This piece is an introduction to my Blog Talk Radio show Tuesday, February 21, at 5pm EST ~ LINK to Show ~ Bridging Worlds, the Inner Life vs. the Outer Life.
Twenty-five years ago I had a vision of a bridge in consciousness. I had taken the leap across, and now I was back. An inner voice prompted me to build the bridge, so that others might see it and make the crossing.
I knew I possessed the tools to build this bridge. I was a full-time artist, living in a studio filled with colorful paintings. Many of them were quite large. I’d had to learn to build stretchers. So the first thing I thought of then was my hammer. It had been given to me by a friend when I’d inadvertently left mine at a gallery when I was hanging pictures. This new hammer was old and beat up, but bigger and heavier than my original one. When I thought of this hammer in connection with the bridge, I was also thinking of the song, If I Had A Hammer. I knew the song well. It was a protest song, a freedom song. It begins with the hammer, and then it goes on to if I had a bell and then a song. But it starts with a hammer. The hammer for smashing things and breaking them apart, or nailing them together.
As a painter, I had done more than my share of putting things together. Aside from stretchers, four pieces of wood with slats at the ends that fitted into one another, making a frame for the canvas to then be stretched upon with special pliers that gripped the cotton or linen so it could be stapled to the wood, I had put colors together. Forms and shapes together. I had cut and ripped things apart to make new things – always images in my case – by sewing or gluing.
But this hammer, this hammer was a tool for a builder. A carpenter. A creator and destroyer. When I thought of how I was going to build that bridge, I didn’t think of a brush, holding a brush in my hand. Or one of my palette knives. I thought of the hammer, perhaps to hammer the message home. Home. That’s where the bridge was leading to. It was leading me home.
Home was nothing less than Heaven, of course. It was a place far away—or at least it had seemed far away until that day in 1987 when I had reached a crescendo. Now I felt I was sort of there. Here, but not here totally. I was between worlds, actually. Between dimensions. And now this inner voice was telling me to construct the path. Build the bridge across, not only in order for it to become more solid and more real so that I would be able make the crossing at will, but so that others could see it. So that I could say, here—here is the bridge. Let’s go!
But first I had to build it. And this did not mean make pictures of it. Though Art is certainly a bridge to realms in the non-physical world, making pictures was all I had been doing for a decade. This time I had tried to write about the pictures. From time to time I would sit at my typewriter and compose poems or prose poems, explaining what the paintings meant. But they always came out very abstract. I didn’t think much of my writing skills. And yet this inner voice, before it told me to build a bridge, it told me to write how I got to this place. It said I had painted enough, and now I had to write how I got here. To this heavenly place, which was still my studio, still New York City, exactly as it had been the day before, and the day before that, and yet now it was different. Now it was alive. The air was pulsing with energy. I was pulsing with energy.
Yet at the time I was very confused. Imagine, you are going about your life as you always have, and suddenly things change. It begins with feeling more alert, more sensitive. You find yourself reading meanings into what people say. Everything you hear seems to have a special meaning that pertains to you. Words have become symbolic. Even the letters of the words are now symbolic of something else. You find you don’t know what anything means anymore because it all seems new to you. You begin looking words up in the dictionary, even the most simple words, because you don’t know what anything means anymore. The dictionary helps, because now you are breaking things down, taking words apart, and you feel you are getting closer to the crux of the matter. But how can you, because you don’t even know what the crux of the matter is at this point. All I can say is that I had suddenly stepped out and away from where I had been, and I didn’t know where this new place was.
I had a couple of large houseplants in pots on the floor, and the pots were in baskets, one wicker, one cane. When I was thinking about how to make the bridge, aside from looking at my hammer, I was also looking at the green plants. They had both been given to me as gifts. One had been a cutting from a larger plant that I had nourished lovingly, and the other had been delivered to my door, robust and healthy, fresh from the florist. They both had big, waxy leaves. The leaves on the cutting had solid, unbroken edges. It was a sturdy plant. It was this one my attention was now focused upon, because it had come from a woman in the office I had worked at some years before. The boss was a man named Greenspan. Greenspan. The color green, and the word span, as in a bridge. A green bridge, that was what I was thinking. Something green, spanning the gorge or the gap.
I was fixated on the color green, on plants, and on spanning, or bridging the gap home.
The gap appeared to me as a break at the horizon, a tiny, almost invisible crevice—or visible only to one who was aware of it in the first place—between earth and sky, or sea and sky. A crack in the normal appearance of things. I knew it was there. I had been there already, sort of. It gave me an inkling that all was not as it seemed. And another world lay just beyond this one.
The people who have been there in the place in themselves where words, patterns, order, dissolve, will know what I mean and the others won’t. But once having been there, there’s a terrible irony, a terrible shrug of the shoulders, and it is not a question of fighting it, or disowning it, or of right or worn, but simply knowing it is there, always. It’s a question of bowing to it, so to speak, with a kind of courtesy, as to an ancient enemy: Alright, I know you are there, but we have to preserve the forms, don’t we. And perhaps the condition of your existing at all is precisely that we preserve the forms, create the patterns…” Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook