Friday, February 25, 2011

Shattered Cups

The process for creating this piece of art began with what I call a “waking dream," an impacting life event with dream-like qualities.
The “dream” opened with a huge crash, followed by two more huge crashes, within the span of a few days.
The first crash occurred when a shelf in my china cabinet collapsed and many pieces from my great grandmother’s china dish set, including all the tea cups, were shattered. (Two days prior to this crash, my mother and I had been discussing the heirloom collection she had passed on to me, as her mother had to her. She proudly shared that the set still included every tea cup.)
My instincts told me right from the start there was a message to be had from this jarring event. And, as if to really drive the point home, another shelf gave way the following day, destroying most of the remaining pieces and capturing my full attention. Distraught, I emailed my friend that I was "almost waiting for the third crash;" I was concerned.
A few days later a teacher from my son’s school was killed in a head on car crash, only mere minutes after she dropped a couple of her school children off to play practice, down the road from the school, in her new little red Subaru. She had said goodbye to them, and to me, as my son and I sat on the lawn next to the spot where she pulled her car up.

Upon hearing the news I remembered one of the nicest things we had shared together the year she was my son’s kindergarten teacher, an elaborate tea party that I helped host in her classroom, replete with china tea cups.
In 2005, two years later, the dream was still expanding when it became an article for Dream Network Magazine, entitled, “Dream Themes: Crashing Teacups." In 2009, the story settled into a book I co-wrote wrote and published about dreams, Dream Stories: Recovering the Inner Mystic.
Then, in 2009, the dream became an artwork entitled, "Shattered Cups." The intention behind the piece was to pay homage to this momentous "dream." and pay homage to my great grandmother, and to my grandmother and mother, both of whom appear in the upper left corner of the piece. Creating the artwork also came out of equal desire to pay respect to those who have faced breast cancer, what better a metaphor than, shattered cups?
Artemis, as she came to be known to me as, wears an actual broken teacup from the original crash. When I created her, I did not realize the dream would continue to unfold, but it did.
Artemis, with her broken tea cup breastplate, now adorns a book cover wrapping around the dream of another woman, Claudia Ricci, and her story, Seeing Red. Claudia was not only generous but fearless in selecting my piece to represent her book; we all know a book is judged by its cover.

In true Artemis spirit, Claudia provides a safe haven for women to share what is our birthright, our art, in its countless forms. She is the creator and editor of mystorylives.blogspot, a community writing space featuring countless women's stories.

Seeing Red, the book, was born from yet another woman’s dream, Maria Zemantauski and her fiery, passionate flamenco music. I am grateful to Claudia for her willingness to share her artist’s journey with me. Some beautiful color changes were made to “Shattered Cups” thanks to the help of a sensitive and gifted graphic artist, Jodi Frye.

For sure, the dream will continue to open up.
My caring mother in law helped me replace many of the broken pieces of china, including all the tea cups, and in the process of researching the china I learned the name of the china pattern is Triumph! You might think this story is exceptional, and it is, but I have learned we all have these stories about being broken open to order to heal. The message seems clear to me now: by sharing our art, in whatever form it takes, our stories live on.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Awareness and the Twisted, Tangled Mass

The story of this work of art begins years earlier when a twisted mass of wire washed down the brook behind my house and was retrieved by my husband. He carried the rusty, tangled form right past me and was heading to the trash bin when I saw “her” and proclaimed, “Steve, it's a mermaid!”

Hence, “she” was promptly rescued from his arms and placed squarely amongst the flowers in my garden where she lived, relatively peacefully (barring a few more times, early on, when I had to retrieve her from the trash pile -- before Steve could see her mermaidness, and finally resigned himself to letting her stay.) Years passed and she held her ground with graceful presence alongside the foxgloves and delphiniums.

In the winter of 2010, she started to speak to me -- only at first I did not know it was her voice. That winter, I spent many days in the woods behind my home, often walking along the very brook that had carried the twisted wire into my possession.  On these treks, my mind’s eye began to see a mermaid who seemed to be caught upstream. Because she was exerting all of her energy swimming against the current, she was falling prey to the many hooks that were being cast her way in attempts to catch her. I could see she was in need of rescue and began to formulate a plan.

I walked and reflected on this for many days. One day I decided that I might be able to help release her by bringing her into the light so we could examine what was happening, see how she became stuck. This, I reasoned, might give her the courage to be true to herself. The idea was that she would share her truth with those who had eagerly hooked her when she was vulnerable and unaware; in honoring her truth, she could then be released. Then she would be free to go to the places she had intended to go before she had forgotten to pay attention and had gotten caught upstream. 

