This image is something I started and restarted and reworked to near death. Maybe it’s simply a meditation—or a response or both to the world I live in. My state of being which most would consider an absolute luxury, is figuring out what’s next. I am doing a great deal of wandering, info-gathering, looking, experimenting, but it feels a bit like sleepwalking—directionless except for some vague idea here and there. I know I need a “purpose” although after listening to Kate Bowler’s Everything Happens podcast with Liz Gilbert–maybe not. It seems there should be some activity or action beyond taking walks, learning to knit and play pickle ball. It all seems so frivolous and I am completely aware of this. So, I am seeking. Perhaps I can label this period of my life as seeking my purpose or my why. I understand it’s good and important to be a wife, mother, grandmother and friend—-but beyond that—who am I? Am I really a writer? An artist? I know I am a teacher—but now there’s no one to teach. Am I now just the shadow of my ego looking for an identity to cling to? I recognize my inner pull toward issues of social justice, but GOOD LORD where to begin—which issue in this mess of a world? And of course I am adverse to any sort of rigid commitment—-I’ll just linger in the shadows and yell about it from back here—-no walking into the trenches for me—I have grandchildren to babysit and dogs to walk. Perhaps making images that express ideas and emotions have some value… or not. The words I write are all over the place—-3 different stories—-seedlings really. I guess I am really in the weeds—lost in the forest of weeds. Although I am still wandering—looking, listening, wondering, so there’s that. This “problem” will get resolved I am sure. I am just impatient as I have always been. I think I have to just trust—the path will make itself clear… a little light shining through trees in a clearing that will call me. I have trudged and marched this far and long to remember the next thing will appear. I just have to listen and keep looking and I’ll know, and then the work will mean something.
So this image–maybe a visual meditation, an excellent example of me working something to death, and liking many versions and varying effects, but finally settling on this one. I have noticed that I find women standing starkly in their burka is disturbing to me. The kind of burka that covers the entire body with only a screen of fabric around the eyes. It’s like a whole universe being covered–placed in the shadows. I guess I should admit it isn’t just disturbing—but stirs some sort of fear in me. Not fear about the person being covered as somehow dangerous, but the fact that some force can cause a person to disappear. Like a person has been abducted or kidnapped and is being hidden in plain sight. A human is being erased, but the eraser marks are obvious. I understand some women may choose to wear a burka and be completely devout and respectful to a culture’s traditions. After studying and teaching Shirin Neshat’s work “Rebellious Silence,” I became aware that some women prefer to wear a hijab or chador, providing a sense of privacy or desexualizing in a world of endless sexualization of the female body. I do not mean to impose my experience on another person’s cultural tradition. I am an outsider, trying to look in and understand. The image I have appropriated/assembled/modified consists of the lone figure covered in a dark burka in an empty landscape. It was reminiscent to me of disturbing images by photographer Diane Arbus taken at some sort of institution or asylum for the mentally impaired dressed in halloween costumes. The starkness of a lone human, covered in a sheet and mask like a ghost. My inquiry isn’t about the mental capacity of a person, but their state of mind. Are they in there—hidden? Are they fearful or lonely? This also reminds of when my youngest daughter was a child, and me as a busy mom had to wing a last minute costume—simply a white sheet, so she could be a ghost. She would not have it. She was terrified of putting that “ghost” sheet over herself as if she would get lost amongst ghosts under there.
So, I began with this figure. I have been reading and listening to accounts of women under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. It also reminded of novels The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I understand this is fiction, but I am sharing the amalgamation of thoughts and influences in assembling this image. A recent headline was the murder of a female Afghanistan parliamentary ruler. So the stories of the Taliban persecuting women and taking away their opportunities for education kept drawing my attention.
I searched for other imagery related to living hidden under a burka and chose one where the lace like screen covers the eyes. The only area of a women somewhat seeable. I was drawn to the textile aspect—the patterns along with the grayish periwinkle blue of some of the material. I made the image so the person’s eyes were barely visible—which is often the case in reality. I darkened this area so the person was even more hidden in this almost tent-like space and emphasized the cage-like netting. In contrast though, my idea is that I want these women and girls to know they are seen, even by white middle-aged grandmothers on the other side of the planet. I took an appropriated drawing based on the famous portrait of an Afghani girl by photographer Steven McCurry and overlaid the famous eyes multiple times with varying levels of transparency and texture. Also, I chose a topographical map of Afghanistan to lay over like the woman’s heart or like a lung—still breathing—as if it’s inside the woman, yet covered by this heavy fabric imposed by men under the trance of religious fanaticism. This is not an anti-Islamic image. This is about seeing through any fanatical religious ideology that professes any human lesser than–restricting basic human rights from another. I am an outsider looking at girls and women who are being denied their humanity, their right to be seen and their right to be educated. If a woman chooses to live and exist inside a burka, choosing not to be seen or engage in the world of the outside—then she should be free to make that choice. But, if the human wants to have a life outside of the tent-like covering, to learn to read and write, to engage with the world, in my opinion she should be free to do so. It feels I am helpless living across the planet, outside of her traditions and cultures to really understand her suffering. I understand I am free to write and make art and read and watch the news, to learn about the goings on in the world—-but I can’t know her and her suffering. I can only assemble pixels and words onto a kite of the internet and let it fly, hoping she knows I see her and I have not forgotten she exists in a realm and place I don’t understand.
