Category Archives: Animals

On Chickens Crossing Roads: Why?

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Wish I could take credit for these, but they arrived forwarded in an e-mail – have no idea who started it.  Whoever you are, thanks for the laugh!

Chicken Crossing

BARACK OBAMA:   Let me be perfectly clear, if the chickens like their eggs
they can keep their eggs.  No chicken will be required to cross the road to
surrender her eggs.  Period.

mimbres chicken

HILLARY CLINTON:   What difference at this point does it make why the
chicken crossed the road?

patriotic chicken

GEORGE W. BUSH:   We don’t really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not.The chicken is either with us or against us.  there is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY:   Where’s my gun?

dotted chick

SARAH PALIN:   The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he’s a
maverick!

BILL CLINTON:   I did not cross the road with that chicken.

AL GORE:   I invented the chicken.

                                                                          JOHN KERRY:   Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it!  It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken’s intentions.   I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON:   Why are all the chickens white?

NANCY GRACE:   That chicken crossed the road because he’s guilty!
You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

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PAT BUCHANAN:   To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

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ERNEST HEMINGWAY:   To die, alone, in the rain.

GRANDPA:   In my day we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road.
Somebody  told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for
us.

ARISTOTLE:   It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON:   Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads
together, in peace.

rrPopArtChickensfinal2.ai_shop_thumbBILL GATES:   I have just released eChicken201 4 , which will not only
cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents and balance
your checkbook.

ALBERT EINSTEIN:   Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road
move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS:   Did I miss one?

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Groking the Goose

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The Goose girl

As a child, one of my favorite stories was The Goose GirlGruesome as it may seem, the character I loved best and remember most clearly is the faithful horse Falada, whose head gets chopped off.  Even in death he remaines a faithful helpmeet.  Of course, Falada was a magical horse and the magic was always my favorite part.  I also liked stories with blood in them.  I think there may be arcane bits of knowledge we’re born with or are privy to through the collective unconscious.  Or maybe, the deep knowledge of blood mysteries is part of a woman’s heritage, encoded in her DNA from birth.  The magic associated with blood runs like a red thread through fairy tales and myth.  In The Goose Girl the mother pierces her finger and lets three drops of blood fall on a handkerchief which she gives to her departing daughter as a magic talisman.

Then, there’s geese.  Geese have always been great favorites of mine – possibly because I liked this story so much and read it so often.  In ancient Egypt the goose was thought to have laid the primordial cosmic egg, but also to have hatched from it as the sun.  Geb the Earth god was sometimes called The Great Cackler!  (Egyptian mythology is terribly confusing – mostly because we don’t know enough and try to interpret things according to current cultural sensibilities.)  In north Africa it is still (4,500 years later!) customary to sacrifice a solar goose at the solstice.

Egyptian Geese

In Rome a sacred flock of geese lived in the grounds of Juno’s temple.  Their duty was to raise an alarm if and when the city was attacked.  Indeed, in 390 C.E. they did foil a stealthy night raid by enemy Gauls.  To this day people use geese to protect their property.  In my collage a large goose stands behind the girl in a protective stance.  It “has her back.”

Obviously, geese represent return journeys and thus the “heroine/hero’s journey” of Campbell fame.  The journey for the quest of self includes leaving home, descending into the dark, facing one’s demons and returning to the community with a treasure.  The Goose Girl story follows this formula, taking our heroine through an initiation from childhood to adulthood.  Like so many of these stories, this one served me well.  The Goose Girl taught me to value courage, perseverance, and ingenuity.  I wanted to make them my own.

