It is funny to me how the universe plunks a lesson down in front of me, and then proceeds to wrap everything else around that lesson.
Wonder Mike, on the other hand, tethered to my belt loop by a long rope which requires him to follow me everywhere and set his alpha dog aside, is quietly plotting to steal another ink pen and chew it on the rug. Ink pens, of course, become rocks to sit still among as I am scrubbing the carpet.
This piece, a little return to whimsy, was an experiment with the rich walnut ink used by artist Carl Stoveland in his recent series of work. Ink requires patience (rock sitting) while it dries, even when blended with gesso and acrylic paint. But the deep, murky darks it creates are worth the wait. Don't worry - the walnut ink is safely tucked away where my little troublemaker can't reach it. :)
The trickster archetype (our black-garbed avian) exists to question, to cause us to question and not accept things blindly. This meshes nicely with one of The Four Agreements - "don't make assumptions."
When a way of thinking becomes outmoded and needs to be torn down and rebuilt, trickster appears. If you're like me, the first response to the mere suggestion of tearing down and rebuilding the ways you are thinking is to dig in your heels and furrow your brows. I chuckle as I write this, because I'm learning that these responses are exactly the clue that says - yep, girl, this is what you need to dive into. - take a breath and get on with it already. Dropping the resistance makes everything easier.
I've been cultivating a delicious sort of solitude. It is heady, so much uninterrupted time. After a lifetime of raising children (and a grandchild), working for others, managing things and priorities not my own - this long stretch of unfettered days is a luxury of the sort not found on vacation. This only ends if I wish it to. Oliver puts it best: "And that I did not give to anyone the responsibility for my life. It is mine. I made it. And can do what I want to with it. Live it. Give it back, someday, without bitterness, to the wild and weedy dunes."
Not an easy feat in a world of enhanced images, carefully curated words, autocorrect and delete. It is so tempting...so easy to refine, polish, edit, enhance what we show to the world, just as we have difficulty letting the hand of the artist (that stray pencil mark, that dripping paint) remain uncovered in our work. But I am convinced, if we crave authentic connection, we must resist - mitts off! Let your own self shine.
And now, we return you to your regularly scheduled day. :)
This place help us grow both softer and stronger, says Nepo. Holding these opposing concepts in my two hands, I see the truth of it. As in the painting, strength and softness can (and must) co-exist for us to be ourselves in the world. Lifting the mask, unfiltered, knowing we are strong enough to be soft, and soft enough to feel the joy in everything.
In a chapter called "Everything Changes and Ends" (ACK! Stop showing me my life!) there is instruction for a two-handed practice in which you hold your fear in one hand and your commitment to no longer act in a fear-based way in the other. As in a Buddhist practice, you sit in your fear and breathe into it (not denying or pushing away) and then, simultaneously have awareness that you can handle whatever it is and get through it without becoming devastated. Richo says "One hand is serenely mindful; one is courageously working. When I hold both realities this way, I am agreeable to things as they are, and I am doing all I can to change them for the better as well." Relinquishing control and still doing your best. Saying "yes" to things as they are and holding hope they will be better. Reality plus hope = serenity and courage.
So I am practicing this holding of opposites in my thrice-daily walks (thank you, Wonder Mike, for keeping me moving). And I am watching the fear fall away as the self-empowerment grows. Yes to all the things. Yes to all the hope. Leaving a trail of cast-off control urges in the gutter with all the pretty red and yellow leaves.
Coincidence, obstacle, miracle, surprise as musical notes of the one song. These things that thread us together and bring us alive. There have been some obstacles - oh yes. But the coincidences (serendipity, synchronicity, magic) have lead to some surprise miracles that lift me into the one song and set my heart soaring.
In this painting, the layers are built and then heavily washed again and again and again. Each washing leaving a little of the layer, but also moving some of that paint in an uncontrolled manner. The telling of our stories, even the "what went wrong or how we failed" washes away some of the hurt but leaves a little shadow of what was, blurring into other stories until, one day, we are freed beyond the telling into living the one song.
So as I contemplated this painting - this warrior woman - I spent an afternoon listening to all the songs I think of as power anthems for women: Janet Jackson's "Nasty", Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation", Alicia Keys' "Girl on Fire", Beyonce's "Run the World",, Lauren Hill's "That Thing", Ariana Grand's "God is a Woman" - to name a few. (I didn't require any coffee after that. Whoa! There is a lot of powerful energy in these songs!)
But there was just one song for the woman in this painting. And it isn't just a song for women, but for all of us imperfect and beautiful humans. Dear reader, this song's for you.
Mark Nepo says "It doesn't matter what splinter the Universe gives us to stop us in our tracks". Oh really? Couldn't MY splinter be something meaningful and elegant in a universal metaphor of brilliance kind of way? Nope. I can handle the really big stuff. But those little splinters....ooooh they get under my skin (and cause bad puns). Nepo says "...it's no one's place to judge or say that what unhinges us doesn't make sense or that our heartbreak is too much..." The only thing that matters is that we trip into...what matters. Or, in my case, fall headfirst while having a tantrum. "The truth is that we are here precisely to fall off the deep end..." (Nepo again).
Ok, here is where that pesky Universe gets tricky with helping me learn something when I'd rather blow a gasket. "Our work...is to investigate what these sharp incidents are opening in us." (Nepo) Well other than wishing it had opened up a can of whoop-ass specially designed for government bureaucracy, it did help me realize some things about how helpless I felt in certain aspects of my life. And how that helplessness was really messing with my inner peace. Nepo calls this getting under it instead of getting over it. Which is apparently exactly what we humans are supposed to do.
And once more, my very, very dear reader, you've spent a few moments reading my musings and looking at a piece of art. I hope you get under whatever is harshing your mojo today. If not, I've got some unused whoop-ass you can borrow. :)
Jen Jovan and her imaJENation