Monday, November 13, 2006

I look but do I really see?

I realized long ago that there's more to the world than sky, trees, animals and people. It's that feeling you get when you look beyond your eyes and see from a slightly different place inside yourself. I may be looking but I don't always see.

This story goes with my first Shapeshifter piece, "Crow". Revisiting this, especially at the beginning of the Celtic New Year, helps me come back to why I do what I do. And what I still need to remember.

Artwork:"Shapeshifter, #1 Crow"
Susan Gallacher-Turner c2006

The Story for Shapeshifter, "Crow".

I know a bird. He is strong and black and wise. He travels many worlds, through different times and knows creatures I can’t even begin to imagine. Today, he is a common crow. If you look at him now, that is what you’ll see. But his shape changes. He could be that dark-haired woman walking briskly with bracelets jangling. He could be a child from the past, part of an ancient tribe, trout fishing. Or he could be that man in the park with the bead in his beard, the daypack and heavy boots who seems to disappear just when I start wondering whether or not he is homeless. Perhaps, he has more homes than I think.
My shape never changes. I feel locked on the ground with two feet and I see only what is in front of me. My friend has no such limits. He tells me that he has been many shapes in many times and places. His wisdom and knowledge is beyond my perception.
One day, he swooped down landing on top of a fence and screeched. I jumped back shocked out of my mindless internal scrap heap. He was so big and bold, so close to me that all I could do was stare and listen. In this way, we became teacher and student. His teachings showed me all the small ways we are all connected. Some days, as I walked, he flew by with information about sites ahead as I traveled. Other times, he warned squirrels and other birds that my dog was on the prowl. Another day, I might be out driving and suddenly a crow landed on a stop sign, then later on a street sign I passed and then again on a tree near the road and I am gently prodded out of my; mindlessness. It made me wonder at all that is around me. It caused me to question the easy consensual reality in which I so mindlessly exist.
I have read that some people can see shape-changers and others just see the shape they want to see. I’ve never seen my friend change shape. But I do know I sometimes sense something out of the corner of my eye but by the time I turn to ”look” it is gone. Just because I haven’t actually seen it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I’ve learned, now, thanks to my friend and teacher, that there is much more to the world than I can see and touch and tasted and smell.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I’m celebrating a new kind of New Year, this year.
Artwork: Element series: 'Fire'
Susan Gallacher-Turner c2006

It’s Samhain, that’s pronounced Sah-wen, which means “summer’s end”. It’s one of four fire festivals in the Celtic tradition that celebrate the four quarters of the year. Beltane, May 1st celebrates the light and Samhain, November 1st celebrates the dark. It marks both the ending and the beginning of the Celtic New Year.

Halloween, October 31st is the Celtic New Year’s Eve celebrated by putting out the hearth fire to recognize life’s endings and the cycle of the seasons. Bonfires are lit on nearby hills to honor the dead, the reincarnation of the physical into the spirit as well as rekindling the spirit of the community for the new year.

It seems odd to have the New Year start in the autumn with the leaves falling from the trees, the flowers wilting and the harvest over. Isn’t a new year all about birth, rebirth and blooming? Shouldn’t it happen in spring? I know that would make me more comfortable. I have a hard time with the timing here and I’m trying to make sense of it.

Starting a new year when the earth is shedding its color and stopping its growth definitely goes with honoring the dead. Letting go of what is no longer working or growing or blooming in my life. Like old patterns of thinking and old routines that may be comfortable in their familiarity, but as I go through the motions, I do feel kind of ‘dead’ inside. So I can see the need to let these ‘fall’ away.

What I’m not comfortable with is standing there like a bare tree with branches just sticking out at odd angles, stark and exposed to the wind, ice and snow. Starting a new year in limbo, seems wrong. But maybe that’s what right about it.

With no gallery shows this year, I do feel in limbo. I’ve always worked better under a little deadline pressure. Now the pressure’s off and I’m feeling lost. Lately, I’ve found myself writing more and painting less. Does this mean the end of my art? Does it mean the beginning of writing? Am I an artist or a writer? I was a writer before, then I went back to school to nurture and reclaim my art. Since then, I’ve made sculptures, exhibited in galleries and taught classes. Ok, and some of my pieces have stories that I’ve written included as part of the sculpture. So maybe, I’ve never really left my writing behind. Maybe it’s just been ‘lurking’, watching and waiting for a chance.

Maybe I can let this old habit of labeling myself fall away. I can say goodbye to my old studio routine. I can let go of my narrow old thinking patterns the way the trees let go of their leaves.

But maybe instead of leaping from old routines into new ones, new relationships, or new thinking, I need to be in limbo. I need to standstill, like the tree on the icy winter day, and expose myself to whatever blows my way. Like the tree, I can take care of myself from the inside out knowing that time will bring me new buds, new leaves. For now, all I have to do is let go of the old and wait. Maybe, I don’t have to choose between art and writing, push out new work, or figure it all out. I don’t have to be ‘born’ again today. I can give myself a new year by giving myself time, knowing that I am growing by, not knowing, just where I am.

Maybe, as my son says, ‘It’s all good.’

Happy New Year!