Happy Yellow Solstice

bullrush twinkleThis, the shortest day of the year in the North, the darkest day, was blessed with a bit of sunshine here and there, peaking between the bullrushes at the frozen pond.yellow lightsIt is a day to feel the distance between sun and earth, for appreciating all the beautiful lights we create to light our homes, to brighten our way in the long, dark nights.
Inside, in the yellow glow of tungsten lights and candles, many yellow treasures can be found… yellow durgaA yellow Durga on a yellow lion,
or a yellow mask – part of a current Mexihca mask practice…
yellow maskAnd the latest mess of paint, much of it yellow, perhaps calling to the sun, reminding it to come back up this way again soon…
yellow paintingsHappy Solstice!
Weekly Photo Challenge – Yellow

Turtle textures

r gentry sea turtleImage: Raina Gentry

The most delicious underwater dream of the clearest, cleanest water, following a turtle as she swam ahead of me.
The light glowed underneath the water, glimmering on rocks and mosses and the legs and shell of the swimming turtle. A dream of such peace and pleasure, suspended weightless in the water.

tamara philips red turtleImage: Tamara Phillips

On my way home this morning, I stopped in at the local turtle hangout, just to savour the dream, even though the water is cloudy and murky, still it glints and ripples and hints at deliciousness for all the critters living in, on, and around it. Turtles sunbathing on rocks. Ducks by the dozens. A lone blue heron perched atop a tall dead tree. Sparrows and robins and cardinals and yellow finches belting out their morning song so loud I can barely hear whatever is crashing around in the bushes on the other side of the pond.turtles sunbathingI’d spent the night on a friend’s couch. We’d been talking into the wee hours about how much of the hokey woo we could each handle. You know, we’d gotten onto the whole Abraham Hicks / Law of Attraction thing, and of course the idea of “channeling” makes my friend recoil, AND, she protested, “the magical thinking”. She’s a rational, educated, hard working woman whose father is a scientist. I totally understand her reaction – if I actually try to think about channeling, it doesn’t speak to anything I understand, really – like what is that exactly?water abstractionBut I’m trying to stay open-minded. Cause I’ve been finding with some of these things, that if the message is beautiful and can move ideas around in interesting ways, does it matter how it arrives?

Most days I find the Abraham Hicks quotes I get in my inbox engage my mind and attitude in novel ways, however there are some days when it feels like the message of “abundance” is a kind of facile, “Yes, we can all have as many SUV’s as we want, you just need to raise your vibration to get your SUV too”, to which I have a rather negative reaction. You know, just thinking about the planet and turtles and clean water and things.turtle swimsBut I think of my late father-in-law, a highly educated doctor with an anthropological philosphical bent, a Marxist refugee from Papa Doc’s Haiti. He would say of all teachers and teachings, “take what you like and leave the rest”.

To me it feels like that. So last night I was telling my friend about an interview I heard between Wayne Dyer and Abraham Hicks, where Wayne Dyer talks about how for years and years he’d been angry at his father for abandoning him, cause he’d ended up in a series of foster homes and carried his anger with him until the day he went to visit his father’s grave. Abraham Hicks interrupts him and says, “but you chose all of that – you wanted the independence, you didn’t want some father figure around all the time, meddling in your affairs”.

Now of course, the problem is that you’d have to accept not only channeling, but also reincarnation and a kind of immortal soul that makes choices as it comes into a new lifetimes and a whole cluster of beliefs that may or may not be your thing.water abstraction 2And yet…even though I don’t really know if I believe in reincarnation and immortal souls, still I’m drawn to the mindset, because the idea that we choose our experiences is so totally liberating. All notions of victimhood are immediately eradicated, as one becomes the prime director of one’s experience in this lifetime. It is a sensation of freedom and agency perhaps not so different from the feeling in Nietzsche’s phrase, “he who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how“. There is a kind of purposeful light that is bestowed by this thought pattern, regardless of the origin or scientific provability of the thought pattern.turtle and duckLately my most favourite “channeled messages” are the Mayan Messages. Again, it’s a “take what you like and leave the rest” kind of relationship – there’s a bunch of things in there I can’t deal with, like UFO’s and stuff that I’m just not ready to think about. But what I love in them is the sense of the planet and the serious political and environmental challenges we face in our time, the need to think about living life simply, consciously, sharing the skills and resources we each have.

In Native American teachings, Turtle is the oldest symbol for planet Earth. It is the personification of goddess energy, and the eternal Mother from which our lives evolve. We are born of the womb of Earth, and to her soil our bodies will return. In honoring the Earth, we are asked by Turtle to be mindful of the cycle of give and take, to give back to the Mother as she has given to us. ~Jamie Sams

turtle collageWeekly Photo Challenge – Texture

Summer Love – The Fool in the Land of Woo

Early in the dark of the morning the air is cool from the night rains. A mourning dove coos softly. The cat plays amongst the wet leaves. Across the courtyard a teenager coming home from the night shift searches for his key for the side door. My coffee steams bitter and dark. I am ridiculously happy.

