Monthly Archives: December 2014

We Are All Artists

When I’m especially taken with a book, I greatly anticipate the author’s next one. This was the case with one of my favorite novelists, Jim Fergus. Visits to his website had promised one for several years, even with a specific title and subject matter that is of interest to me. But each time I checked … nothing … and I’d log off disappointed. A few weeks ago I checked, this time discovering he had a new one out. I promptly ordered it. Yet again he’d produced a story that touched me in tender places, as much as it informed. I did something I don’t normally do: I emailed him to express my gratitude that he’s writing again.

He responded. It started a conversation.

Jim told me the book had been published in France and done quite well. But when he went searching for a US publisher, no one was interested. Unbelievable, I thought. This is a writer whose two previous books—One Thousand White Women and The Wild Girl—were bestsellers! But with this new one? He’d stepped out of his genre of The West and Native Americans. He was no longer in the neat slot US publishers had placed him—therefore, a risk.

He went on to say the specific title he’d named on his website, Marie-Blanche, was published in France in 2011, currently in development for a mini-series there. Same problem with US publishers. Jim finally decided to self-publish The Memory of Love, the novel I’d most recently read … just to have a new book in print in my own country.*

This goes to show that even widely celebrated writers—and any such artists really—don’t necessarily have it made, as our fantasies tell us. They’re subject to the same tight restrictions and imperious whims if they depend upon the old-school bureaucracies and structures.

Now he’s writing a sequel to One Thousand White Women, the genre he’s known for, accepted by US publishers. There’s no doubt I’m wildly anticipating its publication. And I’m quite sure it will be a commercial success.

However, the unconventional part of me automatically made an appearance. I shared that I’d written three books and had chosen to self-publish specifically to avoid all the nonsense traditional publishers try to lay on you. I don’t have the time or energy to deal with it. Those who have found my books receive them quite well. **

I also mentioned that it’s the same with most art galleries. To accept an artist’s work, they want to make sure you’re consistent, no matter your talent level. Consistent in this definition means same general subject matter and media, same slotting as above. I’m fortunate to have found two galleries who are happy to show my work, no matter how much I experiment. And I do. I’m not a production line.

All aspects of my work—mentoring, spiritual travel programs, writing or art—appeal to a particular small niche, not the mainstream. And I’ve got much gratitude to those who engage with any of it. It means we’re part of the same tribe.

I often listen to Krista Tippett’s On Being interviews when I’m painting. I find them inspiring, and they sometimes inform the piece I’m working on in the moment. Right on the heels of the conversation I relate above, I listened to her interview with Seth Godin on The Art of Noticing, and Then Creating. No coincidence. Here are some relevant take-aways … ***

  • The assembly line is going away. The things that used to make you feel safe are now risky.
  • Putting something new into the world? The industrial order doesn’t want us to do that.
  • Change comes from the margins.
  • When you do something out of the box, you’re not going to be picked by the old regime.
  • Bottom-up change is the future, not top down.
  • One person can make a difference. You matter.
  • Find people who agree with you and lead them to greater depth.
  • You’re an echo of your art if you’re not making new art.
  • Do it as the gods would do it: with intent, no holding back.
Mystery School in process on the easel.

Mystery School currently in process on the easel.

This is the time of year—as we’re on the threshold of the next one—when I remind myself of these truths by viewing Sean Connery’s rendition of Ithaca by C.P. Cavafy, featured in this blog before.

It reinforces my intent.

 Engage your passion. Fine tune. Put it out there.

 

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 *My conversation with Jim Fergus was relayed here with his complete permission. This is the review for The Memory of Love I uploaded to Amazon and originally sent to Jim with my first email:

Truly, Jim Fergus is one of my favorite novelists having also read  ONE THOUSAND WHITE WOMEN and THE WILD GIRL. This book is indeed a departure but at least equal to the others. I was personally touched by Chrysis’ striving against convention and evolution as an artist, and Bogey was portrayed as though the writer had lived inside those very emotions. The foreword shared why a man could write this way about love, and only at the end did I realize the characters had actually lived. I’d been waiting a long time since THE WILD GIRL for Jim Fergus’ next novel. I’m very glad he’s writing again. Now I’m looking forward to MARIE-BLANCHE.

 **To view my books and readers’ reviews on Amazon, go here. To view artwork online, go here.

***I recommend listening to the unedited versions of On Being interviews with Krista Tippett. They’re much longer but without the fine polish that editing brings. They’re real.

Categories: Arts, Book Review, Creativity Strategies, Interview, The Writing Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Special Notice: Coyote Medicine with Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD

Kenosis Spirit Keepers logo

SPECIAL NOTICE:

We are pleased to announce our special collaboration with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health bringing Coyote Medicine with Lewis Mehl-Madrona, MD, PhD to Baltimore for a free public talk, January 15, 12 noon-1:15 p.m.

