Archive for February, 2010
Welcome to our March issue – which comes at a time of change and development. Wherever you are, whether you’re at the beginning of spring or fall, it’s a time when nature builds off of processes already set in motion, of regrowth or decay. When we start to notice what’s been happening almost imperceptibly beneath the surface for weeks, when we realize we’re in the midst of another transformative cycle.
This month’s contributors encourage us to look beneath the surface and go deeper into journeys and ideas already started. Geri McGilvray, a self-described ‘colorist,’ explains how she views the choice and combination of colors as a crucial element of her work, and experiments with a piece until the tones and hues provide just the effect she intends. In the same way, Sonoma poet Janine Canan gradually probes and depicts through words the process and life’s work of several artists and spiritual leaders. She presents life processes - birth, creativity, death, even extinction - as part of a naturally cohesive whole, rather than isolated events.
Photographer and visual costume and fashion artist Alisha Fisher creates and develops each of her images, working together with her natural inspirations over time rather than pointing and shooting in the moment. Through her work, she becomes her chosen natural settings, intentionally seeking to take on qualities of the rocks, sky, trees – even of garbage and busy cities.
Ramana Vieira most admires singer/songwriters who embody the characters and the emotions they sing about, who go through the process of traveling in time and space to create, rather than simply present, the music. Elizabeth Hughes unfortunately has no choice but to live out the lifestyle of a homeless person, and encourages others to look beyond their initial reactions and imagine themselves in her place. Her written work and her ordinary life become inseparably intertwined, and we present both together, as a statement about how Hughes’ writing and photography provide meaning and distraction and sustain her during the process of rebuilding her life.
Patsy Ledbetter encourages the process of empathy through a personal example, describing meeting a disabled lady in a wheelchair at the farmers’ market. While she cannot restore the woman’s ability to walk or give her a normal life, Ledbetter can talk with her and make a connection, treat her as a human being. Her spiritual faith inspires her to honor the dignity of all life, to look beyond first judgements inspired by someone’s appearance – whether that first judgement would be to write someone off, or to see them only as an object of pity, and thus also underestimate their real potential.
Deborah Fruchey’s book on coping with mental illness, Is There Room for Me, Too? directly addresses those with bipolar syndrome, schizophrenia, clinical depression, and other conditions, involving and empowering them to take steps towards managing their own lives. Like Elizabeth Hughes, she speaks from experience as well as research, sharing insights which have helped her weather her own unpredictable emotions. With the famous twelve-step process for overcoming addiction as a metaphor, she presents surviving these conditions as a process of acceptance mixed with hard and continual work and self-examination.
Jaylan Salah’s introductory chapter to her novel When Lovers are Sinners sets the stage for a long process of self-examination and personal growth. Bored with high school and a series of shallow, immature friendships, Hayam restlessly seeks escape while mourning the death of her mother. Readers will not be surprised later when Hayam risks her social standing to defy convention for love – and ultimately, for personal freedom and self-determination.
Jean Wong and Reuben Rutledge examine physical objects in order to ascertain a deeper understanding of history and personal psychology. Rutledge details the creation, near-destruction, and unearthing of Tibetan Bon Scriptures to present a little-known side of history, while Wong describes telephones and automobiles in search of experiential truth about various stages and processes of life. Rutledge’s work makes ancient Eastern mystics and rulers seem all too human, at times out for political power as much as spiritual enlightenment, and Wong also personifies and gives life to the physical objects in her work as she recreates her subjects through detailed examination.
And, finally, Matthew Felix Sun, usually our painter of alienation, frustration, fear, and totalitarian social control, felt inspired to celebrate life and growth by painting flowers this time. Flowers represent plant reproduction, a step in a long process of growth and development – and we can rejoice with the flowers because they remind us that we, too, are growing and changing, and have hope of evolving beyond our present condition.
Again, welcome to our March issue! Please feel free to comment and let us know if you would like to work together with or mentor/be mentored by anyone in this issue, or if you have any announcements regarding your published work.
Also – in light of the economy, we are working to assist those in search of work, by creating periodic newsletters for our Facebook groups, where we mention the names and backgrounds of those within our magazine community who are seeking employment. Please also comment and let us know if you would like us to drop your name in our next newsletter.