The inarticulate label of “artsy-fartsy” should be banished from the lexicon of all brain-bearers. Is it a lamely bestowed title to those not understood? I perceive it as a phrase that smugly pats the head of those who do not fit in a box—or as I now think of it: a black square—so basic, a flat shape denoting “standard” or definable. So I suppose, this is a compliment to those of us who do to fit in that blank square.
I spent much of my career defending students who looked at a blank box and thought ideas like can we fill it with analogous colors? Or draw a little thumbnail mandala in it OR around it, letting it be the center of “the answer.” Maybe those numbers and x and y mysteries symbolized a vast surreal Bosch-like landscape where the lines curved and met to form unknown machinery? No, “artsy-fartsy” is an inauthentic smiling nod… ah little one, take your colored pencils over there in the corner and have at it. Algebraic puzzles are not for you—and the answers that fit squarely are of supreme knowledge. Your fanciful ideas about “but what else or why not?” are in the clouds.
I agree with Temple Grandin as she writes in her recent opinion for the New York Times (1/9/23): “Society is Failing Visual Thinkers, and That Hurts Us All,” about schools who continue to force one size fits all curriculum (specifically math and science dominated) and that innovation will continue to be stifled. I do not discount the importance of math and science curriculum, but I wish it was understood that the importance of creative thinking, especially within the arts is as critical and not just a pretty frivolity to enjoy as entertainment. Life is actually full of unknowable answers that will never fit in a square void. Accepting that there are many ways to think and approach problems would be a more reasonable way of designing curriculum. In this way, perhaps we may find creative ways to work toward solutions that seem unsolvable. I do wonder about the hundreds if not thousands of students I have taught, whose talents and ways of thinking were not acknowledged as valuable and worthy, especially in comparison with the students acing calculus. These students were “less than” in the high school and college entrance competition hierarchy. I wish, and hope they eventually came to discover that their differences, their unique and individual way of thinking and seeing the world is necessary and exactly what we need. Unfortunately, “data” doesn’t address this and can’t measure what could’ve/would’ve been if these potential great thinkers/makers/designers/problem-solvers had been nurtured and supported to seek out their particular path. A path that just might spiral infinitely around that empty square leading to what is currently unanswerable.
Welcome… Thank you for visiting my new location. Please pardon the chaos while still under construction… currently transferring from my old site over to this one
I don’t know why… but captured this mystery just going on in the backyard
oh tiny seed
wherever you fall
carried by bird or the wind
or simply pressed into the soil
by the fingers of God
water and light remind your roots
what they know
it is here they shall grow
whether a dandelion or Live Oak
fleeting or lingering long
this is your time
oh sweet seedling soul
inhale water and light
it is here your roots shall grow
“Duality | Identity”
Voices in her head
are not her own.
As the nature of these things had begun so long ago,
when she was mere energy and cells
becoming her way into Being
upon inhaling her first breath
she became acquainted with
the words and stories and songs
seeped into her thoughts and bones
so as she awakened toward the light
the forest of voices surrounding her
became part of her
the rage and rumination
belonged to those of another.
