Blog: Post From Raven and Rose/Cante Jondo

21JAN13 . Sun in Aquarius/Moon in Gemini .  Monday

Marked By The Muse Post:

Let me write some prose today.  I see how my journey of the last four weeks parallels the underlying concepts behind the questions that I have been exploring during the Marked By The Muse cycle.  I think I can answer some of them and give my Muse credit for spurring me on in so much of the creative and soul work I am currently engaged in accomplishing.

I just got home from my therapist appointment.  Darcy has been holding my hand for the last couple of years as I plumb the dark places in my psyche looking for buried treasure and balance.  I am happy to be able to say that after all the details of my personal history, I am still here and I am still sane!  Lately, I have been reading an interview with Clarissa Pinkola Estes for Sounds True with Tami Simon about her new online six part series “Mother Night” discussing how to reclaim one’s soul from the over-acculturation of our modern world; such a necessity for those of us who are Sensitives.   I brought some of that material with me, as I have been so stirred up by it that I woke up twice last night with a stomach ache and was walking around in a half zombie state all morning unable to digest the meaning.  Fortunately, I had Darcy to talk with today.

The discovery of Tonantzin behind Guadalupe in the last couple of weeks has precipitated a much overdue reevaluation of my Mestizo heritage.  Because I am a light skinned blonde…in college I had multiple experiences of people attempting to speak to me in Nordic tongues, like Swedish…I have had the feeling of being incognito for most of my life.  My mother tells the story of being asked “Where did you steal the big Swede from?” when I was a very young child as she walked beside me in her dark Latin visage.  As a first generation Mexican American intent upon assimilation with more than just a little internalized racism, she has always been very proud of that story.  She gave me warnings like, “If you ever bring home a dirty Mexican, I will disown you!” and “You must purify the race, marry a white man!”.  She was taught these things by her mother, a visibly identifiable indigenous Indian woman from the hills of Sonora who married a man from Durango with a predominance of Spanish heritage.  Ah, those blue-grey eyes made all the difference in the dance of the oppressed with the oppressor.

Detail of Tonantzin Mural at 16th and Sanchez in San Francisco, CA

Having internalized these generational messages of racism as an assimilated and disguised “white woman”, I failed to fully face the dilemma of being a half-breed until the last twenty years or so.  Even so, I did not really begin to understand the impact of such ideas, until recently.  I did my best to deny cultural influences other than those of Celtic and British Isles spirituality and ignored the political implications of life in the body of a mixed race woman.   I was willing to accept my mother’s pejorative epitaph of “Bruja” from my childhood, because I had embraced the fact of being a witch, a psychic and a healer in the New Age zeitgeist, but still had no place to put the rest of it.

Depiction of La Virgen de Guadalupe

Recently learning that behind the Virgen de Guadalupe Madonna story was a richer vein of Goddess energy, has begun a transformative process for me.  I am realizing that in my headlong flight away from being anything like my mother, I actually fell into the trap of living out of her negative messages about my inherited legacy.  My unwillingness to assess and embrace both of the cultural heritages that run through my blood left me incomplete, both as a human being and as an artist.  I have explored my paternal Celtic roots.  Stories of my paternal grandmother’s calling in the spirits through table tapping rituals was the starting point and gave my seeing ghosts as a child credence when my mother’s scorn was the answer to my attempts to share my experiences with her.

And then, there was the Virgen de Guadalupe.  My mother’s aggressive lapsed Catholic background did not deter me from choosing to be a Catholic after going to a number of churches when I was eight years old.  Those images of Jesus surrounded by women, statues of the Virgin Mary and clearly feminine angels painted everywhere in the Catholic church captured my attention and imagination, as well as my piety.  The Goddess was calling me even then.  Nor did my paternal grandmother’s Protestant leanings stop her from encouraging me to attend mass in the little church down the street from her home, where I spent my summers, in Soledad.

Walking into the vestibule of the church, the first thing I saw was a mural representation of La Virgen de Guadalupe.  I did not like it.  Now I know that even though the features were meant to be an amalgam of European/Spanish and indigenous Mexica in order to unify the two bloodlines in peace, the total effect reminded me of my very Indian maternal grandmother whose widow’s hump, dark skin and wrinkled face frightened me.  Because she refused to learn English and I rebelled against eight years of Spanish, I never had the benefit of learning about who she really was and could only react to her foreignness with fear and revulsion.  It didn’t help that her house smelled strange and there were ghosts in some of the rooms.  She and my grandfather lived like transplanted Mexican peasants, having lost all of their wealth when they crossed the border into the United States.  Tortillas greeted me on the table with mortar and pestle and ground chiles so hot they burned my eyes.