Spring is fast approaching and soon there will be blooming flowers everywhere. It’s time to celebrate these www.matthewfelixsun.com ) has been drawn to paint flowers time to time and below are samples of his work on this subject over a period of time. Two of these paintings will be part of the “Spring Garden” March theme show at Artist Xchange Gallery in San Francisco ( http://www.artslant.com/sf/events/show/93469-theme-show-spring-garden ). The opening reception will be .. Berkeley, California artist Matthew Felix Sun (
Passion of Georgia O’Keefe
How bright the light! Baby sits on pillows,
white and black quilt with flowers and stars.
Dust sparkles warm and soft–I want to eat it
but Mama snatches and squeezes me hard.
I’m going to be an artist, make something beautiful
as the Maid of Athens in Mama’s book
or the Arabs on horseback in Grandmother’s parlor.
An artist can do as she pleases, no one minds.
Have drawn a man tumbling over, am painting
a lighthouse in clouds. Sister with big eyes
doesn’t like my small dark drawing of hands.
Must paint larger and lighter–purple lilacs, yellow corn.
Am disgusted with my work, and am glad.
Must forget everything learned, find the shapes
that are mine. I am the prairie thirsting.
I am the sky changing. I am the wind stirring.
My room is bare and white like a mirror.
In black, hair back, I walk toward the horizon blazing;
scorched, chilled, dust-caked, make my way
along gypsum trail down the mud canyon.
New York! At my easel on the highest story
I gaze upon roofs, trees, cliffs, clouds,
barges, bridges, smokestacks, soot-plumes, steel beams,
skyscraper crowned with chromium needle.
For hours I bathe in the light, as Stieglitz photographs
my hair, eyes, torso, long-fingered hands.
Fold on fold, clean pink, yellow, blue,
from my glass palette I paint the shapes in my mind.
Hipbone, labium, petal, leaf. In the deep green
veins arch apart; a lake settles in the center.
Lily, orchid, iris, rose, magnolia,
Jack-in-the-pulpit, poppy, petunia, trumpetflower.
Oh, the sun! Sweet-smelling desert sage.
After stupor of sadness, sand dunes, mesas,
wide blue space. How my heart races.
Eyes sharpen and soften, skull a flower of bone.
Seven a.m., cool morning, car under cliff,
I turn the car seat and paint. Brown, orange, violet, gray.
Peach slopes cook to red. Clouds boil up black
and thunderous, trampling the slopes to wine.
Climbing the ladder up to the roof–
how big the moon, and soft. Pale silver crawls
over black. Above, the vast dome of stars.
Asleep, I feel the tender fingers of first morning light.
Over my wonderful world the pink and blue dawn
spreads to the snow-capped peak
of Sangre de Cristo, faraway and serene.
Purple asters waken on the shimmering plain.
White Place, hills of ancient lava ash
turreted and spired with gray and red.
Black Place, pink and gold-veined, rollicking elephants
where sea once pounded and dinosaurs fed.
That’s my mountain–Blue Pedernal
where Changing Woman was born. God told me
I could have it, if I painted it enough.
Never good enough, my failures lead me on.
Maria loads on food, logs, water, canvas, the cat.
Car inches along the dry riverbed.
I shovel sand, chop sage, roll away rocks,
paint with my gloves on in the wind.
At forty-five I take what I want–
Ghost Ranch on golden plain. Purple hills,
rotting cedar, light that illumines death.
The world is always at war, atomic lab just miles away.
Empty pelvis. Pelvis bursting with sun.
Winged pelvis with moon. Antler, jaw, sacrum–
the immortal body. Shadows lengthen, colors fade,
I paint alone until dark. I chose my fate.
Stieglitz is gone. Friends go too. Red hills
whiten with snow. Nearer and farther
a large black crow flies over the slope
into clear cold night.
I know what I must paint now–I paint
what I love. Instinct directs me.
Flowers, stones, bones instruct me.
Details are confusing–I observe, select, eliminate,
ruthlessly search for meaning inside things.
