Thursday, December 26, 2019

Holiday memories in an shamanic photo album

Holidays create time to explore--while looking for decorations and addresses for holiday greeting cards--and I found some old photo albums with some painted drum images dating from the 1990's when I first moved to Cortes Island

Who plans as a kid to become a painter on rawhide? 

But this is what has happened.  Seeing these old print images has been a revelation about what has changed, and what has stayed constant in my shamanic paintings on the drums that I make.

I began with a timid uncertainty, 

that soon reached toward the pure unusual.  

Tension emerged,

whether the creature was solitary,

or in relationship. 

Before I added an interlacement pattern 
to the back of my drums as the handhold, 

the images themselves began to interact with the cedar rings
 that have become my drum maker's signature

Always there is the question of what to do with the bullet hole?
The doorway of death that is the birth of voice. 

The most remarkable constant across these 30 years
The story of raven catches the light
painted entirely on the reverse of the drum.

A painting of a dream journey
so vivid,
in which everything was just itself
and always something more. 

I do not know, finally, where I am going,
or why they come. 
I am only so grateful that they do. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

A different look at Hawai'i

I have visited Hawai'i 10 times, but this time was different. I was looking for something. I was not sure what:  Hawaiian history? What happened? It has always felt so odd to be there, to be on the outside of the culture, while at the same time in this delicious tropical immersion.
Hula dancers and swirling colours, ukuleles and drums filling the senses as white and Asian and East Indian people applaud enthusiastically while holding cocktail crackers and plastic cups with pineapple wedges stuck to their rims is not an Insider experience. An endlessly colonial moment.

I went on a manta ray night snorkel, a never-before-seen experience. Here was a key to the something I was looking for. It was in the movement of the manta rays, as they rose through the dark water toward the plankton shimmering in the lights beneath our canoe. Apparently they cannot really see us, see what we are, floating there in such clumsy appreciation of their ballet. They only see the plankton, shimmering. They are performing only for themselves.
So I went looking in books, as this is almost always my default setting for tracking a new direction. There is a tiny bookstore, a bookshelf really, at the National Park Information kiosk in Pu’uhonua o Honaunau: the Place of Refuge. A place in ancient times where, if a lawbreaker could make it here, rituals could be performed in this place of Asylum, and all would be forgiven. Just felt like the right place.
I was drawn to a volume by Martha Warren Beckwith, the translator and editor of Kumulipo: a Hawaiian Creation Chant. I tried several times but could not get inside the words, or maybe it was the commentary that accompanied the poetry. I love the academic. But somehow,  these pages of explanation were not the manta rays flowing and turning in the shimmering light.
And then I saw a tiny book, slightly larger then a bound collection of square postcards, by Martha H Noyes,  titled Then there were none. Based on a documentary film by Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey Bayers, Ph. D. Page 2 begins, 
The world knows of our green mountains and blue seas. The world knows of swaying hula dancers and of Pearl Harbor. The world knows of pineapples, mai tais, Kona coffee, and macadamia nuts. The world knows of coco palms and white sand beaches, a flower leis and bright-colored mu’umu’us. But the world does not know of us. We are Hawaiian. This is our story.
Page 100 begins
In the 1970s and into the 1980s, “sovereignty” was a word spoken in whispers. Then the whispers grew and sovereignty was spoken aloud. 
In 1992, the United States returned Kaho'olawe to the people of Hawai’i. 
On January 17th, 1993, ten thousand people converged on the grounds of ‘Iolani Palace. The day marked the 100th year since the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.  And on the 17th of January, 1993, from the steps of the Palace where our last ruling Queen had been made a prisoner in her own home, dignitaries read an official apology by the United States government for its illegal participation in the overthrow of our nation. 
Now sovereignty is on the lips of Hawaiian and non Hawaiian alike. Some utter it with a vengeance, some with hope, some with fear. Sovereignty is no longer just the dream of a few young Hawaiians.
While waiting to board our homebound plane just after midnight, all the way up the loading ramp, watching the palm trees in the arc lights outside the terminal, I kept saying “sovereignty, sovereignty.” I’m sure I heard the wind speak the word back, it’s hot breath flowing everywhere in the shimmering light.