Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wolves at the Door

Hare and Bone and Hide

There is a place I visit 
when weary in my heart,
of who we have become 
and how we have forgotten. 
The journey there is long, 
through cave, 
and remembering.
 I crunch through lightly falling snow, 
trail of woodsmoke 
and cedar scented air. 
Wind blows delicate flakes in bursts 
and breathes through tribes of swaying, reaching pines. 
It is night. 
When I reach the glowing shelter, 
flakes die, stars are born. 
Soft drumbeats and low voices 
hum together from inside. 
I bend and enter 
a flickering world of fire and women, 
wrapped in blankets and furs, 
singing songs of moss.
Hair and bone and hide
bound and tethered and known. 
I sit without a word, meeting 
- soul to soul-
the ancient one, 
keeping rhythm with antler 
and broken heart. 
Gentle sounds of rattles, 
shake me into presence. 
I am here, as I am, 
nothing more to do or say or be. 
The eyes of each one gathered here,
 knows of death, 
and of going beyond. 
A raw, 
exquisite knowing - running through the forest, 
hunting a life worth living,
glancing and grinning, 
at the toothless shadowed one, 
running along beside. 
Breathing together in this circle, 
drums and rattles and crows,
building, weaving, praying,
there is no forgetting who I am, 
or what I am to do, 
or that
and stones, 
are breathing 
me, too.

I wrote this back in 2010, and posted it here then, too. It felt appropriate for today. 
Connecticut is not far from here  (for those of you from over the seas and far away), 
it is a neighboring state. The school where the shooting took place yesterday is one 
that a friend of a friend's niece went to until last year. So, this is close. But I have 
been in my own wave of grief the past few days - as it is with grief, coming and 
going - and find I can't crack open any more to hold this new, massive weight. 
I'm aware of it, but it is distant, not mine, I'm sticking with mine for now. 

Last night I had a dream of wolves at the door. First, I opened the front door to see a man in camouflage, carrying a rifle, walking close to the house. I thought to myself that I'd never seen a hunter so close, and closed the door and wondered. Then I looked out and saw two, huge wolves and several of their young. I was excited - for if there are wolves here, it means the forest is healthy, that there is enough prey for one of the larger predators. Then I thought of my Pasha cat and his forest wanderings - he's the closest thing I have to a child. I thought about the added risk of letting him out with wolves around. 

The truth is, I have been hearing what sounds an awful lot like Wolf howls in the night. They are not reported to be here, but, I think they may be moving in. Its quite something to let one's beloved out of sight, into the world - be it forest with wolves, or the world... 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

White Owls and The Magic of Speed, Light & Looking

A deep and heartfelt thank you to all of your comments on my last post. I've even 
received emails from bloggers checking in, making sure I'm OK, wanting to connect 
in a more personal way than in a comment. I was quite moved and thank you all for 
your thoughts and well wishes. 

I haven't done much in the studio, still needing to spend time wih my deep feelings, 
and managing some debilitating fatigue. But at this time of the semester, my 
students are working on final projects leaving lots of space for me to draw in class. 
I've been wanting to try white ink on black paper, so here are my owl and tree doodles 
of the last few weeks. They are related to my scratchbord drawings in that they 
are black and white, so I'm interested in taking them further and possibly playing 
with white acrylic ink with the scratchbord. When I'm back in the studio - this 
week, I'm praying! - I'll give that a try. 

A burst of snow and cold at the start of December seems a distant memory, as
relative warmth, rains and mists have filled in the rest of the days. Today the 
sun came out and the forest sparkled and Pasha and I had an afternoon wander. 

Fungus and circles on logs and a tree full of lines slowed our wander to a 
slow meander. Pasha, always the gentlecat, doesn't ever seem to mind the slow 
pace while I'm looking. He finds something to investigate, or dashes up and down 
tree trunks to get the most out of the adventure. Of course, for a cat, vertical miles 
are just as easily accessed as horizontal ones. 

He waits patiently at times, too, not suspecting that he is the subject of my 

Before I started the white ink owl drawings, I set up a small set on the windowsill 
at school, and looked closely at my collection of drawing objects through the 
eye of the camera. Dried jewel weed, tomatillo husks, a willow leaf and the 
mysterious weed that made such wonderful lanterns in the last post were the 
most agreeable subjects. 

