Saturday, September 27, 2008


Speaking of different levels of reality, I was reminded again of my visit to Mass MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts last month. One artist in the "Badlands" exhibition, Vaughn Bell, created
Personal Home Biospheres, which are miniature environments that visitors could feel immersed in. I put my head through an opening in the bottom of the small scale natural landscape. Once inside, I switched to feeling like a lilliputan in a close-up, humid, quiet world. One step up on the block placed below the biosphere and I was instantly immersed in this perfect natural environment: mosses, ferns and grasses native to the area were growing inches from my nose, eyes, ears and skin. Looking into the suspended plexiglas biosphere, I used my mind to appreciate all the details in the layers of growing earth. Looking out from the mini-dome, all my senses were activated and I cocooned in a meditative environment. Now, in the photo that my pet man took of me, I see another level: the reflections of the window frames in the exhibition room.... and the environment outside!! I could have missed it if not for the photo. Did the artist plan this into her concept too? I'm in awe all over again.

I was impressed by Vaughn Bell's creation. She fulfilled the task and opportunity given to contemporary artists in an original and thoughtful way, still leaving some mystery for the individual to solve. Anyone else out there looking for artwork that is both mentally stimulating and sensually satisfying? I'm excited about the trend that invites visitors to touch, participate and react to the artist's works. There was a book at the museum exit that invited comments...and I actually got a reply by email from a curator!

Here is a clip about Rupert Sheldrake that says more about the connection between our minds and perceptions...and about breaking habits and assumptions about our world.

synthesis of mind
and nature's senses find
my habits unwind

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Palliative Care

About one year ago I decided to volunteer a little of my free time to the local hospital. The area I was interested in was Palliative Care. First, I was interviewed and asked "why". I didn't have to think hard about my reason but I was a bit embarrassed to reveal it: I was curious about dying, the dying and death. I wanted to have first hand experience, get my own impressions and learn about the subject. Another reason was that I was not able to accompany either of my parents, or any one else I was close to, at the end of their life. I wanted to become able.

The hospital had some volunteers who had collected experience for many years and taken courses. I was sent along with one of the most seasoned ones and after a few rounds, left to go on my own. My instructions were to introduce myself and ask if anything was needed (fresh water, move a pillow, get an extra blanket) or, if there were visitors, to offer them a coffee or tea. Pretty easy, right? After that initial step, the adventure begins. I would like to write a book about the individuals I met, their journey, what I saw and heard, felt and thought. I have been deeply touched by the way a person may cling to life, no matter how dismal it may seem from the outside. I don't know if I have become "able"; I have never been present at anyone's passing, but I have approached the mystery. In the meantime, I have opted to volunteer in a senior's residence, meeting those making the transition from their own home into this new one and visiting those who are otherwise left alone in their last days.

The photograph I added shows my shadow at the beach in Cape Cod. The image seems appropriate to this blog because I see the different levels of reality that are sometimes taken for granted out of habit: the surface, what is below and above it and how a shadow is woven through it all. It inspires me to take nothing for granted.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Canadians for Sale

Yesterday, my pet man and I drove off to check out an auction in a nearby village. A farmer, who had spent his working life raising Canadian horses was retiring. His farm, the equipment and horses were to be auctioned off. This traditional breed of horse was created to serve the farmers well. They are, without exception, pure black. Their character is docile, their needs are modest and they are hardy multi-taskers, pulling a sleigh or wagon or trunks of wood out of the forest. They also cut an attractive figure under a saddle or pulling the Sunday carriage. However, they are not talented for sports. As one equestrian said: "Canadian horse? No, I will never ride a cow!"

As we neared the farm, we saw that both sides of the road were packed with cars, trucks and trailers. There was a stand selling poutine, hot dogs, hamburgers and fries and the whole farm had been polished and painted for this public event. First the tractors, wagons and sleighs were sold off, then the horses, the harnesses and stable equipment and finally all the old machinery that the farmer had collected over the decades.

