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10/23/11 12:43 pm - Ghost Prints

I was unpacking the house.  Again.  The last box is always the one holding artwork.  Framed art created by my Dad, students and friends.  I realize I have none that I've purchased save some poster art.  There are folders stuffed with greeting cards and small hand painted beauty, some prints, some photos, tarot cards--all magnificent.  I am rich with gifts of artwork.  I cherish it all. 

Between these last two moves, the art boxes were placed in storage.  Not everything survived intact.  Yes, the folders still had their contents but some of the posters were bent or torn.  And some of the inexpensive metal and glass frames my Dad put his artwork in were broken.

He sketched--pen and ink.  And painted with everything from water color to acrylic to oil.  He tried his hand with charcoals and pastels and even wood block printing.  He was good.  Very good.  He never sold a single piece of his artwork.  It was more than a hobby.  It was a passion and a great talent.  But, he was also the father of seven children.  He put us first, working as a manager in retail department stores.  He always had a pen in his hand.  Art would appear on cocktail napkins at restaurants, on paper towels in someone's kitchen, on lined paper.  Cartoons, portraits, landscapes fell from his fingertips on any available surface.

He was always working on his art.  After his ten hour workday or a rare day off, his art supplies would come out of the closet.  He had a drafting table for a while where my Mom "allowed" him to leave his art-in-progress as long as the area was kept tidy.  The walls of my siblings houses boast his older works--the huge oil and acrylic landcapes, seascapes and harbors filled with fishing boats.  There are portraits--of a young black boy, an "Arab" wearing a turban, a African woman carrying a basket on her head. He painted those before I came along or when I was a child.  None of those were bequeathed to me.

When I was in my teens, my Dad was "doodling" at the coffee table while watching television.  He had traced a dinner plate on paper for pen and ink.  Within this eight inch circle, he sketched whatever came through.  What emerged was a magnificent collage containing his world--faces and ships, trees and old cars, beer cans and dollar bills, jewelry and rivers, covered bridges and wild animals.  It was magnificent!  He worked on it for weeks and when it was done, he made another.  After that, another.

Eventually, all us kids made a big enough fuss that he had them printed.  One hundred prints.  Signed.  He framed the first  (1/100) set in a standard, inexpensive metal and glass frame.  He cut the mats himself with an exacto knife.  These, he gave to me.  My siblings have the prints which followed next.  Their children have the later prints.  I think he sold a few here and there.

In every place I've lived (and I have moved house a LOT), these three prints have hung in a place of honor.  Guest stop and stare.  Nobody believes that he created these sitting on the couch while watching television and drinking his evening beer.  You could look at them for hours and never see everything in them.  I've had them for over twenty years and I still see something new when I look closely enough.

When I unpacked them this time, I noticed they were fading from the sunlight.  The frames were scratched and the matting was really yellowing.  My siblings, who've always enjoyed more financial security than I, had all had theirs framed years ago.  I decided, on the one year anniversary of his passing, that I needed to have these re-framed.  I would not just move them to another ready-made frame.  I hadn't a clue how to cut a circular mat. 

I took them to Michael's.  It's a big box store.  I had a 60% off custom framing coupon.  I could ill afford, even with the discount, to get two of  the three framed.  But, I did.  The phone bill is late, but the artwork is framed.

As we took the prints from the old frames, carefully removing the glass, the mat and then the cardboard on which they'd been secured, I gasped.  On the cardboard backing, perfectly rendered, was an exact replica of the print itself--stained there, over the years, by the light.  The lines are muted and gray, softer than the stark black ink of the originals.  Time had created a new copy--ghostly and faded.  These, I have stored away for my daughter.

I picked up the two newly framed prints this week.  They are matted in a dark, dark red and framed in a wide black wood.  The glass, this time, will protect them from sunlight.  They hang at the top of the stairs, awaiting the time when they can be joined by the third Circle Doodle.
I feel my Dad smiling.  This is my offering to him--this honoring of his work, his passion, his talent.

I came across another pen and ink of his.  This one of an old New England barn, is unframed.  It's never been hung.  For whatever reason that only the artist knew, it was "rejected."  Some slant of light wasn't just right, some angle off just enough to bother him when he looked at it.  This, too, goes alongside the last Circle Doodle to be framed and hung in his honor.

