the things that made up my childhood included family get-togethers centered around the Jewish holidays, the film industry, photographs and stories, so is it any wonder that I write, take pictures, and 'stare at my navel' as most people refer to the practice of contemplating the wonders of the Universe and choosing to actively engage in them? well, I guess it was to me, because I'm still figuring it out...but I've always expressed myself well through the written word, and I still have copies of a few stories I wrote in elementary school alongside the journals I was published in during college, including the travelog my mother forced to me to keep on our trip to Israel in 1977 - an exhaustive, photographic history to share with my classmates when we went back to school in the fall. how I resented my mother for making me do homework every night of that trip, but maybe I'll publish it someday, and allow myself to forgive her.
so there were these two elements that were pervasive in my life, though I took to the stories like a duck to water, and absorbed them all sponge-like and thirsty. and I read a lot. more than anyone I knew. I wrote poetry, and did well in school on English assignments. and I told a lot of lies. I don't remember why I lied when I was a little kid, but I remember how powerful it made me feel to trick my family into thinking I had run away by opening the window of the room I was sent to in punishment, and then hiding in the closet as I listened to them frantically run through the neighborhood looking for me. when I came out of my hiding spot, they were so happy, we all forgot why I had been punished in the first place, and I became a life-long suspect of criminal behavior.
I lied when I was older because I didn't want my parents to know what I was really up to, correctly suspecting they would disapprove of my choices. telling them "I'm sleeping at Robin's tonight," made way more sense than saying, "my boyfriend and I are getting a hotel room, see you tomorrow."
I don't necessarily think they believed me all the time, but perhaps they appreciated the effort to preserve their sanity. so, into college, and still with the stories, the short stories, the poems, the newspaper articles, the interviews, the speeches...and then came the photos. my folks had cameras, my school had a Photo I class, and it looked like I would have an easy few credits - which I did - but I didn't count on really digging it, and taking to it like...well...having been raised around it my whole life.
|'snow tires' - winter '94|
from the first roll of black & white film I developed myself
at that point, though my spiritual background was firmly embedded in the Judaism I was raised with, I had enough exposure to other forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to know what was going on with most of those people, as well. I was getting hyped on Zen and Buddhism, and connecting to Paganism, and the Celtic traditions, as well as runes, herbs, meditation, Sufism, metaphysics, psychedelics, mysticism, ancient rites, neurosciences, sacred dance, pendulums, dark arts...anything and everything esoteric. so when I had a chance to take four months with which to write and photograph my way around the world, I
when traveling alone, in countries new to me, I found that I would gravitate towards places of worship, or centers of spirituality, as they were generally islands of calm, and a convenient place from which to get my bearings, as this country girl can get pretty overwhelmed in the fast-passed, stress of an urban environment that uses the same language as me, let alone one that wasn't even on the list of French/Spanish/Latin classes offered at the schools I had attended. so, I gathered up more great stories, took some wonderful photographs, and grew in my heart and spirit as one must do when actively reaching out to touch and experience the new, the unknown. like crossing one's own consciousness, the point of synthesis, the Nexus, if you will, of my Ecstasy (the title of my first collection). after which, I landed in the Great Snowy North.
a great many things happened there, but the one that pertains particularly to this little ramble had to do with clay. these words from T. S. Eliot came to me through a study of our planet, several years before that happened, though:
We shall not cease from explorationAnd the end of all our exploringWill be to arrive where we startedand to know the place for the first time
in my case, I had come back to clay as a medium in which to cultivate and work with formulating my ideas by using my hands, rather than a tool attached to my hands (pencil/pen/keyboard/camera). I had to start over, in a prehistoric way - had to pound out tablets to carve glyphs on, draw maps through the mud of primordial myth-making, and suck out an understanding of my new self from an old place. the subsequent release came in the form of a realization through my own work - in traveling the globe and photographic the holy sites I had visited, I had drawn myself a sort of picture of spirituality, and an idea of how it may be informed by the geography of the land on which it's born.
as a theme, it was something we discussed briefly in the class group I was part of at the time, but mostly because the faculty advisor to the student teacher found it interesting, and worthy of further exploration (thanks, Hong Yue). so while my writing life was keeping busy, my photography life was taking a vacation and indulging in some pornographic shenanigans to blow off a bit of pent up creative steam. I found that while I could write my way through my spiritual and mythological ramblings, I couldn't photograph them so well, and fell back on engaging in studies to try and experiment with ways to express 3-dimensional ideas inside a 2-dimensional box. and porn, just because it's fun...
right about this time was when my readings began to resonate more deeply within my body - not just on the surface of my skin, or in my mind. to be sure, my skin has always been sensitive to psychic phenomena, but it's also thick, like my skull, and hard to penetrate. and as I looked harder and more intensely into the abyss, I began to understand that spirituality has an inner country, too. that the pulse and rhythms of the planet we live on vibrate through us, and that by connecting with them, we can effect change in a physical way, right before our eyes. I mean, I suppose I had known that before, but I saw it as a separation...or rather, as a growth, of the concept that 'female' held just as much power as 'male', and that the divine combination could be synergistically transformative - but for the most part, we were better off leaving each other alone to do our thing.
anyway, as I dove down the rabbit hole of recreating my own personal mythology by drawing from the rich and varied resources I've gathered while under the influence of loving life and pursuing happiness, which I have had the great fortune to dedicate the majority of my life towards, I thought a wonderful way to synthesize my interests would be to invite people to take part in an artistic process that involves both writing about, and photographing oneself as, the embodiment of one's personal spirituality. sounds fun, no? I think what I'm feeling is if the geography of the land, on the surface of the planet, can exhibit influence over the vision of divinity employed by the people who live in different regions and climates, how much influence must the inner waves and rhythms of the planet itself have over the vibrations and frequencies absorbed by our physical beings? are we, can we be, instruments through which our Mother can fine tune us/herself to align with her needs and desires? perhaps she's calling on us to summon our father the Space Dust for an interstellar gathering of the tribes, and our consciousness is to serve as the invitation...
wouldn't that be some party? so, to you, my friends, during this auspicious time in our collective transformation, I offer the word that in my house, has become the equivalent of a 'joyful noise':
some of you may prefer a sort of poetry:
or some gospel:
whatever it takes for you to get a groove going, set your booty bouncing, makes you throw your hands up in the air and laugh and sing, get to doing it. the world is gonna need a whole lot more good feeling going around, and it's up to each and every one of us to recognize what brings out the best in ourselves and others, and to focus on creating more of it. as I move closer to retreating so far into myself that it's all I can do to sit in full lotus, clothed in orange, chanting Om while radiating Peace with every ounce of everything moving through me - I want to take a minute to be thankful for the opportunity and freedom to do so. I sincerely hope that there is a need my experience can fill, and that in some small way, I already helping to give it the room it needs to manifest.
what do you do to get inspired to take on the world? what are the concerns that you find yourself drawn to address? in what ways do you get involved? what drives your passion in these pursuits?