Ridiculous, you say? Why ridiculous?

Well, externally speaking, in spite of it being summertime, things are not what you’d call great. The other day my accountant hugged me and walked me to her door saying, “you are a very brave woman”. I hate it when people tell me I’m brave – it always seems to mean I’m in way over my head. Friends look at me sideways and say, “gosh, you know, you’re doing really well considering…”

It’s not important or interesting – the story, the details, the particulars. We can just say it’s tense – not even terrible or tragic. In my work in documentary, I’m always steeped in stories of such awful luck – a young mother with terminal cancer, a teenage refugee from Sierra Leone trying to survive in a strange land by herself, a man who is discriminated against in his job and takes it to the Human Rights Commission and is held up in court cases, his life in limbo for 17 years…terrible, tragic stories. I see the news lately – not even the stuff about Gaza and the Ukraine, but the stuff about water in Detroit being shut off to a huge part of the population, and the concurrent news about companies discussing the privatization of water, and I wonder how crazy our world really is, and how much crazier it’s going to get.

So I’m grateful for a deliciously simple moment on a cool morning when I see it and I am happy – up, buoyant, optimistic, enthusiastic. Happy to be alive. Happy to have a hot cup of coffee. Happy to feel the cool rains after a hot summer day. Happy to see the beauty in so many flowers in bloom -
sunflower ecu abstractHappy for a weekend away with horses and nephews -
yellow flower boyHappy to have a bike that will roll me down the hill to the beach -
bike & beachThe astrologers say the tough stuff has been all about the Grand Cross, a doozy of a tense aspect, ripping one’s life to shreds, but apparently the fact that I’ve had Jupiter in my sign for the duration has made me upbeat in spite of it all. Ridiculously so. Inappropriately so.

Astrologers and psychics do good business in times of uncertainty and economic downturn, they say.

So maybe partly for that reason, I’ve been trying to teach myself the Tarot. Who knows, maybe I’ll end up living in a tent and wrap a scarf around my head and pretend to be psychic and read cards for a living. And besides, I love the mystery the cards embody, how they seem to speak like dreams, through enigmatic cryptic imagery where you have to feel you way through intuitively to find meanings that slip around like eels if you try to hold on too tight.

And one of the things that’s got me thinking they kinda really do work, is that I’ve noticed how I always get the same cards -
the towerThe Tower I’ve seen a lot of – not a lucky card.
And I never ever get say, The Hierophant or The Emperor or the Queen of Pentacles or Swords – none of the more sober and practical and grounded characters that exist in the deck, no. Not for me.
On the other hand, I do get, again and again, The Fool.
Strolling along without a care in the world, an innocent, a naïf, about to step off the precipice into the unknown…the foolWeekly Photo Challenge – Summer Lovin’
P.S. – our local Canadian water hero is Maude Barlow – check out some of her stuff here.

New room

20140606-212408-77048757.jpgWe started shedding STUFF 2 or 3 months before the move.
Books, files, furniture, clothes, dishes, more books, more files, paper, so much paper, a bit more furniture, more and more and more stuff went out onto the sidewalk, into the garbage.
We knew we had to downsize by about 70 percent, that we would have a space so much smaller, so much tighter, that we had to get rid of everything but the essential.
As I sifted through mountains, years of mysteriously irrelevant things, I remembered one of my gurus asking me years ago if I had a lot of stuff. I had to allow as how I did. You must get rid of all this junk, she said, to become a spiritual warrior.
Maybe it was because I didn’t identify as a spiritual warrior that I dawdled, did nothing at the time. I identified more as a lost girl, not a warrior.
My son was done getting his things ready in about 3 days. I needed the 3 months.
20140606-212412-77052534.jpgThe first trip out to the new place I made with a girlfriend the middle of May.
As we carried in a few boxes, a child from down the hallway held the doors open for us – a shy and silent angel.
The two of us smudged the space – she had extra-special-super-sacred sage, I had some copal.
It all seemed very auspicious.
The movers did the bulk of the move a bit later in May – my boy has been installed here since then.b sleepingI lingered at the old place, savouring the relative expansivesness, not ready to face the smallness of our new space.
I realized that our little rented cottage, nestled in a quiet pocket of downtown, had been the longest I’d lived anywhere in my entire life.
10 years. Hard to let go.
Finally, May 31st, I had to be out.
The last ferrying of stuff, a 2-car adventure with friends, brought all the last items from our previous existence into this new place of abode.
from the stairsThis room is our living room / dining room / work space. What was spread over 3 floors and 4 large rooms has all been condensed into this one little burst of chaos.
Still more stuff needs to be shed.
But the process pushes one to discover priorities – the process of being forced to choose, to boil it all down to the essential, is a revelation into what IS the essential.
Turns out a little space to be creative, and the associated paraphernalia, is important to me.
For the last couple of years, I’d been making art in my bedroom, but my new bedroom is perhaps a quarter of the size of my previous room – it is big enough for my bed and a small bookcase. The dresser is in the closet.
20140606-212410-77050024.jpgNo room here for art-making, so the art-making mess has had to move into the one big shared room, right in the middle of everything.my messy sideNow, one week into this new space, this new life, something feels different.
This letting go of stuff – of 9/10 of my library, of 3/4 of the furniture, of mountains and mountains of miscellaneous junk that I no longer remembered why we had in the first place feels… totally liberating. I feel SO much lighter. Almost as if I’ve lost weight.
I do miss having a bigger space, having more room to make a mess in, and also the cool of the garden in the evenings and the dark of the sky above.
But there is a patio here, a little bit of garden to work with, some glorious trees in the shared courtyard and the sound of birds in the morning – robins, cardinals, and a large contingent of swallows.
I love swallows.garden1
garden2Fact is, I never would have shed all that stuff without the massive kick in the butt delivered by the need to move.
Now that so much junk is gone, now that we are lighter, now that we are freer, it feels like anything could happen…
Perhaps there’s something to that spiritual warrior thing after all…
Weekly Photo Challenge – Room