I didn’t realize how much she meant to me until years later, well into my fourth decade, I encountered a terracotta sculpture called Gaia Goose Girl.  I wish I knew the name of the sculptress.  Her goose girl was a near life-size figure of a lovely young woman with a face full of strength and character accompanied by a goose.  Seeing it brought back every feeling of identification, love and longing I felt when first reading this tale.  That kind of experience is what makes art so important.  The art piece acts like a catalyst, constellating a host of amorphous feelings and associations in a way that captures both memory and significance, but at the same time, allows new insights to unfold.Goose GirlGöttingen_Gänseliesel_März06

My sculptress is not the only one to find inspiration in the goose girl. In Göttingen town, famous for its old university (Georgia Augusta, or “Georg-August-Universität”), which was founded in 1737 stands a decorative fountain whose main figure is called the Gänseliesel (Goose Girl).  On the day they are awarded their doctorate degrees, students are drawn in handcarts from the Great Hall of the university to the Gänseliesel-Fountain in front of the Old Town Hall.  There they have to climb the fountain and kiss the statue of the Gänseliesel. This practice is actually forbidden, but the law is not enforced. She is considered the most kissed girl in the world.  The students remind me of Little Conrad (Kürdchen) in our story.

Most interesting, in light of the conjunction of horse and geese in our story, is a report by Vasily Vasilievich Radlov that in the Altai mountains (mountain range in East-Central Asia, where Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan come together), after the ritual sacrifice of a horse, the shaman ascends on the back of a goose in pursuit of its soul.

All the bits and pieces, hints and allegations are what truly fascinate me about these tales.  This story has everything – wise elders, a nefarious villainess, a faithful spirit guide, a sacrifice, a mistaken identity, importunate young men, a charming prince, restoration and retribution, but other fairy tales are often thin on plot and sometimes appear simplistic on the surface.  However, no matter how simple, the  tale usually contains a detail or two rich in association and resonant with meaning.  For me, it isn’t so much about deciphering that meaning as relishing its presence.  It’s the ambiance of the stories that make them so endlessly fascinating.  The grok is everything.

goosetrack

Folklore and Number 3

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Folklore the Number 3

Folklore the Number 3

Rumpelstiltskin and the Number 3.

In the end, Rumpelstiltskin becomes the tricked instead of the trickster. First, he is the trickster and then the others turn the tables and trick him. By calling out his name, he looses his powers. In my collage, Rumpelstiltskin has come to claim the first-born and I am showing the moment just before the group chants out his true name.

One of the aspects of the story that I liked was the use of the power of three.  The spinning wheel goes whirl, whirl, whirl turning the straw into gold.
Rumpelstiltskin gives the Millers daughter 3 days to guess his true name. She has to turn three rooms full of straw into gold. He comes for the baby three months after it is born. The Jaybird, the squirrel and the foxes attract the Game Keeper. He hears the voice of Rumpelstiltskin and watches while the goblin sings and dances around the fire.

Three is a magical number in fairy tales. In most cultures and religions, numbers are carriers of symbolic meaning with often-complicated significance. Numbers are frequently expressions of the cosmic and human order or of the harmony of the spheres.

Three is a particularly significant number for most peoples. It is the synthesis of one and two, the symbol of the principle that embraces all, the image of mediation, and the number of sky (heaven) in contrast to that of earth the number four. The symbolic meaning of three probably relates to the elementary experience of productive fulfillment in the trinity of man, woman and child. Three also forms the basis of numerous systems and ideas of order.  Multiplicity; creative power; growth, overcoming duality, expression; and synthesis are associated with the number three. Three is the first number the word “all” has been appropriated. The number has a beginning, middle, and end. It is man as body, soul, and spirit. It is birth, life, death, past, present and future. It represents father, mother and child.  Once, twice can be a possible coincidence, but three times carries certainty and power.

Folklore has three wishes, three tries, three princes or three princesses, witches, fairies. Three being equivalent to the many, can symbolize a large number, a crowd, three cheers, and signifies fulfillment. Lunar animals are often three-legged. Three is the number of good fortune. Bad luck comes in threes. Counting to three is the minimal amount of counts while setting the rhythm or rate. The third time is a charm. In baseball, the batter gets three strikes before he is out. There are three outs and the side is retired.

In this story of Rumpelstiltskin, the number 3 plays a key role.  In the collage, and old woodcut shows a spinning wheel and a woman spinning. The Miller and the Goblin accompany her.  The King, Queen and the first-born are watching. The Miller stands defiant determined to foil the goblin. When he hears his name chanted Rumpelstiltskin  is so enraged that he stomps his foot driving it into the ground and then yanks his other leg so hard that he splits himself in two.

