This is a very large piece (44”x 66” Acrylics on canvas) that showed me that painting with a pre-conceived image that big really isn't my forte. The subtleties that work in small scale show up awkwardly and I don't the patience to do them justice. But it works okay shrunken down. ;-) As the journal notes below indicate, it was done the summer following the first series of Hero's Journey and as I was leaving teaching at Fire Mountain School after 12 years there, some co-founding/co-teaching and 8 as full time teacher. It was quite a transition and one I very much needed. I was burned out on teaching and knew I needed to separate to begin to really explore the mystical world that was calling me. As I said in the Journal at the time, " I began to paint myself out of the picture."
This is the Wheel of the Year X in Lane's Greenwitch Tarot:
Traditionally the Wheel of Fortune is depicted like a roulette wheel representing the vagaries of Chance and Fate. But I resonate more with newer Tarot decks that show the larger cycles of which we are a part - the year’s seasons, astrological signs, the Procession of the Ages. In my ancestral Northern European traditions May Day aka Beltane is a cross-quarter point on the sacred pagan Wheel of the Year that also includes the Solstices and Equinoxes. Here the children and older generations of our tiny home-grown Fire Mountain School dance around the Maypole. This on-going springtime tradition and celebration in a clearing amid our temperate rainforest home is a spot of hope, faith and creation in the middle of the world’s chaos. Our future is not being left to chance. Consciously or not we are weaving visions of a new world with the ribbons of our past, in tune with the ever changing seasons and the Earth’s holy days, as well as the stars and the Universe – all the ways the wheels turn around and within us. The wise among us know this and have created space for the mutual learning and teaching about this process called Life. Here Red-Tailed Hawk flies above to help hold the vision of our weavings and an already-ancient Alder holds space for both fertility and impermanence.
What are the different colored strands you are weaving together in this life or from your past lives? We are not on our own in our journeys. Who are you doing this with, human, as well as plant, animal, and in spirit? How are you building sustainable community and tribe? How are you celebrating the seasons and cycles of your ecosystem? Where are you on our collective Souls’ Journey on this earth and beyond? Your Allies and Guides are present to assist you as you learn the patterns of the old dances and even help create new
A sweet footnote, January 2024:
When my step-grandson, Cove, was looking at the tarot card he said, "That's me!" finding himself in the painting just as the kids did 30 years ago. There are parents in the watching crowd in this photo who were my students back in "my" day, including my son Morgan. The founding mothers -now grannies - were also present.
Painting Journal 6/25/95:
My LARGE canvas is still very much in process. I conceived of it as my “Leaving” painting. I’ve worked on it in hour-long bits coming up for air from student report writing. It is set up in the garage propped on the step ladder. It was somewhat daunting at first to realize how much more paint and time a big canvas takes. The bounciness of the “drum” of the canvas is different too.
My idea is a maypole with circling figures. I have the pole and the ribbons in and the figures roughed in. My quick sketch indications of movement and figures are a bit more problematic at this scale. The bumptious ones are very lumpy - the sketchy ones very fanciful. One main figure in the front is still lacking a head - the original got painted out. She rather haunts me - especially as I’m not sure if she is [co-teacher] Barbara Temple Ayres or myself. I had the image in my head from the photos of the maypole, but when I looked at them, the figure bending over the child is not me but her. Symbolic confusion there. In the foreground are the backs of an audience, with an orange-clothed pony tail figure that is also me - as well as the watching “But is it useful?” demon from earlier paintings.
There is room for a swooping eagle or hawk in the upper right. I’d planned to go over to school before summer camp started to get the background trees right, but just didn’t have the energy. Haven’t touched it since school got out. Just feel mildly guilty as I drive the car past the garage since its place is taken by the painting. And I virtually used up the light green on the background for the dancers. It was very soothing during the report writing to spend an hour here and there painting “negative” space. It weighs on me a bit. Will I be able to draw the bird? Will the figures get less clunky? Should I have painted a larger one on the left, bring the circle around the pole virtually off the painting rather than circumscribed by the vertical space??
It’s a very different matter to live with a painting in process than sitting down with it - boom - getting it out of one’s system in 3 hours. And having no assignment adds a different wrinkle too - tho I’ve gone off on my own before.
To be continued
as the painting is. :-)
Painting Journal - Wednesday, 19 July, 1995
It took me two days to pull out of the mental slump and intense [menstrual] period. Hard to separate out heavy bleeding fear from recovery from the Tuesday class. By Friday I was up and about again and determined to at least take an honest crack at finishing the big painting. It’s difficult to remember now where I was, but this must have been when I put the hawk in. I have been very conscious all these 12 years of Fire Mountain of the uplifting sense of hawks as an omen for me. A couple of times I have been really lifted out of very low times by the sight on one wheeling over me. So I wanted one in the painting - also remembering the eagle that was sitting in the trees when Tom and I waited for the bulldozer when the first move onto the school’s land was starting. It swooped over our heads and out.