Tearing roots from my heart,
arrange in ever broadening light icons, offerings,
blessings that come from, return to life.
That door leads to my paintings. It’s a curse
the way I keep painting it–green, red, from the side,
through the window, in shadow, with clouds, steps,\
snowflakes, leaf drifting by. Now my last door.
Sleeping in the patio on my white bed
I gaze out over Green Valley.
Rocks and horns rest on the wall, patted pink
adobe skin soft against the dusty sky.
Have I gone mad with love? Everything
in my house lives! Listen, they call me
white-haired sorceress. In long black skirt
I stroll with my stick and ferocious chows.
My housekeeper tells me the names
of the colors and passing clouds.
My vision is blurred. Under wrinkled hood
my turquoise eye sees. I work–what else is there?
Sitting still in the sun I’m happy.
The sky is my companion. My spirit moves
in this light. Soon my ashes will sleep in these hills,
as the wind trills on about nothing.
– Janine Canan
Janine Canan is the author of 13 books of poetry, most recently In the Palace of Creation: Selected Works 1969-1999. Her collections, Changing Woman and Star in My forehead: Selected Poems by Else Lasker-Schüler (translations) have received commendation from Book Sense, City Lights Books and Small Press Review. Her writing appears in Awakened Woman, Exquisite Corpse, Kalliope and Wemoon; and in dozens of anthologies including Birnbaum’s She Is Everywhere, Codrescu’s American Poets Say Goodbye to the 20th Century, Cotner’s Pocket Prayers, Harvey’s The Divine Feminine, Muten’s Her Words, Laughlin’s New Directions, Ford-Gabrovsky’s Womanprayers, and Macmillan’s Women Poets of the World .
Canan edited Messages from Amma: In the Language of the Heart (“Best Spiritual Books 2004”); The Rhyme of the Ag-ed Mariness: Last Poems of Lynn Lonidier; and the award-winning anthology, She Rises like the Sun: Invocations of the Goddess by Contemporary American Women Poets. Her stories, Journeys with Justine, illustrated by Cristina Biaggi, and her essays, Goddesses, Goddesses, will be published in 2007.
Janine has taught poetry, and has given many poetry readings in milieu such as the City University of New York, National Poetry Week of San Francisco, Rutgers University, Shakespeare & Co. Paris, the Smithsonian Institute, Stanford University, and the University of California at Berkeley Art Museum, as well as on radio and television.
Born in Los Angeles in 1942, she is a Stanford graduate with distinction, received an MD from NYU School of Medicine in 1976, and is today a practicing psychiatrist in Sonoma, California. She may be contacted through her website. www.janinecanan.com
More of Janine Canan’s work here:
The feeling I’m painting is my interpretation of the interaction between me and the subject. If it doesn’t move me, I don’t want to paint it. So when I paint something, I’ve already had an interaction with it. My latest series has been The Universal Field. The Universal Field is beneath our thought – a level of consciousness where we have the same intelligence, probably, as the ocean, or the whole biosphere. I really don’t see those colors, I see a peaceful place that isn’t cluttered with mind chatter. I work the colors until I love them. I’m a colorist. The universal field is that place we go between all the thoughts. It’s smaller than atoms, it’s bigger than the Cosmos. It’s a place where all the intelligence is the same.
My colors are imaginative and come from deep inside me, extraordinary, not ordinary, but extraordinary colors. I work until the energy feels like it isn’t just the thing itself – whatever the thing is – a person, and ocean, or a painting of all the energy beneath us. I paint the feelings and relationships between people in a ‘universal field”.
My colors aren’t from something I learned yesterday – they’re from inside whatever energy that I have always been. If I was to visualize the source of life, I’d visualize it in colors. I work until I have colors that I feel convey a meaning and are not contrived. They’re not ‘school colors’. Colors are energy. I work until the energy feels like it isn’t the thing itself, whatever the thing is. If it’s a person, an ocean, or a painting of all the energy underneath us.
People Should Feel Moved
I would like people who see my work to feel ‘moved’; to stand there and feel moved, not just walk by. Maybe it makes them think about things. I want people to feel my work affects them.
