Transformational vessel

For the past few months, I’ve been feeling restless, on the cusp of a new horizon, like I am beside myself and don’t know quite who this new person is that I am becoming.  My experience of menopause is of a very deep and powerful transformation.  I’ve been feeling very alone in it too, but recently I have been having conversations with women in my life and on Facebook.  I’ve found some blogs and websites and have bought a few books.  I am coming to realise that each woman’s experience of menopause is as individual as her thumbprint, even though there are many commonalities.  I am also discovering that I, and many other women, view this transition as a deep journey and a time of coming into real power and profound Self-knowing.  I absolutely do not label menopause as an anomalous state to be ashamed of or as an illness to be medicated away.   Still, it isn’t an easy time for me.  My artwork is my medicine.

One of my friends and Steve said to me in the past week, ‘Draw how you’re feeling’.  My friend asked, What will you draw?  And with what?’  I answered, ‘This place I am in and maybe it will be a self-portrait.  I’ll use water-soluble pastels and maybe acrylic paints.  I have some canvasses!’  Steve said, ‘Maybe you should just make some artwork.  It will help you and maybe other people too.  It’ll be brilliant.  You’re brilliant’. :)

But I needed to feel into myself a bit more first.  It isn’t so much that I feel beside a duplicate of me.  More like there is a new empty space inside of me, new territory to explore and it’s scary.  I could talk about it with my friend and she knew what I was talking about.  I feel very grounded with Steve and it’s like he holds me and I’m holding this void.  There is this space for a new something.  A new something to emerge and a new place for me to inhabit and in the process, I am becoming someone new as I enter this new place.  It’s all of this.

I was peeling shallots on Sunday night.  You know how the bulb is wrapped in many layers of tissue-y skin, and then the flesh emerges?

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Sometimes there are two bulbs curved into each other, or the one bulb is split in two, but is still contained within the whole.  That’s how it is.

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I woke up the next morning and brought my wax pastels to bed and drew this picture.  To my surprise, ue-cetto, water snake in Muscogee, came to hold the space around my becoming.  In our view of the cosmos, the water snake or water serpent or water panther inhabits the Lower World.  I have so many books and websites that I have been visiting.  I can’t lay my hands on the source right now, but I’ve read that the Lower World is associated with the feminine, with creativity, with chaos.

I wrote some words about the water snake wrapping herself around me into a transformational vessel.

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the place I know where dwells the me I know . . . . .

I decided to paint it with dip pen & India ink and water-soluble crayons, pencils and pastels.  I used a piece of 250 gsm mixed media A3 size paper.

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First, I drew the design in pencil.  My eyes are now closed and my hand reaches through the membrane separating me from the void.

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ue-cetto encircles me.

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I love drawing with a dip pen.  I love the fluidity of the nib over the paper and the dipping into the ink pot.   I erased the pencil lines once I had finished.

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And then I put all of the colours in.

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I wrote a poem, ue-cetto (water snake).

ue-cetto
(water snake)

She comes to me in the watery depths
and wraps herself around me.
A transformational vessel
This place I know
but I am beside myself
Where dwells the Me I know?
She holds my death and rebirth . . . . .
for a dark, deep time.
Deep we dive,
which way is up?
Up and down no longer matter
She holds me in the dark.
Dark, dark, dark and deep.
Deeper still.
My hands become my eyes
as I feel my way into a new place.
No longer beside myself
New horizons beckon.

-Melinda Schwakhofer, 2015

I wrote some of the lines of the poem onto the painting.

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A powerful image from the Eastern Woodland ancestors of the Muscogee is the hand with the eye embedded in the palm.

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She holds my death and rebirth . . . . . for a dark, deep time . . . . .

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.  .  .  .  .  which way is up? Up and down no longer matter . . . . .

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In order to place the complete poem well onto the margin, I first wrote it on a slip of paper.  Then I counted up the lines and penciled them onto the margin.

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After writing the poem with grey ink, I erased the lines.

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Here is the complete painting with the poem, which I may or may not keep intact.

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Here are both images together.

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I have a square canvas and acrylic paints.  I will paint this again and see how it continues to transform.  My artwork carries my transformation/journey which inhabits my artwork.

Perro, Hvcce and Oi-kåtca

I’ve been feeling a bit lost recently.  I’m in a transition from one phase of life to another and traveling, traveling on my journey into my Muscogee identity and heritage.  Not quite sure where I am going.  Wanting to know my destination before I arrive, to be there and forgetting about the importance of the journey.   I remembered that my artwork carries me and helps me to make sense of where I am.

In last Monday’s art class, made a boat, perro in Muscogee, pronounced /pithlo/.

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I made a river, hvcce /hachi/ to carry it.

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Interestingly, a Water Panther, Oi-kåtca /we-katcha/ came to be in the river.  This water being was a major component of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex of the Mississippian culture in the prehistoric American Southeast.  It is related to the Tie Snake, which is a figure in the mythos of the Southeastern tribes.

