journey around my room


freya

I was into a goddess phase for awhile. Empowerment, all that jazz. My personal belief structure has broadened since then, become (I hope) more nuanced and more inclusive. I no longer feel the need to make it a goddess vs. god universe. I like to joke that I worship the Holy Hermaphrodite, but that ain’t much of a joke. We’re all part of the same creation, yin and yang. We need to cut each other some slack.

I acquired this statue of Freya during that goddess phase, but mostly I wanted it because of that face. Who could resist it? She has such an open and serene expression that it makes me happy just to look at her. Surrounded by her gigantic necklace, Brísingamen, her hands folded meekly, you’d never know she was such a kickass female—a war goddess. That appealed to me, too, at the time. It still does to a certain extent, but what also appeals to me about Freya are her other associations with love and fertility, and her personal longing for love. Her husband, Odr, was frequently absent, you see, and she cried huge tears of red gold for him. Which proves yet again that no matter how strong and powerful we are, we can still be laid low by love.

If we’re lucky. The capacity to love is a blessing. Being laid low by it is a symptom of how open our hearts are. I was looking hard for love when I acquired this statue of Freya, a perpetual search back then. She resided in my bedroom in my old apartment, standing atop a cabinet my father made for me to hold my huge collection of earrings. Given her Brísingamen, it seemed an appropriate place for her.

Am I still looking for love? Not in the same way I was back then. I am not so particular about the kind of love I receive, not looking only for a mate. Love of any kind is a blessing, and the fires that drove me to find a partner are banked low these days. I wouldn’t turn it down if it came my way, but I don’t feel the need to seek it. Things change. Fires of all kinds renew. Phoenixes rise from ashes, and so might my quest, but mostly I’m glad not to be consumed with it anymore.

I’m pretty much a Jungian about such things. The journey within, self-knowledge, is the true goal, the true gold. That’s our only shot at understanding anything truly meaningful about the universe. I believe there is a Higher Something, but our human minds can’t comprehend it. All godhead is the same but because we are fragmented creatures we come up with a multiplicity of aspects to portray that godhead. All paths lead back to the same source, and we can’t approach it with externals, but sometimes there are very nice things that help us see an aspect of that Something.

Some years after buying the Freya statue I decided that my mythic world might be a little unbalanced and (since my pocketbook was not as challenged) I also acquired Freyr, Freya’s brother and lover. Very phallic, but that’s probably food for another post. Freya seemed much happier having him around and so was I. We please our goddesses as we please ourselves.

I have lost touch with many aspects of my sacred journey, my mystical journey into the dark heart of myself and out the other side into the light. It’s a fairy journey, into and out again. I hope to return to that rediscovered country, to see what else it can show me, and to settle myself in the now instead of the hoped-for future and much-regretted past. These things in my room are merely touchstones, aspects of a more profound reality inside my own heart and soul. Looking at them fresh again, remembering why they were important in the first place, is part of the journey back to that forgotten land. Renewal waits around the next turn in the road.

*Inspired by Xavier de Maistre’s book of the same name, I will be journeying around my sitting room/writing room as the mood strikes me and reflecting on the larger life meanings of the things I find there. The things themselves are not important—they are just objects—but hopefully those remembrances and reflections will be of interest. Another irregular series that I will probably keep up with . . . irregularly.

Not to be confused with these guys.

No, I’m talking about the guy who painted this:

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Madonna and Child with Two Angels
 

I became enamored of this painting when studying Art History the year before I went to Europe for the first time—so enamored, in fact, with all the luscious Italian Renaissance art that I had to go see it in person. I was poor as dirt, but I bent all my will towards saving money to go. I quit Santa Monica College and worked full time for a year before applying to UCLA. My mother was freaked that I wouldn’t finish school, but I knew I would once I got a little traveling out of my system. Ostensibly, I was saving towards the Big U (and I did a little of that), but really I was hellbent on going to Europe. And I went. And then I came back and settled in to working part time to put myself through college. I did earn my BA, much to my mother’s relief.

But, oh! The sights I saw before that. I saw the original of my beloved Lippi and many another wonderful painting at the Uffizi in Florence. And the David at the Academia! Ghiberti’s doors! So much, so much. I was swimming in honey beneath the Tuscan sun.