I think of all the art he made over the years.  All that beauty he never shared outside the family.  And, I wonder.  Yes, it certainly had to do with his knowing he couldn't afford to try to make a living at his art.  But I wonder what other reasoning there was behind keeping it private.  And, even as I write this, I see how his inability to share his art is another trait bequeathed to me.  I wonder what my children will do with all the boxes filled with my writing one day.  Will they wonder why I never published?  Will they, one day, bind my words and papers up and pass them to their own children?  Will they--like ,my siblings and I asked my father--ask me when I'm older, "Ma?  Why didn't you ever share your work?"

And, now, I see it's time to return to the altar.  Again.  Always and always, again.  And again.

I love you, Dad.

10/22/11 04:05 pm - What a long, strange trip it's been.

Been so long since I've even checked in here.  I see bellamagic is posting regularly (nice work, with the Yoga practice), but everyone else is gone.  Facebooking, twittering, tweeting . . . .  places where the format keeps changing and the characters are counted.  We are entraining ourselves to speak/write/think in sound bytes.  Today, I rebel against it.

Too much to tell here.  Suffice it to say I've lived in 5 places in fourteen months while in and out of a volatile relationship with the same person twice. 

Fast forward through the chaos to the spaciousness opening out around and within.  I find myself living in a small, unpretentious rental just outside of Northampton.  Across the street, the Mill River rushes by and then crashes resoundingly over two waterfalls.  The impact of the water against the earth below causes my house to thrum and purr, vibrate and hum.  I wonder sometimes, what the effects of that low frequency vibration does to the human body/mind/spirit.  I think it grounds me.  I think, it's got to be better than when I lived over the hill from the Nuclear Power Plant.  Or when I lived with every variety of mold known to mankind growing in the house.  Or when the sewer system erupted early this summer. Or in the apartment which used to house the staff of the insane asylum across the property where I rented for 2 months this summer.  Yeah.  All True.

Spaciousness.  Yes.  I'm currently reading (years late, it seems), "When Things Fall Apart" and finding myself both simultaneously challenged and in a state of deep recognition.  I've just finished two books by Katherynne Valente ("In the Night Garden" and "Palimpsest") which are probably the most gorgeously, densely written books I've read in a decade.  I'm spending a lot of time listening to podcasts and recordings by Sufi Masters (David Less and Pir Zia) while continuing to dive full on into the poetry of Rumi and Hafiz.  There is a softness in these teachings, a moisture light.  There is forgiveness and compassion and a sense of "What did you expect?  You are human, after all."  I drink these in like a woman who's never tasted water.  I keep reminding myself that the Abode (Sufi Center) is only an hour or so away.  And, I keep asking myself why I resist giving and receiving the gift of going there.

At the same time, I continue with the practices I know.  The ones that have taken me this far on my journey.  I look around my home--culled time and again of excess--and see that I find comfort, still and again, in a certain aesthetic that can only be called "Witchy."  And, as I sit by the river, walking past the neighborhood houses which are run down because the owners are elderly now and have lived here forever, I feel a sense of . . . . belonging.  This place is home.  This Valley, these villages, these white congregational churches and grange halls, these gorgeous libraries and unprecedented walking trails and bike paths, these centuries old graveyards,  these fine academic institutions, the beloved restaurants and eclectic art scene,  these winding roads overhung with maples and bordered by flowing water.  And, I wonder at my far-wanderings.  At my traveling here and there and away to teach and practice my Craft while never living anywhere long enough to know my neighbors.

I say hello each afternoon to the elderly gentleman who sets up his easle and paints the river -- over and over again until the oils are thick on his canvas--each afternoon.  I smile wide and broad and from the heart at the one who walks before lunch time with a smile on his face and asks the same questions of me each day--"When did the church up there close?  Where is there a Catholic Church with a good Mass?  Does the Pastor still live next door?"  I don't mention that every pagan friend I have has eyes on that empty church and that one day, it's quite possible that the rituals performed there might include drums and Older Gods.   Meanwhile, I accept the cookies from the lady who lives upstairs and agree to keep my young, boy cats (both black) in until 9a.m. while her old girl cat (pure white) comes in.  I hear her open-voiced singing in the mornings and smile for her happiness.  My heart thrills as my neighbor/student/friend comes skipping across the iron bridge with her laundry and we sip tea on the back porch.  People stop by to say hello--they bring tea or bread, news, tears, laughter, song, story, company.   And, with this sense of place and belonging comes a sense of responsibility.

