Good Fortune

cat.

Good Fortune.  This piece began as a painting of a nautilus.  I lived with it for awhile and then, I changed it into something else.  A cat of good fortune.  I remember the figurines of Chinese porcelain cats from my own childhood.  Perhaps I’d seen them in magazines or in my Irish/German grandmother’s house in Bernal Heights in San Francisco.  Maybe I had seen them in the little trinket shops in Chinatown.  Regardless, I could use a stroke of good luck.  So I painted this cat to symbolize good fortune.

We do that, don’t we, imbue an object d’ art with symbolism.  I recently realized my tendency towards mixed media.  While I paint mostly with acrylics, I like dimension, texture and sometimes a 3D effect.  As if the subject is coming off the canvas a bit and announcing its presence.  I have some of my mother’s costume jewelry…two pieces were perfect for the eyes.

Lucky times.  Luck of the draw.
Reminding me of this Taoist story of the father and son…

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.

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Do we make our own Good Fortune, I wonder?  Is it unrealistic to consider that we are going to always experience only good fortune?  Is every event and circumstance intended for our growth?  Is any experience, whether perceived as good or bad, only for our evolution?  “Maybe?”

A Mythic Meaning

She Rises1

This painting (not finished  yet) was all about exploration.  I used a liquid masking fluid, played with creating a pool of water.  A Goddess (with uneven eyes) rising from the depths.  Symbolism.  A waterfall cave behind her face.  Her hair, a trellis for a climbing vine.  A butterfly above her eyebrow.  What’s it all mean?

One of these days, when I’m called to, I’ll return to it.  To see where it wants to go next.  For now, it sits behind my sofa in a suspended state.

It seems that artists have a lot of unfinished paintings.  I’m not the only one.  We reach a point of impasse with a piece.  I’m not sure why.  The question “Where do I go from here?” hovers in an air of suspense.  Because we just don’t know.

Being comfortable with the unknown is actually a great quality to have.  The other day, I was not happy with the state of affairs in the world.  Whether the virus or politics or human behavior, geez.  I walked down a road I don’t normally walk down.  Out of nowhere, my cellphone in my fanny pack began playing a song from the film, Frozen.  I don’t know how that song got on my phone!!  The words “I’m afraid of what I’m risking if I follow you into the unknown…” played loud and clear.  These words reflected what I was feeling about leaning into the uncertainty of life in these challenging times in which we are living.

Then, I rounded a curve in the road and someone had written graffiti on a metal gate…
it read “Normalcy is a paved road.  It’s comfortable to walk but no flowers grow on it.”

These two timely messages from the universe shifted my feelings from uncertainty and fear to a sense that I was being (we are being) looked after in ways that we can’t imagine.  That there is something beyond what we can see that is working with us.  And that it wants us to be aware of its presence, its offer to assist us.
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Idina Menzel singing “Into the Unknown” at the Academy Awards.

 

What if…

What if I’d been born a woman in a time and place where women weren’t allowed to read and write–illiterate.  It wasn’t that long ago, especially in the context of the whole of human literacy, that women were “granted the right” to get an education.  If you are interested, you can google the timeline of women’s education across the globe.  That it be debatable whether or not a woman should be allowed to get an education is mind-boggling for those of us who, in many ways, take education for women for granted.

I wonder if parts of myself would be permanently closed off, untapped because I couldn’t make this scratching on paper with a pen?  When I look back and recall how, at 27-years old, I started to write to save my life, I honestly couldn’t have had a better means to express what was going on inside of me and outside of me.  Or so it seemed.  Self-expression takes many forms.  I know that I’d have found another way.  However, writing has been so accessible, cathartic and freeing.  It has worked well for me in addition to other creative ventures.

Here’s another way to look at women and the advent of the alphabet.  According to author, Leonard Shlain in his book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, the alphabet has usurped women’s innate powers.  It has thrust women from an intuitive universe of imagery and symbolism into the masculine logic thereby making these feminine attributes less accessible, diminished and even superstitious.   Within myself, I can feel a deep desire and an inner-directed course towards reclaiming and re-valuing these women’s ways of knowing.  I make art and write poetry to foster the intuitive side of me.

In China, women developed their own secret language, NuShu, to communicate with one another across the miles.  Daughters sold off into marriage were taken distances away from their mothers and sisters.  They were strangers in their new village and sometimes not welcomed.  Many of them would never see their families of origin again.  They wrote their secret language on the folds of fans that were delivered to and from their families.

“The script [NuShu] was often used in embroidery, calligraphy and handicrafts created by women.  It is found written on paper (including letters, written poetry and on objects such as fans) and embroidered on fabric (including on quilts, aprons, scarves, handkerchiefs). Objects were often buried with women or were burned.”
by Jone Johnson Lewis
from NuShu, a Woman-Only Language of China

Stamping out women’s illiteracy across the globe isn’t complete.  Belinda Jack’s well-researched essay, The Right to Read:  Belinda Jack on the History of Women’s Literacy, concludes:

“For many women readers today it’s easy to think that the history of women’s reading as a distinct story has come to an end. But in some parts of the world women continue to risk their lives reading material which those in authority have forbidden.”

I’m grateful that I can read and write.  That said, the re-valuing of a woman’s deeper intuitive ways of being, seeing and knowing is likely the antidote to a world that is steeped in a masculine logic gone awry.

What do you think?

 

 

New Words and a New Year

The year 2018 is upon us.  WOW!  We each ascribe our own symbolism to crossing the threshold of a new year.  Don’t we?  By framing your intentions or resolutions with words of your choice, do you empower them?  Are these words the boat that glides you over the waters of the year to come?  Or do they create the storms ahead?  I wonder.

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One way to freshen your writing is to choose “new words”.  Several years ago, I attended a creative writing workshop presented by a visiting poet–Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge.  She had a bowl of “word tickets.”  I grabbed a handful of words written on tickets.  We were each given a pocket dictionary in case we didn’t have a meaning for the words.  I looked up the obscure words and found a few other appealing words which I wrote down in the process.  I had my own little “word pool” puddling up on the floor beside me.

The mind is an organizing tool.  It took up the challenge inspired by this word pool.  How do I make something  sensible, harmonious and yet personal from this pool of words? Had I not been invited to do this exercise, this poem would not have been written.

Come Closer Star
© by Christine O’Brien

I come from a long line of bakers
desserts like late afternoon light in a box,
on a plate, on the dingy table beside the
compact refrigerator storing our leftover takeout;
hummng a white noise which lulled us into
night reveries.
I remember the poster of the Arnos, its
curling corners like dreams of travel
eaten by fast flame.
I try to forget your green eyes,
the unripe berries that they were–
unborn cities, gravel torture
and unbidden truth.
The swirling Rings of Saturn
on the ceiling;
pinnacles of Oberhausen steel
and the metallic
taste on your tongue.
I remember that Friday,
the marching band on the street below
the droopy violets on
the window ledge.
“Come closer Star,” you say.
I used to be your prayer
in ordinary time.
You pluck one red poppy
stash it behind my left ear.
The cat scampers
over the cobbles below
and what used to suffice is
empty.

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Writing Prompt:
If you could choose your words for the upcoming year, what might they be?  Over the course of the day, notice the words that have appeal for you as heard in  conversations, the radio, television, walking down the street, etc.  Write them down. Go on a dictionary excursion to bring in some fresh, new words.  Write them down.  Design a poem integrating both your initial words and the new  words.

Have a blessed, happy new year.

deer1
Farewell to the old…welcome in the new.