A few days later I was in Assisi going through the basilica to see the Giotto and Lorenzetti frescoes, back before the basilica and the frescoes got ruined in an earthquake. I was going through the Upper Church and there was an open door leading to a outdoor balcony. It was a glorious, sunny fall day and this balcony offered staggering views of the rolling Umbrian countryside so I was naturally drawn outside. The monks probably counted on luring the tourists like that on beautiful days because they’d set up a little gift shop out there. I found this and had to have it:

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I haven’t kept notebooks all my life, just most of my life. I think I must have gotten the first when I was ten or eleven. Although it was dubbed on the outside “My Diary,” I rarely went more than a week with any prototypical diary entries. In fact, it was neatly divided into three or four modest “day” entries per page andI routinely wrote over several days’ worth for each entry. These little books always tended to be more like journals, sometimes filled with activities, but mostly filled with emotional screeds, commentaries on the world, philosophical ramblings. Later, they tended to fill up with bits and pieces of my writing: character sketches, poems, dialog runs, etc., etc.—mixed in with the emotional screeds, commentaries, philosophy. They have mostly been cheap paper-cover books, but once or twice I’ve bought something really fancy, like this one:

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This one cost far more money than rational me wanted to spend, but the excitable part of me had to have it. Or, actually, it had to have the one made of brown leather. Black leather has always had less appeal to me. I kept circling back to the store and fondling that book for weeks, but fortunately, the rational me got the excitable one to wait until the notebook had been marked down and I had a gift certificate. By that time, sadly, all the brown leather ones had sold out—but that did not deter me. I’d obsessed about the damned thing and so I was going to have it. Let’s not speak of acquisitiveness gone mad, shall we?

That was a few years ago now and I have never written a word in it. I just can’t bring myself to violate those pages with the usual screeds, ramblings, and commentaries. What am I saving it for? I have no idea, but there is sits, beautifully occupying a shelf. Seems a waste, but we’re not talking rational processes here. The rational me and the excitable one walk hand-in-hand, but it’s often an uneasy partnership, each pulling hard in the opposite direction.

When I was about thirteen and walking around the back yard of our old house in Venice in a moony state (not at all uncommon in those days), something kept nudging me to go to the little walk space behind the “garage.” Garage is a euphemistic term for the structure on the back end of our property. Basically it was a couple of strung together rattletrap sheds which hadn’t seen paint since the Trojan War and had a distinct lean to the south. My biodad stored his tools and an inordinate amount of Important Guy Stuff in the larger shed. The smaller shed sometimes held fertilizer and the like for his prodigious garden. Behind this structure was a pathway about five feet wide at the very back end of the property. An enormous wire fence kept the riff raff of the neighborhood (my family) from entering the property on the other side, the Edgemar Dairy.

Dairy is also a euphemistic term, as no actual cows wandered the premises. It was a processing plant and staging area for Edgemar trucks to fill up with ice and cart their loads of milk, cottage cheese, fruit drinks, etc., to stores. An enormous ice-crushing machine sat on the other side of that wire fence and it would start going at about two or three in the morning. (That, and being in the flight path of Santa Monica airport, helped train me to be the talented sleeper that I am to this very day.) The positioning of the ice-crushing machine against the property line was intentional, one in a long series of harassments the dairy management folks concocted in an effort to get us and our neighbor to sell out cheap to them and move. It didn’t work. We were made of sterner (and more spiteful) stuff than they imagined. They never did get our property. But that’s another story…

So anyway, something urged thirteen-year-old me to go behind the garage, telling me I’d find something special. I’d been back there countless times and the rational was skeptical—but the Believer was game. When I walked this familiar path, what did I spy? A little notebook lying just beside the fence on the dairy side: a cheapie, maybe 4×7, black leatherette, spiral bound. I could reach quite easily under where the wire of the fence didn’t quite meet the concrete and pull it to me. It was full of paper, every page blank, and it must not have been there long because it wasn’t damp or dirty. Well! The Believer thought I’d been given a Very Special Gift from the universe. The Skeptic (active even at that tender age) thought some schmuck had dropped it in the wee hours while filling his truck up with ice and disturbing my sleep. But I held onto that notebook for years—and kept it as empty as that expensive model. I just could bring myself to violate the pages.

The Believer always seems to be saving these things for that something special that never quite materializes.

(This post is really about Skepticism and Belief.)

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Green Men are found in many cultures. They are commonly a symbol of rebirth and regeneration, the spring greening that inevitably follows the dying of winter.

I’m fascinated with them. I have two of them, one in the back yard garden near the peach tree:

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The lovely lady to the left of him is the Roman goddess Flora, and the lady on the right is simply named Ivy. The man himself is cast iron and he is aging gracefully, starting to rust in interesting patterns.

I also have a Green Man inside, in my room:

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He’s smaller, also made of metal, but I doubt he’s copper as the green of him suggests. I believe the “aging” on this one is artificial—but I still think he’s rather cool. Here’s the grouping in which he sits, right next to Freya and the prayer sticks, which you may remember from past entries:

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Truth is, I’d have more Green Men if I had the space and money (so it’s probably a good thing that I don’t). I like the ones with serious and slightly sinister expressions, and I like them to be made of serious natural materials like metal, not these comical cast resin ones that you see here and there and everywhere (though I admit, Flora and Ivy are cast resin). Why am I so fascinated with these Green Man images?