“Rumpelstiltskin Is My Name”

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Straw into Gold_0001

In this collage I portray Rumpelstiltskin as an aspect of the wild and randy god Pan, ancient guardian of the wild.  We find him here creating the magic that will allow the miller’s daughter to spin the king’s straw into gold.

Pan was a god of woodlands and meadows, guardian of both wild animals and flocks with the torso of a man and the hind legs and horns of a goat.  His worship spread far and wide spanning a millennium that we know of and probably stretching back far beyond his first archaeological appearance in the 6th century BCE.

There is a story from the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37) that purports to report the death of Pan.

One day a ship piloted by a sailor named Thamus lay becalmed off the Echinades islands.  Suddenly a great voice sounded from the shore.  It called his name three times.  When he replied the voice shouted, “Tell them that great Pan is dead.”  As he sailed along the shore, the pilot shouted to the people on land that the god was dead, whereupon arose the sound of great weeping.  The news spread fast and when he arrived in Italy the emperor summoned him to be questioned by a committee of scholars.  The learned ones interpreting the event decided that the Pan in question was not the god, but a demon of the same name.  

Early Christians believed this story and took comfort in it, confident that it marked the beginning of the end of the pagan era, but in fact, well into the 4th century B.C.E. coins were being minted bearing the face of the god.  It takes more than a decree to banish a god or to convince people, especially those living close to the land, nature spirits don’t exist.  The spirit of Pan lived on in the tales of the fey, the ‘little folk’, fairies, brownies and gnomes and wood sprites such as Rumpelstiltskin.  Push them into the shadows as we will, such tales still leak past the borders we set; the lines of logic we impose on both our physical and imaginative landscapes._The_Wind_in_the_Willows

Maybe, Rumpelstiltskin wanted a child to raise in the old pagan ways and thus ensure their continuation.  Perhaps, it is belief that keeps gods alive – maybe they do need someone to clap for them.  Thanks to Kenneth Grahame I’ve been a lifelong believer in Pan.  His depiction of the god as the Piper at the Gates of Dawn in his beloved book Wind in the Willows* continues to be the only description of the masculine divine that’s ever truly moved me.

In same way that humans cheated Rumpelstiltskin, I think we cheat Nature – the carbon emissions, the methane, the GMO’s, the dams, the pesticides etc., etc., etc. are all ways we break the pact of reciprocity which is part of the evolutionary cycle.  It grieves me.  It breaks my heart.  If I can help restore balance by creating an image of a powerful Earth elemental at the height of his power, I’m glad to do so.  It’s the sound of two hands clapping – loud and long.

*I’m in good company.  Teddy Roosevelt wrote Grahame a fan letter saying that he had “read it and reread it, and have come to accept the characters as old friends.”

Three Sisters: A Creation Story

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There were once three sisters, Spring, Summer and Winter, who loved each other very much.  They lived in a turbulent land full of smoking volcanoes and roaring rivers.  The countryside, subject to earthquakes, avalanches and floods, changed constantly.  But they were hardy children, the daughters of Titans – rugged, immortal and wild and they thrived in their tumultuous world.

Alas, their happy idyll could not last.  Unbeknownst to them, epic power struggles, played out on a cosmic scale across the breadth of the universe, were taking place as Titans went to war.  Near the end of the conflict, the three unruly girls, bound, gagged, but still defiant, were dragged before the Olympic high court to learn their fate.

“So you are the infamous nieces I’ve heard so much about,” roared Zeus.  “Your father begged for your lives on his knees.  I licked your mother’s tears from her cheeks as she cried mercy for you.  Look at you! Ragtail hoydens worth nothing, I wonder what they saw in you. “

Truthfully, the girls did resemble little goblins.  Their hair, matted with dirt and leaves had tangled itself into long stiff locks that stuck out from their heads in spikes; their dry chapped lips pulled back from sharp white teeth in feral snarls; rents in their ragged clothes revealed half- healed scratches, fading bruises, and a pattern of old scars that crisscrossed their legs from scabby knees to dirty bare toes.