I spent many more days walking and searching for a way that I could make her visible, bring her into the light. Then, one night I had a dream. In the dream, a beautiful twisted tree, stripped of its bark, its branches and roots missing, washed past me in the brook behind my home. I perceived the tree as a beautiful piece of art.

The dream brought many layers of awareness to my life and is still enlightening me. One of the things the dream reminded me was that I had received a gift of art from the very water where the tree had presented itself. In the dream, I had been standing behind a fence, looking down into the water. Was the fence a part of "her"? The twisted wire mermaid had always been visible to me! She had been sitting in my garden awaiting her purpose. (The dream also contained my gardens.)

So, the walks, the visions, the dream with the twisted tree, and the rusty, tangled mermaid born of the water all merged, as so often things in my life do since I've learned to follow my dreams and visions. My hands and heart got to work crafting “Awareness” so that she could be seen by others and go on to carry out her true mission, the one she was meant for before all the hooks got in the way and confused her.

Mayor James Ruberto, my friend and me
“Awareness” was made to honor a particularly great woman, Denise Kaley, who brought compassionate awareness to others in her quest to heal. Denise gifted us with a glimpse of her truth, raw as it might have been at times, as she bravely faced cancer. She also taught us that when we let go of the illusion of the hooks, we can truly live, we can truly love, and that is key.

She now resides in the Florida home of the former mayor of my city, in remembrance of his wife, who passed from cancer.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Three Eagles and A Twisted Tree

Right in the midst of the peace I had been experiencing, a tsunami of chaos hit. It rushed over my life with a cadence that it becoming familiar.
Calm, peace, all is well, WHOOSH. Calm peace, all is well, WHOOSH.
Bowled over by a series of events, I called my dear friend trying to sort out it all out. (Let me just say, it helps tremendously to have someone who “gets” me,  sails with me across the waves, and does not judge me. Gratitude. <3)
Finally this morning I glimpsed some rhyme and reason to the anxiety brought on by the chaos and it lit up my twisting path, that had abruptly forked, helping me to see things better. 

My clarity focuses around three eagles and a dream.
The first eagle is the one I remembered when I awoke . My astute friend said to me yesterday, in my panic as I was swept into an uncharted course I felt unprepared for,

“Kellie you are soaring like an eagle.”
When she said it, it calmed me. To me an eagle represents a steadfast power that cannot be messed with, cannot be altered by paltry energies that attempt to get in its way.

photo by M. Mentrup
Then this morning, the eagle recollection summoned up a BIG dream that I had a year ago:
 I am in my backyard looking at my gardens. It is the end of summer and I have not once stepped into them to perform any kind of maintenance. This is uncharacteristic of me;  I fear it will cost me heavy labor to rectify.

 Accompanying me is an older, faceless woman with white hair. She is here to support me. I feel comforted by her presence, glad I won't have to tend to these neglected gardens alone.

I discover my rosebush, usually prolific and showy, is completely black. I realize it needs to be removed, it is dead, it must go, and there is not a lot of regret around it. I ask for help.

My helper reaches in, grabs a sturdy cane, and managing not to get injured by the pronounced thorns, gives one hefty tug. She removes the rose bush.

 I see its black roots, very sparse, dangling from the bottom of the bush. I realize the bush probably did not absorb enough water. We decide to toss it in the brook that runs behind my house. We go to the brook and I find we are standing above it. A fence separates us from the brook; the water below is rushing by very fast.

From my left I see a large tree coming down the brook. Its trunk is smooth and twisted, it has no bark, the tree’s exposed wood is light in color. Its branches and roots have been neatly sawed off by someone. I realize this rare gem could be a lovely piece of art.

 I think the older woman should retrieve it for her home. I envision it standing in the corner of her family room; what I see in my mind's eye is actually my own family room. I wonder how we will get this large tree out, it will be very heavy, and it is moving so quickly. I think of my husband's Subaru, is that the only vehicle that will hold it? I am not sure that vehicle is large enough. I feel panicked, the opportunity to seize the tree is moving by quickly. But the elder woman is not interested in the tree and she makes this known to me. She has no regret letting it float by.

 I am comforted by the wise woman’s inaction; I was not sure she and I together had the strength or the means to carry the “art”. I realize the idea that she was supposed to have it was an imposed one.

