Tag Archives: metaphors

Wanderlust

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Journeys

I loved the images Michelle sent me last time.  They included the suitcase, camel and art deco woman as well as the serrated map border.  The drummer was an image I sent her, which came back to me.  I suppose she picked the suitcase because I’ve been traveling this summer to Ireland. And thought there doesn’t seem to be anything Irish in the picture it does speak directly to many things about the journey.

It’s been a while since I’ve traveled anywhere unfamiliar or outside of the boundaries of the US.  I’d been getting restless and plagued with wanderlust so the opportunity to go to Ireland came at just the right time.  I went with a group of ten amazing women- strangers to me, but not unknown. They are all represented in the central figure of the young woman. There is a lovely camaraderie that occurs between women of a certain age who have worked hard all their lives seeking to know themselves.  We envision life as a journey of possibilities and value  it holistically, good,bad, ugly, sublime and ordinary all accepted as part of the whole. As within, so without. Once one accepts the inner journey than the outer journeys become full of metaphors and vice versa.  When the inner and outer journey merge and the lines between them become fluid magic occurs. It’s that feeling I wanted to convey here for indeed, my Irish trip was in all senses a magical journey.

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Paps of Danu

Specifically Irish, are the two matching hills in the scene behind the drummer’s head.  They look like two breast-shaped mountains located near Killarney in County Kerry.  These are the Paps of Anu long considered sacred first to the mother goddess Anu or Danu as she was known on the continent. Our trip was actually a pilgrimage to ancient sacred sites.  In the collage, you see this reflected in these hills and also in the  post card in the lower right hand corner depicting the ruins at Chaco Canyon in the American southwest, which resembles an aerial photograph of The City an ancient settlement at the foot of The Paps.citySatelliteThumb

A mythical Asian creature guards the corner. He and the camel represent the animal spirits whose protection and guidance we sought for our travels.  Along the way we journeyed shamanically  guided by the amazing Amantha Murphy and her equally delightful assistant Rose Mummery who patiently and mindfully drummed for us.  The vivid colors in the collage represent the intense exhilaration surrounding this adventure.

Finally, I can never think of traveling without thinking of my friend Naomi Bristol.  She was an inveterate traveler who welcomed new experiences without fear or judgement.  Naomi collected images of camels, a beast identified closely with long exotic journeys. Many years ago I wrote this poem for her, which seems to fit here as well…

THE CAMEL’S CARD(for Naomi Bristol)

 Camel as totem

is hard to define,

exceedingly helpful,

not always benign;

if, in your cards, she

appears on this day,

journey and travelling

will hold you in sway.

~

Camel can teach you

to walk shifting sands,

carry loads lithely,

state your demands;

garner resources,

reserving and holding

interior wisdom

for later unfolding.

~

Contrary camel,

who stubbornly spits,

hoarding her genius

to strike with her wits,

appears in the cards

to warn against waste

of talent and temper

squandered in haste.

~

Feminine creature,

long lashes, soft eyes,

deceptively docile,

inscrutably wise,

guide to the desserts

which hide in the soul,

uncovering well-springs

to keep you heart-whole.

Arousal

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Krisna and the Gopi_0001_NEW

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” 
― Rumi

Krishna grows from a child into a young man still craving forbidden fruit.  One evening, enchanted by the nubile grace of the village milkmaids as they go about their work currying and milking the sacred cows, he picks up his flute and walks through the gloaming, pouring his yearning into the notes he plays.  The music floats on the evening breeze, slides over garden walls, slips between shutters, drifts down the chimneys.  His tender air piggybacks on the breath of every woman, permeating her lung’s alveoli, seeping into the corpuscles of her blood until each cell yearns toward his call. The chaste women of Braj leave their tasks unfinished.  Buckets splash back into the well, brooms clatter to the ground; soft puffs of dust rise from beneath their pattering feet.  Night falls, the moon rises, still his flute plays on.  Women dance, circling round the god. Tightly wound saris unravel, floating on the breeze.  Krishna multiplies himself sixteen thousand times, temporarily gratifying each woman’s desires.  When dawn breaks, he disappears leaving them longing for the god.

I think these stories say something about desire being the beginning of awakening (another word for arousal) Krishna stirs – he stirs up his mother, he stirs the dirt, he steals butter which comes from stirring milk, he stirs the milkmaids, he stirs the air, his own body stirs. He mixes things up, turns them on their head, confuses and enchants.  Out of this great stirring comes desire.

Desire heightens every sense – smell, touch, taste, sight, hearing all go into overdrive, become sensitive to nuance and swoon from a surfeit of delight.  Consummation – the fulfillment of desire – consuming, having, obtaining, owning –  is a completely different thing.  Blissful as it may be, attaining is not as delight-full as wanting because in getting the one thing we want, we shut down all the other potentialities.