He hesitated, pondering what to do.  The three girls were immortal, their ancestry divine.  The parents’ strengths had combined to breed true.  None of the girls had inherited the fatal flaws that allowed him to do away with his siblings.

“Since, you love your little planet so much, you will remain there forever!  Each of you will have a third of the year to do with it as you will.  But you can never meet again.  I won’t have you conspiring.  As soon as your time is up you will fall so deeply asleep and nothing will wake you until your turn comes round again.  Now go!”

He pointed a golden finger at the door but the girls sat down on the marble floors and began to wail piteously.  Tears ran down their cheeks in muddy rivulets washing the grime from their fine-textured skin.  As a glimpse of the girls’ true beauty shone through, a gasp of surprise travelled round the throne room.

Instantly, Zeus’s wife stepped between them, gathering the girls into her arms, pressing their wet faces into her ample bosom.

“Couldn’t they have just one day with me to say good-bye?” demanded Hera. “They need baths and supper.  They’ve lost their parents, after all.  Let me cut off this dreadful hair and fit them out with proper clothes.  These are royal children Zeus, blood of your blood.”

The more sentimental gods nodded in agreement.  A murmur of sympathy swept through the court.

“Fine,” growled the king.  He waved his hand negligently and Hera hurried off stage, dragging the girls along still clutched tight in her strong grip.

Once outside, she shoved them into the arms of her waiting maids.  “Take them away, shave their heads, clean them up, outfit them with sturdy sandals and cloaks and set them outside the gates at dawn.

Never return,” she whispered fiercely in each girl’s ear.

As it happened, their last night together fell on the winter solstice. Taking advantage of the reprieve granted by Hera’s jealous nature, the girls sat up all night, pooling their wisdom and weaving it into the inherent magic of the longest night.  They had many skills learned during their long sojourn on Earth; growing up they played with fire, water, earth and air.  They knew how to whistle the wind and tie it up in knots.  They knew how to speak the language of the birds, and they knew how to shape-shift, taking on the form of every living being that inhabited their home.

The next morning they were pushed off Olympus.  Shod in servant’s sandals, wearing cast-off clothes, they tumbled head over heels down the sacred mountain.  At the bottom they embraced for a long moment.  Thunder rumbled, lightening flashed.  Flipping defiant fingers at the mountaintop, each set out in a different direction; two of them hunting caves in which to pass the long months of enchanted sleep.

Winter trudged on alone.  She had a plan to follow; soil to prepare.  The days would be lonely, the nights lonelier, but with all three working diligently at their allotted tasks, eventually the Earth would bloom, life would flourish, humanity would arise.  And every solstice night, the magic they had woven and the disguise each had chosen would shield them from Zeus’s oversight.   Spring would appear as a young human; Summer, as an apple tree; Winter, as a white hare.  Every turn of the year, on the longest night, they would meet to celebrate their sisterhood and tell the stories of their season.  Together they would roam their world, consider all they had wrought, and call it good.

Kwan Yin and the Fox

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Kwan Yin and the Fox

One foggy night, long long ago, Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, was passing through the narrow streets of a small rural town on the banks of the river Mu. Smoke from cooking fires combined with the damp cold air to produce fevers and loud hacking coughs that shook the thin paper walls of the houses and caused the entire population to toss and turn in fretful sleep.  Kwan Yin moved tirelessly from house to house laying cool fingers on hot foreheads, dripping her sweet balm onto the parched lips of sick children.  With so much human misery voicing discomfort and fear it was astonishing that her ears picked up the faint whine of a distressed animal.

It was coming from beneath an old overturned rowboat on the banks of the river.  A bent oarlock kept one side barely raised above the mud, while the other lay half-buried in muck.  Bending down to peer beneath the boat, Kwan Yin spied two emerald green eyes glowering from a far corner.  The smell of blood and urine and the sharp musk of fox told her all she needed to know.  The animal had become trapped, who knows how many days ago; faced with starvation, unable to extricate itself, it had begun to gnaw at its own paw in a last desperate attempt at freedom.

