Song of Innocence...

“When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” 
― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 


before.jpg
 

With every storm that rages in our lives there is the before… and then there is the after. When we survive the storm, when the wind stops howling at our backs, biting at our cheeks, ripping through our hair; when we no longer feel each drop of rain that touches our skin as some kind of stinging assault; when the chill of the experience has stopped causing our teeth to tremble and our bones to quake; we gradually start to rediscover a sense of equilibrium. At first, this is tenuous. One false step, one sleight of hand, one eye closed for just a fraction of a second too long, and we can become pulled back into the funnel cloud and lose our bearings. Too much spinning will definitely do that! Round and round we go, tossed about like a feather in the wind, but, with each successful stride, our confidence grows a bit stronger. We move forward. Slowly, cautiously, but forward nonetheless. Our awareness of our own strength returns too. And though there may be moments that send us into a tailspin, back into the eye of the storm that we thought we had freed ourselves from, we are able to find our stable center more quickly. We regain our balance, and we keep breathing, keep moving, keep growing. The path becomes easier to tread. Our feet feel more sure. Our steps become larger and more purposeful. And so it goes, this movement away from the past, away from the trauma, the loss, the grief that threatened to overtake us.

Storms are a natural part of life. Who among us has not known loss? Who among us has not experienced some kind of hardship that tested her to the core? Who among us has not experienced pain so deep that he thought his bones might crumble from the weight of it? Loss is inevitable. To be alive means that eventually we will come to know death, first by losing people whom we love, and then, culminating in our own death. I don’t think however, that there is only one death in this life. I have known thousands of tiny deaths, each one changing me in undeniable ways. Every loss is a kind of death, even if it’s only one of our tightly held illusions that has died. We tend to be very attached to our illusions. They help us to feel secure, but like everything else, we hold on for awhile, and then there comes a time when we let them go.

Storms blow through our lives, regularly, in fact, but they also continue to blow over. The sun comes out again, eventually, and with trepidation, we emerge as well. Though the person we were before, the person whom we had come to know so well, ceases to exist. How could she remain unchanged, when knowing what she now knows, knowing the breadth and depth and sheer magnitude of the waves that swallowed her, how could she possibly remain the same? William Blake said, ““In the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”  Storms drag us, kicking and screaming sometimes, across the threshold, forcing us to open our eyes, to feel, to pay attention… even, or perhaps, especially, when it is painful. The truth about knowing is this: once we know something, we can never go back to a blissful state of un-knowing it. We can repress knowledge, consciously or not, but even something that has been repressed still exists in the mind. It just gets filed away in a different drawer, under a cryptic heading. And then one day, something triggers the lock, and the drawer pops open. The contents of the folder spill out, splattering across the floor in a tidal wave. Once we have experienced the storm, once the door has opened, and we have stepped through, there is no going back. We are forever changed. As Haruki Murakami points out, that is what storms are all about.

And so, once upon a time, before the latest storm in my life swallowed me alive, threatened to drown me, and finally spit me back out, I made the photo that you see here. It was intended to be my “Before,” as I knew that the storm was coming, I was trying to prepare for it. This cyanotype is something that captures the innocence of not knowing, the freshness of spring, hinting of the darkness that lay ahead. Spring is rife with storms, after all. It was made to be an impression of who I was at one time in my life, speaking of fecundity and possibility, vulnerability and newness, and yes, speaking of (my version) of femininity also.

The storm has come, and now it is starting to pass. It was a most brutal one, the most powerful that I have known. It rocked the foundations of who I am as a person. I am starting to regain my balance, but healing doesn’t happen in a straight line. There are advances and retreats. We spiral around and back again, moving forward little by little. This, too, is a dance with mystery, much like the tango, a dance of passion, possession, and surrender.

