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I have not been the same since the eclipse last week. I stayed inside, though as I was working I kept looking out the window to see if there was any change in the light. There wasn’t much in New York, but you could feel the atmosphere changing. It wasn’t until I saw the photos and videos—specifically the ones where the moon completely covered the sun and there was a halo of light around the darkness, and then a light popped out…like a diamond ring, and something about that popped out at me too. Something went DING! So, in short, I’ve been playing out the DONG! part of the “ring” “tone”—this whole past week, hearing the 2nd part of the bell, ever since. The sound when the dinger comes back for the dong.
In this upswing, upsurge of energy we’re experiencing, everything seems magnified—because it is, actually. Positive as well as negative emotions come through in greater intensity, “flooding” the system in some cases…
But, since I am currently writing, i.e., my “current” is a highly focused stream of consciousness, (has been more or less for the past 20 years) I’ve learned the lesson of moderation. But, I’ve needed outside help, and thankfully it’s there on YouTube in the sounds of the sea and my favorite horn player. (Right now I’m staring at this screen, but listening to the screen on my right playing “Gentle ocean waves” while the tides roll in on a sandy beach in Wales…)
And what popped out at me most recently was this photo from 1980 when my “sitter” turned the tables on me. I was the portrait artist—he was the sitter. I was the one in charge of doing his picture. It was me giving the commands. Me holding the brush in one hand, the palette in the other, duplicating his form and presence. And how I gloried in it, this former actress who for years had been bossed around by her Directors—move here, now there, now say your line this way, and on and on… “Can you give it more *?#%!*” and so on and so forth, and I was happy to oblige because it was for the good of the ‘show.’ For the pleasure of the audience. And we were there to please/confront/explain/suggest/tease/titillate/entertain – and everything else you expect when you come to a ‘show.’ But I’d switched. Instead of being on the stage, I was behind the easel—watching you/them/the models/the sitters. And what a relief it was. “Don’t look at Me, let me look at You now…” And they did. And so, here I am/was, wearing a green tee-shirt with the word Freedom and in the middle was/is a cross. I’m not religious, and I’m not sure how I came by that shirt, but I know I liked Freedom blazing across the front. And if it came with a cross—Fine. I thought I was free now. In charge, and all that…
So along comes this man, this sitter, this man who also happened to be my teacher and gave a lot of talks sitting in one of those canvas Director’s chairs. And he had commissioned me to paint his portrait. When I said, “Can you bring your director’s chair? I’d like to paint you sitting in your chair,” it was no sooner said than done. Ah-ha! thought I. I’ve got the Director sitting in his director’s chair—in My studio, under My crystalline gaze. And I got on with my work, painting and painting away, when suddenly he pulls out his camera and starts clicking the shutter.
I ignored him and went on with my work. Men and their cameras! (&%#*$?+)
A few weeks later he gave me this 8×10 glossy. And all I could think of was Wow. Legs apart, feet firmly planted on the Floor, palette thrust in front of me, arm hidden behind the canvas, and me not looking to please him. Me, with focused passion and total commitment. What a gift he gave me. But then, his name was Gavin. I gave in to his giving. And he showed me this side of myself. Oh, Men and their cameras…and what they shoot… I can see it more clearly now, now that I’ve developed my own two lenses. With the help of my glasses. (“Four-eyes,” they used to call me –when they weren’t calling me “bug-eyes” or “pop-eyes.”)
Well, I’m glad I stuck around long enough to see the light pop out of the dark moon on a bright sunny day across the Americas.
The other day while walking down the slope of Ninth Street between 8th and 7th Avenues, gazing as usual at the rhythmic flow of brownstones and the variety of ornamental ironwork balustrades and gates, I imagined I heard them singing. Maybe it was because I’d left my ear buds at home that day. Listening to music made walks so much more pleasant, especially on these hot summer days. Perhaps without it, I was automatically tuning into the music of my surroundings. It made me think of the woman in the nursery rhyme with “rings on her fingers and bells on her toes,” who had “music wherever she goes.”
I wasn’t wearing any rings. My toes were bare too. But what are fingers and toes but extremities, our farthest points. Our feelers. Perhaps our first responders when it comes to picking up vibrations. I pictured my fingers and toes ringing with the sound of patterned ironwork as if it was a kind of sheet music.
How strange sheet music must look to the untrained eye. Yet musicians have no trouble playing the symbols, or composers in making up new patterns. They may fill up the page with odd symbols, but it’s music they hear in the mind.