“Hush,” she hummed. “Hush, now.  Lie very still.”

Grasping the edge of the splintering wooden boat, the goddess heaved with all her strength, but he boat refused to budge.  Dropping to her knees, she dug a small hole in the dirt.  Placing her lips close to the ground she called softly, “Izanami, Sister Earth, can you hear me?”

The ground trembled beneath her knees.

“Please, dear sister. Grant your unworthy little sister this one small favor.  You hold a rowboat, old and crumbling, painted blue, half-buried beside the River Mu.  It holds one of your living creatures captive.  I beg you to release the fox into my care.”

The sound of tumbling rocks grinding against each other rose out of the hole.  Kwan Yin listened patiently to the familiar grumble.  She knew the lecture by heart – “Stop interfering, taking every disaster to heart, attempting to change the natural course of things …”Finally, the lengthy tirade ground to a stop.  The hole snapped shut as the river bank gave a convulsive twitch and flipped the row boat up in the air.  It landed with a splash, half in and half out of the water, drenching Kwan Yin’s white kimono.

She shook out her wet robes and tore a strip off the bottom of her underskirt.  The fox bared its teeth as her hand approached the mangled paw, but the fight went out of him at her touch.  His heavy sigh, sounded like a sob, like giving up, and for a moment she thought him expired.  Then his pink tongue, rough as a cat’s, licked feebly, twice across her fingers.

At that moment lights appeared at the end of the cobbled lane.  Gongs sounded, men shouted, and cymbals clanged.  A shaman’s voice rose above the crowd, exhorting the angry mob to search out the fox spirit who had brought sickness to their village.  Scooping the fox up in her arms, Kwan Yin stepped quickly into the rowboat.  The sudden redistribution of weight dislodged the boat from its loose mooring.  A moment later a strong current seized them in its grip and bore them away.

Muffled in darkness with nothing to see or do, the unlikely companions soon fell fast asleep.  They awoke in the midst of a snow-covered forest.  The boat drifted along more slowly now, closer to the banks.  Once or twice, Kwan Yin managed to snatch a branch of frozen berries from an overhanging bush.  She fed them one by one to the fox along with mouthfuls of snow, melted in her cupped palms.

The fog had dissipated and though the days remained overcast, at night the skies cleared to reveal a strange star burning large, low and bright on the western horizon.  The beautiful compelling light seemed to be guiding them. The two companions took to sleeping during the day and sitting awake at night to sing and yelp at the beautiful sight.

As the fox recovered, his red fur began to shine and his nose gleamed shiny and black. The green eyes sparkled with mischief and his scraggly tail fluffed out into a glorious bush.  One day he spoke.  “Tonight is the longest night,” he said conversationally,

Kwan Yin glanced at him, “You needed have bothered pretending not to talk.  I can read minds and I speak the tongue of every sentient creature.”

The fox looked crestfallen for a second.  “I knew there was something funny about you – you never eat or drink.”

“What do you mean – the longest night?”

“You mean you don’t know everything?”

She shook her head.

“It means the year is changing.  Winter is coming, but at the same time the light returns, the days get longer.  Tonight is a magical time of transition. Anything could happen.  Perhaps, our journey will finally come to an end”

No sooner where the words out of the fox’s mouth when the boat bumped into the bank and stuck fast in a tangle of roots.

“It’s almost midnight, “whispered the fox.

“Somewhere, a baby’s being born, a radiant child, a special child.  I can sense the mother’s labor pains and feel her joy,” replied Kwan Yin.

Above them the star flared.  It shone on the snow shrouded trees where one bare branch burst into flower.

“Time to go,” said the fox.  He jumped into Kwan Yin’s arms, licked her face and jumped.  The snow flew up in flurries, sparkling in the moonlight.  She blinked and he was gone.