So many mixed messages…  But now I know that Tonantzin is a Goddess I can call upon in this new chapter.  I know that my Muse, who calls herself Feling after the Celtic fey and fell, has guided me into this strange dark valley to enrich me.   And, has always been the case, where she leads I will follow.

Deborah K. Tash

15OCT12  .  Monday  .  Sun in Libra/Moon in Libra  .  New Moon

Cante Jondo Post: What Nourishes You?

The moon is new today in Libra.  It’s seed planting time; time to renew.  Thinking of the Cante Jondo and what nourishes me, I am reminded of my sophomore year in high school.   As a thirteen year old, I made the life altering decision to leave the public school arena and attend an all-girl’s Catholic high school, which later merged with the all-boy’s high school at the end of the block.  A funny aside is that the girl’s school and the boy’s school were separated by the children’s grammar school and the Church, meaning that the boys had to pass our school after getting off the bus to walk the block to get to their school.  In 1963, as a new freshman, my best friend and I got detention because we stood on the rock wall and leaned against the wire fence on top of it to flirt with the boys.  Really; the Age Of Aquarius had not quite shown up yet.  When it did in my junior year, the boy’s high school and the girl’s high school were merged.  We could talk to any hunk we wanted to then…riiiiiight!

Anyway, as a sophomore I discovered poetry.  I had been writing as a member of the Aunt Elsie Club since I was eight years old, loved grammar and sentence construction and reading rocked my world, but I didn’t discover poetry til that year.  What a revelation!  I still shiver with the thrill of reading the Highwayman and a few years ago the version of it sung by Loreena McKennitt expressed all of my romantic longings it encompasses in song.  I was bubbling over with enthusiasm in English class and couldn’t wait to give my opinion about what the poems meant when asked by the instructor.   Poetry saved my life.   However, I was very much alone in my devotion.  Aside from the English teacher, the other girls were bored and disdainful of poetry, emotions and thinking in general.   In the manner of high school girls, they were also snarky towards me.  Look up the definition of mean girls and you will find Catholic school girls right there at the top of the page.   I learned in high school to keep my mouth shut and write in private.

During the next forty years or so I read Rainier Maria Rilke, Emily Dickinson, Rumi, Mary Oliver in particular and poetry from other cultures and parts of the world, and I worked on writing my own.  It was still a solitary pastime, and even when asked by palmists if I was a writer for a living, I would always answer no.   Even though I answered no, poetry still kept me sane and focused during difficult times.

It was disappointing to see the general lack of interest in poetry in our culture, unchanged even by the wonderful openness and creativity that permeated everything in the 1960s and 1970s.  Poetry was a passion in South American countries and was highly valued all over the world, but not in the United States.   Still, poets continued to write and fortunately, for all of us, times have changed!  I love watching the poetry slams and contests that are now regularly on HBO.  It is so exciting to see that so many of the youth of our culture are jazzed about poetry and have discovered that ART SAVES LIVES and especially poetry!  It certainly has saved mine and continues to nourish me.

One of the things I love most about being part of the Cosmic Cowgirls/The Red Thread Vision Quest-Raven and Rose cycle is the opportunity to hone my skills in the craft of poetry by following Jenafer’s lead with her daily prompts.  I didn’t think I would like the daily prompts chafing against my rebellious “don’t tell me what to do!” nature, but as it turns out the container elicits a deeper practice and discipline for word crafting.  Knowing that I will be essentially publishing the poems on The Poetry Pile Up page engages my critical thinking as well as plumbing the depths of my emotions, because I know that I will have a chance to be read and heard.  As a result of this daily experience, I have also ventured out into the world of open mike readings and did my first one a couple of weeks ago to a very enthusiastic and appreciative crowd at Sacred Grounds in San Francisco.  Stay tuned for videos of me reading my work. Now when a palmist reads my palm and asks if I am a writer for a living, I can smile and say a most definite YES!  Poetry nourishes my life as I sing my Cante Jondo.

Deborah Tash-Self Portrait In Hallway Mirror 07OCT12 Photo by TASH

Art In Nature: 25SEP12…Twice now my friend, John Coveney, who is on the board of Samevesha has invited me to participate in this  event which they produce in the Oakland Regional Park in September.  Last year was too full of other commitments and this year I have not entered any shows because I have been focused on learning marketing and selling principles, as well as fully establishing my Cherish Yourself Massage Services without working at UCSF, and participating in transformational weekends and workshops which led to my becoming a member of the Family Of Women organization.  It has been a great year, filled with extensive learning, personal growth, transformation and rededicating myself to being an artist and poetess.  Yep, I am keeping the “ess”!  Anyway, I finally got myself organized this past Sunday, 23SEP12, and took the two hour trip via public transportation and shuttle from San Francisco to get to the event.  It was quite a journey with five separate connections and a variety of annoyances typical of traveling on public transportation on a Sunday when there is a ball game happening anywhere in the area.   However, it was a fun event with quite a lot of community and children related activities.  There was not that much in the way of visual art, but what was presented was excellent.  The ice sculptures of Carter Brooks beckoned to passersby for a refreshing touch of cool ice…really welcome in the heat of the September day and were stationed along the one mile path through the trees.