seeded long ago
before she was able to discern
her roots from her own limbs
The Time and Place in Between Dying and Resurrecting
In the dark
sinking into the aftermath of terror
lingering in the stillness of loss
the dreaded unknown and emptiness
crushed by the hangover of heartbreak
seized the last struggling breath
giving into the dark seductive arms of forever sleep
eyelids close on the universe
floating blindly in the beyond
in the undefined blackness
a tomb of vast space
an infinite dome of the lightless sky
the sightless rest
awakened by a glimmer,
a spark of stardust flashing
illuminating the deep dark
of the weary soul
igniting and alit
Wandering… and resting
in fear and vulnerability
revealed to the vast sky
from where anything may fall
yet, only does the harsh sunlight
glaring into her squinting eyes
she retreats to the shadows
like a nocturnal animal
Long after the tangled dream
still stumbling to escape
finally a clear path
into the deep
on her roots
with the cover
of leaves and limbs
and the peace of the forest
like a blanket for her weary soul
Thinking of the grandchildren I don’t yet have…
Last days of summer lingering are fading, and I’ve done a bit of getting thoughts down, but life is a BIG distraction. I guess that’s what we all say. Like many, I’ve been trying to sort through these tumultuous times, not coming up with any solid solutions except maybe one that I’m not a fan of. The “thing” that comes to mind is this: LOVE YOUR ENEMIES. That thought is sadly laughable coming from me, since I don’t even like some of my own family members (at times!)…—let alone a perceived barbaric bigot. Yet, I do realize that meeting hate and ignorance with my rage and wrath doesn’t solve/heal/fix anything. Perhaps, it even makes it worse. My undeveloped frontal cortex reacts with machete like vengeance. My brain, hours later once some blood and oxygen has made it’s way up, thinks: this is a horrible problem—let’s figure a way forward without so much pain and rage… And the way I see it is this: we can choose to perpetuate the cycle, laying the road ahead for our children and theirs, or we can suck it up and do the hard work now. So maybe, future generations can focus on other things–like saving the planet from global warming or curing disease and what not.
Currently the rage I have seems curiously and excessively over the top—these volcanic feelings seem disproportionate considering my actual safe distance from the goings-on today. Yet, I have always been and felt this way regarding social injustice—a disproportionate rage in relation to how these events actually impact my personal day-to-day life. I’m pretty sure I would be diagnosed one of those “empaths.” Regardless, this is how I experience the world. The thought of future grandchildren somewhat terrifies me, as the overwhelming love and protective mother bear mode seems unimaginable. I think some of the rage is connected to this future, and also the past. I feel somehow these crimes and injustices against humanity are buried in our bones. The insufferable pain doesn’t seem to die with those who experience it—each following generation carries it. My hope and prayer is this potential solution: love and forgiveness. Seems like a naive, childish dream, yet I know without love and forgiveness, our future will continue the painful cycle.
The biblical concept which exists also in non-Jewish and Christian spiritual beliefs that have to do firstly with the “sins of our father” that will be cast on his children, reaping what we sow, karma, what goes around comes around, etc. is in fact a thing! It appears that generations back, brutal slave holders may have died without paying their price—but their grandchildren are paying, whether their progeny can comprehend it or not. We all suffer when evil rolls through one generation to the next. In my opinion, only the sociopath or narcissist isn’t deeply concerned about this. If you don’t care at the very least for your own—you’re lost in the pain and darkness you are part of.
So, I think—I dream of being able to look those who my raging machete wants to hack away, into their eyes and broken raging hearts, and to somehow see beyond that ugliness. In order to have empathy and compassion for them, I have to recognize their pain–and fear. I suppose it has to do with their mothers and fathers, and theirs, going back many generations passing this “sickness” and “disease” onto the next. If I treat these people with compassion and forgiveness, and TURNING the other cheek, MAYBE they will see I’m not their enemy.
Now, to the side that I am on–at least want to be, but my skin is light, yet my wish is the same. And, I haven’t suffered in comparison. Honestly though, the hardest work is here, because well turning the other cheek feels near impossible. My question is this: When we are hating THEM, are we BECOMING THEM? I know my big dream does seem impossible, since both sides have so much pain and rage and hate to overcome. But, I see it as a choice, do we fight with hate and rage in our hearts until we all die an ugly painful death, so that our children and theirs will feel they must continue the battle… Or, do we do the hardest, most seemingly impossible work, and try to LOVE and forgive our enemies now, so maybe–just maybe, our babies and theirs may know peace and hope in their future?
I’ve shared this before, but it’s worth reflecting on again from Celie in the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker:
“One day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed.”
LOVE my enemies?!
Pile it on.
Bury them with loving-kindness.
Look ‘em sweetly in the eye and smile.
See them, inside them,
with their old crusty cranky
the soft stuff is deep inside,
buried by pain
There are roots in there
that are so thirsty,
and there are hearts
that are parched.
Drench ‘em with light and love,
and pray and hope
Couldn’t help being overwhelmed by the media reporting on the (nerve gas) poisoning of Syrian civilians. The Rottgen Pieta came to mind, apparently in an expression of grief. Sometimes we can’t really comprehend a work of art until we sense the emotion with which it was originally created. So here’s an ugly, painful, overworked creation that also includes appropriated imagery of Syrian mothers and their children and a barely visible portion of the Scream by Munch, intertwined in a very distorted tree that I admire. I imagine I will continue to rework/overwork this one, as there is no other way to free those sweet baby faces from my mind.
