The sun radiates through the near naked branches warming the wet left from the early morning rain. I walk along listening to the sound of my boots as they scrap and crush yellows and reds into the gray gravel of the path. Releasing the sweet decaying scent of leaves dying.
This earth perfume stimulates the memories stored of this fragile sweet time of fiery colors and wool sweaters. The olfactory notes of the season bring forward my awareness of life and death. The cycles of light and dark and the memories of places visited.
The fragrances of oak, maples, birch, poplars, and beech… every year a different batch and measurement of each to fit the experiences that lingered all year with the sun as it now travels south and the snows are soon to come.
The cold will clean the pallette. And these scents and memories will fall back into the dreams and winter sleeping deep in tree roots and the buds waiting for Spring. My boots will crush snow and leave tracks that will vanish into the earth.
This is a bit of a meader through my inner dialogue about this image I and painting. It started as an Instagram post. I though I share it here so I could add more to the ideas that are coming up around this.
Thoughts about this painting…. If Ba’al represents the regional God/diety of storms and rain and the God of the Bible represents all that created the world then it starts to separate and segregated the needs and access to divine intervention and relevancy in these relationships. We can look at it like weather and climate. Each in relation to the other.. So the storms of certain areas are a direct experience of those who live their and what drives that weather might not be anywhere near them. Shifts and changes would have consequences. And if your perspective was only channeled through the immediate circumstances then something like a climate would be mysterious and unimaginable.
If your people pray to the rain God and it doesn’t come then it could seem a failing to appease the diety. Then there would begin a recipe for taboos, rituals, and ultimately dysfunctional fall out of those things…. and conversely if all you knew was the bigger patterns of climate you might be disconnected from the traumas of weather and it conditions that affect people, places and things.
In this image I’m painting there is the simple chemistry of water and the sun. Two parts of what generates weather. The sun heats the surfaces of the planet creating convection and movement … wayer droplets rise into the sky and drift as clouds…. all this becomes the jet stream( I have radically simplified this process here because this is IG)…. as the droplets get heavier, temperature and such they fall to the earth…. for thousands of years people have give these phenomena names and called them Divine beings…
This painting start as just painting a goat and it has opened an box of connections, archetypes, and trying to bring together something ancient with the struggles we are facing today. I choose make this image feel like the alchemical manuals of the 17th century….that weird mix of God, and mysterious, curiosity, and to have that feeling of being a religious icon. As humans we has always clashed in these places…. and we are doing again. As these edges rub together and fray apart the fibers of beliefs and dogma then we might find away out of this.
Art should be in many ways, about documenting a period of time. A reflection of the society’s struggles and triumphs. The individual seeking of identity within a certain period of time. Art is that complex, multi-disciplined many armed tribe of creatures welding materials to define the angst through the architecture of a place and its people. It suffers the peculiarities of the artist’s personal lens who creates it and it is often the historical misunderstanding of real events after the artists are long gone and can’t defend their intent. Perspectives are like beliefs emotionally charged and defined by the sanity, woundedness, and vision of the believer. Perspectives feed on power and myth…. and with the right dosing become the stories that a are told through time.
I started a series of photographs called “What Remains”. It was a way to look as things that have weathered and endured. I photographed dried dead fish as I walked a long the Gulf Coast, drift wood, bones, the skeletons of buildings, Petroglyths, broken glass, etc…. Each image seemed to sit in the present silence of it’s subject. We become the witness in the voyeuristic myth of what it could be…. we make up a story to fill in the gaps…. sometimes we want a meaning that is sensible…. reasonable for what is left.
Humans have a tendency to want to see the ancient as sacred even if what we see today is the scattered dismantling of an entire group of of people by the violence of war. Then there is that romanticism with the exotic a long with comparison to completely different peoples and beliefs….. All very messy and not very good for sorting things out.
While thinking about all these larger philosophical ideas and rhythms I am still looking to find a deeper meaning in my own work. Something that will remain and have hopefully a meaning that carries it beyond what any contemporary perspectives and power seeking.