One thing led to another, and I've been playing with the camera more than 
with ink and brush. Below is a series of images investigating light and speed. 
The first was made on a particularly beautiful afternoon in the forest. I 
moved the camera slightly in an arc as I was shooting. Then the idea took off 
and I've been taking photos on my home commute in the fading light. 

(I love the one below, notice the instrument lights!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Song at the End of a Life

"The death of a beloved is an event that rings and rings through life:
bearing it is not a problem to be solved, but a long, slow piece of music to listen
 to. And mourning, like music, is best listened to with others."    Sarah Miles 

I'm not one to avoid the hard things...and coming here tonight feels hard. Mom died 
in mid-October, the day before my birthday. She loved reading this blog and was one 
of my most enthusiastic supporters. My sister and I got to Florida in time to spend 
two good days with her before she began the active dying process. On Saturday when 
we arrived, she was alert, talkative, sitting up and and so relieved that we made it in time. Hospice came a day and a half later, and by Tuesday afternoon, she had flown 
away with the birds. There were profound gifts of beauty and love along with the pain and deepening grief. It was a gift to be able to offer her healing work during her last days, and to sing to her as she died. My sister and father sang with me as she slipped more and more into dreaming. In her final moments, we sang Swing Low Sweet Chariot and marveled at the chorus of birds outside her window as she took her last breaths. 

Being with the land is a great solace, as always, and soon some of Mom's ashes will 
be spread in the moss garden here, a decision that she made after I first moved here, 
long, long before her illness. I think a stone bench and a birdbath are in order, to 
tuck amongst the mosses and ferns, so we - the birds and I - can continue our singing. 

I don't have a lot to say tonight, so I offer you images. I needed to come here and 
write this to mark this moment, to say that I am OK, up and down as the grief process 
is - not making much art. I'm walking and looking and taking photographs, and marveling at the astonishing beauty of water drops on shriveled weeds and the November forest surrendering to the coming winter. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Invoking with Ink and Brush

A golden light glows in the October forest, and my energy - like honey - drips down
to the roots. September left me worn and worried and dreaming of routine and  
normalcy, but finding an ocean of intensity to navigate. My dear Mum went back 
into the hospital in early September for a second cancer related surgery. Being 
already weak from surgery in early June, the second surgery was risky. Her recovery
is slow and her spirits are low and its difficult to be far away, difficult to feel bowled 
over by the autumn color as I usually am. 

I've needed to be quiet, to find strategies to cope with anxiety, startling the 
first few weeks after Mum's surgery when the phone rang. I've needed to sink into 
roots, to invoke stories of guardian spirits and wise women and dreamers in the earth
with my brush. It occurs to me that if a collector who owns one of my minimilast 
landscpaes were to happen by, they might be shocked at the shift in my work. 
But my work has always been a deeply storied invocation to spirit, whether or not 
a gallery or collector sees it as such. Drawing these spirits into being right now is 
something I must do. 

They began showing up in my journal pages a few years ago, coming and going 
with a kind of seasonal flow. Today in the studio I began exploring them with 
a bit more of a commitment. With sepia and yellow ochre ink, pen and brush, 
I spent an afternoon in the root realm. Seeing them here and editing the photos 
helps to see what else is possible. 

Another image in the margins of my journal of late is ferns. I've been obsessively 
decorating the pages with fern patterns, speeding through my word entries to 
get to the drawings. A few days ago I played with fern patterns and bleeding, 
and will continue with this obsession as well. 

Leaves drift quietly to the earth, and a muskiness scents the breeze. On my walk 
to the studio this morning I felt a bit of the heaviness leaving me as the beauty 
of the changing forest moved me.  

My sweet, dependable friend has found a new place to focus these days. He 
spends much of his time staring with such intensity to one spot in the garden. 
One morning I walked outside to greet him, but he did not move an inch as I 
approached. I like that he is so close by, so that when I wander out to the studio
steps and call his name, he's there in a flash to sit with me while I drink my tea.