Thursday, October 20, 2011

.....was willing to be afraid

As we continue to dance Mary Oliver's Starfish, I continue to explore the depths to which her words take me. Tonight, my line was, ...."was willing to be afraid". I was immediately struck by the knowing feeling, that I operate from a fear based center, radiating outward, yet once again acknowledging the resistance that energetically comes from this way of dancing my life. I am constantly aware of the struggle against my nemisis, fear. My thoughts, as I entered the dance, were, what would it look like if I was willing to be afraid, and surrender to that feeling, without the dissecting and trying to figure it out and understand it, without the resistance that comes with fighting fear? What if I could accept that fear is often an inevitable emotion, but that it does not have to be the driving force? What if fear is just fear, and not a monster to attempt to slay? What would it feel like to melt into the emotion of fear and practice acceptance rather than anger and frustration? What would it feel like to not fear, fear? A strange conundrum. These are all concepts that feel so foreign to my way of doing life, that I don't know what that might feel like. What if the fighting of fear, only fuels its momentum and creates more fear, that creates a dizzying, out of control, spiral dance? I entered the dance, and found myself clutching the raw brick wall in the dark, back of the dance studio. I was moved to reach upward, in an attempt to move forward into and through it, futilely of course. I could feel myself struggling against the rough, uneven wall, reaching with a strangely irrational feeling of hopefulness, although I knew I could never move up or through the wall, yet I kept trying. I began to dance, as though I did not have to accept the futile struggle against the wall, but could dance with the wall, as if it were another living entity in the room. My dance continued to evolve, as I moved and rolled along the wall, and reached until I felt taller and stronger. The texture beneath my fingers became somewhat soothing and familiar with time. What if I could continue to reach up and forward, without the expectation of moving through the inevitably impassable brick wall? What if I just moved along it, feeling it's roughness on my hands, my arms, on my body, through my clothes, without allowing it to irritate me, without the need to pass through it? Without needing and wanting it to be different? What if feeling the roughness, the impenetrable walls that seem to sometimes be at my every turn, are just part of this dance, and that it is essential to my survival to learn to move along it, only reaching as far up as I can, knowing it will sometimes be uncomfortable, and that its roughness will scratch, even hurt my body? What if I can begin  accepting that I cannot reach through it, no matter how hard I try? Do I stop trying? 
What if I "was willing to be afraid"? What if ????????

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yes It Poured!

Last night, as I made my way to dance, through deep standing water and a sudden, unbelievable downpour, I made my way east, over the river, over the Steel Bridge, to find that half of the sky was shining brightly. I knew intuitively, at that moment, just where to look for my rainbow, that I knew was waiting for me. It was one of the most brilliant rainbows I have ever seen, and alongside it was a fainter 1/3 rainbow! How could the evening get any better? Well, as always, it does, when I enter the dance studio, a sacred space with dim lights, a candle lit altar, a place where I go to fill and be filled. I have been feeling so harried as if I am drowning lately, even before the rain began, and Tuesday night dance is the place I go to dance my life. We drew our lines from the floor and the one wavy slip of paper called to me, since it looked as water logged as I felt. My line could not have been more perfect, unless I had chosen the line my fellow dancer chose. Hers was, but at last I grew peaceful. At first I had "line envy", I wanted that, but then I realized, that even though I had not chosen that line, I could still "have it". Mine for the taking, if I only reach out. My line was, poured its harsh song through the sluices. This Mary Oliver poem, was one that I was not familiar with. My first thoughts were literal, not usually the way I think, about arriving to dance through the pouring rain and through the rainbow. I was not familiar with the word sluice, so we began to discuss it's meaning. It is a place of strength, power, rushing and pressure of the water as it squeezes it's way through the resistance, often between the small space that is created by closely spaced rocks. Is this not how I have been feeling? Yet, seeing that the power and strength that can grow from meeting the resistance and pushing through the tight spaces, is difficult, but necessary and freeing. Once the water makes it's way through this tight space, there is room to expand, slow down, spread out, allow and simply be. There can become a clarity, as the grains of sand settle out of the once turbulent water. What a lesson, as always, yet always a surprise, what I learn when I dance and allow it to flow through me. To not resist, not question or sensor my movement and feelings. As I moved through the room, through and amongst my fellow dancers, with a quickened pace and a swirling twirling feeling and movement, I paused occasionally to engage with another's movement. I often stay in a self imposed smaller dance space, but I felt pulled by the tide last night. We had spoken about the intention of seeing our room as a tide pool of sorts, a world unto itself. It felt that way, as each dancer moved in their own space yet totally aware of each others presence and importance, in this microcosm we create, in this sacred dance space. After a while, the music began to slow down after the animalistic, jungle, tribal feeling it had crescendoed into. I was finally able to settle in. At last I grew peaceful, within and without.


In the sea rocks,
in the stone pockets
under the tide’s lip,
in water dense as blindness

they slid
like sponges,
like too many thumbs.
I knew this, and what I wanted

was to draw my hands back
from the water – what I wanted
was to be willing
to be afraid.