I collected some pictures of hawks - xeroxes of silhouettes in flight from a book of Andy’s and a tiny picture from the National Geographic bird guide. The latter proved most useful tho I decided to switch the bird from the right side to left so it would match. I worked hard on the bird and it was fun later to hear several people excited by it - feeling the power in it. I went for accuracy (at least what I could tell from the tiny drawing) but was feeling power, especially of those stretching ‘fingers” (wing ends). Oddly enough, several people at the show came up to me independently and said they thought the hawk was me - swooping in to check on things, lending spiritual strength.
Thursday, 20 July, 1995
I also added in the woods - the hillside south of the playing field at school - the big alder which is the old climbing tree. Big spruce branches behind the bird. The figures became more refined. Arms outstretched, then taken out again. One figure half off the canvas so the dance circle wouldn’t be quite so tight. A couple of people later said that must be me - sort of me checking out - half there, half not.
I began to paint myself out of the picture. When I first started a figure in an orange dress in front was helping a little child - I thought of it as me in the orange Mexican dress I wore at the 10th anniversary. Then when I looked at the actual photo I had in my head, darned it if wasn’t Barbara Temple Ayres in the photo. How symbolic. I’m leaving and she’s staying. Also I always get a little irritated at the youngest children because they never quite get the dance and mess up that wonderful feeling of the symmetry of the pattern - having it come outright. Anyway I changed the dress to yellow and tried to work out its awkwardness - only semi-successfully.
I had also seen myself/or my demon in orange dress and pony tail (from crowd in “Reluctant Return” painting) in this crowd of parents watching the dance (boy, am I getting tired of that group of on-lookers - tho when I mentioned to Dana that this was my last one, she said I mustn’t make deals). This figure had its arms outstretched - waving goodbye or directing the dance. Either/both worked symbolically. But I painted out the arm - changed the shirt color and put a baby on the shoulders: The Future. The baby is reaching out.
I worked from a series of sketches on all these pieces - some had probably been done the weekend before. On Friday night (the 7th) I worked in the evening interrupted several times by Don Churchhill’s family come to work on an obit with Tom. Funny to have people popping in. Skye really helped me on the woods - “Back seat painting” we called it. I was feeling sloppy, not caring to get them right. He said darker here, smaller trees higher up to show depth of hill, lighter patches there. Kept pushing me in a good way.
It was amazing to me what a project a big painting was. And how much paint. I really struggled with it and by the end was pretty unhappy with it. Felt like it should just be stuck outside - “Oh yes, there’s another painting out there... ” or left in the garage, unfinished. But it came in & I worked on the far side of the bed against the East window. Tom was pretty critical of it - suggested I practice the figures and do another one - as if I could bear to even think about it again.
But when Susan came up on Sunday am to help set up the show at our house she made nice noises about it and it was truly fun to watch the school people with it at the show. I had pushed to finish partly because I really wanted to close that chapter of my life, but also because in some odd way I wanted to give it to them. A sense of the future, my legacy of the past - the ribbons are woven only part way down the pole. There is plenty more to be danced.
It was neat to have so many people come in and see themselves and each other in the painting. “Look, Daddy, that’s me!” said Alexa. Jude saw herself in a tall young girl on the right - perhaps herself as a girl. It was the one Tom saw as our niece, Grace Kline. Several saw Ashley in the braided hair girl that is the tall one’s partner - I was thinking of Ashley but I was also thinking of Louise Fox, my School in Rose Valley childhood friend. Maya looked and looked for herself (so determined to be in it since she is finally starting as a Kindergartner in the fall) and found herself in the smallest figure in the back - the one I put dark skin on thinking how sadly lily white we all were. Tho have had a few, a very few, dark faces over the years. Zoe said the gray-haired woman in the audience was my mother and that I was the one with my arm around her - suddenly I saw her as comforting Mother for my/our leaving school. When I had painted the gray head I had thought of Amy and a little of Chuck (how Chuck would have loved it if I had put him in).
Seeing people with the painting was a great lesson in listening - I learned a great deal from what others saw in the painting (what my group was trying to tell me on Tuesday). And in a sense they gave the painting back to me. I could only see its faults - the parts that hadn’t worked out, where I had given up. That the people, or the bird, or the ribbons (Kari was the only one to comment on this, my favorite part) meant that the painting had meaning (crude as it was). Lee Johnson wanted to sleep with it in his room - keeps saying he wants a poster of it. It will be fun to see what sort of life it has. I thought about trying to bring it East - seems like it would be one to give Mother and perhaps Lauren and Meg some pleasure (some of the others will be difficult for Mother). BTA suggested taking it off the frame - it could be rolled up and the frame reused. But in the end it seemed too new to take off - it may have a life on that frame. Or maybe I just don’t know enough about its life without that.