The Dark Light

Last night I dreamed about the Shadow. In my dream it was an alien virus, and I was

the-shadow

Sketchbook drawing 1980s by N.Wait

with one of the doctors (picture a white coat) trying to find a cure, or at least a containment. But this seemed impossible because the virus appeared as a shadow—and was as difficult to catch!

The one I saw was no bigger than a quarter. I saw it on the throat chakra, the vehicle of speech. You know when you shine a flashlight on an object, how it appears as a small round beam of light? Well imagine you’re in a very light, white space like I was—the room was white, all the furniture and fabrics were white, and when you shine the ‘light’ it is DARK. A shadow light!

But how do you cure (or contain) a shadow? I saw a watch-face—signifying it was Time. Or This was the time. I was in the kitchen, trying to cook something up, but I didn’t have all the ingredients… Oh dear, I thought. Oh dear, oh dear…

shadow-3

Sketchbook drawing by N.Wait 1980s

Ahhhh, the same feeling of “Oh dear,” when I heard Trump won the election. The same feeling I’ve had all through this election cycle. But this is not an ‘alien’ virus. It is us. (Dear us!) Ours. Indigenous to this wondrous planet of polarities. I read that as of yesterday there were already 900 cases of hate crimes or hate speech in the three weeks since the election.

The Shadow Self. (Fear, anger, terror, hatred—take your pick of negative energies.)

The Shadow will out. It must. In order to be dispelled it must out. And so we shine our light, no matter what the degree of darkness or light…it is still Light is it not?

(And the missing ingredient in my dream? Why, it must have been Love. Love and Acceptance. How could it have been otherwise…)

shadow-4

Sketchbook drawing 1980s by N.Wait

 

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Sketchbook drawing 1980s by N.Wait

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Bygone Times

Nothing makes me feel part of a bygone time more than walking around my neighborhood, remembering there was a grocery store where now stands a bank, or a laundromat (so long a fixture that they displayed a washing board in the window!) replaced by a restaurant replaced by yet another bank. A real estate place is where the Cheese Shop used to be…

But what’s the point in going on about it. We still have lots of neighborhood places like the ones here on my last postcard of Seventh Avenue between 8th and 9th Streets. 7th Ave scene

I plan to do more of these little shops. They are an example of what I like about city life. The little shops. They come and go too, but at least for now they outnumber banks and estate agents.

When I moved to Park Slope in the early 90s there were two art supply stores on Seventh Avenue. Then one was replaced by a shoe store. The other one disappeared more recently, and now it’s (yet another) nail salon.

Pearl PaintTwo famous art supply stores in Manhattan have recently closed their doors. Pearl Paint, down on Canal Street, which I began visiting in the late 70s, closed last spring (or was it the spring before last…).

Lee's Art ShopAnd now Lee’s Art Supply on 57th Street is shutting up shop as well, having sold their building for 85 million dollars. (They call 57th Street Billionaire’s Row.)

Artist and CraftsmanAnd yet a new art supply store opened in Park Slope a few years ago—the Artist and Craftsman Supply on 2nd Street—and they’ve got a huge selection in a warehouse like space.

I grew up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in the 50s and 60s, and it’s changed so much I can hardly bear to go back there. I remember Gitliz and The Tip-Toe-Inn, and the Beacon when it was a movie theater and those little shops that just sold candy. The little bookstore called Womrath’s. Even Zabar’s was only a small deli then.

I like reminders of the time when most us were much smaller than we are today, like when I visit costume exhibits in museums and marvel at how short the people were, what tiny waists they had. Or when I see a door with its knob about six inches further down than the ones we have today. When we were smaller, and the world seemed a much bigger place. We can’t go back, but we can remember…

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Aligning with Enchantment

watercolor and pencil by N. Wait 1987

watercolor and pencil by N. Wait 1987

As the din of gunfire around us grows louder and more outrageous with no end in sight, I think of the illustration I once did of the man and the bear.

The client said, “I want a picture of a bear and a man drinking beer in the bear’s cage at the zoo.” He added that the man was more of a caretaker than a zookeeper, the cage was more of a stage set, and the bear was really a man in a bear suit.

When I showed him the preliminary sketches he said, “Can you give it an air of enchantment?”

I looked up enchantment in the dictionary. To attract, delight, cast a spell over.

