Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Super Moon Light

The super moon light makes reflective pearls of the three small birdbaths,
the trees and the lacy lemon balm cast shadows in the garden tonight.

It is all so heartbreakingly lovely.
Our garden home is so beautiful and fragrant.  
Nocturnal creatures are moving through this night.
We have been given everything we need
on this vast, breathing, weeping, laughing planet.

But we have sinned against the beauty.
We have sinned against our life and home and fellow creatures.
And we are ashamed.
We will be driven from this garden.
We know this from our nightmares
and from our ancient stories.

Our fear is twisted and reflected
in our most primitive mass culture art forms,
twisted so we can get a grip on it
and beat it back with manufactured chills
and nervous laughter.

But the zombie apocalypse would be easy
compared to the self-created apocalypse
that is actually closing in on us.

We will be punished by our sins.
The ice is melting.
The storms and fires are already raging.
It seems inevitable now.

And we know it in this moonlit dark.
The secret knowledge that we hide from ourselves
shambles toward us in our stories.

We are apparently helpless
in the face of our foolishness
and daylight denial.

The grief for all that we’ve plundered
is too vast to be held
in my small broken heart.

The innocent nocturnal creatures are moving slowly through this night.
The moonlight is so lovely, reflected in the birdbaths
and the shadows are both strong and lacy.
 Veda for The Poplar Grove Muse

Monday, July 22, 2013

When Stones Speak

Some people think of creativity as something that artists possess. It might be more helpful to think of it as Jung did, as an instinct. We can bring creativity to almost every life activity. Moreover, we can use certain imaginative forms of creative expression through the arts to explore personal, spiritual, and psychological development. These forms do not need artistic talent but simply artistic expression for the soul’s sake. Metaphor, imagination, symbol can be said to be the soul’s native language. --  Jill Mellick, Marion Woodman: Coming Home to Myself: Reflections for Nurturing a Woman's Body and Soul

At a recent writing retreat, we created stone mandalas.  We arranged them to create a larger mandala.  This photo doesn’t do it justice, but you get the idea: 
 The prompt invited us to write to this question: “If your stone could speak, what would it have to tell you?”

This was my reflection, written quickly during a fast write:

Breathing in the warm pink, the charcoal grey, I alter your perfect beauty, washed smooth on the shores of an ancient lake. I feel the cool stone at my fingertips and struggle to follow some invisible spiral spine, marking the moment in stone.  Shoulder to shoulder in the silence of this womanspace, I work the present moment, follow the dots, the pen, the paintbrush point by point and line by thin line.

What is this fascination I have with stones, so nearly round…so receptive to what comes?  Cool when it’s cold.  Shiny when wet.  Warm when the sun shines.  A radiance of roundness.  

They speak to me like this-- say, “Wait. Endure. Receive. Radiate. Be still in your perfect beauty, the comfort you offer to others.  Put yourself in hands both young and old, remember your short time on earth, and remember that life is long enough.  Be grateful for what is round and for beauty both fleeting and enduring.

I want to brush my cheek with my stone, press it to my heart and remember its wisdom on ragged days. I’m glad for the ground I walk upon and the stones that guide me when I ask them to speak.


Grateful for the peace of St. Mary of the Woods.
Grateful for the company of soulful writing women.
Grateful for stones.

BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse 7-22-13

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Nate of Las Vegas - Part V - End

I thought privately, and then said to him

“Maybe that’s why I’m on this trip”

“What trip?”  He asked

It seemed obvious, but I added

“The trip that I am on right now.”

He looked at me blank face.  I continued,

“You know, I met you here in New Mexico…I’m from Indiana…I’m traveling.”

His head made a slow "no" gesture to me, and then it stopped.

“What are you looking for?” He asked.

I hesitated…stumbled in words,

“Nothing….I mean, I don’t know…”

Nate swallowed softly, staring at my mouth, waiting.

“I’m sorry, I can’t help you"…I said, "I don’t even know who I am,”

Nate nodded, his face became easy.

I continued,

“I don’t even know what “I” is.”

He held out his hand, looking into my face.

“Me neither.” 

He blew out air out his mouth in a huff and I reached for his hand.  We melted in lost words. Time passed as the prisms changed light directions casting color in angular patterns on the floor.  Rainbows appeared, disappeared, living painting of sun, glass and clouds.   Infinity was only interrupted by his thought,
“Maybe "I" is like this rom, maybe we’re all just rainbows.”

He spoke soft, and released my hand.  He pushed himself up off the floor and took his pillow to the small closet.  I followed him. 
Turning our back to the room, we opened the door to the outside desert.  The sun was direct and hot, different from the cool adobe dome.  Nate took off down the gravel hill.  He walked with a small limp I hadn’t noticed before.  
“Sorry for being so slow," he said, turning around "now you know, it’s the foot.”
His playfulness hid behind confession.  I think it hurt him more than he could say.  I caught up and stood by his side,

“It’s okay, I like going slow.”
He smiled toothy. 

“Let’s go swimming!”

He jumped up and landed on his good foot. 
“We can’t swim nude up here, you said so, we don’t have suits” 

“Well, then we can just swim in our underwear!”
I thought for a moment whether it was a good idea to tell the truth, and then said,

“I’m not wearing any.”
He was unimpressed and pulled the back of my waistband to check.