This is why Rumi and the other mystics of every religion stress the importance of longing as an attribute of devotion and prayer.  Stay in the place of desire and everything you see belongs to you.  Pluck the peach, consume it and your hunger is gone.  Plums, apricots, pears and pomegranates, all so enticing moments ago, all so alive and delicious to the imagination, lose their appeal.  That’s not to say we shouldn’t eat or make love – just, when we are blessed with ineffable yearning, we should take the time to revel in it and linger awhile in that place of infinite possibility.

The longing Krishna evokes is inchoate – it has no actual object because as soon as we make the god into an object he disappears.  There are no instructions, no directions, just a longing which we can barely voice and then only in metaphor. The gift lies in the disappearance, the nothingness, the void he leaves behind.  Our questions: What is the gift in nothingness? From whence comes our awakening?

“We come spinning out of nothingness, scattering stars like dust.”
― Rumi

Unfolding Emptiness

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Developing the Negative

Unfolding Emptiness

For this week’s prompt I chose to illustrate emptiness.  Not that I think emptiness is a bad thing.  I consider it more as the “negative space” defined in art as “the space around and between the subject(s).”  In art, empty space can be used to create a silhouette, a background, a balancing counterpoint to an object or group of objects, or a place for the eye to rest.  In life, emptiness can give the mind or heart or emotional body time to rest, recuperate and regroup.  In metaphysics, emptiness is the void from which the spark of life arises and in physics emptiness is the great mystery.

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 11
translated by Ursula K. Le Guin (1998)

Thirty spokes
meet in the hub.
Where the wheel isn’t
is where it’s useful.

Hollowed out,
clay makes a pot.
Where the pot’s not
is where it’s useful.
Cut doors and windows
to make a room.

Where the room isn’t,
there’s room for you.
So the profit in what is
is in the use of what isn’t.

Sometimes we need emptiness to understand the true utility or meaning of a thing, concept or action.  When we first read this story we found it almost devoid of content; but the longer we spend with this seemingly empty story, the more it holds.

Genesis tells us that in the beginning was the sea – … and God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.”  The Judeo-Christian religion is not alone in thinking the world evolved from water; many other theologians, scientists and psychologists agree.  The sea encompasses this story – the story bobs up out of its depths.  This fact alone is enough to make us sit up and take notice.

The watery background of this collage forms the negative space around two objects, the fish and the boat carrying a woman and her sand castle.  You may recall that the sea changes its appearance and mood each time the fisherman makes a new request.  When he approached the shore to ask for the castle, the sea “looked blue and gloomy, though it was very calm.”  The sea here is blue and a bit gloomy and very calm; empty of any kind of disturbance.  It conveys a brooding season of waiting.

My idea of Hell is waiting in an endless line without anything to read.  I really dislike waiting.  So my personal negative space carries undertones of frustration and impatience.  I suppose it’s why I fall in so easily with the idea of “staying in the moment.”   If the moment is all there is, then one never has to wait!  The trick is practicing this sense of presence in the dentist’s waiting room!

The fisherman’s wife is adorned with elaborate seashells.  If you hold a seashell to your ear you can hear the ocean.  What needs to be heard?  Who needs to be listened to?   For me, sitting on an empty beach surrounded by the rhythmic sound of waves is the closest I get to perfect harmony.  I suppose it’s a point of arrival.  At the very edge of the known world there is nowhere left to go, nothing to do except be one with the elements.

Shells are wampum, a form of money in both South American and African history.  The conch, sliced cross-ways, forms a perfect spiral, ancient symbol of rejuvenation and rebirth.  Gods are born from seashells and this is the wife’s ambition – to become a god.  Transcendent religions teach us that it is humankind’s best and truest aspiration to reclaim his/her god nature. To do so usually involves a trip to the underworld, as represented in the traditions of many sea-faring nations.

The wife in my picture is plump, naked and crowned in a rather ridiculous headdress, all of which might indicate empty (endless) greed and desire.  On the other hand she also appears poised, calm and completely self-confident.  Perhaps, her crown connects her to Persephone, Queen of the Underworld.   Perhaps, her actions in the story stem from a profound comprehension of the workings of fate and the sea.

Her castle is made of sand – transient, ephemeral, easily washed away it’s a thing of illusion, yet the child’s pink bucket has been left in plain sight.  Children are naked and truthful in the expression of desire; they know how to play and use their imagination.

The boat, a tool of the fisherman’s trade, has become a frivolous pleasure boat.  If this collage were the fisherman’s dream, we might ask him if his work gives him pleasure.  Is he “following his bliss?” as Joe Campbell would ask.  If so, does the fish bless him by returning him, at the end of the story, to the profession he loves?

