Thea’s Green Egg Painting

Ova

“Tell me about this one,” Ursula said, pointing to a painting in Thea’s cozy living room where they’d been having tea. Thea rotated her paintings often and this was one she’d never seen before..

“Ummm. That one is still something of a mystery,” said Thea, hands on her hips. She stared at it for a few breaths. “It was a breakthrough painting.”

“Is it new?” asked Ursula.

“No. I did it in a fit last year when it was pointed out to me that I was busy telling myself the story of each painting like I already knew what everything symbolized. Or thought I did,” she added ruefully. “What was the point of all this exploratory painting if I had a pat answer for all my own questions, even if they only turned up as I painted.”

“What made you take the leap in the first place away from your accustomed style?”

“That was an earlier stage. I often tell people it was because I was bored, but I’m realizing that’s not quite right. I knew there was something more I craved than that standard kind of beauty. Beauty was part of it, sure. But I wanted to know more about myself, rather than the outward landscape of the world. I needed to jump off the proverbial cliff. Be The Fool. The tarot deck I had just bought made me realize that there was a whole level of my psyche I hadn’t been able…. willing?…. to explore.”

“I know how that feels,” said Ursula. “That realization was what made me leave my church. Charley and I took up meditation with a teacher for a while, but then I felt like even meditating in an organized way was keeping me in too much of a box. Charley still gets a lot out of it. I started doing ritual when Stella came to town and wanted to start a women’s spirituality group. Everything evolved from there. But how did you make the leap?”

“I think for some people it’s important to switch creative realms entirely. Garden instead of paint. Write. Sculpt. Learn bodywork. For me it seemed to be enough to switch mediums. Using acrylics and oils loosened me up, made me forget all the rules I’d internalized…. most of the time.” She smiled, remembering the occasions she had been called out on that one. “I took a Process Painting class where the instructor would say, ‘Why not use a startling color that makes you uncomfortable?’ or ‘Which is more important? A piece of paper or your life?’ That one really got me cause I realized that what the end product looked like actually had become all-important. That, and…. What. People. Thought. Of. Me.”  She emphasized each word realizing as she spoke how very important that had been to her. Still was, if she was honest with herself.

“In another class we painted with a question for three hours and then spent three hours discussing the work. Not as capital ‘A’ Art. I had plenty of that in school and it doesn’t interest me any more. Rather we talked about the paintings from the point of view of the psyche. The teacher was sort of a Jungian with art therapy training. She also was pretty darn psychic. This painting came out of a question she fired at me one day…. a challenge really. She told me to do a painting I didn’t understand. Boy, did I squirm with that one.”

“And this is the painting?”

“Yep. I did it with my left hand to try letting go of my thinking self. Sometimes it seems like I need to just cut off my head. There’s a painting of that too.”

“Is that a woman’s torso?” asked Ursula.

“I’ve always thought so. See how her legs sort of sprawl there? I think that’s a paintbrush dangling near where her knees would be. I’ve done a lot of figures since that have a paintbrush.”

Bear & I Birthing Each Other“Yes, like the Bear one upstairs,” Ursula always noticed things with her beloved Bear on them. “Looks like you at least left out the head in this painting. I certainly don’t see one.” They both laughed at Ursula’s observation.

“Yes, like the Bear one in your studio upstairs.” Ursula always noticed anything involving her beloved Bear. “Looks like you at least left out the head in this painting. I certainly don’t see one.” They both laughed at Ursula’s observation.

“After it was done I cried and cried whenever I looked at it so I knew it was important.”

“Does it still make you cry?”

“Not really. Now I feel frustrated cause I still don’t get what that swirl is.” Thea hoped she didn’t sound like she was whining. This was an on-going question for her and the reason she had put the painting back up.

“Isn’t it on her belly?”

“Sort of. But it could also be her boobs or her…. cunt.” She spoke the forbidden word hesitantly. “I don’t get what it’s telling me. I’m still waiting for one of those ‘brief glimpses of the blindingly obvious.’”

“Shall we draw a tarot card about it?” asked Ursula.