I had a teacher at the Arts high school I went to in New Haven Connecticut. She taught the painting class I was in and at the end of the semester she wrote in my critique, “… that I seemed most myself when painting…” I felt that to be one of the truest insights anyone had offered me up to that time. She saw me. She saw what painting did in me.
Painting is pure joy. It is the thing that matters. It is the deep dialogue I have with pigments, lines and the flat surface in front of me. It is where I meet the Divine. We wrestle and debate negotiating the composition and visual impact. We create the dynamics that draw the eye across the plane and hold it there…. to wander into deeper perspectives of a self and cosmic explorations. Feeling the movement and tasting the colors. Hearing the murmuring….mantras…. the tiny connections and random associations that speak to each cell in the body…
It was religion and oppression, starvation, along with the greed for riches that started the mass migrations that would eventually displace millions of indigenous people all over the continents of North and South America. We of European blood came in waves of time each group seeking a better life some where else…. risking life, family and all that was left of dignity and self. To come here. To sail on ships, arrive and shuffled like cattle through the process of immigration. Forced name changes. Learning a new language. Working in inhuman conditions…. following that dream of a new life. A new beginning.
The strength to migrate is not easily decided by those in dire conditions and circumstances. It is a will to live… a deep and profound desire to find a way passed the pain of living in ways unimaginable. It is the spark of hope…. and maybe the God’s of Chance throwing you a good roll of the dice.
So many never make it. They become the dust and mud of dreams forgotten as they are trampled under the feet if others. The memories in stories left in the communities that made it or stayed put. Migration is made up of people who willed against Gods , governments , bleek odds and the dare to risk the things known against the unknown. They looked a death and said, ” Try me….”
We are facing a worldwide shift in peoples. The world’s boundaries are becoming less meaningful as resources, climate and governments fail. Every time this has happened in the past people moved carrying all they could manage. They left all they knew for anything that could give them a sense of safety and sustainability. Human displacement as well wars over water and land historically have been part of this process. Over time we develop these ideas of ownership when in fact it is a delusion. We own nothing but the person we are. Stuff comes and goes. Impermanence. Change. Sometimes in a life or not till many generations have tilled the soiled built the roads, squatted in the resources rich places. Long enough to forget the ancestors that came before.
It is this forgetting that makes us build futile walls against the inevitable migration of people with their things into places that provide hope for humanity.
Geopolitically we are still building walls to separate people, land and resources. The out dated truth of this is becoming more and more apparent. The climate issues haven’t sunk in or the reality of what is to come is so big and incomprehensible that denying it is the only way to manage it. Watching the brutal deportation of Hatians back to Haiti after years of natural disasters and poor humanitarian response is heart breaking. There is an obserdity to it…. it’s a farce…. We claim the rights to exploite countries for resources while doing the absolute minimum to make efforts to share that wealth in meaningful ways. The slow pace of dealing with the earth changes is painful as the most vulnerable in the world suffer. When your country completely collapses where do you go? If you have no water, food, shelter or resources where do you go?
This part of the climate change issue has never been addressed in any meaningfulway. Every country has kicked this can of chaos and humanitarian suffering down the road. Hoping to hand it off to another generation or insulated themselves with military spending and walls of various kinds.
Life on this planet is designed to migration. For millions of years mammals have traveled with the seasons and resources. As the earth changed the patterns of these migratory routes shifted. Some species were better at these adaptation others. Some became better at seasonal extremes and stayed put. And some just could not get it together and went extinct.
Whether it is man made or natural, mass migration needs to be part of any long term solutions developed for how we deal with resources, infrastructure and economic solvency. From now into the future. If we don’t address this, the scenes we see unfolding under a bridge in Texas and elsewhere will be the reality. Huge gatherings of people willing to try anything to elevate their lives out of suffering and death.
