“The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.  Marcel Proust

In 1983, my boyfriend gave me a set of Viking Runes. By that time we were a few years into our relationship, and it was typical for him to go on about ancient secret societies, Stonehenge, Mystic Christianity, Druids, Kundalini yoga, TM, Gnostic teachings, Freemasonry, the I Ching, the Dead Sea Scrolls, peyote rituals, Native American Shamanic vision quests, auras and chakras, etc. etc. To be honest, most of it was way over my head, but it did serve to fertilize my already burgeoning interest in esotericism. (More on that in my next post.)

Algiz – Protection

The Runes had an unusual but compelling smell, the kind you savour in one long inhale, and they were pleasing to the touch, smooth yet rough all at the same time. I quickly discovered that they provided uncanny insight and guidance when seeking counsel on various issues, especially during times of difficult personal challenges. Over a thirty year period, I consulted the Runes sixty-seven times, with gaps as long as seven years in between.

The last time I took them out was in early 2013, after my uncle Red’s funeral. I was exhausted and burned out after a frenzied decade of serving on multiple committees and boards for various arts organizations. Out of twenty five possible Runes, I pulled Sowelu from the pouch that day. Not surprisingly, it counselled that this was a time for recharging, regeneration, and that it might be necessary to retreat, “… a voyage inward for centering, for balance.” This was a confirmation of what I already knew in my gut.

In order to find the treasure, you will have to follow the omens. God has prepared a path for everyone to follow. You just have to read the omens that he left you. Paolo Coelho, The Alchemist

More recently, I’ve been studying the Tarot, which is a more complex system of counsel and tapping into the subconscious. In fact, today’s blog post was originally titled, Tarot, where I wanted to share a eureka moment I had this week about newly revealed layers of meanings in some of my artwork – symbolism which I had previously been completely oblivious to. For example, I realized that my painting, Song of Ages, which I conceived partially as a visual ode to grieving mothers, was also an unmistakable variation of the Empress (Mother) in the Thoth Tarot Deck. (More on that in my next post.)

So… as in Proust’s perceptive quote above, my most recent studies have resulted in seeing with new eyes, and as a lifelong seeker of wisdom and clarity of vision, the pursuit of fresh eyes has always proven extremely useful while navigating the complexities of living and loving. The real nexus point of the journey toward now began many years ago, and it involved a boyfriend and the gift of Runes.

The Book of Runes, by Ralph Blum

Photo credits:  Michelle LaRiviere

Still Standing

I love this photo of my brother in front of the Detroit City skyline.

Sometimes we get knocked down. For a while. We lay there, supine, gazing at the world with hazy longing while an invisible anvil pins us to the bottom of an indifferent river. An eternity ticks by in slowww-motion, tick, tick, while a hundred sunrises and a hundred sunsets quietly stain the sky. But today is a new day . . .

Forty years ago I fled the family nest, which had been uprooted in the early 60s from Detroit to a remote mining town in northern Ontario. It was always my intention to leave, but I visited often over the years, somehow believing that it’s the one who left who must always make the effort.

Guilt. It can play crazy tricks with the mind. But guilt for leaving a sad place that was never yours is absurd… especially in that moment when black ice sends your car careening through three feet of powder toward a frozen ravine while your baby screams in terror. The absurd has stubbornly lingered over time… but the gods were with us that day.

Thanksgiving. My brother traveled a thousand kilometres in late November for a long-awaited reunion with our family clan in Windsor and Detroit. Cancer and other setbacks had delayed his visit, but here he was at long last. My beautiful, brave, sensitive brother, ravaged by illness and radiation. A survivor. He stayed for five wonderful days – we talked, drank, laughed, and cried, but mostly we marvelled that we had made it this far. As a parting gift, I gave him our father’s helmet [1].

Melancholia. This thing that I naively thought I was leaving behind, in a small mining town so long ago, turned out to be a merciless stalker. Forty years, and thirty moves… apartments, houses, towns and cities. Lots of them, but still… the shadow persists. Just the other night I dreamt that I got the keys to a new apartment (right next door to my son and his family) – one with big windows, a parquet dance floor, and space to paint large canvases. I awoke with a lingering sense of joy that was gone before noon. And then this article from Brain Pickings crossed my path, What Depression Is Really Like. Van Gogh describes it well.

Reflection. I think for the first time in my life, I’m finally getting it. The moving thing. Endlessly running from the “black dog” with a carefully crafted rationale obscuring the truth. The truth. I cried for seven hours on this last U-Haul road trip in 2014, the flood-gates unleashed during a farewell hug after breakfast with my best friend, Kelly, in the parking lot at Burger World. Christ, I weep just thinking about it. Writing does that. It brings you to your core.

[1] While writing this post, it suddenly occurred to me that this is probably a preamble to the yet to be written Part 3 of The Diving Helmet. Follow the links to read the story from the beginning:
The Diving Helmet – Part 1
The Diving Helmet – Part 2

[Postscript] ** After publishing this post I realized the irony in the title, Still Standing. Detroit (the backdrop in the photo) is currently rising out of a long, dark period, and reinventing itself. I love that!!

The Magic of Polaroids

While tooling around with Hipstamatic’s Tintype Snappack for a new project last week, I somehow got to looking at Polaroids. I had no idea that they could look so amazing!! The ones I remember kicking around in family photo boxes were, well, unimpressive. Then I discovered that Polaroid had released their very own app called Polamatic!!

Of the many in-app films, filters, and borders, I have a few favourites, but one of the things I like best about Polamatic is the text option. This opens up new possibilities for creative individuals who also use the written word as a means of expression. In the images below, I used various technology at my disposal to take the Polaroid to the next level with my digital artwork. The results are pretty exciting. New project? I think so!

To see more of my work, including some great Polaroids, follow me on Instagram.Thanks for dropping by, and as always, I look forward to reading your comments.