“What a great idea.” Thea reached towards the shelf behind the couch for the brown decorated bag that held the round MotherPeace cards. She handed them to Ursula who sat down on the floor and spread them out to mix them up. “My old friends.”

The golden swirls on the floor were beautiful and enticing. Thea’s hand hovered above them and then dove for a card. She hooted as she laid it face up in front of them.

“Daughter of Discs. I consider this the vision quest card. Duh – tell me something I don’t know.”

“Good call – it’s exactly the situation you are in. Discovering yourself, pulling yourself away from your normal world. In this card it’s a desert scene but our coastal temperate rainforest is every bit as challenging for you. Like in the card, you’ve drawn a proverbial circle of stones around yourself for your questing and you’re holding up your staff to the light. Perhaps even attracting celestial help of some sort….”

“My pipe in hand. You know I smoke pot sometimes to be in ceremony and to deepen the paintings.”

“I’m doing that more these days than I used to. Take another card.”

This time Thea drew the Priestess of Wands. A strong looking naked black woman, dreads flying, had her hand on a lioness whose head nestled into her lap. A rainbow arced between the sun and a pot of gold tucked in the rocks.

“Bravo, she’s got all her tools and allies,” said Ursula.

“I don’t know what that odd instrument is in her hand but I’m declaring it a paint brush,” said Thea. “Is that a lizard next to her or a salamander?”

“Hard to say, but if we’re talking about our ecosystem it’s more likely to be the bog-loving salamander or a newt. I’d keep an eye out for them and a feline ally. Maybe it’s Gato here or maybe something bigger. The flowering plant is witch hazel. Take one more. It would be cool to get a definitive answer.”

“Ha! It’s the pregnant belly one.

“Joke’s on us. Should have known we’d get a card describing the situation rather than a foretelling.”

“One can always hope.”

“This 7 of Discs tells us again that something is ‘aborning.’ Again like the Bear painting upstairs. You are on a quest, you’ve got your tools, but it’s still gestating. Like those fat juicy melons around her. You know, all these women are naked. Like your paintings. Brown too. I’m getting from this and from your paintings that your body is your teacher – perhaps there is something inside there. Can you go on a cosmic treasure hunt to find out what is being birthed?”

“That’s exactly what my painting journey is. A cosmic treasure hunt. The gestating of a seed…. I just wish I knew what that seed was.”

“Maybe that’s what your painting up there is about…. See that green in the roundness of the belly?”

“A seed! You’re right. A green seed…. or an egg which is a kind of seed….” Thea felt that lovely buzz of a revelation resonating deep in her core.

“There are folks here who could help you with the search for details. Owen does Soul Retrievals. That’s a shamanic process where he ‘journeys’” Ursula raised her fingers to indicate quotes, “to find parts of yourself that were lost in your childhood. He doesn’t do sessions often but I think he’s really good and should be doing more. Could do more. I don’t want to ‘should’ all over him.” Ursula smiled. “Also June‘s sand tray counseling process. Her office has a delightful room full of miniature figures – everything from trees to monsters to princesses to crystals. You use them to make scenes in a small sandbox and then talk about what is showing up there – not unlike your painting process. You can interact with it as part of the quest – bury the wicked stepmother, select an animal to befriend you, light a candle for a prayer. The possibilities are endless. I never tire of it and always learn something new, whether on my own, with Charley as marriage counseling, or even in a group.”

“I’ve heard of both of these processes. Sounds like good next steps since I don’t have a painting group. Though sometimes I think maybe I should start one…. or teach a class….”

“There’s work to be done in company and work to be done alone. That Priestess of Wands card tells me you’ll know. Have fun.”

 

Dangerous Conversation

Singing Out

“I am getting increasingly bothered by the fact that pot is illegal,” Ursula pronounced suddenly to the group gathered in the Elk Ridge Commons after a Men’s and Women’s Medicine Circle. “Did those words had just come out of my mouth?” she added in a momentarily squeaky voice into the stunned silence before everyone chimed in.

“You go, Girl!” said Pia.

“Tell it, Sista’,” cackled Raven.

“Uh oh, this sounds like Ursula is getting all activist on us again,” moaned her husband.