If I had been given the assignment today no doubt I would have waved my digital wand at one of the many filtering options at my disposal on phone and computer. But this was thirty years ago. Back in the old days I had to manipulate the image with paints and brushes and colored pencils. If there were to be any special effects, they would come about with actual water dousing actual paper, an actual eraser rubbing that paper. A sensory, touchy-feely exercise geared towards “attracting, delighting, casting a spell over.”

Now, being that my goal was actually to delight the client, enchant him with my artistry, I had to get myself into the right frame of mind. Which is to say, I had to align myself with his intention. This meant getting into alignment with the idea of being enchanted. I knew exactly what to do first—put on the right music—the music that enchanted me—the record of medieval choir singing that sounded like a chorus of angels.

This angelic music filled the room when I took out my watercolors and a fresh sheet of paper. Angelic voices filled my ears as I began putting color in and taking it out, over and over again, creating layers, a feeling of depth, a sense of mystery. The angels continued to sing as I smudged and softened the borders between things, creating a diffused space where anything might happen.

(The picture above is a photo of a photo…of the original, and as such it is darker and more dense here, which cannot be helped.)

As the voices guided my brush, painting felt like an act of surrender. I abandoned myself to the picture, submitted to the client’s desire. He, after all, had given me the idea, planted it in my brain, as it were. To give him what he wanted I had to make it my idea too. And so I went on smudging, defining, then smudging again. When objects became too fuzzy I used colored pencils to add definition, then softened the lines again with a wet brush. I toned down the light at the edges, making it more shadowy. I went as far as I dared with the blurring and the smudging and the softening of edges to give it a dream-like quality, the sense of a different dimension.

But in the end I think it worked because of my sincerity. My commitment to making this unreal scene look absolutely real. So that I could believe in it too.

I am still in alignment with the idea of being enchanted.

As the din of gunfire around us grows louder still, and still more outrageous, I still think of the man and the bear. I think of bearing. I think of what must be borne, and what cannot be borne anymore.

(I would like to turn all those deadly metal bullets into flakes of snow. Let the snow fall—not the bodies. And let the snow melt, and create a new stream. And let the stream nourish the fields where the flowers bloom…)

The man and the bear are drinking Amstel Light. It was my favorite beer in those days because of its name, Amstel Light, which to me meant, I’m-still-light.

I drank in the fact that I was still light. I gave it to the man to share with the bear (in his bowl on the ground), and now I give it to you.

They can’t shoot the light.

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Connections Never Die

 

tree lovers

Pastel on paper by N.Wait 1996

Strange how you can meet someone and a spark ignites, yet seems to burn out quickly. The song becomes a memory, till one day  40 years later, you google him…

…and find that the music hasn’t stopped after all. It has only shifted to an underground stream. You were listening all along, with your inner ear…

 

Yesterday, walking on a Brooklyn street, I was suddenly impelled to take out my phone and google this man I knew briefly long ago, only to learn we had been playing in parallel streams all this time. For while he played the Green Man at the annual festival in an ancient English village, I was in Brooklyn writing a story about a girl who turned into a tree. I was drawing trees as the masculine/feminine joined as one. The would-be lovers transformed into tree bark, in the woods.

Or on opposite sides of the street, leaning towards one another.trees on 10th ST.JPG

 

green man

The Green Man by Pete OMalley

I also learned that he died year before last. But energy doesn’t die, it merely changes form. And if perchance we meet someone, it doesn’t have to last more than a few weeks or months in order for the angels to strike up the band. Just because the lovers part, doesn’t mean the music stops. It plays on, in some other stream. Every meeting is significant. And sometimes the ones that burnish the heart are the most meaningful of all.

Dedicated to the one who once drew me, and I drew back…

 

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The Sneezy-Wheezy Gift

IMG_0714This writer’s new BFF – is a Cold!

I admit it’s strange considering I’ve often boasted of never getting colds except on extremely rare occasions… Well, “Pride always goes before a fall,” and after this particular surprise, my thinking about colds is undergoing an about-face.

This wasn’t so when the first symptom appeared – an exhaustion I couldn’t account for. Extra sleep was called for and arranged, but to no avail. Still I did not relent. “I’m fighting off a cold,” I said with a bright smile, as if I already had it licked.

Not so fast, said the cold. Every day I seemed to get worse, and finally I had to admit I had a zinger. But how could this have happened? How could I let my frequencies drop to such a low point where I would fall prey to germs? I’ve always equated my good immune system with my energy level. With staying in that “good” energy band, above the fray. 

