Saturday, August 30, 2014

Why do cats have so many names?

We have four cats who all started life with us each with one name.  Now everyone has official names, and secret ones, and names that come and go like the weather.  Why do cats have so many names?

Losha has the least number, maybe because she is the Mom cat and one year older than her three cat children.  Of course she is also Mamalosha, and sometimes Loshamama, but these all seem to maintain her dignity, or which she has a great amount.

Mau has several names but like her, they are sort of generic rather than descriptive.  Mau is cat in Egyptian, and she is also Mauchica, which is cat girl in Egyptian and Spanish.  Mostly she is Mau Mau; always turned toward her wild outdoor life.  On those rare occasions when she briefly comes inside she is so on guard she earns the name Scary Cat.

Hopee is sometimes called Hoopee, and has had many variations like Hopito and Hopeecito.  Also he is occasionally Hopeelapo because that's where he most wants to be. Most recently he was christened Burr by our housesitter, I think because he like to stick to furniture and is difficult to dislodge.

Hopee and his sister Soma like to watch me make frame drums and the difference in their manner seems a perfect reflection of their attitude toward life.

Hopee is curious while Soma is happy to lounge.  Soma was named for the sacred drink of the Gods mentioned in the Rig Veda but she is often Somatalkie because she has a comment for every moment of our insufficient attention to her needs.  Her newest name is Limpet, which does capture exactly her suck up and attach qualities.  I often wonder what cats name themselves.  Surely creatures as complex and mysterious as cats have their own many layers of names.  One of my favorite phrases of shamanic wisdom from the Journey Oracle card deck seems to apply perfectly: "naming it makes it so."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Drumming for the clouds

I have just finished a new shamanic journey drum that appears to be made of the clouds.  The surface of the skin is a rich blend of transparent areas mixed with opaque patches--just like the clouds beginning to appear during these late August summer days.  It has hazy gold light on the edges, reminding me of the way the dust of high summer filters the sunlight into golden shafts this time of year.

Weaving the interlacement pattern into the back of the drum became quite a complicated task.  I finish each drum by creating a pattern using the same number of thongs that fasten the hide to the cedar ring--for this new drum the number is 11. Although I was able to make the pattern from a single length of thong, which is important because an interlacement is continuous so the eye travels its complexity without a pause, the resulting spaces were too narrow.  The addition of a five sided rawhide rope to pull open the shape unexpectedly created another whole level of interconnection.

In fact, the resulting pattern is so complex that I have been unable to wrap the thongs with leather hitching which is my usual way of finishing the back fastening of my drums.  And yet when I looked closely though the window-like opening in the center, I felt I was looking though to the sky with the clouds parting to show its face of eternal blue.  This airy web is just right.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Why consult Oracle cards

I have been working my "days" at the Cortes Craft Store this summer--this is the way contributing artists lower the commission charged on their crafts--when a friend came into the shop to ask for a reading.  "Why consult Oracle cards?" I wondered.  What draws some folks to this form of spiritual guidance, and others not? These pictures of the craft store are also metaphors for why ask an Oracle.

I think that folks who seek to access their unconscious wisdom also resonate with nature.  There is a wisdom in animals and plants, in the weather and the forces that surround us.  Just as we know our dog loves us without resorting to logic or reason to explain how we know, we can know that an Oracle pronouncement feels true yet is not a statement of logic or reason.  Some people know that all natural phenomena exists in both the physical and spiritual dimensions and can be communicated with.

When we are in an experience that confounds us, at first we may find it hard to focus; it seems hard to know how to think about the uncertainties and tensions that cause the circumstance or relationship to be felt as a "situation." This is similar to entering a unfamiliar store, wanting to purchase something, but not being able to focus on one thing because of the multitude of things in our view.

In the same way that we cannot explain some knowledge, awareness, experience and perceptions we have, and yet we trust these to guide us, in the store we find ourselves focusing on one area or item more than another. Our attention and then our footsteps are led to a display, and our intention to purchase something takes on a form.

We are drawn to the familiar.  When we have had interactions with Oracle cards--perhaps we have worked with the tarot or someone once gave us a present of divination cards--the new version fits into the pattern of our previous experience.

Taking the time and attention necessary to ask our unconscious mind to advise our conscious thinking and actions about a situation is like purchasing the skeins of wool and not the finished sweater.  We are left with the work of choosing how to interpret and act upon the advice. The Journey Oracle does this by prompting insight  and unveiling mystery more than by providing answers.

Friday, August 8, 2014

How to read Oracle cards

This is about how to read Oracle cards, based on the very first photo-realist painting I created in 1983 while at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.  This painting is titled The day I learned to read and is quite large, except the top 5 inches are missing. I remember the day I learned to read, a Sunday morning sitting in bed with Mom and Dad, and I wanted to read the funny pages to them, something they indulged me with as I made up stories based on the pictures.  But this day, of a sudden, the squiggles made sense and I sounded out the words, and was really reading.

I began this painting in the upper left corner, and was painting leaves like the shape I have of them in my head; copying the template in my conscious mind of a leaf shape.  And this is not what leaves look like at all.  In frustration I cut off the top 5 inches and started again, this time gazing in a detached way to see the shape as it really was in the photograph; not trying to "name" it as anything but a pattern of color and form. Suddenly a leaf appeared.

From that moment on I could paint anything by truly seeing the form--without analyzing or defining or even understanding what I was looking at.  What has this to do with reading Oracle cards?  The same detached, non-analyzing, non-judgmental receiving of information applies.  When I read a Journey Oracle card, I let the image just wash across my awareness without any labels.  The first words, feelings, intuitive impressions that occur to me are the accurate message from reading the card, and I resist any sort of analyzing or judging.  I base my experience on two truths:  no matter how it was chosen, I am looking at the right card; and my first intuitive understanding of the colors and forms is the right meaning of the card.  The rest unfolds in the magic of metaphor as the cards take me on my journey, just as the abstract shapes and colors I paint reveal themselves to be a landscape where I can feel the wind blow.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Hiking in the Olympic National Park

I have just returned from a week spent hiking in the Olympic National Park and what a wonderful and varied wilderness time we had.  Sometimes one just has to let go of doing Journey Oracle card readings at the Cortes Friday Market, and stopping work on a new shamanic drum, in order to go play in the forest.

Our first hike was along the Hoh River to be in the presence of big trees.  What a thrill to walk under these hanging gardens!

We next hiked into the Sol Duck waterfall, whose size was as impressive as you might think from this photo taken at the bridge crossing the falls.  The roar and cool mist was a welcome experience on a hot late July day.  Note the two fellows on the rocks upper right for a sense of scale, and possible foolhardiness.

My favorite hike was from the Obstruction Pass trailhead across the alpine of Elk Mountain above treeline. At my age I don't expect to go so easily into the high country.

We finished our week in Olympic National Park with a hike to the ocean: another kind of wilderness. The sea fog winding among the haystacks and islands; the air filled with the calls from the sea lion nursery made a perfect farewell to our forest holiday.