Art In Nature/23SEP12 Ice Sculpture by Carter Brooks Photo: TASH 2012 c

Art In Nature/23SEP12 Ice Sculpture by Carter Brooks Photo: TASH 2012 c

Art In Nature/23SEP12 Ice Sculpture by Carter Brooks Photo: TASH 2012 c

As I entered the gateway from the parking lot, I followed along a sweetly winding path that led to my first experience of art in the event.  It was a grouping of abstract paintings standing along the path which captured my attention because of the vibrancy of the colors and the emotional expression captured in the work.  What a surprise to discover Rasa Vitalia  with her artist partner, Justyn Zolli,  standing at the table positioned at the end of the line of paintings!  I had not met Rasa’s partner before, so this was a treat.  Rasa is an inspired dancer working in the belly dance tradition and though I didn’t get a chance to see her perform, she did so at the event.  I loved Justyn’s abstract interpretations of nature with a Taoist feel to them.

Rasa Vitalia and Justyn Zolli exhibit at Art In Nature/23SEP12 Photo: TASH c

The third exhibit to really capture my attention was further along the path about two-thirds of the way into the event.  A series of sculpted mandala paintings and pen and ink drawings in the Indian tradition.  The pieces had real presence.  I hope to be one of the artists exhibiting next year…we’ll see how it all comes together.  In the meantime, I highly recommend the event as an opportunity to experience art interactively in a natural setting, especially for those who enjoy community events with lots of things to keep children occupied out in nature!

A Transformational Weekend Retreat at Walker Creek Ranch/The Women’s Discovery Weekend: It’s been too long since I’ve been out of the city to interact with the spirits and totem animals in nature. This past weekend, from May 18th to May 20th I participated in the Family of Women’s Discovery Weekend held at Walker Creek Ranch; the most potent and empowering training/workshop/retreat I have experienced up to this point in my life. It was definitely supercharged by the building energy of the change of the Sun from Taurus to Gemini, the New Moon in Gemini and the Solar Eclipse of the Sun, which occurred at the closing of the event on Sunday at around 6:00pm.

On Friday evening as I arrived with my carpooling sisters we found a beautiful doe standing just beyond the parking area looking at us.  She was so lovely and reminded me that in Native American inspired astrology, the deer is the symbol for Gemini.  She was just the beginning!  Later that evening, I had a profound Shamanic experience with a flock of turkey vultures. Vultures are the keepers of the energies of Purification, Death and Rebirth and New Vision. Considered a descendent of the Griffin in Greek tradition, this often misunderstood bird is also considered a symbol of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, good and evil and guardian and avenger of the nature spirits. Imagine my delight when a whole flock of them showed themselves to me! Aho!

I was sitting in the dining hall with the other women in the training after having unpacked and left my belongings in my shared room in the Buckeye building which was the furthest away from the main bulk of buildings at the ranch. There was a lovely meandering path from one point to the other through the trees and alongside a gently sloping hill. Sitting in the hall, getting used to my surroundings, I suddenly became concerned about my purse as my city reflexes kicked into play. I had left it out, not putting it in a drawer or under the bed in my room and even though we were the only group at the ranch for the weekend, I had to go back and make it more secure. I just felt like something was going to happen and I needed to be aware. So, I walked back to the room and put my purse in a drawer. Returning to the hall on the sweet little path, I still had that feeling like something was going to happen. I figured it was my anticipation of the weekend, the new surroundings and the nervousness of an introvert being in a group of women I did not know. We had been told not to isolate but always ask for help from each other and I knew I would not have many opportunities for solitude in the next three days. So, with all this in mind, I decided to pray for guidance while I was alone walking back to the hall. This was going to be an important weekend in my life and I wanted my totem animal guides and the spirits of place to know that I was open to them here.

First I met a long eared rabbit sitting on the side of the path reminding me to face my fears.

Then, a small group of quail ran past me with their bobbing gait; a sure promise of group nourishment and protection. Looking up I watched as two vultures circled above me.

