Friday, November 29, 2019

The Bear Doctor drum

The Bear Doctor drum.  

What does that even mean?  I have only a small idea, although I find the image that came to this 14 inch frame drum to be quite haunting.  The Shaman holds the right bone, and the bear comes, and touches, and guides deep healing.

At first I thought I was painting the head of a deer.  OK. Certainly appropriate for the blacktail deer skin but not very unusual. And most of the time I can tell when a drum painting "jumps up" because I could not possibly have designed the figures and their relationship before I started. I could not even have imagined them.

So first I see this incredible face which emerged suddenly from the partially closed eye of the deer.  Doesn't make any sense in the telling but like the vase/face  drawing, first one was there and then suddenly the other one was.  And the eye became the bone.

My grandfather James Sweet began 6 generations of  bone setters who set dislocations and fractures using "inner sight,"  in Rhode Island beginning in the 1600's. Different wisdom about what we know and how we know it.  Maybe this is a bone shaman.


You would not believe me if I told you what little pigment I added to the woman's face, the bear's head, the hand of the woman.

I understand that the colours of this realm of usual reality, and of the other-than-human realm,  are red and blue respectively. These are the only coloured pigments that wanted to be on the deer skin.

The Star of the 7 Sisters is a traditional defense against outsider's penetration of one's secrets.  Maybe a bone setter's wisdom is like that.  Seven legendary priestesses were said to have founded major Oracle shrines in the ancient world.  I  make the connection between having bone setters as ancestors, and creating an Oracle deck, but that is just my nature to make connections and find patterns.

Every wisdom needs a doorway, a way in.  The way into the wisdom of a drum is death. What is the way into the wisdom of a bear doctor?

Perhaps it is the inner sight that guides the hands. 

You can hear this drum being played with a felted drumstick 
by clicking on this youtube link.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Dream inspired art

A new dream inspired painting has this question for a title:  Is there another way to get there?  The more I think about this question, after completing this 9th painting in a series of 47 dream images inspired by the Journey Oracle cards, the more I wonder where "there" is.

Is there downhill? This rushing toward comfort and convenience.  Go with the flow, just be, which sometimes means just be happy more than be awake.

Is there a place where we need to be bundled for protection against the elements?  Is there a place where we bundle up certain kinds of animals in order to protect them from the nature that is their goodness of fit?

Is there a place where we expose ourselves to peculiar rites and rituals, or maybe a place where we just go back to sleep and  forget the difficulty of seeking the truth in the journey?

Maybe there is another there. A place that requires us to be fully flighted. Richard Maclean Smith states that there is "the powerful idea that beyond the realities we can comprehend lie other, more majestic places waiting to be discovered if only we had the requisite knowledge and tools to get there." 

Or maybe, actually, the there is really here.  Staring right back at us from just outside the door.  This present moment. Is there another way to get there?  Is there another way to get here? There are as many ways as there are teachers.  Ask everything to be your teacher.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Elder wisdom about climate change

At 71, I consider myself an old person, OK, and older person; a still oyster-farming, drum-making, oracle card reading older person.  And some old people get to be elders.  I have been paying lots of attention to our climate crisis recently, and then I realized I have been paying attention to our climate crisis for 50 years.  And that length of perspective creates some small wisdom I would like to share.

I read The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich in 1968, and was influenced enough by his dire predictions that when I was diagnosed with a pre-ovarian cancer situation in 1976, I decided not to have the surgical option that would allow my choosing to have children later, and instead said, "there are too many of us already," and went the more drastic route. 

Elder wisdom arises when looking back at a decision made not for now, but for decades into the future, without knowing the conditions or consequences of that decision. Do I regret not having children?  No. Because I have learned not to miss what I do not have. And there is wisdom in that learning.

In the late 70's  I discovered Lewis Thomas, and read The Lives of a Cell, and then The Medusa and the Snail.  I was completely taken with the idea that the human species are like locust on the prairie; we are devouring everything until our wall of destruction starves us out.  I began seeing locust behavior everywhere--looking like industrial logging and factory canning ships, strip mining and arctic oil drilling. And of course now we are too slowly realizing that there is no more food, no more prairie.

Thomas contrasted the locust with what he called "climax species."  Partnerships of creatures and plants that create an equipoise of stability. Like the red squirrel and the oak tree where the eating and the planting sustain both. In 1986 my partner and I decided to leave the city and find a place with "more trees than people." And on Cortes Island we learned that we could be more like the squirrel and less like locust.  There is good wisdom in learning not to want more.

Perhaps the most profound influence on my attention to the increasing world crisis was the small book, Good Life, Good Death by Gehlek Rimpoche, published in 2001.  Although the entire book was valuable, somehow all these years later I still haven't gotten past the title. 

What is a good death? I find myself looking at the lettuce in a store for a glow of  vitality because a human hand pulled the plant from the soil, brushed off the roots, perhaps cleared away a damaged leaf before placing it in a box.  This glow is from a good death.  I avoid food that was kept from a good life--kept from being in the vibration of the earth, or kept from moving naturally upon it. 

And I ask this question of myself, "Am I making a good death?"Maybe this is the greatest elder wisdom. Death is coming.  And what we make of ourselves with it is the greatest learning.