We return to my gardens and I assess them. I am in awe that they changed very little over the summer though I did not work in them.

The dead top layers of plants that had been touched by winter remain, and need to be pruned. However, no weeds grew or, took over as I had feared they might. The borders of the garden though needing a little care, have remained pretty well intact.

As it turns out, the rest has been good for me and my gardens are fine, it will not take a great deal of energy or effort to get them back in shape.

This dream continues to unfurl and brings me awareness in so many ways I have lost track. Some things cannot be tracked, I suppose, try as we may to memorize the sign posts along the way.
Then, another eagle came and reminded me, yet again, of the dream. It arrived at the brink of an emotional tsunami, and though I tried to hold them it at bay, it was rushing in fast and I felt I had no means to hold it back.

I was at yoga class and my teacher prodded me playfully, “Alright, Kellie, let’s go for Eagle.” Finding balance, we giggled. I shot back, “Because I am twisted.”

The image of the twisted, exposed, and limbless tree of my dream became apparent in that moment. 
Was I the tree?  
Contorted, rushing, cut off...

The third eagle came to me when the wave of the tsunami actually hit. WHOOSH! I stumbled and twirled and flipped as my unconscious mind trolled the dark undercurrent. No longer was I just on the surface.
While in the forest walking my familiar path, I tried to touch down as my mind flipped about madly. Amanda, an "Eagle" reporter, was on the other end of my phone asking me to reveal my process for making my art to her, for an article she was writing that would essentially be my coming out article as an artist. Happy for her interest, I found it hard to put into words, my process is an intimate one. It is a process I describe best when I say it is not linear, instead it spirals.
Jungian therapist, and author, Marion Woodman , describes her process similarly when she says, in her keynote speech, "Conscious Femininity" at the Women and Power Conference in 2004, hosted by Omega Institute,

"I’ve given up trying to use logic. I don’t think that way. I think with my heart. And so it goes in spirals."

She is a gifted crone and champion of the feminine spirit, the human soul.

I am not sure that I  succinctly summed up my process to the Eagle reporter. I still feel a bit unsteady; the ground has sprung open, rich and gaping, but it seems fertile with possibilities.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Walking, A Metaphor For Life

I move.
Flickers of crystals cling,
to the sheep skin,
wrapping my ankles and feet.
Nature’s breath burns my cheeks,
blows through me.
A dim golden ember sends a faint welcome warmth,
to my bones.
Thickly layered Earth supports me,
Her sharp edges pleasingly dulled,
Her dark places tenderly swathed,
lie sleeping now,
tossing and turning,
in the life of their dreams.
Temporary hills and valleys,
settle themselves,
into an imposed yet harmonious relationship.
My body winds rhythmically with
some effort to keep my stride and balance.
Energy of Nature’s elements,
moving through my own elements.
I open my containers.
I am
on an old familiar path,
with a
sacred new beginning.
a metaphor for life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Walk

My favorite hat is the one I wear walking; full of pulls it keeps me warm and has been gently tugged at by branches that reach to touch it, us, as we navigate the snowy trails.
I tell my friends in jest that I wear too many hats and I am going create a piece of art entitled “too many hats." I know what it looks like, it is a big wheel that turns and nailed to each pie shaped wedge is one of my hats. My walking hat would be at twelve o’clock on the wheel; it is the hat that sustains me.
I began thinking about wearing so many hats when I was juggling several projects this past fall, wearing several hats: artist, creating a piece for a show, bookkeeper for my family’s catering business,  parent advisor in the public schools, workshop facilitator to a group of women with cancer, mother of a young teen.
I remember the day the thought came; I was talking to a friend over coffee. I was particularly glazed-eyed that morning and my friend asked me if I was okay. I really did not have an answer. I wasn’t sure. I sputtered out my best, “Yes,” and I knew it was going to require some more thought.
Today, four months later, while on my walk wearing my hat with pulls, I finally realized I am okay.
This realization formed with the clarity of the very crystals I was dancing through, with reverie. The snow bounty has provided me a strong path in the forest this year. And equally powerfully, I realized too I could actually hang all my hats on one wheel and be whole. A whole wheel of hats.
You are getting a sample right now, my new blog, another hat to add to my whole. I am putting on my blog writer’s cap, the official team cap. Up until now I have only been hanging out at practices and joining in the scrimmages.

This blog will blend my walks, art, and dreams--both sleeping and awaking--into what I hope will be a satisfying mixture to read.
 Come on along for the walk.