Friday, February 24, 2012

A Tiny Stroll in the Forest

I thought that spiral drawings might be the first work to be made in the new studio, 
but inspiartion came in the form of misty mountain ridges and dark, reaching trees: 
small paintings that relate to the ones I was doing when last I worked. The studio is 
starting to feel lived and worked in, with familiar piles of spiral drawings on the table
and small inspiration shelves above that are beginning to collect objects. 

Very exciting news for me - and anyone who comes to do a workshop or take a class-
is that they can now meet most of their needs in the studio! Thanks to a generous 
loan from my mother, I've installed a Nature's Head composting toilet. Originally 
designed for boats, its smaller than most others of its kind and about half the price.
It will also be a wonderful way of introducing people to green technology as all the 
toilet needs is some peat moss, a vent to the outside and a tiny bit of electricity for 
the built-in fan. Lots more about it on the website in the link above. I'll let you 
know how it works as time goes on. 

Pasha has made much progress making friends with the new space. The photo below
is from the early days when he wasn't quite sure. Now he comes inside to visit for 
fifteen minutes or so, several times a day. He no longer seems to think that the 
ceiling fan is a huge bird of pray which was quite scary at first!

We are in a strange cycle of unusually warm days when soft spring-like winds
call me outside. From the back door of the studio, a trail winds through the hemlocks
to the mossy wetlands. 

I've never looked quite as closely at this plant before and am
struck at how much it looks like a succulent.  

The deeper we venture into the forest, the deeper the snow, and Pasha finds 
the mossy trunks more comfortable than the hard snow. 

Little more than a husk, this badly diseased beech tree clings to life. 
At the top, it rests on a hemlock tree, and maybe because it is supported there, 
the trunk rounds out again and isn't quite as ravaged looking. 

The forest has much to teach me if I slow enough to notice it. 

I've been watching this tree carving being worked on for months, and now that 
the snows have melted around it, a large mound of woodchips is visible. I 
told the pileated woodpecker to stop here, but alas, woodpeckers are not 
quite as receptive as my students. 

Pasha and I walk back towards the house, passing the brown and shriveled
 garden to the lookout bench on the ledge. 

I lower myself very gently onto the bench as I think it may not 
last much longer, and wait for Pasha who has gotten side-tracked 
 in the garden. 

Here, the sunshine has melted most of the snow, and we drink in the 
 green moss medicine and delight in the compimentary color scheme.  

As if announcing their arrival, a band of crows calls out just as it flies 
over. I shift my gaze from the microcosm to infinity, and so does the camera. 

Even a tiny stroll in the forest weaves invisible threads of belonging, 
and seems always to stitch Pasha and me closer together.  

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Imaginal Soup

"This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be, This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."
Joseph Campbell, in 1985 interview with Bill Moyers

I found this quote one morning as I was preparing an assignment for school. It was 
tucked away in the "Inspirational Tidbit' file that I keep for my Myth & Symbol
class. An enormous YES poured forth from me upon reading it. As I stand on the 
threshold of my new space, I walk through the physical threshold into the studio, 
and know also the symbolic threshold that this moment is for me. The enormity 
of the grant process, and all that entailed, and before that years of mystery and
challenge as I worked to clarify my intent, and then the dreaming of this dream - 
it has all pointed to this moment. So now, as I walk through the door, I find 
I almost collapse from exhaustion.    

But, alas, the urge to have my sacred, creative space and all the things that 
Campbell speaks of cause me to move through the tiredness and make my space. 
Friends have shown up to help paint walls, to build shelves, carry boxes from the 
old studio to the new, and even to rent the studio for an evening to do spiritual 
work. Having income from the studio is one of the most important things for me 
now. One might think that being a university professor means I have a reasonable 
income, but the truth is that I am a 17 year adjunct professor. I have no benefits 
and make about a quarter of the income of the full-time faculty though I teach only 
one class less a year. Partly its my choice, because few full-time positions open up 
locally. I would need to move far away, and this isn;t something I'm willing to do.  

So at the moment I feel a tension between the need to sink into a creative flow, 
and the urgency to gather myself and begin the outreach to bring in students. I will
need to find a way to do both. Early in the morning while sitting with the fire, deep 
soul stories flowed from me into my journal and I saw things more clearly. I was 
dropped into my soul-well by the beautiful work of Barbara Beeckmans and her post,
"Reclaiming". At the end of my journey, which of course we all know is also the 
beginning, I understand that I am working with moth medicine. 

I understand that the studio is a cocoon, and my desire to wrap myself up in silken 
threads and dissolve into imaginal soup is indeed much like Campbell's  " 
of creative incubation". (go here for a bit about imaginal cells and metamorphosis)
I have a much greater understanding of why I need a place separate from my house
for creative work, and how very necessary the creative process is for me. Rooting 
deeply into the space will take time. I am not quite ready to "make' in there yet, 
but the process has begun as I arrange pods on shelves and decide which mugs 
will live in the studio. 

I need to get cushion foam cut for the window seat that my dear friend, David, 
made for me, and I wonder if I should attempt to sew a few covers for the old, 
worn out pillows. I must admit to all you amazing cloth and fiber followers 
that I DON"T really sew (at least on a machine) - so this might take me a while! 

The stones and snake have found their places in the new space, pods and skeletal 
leaves and husks create shadow-laces with the light. 

 Books that were tucked away in the old space are visible here. 

 A set of cabinets that came from my parents' kitchen many years 
ago found a new look with branches for handles. 

Pasha is still not sure he wants to come inside, but today 
he had a short visit, but only for a minute,
and only through the back door. 

And soon, very soon, I might know what work needs to hang on the walls. 
For now, the emptiness holds the space of possibility, and I am 
dreaming some new work as I disintegrate inside my cocoon.