Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Pba-Quen-nee-e and I have been visiting our friend Carol in Cottonwood Arizona and simultaneously reconnecting with David Eastoe and his partner Helen Guild from the U.K. It was a nice dip into summer weather for a few days while it was snowing and blowing in Taos. It’s all beautiful Medicine for us and hopefully for them as well. Dave and his partner practice a unique form of healing/balancing work with plant essences. Dave once helped me through a difficult time while I was visiting in England so I have firsthand experience with the effectiveness of the method. This reminds me that Medicine comes in many forms and since I’ve been doing this blog I’m becoming more and more aware that Medicine is as much an approach to different aspects of life as it is a way of fixing something wrong on the mental, emotional or physical planes. It is as much a creative power as a healing power. I started this blog entry a week ago and in the time since have become even more aware of the constancy of creation.


What is art? It is so uniquely and universally human, that it must be fundamental to our also uniquely human role as co-creators of the realm of reality that we share with other Earthlings. Science compares degrees of animal intelligence by tool use and until recently thought we humans were are the only species that used tools. Yet I think art and religion are the real species defining accomplishment.
Altamira, 30,000 Years in the Past
Like religion, art adheres to all cultures and times even though its style of expression varies greatly. There is both representational and symbolic art carved on stones by prehistoric peoples and art in every historical time, and there are geometric and floral patterns painted and sculpted on walls, pots, houses and clothing in every culture. There is music, dance and storytelling from all times among all peoples. Art intimately allies with religion in every human culture except perhaps the universal modern pseudo-culture that in attempting to transcend its parochial tribal origins has lost most of its luminous power, i.e., Magic. Many indigenous cultures have no words for art or religion because they are not categories separated from each other or the rest of life, but the very essence of life.

Art fuses cosmic tension, balance and proportion connecting us to the mysterious sources of creation as they dance with time and form. Beauty seems always delicately tuned on the edge of dissonance. Long before anyone knew of fractal geometry or even the Pythagorean music of the spheres, music, dance and visual arts expressed an instinctive awareness of the essence, power and fragility of creation. Only in our modern world, have we divided and sealed into separate containers the disciplines of art, science and religion. I’m tempted to say that Art and religion are inseparable in their origins. It’s as if art is always reaching beyond the physical dimension for a sense of kinship with the author looming behind the stage on which we play.

Egyptian Lute Players
Art holds our spiritual umbilical cord reminding us of our dimensional place of entry into this earthly reality. As I let these thoughts flow through that undefined dimension of mind that links personal to transpersonal, I can see that it is not so much that there is a spiritual aspect to art but rather an artistic basis to spirituality. Art is an engine for bridging the liminal with the tangible world. It is a dimensional step beyond language. Originally, there was only sacred art filled with the power to transport us from a threshold reality to the very matrix of our existence. As we have become spiritually dulled art has lost most of its magic, and thus much of its unique function as the conduit between realities. Yet, I believe we are attracted to art to the degree that it fulfills this magical function.

Contemporary Indigenous Art especially occupies a paradoxical place in the uni-cultural contemporary art scene. It attracts precisely because of its inspirational source and yet it is now esthetically and technically sophisticated and worldly. It borrows media and style from contemporary resources and is judged and marketed by contemporary secular standards, and someone alien to its cultural origins in all probability will purchase it. Native artists cannot live in the modern world without creating saleable art. Yet, this is a survival adaptation that inevitably changes the very essence of art. I think it’s safe to say that the people who painted now extinct wild animals on the cave walls at Lascaux were not expecting to market these images. In all likelihood the reasons for these beautiful images was for the purpose of making powerful medicine. They were all about connecting to the spirits of these animals for the purpose of hunting them or perhaps for acquiring their unique powers, probably both. At that time, one’s food source was not an impersonal object from a factory feedlot to which one had no emotional or spiritual connection. Convenience has come at the cost of vital integration with all that holds this world in relation with us. Magic, i.e., “Medicine” in the indigenous sense, is a connection to existence as it originates and as it continues, and art forever births it into this mortal
Native American Petroglyphs
dimension. As we lose personal relationship with all that supports our existence, we lose vital connection with our essence as beings. We lose not just our identity but also the very source of our identity. Art is the language we use to talk to God. Even if one is an atheist the function is still intact and while the forms of religion may seem outdated, destructive and naive, still this need to walk the path between unseen forces of creation and our temporal existence remains hardwired into our very nature.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Last week PQ and I had a talk about our life expectations and hopes. These talks usually begin over the morning coffee. The reality of our age comes up now and then. Here we are after all those lost and scrambled years trying to understand what we should be doing with our remaining time on earth now that we are finally together. Of course, I don’t really believe in lost years. All experiences can be re-formatted and recycled. I often remind myself that suffering the results of confusion and wrong turns creates enough heat to turn lead into gold with the right attitude.