The golden fish is as enigmatic as any fish.  Why does he do what he does?  His mouth is open to speak, but he also bleeds from it.  (Remember the bloody streak in the water when the fisherman lets him go free?)  Bleeding is a kind of emptying out and links the story, once again, to the feminine.  It also implies the kind of sacrifice in blood that magic and gods sometime demand.

The wounded Fish/Prince is reminiscent of another story – Parsifal and his encounter with the wounded Fisher King.  In that story, the hero, long dominated by an overprotective mother, doesn’t ask the questions he should ask at the beginning of the story.  As a result he must take a long roundabout adventure that brings him back to where he started.

There is one more story I’m reminded of.  The “Arabian Nights” contains a tale about a fisherman who nets a jar containing djinn who threatens to kill him when the fisherman uncorks his catch. Through trickery, the man talks the djinn back into the jar and then returns the imprisoning container to the sea.  To me, our story seems like a reverse mirror image of that one.  In both, magical creatures, fishermen and the sea are involved and in both stories the characters end up in the same place they began.  As in the tales from “A Thousand and One Nights,” our story contains the seeds of another wonder tale. How and why has the enchanted prince been turned into a fish?

The story of the Fisherman and His Wife contains plenty of emptiness in which one may float questions; lots of room into which imagination may expand …

 

Bringing Back the Light

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An archetypal content expresses itself, first and foremost, in metaphors. If such a content should speak of the sun and identify with it the lion, the king, the hoard of gold guarded by the dragon, or the power that makes for the life and health of man, it is neither the one thing nor the other, but the unknown third thing that finds more or less adequate expression in all these similes, yet-to the perpetual vexation of the intellect-remains unknown and not to be fitted into a formula.
~ Carl Jung”The Psychology of the Child Archetype,” CW 9i, par. 267

This piece rose out of Bunce’s Hindu interpretation of the Red Riding Hood story, which I posted last week. Here you see Indra the Sun god (represented in the story by our huntsman), dancing light back into the world. As the dark clouds roll away the Radiant Child is reborn once again. She carries our sun in her hand as she returns to bless Earth with warmth, light and life.

The Radiant child is an archetypal image carried (if you agree with Carl Jung and I do) in the collective unconscious of all Homo sapiens. He defines archetypes as, “Collective universal patterns or motifs, which come from the collective unconscious and are the basic content of religions, mythologies, legends, and fairytales.” The Hindu Krishna and the Christian Christ Child are examples of such arising.

The Radiant Child links the past to the future and represents a reconciliation of opposites. She/he is an androgynous figure who synthesizes consciousness and unconsciousness. The child is godlike, surrounded by an invulnerability born out of the wisdom of innocence. The Radiant Child inspires love and rejoicing, but also awe and fear. This particular manifestation of the godhead can be more terrifying than an angry Thor or Zeus; in its innocence the child sees through all hypocrisies and fabrications, like the boy in another tale who noticed that the emperor wore no clothes.

Nakedness is one of the Child’s attributes. It is a symbol of manifestation the transformation of energy from spirit to matter. It also represents purity and primeval essence that knows no fear.

Naturally all these words and ideas have their shadows, represented in my collage by the rolling clouds and dark tones, but notice they are essential to my composition. The darkness frames and defines the light. The clouds, with their life-giving moisture and soothing shade are not banished – simply pushed aside to create a balance. The dancing golden god/man represents that equilibrium as he balances on the toes of one foot.

Since I posted this morning, I’ve read a paper by my friend Jack Meier in which he explains the reason I felt compelled to add Van Gogh’s olive trees to this collage before I finished it. (Oh yeah! olives i.e. Athena – a radiant child in Her own right, fierce Wisdom). What Jack said fits perfectly with my own interpretation of this picture:

What this image of vegetation refers to is a continuation of the life process, which lasts forever and is beyond the opposites of life and death. This image is not to be understood concretely, but as a symbol for something psychic; existing beyond life and death, a mysterious process which survives the temporary blooming and dying of visible life, which is, after all, a changing of form.

Michelle’s thoughts about Little Red Riding Hood

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Red Riding Hood tells the Wolf she is going to Granny's

Red Riding Hood tells the Wolf she is going to Granny’s

Chris and I decided to post thoughts about the artwork and prompt after we finish our artwork. Here are some of my thoughts.

Little Red Riding Hood

Week #1 The Big Picture: Illustrate the story … Little Red Riding Hood, its theme or significance. I have chosen to illustrate the story. One of the things that her mother had said to Little Red Riding Hood before she left for Granny’s house is …”Don’t talk to strangers”. Little Red not only speaks to the wolf but she tells him where she is going. That is what I illustrated.