“I live to paint”
You may read more, and contact Geri McGilvray, at www.geriart.net
Suppose you go to work one day, and the walls start talking to you.
You’d like to ignore them, but they are saying things you’ve secretly suspected for years.
You go to a doctor. He hands you to a therapist. The therapist sends you to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist gives you pills, which he tells you may or may not take care of it. Make another appointment. Plan to do this for life, because the prognosis is not good.
Then, he sends you home.
What now? What do you tell your family? What do you tell your employer (if you still even have an employer?) What do you tell your friends?
What do you say to yourself?
This happens to millions of people a year. But I have yet to see a book that tells people what to do next. Nobody told me.
What this book has to offer is 36 years of experience on what to do next.
To recap: I am not claiming that altered [mental] states are real or imaginary, good or evil, physical or spiritual. You will surely come to your own conclusions about this. I am merely pointing out that they are human, and that some folks experience them much more often.
So, what I would say that we, the ‘mentally ill,’ have in common is that we are Prone to Altered States of Consciousness: PASC. It is not a deprecating term. It is merely descriptive.
The Dually Diagnosed tend to get lost in the Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous crowds. We are the recovering, the hardworking, the grateful — and the lonely. We are the ones who did all our footwork, but still didn’t get better. We are the weird among the weird. We don’t feel welcome. We don’t speak up. And we need to.
When you’ve got this kind of double whammy, you can’t help wondering about your value. Did I do something horribly wrong? Am I being punished for sins I committed in a previous life? Am I simply a weak personality? Is it just bad DNA? Can we posit that, in trying to get away from the exquisite misery of our illnesses, that some of us have adopted alcohol, drugs, and other self-destructive behaviors just for relief? Is the electrical brain mis-wiring so similar to the other that they develop in tandem?
Becoming spiritually sane is not a selfish act. We need [the book's program] and the program needs us. Through our unique and hard-won insights, we have much to offer…. the power I used to waste on self-blame can now be used for better things.
Fruchey continues throughout the rest of the book in a similar style, offering practical suggestions to assist those with psychiatric diagnoses in handling life situations. She suggests affordable ways to enjoy life and spend days when you have too much time and too little money…how to explain your condition to family and friends and employers…how to seek accommodations at work…how to handle awkwardness caused in your friendships and family relationships when you go through depressions and episodes…sort of a ‘Beginner’s Manual to Mental Illness.’
Deborah Fruchey writes from experience, after over 40 years of living with bipolar syndrome. She’s currently seeking representation and publication for Is There Room for Me, Too? You may reach her to discuss her writing – or for support and a shoulder to lean on, if you deal with a similar situation – at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Deborah Fruchey, suggestion of a magazine by and for mental health consumers:
Open Minds Quarterly
I stand on the tip of the railing. There’s a fire underneath and a tornado behind my back. Cold, crisp air is gnawing mercilessly at my back and shoulders. I dare not look back or down, I only stare at the crimson sky shadowed by clouds and a thousand crystal meteorites. I breathe in the smoky, thick summer air and wonder where the cold is coming from. The skeletal hands get hold of my feet and I am startled, I dare look down and that’s all it takes for me to lose it and fall…
I wake up, feeling groggy and dizzy. My period has started today and my panties are flooded with crimson red. Well, that probably explains the color of the sky in the dream.
I wash my face, brush my teeth and prepare my bag for a boring school day of pure torture. Starting with Mr. Reffat in Arabic class and ending with Mrs. Mary in PE, my day is washed in optimism and liveliness. In other words, shit is all over the place. There’s nothing better than wearing the uniform, tying my long chestnut brown hair in a tight ponytail – I must remember to have a haircut when summer vacation starts – and drinking cappuccino.
“You’re supposed to have breakfast before school,” Dad mumbles without lifting his eyes off the morning paper, Al-Ahram, as usual.
“I never go for the supposed stuff, Baba,” I reply and head towards the door.
“I won’t pick you up today. I’m going to visit your aunt Mahira and I may stay long there. Dinner will be in the oven.”
I go out of the door without looking back, slam it behind me and wait for the elevator.
I never knew a house without a mother will be that bleak!
