Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Rituals for Winter Solstice

As the light dims in these northern forests of Cortes Island, I begin planning rituals for Winter Solstice. I especially want to honor the old ways that have soaked into this land from long ago and so I go to the Journey Oracle card that was painted during the time of Winter Solstice and therefore contains in its images the energy of this time of darkness giving way to light.

This image is of old age, bent with weakness and cold. The colors are monochromatic and the application of ink looks like the surface is sparkled with frost. This oracle card gives me the idea to create a ritual for "longest night." I think of spending time with close friends, remembering the past year month by month. This occurs to me because I understand from the creatures and forces of the spirit world that what all want most from us is to be remembered. This evening of laughter and sadness with friends as we sit in circle telling each other the stories of our year will begin with this month of December, and wind slowly back through autumn, summer and spring to arrive at memories from days just like this one, with winter's cold breath against the windows and the kettle rocking gently in the rising heat from the wood stove.

The "shortest day" of winter solstice is for me a day spent out of doors--usually in the rain or maybe snow but hopefully sunshine, feeding the smaller birds by decorating trees with suet ornaments and sprinkled with popcorn; offering small twists of sweetgrass to the coals of the cooking fire to feed smoke prayers to all the other-than-human creatures that help me; leaving small chunks of salmon on the rocks by the ocean for the seagulls, ravens and eagles to find.
This other image from the Winter Solstice oracle card expresses my wanting to be part of the song of this special time, when the new sun is born and my northern world again turns toward the light.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Why have personal certainty about values?

Sometimes I wonder why have personal certainty about values. My values reflect a shamanic awareness of the world in which everything is alive and has conscious intention for life. I believe my drums are alive and are able to affect the choice made by the humans attracted to them. Sometimes a drum will be ordered by a person who upon receipt says "this is not my drum." When this happens I do not react with a typically human-centered business notion of you ordered it--pay for it.

This is because what I hear is the drum saying, "this is not my person." So what happens? I understand this drum is awake is a different way and is actively going to choose its human companion. From this point on, when someone is attracted to the drum, I try to watch and listen for the energetic connection, and not to the making of a sale. The process becomes spirit journey work--in which I am just like this bird balancing on a large force that is directing its own way forward.

Of course most folks do not have the personal certainty that objects are alive, and are intending their own destiny, and do not want an object that has been rejected by someone else. Sometimes I find myself in a conversation about how something used has less worth. I might even find myself doubting my personal certainty about my values. When this happens I draw a Journey Oracle card for guidance from the Spirit world. I look at this image of a column of murky color rising and enveloping a face with a pleasant, detached expression--I see this is the column of doubt--pushing aside the strong yellow color of the third chakra of my personal power. I do not wish to be pleasant and detached from the values that express my personal power. The question on this oracle card is a good one when I reflect on my conversations that cause me to doubt my values: Why didn't I stop it?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Secrets for accomplishing a big project

My best secret for successfully accomplishing a big project is to not think about the accomplishing. My shamanic paintings take many months to complete, and if I focus on the big, I feel too overwhelmed to get much done on the little. So each day that I paint, I choose a very modest area of effort: "draw to this branch; complete this area of underpainting; apply these two color washes." If more is able to be accomplished, this creates a wonderful feeling of satisfaction in full measure, but if working on a drum beater or beginning a Journey Oracle card reading for a client must come next, then the feeling of satisfaction from painting to my day's goal is still real.

My second secret is to always paint to my day's goal. This is an important aspect of artistic discipline for me. My time in the studio is potentially the most easily eroded part of the day; employment and chores and unexpected diversions all clammer to be seen as more significant. Yet when I honor my work by giving it consistent attention, I find a paint better, as if the brush were the effortless voice of an opera star, and I its conductor.

My third secret is to choose a day for painting that actually has time available in it to be devoted to art. Even twenty minutes--enough time to mix and apply one color wash--counts as success for me. But the frustration of thinking that I will be able to find time for painting, and then watch it be eaten by the vacuum cleaner and going to the bank and a longer dog walk than usual creates instead a vibration of frustration. Better for me to "develop a mind that inclines to abandoning" as Ajan Brahmavamso writes of the basic method of meditation--and let go of the burden of wanting what is not able to happen.

So as you see, my secrets for successfully accomplishing a big project are really quite small: stay in the now, find the time, show up.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

A new drum for cosmic awakening

Sometimes something small turns out to be huge. This new drum was made on October 28, 2011. According to Barbara Hand Clow, this is the date of the awakening of world mind, the completion of our ascension through the 9 underworlds and 13 heavens of the Mayan calendar.

This little drum carries the numerical significance of this climb in the 13 thongs that fas
ten the drum skin to the cedar ring, and in the 9 cords with spiral or French hitching that suspend the little smoke-tan medicine bag in the center of the ring. In fact, the leather bag looks like a little temple; it's easy to see the ridges made by the draw string as columns of stairs leading to the temple opening at the top. So what could be important enough, considering the acceleration of time and the dramatic events happening around the globe, to be inside the bag?

A pebble.

My choosing to place an ordinary pebble inside the medicine bag--found in the bottom of our boat when leaving the dock for a day of oyster work-- is a gesture about something not at all ordinary. I have long remembered a quote from His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman: "A single pebble can change the course of a river, if you know where to place it." I believe that we are each capable of shifting the river. We are each a seed of awareness, a pebble of awakened consciousness. The right timing is now, and all it takes is a little drum to make a huge sound.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Finding ideas for art

My process for finding ideas for art often involves not an idea first, but some physical work with my hands first. When completing this new felted drum stick I used St Mary's hitching because I love how complicated it looks and how easy it is to do. As I worked I became interested in how the spiral wound itself visually down the driftwood stick. This winding staircase became the pattern I rediscovered when I decided to use the hitching lacing to fasten together the smoke-tan sheathing. This pattern of spiraling, repeating diagonals became the visual idea I used to hold all the parts of the drum stick together.

Using wool from sheep here on Cortes Island is another important material for my shamanic art, but making the join between the wool and the tanned hide can be visually challenging. My guiding art idea of a repeating diagonal caused me to choose two different colors of hide for making this beautiful four strand braid.

Most of my art initially begins with some kind of physical action; it is the action itself that starts the exploration for a guiding idea--like having a dialog with stone or paper or wood. This is the way I began each Journey Oracle card of the oracle deck I created. I gazed into the surface of one of three things--a slice of agate, an ammonite shell, or a dried disk of deer skin--and began painting with no notion of what or who would appear. The oracle card directed its own visual story, just like the physical wrapping of this new drum stick directed its unifying idea.