But I stayed there,
I crouched on the stone wall
while the sea poured its harsh song
through the sluices,

while I waited for the gritty lightning
of their touch, while I stared
down through the tide’s leaving
where sometimes I could see them –

their stubborn flesh
lounging on my knuckles.
What good does it do
to lie all day in the sun

loving what is easy?
It never grew easy,
but at last I grew peaceful:
all summer

my fear diminished
as they bloomed through the water
like flowers, like flecks
of an uncertain dream,

while I lay on the rocks, reaching
into the darkness, learning
little by little to love
our only world.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Featured work on Cannibals website

Check out the Cannibals Gallery Day of the Dead exhibit on their website featuring my watercolor painting! Better yet, come to the gallery and enjoy the exhibit. By the way if you walk past Cannibals on NW 21st my assemblage piece is in the left window!! I'm delighted!

Waiting............... the completion of the 108th chair!

Yes every sense of the word. I am filled with so many emotions right now that I was not anticipating, as I completed sculpting the last of the 108 ceramic chairs that comprise the installation piece Waiting aptly as I await turning 58 years old in a few days. Completing them feels like a landmark to me in many ways. Sometimes, it felt as though I would never finish it. I have ridden the roller coaster of life during this span of time that I was waiting and working and experiencing the creation of this piece, as it paralleled my life. I began sculpting the first few chairs left handed as I awaited the third surgery to repair the torn cartilage in my right wrist. I continued to create chairs in waves and spurts of energy and momentum, many times being side tracked by things happening in life, as things often do. Sometimes I felt as though I was derailed. I used the chairs as outlets of sorts, a voice for some of the things I was going through. Each chair, and sometimes groups of chairs, have names on the back, commemorating what was happening at the time, both trying times and times of joy. It feels satisfying, cathartic, sad, empty, proud, grateful and some other emotions that I can't quite put names to yet. I suppose I was more involved in the piece than I even realized, although I felt very connected to it every moment of the way. Often a love/hate relationship of, "how many do I have left", "isn't it over yet", "I don't want it to end", "what comes next" , and "wow I can't believe I stayed with it and actually did not abandon it when it felt like I wanted to give up". Sometimes it felt tedious and sometimes it felt like solace. There were times that I questioned myself about why I felt compelled to created Waiting. I felt self doubt about whether or not  I could actually follow through with it and not just give up. I am proud of the discipline I had to see it through to the end. I still have to fire them and find a place to exhibit them, but as I put the last finishing finger stroke on the last of the 108 chairs, I felt like crying. Dumb huh? But that is how I felt. Butterflies in my stomach and a bit shaky, or was it too little sleep last night as my mind raced at full speed or too much coffee? Or am I just feeling the completion of a piece that I set out to do, to birth, not really knowing where it was going. I am still feeling a rush of emotions. Just having finished it feels like almost enough, although I know that once I fire them and collect all the found objects that I have been gathering all this time, which will each find their proper place on the throne of each chair created especially for it, things that I have collected that have marked my time, it will feel even more complete and satisfying. When I install it, in its to be decided gallery home, once I find one, and see it in its entirety, I know I will once again feel weak in the knees from pride and emotion. How was I to ever anticipate the feelings that creating and finally finishing this work would gift me? I finished the last three chairs today in my studio by the lake, and now I sit here writing as I look at the still reflection of the trees in the water, with the air filled with the chill of autumn and cacophony of birds echoing through the quiet. I feel so small as I sit in the shadow of the large Washington evergreens, yet so full inside, despite my shakiness. I suppose I did not believe in myself enough to think that I would follow through with Waiting. I suppose that is what waiting is partly about. Not knowing what to expect, not knowing what comes next, not always understanding what and why things are happening now, or why things have happened in the past, but knowing that this is all part of the ride. I will pack these last chairs carefully and lovingly like cherished china dolls, as they make their ride back to the kiln in Portland, to enter into their next incarnation. Someone last week was telling me about salmon, and how they signify the life cycle and returning home at the end of their journey. The last three chairs are entitled, Returning, Upstream, and lastly, Home. I pick up a dark soft feather that just fell from a bird that has passed overhead. I suppose the birds are gradually beginning their journey south as the winter will be soon approaching. I am sitting with my fleece hoodie on the dock feeling it too. Beginning to feel the call inward. The water looks like glass, yet the things reflected in it seem distorted anyway, yet I recognize them. I look for clarity. I continue on, not knowing what the next piece of clay will become or reveal, or what the future holds for me, as I continue to return upstream home, to myself. Once again, I hear the words of Mary Oliver pulse through my mind. They seem to have taken up permanent residence in there and I am happy for that. I hear the words of Journey, which seems so appropriate to me today, so I visit it once again. Each time I read it with anticipation, as if I am hearing the words for the first time, although I know them like old friends. I never tire of them. I welcome them, as they create a place of comfort for me, as sense of coming home to myself.

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save. 
~ Mary Oliver ~