“I mean it, even though I didn’t mean to say it. You can laugh,” she sputtered as they all did.

“Is this something you are just discovering or have you not been telling us all these years that you are a closet hemp advocate?” asked Molly.

“I have been using it more in the last couple of years. It’s become an important part of my spiritual practice. Including for sex, I might add.”

They all hooted again.

“Ever since I’ve simplified my organizational life and don’t need to be so left brained, I can really luxuriate in wandery stoned days. For years, I rarely smoked except now and then in bed with Charley or when I was all alone for a precious afternoon or for special occasions we’ve all had together like Summer Solstice hanging out on the River land.”

“Those have been some magical times,” said Cindy. “Remember the year we drummed all night around the fire with the full moon?”

“One of the kids fell into the river and had to be rescued,” said Owen.

“Ethan,” said Molly, remembering her terror for her son. “I’m not sure he ever got over it. Maybe that’s why he’s so straight now. More his father’s child.”

“And the time fixing camp breakfast that we looked out to see Jed floating down the river standing up in his canoe?”

“Or all doing Tai Chi in the meadow with that teacher from the city.”

“Celeste and June’s wedding…”

“We weren’t stoned on all those occasions.”

“I was,” said Owen. “I smoked too much for too many years. It didn’t rot my brain – much. How would I know??” Everyone laughed again. “But it wasn’t until I stopped smoking a couple of years ago that I’ve been able to do shamanic journeying and deepen my connection with plants.”

“It was a crutch for me too,” admitted Cindy. “I used it to get to sleep and to calm my obsessive thinking. It was also a way for me to rebel against my very straight Japanese immigrant parents.”

“I feel like I’m doing the opposite,” said Ursula. “I was so tied in with kids and community responsibilities – you know, the world on my shoulders. I couldn’t imagine not thinking in straight lines. But now…. now it’s helping me see Grandmother Spider’s web and hear the plants at a whole new level…. and the stars…. Not just when I’m stoned, I hasten to add, but being stoned definitely deepens the magic for me.”

“That’s how I went from yoga asanas to flowing movement to dance,” said Pia. “Pot makes me really feel my body.”

“Me too but not in a good way. Once I took it for cramps like somebody suggested,” Molly grinned at Owen. “It just made me feel every ache.”

“But maybe if you’d stayed with it you would have learned to go into those cramps and understand them both physically and energetically so you cold mellow them out, heal that hurting place in your body,” said Pia. “On the other hand did any of us know enough then about our bodies ten or fifteen years ago to explore that way?”

“When I first started smoking more it was fun,” continued Ursula, “but I’d get into ideating so much that my brain just raced with figuring out plans. I couldn’t get to my body. All the action was in my mind.”

“Is that how the store got started?”

“Wasn’t that the night of the Women’s Medicine Circle slumber party at Molly’s?” said Pia.

“That’s where we talked about it together,” said Ursula. “But I’d gotten the notion stoned in the hot tub a few nights before when I couldn’t sleep. Right now the whole thing is coming up for me big time because I’m teaching the class and I feel like a hypocrite talking about ritual and spirit connection without mentioning this presently important aspect of my own spiritual practice. But I don’t know what to say. It feels like a huge leap to me to share this side of myself.”

“It’s made a big difference for me in my painting,” offered Thea, who’d been listening quietly to all this. “I didn’t smoke much before either. But it started calling to me this past year. It’s like new channels opened up in my brain and I could hear my Higher Self come through – or my Inner Self. All the separate pieces began to connect coming out through my paintbrush.”

“Prophecy even,” said Ursula, remembering Thea’s painting that presaged her soul retrieval process as well as others they’d talked about since.

“I wasn’t sure if you people would approve though,” said Thea. “We never smoke in the Medicine Circles.”

“Personally, I always figured we should approach things as a group without either alcohol or drugs because we needed to be sure it was possible on our own,” said Ursula. “And it didn’t seem fair to people with substance abuse issues, of which there usually are a few. But we’ve never even talked about it, which is telling in itself.”