 

 

The Winter Crow

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There was once a mad, bad, white, winter crow so impertinent and insolent and filled with such insouciance that nothing could humble him. Tiring at last of his disruptive nonsense, the Goddess Brigit set out to enchant him and he fell in love, promising anything for just one kiss.  Brigit, binding him with his own words, made him messenger to the gods.  From that day forth he flew back and forth between worlds, diving into the Below, soaring into the Above visiting the abodes of gods, elementals, angels, djinns and humans; observing innumerable acts of kindness, greed, compassion, love and terror.  At first his own feelings bewildered him – rage, pity and mirth cracked his heart open; tears of laughter, grief and frustration moistened it and caused it to soften and expand.  Gradually, Brigit, keeping her side of the bargain, tamed his feral spirit until he began to take pride in his job, venturing now and then beyond the strictly necessary to work his own magic on situations and circumstances in order to better the conditions of the beings he encountered on his errands.

Usually, the crow flew home to Brigit on Solstice night to celebrate the Return of the Light with her and all the other animals.  Deep within the forest they gathered in a grove of evergreens to sing and chant, honoring the Darkness, praising the Light; celebrating the mystery of Life and Death.  Over the years, humans had heard rumors of these rites. They had begun to imitate them, or at least the way they imagined them to be, by cutting living branches and taking them into their own homes to decorate with nuts and berries; making up their own songs and ceremonies for they, too, recognized the turning of the wheel of the year and wished to honor it.

This year was a special year, one of the rare times when the full moon coincided with Solstice, illuminating the longest night with her magical light. The crow was late and tired, but as he flew through the forest, determined not to be late to the convocation, his concentration was interrupted  by an oddly sorrowful creaking.

“It’s only the wind rubbing against the bare branches of that sleeping oak,” he thought, though it sounded like something crying. He flew on, but the sad sound followed him. Giving a weary sigh, he circled back and landed on a branch.

“You’re supposed to be asleep. Why aren’t you sleeping?” asked the crow.

“I’m lonely,” wailed the tree.  “My branches are bare. The people who love me in the summer for my delicious shade have gone inside, taking the evergreens with them, leaving me alone.  The evergreens are wearing the ribbons maidens wind around my trunk in May!  They are cradling beautiful red apples their needled branches never bore and flaunting the many nuts my cousins and I worked so hard to grow while I must stand here with only the cold North Wind for company, too far from the Brigit’s congregation to hear the singing!”

The crow shifted impatiently on the branch waiting for the tale of woe to subside.

“Everything has a place and a season and a purpose, “he explained, reasonably.

“But it’s not fair,” groaned the tree.

“Nothing’s fair,” thought the crow crossly. “It’s not how things work.”

A faint vibration ruffled the crow’s feathers – a padding of paws, a fluttering of wings as animals began to gather deep in the heart of the forest.  Suddenly he felt sorry for the poor silly tree; rooted in place; tossing and turning its branches; fretfully awake while his brother and sister trees dreamed sweetly of summer and the rest of the world celebrated.

“Listen,” he said suddenly.  “I’ll tell you a secret I’m not supposed to talk about.”

He dropped his harsh caw to a croaking whisper.

“The animals aren’t the only ones that sing tonight. All the planets join in and the stars keep them company.  If you are very still and quiet, you might hear them. The stars are good fellows, always ready to share a lark and a laugh.  They owe me a favor.  So stay very quiet.  No more moaning!  I’m going now, but be patient. Keep very still and wait to see what happens!”

Giving a jump he flew straight up the sky and circled the stars muttering a little rhyme.

                                                                              Little Stars, come settle down

                                                                              Upon these branches bare

                                                                              Glimmer soft this solstice night

                                                                              And pretty twinkles share.

One by one the stars dropped softly down, clinging to the tangled branches of the bare tree.  The Earth had begun to hum and the stars sang along in a sweet shrill counterpoint, voices rising to join the solar song.  The tree stood straight and tall, all his grievances forgotten, shivering with pleasure and delight; hung with a thousand points of lovely light.