I am learning to surrender to the storm and to find the hidden gifts that it can bring. I will leave you with this thought: “The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.” 
― Anais Nin

Here’s to the mystery! Until next time…

Anne

(I Guess) This Must Be the Place

“Home is where I want to be, pick me up and turn me around…”

—— This Must be the Place by the Talking Heads, (Songwriters: Chris Frantz / Christopher Frantz / David Byrne / Jerry Harrison / Tina Weymouth)

You can listen to Shawn Colvin’s version, my favorite one, of this song here.

 
dream house-12.jpg

I have spent all of my adult life searching for the elusive, mythical concept of home. I am not talking about a house or an apartment or a place to lay my head at night, but a place that feels like my refuge from the world, a place that reflects who I am as a person, an an artist, as a sometimes weary soul wandering through this life. For years, I carried around this vision of my perfect home: a big, old red brick farmhouse with a front and back porch, tall windows, hardwood floors, original doors and woodwork, a second story, surrounded by trees, gardens and countryside. This was the ideal I that I was always seeking, something I still have yet to find.

For most of my life, I thought I had made this place up, that it had been something that manifested as a result of having known and loved so many old houses. But in a recent conversation with my mom, she told me that when I was three years old, we lived in a house exactly like that. I have some vague memories of our former house, but I hadn’t remembered that it was brick. What I remember most is a big bedroom, a grand staircase, and spending time playing outside. The house we lived in was once a stagecoach house, built some time around 1800. There were four rooms downstairs, four upstairs, a central staircase that divided the house in halves. It was situated at the end of a long, tree-lined driveway, off the highway between two small Illinois farming towns. The house was surrounded by a garden with hydrangeas, phlox, columbines, and huge trees. Beyond the house was a barn and a pasture with a pond.

After our conversation about this memory/dream of mine, something in me cracked wide open. I have felt homeless for many years. Not in the sense that I haven’t had a place to live, but in the sense of not having had a place of sanctuary to call my own since I was a little girl. This red brick farmhouse was the only house I can remember living in during my childhood that was unmarked by some sort of trauma. Houses in my adulthood were also marked by traumatic events, adversity, and/or losses. And so, I came to realize that in all these years of searching for a dream house, what I have actually been searching for is a place where I am utterly, perfectly safe. In an ideal world, there is no safer place than home.

During the middle years of my childhood, my safe place was outside, in the garden, under the pine trees, in the blackberry thicket, among the hollyhocks, in the neighbor’s corn field. Nothing could hurt me there. In my mind, the idea of Home became associated with a garden. As a child, I was often usually alone, which suited my introverted nature just fine, playing house, decorating these spaces with treasures that I had found in the yard and those that I had borrowed from inside the house. In that respect, I haven’t changed at all. I still seek refuge in a garden, and that’s a particularly difficult struggle, considering that I live in an apartment and no longer have a garden to which I can escape. I do have a lovely little balcony that is filled with flowers in the summertime. That helps. It’s not the same, but it certainly helps. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. Chickadees come to visit. My cat, Peluche, enjoys this little bit of nature also, spending her days lounging in the shade, of the potted bamboo, surveying the courtyard below. I still have a strong need to decorate a space in a way that helps me feel connected to the things I love, to the natural world, to my past. While I am safe and secure in our little apartment across from the Seine, the search for Home continues. We know that our stay here is limited, and we are searching for the place where we would like to settle and continue to build our life together.

The night before last, I had another profound dream, where I was doing a “controlled burn” inside of my house as a form of maintenance. Yes, inside my house. It was to be something like what the Forest Service does to maintain our national forests, clearing away debris and litter from the forest floor. An interesting note is that there are some species of trees and plants whose seeds need fire in order to crack open the seed coat and allow them to germinate. In my dream, in order to prepare for the fire, which would only touch things left laying on the floor. No furniture, no walls, windows, structural elements, nor the foundation would be harmed by the burn. I was sorting through my possessions, throwing out those that no longer served, putting treasures away for safekeeping. In dreams, a house represents the psyche, the core of our being. My subconscious is quite busy these days, in the process of discarding certain things which I no longer need and holding onto those that I do, even allowing seeds to germinate and grow. And after the blaze, out of the ashes, new, tender growth will appear. I will do whatever I can to nurture those seedlings, to water them carefully, to provide them light and air, and watch with awe as they take root and thrive.

As I noted in my previous post, there are indeed treasures in those emotional hope chests that we haul around with us, dear friends. They make the journey with us from house to house, even traveling across the ocean at times. In this period of reflection that comes with the closing of another year, I hope you are revisiting the richness that exists within your own hope chests, keeping what you value the most, purging what no longer fits. This most recent dream reinforces that message from my previous dream, my last post: The only way to move forward is by looking backward, by seeing and understanding where we have been. That’s something historians and museum directors know so very well. May you become the guardian, the curator even, of your own precious history, the keeper of your own archive. There are so many treasures to be found among those artifacts…

Until next time…

Anne

P.S. Shawn Colvin sings an unbelievable version of This Must Be the Place on her album Cover Girl.