“Maybe we were just afraid to talk about it. We’re such a straight group really,” said Charley.

“Not even group sex,” Raven sighed theatrically.

“Always that delicate dance of trying to work within the system,” continued Charley, “while still being pretty open about our Earth centered spiritual base to it all.”

“It’s wrong that pot is illegal, along with all the hallucinogens. A plot to keep us from opening to the magical world,” said Pia.

“A Pot Plot. I’m sure that’s exactly why They made it illegal,” Raven emphasized the Capital T. “They didn’t want us to experience the expansion of our minds. It’s too dangerous to the status quo.”

“And here we are in a climate that is teeming with mushrooms.”

“Mushrooms are too much for me,” said Ursula. “I’ve taken them a couple of times but marijuana seems to be about the right vibration for my brain.”

“I’ve never been able to figure out why the government doesn’t just legalize it and tax it.”

“They must make more money fighting it. Or somebody does….”

“Let’s acknowledge that there are people who have problems with it, and for whom it isn’t a good thing, chemically or psychologically.”

“Like alcohol.”

“It sure doesn’t kill as many people as alcohol.”

“It feels so sacred,” continued Ursula. “I used to apologize and feel like I had to hide my smoking moments. Not tell even you guys when something was inspired under the influence. There are so many secret things we’ve been outing in the last few years – sexual abuse in our growing up families and depression to name two. You know how long I’ve been ranting about not keeping things like our fears and insecurities hidden. Not to mention my hit on the positive aspects of gossip.”

“I don’t smoke often cause I rarely can get stoned,” said Raven.

“You don’t need to,” laughed Charley. “You’ve got some sort of natural chemical in your system.”

“Beans?” suggested his partner to great laughter.

“So have you formulated an action plan?” asked Owen. “Like a Smoke-In on the county courthouse steps or something.”

“That would really expose us,” Crystal whispered. “It would threaten everything we’ve accomplished both practically like the sustainability stuff and the spiritual. We’d be pariahs again in the community. Persecuted, killed even…..”

Cindy chimed in, “My husband would say we’d really gone off the deep end, though it’s probably not as bad for him as us talking about seeing unicorns and dragons, opening portals….”

“I’m sure there are lots of people who smoke that you wouldn’t expect to. It would be cool to see who came out of the woodwork.”

“Do we wait until somebody we care about gets busted? Or do we get proactive here. If heavies from various sectors of the community say they smoked, they couldn’t arrest us all.”

“How would you find out who they were in order to organize them?”

“Would there even be anybody left to do the arresting?”

“Or the judging”

“Oh, Lordy, I can see the headlines now.”

“I just wanted to begin to talk about it, to get the subject out in the open,” Ursula qualified herself.

“I sense that things are changing in this realm as in so many others,” said Charley. “We can let this conversation simmer and season. I’m ready to head home. Gotta be up early tomorrow for a meeting with Michael and his crew.”

“Thanks, Ursula, for bringing it up,” said Molly. “You’re right, of course. It’s an odd skeleton in our closet that needs the light of day.”

“Anybody got a joint?”

 

“That was quite the conversation,” said Charley as he and Ursula headed home.

“Phew! I had no idea I was going to say that. It’s been on my mind but it really just popped out. I was shaking at first.”

“I thought maybe you were. Your voice sounded… pinched. Are you planning to take it any further?”

“I don’t know. It feels right to have spoken out. If Spirit wants me to do more, the way will open. Hopefully someone else will take this lead and run with it…somewhere. Did you mind that I brought up the sex thing?”

“Nah, it’s hard for me to talk about but really, it’s one of those secret things too. That and money, are the really big taboos. If we think about it we could probably hit them all at once!”

“I feel like the Coyote Goddess just threw me a curve ball.”

Mother Daughter Ritual 1

From: Pia Rosen – pia@nekelew.net

Subject: Women’s Medicine Circle Ritual

To: Women’s Medicine Circle list

We are doing a ritual this coming Friday night involving Demeter and Persephone, the archetypal Greek mother and daughter duo. We’d love to have women of all ages play either of the two roles – the daughters who leave to spend the winter months with a lover in the underworld and the mothers who resist their going and stop things growing, bringing on the winter season. Roles are not age dependent, i.e. there can be older daughters and younger mothers. You’ll know which part you want to play. Seems like there’s grist here for all of us, whether we’re mothers and daughters or not. No prep necessary. Pomegranate seeds will be provided. The ritual will take place at Ursula’s house on Mountain Lane.