In Native American mythologies of the Great Lakes, underwater panthers are described as water monsters that live in opposition to the Thunderers, masters of the powers of the air who live in the Upper World. Underwater Panthers, who inhabit the Lower World are seen as an opposing yet complementary force to the Thunderers, and they are engaged in eternal conflict.  In the Muscogee world view, people, animals, birds an all other creatures live in This World.  Harmony comes when the tensions and conflict of the Upper and Lower Worlds are held in balance.

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Underwater panther was an amalgam of features from many animals: the body of a wild feline, often a mountain lion or lynx; the horns of deer or bison; upright scales on its back; occasionally bird feathers; and parts from other animals as well, depending on the particular myth.

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Underwater panthers are represented with exceptionally long tails, occasionally with serpentine properties.  The creatures are thought to roar or hiss in the sounds of storms or rushing rapids.

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Some traditions believed the underwater panthers to be helpful, protective creatures, but more often they were viewed as malevolent beasts that brought death and misfortune. They often need to be placated for safe passage across a lake.  Whoever Oi-kåtca turns out to be, helpful and protective or malevolent, she is certainly a powerful companion to have on my river journey.

The Secret Flower of the Heart

flowering_heart_by_lucidcrimson-d6mcg1c

 

The Secret Flower of the Heart

Come, Friend,
leave your comings and goings,
abandon your business in the world
and bolt the gate.
Take to your solitude now,
for we must learn of our own
ebbs and flows,
tides and warm breezes.

This is called Returning to Yourself.
Come, drop below the surface
and seek your comfort in the depths.
Here is contentment that rests upon
no outer circumstance.

In watering a plant, moisture seeps down
and nourishes its unseen roots.
In solitude, we let our attentions seep down as well,
down to the roots of who we are.
Only then a flower may bud and bloom.
This is the secret flower of the heart,
a pure light kindled, a shining star.

And see!
The identity we have so long shaped
is all edges and postures now.
It is no longer you,
only a garment to be set aside in this hour.
You are transparency, a calm breath.

Emptiness is the harvest here,
an open space,
wherein the Great Fullness may enter,
where even words like these are cast aside.

-Michael Green

Artwork : Flowering Heart by LucidCrimson@DeviantArt

Transformational Fire

Last week a few of my artist friends and I got together to burn some artwork.

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I am in the process of re-jigging my studio so that the supplies for the next few projects I have in mind are readily accessible.  In the process, I cleared out some unused mattes and pieces of wood & card board.  I had culled several drawings from my portfolio that weren’t worth hanging onto, as well.  All very good fuel for the fire. For ages, I’ve had a long box stuffed with shredded paper that I got in a delivery, which has been sitting under one of my worktables.

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Stuck to it was a piece of card with my name stamped on it.  I’ve been saving it for just this moment.

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I made an effigy of my younger self to put onto the flames.  She is made from fragile twigs, with arms that reach for, but can not grasp.

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I wrote some words on the outside of the box.

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I hereby consign to the flames:  MELINDA the Younger.

The one who doubts, the one who questions herself,
the one who thinks she isn’t good enough,
THE ONE AFRAID TO MAKE A MESS
the one who thinks everyone else is better,
the one afraid to make her Mark,
the one afraid to shift her shape & the one afraid to shape her shift,
the one who needs to be right,
AFRAID
the one who feels wrong,
the one always reaching but never having,
AFRAID
the one who waits until . . . . until . . . . until . . . .
the one afraid to speak the truth into her art,
the one afraid to try,
the one afraid to fail,
the one afraid to be the best,
the one who doesn’t know she is enough,
AFRAID
the timid one,
the procrastinator and waster of talent,
the fritterer away of time,
AFRAID
the one who thinks that everyone is looking,
the one who thinks she can’t be seen,
the invisible one,
AFRAID
the one who wants to disappear,
the coward,
the one who makes pleasing art,
the squanderer of creative riches,
AFRAID
the one who makes art to please the judge and jury,
the unbrave one,
the seeker of approval,
AFRAID
the one who waits for the OK,
the seeker of safety,
the one who doesn’t dare.

THE WARRANTY ON FEAR IS NULL AND VOID

– Melinda Schwakhofer, 2015

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It was a powerful and spontaneous evening.  The Full Moon was coupled with Jupiter in Leo.

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I am not that big into astrology, although I am a Leo.  Apparently this is a big year for us!  I decided to look into this special celestial event.

“This is a celebration Moon.   A reward for the hard work and intense striving that you have done.

Be curious about life. Be engaged in the magic of the moment. Be in your heart.

Let go of the need to criticize and judge. This will kill your creativity. Instead, allow yourself to make mistakes. It is the only way to learn what works and what does not work for you.

The magic word is ‘try. ‘Try something different. Try and observe with your mind and your heart open.”

I also burnt a nest I made last Springtime with clay eggs which never hatched.

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A phoenix seemed to rise out of the flames.

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We found a huge wooden sword which we used to bless and knight each of us.

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We each said our word for the year.

   fire · loyalty · health · recognition · brave

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Source:  Mystic Mamma

The Three Little Pigs a la Dahl

We had some levity in our Monday morning drawing class with a reading of The Three Little Pigs from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes.