“It is Lost”

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Scan_Pic0006The Frog Prince
“It is Lost”

The frog is a personal symbol of mine. I call my art studio, Leap Frog Studio Collage Works. In my book, “Crying Woman”, one of the major characters is a Frog. My Frog character has lost his family. He has lost his “Frog“ voice and can not call to them. In the Grimm Bros. story “The Frog Prince,” the frog by the pond is actually a handsome prince longing to return to his kingdom and be the Prince he once was. When the Princess cries out that her golden ball has been lost, Frog sees an opportunity to help the Princess and break the evil spell that has been cursed on him. I wonder, “what if you found yourself turned into another creature, unable to communicate with others of your species and unable to contact those you used to love. How sad, how sad indeed.

My real life Prince Charming died. Perhaps he too was turned into a frog. I could no longer be with him. I couldn’t talk to him nor see him.  In every sense of the word he was lost. I cried out, too. Was there a way the evil spell could be broken. Could I do something to make him return?  Perhaps he was sitting by a pond waiting. Perhaps his voice had changed and he no longer could call to me.  I got to thinking about what it might be like for him.

I imagine when you die at least your spirit moves on. What if he was off on a new adventure but could not communicate with his family. There would be a sadness that surely he would feel, a longing.. Like the loved ones he left behind, he would wish to be reunited with his beloveds. Just as the Frog Prince must long to see his father and mother, the King and Queen.

I imagine that most Frog Prince’s and Frog Princess’ are people who died young. Because I would think that if you were old and all your loved ones had already “Passed On”, then you’d be ready to make the transition yourself. There would be no need to hang around longing for them to return.

In our story, “The Frog Prince” knows that IF he can get a Princess to take him home and let him sleep on her pillow for three nights that he will be turned back into the handsome prince. There are tales where the spell will be broken if the frog can get the Princess to kiss him.  Regardless, the spell can be broken. It may seem nearly impossible for the event to occur, but there is a chance, there is hope that things well return to “normal”.  In real life when a loved one dies they don’t get to come back. There are no spells, or caveats.  When you die you are gone from this earthly place.  There is no coming back.

What if in life you had that chance to be reunited, if only for a few hours would it make a difference? In the story of the Frog Prince his situation is temporary. He is turned back into a handsome Prince and the Princess falls in love with him and the story ends with everyone living happily ever after. In my story the Princess realizes that the frog needs to come to terms with his loss and  longing, the same as she must must do, but she gives him hope. They part knowing that each must go on their separate ways.  In the old way they are lost to each other.  But in a new special way they are tied to each other forever.

Leaping for the Moon

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Leaping for the Moon

This piece went through many changes.  My first idea grew out of a song Anna sings in The King and I – “Toads toads, all your people are toads!”  I was remembering it as’ frogs’, but then I remembered that the courtiers were toadies and…never mind!  Suffice it to say I’ve had frogs on the brain and toads being such close relations get included in the mix.  With a bit of poetic license they can even stand in for their cousins (witness the previous collage).

At first, I envisioned a bunch of toads in a pool of water with their heads sticking out, but I couldn’t find the right kind of water in my picture files and my lily pads had disappeared somewhere.  I decided to make water out of strips of patterned paper in blues and greens and purples.  I found this great spiral design in the shades I wanted and decided movement was more fun than straight-edged strips.  The frogs looked wonderful with their heads sticking out, but then  this wonderful leapy-type jumped out at me begging to be used.  I placed  him above the waves, leaping into the air after a golden ball.

It looked great!  All I needed was a background.  Day or night?  I couldn’t decide.  I tried beige to match the previous collage, then a soft mottled dusky paper with mauve and lavender.  Rummaging through my calendar collection I came across one featuring moons.  What if he were jumping for the Moon instead of a golden ball?  The Moon is a ball!

When I put it all together, the other frogs seemed to take away from the drama of the picture.  Out they jumped!  Leaving me with another pared down simple image – even though my intention was to create a more complicated intricate piece.  Perhaps the message is that more and more, I value simplicity.  Or maybe, because the tales are structured so austerely, the pictures inspired by them also demand simplicity and a certain starkness, leaving room for the viewer/reader to fill in the planks and turn the caricatures into characters with motivations and emotions reflecting her/his own inner life.