People will migrate towards food, water and some kind of safe place to live. This is the great undoing and a restructuring of countries, infrastructures, governing, economies, resources etc … To not see this or take action seems the willful decision to let the suffering unfold and see what remains.
We seem to be in the careening drunken throws of what reality is. The “reality is whatever you believe or make up” crowd has twisted reason, smashed all common sense and has thrown wrenches into everything. All the while claiming they are the wizards of truth and justice. They can fix this. Some hail their nail messiah savior as the medicine and their earth born charlatans as holy wisdom keepers. Their delusion bus is traveling so fast no one can really see the scenery…. the tour guides drone on and on about how wonderful it all is….. black smoke billows out the back and the driver is drunk…. the bus creaks and groans…. but don’t pay attention to that. It’s all great. Just wrap it in a flag.
I read every morning the covid stats from the New York Times. Then I read the latest quagmires stagnating in Washington DC. Then climate stuff…. People are still dying of covid. The infrastructure in this country is collapsing. The climate is continuing to evolve towards dire conditions everywhere. It’s the great unraveling. The evolutionary entropy that inevitability comes as order falls in to chaos.
I’m optimistic enough to think we will get through this. I also have a strong fight in me to see this through. How we get through this will depend on the sacrifices and adaptive measures we take now.
Entropy is not predictable yet it does move towards order. We can direct ourselves towards that order by the actions and policies we put in place. It’s also going to require thinking with a wider and long term lens. It can no longer be about sustainability it must be about cathartic systematic change. Changes so radical that we are no longer the same.
Some of the biggest issues are migration/immigration, water, agriculture/food, housing, economic solvency…. and infrastructure. We all need to be finding our places in these areas and developing local and world solutions.
This is as much a spiritual awakening as it is a practical one.
Some days I am agast at the twisted myopic dribble that is spread in the name of freedom. People are thumping their chests to state their personal sovereignty yet can’t get out of the weeds if their purely selfish actions and ideological irrationality. Are your personal rights more important than having concerns for others? This bloated narcissistic poisoning of reason is why we have the ICUs filled with covid patients and people resorting to livestock medicine for a cure.
Why in all that is reasonable in the world is mask wearing the gateway to your oppression? Or castrator of your personal freedom? Is it the freedom to to be sick? Freedom to infect others because you don’t care… It’s not your problem? It’s your freedom to choose when you die? It’s your freedom to do whatever you damn well please at whatever cost to others because you are the only thing that matters?
This insane justification of self over others has taken hold across many different groups from spiritual to political. It has infected the public sphere and exploited the poor and empower the privileged to make some of the most egregious choices that we will be paying for in lives and resources for a long time.
We have fed the beast of this lunacy with the memes, social media bias, and the shear glut of misinformation that is churned out to fill every bit of data space in the cyber world. They have vilified the experts and raise to royalty the charlatans of quakery. And all of this noise has consequences… those consequences are the indifference and cavalier way some are willing to dismiss other’s lives for the misidentified notion of freedom.
Freedom is not going to end this. Freedom is not what will save you. Freedom has a cost that requires an ecology that allows for personal liberty and the united actions that bring about that ecology for freedom to exist. Freedom is NOT a personal stand we take because we are the most important. Freedom is the recognition of the true value of our humanity and it right to live in pursuit of meaningful existence through sacrifice and compassion. We don’t have freedom at the expense/oppression of others…. whether we agree with them or not.
This personal sovereignty freedom movement is a march towards extinction. This is the entropy of humanity. The chaos.
Rugged individualism is a myth along with personal freedom if there is no society or world to live in.
It’s been a long time since humanity faced a microbial enemy of such voracious abilities. In my life time AIDS was the the big chiller that stopped the free love of my youth dead in it’s tracks. I stood outside bars with pamphlets and condoms. Some of us tried to educate. There was a lot of loss. Gay men dropped like flies. Those who got got blood infusions died… those who had sex died. It was tragic and scary. Then there was the ignorant violence of those who defend their hate in God’s name. That period of time in my life would shape my thoughts about Covid-19…. I think if you have not experienced catastrophic loss or felt the helplessness of not knowing any where to turn… or even trust… being ostracized. You might not get how quickly a virus can become a social tsunami of the unmanageable and show the weaknesses of a society.
