Yesterday was my 23rd wedding anniversary, and I happen to be lucky because it lands on the anniversary of the eruption of America’s most active volcano, Mt. St. Helens. It has been 33 years since her last major eruption, but that hasn’t put her out of everyone’s minds. The front page article of our local newspaper told of scientists around the world coming to our mountain for study among recollections of that dreadful day. The natives have a different interest in her, and yesterday I was hoping to hear her story from that point of view. When I was eight years old and a year before the mountain blew, I went on a field trip to the Lelooska Cultural Center where Chief Lelooska told the story of the “Loowitlatkla (Lady of Fire),” or Mt. St. Helens. He described her as a beautiful maiden with two brothers fighting over. When the chief became angry he turned all three of them into mountains. The brothers became Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. Chief Lelooska explained that Mt. St. Helens does not sleep, nor can she rest because of the way she was transformed into the mountain.
30 plus years later, I wish to hear that story told orally again and hoped that heading once again up to the Lelooska Cultural Center for a night of mask transformation and story telling would include this legend. The timing of their opening night on May 18th had special significance to me.
Even though Chief Lelooska passed away several years ago, his brother Chief Tsungani continues to tell the stories that are his family’s to tell. The ceremony involves music, dance, story telling with the special masks central to each story. Potlatches in the Northwest were outlawed by the Canadian and American governments and illegal until the 1950s. Masks were confiscated and I assume some of the rich oral stories were lost. Missionaries expressed concern over what to them seemed to be evil (what Chief Tsungani attributed to a sleight of hand for purposes of telling stories). For example, a fire that starts at the coaxing of a shaman’s dance/song/prayer was seen as the work of the devil.
Last night, the chief did not tell the story of Loowit (the Little Smoking Mountain), but I felt that I understood the possible reasoning why. Perhaps it was not his to tell. I will continue to search for this story, and maybe that means that I will need to attend more potlatches in the Northwest area. I understand why the stories are guarded, but I feel that there must be a personal significance because from a young age I lived in the mountain’s backyard and have felt her rumblings. I long to hear her story-her story told by people who understood the earth as sacred-even alive with stories to tell.
Click on the links to watch a couple of short documentaries about the more recent return of the potlatch: Potlatch 1 & Potlatch 2
April’s chapter in my Artist’s Way group is Recovering a Sense of Integrity. These chapters are meant to be gone through in a week, but in our group we are taking a month to focus on them and complete their exercises. I must say that I am loving the heck out of this! Each time that I completed the Artist’s Way course, I did it in 12 weeks as it is designed, but feel like I needed to keep going back because it is hard for me to really make a life change in such a short amount of time. I have been super enthusiastic about each chapter until I realized the implications of April’s.
One of the exercises that she has you do for the chapter is called “reading deprivation.” This means that you are not to read AT ALL for the entire week. I can’t even begin to tell you the resistance that I experienced while even contemplating what this kind of a commitment could mean for an entire month! That is when I had to get to the spirit of her challenge.
She asserts that artists are very often reading addicts. She warns to be careful when depriving oneself of reading not to fill in that time with TV, movies, internet, gossipy conversations, etc. When reading is gone we truly are left with ourself. Our mind. Our boredom.
So, for April, i have committed that my reading deprivation will include cutting out the reading that I do for distraction, for learning, and for pleasure. The first week that I did this I felt as though I was coming out of my skin. My dreams were more vivid. My emotions surfaced. I felt uncomfortable. This all turned me to my art. I longed to get busy. That first week I had more fun thinking about what I would create. Reading deprivation, though painful is actually a gift–one that I may use more often. Now that I realize how powerful this tool is, I commit to having integrity in my own dreams to develop my art with the time that I truly have available because this is what I found. I have more time than I previously was aware of.
This journaling piece was inspired by, Mt. St. Helens, the mountain in my back yard. She reminds me of the magic of the earth’s secrets. The legends tell us that she has witnessed communities before our own. She is a presence that grounds us and shelters the remaining wild. It is as if she even knows our deepest secrets and longings.