Trust

"All the world is made of faith and trust and pixie dust."  – JM Barrie

 
trust.jpg
 

Sometimes, love is hard and scary.  I'm not talking about romantic love, I'm talking about love in every sense of the word, every place in which we are called to be authentic with others and even with ourselves.  We open ourselves up, we lay our emotions and our souls bare and hope and pray that our openness and vulnerability will be met with respect and tenderness.  The world is not always so kind.  Every extended hand demands that we take a leap of faith.

Recently, I recalled something that struck me so hard when it happened, that nearly 20 years later, I am filled with tenderness when I think about it.  One ordinary day, I was driving to the grocery store.  It was spring.  The earth was awakening from its winter slumber.  I was noticing signs of new life all around me.  Migratory birds were returning to the area, drawn by the numerous woods, ponds, lakes, habitats that our region provided to them.  While driving down Emerald Lane, headed to the grocery store on that seemingly ordinary day, a small bird flew into the windshield of my car.  The thump was so forceful, it startled me.  I didn't see the bird coming, and I wasn't even sure exactly what I had hit.  I stopped the car and approached slowly.  There in the parkway, lay the trembling bird who had flown into my car.  It was a little warbler, and it was hanging in the balance between life and death.  I bent down and gently picked it up.  It was too injured to try to move.  It surrendered to the contact between us.  The warbler lay in the palm of my left hand, trembling and gasping for breath.  I could see its chest rising with each labored breath.  I sat down in the grass and held this dying creature with all the tenderness I could summon.  My heart was open and filled with the grace of the moment.  I whispered a prayer of sorrow that his life was coming to an end and wished him a safe passage to the other side.   A few seconds later, his tiny body stopped trembling.  I cried.  The great and final Stillness had descended upon him.  He was quiet.  No more labored breathing, no more uncontrollable shaking, no more fear.  I sat motionless, aware of the breath going into my lungs, while his had stopped; aware of the beating of my heart, my on-going consciousness; aware that his spirit had flown away on the humid, spring breeze.  I basked in the mystery of this fragile thing we call life, how there are so many tiny yet profound connections that happen along the journey, and how it can be extinguished so quickly.     

Mary Oliver says, "I'll take grace...  You can have all the other words– chance, luck, coincidence, serendipity.  I'll take grace.  I don't know what it is exactly, but I'll take it."  Connecting with this warbler, holding him as his heart stopped beating, trusting in the moment, being open to its ripeness and potency...  That is what grace feels like to me.  

In making photos for my series "Where Love Resides," I am exploring everything that is connected to the notion of love.  I cannot separate love from trust or faith or mystery or grace.  Grace is like a love letter from the universe, one that is sprinkled with pixie dust and drifts down from the heart of the endless sky.  Sometimes it comes like a feather floating on the breeze; other times it's a bird smacking into your windshield on a grey spring day.

Until next time...

Anne 

Morning in the Garden of Memory

Happy accidents sometimes arrive when we open ourselves up to the process of experimentation and let go of control.  Yesterday, I decided to try out a technique to reclaim the negatives of Fuji FP 100-C peel apart film.  I had already intended to use the positives in another project, and wanted to see if the reclaimed negatives would be visually interesting of just a bit... blah.  

To be honest, the film itself doesn't really excite me all too much.  I use it because it is reliable.  After investing in packs of expired Polaroid film, only to find that the film is not usable, I wanted some certainty that at least a photo of some kind would come out of my camera, and so I asked for some Fuji film for my birthday.  

But last night, as I scanned the recovered negatives and saw the results on the computer screen, I almost fell out of my chair.  The colors are unreal, the bleach cleaner having shifted them and destroyed to some extent the fragile emulsion.  A lot of the detail that is visible in the original photos has been lost, but these scans have the ambiance of old pictorialist images.  I could not be happier with the results.  

 

img325.jpg
img350.jpg
img340.jpg

The rest of the series is visible on my gallery page.

Here's to happy accidents!

Until next time...