 

“Looks like you’re off to an early start,” said Charley on Friday morning coming upon Ursula cleaning the toilet still in her blue flannel nightie. “I have meetings ‘til late this afternoon so I’ll just grab a burger at the bar and go straight to the Men’s Group.”

“That works for me,” replied Ursula. “I’ll be able to really sink into my ritual prep.”

“No coming up for air, huh?”

“I want a leisurely day to play with the energies.”

“Will you all still be speaking to us rapacious men when the evening is over?”

“Hopefully we’ll have cleaned out another layer of the ancient stuck and hurt places in us around the patriarchy. We trust you will be doing the same,” she chuckled.

“Have fun,” he hollered as he headed out the door toting his heavy backpack as usual.

Ursula had woken very conscious of a pressure to get the house clean for ritual. It was always a delicate dance. Once her cleaning eye was activated it was easy to fall into tension about getting everything done (as if there were ever a “done”). It wasn’t exactly what her mother called “house-proud.” She knew nobody in this bunch would judge her housekeeping (or fuck ‘em if they did), but she did love it when everything looked and felt beautiful.

Yet, inevitably there were more grimy corners lying in wait and it was easy to get sidetracked into tackling accumulated piles, not to mention drawers…. None of which anyone else would ever notice, yet could make for an underlying freshness that added to the whole in a subtle way…. But she could also wear herself out and not have energy for the ritual itself. That would be a mistake….

She wanted the house to feel “right” – not “right” in the sense of “correct” but rather in the Buddhist sense of aligned and in true with what wanted to happen. Clear. She didn’t know ahead of time what that looked like exactly but she knew if she stayed attuned the unfolding day would show her what “right” was for this particular occasion, different from any other time. If she stayed relaxed and open, the process would take her deep into the ritual space she craved. “Sounds like a few drops of Oregon grape essence is called for here,” she counseled herself, remembering Owen’s description of it as bringing one “into True.”

Rummaging in the cupboard for the Mahonia, she also came across some usnea tincture – always good for clearing the air and for inspiration. She took both and then noticed a woven band of orange and yellow on a hook by her dresser and tied it around her head. A deep breath signaled to her that she was taking the first steps towards her conscious priestess self. The headband tingled around her forehead – echoes of ancient crowns and sacred headdresses? Inspiring, anyway, and grounding at the same time. “I can’t recall a single detail of the Demeter-Persephone story right now. Hopefully it will come to me during the day.”

Time for a pipe of locally grown. She took the sacred smoke deep into her lungs and then blew it towards the houseplants (“which need watering,” noted her cleaning self).

A tarot card was next. “The Empress,” she said aloud. “Help me connect with the earth today and stay deeply in touch with my ancient motherly self….” She propped the card up on the mantel against the little rotund Venus of Willendorf. “Sorry, Old One. I’ll get this jumble including the jug of feathers all sparkling again…. Oh yay. The snake earrings I’ve been looking for. Help me be in transformative, priestessy power today.”

She dug into the hall closet for the bag of dust rags, sidetracking for a minute to clean up the mouse droppings in the corner behind the spray bottle. Then Loreena McKennitt went on the CD player, her Middle Eastern rhythms just right for Ursula’s dance with dry mop and broom.

“Cleaning and clearing is sacred feminine work, isn’t it, Dear Mother. And not just for women,” she added as an aside to the statue of an antlered elk she dusted.

“I remember now.” She took a centering sigh. “The house is a temple and cleaning a renewal of its sacred space. Let it go too long and the energy stagnates. Our uneasy dreams, harsh words and unfinished business get caught in the corners. It’s not house-proud at all. It’s being in touch with the energetics – the Feng Shui – of the space we occupy both in its everyday functions as well as its reverent and celebratory ones. Over and over, we renew. The ritual times force the cleansing and the cleansing inspires ritual….” She lit a yellow candle made by Illahee children last spring…. which act brought the children present energetically….