“Huh, you’re right,  well, I guess we’re done here.”
I was frozen in place.  He began loosely walking towards the car.  Had I not been here in the desert with him, had I not been 23, or more afraid, less na├»ve.. I would have open handedly slapped a man for looking down the back of my pants.  But there was nothing.  None of this belonged to the boundaried world.

There’s a larger good.
Was all I thought. 

We hopped in the car and headed back towards Las Vegas, New Mexico.  Nate mentioned that it was almost time for him to work, 
“I’ve got a three day gig selling snow cones during the fiesta… I think it’ll be good. I’ve had trouble holding down other jobs, but this one is only three days, plus the man who gave me this job owes me some money.”

I knew our time was coming to a close.
He put his hand on my shoulder,

“But, before I go to the fiesta, let me buy you lunch.  I know a real authentic Mexican place.”
He navigated us towards a small dusty building with a turquoise awning.   I parked.  The inside was simple and pleasant; a few customers sat quiet eating their meals.  He took the lead towards the counter.

“Two whole bean burritos, fresh made, no lard, no cheese, two cups of water, thank you.”

We picked up our cups.  As I was beginning to get water, Nate whispered,

“You can really get anything you want.”

I followed his lead and filled my cup with Raspberry iced tea. 
We sat in squishy turquoise booth.  When I finished my first cup of tea, Nate jumped up and refilled the cup.  We ate our lunch in appreciation without haste, drinking cupfuls of raspberry tea.  Somewhere in the middle of our burritos he said,

“I think the fiesta has already started, I’m supposed to be there now.” 
He continued eating at the same pace.  We finished, returned our trays and drove into downtown Las Vegas. 

“Where should I take you?”  The car stopped at a sign on a quiet street
“Here is fine, pop the trunk.”

He lept out the door, went to the back, got his skateboard, closed the trunk and walked off diagonally in front of the car. 

“See you Nate,”
I waved, he smiled and waved back…

“Bye….uh…” he shrugged his shoulders…”you.”  
He brought his skateboard to the ground, jumped on and wheeled off, never knowing my name, never needing to. 

Allison Distler

Monday, July 1, 2013

VIsiting the Visiting Artist

 I have passed by the T.C. Steele State Historic Site more times than I can count, always vowing to stop in, never building in enough time in any trip east on State Road 46 to do so. On Sunday, spurred by the tenure of a dear friend as Visiting Artist at the site, I indulged in that long-deferred visit.

Turning off 46, I realized that I had no formed expectations for what the site would hold. I was somewhat familiar with Steele’s impressionist landscapes of Brown County scenes (largely secondhand, through my daughters’ Indiana State History curriculum over the years), and knew that he had inspired the development of Brown County as an artist community. Nothing more.

The site lies several miles back from the main road, along an elevated ridge on a narrow road that turns and rises from the highway. Recurring signage reassures the driver that the road taken is still the correct one, while the lush green of encroaching vegetation continually inspires doubt.

The deep red bungalow anchoring the estate, named The House of the Singing Winds by Steele and his second wife, Selma, appears suddenly from the greenery on my right, set off by a rainbow of garden flowers. The barn-sized Large Studio looms just to the south, its wall of north-facing windows framing the main house beyond the gardens; inside, my friend (Elizabeth Busey, one of WWFaC’s informal “artists in residence” awaited.

Having come largely to take in the scene, and to celebrate Elizabeth’s latest artistic accomplishment, I was unprepared to receive a full hour-long narration on Steele’s life and work by a devoted docent. However, I ended up grateful to learn about the artist, and his vision for both this treasured Indiana historic site and for his own work.

The three non-windowed walls of the Large Studio brim with Steele’s paintings, changed out regularly from a huge collection. As one enters, the near, east wall is largely taken up with breathtaking old school portraits, and a few European landscapes. The first portrait is so Rembrandt-like that I unthinkingly assumed it was a Rembrandt. As the docent elaborated, I learned that it was in fact a brilliant Steele study of Rembrandt, and that his luminous, humane portraiture was the bread and butter of his career, especially early on; it is easy to see why he was successful.

Relatively early landscapes, high contrast, painted in greyed, monochromatic colors were heavily influenced by a patron-funded period of study in Munich, while a series of seascapes and desert-scapes record trips west with his 20-year-old daughter Daisy after the death of his first wife of 29 years.

What stays with me from this visit most strongly, however, is the brightening, colorful, impressionist transformation of Steele's paintings by his discovery of Brown County, as well as his gradual, reciprocal transformation of his Brown County environs. When he and Selma moved to the abandoned farmstead, Brown County was still deeply entrenched in a harsh pioneer existence characterized by deep woods, difficult, undeveloped roads, and rural isolation. The vision of T.C. and Selma--building their artist’s bungalow, studios, and guest cottage, attracting a stream of artists and admirers, and bringing in generators to light their hilltop amid the surrounding darkness (that wasn’t electrified until the 1940’s)--is a striking image. The site, now heavily forested, had been cleared for agriculture and the income the timber provided, and Steele’s paintings depict the now-unimaginably small stature of the surrounding trees.

Elizabeth inhabited the studio space with her gorgeous naturalistic prints, and guided visitors in creating their own hand-printed original souvenirs of a weekend visit. She graciously gathered leaves from plume poppies, ferns, and other native greens, and laid out a sumptuous array of inks and rollers for would-be artists to choose from in making their art. 

Here are two prints from our expedition.

MKP for the Poplar Grove Muse