I photographed the ironwork where I was standing when I saw its music. Then, as often happens, when I got down to the business of drawing, the execution fell short. It didn’t have quite the same ring to it as when I was walking down the slope feeling the breeze on my face and the movement around me. Perhaps it was something felt more than seen. I had to try and capture it anyway. That moment when patterned ironwork sang to me.
(My fascination with ironwork fences isn’t new. Here’s a blog with more drawings I posted two years ago: https://nancywait.com/2015/09/27/flowing-fences/ )
I keep dreaming of a screened-in porch with a view of a lake or something, forgetting how much I love to draw buildings. Especially in Brooklyn, the borough of brownstones and churches. This is a view I’ve been admiring for the 25 years I’ve lived here, and finally I took some photos and drew it from a couple of angles in a 5×8 inch sketchbook.
Maybe the reason I love drawing buildings is because they gave me my first sense of place. I was five when we moved to New York City from a suburb of Chicago. Until then, I took my surroundings for granted and gave them little thought. I could have been anywhere for all I knew. Then we came to Manhattan, and that night when the buildings were all it up I thought we’d moved to fairy land. I think part of me has always remained in that first glimpse of a magical place. I’ve never lost the habit of looking up in wonder. It might be the moon or the clouds or the trees, but more often than not it will be made of brick or stone.
I don’t think we ever forget what first sparked our imagination. These days it’s my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Like the tops of these two churches on Seventh Avenue, one on the corner of Seventh Street, the other on the corner of Sixth. I love how odd they look together, almost fantastical. Maybe not quite fairy land, but somewhere far away. Much farther away than Brooklyn.
When we push up through the ground of our being, we alter the earth that contains us. Seeds want nothing more than to bloom and blossom. Seeds wait for the water and wait for the sun and the moon. They wait for the right season to soak up the nourishment that comes their way so they can grow up-up-up.
I grew up too. And after a while I seemed to have reached some kind of limit, for there was a stop sign. And another one, pointing back down. (Perhaps I should mention my secret wish was to go back to the stars, which would have been ‘up’ on quite a grand scale!) Instead, it was down-down-down, back into the darkness I went with my paints and brushes. To paint the dark. To see what I’d left behind.
As you’d expect, there was a stillness underground. A quiet stillness. A sleeping, dreaming world. Yet it was a teeming place, swarming with the colors of lives that had lived before, and lives still in seed form, not yet manifested.
I was only a transfer student, a traveler, an intern. After 5.5 years my visa was up. Five-point-five. Half-and half, is the way I see it. So that when I came back I would remember to live half up, half down. Because both held the light. And colors. Oh, the colors!
This story comprises Part Two of my sequel-in-progress. I call it Journey to the Deep. Though it was very colorful, the black and white photo of my drawing better illustrates light and dark. It was also a hairy time, so it’s a mystery why I made the head in this drawing completely bald…
My type of feminine energy has been ‘out of fashion’ since the 1980s when women
started going to the gym. Okay, before that. Okay, maybe it was never in fashion. Because no woman in her right mind would want to emulate my fey, other worldly type, seemingly at the mercy of others, who collapsed physically, mentally and emotionally at the first sign of aggression towards her. But of course I wasn’t in my right mind. Or my ‘wrong’ mind either. I wasn’t in my mind at all. I was in my heart. So that I could experience being bruised and battered and broken, without ever wanting revenge.
So that one day I would come to know that betrayal is sacred. That is the energy I have come here to anchor. The energy of sacred betrayal that comes with a heart-centered consciousness.
I couldn’t speak about it for many years. Which is why I am still working on the sequel to my first memoir, the one I began twenty years ago. It’s a story in three parts about surrender, and coming out the other side. Part one, The Clearing Ground, still brings up shame and embarrassment. (Which is apparently still in my energy field!)
I will persevere through this weakness. Because I remember the day back in 1987 when I heard the angels laughing at me. Such a sweet, tender, caring laugh it was. Like the tinkling of bells!
The Divine Feminine wears many faces… One of my favorites is this copy I made of the Mask of Warka, known as the ‘Mona Lisa of Mesopotamia,’ and the ‘Lady of Uruk,’ sculpted 5,500 years ago, one of the earliest known depictions of the human face. She who see’s all, without judgement, daring you to peer into her bottomless depths.