I've also been reading a lot of Terry Pratchett.  Maybe all my meanderings have led me here to this place. Pratchett writes about Witches belonging to a place and its people.  I've never really wanted that.  In fact, I've avoided it with determination.  Until now.  Now, I want to make sure the old woman down the street is using her walker properly, that the confused gentleman isn't so confused that someone needs to be called to take care of him.  I check on the apartment building on the corner--is everything okay there?  Does that Mom need help getting her son into the wheelchair van?  I marvel at the two Bald Eagles who alight on the tree outside my window, the geese who fly over by the hundreds, the unending array of small animals delivered dead on my doorstep by my cats.  I watch the maple leaves turn from verdant green to flame to brown and then gather in a pool at the roots of the body they were birthed from.  I smile as my son makes friends with the kids in that apartment building who come in all shades of skin from pink to chocolate and whose voices lilt with the music of Puerto Rico, Haiti, Palestine, Korea.   I wonder at my compulsion to connect and be present to the people in this particular place and at my dawning understanding of what it might mean to be the Village Witch.

I remember "Practical Magic" and those great Aunts.  The townspeople arriving, one by one under cover of night at the back door, asking for spells for love and heart healing, for health and prosperity, for connection with the dead and courage.  I loved those Aunts.  And, I wonder when I'll make good on the promise to wake my own children in the night for laughter and sweetness and magic.

It occurs to me that there are nuggets of Truth hidden in every stereotype.  I am embracing some of those nuggets.  It's okay.  I already wear black most of the time, already have the black cats, have already claimed the truth that I am a Dangerous Woman.  As my hair miraculously changes from straight brown to wild curly silver-gray and I drink more cups of tea and hang more brooms near my front door, I laugh at the inevitability of the situation.  While I was so busy trying to become something, I was already being myself all the while.  Humans are so interesting, aren't we?

My mood is melancholy.  I'm getting older.  And more tired.  I'm learning to stop and take stock before taking action.  I'm learning, I think, to be where I am in the here and now . . . . without judgment and without the need to "correct" (myself or others) quite so vehemently.  I still dance the Knife's Edge.  I don't expect the Core of me would allow anything less.  But, for now, the Knife's edge lies between acceptance and expansion.  There is a Time for exerting one's Will.  And there is a Time for being Still.  I am not so practiced that I can swing from one to other in the course of a day--my cycles tend to take weeks or months.  So, today, I choose Stillness---the quiet, compassionate observation of Self, family, a small village, the way a season bends the light and the ways the night grows long as I stretch out across my big bed, luxuriating in the space there.

Thanks for reading.

5/8/11 10:08 pm

This is the first Mother's Day my kids not only made me cards (they were lovingly and carefully crafted and beautifully rendered) but actually brought me a gift.  I now have a beautiful pair of silver heart-shaped delicate dangling earrings.  Very sweet.  They did good.  It occurred to me that if I was the "Dad" (which, I guess I am, except biologically) that I would give them money and take them shopping.  So, I gave them money and off they went to the local general store.  They came home with a little gold jewelry box and their faces shining.  Good stuff, this Mothering thing.

In other news, I'm cycling with the seasons.  Ready, at long last, I think, to come out from the hiding this winters events carried me into.  Life is sweet and good.  I'm learning patience and that, even though I'm a very stubborn Capricorn, I can't always have everything "my way."  Perhaps life would have been easier had I learned this a little earlier?  

So, I am staying busy and productive as I wait for people I don't know and who don't really care about me as a person to make really big decisions about the next phase of my life.  Accountants, bankers, lawyers, insurance companies, lenders, real estate agents, property owners . . . a whole collection of automatons requiring my life story be spelled out in black and white numbers, credit ratings, probabilities and bottom lines.  They will weigh my "worth" and make decisions based upon their judgments.  I do not like this one bit.

