“Whatever wisdom I have espied on my travels to odd places and unusual people, I learned to shelter, for sometimes old father Academe, like Chronos, still has the inclination to eat the children before they become either curative or astonishing. That sort of over intellectualization obscures the patterns of the Wild Woman and the instinctual nature of women.
So, to further our kinship relationship with the instinctual nature, it assists greatly if we understand stories as though we are inside them, rather than as though they are outside of us. We enter into a story; through the door of inner hearing…
Ancient dissections spoke of the auditory nerve being divided into three or more pathways deep in the brain. The surmised that the ear was meant, therefore, to hear at three different levels. One pathway was said to hear the mundane conversations of the world. A second pathway apprehended learning and art. And the third pathway existed so that the soul itself might hear guidance and gain knowledge while here on earth.
Listen then with the soul-hearing now, for that is the mission of story.”
– Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves
the shortest day of the year and the longest night, I am reminded by my lovely friends to honor this “Sacred Time.” The sun is standing still. This entire week I have spent a great deal of time in The Presidio and The Marin Headlands hugging my favorite trees and placing my legs in the cold ocean. I immediately feel more grounded and happy when I commune with nature.
The most memorable books I read as a child were those by Shel Silverstein. I always think of The Giving Tree when I walk amongst the trees. I am grateful for Silverstein’s imagination which affirmed my own…to never stop connecting, talking and appreciating Mother Earth. It seems that at this point on the planet, it is the only place to turn for true equanimity, health and peace. I am grateful to live so close to what today felt especially mystical.
“If you can start the day without caffeine or pep pills. If you can be cheerful ignoring aches and pains. If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles. If you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time. If you can overlook when people take things out on you…when through no fault of yours something goes wrong. If you can take criticism and blame without resentment. If you can face the world without lies and deceit. If you can conquer tension without medical help. If you can relax without liquor and sleep without the aid of drugs…then you are probably a dog.” – Tara Brach’s favorite little essay
In the attached excerpt from Tara Brach, she asks “What happened to our Wildness?” which is a question I love.
This piece was played in a movement class I have started going to on Sunday morning called, Sweat your Prayers/Open Floor. It is something I have wanted to try and shyed away from for reasons I am sure many understand. I finally arrived at their doors because I want desperately to communicate with my body. Dance helps define this language with the support of a room full of people willing to move in such a way you can never really see otherwise. It is a door into a reality I find exceptionally rewarding, grounding and cheerful.
If the “primal mood of the separate self is Fear”as Tara Brach states, I see why this year I have felt terrified. (explanation why is a longer chapter) So if I face my fears and break through to the other side, I will discover my authentic self? To know and to do are two seperate things entirely. Showing up to a hippie dance class by myself with a room full of strangers dancing for two hours at 11am is a display of my desire to move away from some not so easy discomfort. I then find this genuine, primal and liberating feeling of peace. Growing out of old conditioning is simple but not easy. If there was ever a place to start weeding, I find that living within my childhood roots reveals the wildest soil. Though it is OH so Northern Californian of me to be writing this, it is honest as I find my true wild nature…at least I aspire and pray to but I am only human.
If you do not have plans this Sunday, I suggest a day trip to Warnecke Ranch in Healdsburg. Address and information below.
I invite you take a peek at a gold rock sculpture, acorn bowls, photography, videos and sound footage from my Shamanic Journey with Deer and to also peek into one of the most exquisite and historic properties along the Russian River. It will be a lovely 80 degrees and a full moon. No question I will be taking my ritual dip in the river.
Each piece was conceived and realized in the last two months while living and working in this other world called The Alexander Valley.
above: playing with an installation idea
OPEN HOUSE FROM 1:00-4:00 PM
13427 CHALK HILL ROAD, Healdsburg, CA 95448
Works by the current Artist in Residence Brett Walker on View
I begin 2014 with two months at Chalk Hill Artist Residency in the Alexander Valley of California. The program grants me with a charming home and a barn studio on 265 acres along the Russian River. Alice, the fifth generation of Warneckes running the ranch is an artist (Alice’s Art) stemming from a lineage of great creative talent. Alice and her Aunt Margo realized what an exceptional place they could open to artists. Quiet and solitude manifest thoughts, visions and inspiration. The songstress Carol King says she is mere portal for the music which comes to her. With no distractions, a residency can completely assist such work.
During the first week in my new bedroom, a bright full moon came through the window awaking me at dawn. It took until I finally got myself out of bed and walked to the window to realize what the white light actually was. Being turned around like I was that morning explains how it feels to pull out of familiar life and distractions. This residency has quickly become another opportunity to learn more about how I look at the world. I chose to re calibrate my perspective after that moon. It felt like she was poking at my psyche saying, ‘Wake up and Be Who You Are.” I am reminded that I live for these sort of experiences. I had forgotten how alive I felt in India for two months or driving around Ireland alone for the same amount of time. This is rare, unique and a privilege. Before I arrived I feared I was taking too much time away. Now, I keep wondering what took me so long to get here. Tonight is a New Moon. The Moon is Feminine. The moon will be my keeper for my second month along the river.
BELOW is a visual sense of what I have been up to. The big camera and old-fashioned film gets pulled out starting tomorrow.