It was when I looked back down that I came upon the flock of turkey vultures standing in the middle of the path not more than ten feet from me. The leader of the group was limping badly. Because of my life long limp from the aftereffects of childhood polio, I recognized the significance of this gift the injured vulture was giving me by showing its vulnerability to me. Stopping, I put up my hands to send it light and healing. It hobbled towards me and then flew up into a tree to my left, calling out as it flew. The rest of the flock sang out their calls in answer and after a few moments, still singing, they moved together off the path.

The air shimmered with power and I felt the blessings of the spirits as I continued into a weekend of profound transformation and change. Aho!

Previous Post from The Cult of Beauty show at the Legion of Honor

Bocca Baciata/Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Today was the first museum excursion of 2012.  The ride on the 18 bus was as delightful as ever with views of bucolic beauty outside the windows as it passed the golf course that fronts the Legion of Honor Museum.  After renewing my membership and checking my things at the cloak room, I started at the cafe with lunch.  I cancelled an appointment that I had mid-day so I could enjoy the experience of being here without worrying about time constraints.  I needed to be here today.  Figuring I was going to ceramics tonight, I wore jeans with my turquoise velvet peacock patterned short kimono.  It fit right in with the theme of the show.  I adore being in this environment; the buzz of the other guests enjoying the cafe and the lovely view of trees out the window in the gracious courtyard.  It is a bit too chilly for me to sit outside to eat and write.  The food here is surprisingly good; gluten-free available with an unexpectedly delicious rice bread toasted for a BLT.  Not the usual “door stop” hard rice bread that I do my best to avoid.  How refreshing.  I want to do at least one sketch today, but we’ll see.  There is so much to look at and I need to find a rhythm for being in the museum so that I can settle into a space for sketching.  Never having done this before…around so many people…it may take some getting used to before I’m comfortable.  It occurs to me that coming here might be a great venue to continue working on writing The Gods In The Mirror.  I have done a lot of first draft work sitting in cafes and restaurants.  It might be great to write while sitting under a tree on a warm day here, as well as sitting in this cafe.  Onward now to the show.  The Cult of Beauty!  Yum!  I will drink in as much as I can with my eyes.

The Climax/Aubrey Beardsley

From my first erotic book of Aubrey Beardsley’s work, to the bedroom decorated in my 20s with large prints of William Waterhouse’s mythic images, I have been a lover of this work.  Long before I knew it was named the Aesthetic Movement, I was a devotee of this “Art for Art’s sake”.  Having had a great aunt and uncle who kept peacocks on their property inclined me to all of the peacock inspired images in the works of so many of these artists.  Add to that the sensual delights and angelic figures of Edward Burne Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s stunning beauties and I was hooked.  I didn’t fully realize ’til today that so many of the artists I grew up loving were all part of the same artistic movement.   I will come back to see this show as many times as it takes to soak up this work and allow it to further inform my own.  I was filled with nostalgia to see the imposing original of James McNeil Whistler’s Symphony In White #1/The White Girl in all its glory.  One of my lovers in my early 20s sent me a copy of this work as a postcard and I had it on my wall for years.  This work has so informed my whole life.  I remember being 18 years old, sitting in a tree straddling the small creek that runs through the Berkeley campus of UC, leafing through the pages of my first ever art and erotica book.  Aubrey Beardsley’s unexpurgated, provocative and astonishing images sparked my libido and my imagination, both.  I had never seen or even imagined images depicting the Queen of the Fairies having sex with a horse Under The Hill!  Babies being born out of the back of someone’s calf and unheard of little men whose phalluses were twice the size of their diminutive bodies…oh, my, Dorothy, we’re not in Kansas anymore!  I lament the loss of that book and wonder if I can find another copy on the Internet?  eBay?  Amazon?  William Waterhouse’s The Lady Of Shallot and Hylas and The Nymphs kept company with Echoe and Narcissus in that long ago bedroom.  Circe Invidiosa still graces my bedroom wall after nearly twenty years in my current home.

I can feel the beauty of the works in this show filling me with light.  The glowing colors and sensuous drawings of women are perfect for this month of celebrating women.  I’ll have to figure out how to display the postcards that I bought in the museum gift store.  It’s fascinating to see how many of the paintings Whistler created skate on the edge of abstraction.  Actually, being able to see these works in person brought home his rich brush strokes and relaxed but bold use of color.  I also found myself transfixed in front of paintings of stodgy men dressed in bourgeoisie suits, as well as the radiant and luminous goddesses of the Aesthetic sensibility.  The way the paintings were rendered just knocked me out!  How blessed I am to be able to be in the presence of such beauty.  Time to up my game as an artist with these stunning examples as my guides.

Symphony In White No. 1-The White Girl/James McNeil Whistler