Dr. Mehl-Madrona, Lakota-Cherokee author of the Coyote Trilogy, will share about historical trauma, lessons about community healing and resilience that come from Native communities.

Location: John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Room 1020.

To reserve your space contact Nicole Pare, John Hopkins University, npare1@jhu.edu or phone 410-955-6931.

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With special thanks to Mike Weddle, MD, KSK Board Member, and Dr. Allison Barlow, Associate Director, John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, in their efforts to make this event possible.

Categories: cultural interests, Healthy Living, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

The Prayer Journeys of a Singing Bowl

Ton Akkermans has had a life-long interest in blacksmithing and lives in the Netherlands. Decades ago he had a memory of ancient Tibet where he made gongs and singing bowls. With this remembrance came the understanding of exactly how they were made in that long ago time and their use. The process was a prayerful one of deep intent—not casually hammered out—for the task he’d been given was a sacred one. Monks carried them as part of their spiritual journey, an ally for meditation, a way to release prayers through vibration when sounded. Sometimes they carried the same one all their years. It held the memory of their spiritual evolution.

Present-day Ton makes the bowls and gongs in the old way and, along with wife Carolina, teaches others. The bowls are imprinted with particular frequencies needed now, a vision toward global healing.

But I knew none of this until my dear friend Hilary Bee, a spiritual teacher in the UK, sent me a note this past July. She reminded me of the beautiful bowl she’d shown me in February when she’d been in the US for a visit. She mentioned Ton’s work, that he’d empowered his students Gabriella Kapfer, Heather Smith Cowen and Quentin Cowen to help further his vision. Thus the Peace Bowl Project of Resounding Earth was founded with a mission, as Hilary told me: “…to make bowls as an offering to the Earth herself, to assist with ushering in a new era of peace and harmony, similar in concept to the Japanese Peace Pole project; and have these entrusted to bowl keepers in different parts of the world…” She said she’d been invited to go to Scotland in September as one of the seven who would make the first of the bowls. The European Sanctuary of the World Peace Prayer Society  supported with the offering of their site.

Then Hilary asked me to be a bowl carrier.

She’d like to make the bowl for me, that my way of talking about the work I do—as a sacred container—was a clear sign to her. I realized in that moment what an honor she’d offered. But, truly, only later did I know to the extent. Of course, I agreed.

She’d asked me to send something for her to tune into as she was making the bowl. After sitting with the request for a while, I put together a package with items representing the Indigenous peoples I’ve worked with most: a Hopi prayer feather I’d been given to carry, an image of Lake Najá with young Lacandón Maya men in their traditional dugout canoe, and huayruro seeds from Peru. I intended to bring the singing bowl to Peru to be part of ceremonies there during our October-November journey in Cusco and Q’ero, and on to Bolivia where I was going afterwards.

Singing bowlWhen I opened the package I’d received in the mail, the energy that issued from it literally took my breath. The bowl and its covering fairly shimmered in their beauty. Through a Skype conversation with Hilary, I learned how deep her own process was. Every indentation in its make-up was an inlaid prayer. There was a network of meditators holding with the intent of the bowls’ forming during that time. Several in Hilary’s teaching circle sent their own bowls along in support. And a young woman named Manuela hand-felted the carrier bag. Her daughter Mayaan made the trim while partner Mark carved the wooden button to close it. Folks across countries gave support. It was then I really began to understand the nature of bowl carrying and just how much had gone into the making. Our conversation was emotional.

I knew that the bowl is not mine. It belongs to everyone.

I sent out an invitation for people to send their prayers. They would be carried in the bowl and resonance released at each ceremony. A number of people responded. Upon my return I wrote to Hilary.

The bowl was present at all ceremonies and circles, sounded separately by everyone, including each paq’o.* After the formal group closed I went on to the Islands of the Sun and Moon with a few folks and a Quechua-Aymara paq’o [Hermógenes] …where at the Temple of the Virgins on the Island of the Moon…after an offering and sounding…I felt the Pachamama breathe beneath my feet. I’m quite sure it was in response.

Despacho in Cusco for a safe journey up to Q'ero.

Despacho in Cusco for a safe journey up to Q’ero.

The energy of this journey was extraordinary for many reasons, a big one certainly due to the singing bowl … and all the prayers spoken and released along the way.**

During despacho ceremony in the home of my Q'ero friend Modesto in the village of Ccochamocco.

During despacho ceremony in the home of my Q’ero friend Modesto in the village of Ccochamocco.

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Gi Thomas passes the singing bowl to Doña Carmina.