Above: Morning views
above: inside the studio
back home ten steps for lunch
A significant event this year was an evening listening to Dr. Eben Alexander speak on his account of passing from Life into the Afterlife. I was within a room full of doctors, scientists and spiritual seekers near Stanford University. We sat in front of a 60 year old neurosurgeon and former atheist who could not believe himself what he had experienced. He clearly was there because he witnessed the invaluable lesson of love which goes beyond the rational mind. Nothing gets me more overwhelmingly inspired than honest courage from a changed heart.
Alexander recovered from a coma which by all scientific explanation should have killed him. What he felt and saw as he moved away from this lifetime was so clearly etched in his memory as if it had happened in full consciousness. Scientifically, his brain was in a state completely incapable of storing this memory. He firmly believes this experience was stored in another space within him. As a scientist and atheist, Alexander kept reiterating how difficult this all was to him for a long time.
It is impossible to encapsulate what Alexander described because he himself said it was so beyond any words and sounds trite. He spoke beautifully however and goose-bumps kept popping up all over my body. Alexander affirmed what I deeply hope to connect within my life and art. I crave to remember that life is short yet infinite when I let go of fear and live with love and light. Darkness triggers my brain but it can not overcome my spirit.
On Alexander’s passage into the Afterlife, he describes entering into an immense void completely dark and infinite in size. He rode on what can only be explained as colored butterfly wings. As he moved into the core, “the light was brighter than a million stars. The pure white light seemed to come from a brilliant orb with mirrored reflections where he was slowly spinning to the music of sacred acoustics.”
He felt like a “fetus in a womb floating within an invisible mother.” Mother was God the creator and the source who is responsible for the making the universe and all in it. He said he felt as if he was being born into a larger world and all he felt was complete warmth, comfort and love. There was a woman sitting with him. She kept smiling with her eyes to not be afraid. This woman he later realized was a sister who had died and had never met…but that is another long part of the story.
Alexander felt that there was, “not one universe but many and love lay at the center of them all. The world of time and space in which we move in this terrestrial realm is tightly and intricately nestled within these higher worlds. The core realm in the outermost is a pure conceptual flow. All worlds are part of the same overarching Divine Reality. From these higher worlds one could access time or place infinitely.”
I keep thinking about what Alexander described as it connects to the key points in that which I have read from other Spiritual texts. He affirmed it is real, relevant and moreover, incredibly important for us to consider as we attempt to shift evil into love and let go of fear and the ego mind on this planet. As he said, “Fear is the basis of the badness. Love has the power to overwhelm everything. Language and that little voice is what get in the way. It should not run the show.” As a neurosurgeon no less who always relied on science, he now encouraged not getting caught up in the 3lb gelatin brain. We dumb things down when we manifest self-will. I have heard this before but I can never try to practice this enough. So where do I go instead? I start with breathing more deeply, meditating, living with gratitude, looking to those who live as givers of generous love and asking my heart what I truly desire in this short lifetime. It is still beyond me that I have this opportunity.
Excerpts taken from Eben Alexanders’ 2013 Presentation and Proof of Heaven, A Neurosurgeons Journey into the Afterlife.
“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it live on that idea. Let the brain muscles, nerves, every part of your body be full of that idea alone. This is the way to success and this is the way great spiritual giants are produced.” – Swami Vivekananda
I have spent a lot of time driving back and forth from San Francisco to West Marin in the last six years. On one of these early drives, I discovered a retreat center which is part of the Vedanta Society. I have since spent many silent nights and days on their 2,000 acres of land in Pt. Reyes. It has been a sweet place to learn about my connection to a spiritual practice and how to be at peace with myself. In this year’s celebration of Swami Vivekananda’s birthday who founded the Vedanta Society and really, brought yoga and eastern philosophy to the west, I was reminded of his belief.
Early this Spring, I placed this quote in my 2012 project Journal entitled, Blind Faith. This statement has helped drive all of my recent work which I will begin to share and talk about. In the meantime, here is a pic of my favorite sacred Oak Tree on the Vedanta property.
“There is special place in Hell for women who do not help other women.”
Madeleine Albright’s opinion has been running around in my brain this summer. With my new body of work, I am acutely conscious of questioning how I may contribute to helping my race in this short and blessed lifetime. I need my work to reveal and be charged with more honest, interesting and magnetic energy. I will be a woman who navigates to a new height amongst the majority of men in the art world. It is the honest truth that this is a new competitive drive in me. If that is what it takes for me to make the work which is inside of me anyway, so be it. I am just seeing the signs everywhere that I must and will move forward with a rhythm that beats to the spiritual drum of Mother Divine & Mother Earth. This is who I believe truly needs to be heard if our world is to survive. I look at God as a Goddess and I want her to tell me what to do.
I read the cover of the New York times all last week and started to cry. The news was tragically sad and I pictured women’s faces on top of these crazy ass political leaders, oppressors, megalomaniacs, rapists and murderers. I would not be reading the same news if the female spirit was in charge. It is the plain truth but unfortunately it is not the reality.
What do I do to not cut and paste corrections in my imagination but actually deeply move something with my blessing as a visual artist? How do I not ignore what is going on in the world while using my tool as an artist? My work might just change completely.