. Much of the natural world that catches your eye catches mine as well, especially the leaf portraits.

I keep turning your phrase the architecture of decay over in my mind, as it's the leaves with the dead spots that speak the loudest to me. I always think of the words beautiful cancer when I look at the photos up close. It's the transience and the transition that I am drawn to the most.
Thanks for sharing your art with us.