Yet.  I will keep jumping through hoop after flaming hoop.  Because it's time to put down roots in some darkly rich soil and grow in one place for a long, long while.  I may be trading in my pointy toed, black healed boots for muck boots and my long flowing skirts for overalls. 



4/24/11 03:08 pm - Grace Delivers

Life is full and sweet and deep and challenging.  I'm on a steep learning curve right about now.  My children grow by leaps and bounds.  I find my authority in their lives rightfully challenged as they come into new levels of maturity.  This is a theme--this releasing of authority and control--not limited to my relationship with my children.  I am mid-leap between old things and new.  I am fully landed in some old things which are fresh and new each day. 

I am deepening into Self.  Seeing parts of me mirrored through the eyes of a lover--parts I could never see whilst gazing at my own reflection.  I am being prodded to open and relax, breathe and trust, let go and surrender while learning just how to do that--me, who has honed and sharpened Will with such persistent desire for precision that I find I have come close to ruining the blade.

These last weeks, with Mercury Retrograde and crowds of angry, opposing planets alongside Aries' forceful energy have certainly been a time to re-view, re-turn, re-iterate, re-convene, re-voke, re-establish, re-negotiate.  Not once or twice.  Many times.  Challenging indeed.  I've filled two spiral bound notebooks with barely legible notes taken during conversations with friends, peers, coaches, mentors, lovers, readers, lawyers, students, siblings, bankers, mortgage brokers, real estate agents.   Lots of talking followed by lots of altar work, followed by lots of integration--or attempts at integration while the next Big Thing hit the fan.  The Secrets of the Universe--or at least living in it as a Human Being--are contained within those notebooks!  It feels like 7 years of training packed into some kind of accelerated course lasting a mere three weeks.

It's Easter Sunday.  This is the first in fourteen years the Easter Bunny didn't come.  Instead of waking at dawn to hunt eggs and candy, we arose to drive my daughter to the airport.   There she boarded a plane--alone--to meet close family/friends who generously invited her on an unexpected and totally all expenses-paid Caribbean Cruise.  I marvel at how grown she is as she steps away from me, hands the attendant her boarding pass and disappears confidently down the corridor to the plane.  My son, whose Sun rises and sets in my daughter staggers to the car with tears streaming down his face.  I am proud.  He did not howl or moan.  He did not fall down, overstimulated by his own emotional state.  This is not a scene he could have tolerated even a year ago.  He was silent on the ride home.  My mind and heart filled with thoughts and feelings of deep gratitude for such generous friends, the blessings in my life, the surprises I couldn't possibly plan for.

On our way home we stopped to buy pansies and tulips--an extravagance we can ill afford right now.  I could not and would not deny myself this color, this life, this sweetness.  These we plant in wicker baskets along with clover, grass and mosses culled from the front yard.  My son lovingly places found stones and crystals from inside the house upon the moss.  We tie bright ribbons to the handles and weave them through the wicker.  He says, "These are better than baskets filled with candy.  Look how beautiful they are!"  Indeed, they radiate!

Still, after all this time, I am stunned by the beauty of my family, the depth of our love for one another and the simple wonders we engage in daily.  We are gearing up to move again.  It's not certain where we'll go, or when.  Anything might happen.  The settlement might come in and be enough for a downpayment.  We might rent again--this time, I pray, long term.  We might join households with my lover and her son--or not.  Anything might happen.  This makes my heart catch and my chest tighten.  I'm a Capricorn for heaven's sake!  I need a PLAN!

Then, I breathe, open, soften, relax.  I remember not to attempt wielding the over-sharpened blade.  This time, for now anyway,  I'll wait with open arms to see what Grace delivers.  This time, rather than diverting the mighty river through a tiny space I've carefully prepared, I Will to allow myself to be inundated--by surprise, abundance and love.

Take me to the River.  Wash me down.

4/22/11 12:59 pm - Soul Alignment and Spiritual Cleansing

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No previous experience necessary. This workshop is appropriate for anyone from beginner to adept levels of spiritual practice.

Wednesdays, May 4-June 1.
Class work is posted to our online classroom on Wednesday evenings—you do not need to be present at a particular time.
Teleconference calls will be carefully and meticulously arranged to meet everyone’s scheduling needs.
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