inspired by the art garden

Last night I was able to attend a glorious event called Paradise [not yet] Lost at The Art Garden, a community arts space in Shelburne Falls, MA. The invitation to the event read: “You are invited to participate in Paradise [not yet] Lost, a community exhibit about environmental issues, climate change, and the places we love and want to take care of.”

The exhibit included stunning works of visual work including paintings, collages, ceramic work, and mixed-media pieces. At 7pm performances began, and these included storytelling, recitations of poetry, musical sing-a-long, and an incredible interactive piece involved levitating ping-pong balls (with the use of hair-driers and many helping hands) that each said positive qualities such as “balance”, “intention,” and “love.”

I was inspired beyond belief, and the feeling still lingers twenty-four hours later. All the visual and performance work touched on the beauty of the natural world, the activism people are doing to care for the world, the love and belonging people feel to the places they live, and the investment in building community around these issues.

Everyone was invited to write an intention for engaging with nature and in a creative, social, and preserving way. We wrote our intentions on leaves and taped the leaves onto a card-board tree that was built in a corner of the room.

IMG_4152

Especially amidst the isolation, loneliness, and quiet of winter, I could not have asked for a more wonderful way to spend an evening with humans, feeling grateful for humans and for the beautiful world we live in, despite the challenges we face. So much gratitude to Jane Beatrice Wegscheider, artist director of The Art Garden, the many staff there, and all the artists who participated last night. My creative juices are flowing. My appreciation for nature has been rekindled. Thank you!

mary oliver live-tweets and why i need poetry

I have been down. I  have been in a funk. I have not wanted to write new material for my blog in the last week. But I have also not wanted to stop my regular postings. I decided I would dig back into my files and find some older writing to share. The majority of my writing is written in prose. Sometimes poetic, sometimes more in essay form, but generally prose. However, I found myself automatically going to the “poetry” file on my computer and finding a couple of poems to share on my blog.

Why poetry? Why did I turn to poetry when I wasn’t feeling my best but I still wanted to engage with my writing and invite others to do the same? Because it is shorter than a long-form piece that nobody has time to get to the end of anyways? Perhaps. But I think there is something that draws us to poetry when our souls are hungering.

Recently Krista Tippett of the On Being Radio Podcast interviewed renowned poet Mary Oliver in Florida. The interview was live-tweeted by an On Being staff member, and some of Mary Oliver’s quotes resonated deeply with why I felt drawn to my poetic work when I wanted to share something but felt my reservoir for new material was running a bit dry. Here are some of my favorite quotes that were tweeted:

“I got saved by poetry and I got saved by the beauty of the world.”

“I believe poetry is convivial. It’s very old, it’s very sacred, a community ritual. When you write a poem it’s for everybody.”

“I have no answers, I have some suggestions. I know a life is more interesting with a spiritual part to it. So I cling to it.”

“People are more apt to remember a poem and feel they own it. They speak it to themselves and it becomes like a prayer.”

When I am down or lost or low I crave the sacred. I crave ritual. I crave the natural world. I crave prayer. I crave community. Many times I don’t have those things set up in place for me. But in composing my blog in the last week, I turned to poetry, and now Mary Oliver has helped me to see why. One final quote from the interview: “Poetry is a pretty lonely pursuit. I used to say that it was talking to myself.” Maybe when I feel lonely I look to poetry. Writing in general can be lonely, so when we seek out other writers in the form of their work, we create a mini-community to guide us along. I like the thought of being part of Mary Oliver’s poetic community. I like that thought very much.

P.S. I encourage you to explore a wonderful interview between Krista Tippett and poet Dr. Elizabeth Alexander discussing why humanity craves poetry, especially during hard times.

solstice, new moon, and a blessing for the chickens

This morning I woke up and was soon told about the death of one and the serious injury of two chickens at a dairy farm I spend a great deal of time at. An animal had gotten into the henhouse during the night. A second chicken, of the three attacked, passed within a few hours. As far as I know, the third chicken is still hanging on, but in critical condition.

I saw them this morning, lying on the ground outside the henhouse, two farm-dogs barking at the chickens, motionless on the frozen earth.