Anne

My Wild Nature: Nest

“Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg before it is broken.”

M.F.K. Fisher

“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype

The concept of a nest has intrigued me since childhood, conjuring up notions of something small, cozy, private.  It is usually hidden from prying eyes, isolated in boughs and branches, offering a safe vantage point from which to view the world.  Protection, safety, comfort, a mama bird and her little ones.

protection.jpg

I made this series with the intention of helping me to cultivate and express what is sacred to me.  In looking at the photos a couple of months after I created them, they still speak of the divine, but in a different way.  I cannot separate them from my grief and healing process related to the death of my son, from my desire to hang onto him for just a bit longer, from my efforts to maintain some sort of connection to him, despite the nine years that have passed since his death. 

Grieving is about hanging on and letting go at the same time.  We hang onto the significance of the person we lost.  We hang onto memories and to what those memories mean to us.  We let go of their physical presence and learn to reconstruct our lives and ourselves without them.  That is the task of healing, learning to live without someone or something to which we were attached, learning to continue to go on with life, despite the achingly empty, black hole that fills our chest.  We learn to live without their smile, without hearing their voice on a daily basis, without hearing their laugh echo through the house.  We hang onto tiny details, like how my son liked to eat pineapple on his pizza.  Or the sound of the rhythm of his footsteps as he walked across the hardwood floor.  Or the way that, at age 17, when we were taking the train to Chicago, he leaned his head on my shoulder and fell asleep.  I can still smell his leather jacket when I think about that train trip.

Sometimes those memories make us smile; other times they make us cry.  Tears are a part of healing, signaling that something touched us in a way that goes deeper than words.   We often cannot find the words to describe our emotional states, and therein lies the beauty of art.  

anne-silver_seasons.jpg
anne-silver_sacred-circles.jpg

As Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes says, scars are portals to the wild self.  The scar on my abdomen, which resulted from the emergency C-section during the birth of my son, is such a doorway.  It is one tangible connection to him which I carry with me everywhere.  We are inseparable.  I can touch the scar, and I remember him being inside my belly.  Having carried a child creates a relationship with that another human being that is unlike any other.  No one knew my son in the way I did or for as long.  I had a nine-month advantage.  He and I shared a secret knowledge of one another, a private connection that endured beyond the cutting of the umbilical cord.  

And so, in connecting to my wild nature, I reach out to the mother part of me, the protectress, the nurturer, the wise woman, the mama bird who tends to her nest and her little flock.

Until next time...

Anne

My Wild Nature: To Seek the Light

“But I also say this: that light is an invitation to happiness, and that happiness, when it's done right, is a kind of holiness, palpable and redemptive. ”

Mary Oliver

The caress of light, the kiss of shadow

The caress of light, the kiss of shadow

Light is an ode to life in general.  It fills us with awe, with warmth, with hope.  We gaze in wonder as the Perseid meteor showers traverse the skies in early August, their tails flowing behind them like glowing kite strings.  We seek the golden warmth of the summer sun on the beaches, as the waves crash around us and the squeals of children’s delight fill our ears.  The light soaks into our skin, and we wear the afterglow for weeks.  After the deepest, darkest, most restless night, morning light comes as a balm of healing.  It creeps through the cracks in the shutters, reaches under the curtains, tiptoes across the bedroom floor, and kisses us softly on our weary and half-open eyelids.  Another day has come, and though we are heavy with fatigue, there is a certain grace in as we are enveloped in the softness of the morning light and we slowly emerge from the fog of a sleepless night.  Light keeps us awake, gives us life.  

We need the darkness too, the shadows, for that is what frames the light, giving it shape, boundaries, texture.  There is something sacred in the dance of these two partners.  One leads, one follows.  The roles reverse.  They twirl and shift and in the end, each one takes a bow.  Darkness speaks of quiet, coziness, a withdrawl from the world.  When darkness falls, we go inside, to places where we are safe and protected.  We slow down, we quiet ourselves.  We do our little evening rituals, enjoying a meal, cleaning up, settling in under the covers to read before drifting off to sleep.  Light may gives us life, but dark gives us much-needed rest.  Either one, all the time would be torture.  As in most things, balance is what we need.