Just wanted to share this lovely who appeared to me yesterday on my hike. She looked like she had been whirling around in all her grandeur when she came upon some chaos and had to go into battle. Yet, she still stands determined, sprawling and reaching in all directions soaking up the sun while her roots plunge into the earth (finally) quenching her thirst. She reminds of a strong woman who battled with the world… she’s messy and broken, yet absolutely glorious in her beauty and strength.
I am blind, and yet I still hope to see
It’s one of those times where images and ideas pile up, and never seem to sort themselves out at the end of the day. The above is evidence. I imagine though, it is a reflection of the chaos of the times. Each day we are hopeful that some sense will be made of it and life will fall into place, allowing some encouraging light to shine in illuminating the purpose of it all. But, these days the light isn’t showing up—buried, snuffed out by the ugly chaotic darkness. I don’t mean the lovely darkness of the night. I mean the darkness, airlessness of being buried alive in this earth. Strangely, I know once I can get all this dirt cleared out of me and the suffocation gives way to some air to inhale, we’ll crawl forward, brutalized, yes– but alive.
The layering piles of appropriated imagery above are women. Women we all know, Mary, the Mother of God, refugee mothers, ancient goddesses, women hidden in Burqas and the synthetic, manmade female lacquered perfectly shiney for men and their followers to consume.
I fell in painful love with the following poem by Warshan Shire. I imagine this is the experience of so many. It is mind-boggling to me that while mothers are clinging to their children on a raft at sea, others prefer to go underwater and muffle all that noise so they can simply consume the plastic, manmade drama on the screen before them.
“Home” by Warshan Shire
no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you fire under feet hot blood in your belly it’s not something you ever thought of doing until the blade burnt threats into your neck and even then you carried the anthem under your breath only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets sobbing as each mouthful of paper made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land no one burns their palms under trains beneath carriages no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled means something more than journey. no one crawls under fences no one wants to be beaten pitied
no one chooses refugee camps or strip searches where your body is left aching or prison, because prison is safer than a city of fire and one prison guard in the night is better than a truckload of men who look like your father no one could take it no one could stomach it no one skin would be tough enough
the go home blacks refugees dirty immigrants asylum seekers sucking our country dry niggers with their hands out they smell strange savage messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs maybe because the blow is softer than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender than fourteen men between your legs or the insults are easier to swallow than rubble than bone than your child body in pieces. i want to go home, but home is the mouth of a shark home is the barrel of the gun and no one would leave home unless home chased you to the shore unless home told you to quicken your legs leave your clothes behind crawl through the desert wade through the oceans drown save be hunger beg forget pride your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear saying- leave, run away from me now i dont know what i’ve become but i know that anywhere is safer than here
Warsan Shire is a Kenyan-born Somali poet, writer and educator based in London. This poem was found on seekershub.org
The world took its toll
And grabbed flesh and blood from her
Until she was near gone
the current dragged her
on the other side of light and air
In the cool blue pool
Face down where the river sleeps
St Francis and the Peace Prayer
Strange and lovely how certain ideas and thoughts come into focus and show up repeatedly in a variety of contexts seemingly at every turn. Is it a divine message, a sign, a simple coincidence, or just a mathematical likelihood… Are you awake and listening? Are you aware or under murky water—head in the fog?
Ah… but the fog, quiet without all the distracting details and blinding light and noise, gently guides in seeing those overlooked subtle layers of presence. Allow that drizzle of hopefulness…
There you have been in my garden tending the birds and flowers– unnoticed for so long, and over there a small icon from Assisi overseeing my home, another appearance in my imagined creation for my Dad’s 75th birthday gift, and then in my keepsake drawer I notice you on the back of my beloved Grandma’s final prayer card, and suddenly the begging by the angst-filled world repeating your prayers for peace all over social media, and again and again
The Peace Prayer
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And 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. Amen.
Yes, of course, I do see you and now I remember… you’ve always been there.