I had to drive away, to a meeting about art and writing. I was engrossed in the conversation about inspiring possibilities for collaboration and creation and skill-building. I couldn’t stop thinking about the chickens. About how often I eat chicken and don’t think about the chickens that were killed in order for me to eat them. About the chickens lying lifeless, and about all the chickens still alive and well in the henhouse–how vulnerable and helpless all the chickens still alive they are. I thought about animal vulnerability and human vulnerability. And I also thought about creation: the creation of art, the creation of meaning through words. I myself felt helpless. Nothing I could do for the chickens or for the dear one who had to grapple with their death. But somehow it felt like all I could do to be inspired and pulled to creating beauty and meaning through art. Because such is the cycle of life and death, birth and rebirth. Transforming tragedy into something new. Otherwise, it gets stuck, does it not?

We are at a powerful moment in the calendar: “It’s the great turning point of the year; you can feel it in your bones.  Here in the Northern Hemisphere we come to the extreme of stand still where the Sun now pauses and touching the darkest still point, begins the ascent into light.  Those fortunate ones in the Southern Hemisphere are basking in the fullness of light as the Sun reaches maximum flooding them with vitality and energy.  Solstice, a power point of the year, and this year, lordy, lordy, we are blessed with a New Moon just a couple of hours after Solstice when the Sun enters Capricorn and we astrologically begin the New Year.  Western astrology is Sun based.  Here’s what to do with that double do-wop combination:  Set your many faceted, detailed intentions from your heart for all that you want to create in your life in the next year.  Take some time with this.  It’s impactful and important.  Go deep into the darkness and Get Very Clear about what you want to get rid of in your life, write it down and burn or bury it. You have been gifted with a huge reset as we enter the realm of Capricorn.” –Patricia Liles from The Power Path website

So many intentions for my heart. So much I am ready to let go of. So much I hope to manifest. Patricia writes above “a huge reset,” not “a complete reset” and I am thinking maybe it is never possible to completely reset. I can’t entirely shake off the feeling of seeing those chickens. I can’t completely release the traumas and challenges of recent times. But I can work in each moment to release as much as possible, and what is left, I can attempt to transform into something beautiful. Blessings to the chickens. Sadness for the chickens. Intention towards exuding the positive energy necessary to transform.

the call to spiritual creativity

A traumatic violent devastating experience has reinvented me. I am not sure who I will be. Who I am. Which parts of who I was have remained, and which parts are gone. Which parts I must grieve, and which needed to go all along. This might be a lifetime project rebirth.

After over six years of devoting my whole self to radical anti-racist activism, it is a terrifying thing to know I can’t spend every waking moment doing that work. That my health and my core guide are telling me I need to do the work in a new and different form. The concrete shape has yet to manifest, but spirituality and artistic creativity are at the center of the new form of my work.

“What we are talking about is an induced–or invited–spiritual experience. I refer to this process as spiritual chiropractic. We undertake certain spiritual exercises to achieve alignment with the creative energy of the universe. If you think of the universe as a vast electrical sea in which you are immersed and from which you are formed, opening to your creativity changes you from something bobbing in that sea to a more fully functioning, more conscious, more cooperative part of that ecosystem.” – The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron

i guess i am starting a blog?

Hi there. My name is Lena. I have resisted the push to start blogging for quite a while. I have felt too deep a chasm between the writing I publish and the personal writing I keep safe in my journal. However, that gap has becoming increasingly narrow, as I begin to publish very personal work and I find I am writing about ideas in my journal that need to be heard by more than just the other voices in my mind.

Who am I? I am a white, upper-middle-class, queer, spiritual, jewish, radical, anti-racist, survivor, writer, artist, nature-loving woman. Can you tell I struggle with how to identify? And yet I owe you, my dear reader, at least a decent attempt, to begin to earn your trust. So maybe you will read my words every now and then. Maybe they will resonate on some level, surface or deep down. Maybe.

“You, too, are a foreign correspondent in your own right. So how (and whether) you now proceed is, of course, up to you. That’s the thing about cocreation. To exist, it requires the presence of more than one point of view.” –Discontent and Its Civilizations by Mohsin Hamid