The road to school is paved with dust and gravel. Everything seems gloomy, bleary and transparent. The school walls are gray with aging, the ceilings are cracked and the teachers seem to be stranded on a permanent timeline without a chance of being released. They look old, soggy and mummified. I almost expect Mr. Nassar to fall dead at any second and Miss Maysa to excuse herself and take a nap in her golden coffin. The weather is unchangeable during school times; either cloudy in winter or humid in summer. Our school knows nothing about the beauty of nature, even on a cloudy day the sky is a block of endless gray and cloud art seems to exist off premises but never when we’re inside. School is simply a machine to suck the life from my lungs, but of course that’s just me.
Jaylan Salah would love to find representation and formal critique and editing for her soon-to-be complete novel, When Lovers are Sinners – which deals with class and cultural issues in modern-day Egypt, but with a supernatural twist. She may be reached at email@example.com
Recovering Lost Scriptures
In order to understand the nature of Bon terma (hidden treasures) it is best to understand the nature of the texts that were hidden. These texts are considered to be supernatural and sacred in origin. They are considered to have been taught and transmitted by an earlier Buddha who founded the lineage, Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, and propagated by the sages. Bon history can viewed in a manner that is similar to the great epics such as the Shah Namah, the Ramayana, and the Gesar Tales. These works are historical epics that take on mythic proportions. The sages of these histories were not mere mortals. These were great heroes of superhuman abilities. These were persona possessing magical skills and extremely long lives. The greatest of these was the teacher and founder Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche. He is said to have always been enlightened. Out of compassion He incarnated into the world system in order to liberate all sentient beings. The Bon histories state that He visited many peoples within the six realms of existence. On Earth he is said to have visited many countries. He conquered many demons throughout His ministry. The Bon view of these heroes is that of the shaman and the tantrika. This is reflected in the scriptures of the Bonpo.
Reuben Rutledge may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes feedback and conversation.
Rangda and Barong
Reuben L. Rutledge, Ph.D abd
The conflict between Rangda and Barong is an important part of Balinese culture. Rangda is the dark, liminal Goddess. She is a manifestation of Durga the Goddess of Death. She is the Queen of the Leyaks. Her armies of bhutas, kalas, and leyaks (types of demons) cause malice, illness, misfortune, and the destruction of crops. She is Mahendratta the Widow Queen. According to Margaret Mead, Rangda is a mother figure, the expression of parent/child relationship in Bali. Rangda is the personification of fear. She is a hairy elderly woman with pendulous breasts. Her eyes bulge. From Her mouth huge fangs and a lolling flaming tongue appear. Her hands are equipped with long nails. She is a resident of cemeteries were She feasts on corpses. She has an appetite for children. She is associated with black magic. Her main disciples are Raroeng, Lendi, and Waksisia. When Rangda departs, Raroeng then becomes the ruler. Barong is the personification of white magic. He is the powerful protector clearing away the demonic that crosses His path. Barong is the kaya polarity. He is also associated with King Erlanga. There are various forms of Barong. Barong Matjan is a tiger. Barong Bangkal is a boar. Barong Gadjah is an elephant. Barong Singa is a lion. Barong Lemboe is a cow. The most common and important form of him is Barong Keket, a fantastical abstract beast. Barong is a tantric manifestation of Rangda. He is the propitiated form of Rangda, converted from being a destroyer into a protector.  Barong’s appearance is not unlike a Chinese dragon or lion. He is portrayed in a two-person costume. Barong Keket’s face strongly resembles a Chinese lion. This costume is covered with golden hair. The masker’s behavior is not unlike that of Chinese lion dancers. Chinese traders probably introduced this image. In their battles, neither of them wins. The battles are always a draw.
Much of the world’s best music – jazz, blues, rock – can credit the traditional songs of one or more cultures as an inspiration. Now, many world music performers are exploring these cultural traditions, bringing local music onto an international stage.
Fresh and centered from the afternoon yoga class she teaches, Ramana Viera shared from her heart and imagination about the creative process of writing and performing Portuguese songs together with a group of other innovative musicians.
Here’s a paraphrased excerpt from my conversation with Viera – but first, she would like to thank her very supportive production company, Pacific Coast Music, for the work they put in producing her latest album, Lagrimas del Rainha.