Since this is an old tale, I decided to include the illuminated letter “R” which was used in old times to beautify hand written manuscripts. I wanted to give the piece a “Once Upon a Time Feel.”  Little Red Riding Hood is instructed to take a basket of goodies to her grandmother who is not feeling well. Granny lives in the forest. The forest is a scary place. The trees are tall and dense and they block out much of the sunlight. You cannot see what is up ahead. There are wild and dangerous creatures living among the trees. Red’s mother tells her to stay on the path. This is another admonishment little Red fails to heed … she does not listen to advice.

Originally, this fairy tale was a cautionary one. There were packs of wolves that did attack and kill people. The forest could be dangerous. People did get lost and disappear. Predatory animals do pry on the weak, the young and the very old.

The story however has many other meanings. The big bad wolf could represent a man who takes advantage of younger women. Red Riding Hood could be a woman who brings out the beast in men. Granny is frail and helpless. The woodsman is the good guy, the hero who saves the day.

What came up for me was …How am I like Little Red Riding Hood … naive and unconscious? How do my actions affect others? Do I listen to good advice? My focus was on “Red’s” red riding hood cape. I spent time creating the cape, I wanted it to be very red … sexy?  I wanted the forest to be dense and the path to be curved.  I wanted the wolf to surprise Red by appearing out of nowhere.

I started out with one idea and ended up with something different. I was going to paint the background and the trees but used collage instead.  I got excited when different parts of the piece came together. I had to remind myself to stay positive through what I call the uglies.  I reminded myself not to compare my work to others or to what I imagined the piece SHOULD look like.  I like my work to evolve. In the end, I told myself, “This is my answer today for Little Red Riding Hood the Big Picture. There are lots of answers and I may have another one tomorrow. I then called this piece done.

That’s all for now, I’m sure I’ll have more to say later.  Michelle

Christine’s Big Picture – Little Red Riding Hood

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I’ve formatted my first piece and am waiting for the YES glue to dry on the various smaller configurations before gluing the whole thing in place.  I use YES because it doesn’t wrinkle the paper, isn’t toxic and doesn’t dry up and let go after a while (like glue sticks).  Also I can use a damp cloth to get rid of residue without harming or staining most papers.  I spread it on with my fingers, which is a pain because I have to keep rinsing them off.  If anyone has a better suggestion I would love to hear it!

It’s been interesting working with Red Riding Hood.  The first prompt suggests making an overall image of the story.  I chose images of the girl, the hood, the picnic basket, the grandmother, the wolf, the huntsman, the bed, the forest, the path and the cottage.  As always, the most interesting lesson collage teaches me is to let go of what doesn’t serve.  I’m sure to elaborate on that idea in future posts!   For now, I’ll just tell you the thing that took the longest time was forcing myself to discard my favorite wolf.  He just wouldn’t come into alignment with the other elements.  I tried changing the background from forest to garden.  That worked really well.  The garden, painted in the impressionist style, holds a suggestion of a house in the background.  I wanted the cottage (Red Riding Hood’s goal) there because it represents stability and safety.  For many, life’s journey (the path) is to find safety and security.  In this case I chose a ‘garden path” as a visual pun hinting at deception and trickery.

Sticking to the original text, my Red Riding Hood shows a bit of attitude, while grandmother seems sad, apathetic and resigned.  The Huntsman is just a sliver of red in the far left corner at the rear of the wolf he’s stalking.  He appears late in the story and has no particular characteristics ascribed to him, yet his presence is vital – hence the color red.   To me he represents the wolf’s shadow; displaying all the characteristics – integrity, protection, kindness, which the wolf lacks.

I placed the bed prominently because of the implied sexuality in the story.  Look at all the songs, bawdy jokes and ribald tales, which have become take-offs on the tale over the years.  Red Riding hood is a young girl, a virgin.  The huntsman and the wolf are both drawn to her.  Wolves are metaphors for predatory males as are huntsmen.  Granny who should act as adequate chaperone is sick and enfeebled.  Mother’s advice been disregarded and Red is on her own.  But the underlying story isn’t spelled out; it’s implied in the imagery – the bed is an acknowledgement that we get it.

The tree represents the wild forest Red Riding Hood has navigated to get to the cottage garden.  It holds a clutch of red seeds inside a narrow cleft in the bark, another reference to Red’s fertility and appeal.  It hints at a future child, but whose – the huntsman’s or the wolf’s?

Speaking of the wolf, he’s very different from the calm beautiful creature I first chose- this one is stalking his prey, jaws open to devour.  He dominates the idyllic garden with his dark presence, though his mottled fur and stealthy stance allow him to fade into the background and seem to disappear.

That’s my story and I’m sticking it together as soon as I say good-bye!  Bye for now.

Chris

Red Riding Hood 100 C

Little Red Rding Hood
The Big Picture
Click for a larger image

Chris