I keep grasping at time
yet the light dims
and she won’t stay
and the full moon rises
the waves come rolling in
burying the day
until I can see no more
yet the tide surges
days where all was given
but it never really was
always a bit in reserve
she knew there was beauty
in the ugly
and in the empty
cracked wide open
that could swallow her up
but no one saw
and so she felt
and then she didn’t
in her sorrowful tale
Must have wandered off the path
as nothing makes much sense
more shadows than light
more dusk than dawn
and tomorrow’s dream
appears near gone
Admiring these roots,
along this woodland path
wherever nature pulls
deep into the dark earth
crawling into her womb
all the while supporting growth
that towers above
reaching for sunlight
Seeking water and life below
growing in all directions
Obstacles are mere moments
as stepping stones
simply seeking and breathing
light and water
Shadows in my sleep
Once upon a time
She whispered a thought
in my mind
and then I had a glimpse
of that dream
bout being lost
in a memory
in that deep inner well
when I slept
still felt the shadow
pass me by
as the clouds hid the sun
so I stole a breath of air
and went to say my good byes
I could no longer stay awake
so I had to simply close
these tired eyes
Been underwater for awhile,
not in a cool and refreshing way
deep dark water
with a sandy, murky bottom
heavy free fall tumble
no sense of up or down
until knees scrape the sand
heaviness holds me under
dark and murky
so very very heavy
in the distance
rays of light stream into the water
illuminating tiny particles
in their own universe
just out of reach
the current let go her grip
finally a slow float upward
head above water
a breath burns
and the light blinds
like an old dream
and my memory disappears
in the dark water
Breathing deep nowhere but here
forest at my back
standing on that bluff
bringing your mist inside me
seeing to the edge
where the sky catches the water
beautiful deep clear space
quiet eternal rhythm
breeze and rolling tide
Every time she wakes up…
Last sad morning—of vacation… Open days of gently wandering from one intention to the next. Spacious, temporary freedom.
These are my first thoughts while separating from my warm ever-so-lovely bed. Although I am not ancient, I am old enough to feel the pain of age creeping upon me. Old bones, overused joints aching with my first morning movements into my day.
As I took my first steps out of bed in the darkness I saw glimpses of the confused life worn man with his dirty, callused fingers frozen, under a mound of trash-picked blankets shivering below the overpass.
I saw a girl wrapped tight in a fetal position on the dirty mattress dimly lit by a barred window.
I even saw the long forgotten mutt chained in the backyard in the sub zero cold.
Although I savor my lovely bed, I think of those who slept out in the cold. I think of those who had a night of abuse and violence. I think of those who tried to sleep, yet the night gave way to that empty gaping hole in their heart from the loss of the one they loved.
I think how thankful I am for such simple comforts of a warm bed and vacation days where I have time to ponder and reflect upon my gratitude for these luxurious blessings. Oh my bed is wonderful.
Mostly I remember to offer up prayers for those who suffer. Strangely, their suffering makes my blessings more glaringly apparent. It’s cosmically mysterious how this works. Although I am not experiencing their particular injustices and suffering, and I have all the comforts I need, I experience an aching in my soul for the suffering in this physical world. I guess as long as there is pain and injustice it is felt by all in some manner, at least by those who are conscious.
I do pray to a God I believe in—–who is LOVE, for the comfort of those suffering. I pray for those to be filled with warmth and light of LOVE… to be covered in peaceful grace… So as to gain some relief from their pain, and to know the light of hope, that the pain is fleeting, although I know when living it, the pain weighs physically eternal.
I pray that I know for at least this minute I’m not overtaken by that semi filled with pain and heartache—but I know it could be just around the corner. I am thankful.
see where it takes me
messy, unperfected thoughts
What hinders love—What hinders life… these things I ponder
Working towards some ideas for this new year… NO resolutions, just realizing some aspirations=unhindered creating
It’s been awhile due to being buried by busy-ness, but also in all honesty– perfectionism. If there is not a complete thought to convey or something perfectly beautiful to share, then the many shreds of dirty laundry pile on, and well, so does my day—and then of course my life.
So this idea is to perhaps to chip away at this perfectionist creativity killer and just make and write. Let the process be it—rather than viewing the work as it must be perfected and clear and complete otherwise let it float away with the other thoughts, ideas, life.
So today, it is simply thoughts on gratitude, life’s injustices, and why I allow the petty to usurp so much of me?
Currently I am bogged down by work obligations, yet so thankful for my job and the energy and life of my students. I am far away from letting that part of my life go.
On my want to try list is mixed media—which I am in the process of as I write. I keep mulling ideas related to my creative process. Am I making for an example to guide my students, am I making to meet the visual desires of a client, or am I making to simply make—to go with the process and see where it takes me? A stumbling block is trying not to wreck the work in process, but I remind myself most works are failed end products destined to be deleted or boxed in a cabinet. The process is part of this mountain I climb (and actually my life). I need to remember to accept the idea that creating truly is a journey. A lesson learned from an unsuccessful work might get me through a problem in the next.
Creativity killers: perfectionist voices, ADD=flitting/flashing mental distractions which technology has had a steroidal impact, petty dirty laundry to-do lists. And, not to mention the attention starved puppy pawing at my computer.
So, here it is, some of my messy writing and a morning in my imperfect life. If it’s not nailed down, then more dust in the wind as the Eagles put it.
And, I didn’t even get to the injustices.
In this new year, I will try to let go wherever I can.
