We are called at certain moments to comfort people who are enduring some trauma. Many of us don’t know how to react in such situations, but others do. In the first place, they just show up. They provide a ministry of presence. Next, they don’t compare. The sensitive person understands that each person’s ordeal is unique and should not be compared to anyone else’s. Next, they do the practical things–making lunch, dusting the room, washing the towels. Finally, they don’t try to minimize what is going on. They don’t attempt to reassure with false, saccharine sentiments. They don’t say that the pain is all for the best. They don’t search for silver linings. They do what wise souls do in the presence of tragedy and trauma. They practice a passive activism. They don’t bustle about trying to solve something that cannot be solved. The sensitive person grants the sufferer the dignity of her own process. She lets the sufferer define the meaning of what is going on. She just sits simply through the nights of pain and darkness, being practical, human, simple, and direct.
Some things only become visible to us when they undergo change.
We take for granted all the constant, fixed things, and eventually stop paying any attention to them. At the same time we observe and obsess over small, fast-moving, ephemeral things of little value.
The trick to rediscovering constants is to stop and focus on the greater panorama around us. While everything else flits abut, the important things remain in place.
Their stillness appears as reverse motion to our perspective, as relativity resets our motion sensors. It reboots us, allowing us once again to perceive.
And now that we do see, suddenly we realize that those still things are not so motionless after all. They are simply gliding with slow individualistic grace against the backdrop of the immense universe.
And it takes a more sensitive motion instrument to track this.
― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration
Sweetness is the opposite of machismo, which is everywhere – and I really don’t get on with machismo. I’m interested in sensitivity and weakness and fear and anxiety because I think that, at the end of the day, behind our masks, that’s what we are.
Highly sensitive people are too often perceived as weaklings or damaged goods. To feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the empath who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.
―Anthon St. Maarten
Sometimes journeys and experiences bring our roots into focus. How do we use that vision to improve our lives?
We had our third Open Mic here at synkroniciti on February 22. It was a wonderful afternoon of sharing and learning from one another. New faces mingled with familiar ones and bonds were forged and strengthened. Things took a metaphysical spin and we all left seeing things a bit differently.
I began by reading At the Temple of Sinawava on the Virgin River, a poem that related an experience I had almost ten years ago, when I visited Zion National Park and was struck by the eerie beauty and otherworldliness of the area leading to the Zion Narrows, where the river flows from a crack in the rock big enough to admit travelers. One day I will return there to make that hike upstream. It was wonderful to be able to take eight friends, including my husband, who was there the first time, to the place in my mind that corresponds to this place and time when the very rocks were alive. You can go there too, just click here.
Tuba Sozudogru followed, first with Collection of Memories, a marvelous leather bag put together from materials and objects collected in her journeys between America and her beloved homeland of Turkey. These materials came together over time to make an astonishing whole, including tassels, metal studs, young crocodile heads and feet, and a set of beautiful Turkish talismans against the evil eye. Tuba can carry what she needs today in this vessel made from memories and shreds of her past life, warding off future evil while acknowledging what she has come through and what each piece means to her. There is such power in using mementos and objects that speak of the past and of other places, of the monsters we have conquered and the loveliness we have cobbled together from life’s whirling dance.
She also shared a beautiful portrait of her daughter, who seems as if she will laugh and come right out of the painting. This is Portrait of Love, a celebration of the people that come into our lives to make us better. You can see the care and love Tuba has for her beautiful child, and the colors around the young woman are part of the aura that this mother can see around and associate with her daughter. As a person that sees colors swirling about people all the time, I really enjoyed that aspect of the work. The soft shoulders of the figure seem to reinforce our conviction that she has just turned around to see us and is still in motion.
Kelly Ledsinger read a very touching and personal prose poem, Offshore, that chronicles the journey her husband makes to the offshore drilling platforms where he works. It was stirring to walk with her and her husband and to explore the feelings men and women have felt for millennia when they are separated by the sea. In even more universal terms, life requires that parents divide their time between making a living for their children and being present with those children, that explorers and innovators must leave those who lovingly tend their hearths in order to do what they must do. Separation has never been an easy thing. Please read the poem here.
Later in the evening, Kelly shared a bracelet she made earlier this year. She stamped the hot metal with the image of a nautilus, a seafaring cephalopod that uses its sense of smell to guide it through deep waters to its mate. This is a lovely partner image to her poem. Many times we artists tell one story over and over again, plumbing its depths for new nuances and richness.
The spiral shell of the nautilus also connects well with the next work of art, Orion Lowy’s Real Unreal Real Graph, a computer aided meditation on infinity and repetition. If you were within one of these spirals, you might think you were traveling in a new way, but in reality you are just repeating a pattern that plays itself out across the page.
Grade A is a short story that Jane Lowy wrote as a child and reworked from memory years later. It’s a riveting journey that doesn’t let you know for certain where you are, buffeted by heat and by cold in an atmosphere that seems to echo the womb, ending with a moo. It shows Jane’s early gift for spinning a yarn and ending up in an unexpected and whimsical place. What a precocious child to put such abstraction into words!