This post is really about Nature.

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That’s the name of this pen and ink drawing, done by my friend, Francesca, back when she and my roommates-at-the-time shared a studio in Venice, California. It’s a fairly accurate portrait, in an abstract way. Back then, I had one of those long, very curly perms. I loved my hair like that, but it was such a commitment of salon time to keep it up because my hair is naturally fine and string straight (all except for one mutant wave at the back of my head). Also, those perms really damaged my hair. So I didn’t keep it for long and I have hardly any pictures of me like that. Certainly none that I’ve scanned.

I did receive quite a bit of positive male attention with that hair, though. Lynn and I spent many weekend nights going to the Whisky à GoGo on the Sunset Strip, Madame Wong’s in Chinatown, and many other places of the rocking and the rolling variety. Great fun and we saw a number of good bands. Later, I went the full punk treatment, with hair only an inch long except for one long trailing bit of hair down my back and a little crest on the crown of my head. The boys were not quite as fond of that haircut. In fact, some of them stopped talking to me, assuming I’d lost interest in boys. It’s amazing what some people will assume on scant evidence. C’est la guerre, c’est l’amour. I don’t even have a pen and ink drawing of me with that haircut. I was quite camera averse in those days. Carl moved in with us about this time, which confused the upstairs neighbors a great deal. They wondered if he was gay, but they also wondered about the sleeping arrangements because…only two bedrooms. We didn’t clarify things to straighten out their rumpled assumptions. Not their business. We found the whole thing rather funny.

Also accurate about this portrait is the worried look on my face. I suspect I looked like that quite a lot in those days. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. But I don’t think I’ll talk about the worst of times. Maybe in another post. Maybe not. When I look at this drawing, I tend to only remember the good times, the laughs, to feel warm inside.

This post is really about where we lived.

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prayer sticks

What are prayer sticks? A way of making a prayer manifest in physical form, an offering to the gods and spirits in hope they will please them and persuade them to grant your prayer.

There are many ways to make prayer sticks, many traditions, including fake ones. If you type prayer sticks into Google, you’ll see what I mean. They aren’t strictly an American Indian tradition, but exist in many forms in many cultures. The thing is: one tradition will have you plant them in the earth to soak up the earth’s magic; another will tell you they must hang in trees and never touch the earth or the magic is void. I suspect the “truth” is more along the lines of “as you think, so shall it be.”

The way I was taught is this: first, get yourself a stick. Now, some traditions say it has to be a stick gathered from a certain kind of tree (the kind of tree varying depending on who you’re talking to), stripped of its bark and sanded; others say leave the bark on; still others say the stick itself is less important than the intent put into it. A piece of wooden dowling will do if you do not have a tree handy to harvest switches from. So, I got me some wooden dowling. Second, on the top part of the stick you paint or write your prayer in some kind of permanent medium. Next, you cover up the prayer with bright cloth or leather and bind it with string or leather thongs. I have a special piece of batik cloth which a soldier brought back from Vietnam for his mother. She gave it to my mother, who gave it to me. I use it for all my ceremonial art pieces. Then you decorate the cloth—with things of a more natural bent, not plastic. In my case, I used shells, bells, tile beads, shell buttons (some dyed blue, some natural), bone beads, ribbons, and feathers. Feathers are very, very important. Almost every tradition I’ve read of speaks of feathers. They help the prayer fly up to the gods, you see. After all this—in the way I was taught—you find a secluded place where you can plant your stick in the ground, somewhere where it’s not likely to be disturbed because if someone touches it, the magic all goes away! You visit the stick every day at sunset or sunrise for ten days, and reiterate the prayer inked on it. After ten days it becomes just another decorated stick and you can pluck it from the ground again and do whatever you like with it. I placed mine on display in my room, and they have journeyed around with me now from place to place to place to place.

prayer sticks closeup

And no, I will not say what the prayers were for. I have a superstition of my own, that telling the prayer will make the magic all disappear. In fact, I’m only totally sure what one of those prayers was for (both were done many years ago). I also have a superstition about unwrapping the stick and peaking at the prayer. See above about magic disappearing. The one I’m sure of came true, so the stick did the trick. I suspect I know what the other one was, but I’m not entirely sure, and if it was what I think, then the gods found my prayer stick and me wanting. The prayer did not come true. No harm, no foul. Prayers sticks are about asking, not about receiving.

I did a lot of asking back in the day, back in that day.