Lyrics from Oh Land’s The Wolf & I.
Over the last 19 days my creative community has been participating in a creativity challenge. This was actually the request of one of my favorite Mused “fans.” Though I really don’t think of her or many others as fans, but more truthfully as fellow creatives. She liked the idea of having a daily activity that we could all work on together. Throughout the event as people consistently participate, I am noticing individual themes emerge with their submissions. Today a new page was formed by one of the challenge participants. It is hard to explain how heart warming this is. While working on Mused, I have watched several pages get started. In fact, one page has more that 18,000 fans to date! I believe that most of us just need a little encouragement to be ourselves in order to share our creativity with the world. We are doing an important task by nurturing our inherent trait of making, doing, creating. Carry on!
Over the last few weeks while getting ready for October’s Creativity Challenge on Facebook, I had no idea the treat that I was in for. We are only in day two of the challenge where people are sharing with a photograph and description, their interpretation of an inspiration word. The first day alone there was almost 40 submissions. They are funny, insightful, moving, and even humbling. Mostly though, I am so grateful to be a part of such a warm and caring community that is not only supporting the event, but each other. People are going through the albums and liking and commenting on the posts with real interest. My heart is full.
These days creativity feels like a constant friend. In fact, ideas are flowing abundantly. Exciting things are also beginning to happen. I feel the stretching of growth in my work. The latest project that I am working on is getting my own creative space put together. I would like it to be not only functional, but also beautiful. I am starting from scratch. I have a corner in a room that I have targeted and am ready to clear it out for its future purpose. There is great lighting and privacy. My next goal is to collect the items that I need. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on the space, but I want it to be really cool. I need an art table, an art printer, a supply cart, painting supplies, a computer desk and a great look. Am I asking for much? Maybe so, but I believe that these items are already on their way. Now it is my turn to be ready to receive them.
This week will have been 4 months since the day that my grandma passed away, and I will be attending an art therapy workshop in which I am to bring a picture of someone close to me that I have lost. The workshop’s focus is on grief and loss and is to teach an approach to healing through the artistic process. I am a little nervous due to her passing being so recent and the wound being so fresh, but I believe this will be what will give me empathy for others experiencing loss in their own sphere.
Searching for a picture to bring brought up some of my thoughts and remembrances of my grandma. I even read her obituary for the first time this morning. Maybe it is just me, but what inspires everyone else about my grandma was not what primarily inspired me.
My grandma came from the generation where people always put their best foot forward and never, ever aired their dirty laundry. My grandma was no exception to this which made finding out about certain of her life events more interesting to me than ever. As a young women, and before meeting my grandpa she had married an emotionally and physically abusive man. She even had a set of twins with him that died in infancy. Determined to put that experience behind her, she packed her things up when her husband was away from home and fled several states away to start a new life. Today we know that many women don’t leave those situations due to fear of facing economic hardship. She must have been scared, but put her energy into reinventing herself. She went to work as a stewardess (that was her title in those days). She also needed nurses training to work in that position, so she completed that education as well. She later told me that chemistry was the most difficult subject for her to pass during that training. She said that she had to have a B to pass and she thought that her teacher had mercy on her by giving her that mark.
While working as a stewardess, she met my grandpa who was the love of her life. Having a family was important to her, but she made sure to be independent before marrying again. This is the attitude that she kept throughout her life. When finances got tight, she went back to work as a nurse and helped. This was during a time when working outside of the home was controversial. Again, she did what most women wouldn’t have. Her legacy was great. Her husband passed away making her a widow in her 40s. This, I believe, was her great disappointment–she missed her companion. Although she was alone, she lived frugally and independently and even left each of her children and grandchildren an inheritance at her passing. When I consider my sadness, I hope that I will also be one of those women who break the rules needed to thrive in a world that is ever changing. For we know, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Half of the world is composed of people who have something to say and can’t, and the other half who have nothing to say and keep on saying it.
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.
Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
The problems of the world cannot possibly solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men (and women) who can dream of things that never were.
—John F. Kennedy