Celie’s words reminded me
Found this lovely gem in Sue Monk Kidds’ When the Heart Waits recalling a quote from Celie in the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker:
“One day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed.”
And so, Celie’s words reminded me of my connectedness and vessel self…
In the dark
by this tragic world
buried and held
inside of me
stitched tightly closed
across my core
under this high tide
pull of the moonlight
keeps me seeking
in a breath of air
inside behind walls
and binding chains
barbed wire is like a vine
slowly wrapping around
outside light and air
hover like a dream
This lovely place
is one I go to often, it’s hard to describe in words. In fact, I think I’ve made an earlier attempt at it–but words don’t seem to grasp the undefinable looming energy that is present here. I walk miles of trails in this wilderness park and always start and end here. The path is covered by a canopy of old Live Oaks. A few fallen rest like masterpieces in a sculpture garden reminding of some ancient memory. Most are standing in their wild writhing positions alongside a creekbed revealing their roots to me. Those tangled roots plunge wildly into the earth, chaotic–yet still the underlying structure of what hovers high.
Regardless of the time of day, the light filters through their cover, awakening my eyes and soul to an inexplicable feeling of awe. Grace looms large and heavy here. If I could only carry it away into the otherworld of daily life with me…
Been gone for awhile
I’m here, but these voices have been silenced by busy-ness.
I’ve been thinking about visual voices–mine aren’t so much, when I can’t get them nailed down and on the page. They float away and fade, trampled into dust by all this busy-ness and daily chaos.
Like so many ideas, Maya Angelou wrote it perfectly, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” I’m grateful she took the time to get those voices in her head on paper. Her voice sure speaks to me.
This image is along a road in Indiana that is my favorite place to walk. It is a quiet place through the trees where the seemingly divine light streams through the leaves. Grace fills me here.
Human Heliotropism (Jung) =True Self seeking light
Although Eve’s mind was darkened by what she desired,
the eyes of her soul sought the light that she was told would dawn upon her,
enlightening her path through the shadows of these woods
“I am the supreme fiery force who kindled every living spark. I flame above the beauty of the fields. I shine in the waters. I burn in the sun, moon and stars. With the airy wind, I quicken all things. For the air is alive in the greening and blooming. The waters flow as if alive.” Excerpt from: Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard Von Bingen, by Mary Sharratt pgs. 49-50
Sometimes it feels the “Dark Ages” cycle has returned. That near thousand-year period seems to lie under some dark veil, buried in a cursed fog. Yet, underneath the layers of filth and evil are buried gems. Covered in dirt and grime, these gems managed to survive. Hidden jewels still glimmer dimly like colored light struggling to pierce through a gothic rose window, or like the quiet thoughts of an imprisoned Hildegard in a medieval cloister. Those thought and light gems, through soulful determination, still survive. These glimpses of light endure, inspiring hope. Reminding to keep moving, toward that faint glow at the end of the tunnel. That illuminated refuge may take a thousand years, but I still hope and look for it.
sometimes I can feel the whole world
the heavy weight of it
and sometimes I know deep in my soul
it is but a drop
in all the ocean
Jesus: “Do you see anything?”
He (Blind man) looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Mark 8:23-24
These words jumped out at me many years ago, like I discovered a secret clue buried in ancient biblical text. It made me realize—again, it feels I am only seeing a veiled version of perceived reality. As I walk and hike along these trails like a spectator in the Louvre, these tree forms and textures draw my attention. I continue to take picture after picture trying to capture not just their outward presence, but the enigmatic energy in the atmosphere as well. It reminds me of standing in a soaring gothic cathedral, seeing the cut stones stacked towering impossibly upward, by craftspeople who may not have been able to simply read. Yet, these holy structures still stand monumentally making their mark, reminding of that sacred place hundreds of years ago.
As I walked through this particular grove, there were many trees attracting my attention. Several were gathered together as if a family gathering had been frozen into wild writhing sculptures. Like the cathedral and the added dimension of jewel like light coming through the stained glass, the sunlight through the leaves and limbs added to the ethereal atmosphere.
This Sycamore was one of many at the gathering who appeared to look like a tree walking around, reaching upward towards the heavens. So, maybe I am still the blind man. I will continue to keep trying “to see.”
Dec 21, 1934.
My Dear Little Son-
This I learned from the shadow of a tree,
That back and forth did sway upon the wall,
Our shadow selves, our influence, may fall
Where we may never be,
I recently put together this work. Multiple inspirations. During this time of the year in California autumn leaves abound. I find myself constantly looking at the colorful leaves. As I write there is a tree outside my window flashing a colorful exhibit of deep dark reds that only a tree in the Fall can accomplish. Fall is the only season I miss of the Midwest—well Spring is pretty amazing too.