Like the story,  this picture raises questions.  Is this an expression of exhilaration?  Or does it teach me about the foolishness and futility of trying to reach beyond my grasp?  Maybe it’s a lesson in lunacy?  Or possibly, connection?

All stories hold layers of meaning and all woven with the warp and woof of real experiences, real people’s lives.  Pull out just one thread and it will pull you down by-ways you never imagined were there.  You may even find yourself leaping for the Moon.

The Frog and The Princess – First Encounter

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First Encounter - Frog Prince

Here we see that a privileged princess with a huge sense of entitlement has carelessly dropped her golden ball down the well. The frog, on hearing her piteous tears, has struck a bargain – bed and board with the Princess for the return of the ball.  The Princess, who has no intention of honoring her promise, is lying through her teeth.

On the one hand, this is a story about how power and privilege, carelessly handled, can corrupt decency and erode compassion.  The princess has forgotten that with power comes responsibility – the ability to respond – to stay fully present in each moment, giving one’s full attention to the person(s) and events at hand.  If she had remembered, she would have thought carefully about the consequences of any promises and lies she might make.  She might have considered alternative ways to retrieve the ball, or perhaps just left it down the well.  Instead her power has bestowed a false sense of superiority, not only towards others, but also to the normal rules of decency, respect, integrity and courtesy governing relationships.

The frog is just as deceitful as the Princess.  He has seen an opportunity to advance his own agenda and seized it.  In a culture supporting a more equitable distribution of wealth and power, the frog might have performed a random act of kindness and simply returned the ball.  But deprivation and the princess’s callous behavior have hardened his heart.  With no other resources to fall back on, desperation has made him manipulative and sly, ready to take advantage of any weakness to exploit another and further his own ends.

Coded in fairy tale form, we find the base cause of social unrest and incipient rebellion.  Because it was dangerous to discuss such matters, people’s concern, fear and rage were folded in to the tales and disguised as simple set-ups for happy endings.  Despite pretty descriptions of beautiful girlish princesses and faithful servants, dark feelings imbue these tales and often include brutal acts of violence on the way to resolution.  Vicious episodes, such as the step-sisters mutilation of their feet in Cinderella, the streak of fish blood in The Fisherman and His Wife or the devouring wolf in Little Red Riding Hood speak to a time as turbulent, chancy and violent as our own.  They warn of the dangers of extreme polarization and hint at the possibility of revolution.

On the other hand there is always another, more personal way to read the story.  Water symbolizes both the emotional life of our surface personas and also the inaccessible depths of the personal and collective unconscious.  The Princess, that young, naïve, immature Queen-to-be, represents the un-individuated self.  She has lost her golden ball.  Gold represents fertility, life, dominion, warmth and generosity, it is pure and incorruptible.  So far, the Princess possesses none of these qualities and thus cannot keep hold of her treasure.

The frog, an amphibian, can live and breathe in two realms.  This makes him a spirit guide, or psychopomp – a being who can travel back and forth between worlds.  The word for frog in Japanese is kaeru which also means “to return”.  Traditional beliefs state that however far you may transport a frog, it will always return to the place of departure.  Another meaning ascribed to frogs by the Japanese is “stand-ins.”  Some people carry lucky frog charms and believe that when something threatens them, the frog may “stand-in” and face danger in their place.  In this story the frog displays all these attributes as he dives into the well to rescue the Princess’s best qualities, which she has shoved into the shadows and neglected.  The story reminds me that we can ignore talent and nobility as deliberately as we deny less desirable attributes.  It asks me to consider how I sometimes denigrate or reject my own abilities.

Like with dream work,  one may read a collage or a fairy tale as if every character and object represents a part of oneself.  Taking this approach I’m working with the idea of deception.    If everything in the story represents myself,  what lies do I tell myself and why? What have I lost and how may I retrieve it?