For the Unknown Feral

Passing grey feathers flattened in the road, I thought I would re-post the following, in honor:

Dance Upon a Chimney Pot

    Sitting in the coffee shop window this morning, thinking and planning and worrying, and drawing on a napkin, I looked out and saw against sky two pigeons silhouetted on a chimney pot.  It is a bright, frozen day, with only a distant chill whisper of spring, but one pigeon was doing his bowing dance to the other, circling and bobbing, rounding his chest, no doubt cooing his burred song.  He made me smile, and watch, and forget my thoughts.
    Soon, his lady flew away.  The pigeon paused in his dance.  I thought he would stop, or fly away, too. But after a moment of looking this way and that with his tiny head, he began his dance alone against the clear blue, turning in a pattern which, however instinctual, was a very song of delight, of joy in being, of love without care of return.
    No cramping fear of the morrow, though one pecks a meager living on a sidewalk, no shadow of foiled desire, no shame in the perception of others, indeed in a small gray bird a pure call to cast one's very soul upon the waters.

A Small Observation

I’ve been researching images of Ibex and other horned creatures for an upcoming project (I will tell of it soon, soon...). I found many and many photos of these creatures being propped up by grinning hunters for a post-kill snapshot.

One thing comes to mind: what beautiful, beautiful animals, what ugly little men.

I’m processing more images of Baba Yaga, to add soon, soon. Baba knows what to do with wee men who kill for fun and ego only.
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A horrid dream image...

    More pictures anon, kind and patient Visitors! 

    For the moment, just a note on an unsettling dream -- I do love dreams in their deep strangeness, however unpleasant...
    I slept last night after brooding over various and irreparable blunders, and dreamt that I was arriving late and in the night at a hotel room in some distant city. It  was a dim and ordinary room. As I approached the bed, I saw its covers were mussed, though it appeared empty.  Then  I perceived a dreadful thing protruding from under the blanket: it was a strange naked foot on a bone-thin leg, human-seeming yet somehow wrong. It took a moment of loathsome staring to see that in place of toes, the foot possessed human fingers, long and curled, and somewhere, I think, a thumb.
    There was no place for the rest of a body in those deflated bed clothes.  

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Dance Upon a Chimney Pot

    Sitting in the coffee shop window this morning, thinking and planning and worrying, and drawing on a napkin, I looked out and saw against sky two pigeons silhouetted on a chimney pot.  It is a bright, frozen day, with only a distant chill whisper of spring, but one pigeon was doing his bowing dance to the other, circling and bobbing, rounding his chest, no doubt cooing his burred song.  He made me smile, and watch, and forget my thoughts.
    Soon, his lady flew away.  The pigeon paused in his dance.  I thought he would stop, or fly away, too. But after a moment of looking this way and that with his tiny head, he began his dance alone against the clear blue, turning in a pattern which, however instinctual, was a very song of delight, of joy in being, of love without care of return.
    No cramping fear of the morrow, though one pecks a meager living on a sidewalk, no shadow of foiled desire, no shame in the perception of others, indeed in a small gray bird a pure call to cast one's very soul upon the waters.

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An Animated Animal Dream

    When a child, I had extremely vivid and usually rather frightening dreams. I suspect many of you have had likewise (and I would love to hear them). It seems to come with the creative realm, somehow. I wrote some of mine down; others have remained impressed upon me with no external help.
    The first two most striking dreams I recall came to me when I was very young indeed, I would guess four or five years old. 
    The  very first was quite charming: I dreamt that I was swallowed by an animated Dragon -- I mean a dragon drawn and painted like an early Disney film. It was an Asian looking Dragon. Inside the Dragon I found all sorts of other living animals, including an enormous rooster, all appearing as in an animated movie. Very colorful. We all wanted a way out of the Dragon’s belly, and at the end of the dream, I was inside the Dragon’s mouth, looking at the inside of its neatly drawn, tightly closed teeth, and wondering how we would escape.
    At that point, the great mouth opened, and I saw, behind and below the Dragon’s Disney fangs, my mother reaching up from the bed and holding the creature’s mouth open with one hand.  My mother and the bed were photographic, ‘real-life’ images, while the Dragon’s teeth were still drawn and painted, forming a frame around my ‘real’ mother. Really pretty wonderful. I’d like to have more dreams like that, but as far as can recollect, I never have.