Thus went the day. Her grandmother’s silver vase got polished, ready to be filled with Demeter’s grasses Pia was bringing. She picked new lavender for the cut glass vase her son Salal had brought her from his travels. A sweater was mended as was the broken wing of a ceramic dragon. An errant tie-dyed sock turned up under the ottoman in front of Charley’s old-fashioned easy chair and her antique blue sparkle earrings fell out of a book of Greek myths that was overdue at the library. Photos of her off-spring and ancestors were lovingly dusted and blessed. Not quite seven generations behind and ahead but the best she could do today. Spiders were carefully set outside or allowed to scuttle into crevices in the rough-hewn walls to watch while Ursula gave them opportunities to renew their own homes. Old candle drippings were scrapped out and the new beeswax ones from the market installed…. Pea soup and chocolate kept her going.

Late in the afternoon Ursula shut the door firmly on the still messy study. “The rest is as clean as it’s going to be,” she declared. “I don’t need to tackle that space today.” Her final act of this stage was to walk slowly about the living room and kitchen with a burning wand of sage and cedar, smudging out the last of the old energy and calling in any friendly spirits who were hovering. “Come in, come in,” she invited feeling the arrival of the trancey space the sage always called up in her. “Join us in our sacred play. Are you bringing tonight’s story to me?”

Ursula now set about getting her own self prepped for the coming ritual. A soak in the hot tub cleared off the dust and cobwebs from the tasks of the day, though she didn’t dare stay too long, being in danger of going all limp. She also discarded the idea of renewing her morning smoke, letting the fresh air center her mind towards the next steps of adornment.

She felt drawn to a green ceremonial dress whose soft draping folds always made her feel like a Greek goddess, particularly appropriate for this night. “Yup, confirmation shivers.” She added the amber necklace she’d been wearing ever since she’d begun this journey with Demeter the previous week. She left the woven wool band around her head but stuck short pieces of grass in it making it more than ever like a crown.

Heading outside again, wrapped in her blue chenille power shawl that dangled with meaningful beads and nature objects, she walked slowly in the misty late afternoon light to the Stone Table. A slight drizzle was falling now and the large flat rock was wet as well as sticky with Sitka pitch. She stepped up tall on the slab. “Figuratively tall,” she giggled thinking how very short she actually was compared to most grown folks. “At least for the moment I am fully into my own height.”

She looked south out over the magnificent expanse of ocean and coastline and, raising her arms to the sky, felt her priestess self pour down into her crown chakra with a shiver of familiar electricity. Turning north to salute the Mountain, she grounded down into its depths until she was as rooted as the Sitkas around her. Knowing another degree deeper now that all would go well tonight even though she had never gotten around to rehearsing the story. She turned to each of the four Directions asking for the wisdom of the old tales, the inspired discovery of new ones, a kindled open heart, and a washing of tender emotions.

Was that what tonight’s ritual was about? New tales out of current emotions? She had been feeling odd with this delving in the Greek stories. Although they were the ones she had learned first in childhood, they were not the ones that inspired her most often. Yet, Demeter had come unbidden to her recently and she had learned to trust such notions when they arose. Had Demeter appeared to help Ursula and the other women clear the decks? “Are we to bring about a healing of the old so that the new can move in? Whatever that may be….”

She knew for herself it was time to surrender to what the Mountain and this place wanted of her and of her children. She had stopped cajoling her offspring a while ago but the mourning for those birds flown from the nest was still thrumming inside her. These feelings weren’t doing her or her fledglings any good. They were on their path. She and Charley had sent them out of the nest with the best their own skills and love could provide, which she knew was very good indeed. Throwing her hands up into the air she felt a gust of wind blow a more serious flurry of rain around her.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” she called out to the elements and to the Mountain itself. Dashing the raindrops out of her eyes, she stepped down off the rock, satisfied that she was prepared for the evening and trusting that it would bring a release of this particular tension and longing inside her.