 

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The Three Little Pigs

The animal I really dig,
Above all others is the pig.
Pigs are noble. Pigs are clever,
Pigs are courteous. However,
Now and then, to break this rule,
One meets a pig who is a fool.
What, for example, would you say,
If strolling through the woods one day,
Right there in front of you you saw
A pig who’d built his house of STRAW?
The Wolf who saw it licked his lips,
And said, “That pig has had his chips.”
“Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”
“No, no, by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!”
“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!”

The little pig began to pray,
But Wolfie blew his house away.
He shouted, “Bacon, pork and ham!
Oh, what a lucky Wolf I am!”
And though he ate the pig quite fast,
He carefully kept the tail till last.
Wolf wandered on, a trifle bloated.
Surprise, surprise, for soon he noted
Another little house for pigs,
And this one had been built of TWIGS!

“Little pig, little pig, let me come in!”
“No, no, by the hairs on my chinny-chin-chin!”
“Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in!”

The Wolf said, “Okay, here we go!”
He then began to blow and blow.
The little pig began to squeal.
He cried, “Oh Wolf, you’ve had one meal!
Why can’t we talk and make a deal?
The Wolf replied, “Not on your nelly!”
And soon the pig was in his belly.

“Two juicy little pigs!” Wolf cried,
“But still I’m not quite satisfied!
I know how full my tummy’s bulging,
But oh, how I adore indulging.”
So creeping quietly as a mouse,
The Wolf approached another house,
A house which also had inside
A little piggy trying to hide.
“You’ll not get me!” the Piggy cried.
“I’ll blow you down!” the Wolf replied.
“You’ll need,” Pig said, “a lot of puff,
And I don’t think you’ve got enough.”
Wolf huffed and puffed and blew and blew.
The house stayed up as good as new.
“If I can’t blow it down,” Wolf said,
I’ll have to blow it up instead.
I’ll come back in the dead of night
And blow it up with dynamite!”
Pig cried, “You brute! I might have known!”
Then, picking up the telephone,
He dialed as quickly as he could
The number of red Riding Hood.

“Hello,” she said. “Who’s speaking? Who?
Oh, hello, Piggy, how d’you do?”
Pig cried, “I need your help, Miss Hood!
Oh help me, please! D’you think you could?”
“I’ll try of course,” Miss Hood replied.
“What’s on your mind…?” “A Wolf!” Pig cried.
“I know you’ve dealt with wolves before,
And now I’ve got one at my door!”

“My darling Pig,” she said, “my sweet,
That’s something really up my street.
I’ve just begun to wash my hair.
But when it’s dry, I’ll be right there.”

A short while later, through the wood,
Came striding brave Miss Riding Hood.
The Wolf stood there, his eyes ablaze,
And yellowish, like mayonnaise.
His teeth were sharp, his gums were raw,
And spit was dripping from his jaw.
Once more the maiden’s eyelid flickers.
She draws the pistol from her knickers.
Once more she hits the vital spot,
And kills him with a single shot.
Pig, peeping through the window, stood
And yelled, “Well done, Miss Riding Hood!”

Ah, Piglet, you must never trust
Young ladies from the upper crust.
For now, Miss Riding Hood, one notes,
Not only has two wolfskin coats,
But when she goes from place to place,
She has a PIGSKIN TRAVELING CASE.

– Roald Dahl

 

 

Crazy Brave

My Monday morning drawing class resumed this week. We have each been asked to bring in a poem or piece of prose for Andrea to read out loud during our warm up exercise. I chose a poem written by Mvskoke poet and musician Joy Harjo from her memoir Crazy Brave for our first session.

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Fear Poem, or I Give You Back

I release you, my beautiful and terrible
fear. I release you. You were my beloved
and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you
as myself. I release you with all the
pain I would know at the death of
my children.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the soldiers
who burned down my home, beheaded my children,
raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters.
I give you back to those who stole the
food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold
these scenes in front of me and I was born
with eyes that can never close.

I release you
I release you
I release you
I release you

I am not afraid to be angry.
I am not afraid to rejoice.
I am not afraid to be black.
I am not afraid to be white.
I am not afraid to be hungry.
I am not afraid to be full.
I am not afraid to be hated.
I am not afraid to be loved.

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash.
You have gutted me but I gave you the knife.
You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire.

I take myself back, fear.
You are not my shadow any longer.
I won’t hold you in my hands.
You can’t live in my eyes, my ears, my voice
my belly, or in my heart my heart
my heart my heart

But come here, fear
I am alive and you are so afraid of dying.

– Joy Harjo

 

We drew with our eyes closed and my heart felt strong.

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I don’t normally make a New Year’s resolution, but on the 31st Steve asked me and I said, “I want to make more art work that matters to me”. Sometimes my art making has been about sheer beauty or experimentation, sometimes it has been made with the aim of being selected for a particular competition or an art show. Last year, I have been working more with my hands (rather than with my sewing machine) and choosing my Muscogee history, heritage and culture for my subject matter. This year, I intend for my art work to be more personal, honest and cutting edge.

I do usually choose a word for the year. This year my word is brave.

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