So, I actually did some “perfect” leaf hunting in my yard and neighborhood. I explain, to clarify my obsession. This leaf I felt was the perfect color and shape, but had bird poop ruining it… further evidence of this craziness… I had to clean the leaf before using.
I found the poem above in an old autograph book of my grandfather’s. The handwriting that I layered into the image was written by my great grandmother to him. The photo in the bottom corner is of them both. I placed all of this on a photo of a road alongside a cornfield leading back to one lone tree in the distance. I tried to bring all the elements together as a visual revelation of passing time and lives, family and memories, and the influence and characteristics that continue on into another’s life which are further shared and carried on.
This work I especially connect to for numerous reasons, not only do I see the metaphor of a tree, roots, branches, leaves as family generations, but also as my role as a teacher to thousands of teenagers over the past decades. To have found this poem by my great-grandmother that references a tree and shadows, and the idea of passing influence was deeply poignant to me. I may be a bit more moved during this nostalgic time of the year, but I must say it is a period of profound gratitude. Gratitude for my roots–my family, but also gratitude for those passing shadows I’ve encountered in my teaching career.
I’m grateful to recently have had a couple dozen students come and visit before our break. Some from just finishing their 1st semester in college to one who was finishing his PhD. in chemistry to recent notes of gratitude from those married with kids of their own. It is a blessing for me to see them spring off into their hopeful futures, but remembering their small roots with me. It is a strange thing to me that a person’s act of gratitude and acknowledement fills the other so fully.
Clearly, by no means am I a poet, but I put a few words together awhile back at the end of the school year that expressed my view on so many of my students—and children. I am grateful my passing shadow was able to fall on a few if only for a short while.
Out of the nest, with your wobbly wings
Awkward, flailing around in a squawking panic
Crying as your mama hovers anxiously near
Trying to get you to just flap your wings
Wings are waiting, strong and ready
Find the courage in that little beating heart
Start flappin those wings
and feel the air below
Soar freely, above it all
Fly little bird, fly
This is a Looking Up view along one of my hikes. This image was found off the Umpqua Scenic Byway in Oregon. We had just driven around the rim of Crater Lake and drove the scenic route to the Pacific Coast. I had seen some beautiful pictures of Tokatee Falls online, so I decided this path was a must to venture. While my husband napped in the shade recuperating from panic attacks caused by driving a trailer around Crater Lake, I wandered off into the forest to view Tokatee Falls. And, as it seems often happens, alone on the trail in the forest I became very aware of the wild beauty carrying on in this lovely place. I found it difficult to capture the thorough essence of a place like this–off the beaten path without any other humans tramping around. Just the deep green woods with heavenly rays of light illuminating my journey. The hike was only a mile or two in, but it took me a while because I couldn’t stop trying to capture the light and shadows through the leaves and on the trees. This abstracted view gives a better idea of my experience than what was actually recorded in pixels. Kind of mesmerizing and golden, like a shower of grace.
I figured I should show my destination, Tokatee Falls, Oregon. Stunningly beautiful with a view from a platform high up in the trees. And next, one glimpse of a lovely old tree hovering over Crater Lake–on which the drive gave my husband great angst–for good reason.
This image is my latest creation. The work has multiple inspirations coming from varied sources. It begins with my love of patterns and quilts which influenced the format. This love of quilts grew out of my upbringing, often by my grandmother who was a wheelin’ dealin’ antique dealer. Her home was a constant flow of the old and handmade.
Another inspiration is my oft-repeated theme of trees and leaves. Currently my vision is in OCD mode with the beautiful autumn leaf colors that seem to be clamoring all around me. I find it mind-blowing how one Crepe Myrtle or Amber Gum tree is a whole universe of artmaking in and of itself. When I start searching for the “perfect” leaf—seemingly always out of my reach, I end up having taken 100’s of images… each leaf being its own amazing creation. Yes, it’s crazy but it is as it is…
Then of course, the tree thing… These particular images of a Live Oak grove show what I consider a magical—it even feels like an almost sacred place. The shady path is such a quiet, spiritual realm its difficult to articulate. It seems like a spiritual vortex of sorts. Of course I’ve never experienced a “documented” vortex, but this is what I would imagine it to be… I feel some sort of energy/presence/past history along this path. It’s a place that makes me mindful and present and aware. When walking this path it seems I’m walking through a clamoring family gathering of the old shady trees all in their various contortions. There are two bucks who roam there, squirrels, blue jays and ravens amongst the many creatures who stare at me as I wander through. I have taken a good thousand pictures in this space attempting to capture the vibe/essence, but never fully capturing the depth and spirit of the place.