Working on Art

hallway collagesFor a month or two I’ve been inviting friends over for dinner, wining and dining them into the night, and, when they’re relaxed and off-guard, I lure them up to my room, blinking and confused, and force them to sit on the edge of my bed and look at my art.
I’ve been so hungry for feedback, ravenous after many hours and days and weeks over the winter of experimenting with different forms, jamming around with the photos, the painting, the collages – I need need need to see what people respond to.living room collagesI’d invited a bunch of people over for a barbeque last night, a little seasonal fair, and as I was tidying and mopping and vacuuming in anticipation of their arrival, it occurred to me – I’d have them hostage for hours, could put art all over the house and see what people might say.photoIt must be some core piece of the need to make art is an element of communication – it’s like you’re looking for a way to talk about something.
And sometimes it may be a private correspondence with the Universe – like cave artists making shamanic magic on the walls, calling to the spirits of the animals to reveal themselves and where they can be found in abundance.
Or it may be a conversation you are having with a friend in your mind as you do it, a kind of running dialogue that informs what comes out. And then when you talk about this image that has sprung from somewhere, it’s part of how you connect as friends – you see more about who they are by what speaks to them.photoSo when Bea said she really loved the alligator – a drawing I’d hesitated to put up, cause it’s just a loose rough kind of sketch of a piece – it gave me some sense of a place in Bea that resonates with this not-pretty, not-girly kind of image.
But Tom kept remembering something I hadn’t put out, a picture I’d shown them several weeks before when I’d had them on my bed and forced them to look at things, an experiment with drawing and painting on a photo – photoThat one! said Tom. That one was his favourite.
Sometimes taste seems to cut along a shared medium, as in sometimes the painters like the paintings, responding with a visceral part of themselves to texture and colour – Maria, a month ago uttering a low hum when she saw the blues and drips and bumps in this piece – under the seaAnd showing no real interest in the experiments of drawing and painting on photos -
swallow expWhereas Nicky, a non-visual artist, an actor / dancer / director, was very drawn to these experiments, and felt the one of the magnolia was the most realized, the most successful integration of photo and paint – photoAnd while some people have a more textural inclination, others are more figurative, they don’t care for abstraction, they like to always recognize what the image is, to always see a familiar shape.
Sometimes when you’re kind of on that edge, a title can help, can indicate a figure to be found and known – so for example, if I were to say this is a butterfly -
flutterbyWould you believe me?
What’s your favourite, Dear Reader?
(Weekly Photo Challenge – Work of Art)

Spring! Danser, danser…

Maybe a month or two back, a friend told me she’d posted a frog picture I gave her on her fridge in an attempt to invoke spring. It made me think of my frog deity painting thingy, who I see as some kind of Lord of the Marsh, of the wetlands and creeks and bullrushes, and I put him out where I could see him, wishing, waiting for warmer days -
green frog deityI’ve signed up for this thing – 100 Days of Happiness – what better thing to take on when your life feels like a tornado has struck.
Simple concept – each day you post a picture of something that made you happy, and hashtag it and all that. For 100 days.
Yesterday I posted this first real green green thing from the back yard – spring finally coming, after so long…
springAmazing how the sight of just a little bit of verdant brush can provoke so much happiness. Such a simple pleasure. The winter was so brutal, so cold, so relentless in snow and wind and harsh temperatures, everyone can’t help themselves but talk about it, the joy at temperatures creeping just above zero, the warmer winds and rains, the hint of buds on the trees…
Today I wondered what I might post for my happy prompt, when I saw this on Facebook –