There are varying degrees of light and dark:  neither is absolute.  In our modern world where everything is lit up at night, there are few places on earth where light pollution does not exist.  Cities emit a glow that reaches far into the surrounding countryside.  The sad thing is that all of this diminishes the visibility of a natural source of night light, the stars.  I once lived in the middle of a national forest, 25 miles away from the nearest small city.  It was dark.  Really dark.  I loved the clarity and the brilliance of the stars, especially clear on cold winter nights.  The darkest time of the year has its moments of brightness too.

Though I appreciate the loud brilliance of the summer sun, I  usually prefer the subdued, oyster light of winter.  The kind produced on dreary, rainy days, that flows into my living room and spills gently across the floor.  It was this light that inspired the first photo in my diptych above.  The other photo is a double exposure that speaks of merging with the light, of becoming one with the shadows.  It was also taken on a dreary day, just before the rain started falling.  

My wild nature seeks both the light and the shadow.  She seeks to feel the warmth of light glowing inside and to give it an outward expression.  She seeks to nurture the flame in others too.  Light begets light.  Making art gives others the permission and inspiration to do the same.  The sacred connections between us are not just limited to something tangible.  And so I put this out there, hoping that it may somehow inspire you to nurture your own light, while embracing the shadows that cradle it.  

Until next time...

Anne



 

Resurrecting Jezebel

Artist's Statement for my new series: 

Women receive the message from a very young age that their bodies are not their own.  They exist for the pleasure of others; their role is to be pretty and pleasing, easy on the eyes.  And the standards for what ideal beauty is become narrower and more unrealistic all the time.  In adulthood, women again receive the message that their bodies are not their own.   Choices regarding their bodies, such as access to birth control, their right to choose to terminate a pregnancy, are regulated by male law-makers, and are still very controversial issues.  Being female is seen as a liability by insurance companies, further reinforcing the second class status of women.  Their bodies may be considered the property of their husbands, boyfriends, partners.  They may be told how to dress, how to wear their hair, when they "need" to lose weight.  And their choices may be dictated by officials in the church, who affirm the notion that the function of women is to serve men and to pay for the sins of their mothers.  Any one remember that apple?  

Women who take pleasure in their bodies and in their sexuality are seen as "sluts."  If we don't find sex to be enjoyable, we are "frigid."  Or if our orientation is toward other women, it is because we haven't had a "real man" before.    

When a girl or a woman is sexually assaulted, she may lose all connection with her body, which is the site of her wounds, though they are most likely the type that leave scars on her psyche rather than on her body.  The body is still the site of the trauma, and the body holds those memories in its cells.  Instead of seeing her body as the temple that is is and something sacred and valuable, she sees it as the source of her pain.  She may lose touch with her sexuality, which she has come to see as something dangerous.  Her sexuality may have been blamed by her or by others for whatever evil was done to her. "If you weren't so attractive, so hot, so inviting, this wouldn't have happened.  It's not my fault.  I couldn't help myself.  You came onto me..."  And she is left thinking, "I came onto you?  Really?  I was only eight years old..."  
  
Using a Polaroid 110A camera and expired Polaroid 669 film, this series explores the myth of Jezebel, the woman who led men to worship false gods by virtue of her unrestrained sensuality,  It explores connotations of the "loose woman."  The expired film and vintage camera give the series the effect of an underwater dream sequence.  "Resurrecting Jezebel" is a rejection of the notion that women exist only to be admired for their physical beauty.  It is a rejection of the male gaze which has dominated the world of art since time immemorial.  It is a rejection of the notion that feminine sexuality is dangerous and needs to be subjugated.  And it reflects the process of healing, of reclaiming what has been stolen, of learning to be present in the body, in the moment, learning to appreciate the gifts that healthy sexuality can bring.

Until next time...

Anne

Eugenia Morphea

Broken, torn, tattered wings....

I wonder if they feel phantom pains,

like limbs that have become paralyzed,

those impulses and spasms and aches 

that seize us in our sleep,

that awaken us with an embrace that burns and screams,

"Don't forget me.  I am still here."  

I wonder if they guard deep in hollow spaces of their cells

the memories of flight.

the freedom they once knew as they stretched and raised and lowered

these wings, propelling a body through the air,

riding the wind currents of dreams and desire.

Of Angels and Insects:  Memories of Flight

Of Angels and Insects:  Memories of Flight

Until next time...

Anne