Finally, the added imagery of Mary and the influence of Medieval nun Hildegard Von Bingen piece… Mary of course the Mother of God; The ultimate compassionate spiritual being. I found this image of her at a historic church in Old Town San Diego. I admire the Virgin Mary Guadalupe, an always colorful version of the vision. Connected to this colorful vision, including the radiating mandorla is my intrigue of the visionary medieval nun, Hildegard von Bingen. The illuminations either created by her, or perhaps a medieval interpretation of her visions are very mandala like and provide a female connection to God in an absolutely Patriarchical existence, makes me believe in this miracle.
So…this is my attempt at communicating all these connected layers and realms into one unified visual thought.
My first speck
So… this blogging idea has been haunting me like a dark shadow looming. I will start small. Just a thought or two as to why, why so many damn trees? There is no clear answer except in my pictures. Some of these trees and groves I have taken pictures of over and over again attempting to capture what I see–and perhaps communicating my experience in their (the trees) presence. They seem to have so much history. They are there, present—seemingly watching all this craziness around them. Just watching, like some wise old elder who has lived her life and observes knowingly as we trample through our own.
There. Finally, a speck of a blog.
Coming out of the art-making closet and into the digital universe…
Hello and Welcome to my etsy shop! I appreciate you taking the time to look at some of my photography. It’s a bloody miracle that you found me buried deep in the mountainous digital dogpile. I am in the process of creating this shop and will be uploading more as time permits. Most all work is customizable regarding size and surface finish. Please email any questions or requests to firstname.lastname@example.org. Clearly I am new at this… the name reveals my lack of understanding all things search engines, PR, marketing and much more. Regarding the name “Lookinforlight,” it is in fact what I do out there in the world. Photo of course means “light,” and I like the ideas and symbols related to the word “light” especially in terms of being illuminated—heart and mind that is. I admire light’s transience—it is there, but often fleeting. Light illuminates and enlightens; it seems to attract and guide my eyes. When it’s not there, I’m lookin’ for it. My work is somewhat diverse as I am visually intrigued by a variety of imagery that I see out there in the world—and some I don’t (see, that is). My early work with film was often focused on capturing ethereal images using infrared film. I am very interested in attempting to capture the varying perceived levels of reality. Infrared film is sensitive to light wavelengths that aren’t visible to our eyes, but are there. I loved the surprises that my film would reveal once processed. I find myself drawn to certain images again and again. During pregnancies and early baby-raising years I was completely enthralled with most anything TREES. Leaves, roots, textures, colors, but most of all– writhing tree forms. My students and kids good-naturedly refer to me at times as the “treelady” (amongst other titles). I realize it may seem strange—and it is, honestly I was (and still am to a certain extent) always looking at and admiring trees. And yes, I often see humanlike forms and qualities in trees. There are tree eyes everywhere if you pay attention. So, often an emphasis on trees, which when I attempt to psychoanalyze seems to have something to do with my interest in what trees often symbolize such as family, ancestors, life cycles, generations, and the ancient past. I am very interested in ancestor and family photos. I create family montages that attempt to convey those in my past and their lives and relationships. I’m interested in the generational continuum and how traits carry on in our lives even after our loved ones have passed. We carry their genes and continue to live out their traits, which become ours and pass along onto the next generation. I have been able to give a little more time to my vision and all that is amazing around me. I enjoy walking and hiking in nature. I know many view images of nature as mundane, perhaps even cliché—I get that, but I have to follow my path and currently it’s on seeking lovely light—often in nature. I love light coming in at an angle, dawn and dusk—and diffused, so you’ll notice a repeating theme in much of my nature works. It seems like we often don’t notice things around us when are heads are full of the busy-ness of life. I love to walk and see what is existing—waiting patiently, quietly around us that most often goes unnoticed. Some of these images/places/scenes seem like a living, breathing presence whose depth is beyond a 2-dimensional capture. But, I keep trying. Lastly, as I start to notice patterns in my work, I see my attention given at times to what appear to be visual metaphors and/or found juxtapositions. Often I find them humorous and odd in a visual and intellectual manner—so I shoot them 😉 I understand that many don’t see this place as I do. I encourage my art students, to appreciate each other’s unique vision and perception and chosen path to communicate. I am thankful we are free to make and create as we are uniquely inspired and driven. Thankfully we are not mandated or controlled (as in the past and currently still in some places) by the church or government, upper class or other powers that be to create to their demands. I appreciate the freedom I have about what marks I choose to make in order to communicate my mind and heart about where and who I am. So, if you happen to be wandering around out there in the seemingly infinite digital universe and you miraculously stumble upon this little etsy storefront, I hope you take a moment to see what I see.