Danser, danser…
Too fun. The sense of dramatic choreography to it, how they get all in sync towards the end, but oops! blocking the girl.
And it made me think of all the great African tunes that are so fun to dance to…like check out the snare drum in this –

And then I knew my happy prompt would have to be the new belly-dancing skirt / wrap thingy a friend gave me -
macro skirtJust a riot to dance with! I don’t know how to belly dance, but the jingle-jangle is just hilarious.
And another synchronistic message floats up from Facebook -
hard timesDanser, danser…
Okay, wait, wait, just one more spring groove tune to get yer Mayday on –

Happy Beltane!
Weekly Photo Challenge – Spring!

Dream paraphernalia

dreamcatcherLast night I was telling my son about the dream of the house where nothing was what it seemed, everything shifting, slippery, treacherous and untenable.
We stood under the overhead lights in the kitchen, he towering above me as I said I thought it was about the job I quit on Tuesday.
“Oh, but you don’t know that”, he snapped with annoyance – one of mom’s hare-brained, hippie inclinations at work again.
He is a computer science student with a rare flare for mathematics. He is an excellent student, top of his class. I see the pages of his homework, a language of ciphers and glyphs that I will never ever in my life understand even a spec of.
Dreams, however, I know a little bit about – I’ve spent some time with them.dream shelf“It’s not like math, it’s an interpretive art”, I said to my too-cool-for-school, skeptical son. My son who insists it’s not that he doesn’t remember his dreams, it’s just that he doesn’t have them.
On a similar note, a number of the new visitors and commenters here on followyournose have mentioned they rarely remember their dreams.
So I’d like to share a few of the authors and influences I’ve come across, in case any of it might be helpful to someone.
I was telling Poshpedlar and Agniva how I keep a dream journal, THE single most important tool, I think, if you want to start remembering dreams.dream journalIt sits open beside my bed with a blank page ready in case I want to scribble in the dark in the middle of the night, and also for the blurry morning fragments, captured first thing, before turning over or getting up, any fleeting whispy images.
A good source for some of these fundamental things to try is dream-master, shaman-teacher Robert Moss – he’s got a Tools & Techniques page, very helpful.
Although the dream journal is one key tool, personally I use kind of a bunch…like kind of a lot….like I’m so heavy into the dream thing, it’s kinda way out in woo-woo land. In an exchange with jethag at Jet Lag, I allowed as how there may be “dream paraphernalia”…
For example, the dream catcher at the top of the post. Of course.
For example, this silver bowl – silver dream bowlIt sits on the bedside table with water in it – I refresh the water regularly.
This practice came from Ohki Simine Forest, a fascinating shaman-woman who lives in Chiapas, Mexico, though she’s originally Canadian (Québécoise / Mohawk). I got the silver dream bowl practice from her book, Dreaming the Council Ways, a book I loaned out to someone and along the way have forgotten the particulars of the why’s of this practice, but I still feel some magic quality, some mystery in the aquatic reflecting vessel by my bedside for facilitating, channelling dreams.
Also beside the bed is this buffalo fetish -
buffalo fetishHe reminds me of a dream I had some years ago, a dream of a buffalo in a zocalo, a town square, and of how I followed the dream to a place, traveled to try and find and understand the dream, and along the way found him in a shop just off the zocalo of a town that looked an awful lot like the dream.
He reminds me that I’m willing to travel for my dreams, to follow them to the places they show me, to think about what they are trying to tell me.dream crystalsThese crystals are quite tiny and special in a way that is so far out in the land of woo I can’t even describe it, I’ll let you explore for yourself here.
But I love putting one under my pillow each night, as a kind of promise to myself to try and pay attention to any dreams that come.
This little ritual emerged from a fellow student in an online dream workshop, Dreamwork with Toko-pa, a lovely experience. Toko-pa also has some tips for dream recall in a video on youtube – a nice way to get some ideas and introduce you to her fabulously exotic west-coast self.lion biting - brighterAnother favourite thing to do with really strong, vivid dreams when they come, is to draw them or paint them – it’s a great way to spend more time with them in a visual, visceral, sensual kind of way.
The lion above was from one striking dream I had, and the panthers below another strong onepanther collage - brighterEach of these practices is essentially about one thing – I am telling my dreams and myself that I’m listening. That I want to hear from them. That I respect and value what they have to tell me.
Some years ago I took a series of dreams I’d had to an elder, Joanne Longboat, a woman Robert Moss writes about in Dreamways of the Iroquois, referring to her as “Turtle Woman”.
She said to me, “They say the Spirits will come talking to those who listen.”
So I’m listening…