You may visit their website, and listen to and buy the music, here: http://ramanavieira.net/
Ramana Viera (RV): People are more aware of traditional music nowadays…we’ve heard of Gypsy, or Roma, music, and Spanish flamenco. And Portuguese music has a style all its own. We have a kind of music, fado, which is more sedate, usually has three guitar players, and serves a cultural function like American blues. Fado deals with themes such as lost love, grief, and nostalgia.
Cristina Deptula (CD): So, do you perform traditional fado, or do you mix things up a bit?
RV: Our band loves the traditional pieces, and the history of that music. We do innovate when it comes to fado: we’ve used electric guitars and incorporated Latin rhythms. When we experiment with something different, that’s not at all because we don’t like the traditional way. Often, it can be hard to find very traditional fado performers in this area, so we make do with what we have.
From what I’ve seen, the Portuguese community’s great at performing music at our festas and parties, but I’d love to see people take the music to the larger world.
There are some wonderful traditional musicians around, though – Ana Moura, Mariza, Dulce Pontes, Helder Carvalhiera, for example – and we’ve learned from them.
CD: So you have a lot of influences…how exactly does one musician influence another? Is it conscious or unconscious? Does a new musician set out to emulate a person or play in a certain style, or does it just happen?
RV: Sometimes someone’s music just takes hold of you! I’m most inspired by Portuguese musician Amalia Rodrigues, along with Kate Bush and Tori Amos. I admire people such as these three, who can combine various art forms, who write and perform their own songs. Musicians who aren’t just front people for a band, but who really help create and embody the characters they present in their songs.
CD: Your new song Lagrimas de Rainha (Tears of a Queen) certainly presents many powerful emotions. Would you like to share the story behind that piece?
I went to the Farmer’s Market one Saturday, deliriously happy that we had a break in the rain, and that the sun and the clouds were high overhead. I was sampling the cheese when she passed me….A lady in a wheelchair, without a leg.
“Lord have mercy,” I whispered, and prayed I would have a chance to meet her and tell her I would pray. As I rounded a corner and then stopped by the kettle corn vendor, there she was. She was right in front of me. Her name was Linda, she was missing one of her arms and one of her legs and she had a motorized wheelchair. Her other arm was burned as if she had been in a fire.
I prayed and asked her a few questions about herself. She stays at a county hospital. She has a roommate. I told her to have a good day and that I would be praying for her. As I walked away, I do what I always do. I cried and aked the Lord to please take this burden from me, for it was too much to bear.
Then I heard his still, small voice….”I know all about it,” He seemed to say. I knew the matter was ended and I could leave it in His all-powerful hands. We have so much and others often have so little, yet if they have the creator of the universe on their side, there is no limit as to what can be done in and through them.
Patsy Ledbetter may be reached at email@example.com and is also a classically trained violinist!
Waiting for the Phone to Ring
by Jean Wong
Waiting for the phone to ring
Such a small little thing
For my 33 year old self to not
Be in the moment about.
Would his fingers touch the phone
His voice caress my ear
Ask me to go for a walk
Have a coffee, see a movie
Have dinner, marry me,
Give me children
Connect his heart to love me
Or not love me or be indifferent
Or disagree, fight,
make me leave him, or have him
I don’t care what happens…
Just pick up the
Doesn’t Want my Friendly Heart
by Jean Wong
Poised on grid
Wrapped in steel
Protected by horn and laws
Red to Green
A lengthy pause
Creates my blunder
Am invaded by curses
through sunlit glass.
He can’t hear my apologies
Nor reasons for my
Doesn’t want any of my
His hard carapace
becomes my own
My mind leaks out loud
“Screw that wing nut.”
wrapped in steel
protected by horn and laws
Jean Wong may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org – she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and enjoys writing poetry as well as autobiographical short stories.
I am an artist who combines all the art forms in my work:costumes being my main discipline. I turn people into nature nymphs, fairy spirits, etc and I take all my own photographs.
Alisha Fisher may be reached at email@example.com and would love to hear of professional opportunities using her skills and talents.