So excited to finally be mostly moved into my new Fortress of Solitude. This moving thing is not exactly sanity-inducing. At least I have a place to hide now.
Note: I have set up a private Facebook Group for people participating in the daily prompts to share their work and receive constructive feedback in a safe space. Please click HERE if you would like to take part.
Good morning. We’re traveling the timelines today for a visit with Saturnino Herrán.
A Mexican painter and muralist from the late 19th and early 20th century, he is among those of the indigenismo movement who worked to celebrate Latino culture as the precursor to the revolutionary spirit of mid-century Mexican art, including having taught greats such as Diego Rivera.
The piece I share with you today, La Ofrenda, hangs in Museo Nacional de Arte INBA in Mexico City.
Painted in 1913, it exemplifies Mexican modernism with its allegorical allusion to life’s journey. A punt boat in a canal is filled with zempasúchitl flowers (a marigold that is traditionally associated with death) meant as offerings for the dead. This is a reference to ofrenda, a tradition deeply connected to Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos. Each character is represents a different stage of life.
Please take a moment to admire this incredible work by clicking through: http://munal.emuseum.com/objects/341/la-ofrenda?ctx=10fce3f5-35ee-46c6-8921-9a42d7ff90fb&idx=16
Of course, your interpretation doesn’t need to follow Herrán’s intention.
Instructions: Allow the mood and colours of the painting to influence your writing today. What is the story of those in the boat? Is there one character through which you can convey all of that rich emotion? Do they ponder? Or is this a quiet moment before the business of the city? Let whatever comes flow from your emotional reaction to the painting and write that. Don’t edit.
Enjoy your trip to 1913 Mexico.
Hello, fellow time travellers!
Are you longing for a bit of a solitary creative refuge in the middle of this quarantine?
Many of us continue to remain holed up in our homes across the globe. These many weeks of solitude (or sharing space without any breaks) leave us struggling with our sense of peace each day.
One of the ways I work with my writing groups to help ease anxieties and create space right now is through flash fiction using famous artworks as inspo.
My obsession with beauty, passion for museums, and love of storytelling led me to it, and students have adored the combo.
So, in celebration of art, support of museums, and an offering of solitary creative space, I’ll be posting a visual writing prompt each day along with light instructions to help guide you in this sweet process.
To kick things off, let’s go with Thomas Cole’s The Journey of Life: Youth. I love this painting for its ethereal quality and room to create your own interpretation. It hangs in the American National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Be sure to take some time and linger on this beautiful painting in high definition and with a bit of historical context at: https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.52451.html
Instructions: Pick a character from the painting (or make one up) and lead them on a journey through it.
Things to consider: What do they discover? Who do they meet? Is there a conflict that makes this adventure a bit more exciting? Do they find what they thought they would?
Have fun writing! No pressure! No masterpieces needed! Just dream on paper. xo
Day 7: The first of many big blows.
I woke up this morning to find that my beloved yoga studio, Semperviva Yoga, has closed its doors permanently as a result of the financial devastation brought on by the coronavirus.
This is a crush to my psyche, as no place in my daily life provided me more relief and more growth as an individual on a spiritual journey. It was my temple, my community. On the mat, I dealt with a crippling major depression, recovered (it actually saved my life) from a devastating work situation and guided me on the path to founding my own writing academy. It was there where I met and cultivated some of the most important relationships in my life. And it is now gone.
What do I do?
I’m sobbing. I’m panicked. I’m rushing to reach out to the lovely women who are an intimate part of my circle, light bringers, spiritual guides who give all they have to bring us together on the mat. How do I recreate that community? How do I find my space? How do I do this on my own? How do I support them, make sure they can pay rent, feed their families?
I am stricken with devastation, immobilized, petrified that the landslide of loss has hit in real time.
When I was a child, I had a recurring dream of me as a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl who stood in the mirror. There, I lingered, fascinated by the single sparkling diamond of light that hung on a delicate chain around my neck.
For a moment, all was peaceful.
Then, from nowhere, a brown mass would flood in from the darkness and engulf me, smothering me until all of the light vanished and I could no longer speak.
I was silenced by a force beyond my control and left at the very edge of death, gasping for life but never fully dying.
I had it for years and years and only after my time on the mat did I begin to understand that it is the dream that represents my greatest fear, that I might end up voiceless and left to die without anyone knowing.
It was, in fact, my childhood fear of abandonment and inability to provide for my own security while the people around me struggled to provide there own.
I know it as my metaphorical landslide of loss and that little girl has risen up in me this morning, screaming to save her from the unknown.
I want to banish her, to get her the hell away from me because I can barely actually breathe right now, but I cannot. Her voice is my own. If I silence her, I deny myself.
I hear the voices from Beyond calling me to action right now, right here, to bolster a space that brings us the breath of life, to lift the voices growing quiet as the losses of the world flood in and overtake us.
If our temples, our churches, our synagogues were forced to close, we’d move to preserve them. Now is the time to fling the doors open and in the midst of loss let the light flood in, let the voices rise up.
For me, right now, it is about honouring that terrified little girl inside who cannot breathe, who believes herself to be at the edge of death with no hope.
In this moment, I am taking her hand and saying to her, “I see you, sweet girl. I feel all that you feel. I honour all that you fear. Now, as crone and babe, we walk together into this absolutely uncharted place in our lives. I cannot promise we will be safe from others. I cannot promise we will not face so much more in the wake of the world we once knew dropping away, calcifying, and re-emerging anew. However, I can promise you, sweet girl, that you are nowhere near death and the malignant mass threatening you from the darkness has no power over either of us. Baby girl, you are loved and never ever alone. Take my hand and let’s walk into this frontier as warriors together.”
(this spectacular piece of art is by Eva Campbell at https://evitaworks.com/)