This post is really about cultural appropriation

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Back way back when I was a pre-teen and teen I adored Dr. Pepper. I could not get enough of it and used to guzzle (my mother’s word) the stuff all day long. I have the fillings to prove it, which is why, sometime during high school to save my teeth I swapped my allegiance from Dr. P and other sugary soft drinks to coffee. I say this as if I made the decision all on my own, but my mother and dentist—mostly my mother—made a big deal out of this. Once I stopped guzzling the sugared stuff I mostly stopped having rotten teeth, so I guess it was the right move.

Before I went cold-turkey, I used to plan my trips home from school around my Dr. P addiction. If I caught the bus right outside the school, it left me off on Main Street, about two blocks from my house and not in easy striking distance of a market. But if I walked about 4-5 blocks west from the school to Lincoln Blvd., caught the Lincoln bus to Rose Avenue and walked the 4-5 blocks home from there, I had access to two markets. On the walk up, I’d stop into the little Mom & Pop store on Venice Blvd. for a hit of Dr. P to drink at the bus stop. Then on Rose Avenue, I’d visit Escalera’s market, another Mom & Pop I’d been going to since I was a little girl (when it was still Dumont’s), before completing the one and a half blocks home. I always made sure to buy an extra Dr. P so I could drink it in the evening after dinner.

The thing is, the Dr. Pepper was part of it, maybe the initial motivator, but really I loved those walks. Sometimes I went with another “friend” who lived close to my neighborhood, but mostly I walked alone because I preferred the freedom of my imagination and the luxury to observe, over making inane conversation with a girl I had little in common with and didn’t like that much (and who didn’t care that much for me). So we’d do our best to avoid each other at the end of the school day and go our separate ways. And that was just as it should be. I could take my beloved walk in peace.

*This little guy is not on permanent display in my room—in fact, this little guy has long since gone on to a better life in recycling—but it was there in my room and sparked a memory chain, so I took a picture of it.

This post is really about walking.

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freya

I was into a goddess phase for awhile. Empowerment, all that jazz. My personal belief structure has broadened since then, become (I hope) more nuanced and more inclusive. I no longer feel the need to make it a goddess vs. god universe. I like to joke that I worship the Holy Hermaphrodite, but that ain’t much of a joke. We’re all part of the same creation, yin and yang. We need to cut each other some slack.

I acquired this statue of Freya during that goddess phase, but mostly I wanted it because of that face. Who could resist it? She has such an open and serene expression that it makes me happy just to look at her. Surrounded by her gigantic necklace, Brísingamen, her hands folded meekly, you’d never know she was such a kickass female—a war goddess. That appealed to me, too, at the time. It still does to a certain extent, but what also appeals to me about Freya are her other associations with love and fertility, and her personal longing for love. Her husband, Odr, was frequently absent, you see, and she cried huge tears of red gold for him. Which proves yet again that no matter how strong and powerful we are, we can still be laid low by love.

If we’re lucky. The capacity to love is a blessing. Being laid low by it is a symptom of how open our hearts are. I was looking hard for love when I acquired this statue of Freya, a perpetual search back then. She resided in my bedroom in my old apartment, standing atop a cabinet my father made for me to hold my huge collection of earrings. Given her Brísingamen, it seemed an appropriate place for her.

Am I still looking for love? Not in the same way I was back then. I am not so particular about the kind of love I receive, not looking only for a mate. Love of any kind is a blessing, and the fires that drove me to find a partner are banked low these days. I wouldn’t turn it down if it came my way, but I don’t feel the need to seek it. Things change. Fires of all kinds renew. Phoenixes rise from ashes, and so might my quest, but mostly I’m glad not to be consumed with it anymore.

Some years after buying the Freya statue I decided that my mythic world might be a little unbalanced and (since my pocketbook was not as challenged) I also acquired Freyr, Freya’s brother and lover. Very phallic, but that’s another post. Freya seemed much happier having him around and so was I. We please our goddesses as we please ourselves.

I have lost touch with many aspects of my sacred journey, my mystical journey into the dark heart of myself and out the other side into the light. I hope to journey back there, to that rediscovered country, and settle myself in the now instead of the hoped-for future and much-regretted past. These things in my room are merely touchstones, aspects of a more profound reality inside my own heart and soul. Looking at them fresh again, remembering why they were important in the first place, is part of the journey back to that forgotten land. Renewal waits around the next turn in the road.

*Inspired by Xavier de Maistre’s book of the same name, I will be journeying around my sitting room/writing room as the mood strikes me and reflecting on the larger life meanings of the things I find there. The things themselves are not important—they are just objects—but hopefully those remembrances and reflections will be of interest. Another irregular series that I will probably keep up with . . . irregularly.