I have never carried a mesa in the traditions of the Andes, even though I’ve been part of the teachings for twenty years.*** I don’t sing Native American songs or hold Maya fire ceremonies. I hold great reverence for Indigenous ways, but I’m sensitive to co-opting traditions that weren’t given to me, or that I have no concrete proof I was born or adopted into. My own lineage was hidden and lost to time.

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Altar offering at Puma Rock on the Island of the Sun with Hermógenes Romero Sanchez.

But in Bolivia Hermógenes began referring to the bundle I carried to each sacred site and placed on his mesa during offerings …as my mesa. And I realized that I do have a mesa. It was given to me, coming up through time, crossing cultures. And it carries a voluntary responsibility, perhaps one now made visible that I’ve felt for a very long time. This is my grounding.

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Offering at the Temple of the Virgins on the Island of the Moon.

No words suffice for my gratitude toward Hilary for her generosity, spirit and friendship, and all the people who hold the vision of worldwide filaments of peace and healing circling the planet … resonating …

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 Anyone is invited to send prayers at any time. Just send them to me in a private email. The next journeys this singing bowl will make are to Mayalands in January and Hopilands in March, finishing the year with a return to Bolivia and Peru. But it’s always available and sounded during my own morning meditations.

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*Loosely translated, paq’o means shaman in Quechua.

**Hopi Wisdom Keeper Harold Joseph was sponsored on this journey, an emissary of his religious leader on Shungopavi, to seek prayers from Q’ero spiritual leaders for the continuity of Hopi traditions. Harold stopped  a number of areas along our journey, marking the path and laying prayers.

***A mesa is the medicine bundle of a paq’o in the tradition of the Andes.

Categories: Gratitude, Healing, Meditation, Sacred Reciprocity, Spiritual Evolution | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Documentary Review – Dakota 38

Dakota 38

Smooth Feather Productions

I’ve seen the Dakota 38 documentary three times now. Each time it’s stirred something in me that has no words, but much emotion. This film is about the Dakota Wokiksuye Memorial Ride first undertaken December 10-26, 2008 and held at the same time each year since.

In 2005 a dream vision came to Jim Miller, a Dakota Vietnam Veteran—one so terrible that he tried to forget it. He said you have a sense when something was real and “it wouldn’t go away.” What he saw was a dark occurrence in the name of justice, largely hidden in history and unknown to Jim at the time.

On December 26, 1862 at 10 a.m. in Mankato, Minnesota, 38 Sioux warriors were hung in the public square, the largest mass execution in the history of the US. President Abraham Lincoln ordered it so on December 6. Two more warriors were executed the following year.

With the influx of more whites and military, the Sioux had been herded into a narrow strip of land, not allowed to leave the enclosure or hunt. As part of the treaty they were supposed to receive rations. They didn’t. They were starving. To defend themselves, they fought back rather than starve. Atrocities were committed on both sides.*

In the opening lines of the film, Jim Miller talks about what it means to be Dakota—”to walk in harmony with every living thing.” Feeling directed by the Creator, he organized a ride on horseback over 330 miles, leaving on December 10, 2008 from Lower Brule, South Dakota to arrive for ceremony at the hanging site in Mankato on December 26. The Memorial Ride was meant to honor the ancestors and as resolution …forgiveness. This was not an easy undertaking. There were blizzard conditions to be endured. Participants faced conflicting emotions related to racism, something openly discussed. There were many poignant moments when the riders disclosed why they were riding: for ancestors, family, to lay something to rest within themselves. Communities along the way heard about their mission and helped out, unbidden, by providing food and shelter for the riders and their horses, especially in extreme weather.

The film lends hope, portraying people pulling together—even in emotional discomfort—attempting to heal and overcome horrible tragedies that never should have happened. We need so much more of this today. And such things kept in the dark must be known.

View the full-length film free on You Tube. Length: 1 hour, 18 minutes.

Follow the public posts on Facebook and see day-to-day photos and videos of this year’s ride.

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Please join me in supporting the Dakota 38 + 2 Memorial Ride with funds going to provide food for riders and horses, plus gas for support vehicles. Donations go through their 501(c)3 fiscal agent, the American Indian Institute.

Send checks (with “Dakota 38 ride” in the memo line) to: Eric Noyes, Executive Director, American Indian Institute, 502 W. Mendenhall Street, Bozeman, MT 59715.

To donate online, go here and scroll down to click on Dakota 38.

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*Further research beyond the documentary showed the trials to be a farce, each one lasting about 15 minutes. In the end 303 were slated for execution, which President Lincoln reduced to 38.

See related material:

The Sand Creek Massacre.

Co-Opting the Memory of the Dakota 38 + 2.

Categories: Compassionate Communication, Film Review, Healing, Indigenous Rights, Indigenous Wisdom | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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