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A Curious New Dream about an Old Dark Dream

    The second dream I remember from that earliest time was far darker; perhaps for all its simplicity it could be called nightmare. This one reappeared, within a new dream, a night ago.
    In the original vision, I was a child underground in a long, very long tunnel. It was of damp stone, ancient, low and rectangular, stretching away into darkness behind and before. There was no visible source of light; it was a blackness in which I could yet see.  Far, far ahead of me, and drawing steadily away, was a tall black figure, whom I knew to be my mother. She was remote, and vanishing, and did not know that I was there. 
    I do not now remember whether I stood and watched her dwindle, knowing there was no hope, or whether I moved forward. But soon I heard a slow and regular drip, drip.  I saw to my right and ahead a bucket by the wall of the tunnel. Above the bucket, hanging from a hook by its white, white hair, was a paper-white and severed head, dripping, drop by drop its wine red blood, the only color present in that black-gray realm. It was a solemn and strangely meditative head, oval, almost stylized, rather like the head of a Buddha. Detached, you might say, in more ways than one.
    Nonetheless it woke me.
    This has always been to me The Dream of the White Head. It was one of those which impress beyond the telling, by an atmosphere not conveyable. It has come back to mind, for obvious reasons, since my mother’s death last year.
    A night ago, I dreamt that someone showed me a drawing, in black ink. At first it made little sense. Turning the paper, I saw that it was of a tunnel. Looking longer, holding it up, it shifted in a vertiginous moment like an M. C. Escher image, gaining real, sinking perspective of a sudden, and I saw it resembled The Tunnel, where the White Head hangs. At once upon this thought I also perceived the Head, with its bucket, a tiny scribble in black, but most definitely there.
    Whereupon, I woke again.

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Me and Baba Yaga

Birdie and I will probably spend our first night in 'our' house this evening. I suspect Baba Yaga dwells there too. It is a very small house -- you could almost call it a Hut if it were made more of sticks and bones and less of lumber and paint.  Most strikingly, it hides low amidst trees grown amok. Though it's right in town on a civilized little street, it does lie in the lap of the foothills, and my mother created not a yard but a miniature wildwood. The trees call over rooftops to their wild mountain cousins, and bears come looking for tidbits. There are mad-grown junipers whose cragged shaggy arms stretch for wee plump children passing on the sidewalk. These witch-trees were summoned some forty years ago by my Granny, herself a close associate of all famous folktale Crones. My mother and I together planted some now towering pines and well grown spruce, blue and dark. Tiny blue-purple wildflowers linger. Lichenous stones lure one to sit and wait in green shadow for...

Altogether, perhaps a better place to make magic than I had credited when last I lived here -- ghosts of dread and mundane things (like high school) obscured my vision.

We shall see.

    
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To do the deed at hand.

“To cast aside regret and fear. To do the deed at hand.”
                            ~ J. R. R. Tolkien, The Two Towers, Gandalf 

    Regret and fear: these two I have wrestled with throughout this last year. One’s world being shaken sufficiently, basilisks rise from the crevasse of memory to fix the mind in a glare of paralyzing hindsight. Up rear blunders of omission, blind unkindnesses, losses through ignorance. A terrible falling short. It is one’s own errors that are hardest to forgive, in the end, and hindsight produces the most weary breed of sorrow, surely.
    What then of doing the deed at hand? I think that therein lies one of the uses of humility, if I understand that virtue at all: to relinquish the desire, or the torment of the failed desire, to have done and been right, in the interest of doing right now and in future. Or as much ‘right’ as one is capable of perceiving. Releasing the tendrils of regret to follow, as best one may, the thread of fresh insight.