It was humbling. And yet enlightening too. Because the upshot was some new writing this morning. Amidst the coughing and the sneezing, thoughts I hadn’t considered before started to pour out. And then I remembered someone once told me that a cold means the soul is crying…

It’s like when you want to cry but you can’t. You might not even know that you want to cry. And then you get a cold. And you suffer through the cold. And all the while, though you may not know it, your soul is releasing whatever it was that made you feel like crying.

It’s all about releasing. Call it a cough or a cold but do call it humbling. When you’re humble you’re vulnerable. To be vulnerable is to be open, maybe in ways that don’t feel good. But if you’re a writer you have to be open, and keep opening more and more to get to the core. 

Today I got to some good stuff. I’ve been writing memoir for too many years not to recognize when I’ve hit the mark, and how hard it can be to get there. So bless me, and bless my cold for being such a gift. A sneezy-wheezy gift – but a gift, nevertheless.     

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On Seeking

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1976 ~ One morning before dawn I dreamed of a door that opened under water into a different sort of water. I did not step over the threshold. That would be a step for waking life. When I woke up I sat at this desk in the picture, (I admit I tidied it up for the camera) which had been new in 1976, and wrote down the dream. Later that day I wrote Seek and Thee Shall Find and stuck it on the door in the center as a reminder.

And so it began. The inner search and the outer search, but mostly the search within. Which turned out to be probing, prodding and poking myself through the art of painting and then the art of writing memoir, in order to bring forth whatever lay hidden within. Art as research, because of those hidden doorways that tend to spring open in the silence of those solo forays into unplumbed depths of the soul. A singularly focused activity of bearing witness to the Self.   

2001 ~ Twenty-five years later I found what I hadn’t consciously known I was searching for. Yet it was found all the same, because of seeking the art of the thing through images and then seeking it through words. The art of a thing because art is emotional and intuitive and right brain. And if it is heartfelt, its expression will be beyond what the mind can know. If it is heartfelt, it will be true, and the mind will recognize its truth.

2016 ~ Another fifteen more years have gone by and I am still sitting at this desk made of yew wood. It is worse for the wear, but then so am I. Lately my seeking has revolved around narrating the last chapter of my memoir. It is my second book. The first one was about everything that led up to having a dream where a door would open under water. The sequel is about what happened afterwards, and ends with another opening. Though not a door per se, certainly an opening into a different sort of life. A different sort of water, like in the dream.

It has been troublesome describing events that led up this second opening. I finally decided it was okay to say I didn’t understand what was happening. This was true in a sense, because my mind could not comprehend it. And I didn’t know how to write the chapter without sounding as if I’d lost my mind. (Which was also true, in a sense.) The truth was that I gave up. Even as I was seeking to understand, I surrendered. I let go. I surrendered to what was happening even as I had surrendered myself to the dream years earlier. In fact, both openings, the one with the image of a door and the one without it, came about through profound experiences of letting go. If seeking is active, it would seem finding requires a letting go. Which is not to say that finding is passive, or that surrendering is passive.

Whether I shall ever let go of this desk remains to be seen. It has traveled with me across the ocean, then was parked in several Manhattan apartments before crossing the river to Brooklyn. Then back it went to Manhattan for a bit, before coming at last to Brooklyn again, where it has resided ever since. And where I sit now, with my legs parked under it. Yew wood. Which I like thinking of as you would. As in, I would. Seek. And find. The search began when I sat at this desk one morning in 1976…

 

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To Look Within

Looking Within

I was not raised to look within but without. But without looking in, I was without.

I write my life to know my life. When I write my life, the inner truth comes out. It’s like when I draw, a barrier disappears. Or fades to the background. And suddenly I’m in touch with this other vibratory field. This other awareness that rises to the surface and makes itself known.

In writing class, whether they call it opening a vein or peeling an onion, it’s the same thing, accessing a different energy field.

Is it deeper? Is it higher? Or is it just a different frequency band…

In regular life we are usually too busy processing our surroundings, all the different sounds and sights coming at us at once. But when we stop and sit still, and focus on just one thing, one object, one thought, one memory, we forget where we are. We forget the time and the day. We forget our name. We forget where we are. I feel like I’m outside of myself, yet somehow I’m also deeper within…

The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings. ~ Henri Frederic Amiel

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