I recorded the stages, as each horse was taken away from its familiar stable, led to the showring and sold to the highest bidder. I heard the locals mutter that bidders were getting give-away prices this day. After the sale, each one was led away to the trailer of the new owner to begin a different life, away from its friends and family. In honor of these Canadians I wrote a Haiku:

Saturday: we hail
ebony palfrey for sale
with sleigh, reins and pail

P.S. The 1950s washing machine has a name that ends this story in a quirky way. Since my last post, I have been noticing the quirks of all my pets! and friends! and neighbors! I love their quirks.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Six Quirks

Here is my 36" by 36" mandala "You Are Here". Look for the tiny red dot in the middle that marks where I am in this delicious and magnificent birthday cake of a world.

I have been tagged by Kate to write about six of my quirks. O.K. I will do it!! are the rules for all those I tagged and want to play:

1. Link back to the person (me) who tagged you (on your blog)

2. Copy these rules to your blog for your players to see.

3. Tell us about 6 unspectacular quirks you have.

4. Tag 6 other bloggers by linking to them (see below).

5. Leave a comment on each of the blogged taggers blog to let them know they have been tagged and can play.

The dictionary says that a quirk is a “strange little habit or part of a person’s character”. I don’t find anything strange. I needed to do some research first on how other people find themselves “quirky”. Kate remarked that my writing is quirky and also fun to read, so that made this project extra easy.

1. I love skunks. Sadly, they often get run over because they trust in their spray to protect them. It doesn’t work on cars. I wish that one day skunk mommies would smarten up and tell their kids to run, not spray! Other people gag and cover their noses at the skunk “scent” but I take very deep breaths. The smell connects me to some deep, tribal, archaic space, like the smell of marigolds and geraniums, which I’ve been told are “stinky flowers”. It’s hard to describe the smell: like a mixture of burnt rubber and extreme B.O.

2. I can fold myself in half like a jack knife. I guess I have double-jointed hips. It feels natural and relaxing. A Yoga teacher got really annoyed at me because he said he had to train for years to be able to put his head on his knees. I inherited this ability from my maternal grandmother and my daughter got it from me.

3. I talk to strangers. It takes two to tango, of course.

4. I avoid wearing underwear and NEVER wear shorts. I started this quirk in India when I adopted the traditional outfit, which is a shift over wide pants or a sari over a short-sleeved top. It’s so comfortable and looks elegant. In India, bare shoulders are considered risqué and bare legs almost obscene. Wearing shorts in India would be like walking around topless in Canada.

5. If I am ever overwhelmed with projects I stop and clean the bathroom first. I find that all the stretching to get to all the corners and the scrubbing on my hands and knees works wonders to clarify my world. The sparkling bathroom is a bonus.

6. I eat before going out to dinner or if I’m invited to eat at someone’s house. I do this because I never know how long it will take before the food arrives and if I get hungry and don’t eat….I get awful cramps and can’t eat at all! So painful and embarrassing.

It would be easy to go on with this because, in Astro Speak (for all the astrologists out there!) my Sun and Mercury are in Aquarius and my Moon conjunct Uranus is in the 11th House. Quirk is normal for me. Now maybe six other artistic bloggers will dare to share. I have invited Nina, Frida,Cathy, Rudra, Bron, Forever Young.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Myopic World

When I was about 7 years old I got my first pair of glasses. Pale blue frames. Pretty, my mother said. How I hated them...I remember so clearly how furious I was about the sensation of wearing this straight jacket on my face. Temper tantrums were the norm for me if anything was uncomfortable. Maybe, as a psychologist once suggested, I was in resistance to being incarnated, which included wearing clothes, going to school and generally being pressed into a form. There was no escaping though. Breaking or losing my glasses didn't help. The next ones were even stronger.