I brought out two paintings to finish the evening, Expectation and Out of the Deep Waters. You can read earlier posts about these works here and here. To my great astonishment, Tuba, who had been using her excellent gifts for reading artistic work all evening, led me to new knowledge about these two pieces. They both feature a central figure that represents the Self… in fact myself. The one I painted first, Out of the Deep Waters, shows a being with withered arms, surrounded by a tumultuous ocean and sky full of symbols. Among those symbols is a paintbrush, which is partially bound and guided by a blue rope connected to the waters below. Expectation shows a large eye, open and clear, surrounded by a system of rays or, as Tuba interpreted, roots.
The interesting thing is that I painted Out of the Deep Waters in November, right before making some much needed changes in my diet. Expectation came along in February, after my health had improved vastly. These paintings reflect that change. Also, Tuba’s revelation came at a time when I was feeling that I hadn’t come as far as I wanted to. It was a huge encouragement to me to look at these signposts along my journey and realize how far I had come.
Another thing I take away from these pictures, revealed by that partially bound paintbrush, is that my subconscious is sometimes restraining my creative work, perhaps because it is afraid of being completely revealed. More on this in a later post.
During the course of the evening we discovered that we all either had sensitivity bordering on extra sensory perception, enabling us to see things unseen by those around us, or were close to someone who did. We were a room full of live wires and insulators. By sharing our peculiar and individual visions, we found new possibilities and new ways of thinking. Synchronicity and empathy were operating full forces as we explored how we, individually and collectively, deal with our sensitivity and our uniqueness. We were all so happy to be ourselves.
And, of course, Lisa Sasabuki the cat enjoyed seeing her people. I’ll never forget her running out to meet our guests when I told her Orion was there.
Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks to Ofelia Adame for her lovely photos of the event.
We use products every day with no thought for how they are made or their ingredients. This ignorance is dangerous. Gluten sensitivity can be a serious problem for those who build objects or create works in the physical realm, from painters to construction workers. For background on this condition, a growing problem for people all over the globe, please read our introduction to the subject here. Wheat flour is often used to thicken art supplies and construction materials, just like you might use it to thicken a sauce for your evening meal. Now, some people will tell you that gluten can’t be absorbed through the skin, but the truth is we don’t know that for sure. It’s possible that some people are so allergic that they do react to touching gluten, or they may just not remove it completely from their skin and under their fingernails before eating, putting in their contacts, or biting their nails. Another issue is dust. When gluten is airborne it can be sucked into the lungs, ingested or get into the eyes. These exposures will result in something which we gluten sensitives call a “glutening”. We may get dizzy, disoriented or nauseous, and heartburn, diarrhea, and joint pain are likely on their way. Glutenings can last for a long time; mine range from a few days to a week.
Colorful wheatpaste in Oaxaca. Mexico
We all have seen street art or graffiti, in which pictures or writing are painted, scratched or otherwise imprinted on surfaces in public places. One variant that might not be as familiar is called wheatpaste, in which paper images are affixed to a wall using a glue made from flour and water. Remember, regular all purpose flour is wheat flour, so if you see pasted images in your neighborhood, resist the urge to touch them– it’s not good for the art and these beauties are probably bathed in gluten. What would you do if you were a street artist with gluten intolerance? You could avoid the problem by using spray paint, provided you check labels and are on the lookout for gluten, but you don’t have to. Paste can be made from other flours. Check out this rice paste made by Amaco or this recipe (also rice paste), used for Japanese paper crafts.
Papier mâché is the construction of objects from paper soaked in glue and formed into shape. Traditionally the glue used is wheatpaste, but it can also be made by substituting the rice paste mentioned above. Since papier mâché is often painted, gesso, which is often used to prepare canvases for painting, is a great alternative as well. Check labels and call companies to make sure that anything you buy is free from gluten. It sneaks in all over the place. Parents of gluten intolerant children need to be very involved with school art projects and should be ready to suggest alternatives. There is a great post for parents here which lists safe products. Another concern with papier mâché is that is often used to make craft items and dolls that sometimes end up in the hands of children, despite the fact that they aren’t overly durable. Friends, don’t let kids play with those items– if they are gluten intolerant or have friends that are, someone could become extremely sick. If you handle them yourself, wash your hands frequently. As to masks, bracelets, and even decorative dishes made from the substance, be aware that a reaction is possible; it’s going to depend on your degree of sensitivity.
It’s hard to remember all of this, especially with the whimsy and fun that is inherent in papier mâché and our failure to recognize objects made from it. It’s light weight, often painted and shows up in crafts and on theater stages all the time. To see some great art and a video of the process, take a look at the work of Mélanie Bourlon, which you can see in this great post from all things paper. Awesome detail and clever. Experimentation will probably be required to find the best substitute for wheatpaste, depending on what you are making. This can be a point of pride for an artist, sort of like the painters of the past who mixed their own colors before color became more standardized. It becomes part of your brand. An advantage to making your own recipe is that you don’t have to worry about accidental contamination during production or wheat derivatives disguised under different names. Awareness is key to staying calm and in control. Next time: Gluten Sensitivity, Sculptors and Construction Workers