Allies for the growth process tend to appear if you look for them and painting is one way to look.
Journal 4/25/95: I had a dream that I was walking with a group of people after a crash or a disaster of some sort. As we rested I began talking to a fat black woman who lay on her side with her head propped up. I also talked to a little girl missing a part of her leg and who was making her way on crutches. The conversation was about how each of us was helping on the journey. Even the weaker ones were helping by requiring us all to rest frequently. The curmudgeon had a role to play also since the picture was never quite as bad as he painted it.
I woke up feeling that the black woman was one of the allies I was supposed to paint – a reminder of the Mother Goddess I’ve been holding dear. I’ve often imagined myself curled up in her comforting black arms, nestled up to big boobs. Cradled safely by the wisdom of the ages, I can remember that my suffering is just a small piece of the whole fabric that she knows so well.
The Mother Goddess who reveals herself so regally on her stone throne first came to my consciousness from an article in Ms. Magazine. Alice Walker’s idea is that the Goddess came to the New World with the African slaves as Aunt Jemima and Mammy – her kerchief and apron a clever and appropriate disguise. Like the Virgin Mary (especially the Black Madonna), she survived by being submissive, but has been watching over us all along. I have a wooden figure of her that came into my hands early on at Cartm – an important sign to me in those beleaguered starting up days. Designed to hold recipes, in anyone’s kitchen she would be in danger of being a racist travesty. But to me she has always represented the survival skills of the Goddess. A little dusty from her days on my art altar, it always warms my heart to look at her.
As I painted the black Mother, I thought of Evelyn Lee – the powerful Afro-Amer-Indian woman who worked in our house as nurse to my great-grandmother and then as a babysitter for my siblings and I. Oh, the wisdom of Evelyn. She often talked to me about being black and the need to be loving and accepting of all people. A quiet angel if there ever was one and a guide to me still.
Then there is Kali Ma with her necklace of bones, spooky and challenging, yet with her fierce compassion shining out. I was somehow able to grok that about her immediately even in those very early days. She is the pruner, cutter of unnecessary things, the Tower card of the Tarot, the composter. I was remembering the feeling of her in my body acting her in a Fire Mountain School play about India that last spring of teaching elementary school (1995). I played her again in the Inanna Descent process a few years later though she is called Erishkagol in that story.
(Lane as Kali Ma, Fire Mountain School Play, Spring, 1995 (just before the Hero’s painting process began)