Hey, I still wear glasses (or "specs" as Guruji Sri Vast would say in his adorable colonial English)! What I love about them now is taking them off and seeing a whole different that is mega close-up or Monet-like fuzzy. It is perfect for doing artwork because I can simplify the whole scene and break it all down to shapes and forms. There is a moment of surrender to the helplessness and limitations and then it is so not have to see everything. To daydream. To slow it all down, let my mind go to the back burner and.... call my chauffeur to drive my car!

Then at some point I can pop them back on over my eyes to protect them from the sun and my face from close encounters. Pretend to be all competent and incarnated. Look cool with these Ray Ban-type frames and drive myself around in my myopic world.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Conversations with Divine Bean

Photograph of Amselm Kiefer's sculpture "Etroit son les Vaisseaux", 2002, exhibited at MASS MoCa until November 2008

If you lived in an area that had received a hurricane warning, would you evacuate or ride it out? Either choice is probably equally devastating. I never experienced a Tsunami or a Hurricane Katrina...or have I? My Natural Disasters never got any names as such. They hit without warning. No, that's not true. As an astrologist, I know what it means when Pluto and Chiron meet. I see the aspect approaching but I can't know how it will be for me. The last remaining mystery buried under a pile of knowledge.

There is no place in the world where a person can be safe from Natural Disasters... or any life that can escape the Wheel of Fate. Luckily, I am never alone. I met Divine Bean (Being) way back in 1988. Divine is a He/She living in my left hand. I never know what Divine will come up with because I am a mere mortal. So I have to ask, usually when I'm eating humble pie, stuck, down or in pain. The rest of the time I'm smarty pants independant. I get more of a monologue than a conversation because Divine's words blow me away. So different from real life, where Mortal Me can't shut up.

Today I'm ready to share with you my treasure:
Mortal Me: Marlana, you are feeling low. Tell me more.
Divine Bean: This hand is just doing what comes naturally when it holds a pencil. I know that I am part of Nature and there are hurricanes and sunny days. Right now it's raining, Thank God, to fill those cracks in the ground I watered yesterday. Those poor flowers. The leaves wilt before the flowers give up. My tears are now the rain for my dried-up soul. Right now there is no hope in sight. I am broke, that is a fact. The more I count my pennies the more I feel poor so stop now and be the frog card*; transform. Trance Form go in the mud. This is the season. Just take part.
Mortal Me: Thank you, Divine Bean.

* "Medicine Cards, The Discovery of Power Through the Ways of Animals" Jamie Sams/ David Carson. Bear & Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico 1988. Card # 38 Frog (Purification)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Inspired by Cape Cod

While doing my favorite gypsy thing (living in a moving home) in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I had a dream inspired by my study of the works of M.C. Escher. His graphic art plays with the way we see things: our eye/brain insists on seeing images as three-dimensional even if we "know" that the image is flat. Luckily, I had brought along some canvases and a small assortment of paint and brushes to start up.

My second inspiration was the sensual experience of being in, on and next to the ocean. We stayed at the protected inner bay where the sea quietly ebbs in and out, covering and later revealing huge flat marshlands. It was a safe and warm place for children to look for shells and walk out in the mud. After a short drive to the Atlantic side, I met the ocean's other face: pounding, thundering waves chopping their fangs into the steep shore. Excited children hypnotised by the natural drama, risking scratches, bruises and concusions to embrace the wild creature over and over again.

On the way home, I stopped at MASS MoCA, the Museum of Contemporay Art in North Adams, Massachusetts. I had planned to gorge on the place all day but after 5 hours I was saturated. One artist, Devorah Sperber, had a collection of her work exhibited under the titel of "Interpretations". She showed how our eye puts together dots of color to make an image. It's sort of scary that we don't really see what's there. We make it all up in our minds out of habit! The truth is often disturbing.

More about MASS MoCA in my next post! Here are my See'Scape paintings, finished yesterday. All 12" by 9" acrylic on canvas with natural materials worked in.