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Friday, October 26, 2007 at 07:46 PM

Many and many thanks for your Comments here, bright Visitors: you buoy the spirit and bring tidbits as intriguing as anything I post...

These days my mind acts like a skipping stone, plashing skittish over things, or sinking murky to the bottom. But I treasure the great trove of kind words come to me by comment and by e-mail, and ultimately, unless I keel over first, they will be answered with care.

Thank you for coming!

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Edith Wharton's Dream

A dream (with which I suspect many of us could identify at one time or another) reported by novelist Edith Wharton, 1913:

“A pale demon with black hair came in, followed by four gnome-like creatures carrying a great black trunk. They set it down and opened it, and the Demon, crying out: ‘Here’s your year - here are all the horrors that have happened to you and that are still going to happen’ dragged out a succession of limp black squirming things and threw them on the floor before me. They were not rags or creatures, not living or dead - they were Black Horrors, shapeless, and that seemed to writhe about as they fell at my feet, and yet were as inanimate as bits of stuff. But none of these comparisons occurred to me, for I knew what they were: the hideous, the incredible things that had happened to me in this dreadful year, or were to happen to me before its close; and I stared, horror-struck, as the Demon dragged them out, one by one, more and more, till finally, flinging down a blacker, hatefuller one, he said laughing: ‘There - that’s the last of them!’
     The gnomes laughed too; but I, as I stared at the great black pile and the empty trunk, said to the Demon:  ‘Are you sure it hasn’t a false bottom?’

    ~ Edith Wharton, October 1913, from Edith Wharton, by R.W.B. Lewis, 1975

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Never Take Your Bird to the Vatican

I have a bird, Little Ahab, a slightly disabled dove, and my darling. He gazes upon me even now, with one dear beady eye, from a favorite roost atop an eight foot triptych. This bird trusts me (most of the time). Like most domestic birds, he would meet a tragic end, swift or slow, were he to escape outdoors. I have nightmares about him lost, hobbling the gutters, the dim image of his seed, pellet, salad, and treat dishes fading in his tiny, starving brain...

In a recent dream, I found myself inexplicably wandering St. Peter’s Basilica, clutching my squirming birdie in my hands. St. Peter’s: that’s one big place.  I was last there with some hundred and eighty Sisters of Christian Charity, for the Beatification of Mother Pauline Von Mallinckrodt (whose portrait I had done). You can lose 180 nuns in St. Peter's, and their substantial relatives too, never mind one tiny bird.

Throughout the dream I traipsed that vast and intricate marble edifice, Little Ahab wriggling ever more energetically. I realized his escape in St. Peter’s would be as bad or worse than escape in Rhode Island. They’re almost the same size. I’d have to remain in St. Peter’s permanently, for the rest of my life, leaving food for my bird.  Doves have been known to live near 30 years. If fed properly.

Would the great rotunda be the place to sprinkle his dinner? Would he see me, and come? Or would he starve, and, unbeknownst to me, drop behind the great Bernini altarpiece, leaving me to scatter futile Mazuri Small Bird Maintenance Diet near the Pieta until my own demise, years hence...

Like I said, never take your bird to the Vatican.

Below, a detail from my portrait of Mother Pauline, which was full figure and somewhat larger than life. I worked from one photograph; the only one taken of her before her death in 1881.  She had a wonderful face, and a kind heart:

This painting was sent to Milan, as a pattern for a mosaic. There, sadly, it was stolen by a disgruntled liturgical arts company employee, and never seen again.  I also did a large sculpture of Mother Pauline with a child, in plasticine (which weighed near 400 lbs. -- see Liturgical Work gallery). Traveling to Rome and Germany with sisters from the order Mother Pauline founded was wholly fascinating...
But, anon.

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