PQ's New Painting
"The Visionary"

It is the chosen stance that makes the difference between being broken to smithereens by life and the alchemical effect. Not that I don’t forget this every time I feel I’m on a path that starts out as a beautiful sunny walk through a lush landscape of flowers, butterflies and singing birds only to lead into heaps of formidable boulders beneath darkening storm clouds. Inevitably, the path disappears entirely and I realize I’m at yet another dead end and can’t recall which turn got me to into this situation. In retrospect, I often recognize this latest dead end was another tricky masquerade by the magical crucible. But, you see, that’s the way it is. If I recognized the trap, it wouldn’t be effective. Full participation is a crucial ingredient. Of course, it always makes me feel like a fool, when my sense of misdirection leads into an angry, pitiless canyon of bouncing boulders. Only at this magical moment is the key revealed; the prime matter of the alchemical formula.

The “Fool,” number zero of the Tarot, the place where everything begins. We all know fools who make the same mistake over and over, and just don’t get it. That’s not what this is about. Almost, but not quite. This is about well thought out, careful decisions made with good intentions. The only thing missing is the awareness that one can’t distinguish the landscape murals on the walls of one’s own house from the real world without a cosmic kick in the behind that sends one through the wall. A real Fool can’t help it. He/she is a child of the universe returning home. Moreover, each homecoming is like the first.

So where do we stand now? Three years ago, we moved to Cottonwood, Arizona ostensibly for PQ’s health but also because the place was calling us. It’s not that we don’t love Taos, New Mexico. It will always be the “Sipapu,” our Place of Emergence. Arizona is an extension of what we are together, although I can’t rationally explain it. The move to Arizona was wonderful but short. We had a place that was not his, or mine but ours. We loved our new friends and reconnecting with old friends, the expatriates from Taos, setting up our own home with bits of all our happy connections and hiking the red dust trails, doing a song and ceremony at the end of each hike and enjoying the magic of a new skin. Sadly, right off the bat our truck had a heart attack and required an expensive transplant, and the perfect plans to rent our Taos houses to cover costs in Arizona came apart due to unforeseen circumstances. We had a forced move back to Taos after nine months, quite a bit poorer than before the venture began. Even plans to bring our furniture back fell through and we had to sell and give away most of it. We haven’t given up. It’s still going to happen although we don’t know how. This time we don’t have the resources to do it on our own.
The Fool, or 0 card of the Tarot

We are now in our second winter back in Taos. Last summer I got my garden back to its former health; PQ has had more time with his kids and grandkids, and because of us: two of our friends from Sedona have discovered that they needed to be in New Mexico. We have become more involved in a film project on Mabel Dodge Luhan and PQ’s great grandfather Tony Luhan than would have been possible had we stayed in Arizona. I can’t find a decent place to paint here in Taos so I began writing instead. It turns out that I really needed to bring my thoughts into life and light after years of secluding thoughts between the dark covers of my journal. I still feel exposed and vulnerable but it’s as refreshing as skinny-dipping.

Last week PQ realized that now is the only time to awaken to his medicine heritage. Dad’s bag of medicine articles have been waiting quietly in his studio at the Rez house for several years: waiting for nothing in particular. PQ has long known the ritual significance of each item. After talking about it, we realized that stepping forward on one’s own seems full of challenges. What will his medicine be like; will he disappoint or challenge Dad? Since this discussion he has been rising every morning at 4:00 am, the time of day when the spirit world is nearest, to do medicine. Here is the realization that this is it! We are the older generation now and no one but our own spirit connection will authorize us. This time of life isn’t any laid back restful enjoyment of previous accomplishments for us. It’s another step off the cliff. We are just old fools.