Through out the early period of AIDS there was wildly inaccurate information and speculation. It was cruel and criminal. It brought out the absolute worst in some people. There was also a growing movement to raise awareness and figure out a cure. There were a lot of false hopes, dead ends, and eventually successes. Almost 40 years later AIDS is no longer a death sentence. We have come to a manageable point of social responsibility and medical intervention.
Covid-19 is pushing all the same social buttons of fear, distrust, hate, compassion, etc… It is also an extremely fast evolving virus. Which constantly changes the rules as we try to stay ahead of it. Like AIDS we are going to have to stop blaming/denying/politicizing and commit to a unified focus to stop the viral spread. Unlike AIDS we are not given the grace of time and because it is an air born pathogen it will always have the upper hand in how it moves through people and populations. People resisted wearing condoms to stop AIDS for all kinds of excuses related to ignorance and selfish reasons. Until it affected them directly. All the same kinds of arguments are being made about masks…. social distancing…. this is putting an huge strain on our Healthcare systems. To the point of near collapse. The phobias and resistance surrounding vaccines is discouraging and allowing the virus to get better at mutation in order to survive.
As I’m writing this I feel sad, angry and perplexed a the nature of those who continue to look at the situation and (I’m not including those with medical exceptions, those can’t get the vaccine because of age or other legitimate reasons) have decided to just let others die or get very sick.
Plagues are a social disease. They attack the systems, structures and the social order of things because it has found the weaknesses that will be exploited for their survival.
The way this virus is going we are going to be in this for a long time. To put it bluntly that means getting real about it and stop thinking it going to end and we all go back to our lives. Because we’re not. Plagues are like that they reshape populations and redefine social norms. Look at the Black Plague, leprosy, small pox to name just a few. Our survival depends on it. If we continue to adapt and find the ways to fight this virus then we have options based on the reality of how this virus is.
People didn’t stop having sex because of AIDS they learned how to have safer sex.
I encourage you to get vaccinated. Wear a mask and do what will change the course of this virus. We have done this before. We can do this.
I just saw a picture of Mount Shasta without snow. It look oddly small and not like the majestic peak I remember towering over the landscape. The snow gave it that other worldly presence as it stood above the surrounding mountains. It felt sacred. Mystical.
It’s more than just snow. This is the source of rivers and streams that feed the ground and nourish the land. Without this life giving resource the area will feel the growing trauma of drought that is now becoming increasingly normal in this once lush region of California. And with this ecological imbalance comes fire. We are witnessing an environmental alchemy of transformation. We are not sure the results… but things will be very different… and difficult.
I know many who are part of the movements to save water. Water is life – Life is water. We chant. We drum. We stand to face the polluters. We advocate for water as a human right. We protest. Get arrested. Pray. Over and over…. yet the waters keep disappearing. The land dries. The climate becomes more volatile. As the oceans warm up the patterns of weather shift rains and heat to different places. We are now in the change. The earth is adapting to her chemistry. She rolls with it. She knows what to do and will adjust to continue.
We need to stop thinking we can fix this in the naive way we are doing it. It’s not ours to fix in someways that boat left a long time ago. What remains within our abilities is to start adapting and living more in alignment with the earth changes. That doesn’t mean we give up our advancements but we do use them to guide us in better efficiency and actions. This can be utilized in designing homes, infrastructures, conservation, and agriculture. It also means migrations to place where there are the resources to survive and build to thrive in a more symbiotic way with the earth.
Life is is precious and durable. That is why this planet remains that blue dot in the universe. We have water. A life giving resource that will continue to define the direction of this planet.