“The first step to the knowledge of the wonder and mystery of life is the recognition of the monstrous nature of the earthly human realm as well as its glory, the realization that this is just how it is and that it cannot and will not be changed. Those who think they know how the universe could have been had they created it, without pain, without sorrow, without time, without death, are unfit for illumination.” ~ Joseph Campbell
This is a donation piece for the HUB at Cowichan Station. It is a decommissioned elementary school that is being turned in to a community hub with the classrooms & gym being transformed in to meeting areas and multi-purpose rooms. It is set in a beautiful area and is surrounded by magnificent cedars and local farms. There are a number of windows that have been boarded up so this piece will be replacing one of the regular pieces of plywood and it is one of many that have been donated. I'm really excited about having this new community gathering place; it has so much potential.
My wife's grandmother passed away just before I began this piece and with a consistancy I've come to expect, but never remember to expect, the painting speaks for the power of the moment. Laura was a lovely woman who, under some awful circumstances, managed to always maintain the strength of her role as a mother and grandmother. She rolled with the punches and was a very special person in my wife's world. During one conversation with my wife about the loss of her grandmother I said: "You know, death is a real asshole." And it is. I'm angry with death because it is so ridiculously final. The door gets shut, never to physically be openened again. NEVER. I hate that.
This painting seems to reflect this attitude, but clearly with part of me trying to explain that this is the natural progression of life and that wonderment, diversity, change & growth in life could never happen without death. It is why so many of our past, and some of our present cultures give such honour to the process and assign symbols and ultra potent beings to represent its inevitability and power.
I recently engaged as a staff member in a new warrior weekend as part of the Mankind Project. Its roots are in the initiation of males in to manhood, regardless of age. It's about helping men to take an honest look at their shadows and embrace their true power in the world as protectors, creators, lovers & warriors for that which makes it a better place. It is a fantastic process and one that I can't begin to describe the brilliance of. Every weekend completed is a weekend that makes the world a little bit safer and a little more honest.
Part of the processes involves intense work and the creation of space for the release of deep hurts. As a staff member, no matter how much of a 'shield' I put up, there is always the residue of other men's pain, shame, sadness, joy, love, hatred, guilt, confusion and anger. It's like a minute scarring of my spirit from the weekend's work that I embrace and wear as a badge of honour for doing the work that I do. It is the wound of battles hard fought and won to make our world a better place.
The horse has turned his head and is looking at me, I am on his back. He is asking if I'd like to journey with him. The road is long and it leads in to the mystery. He says I shouldn't do this alone. He is power, grace, nobility, beauty, strength and freedom.
When I first perceived the horse in this piece, I was not convinced that I should coach him out of the initial chaos of the paintings foundation. After turning the canvas upside down and seeing a mirror of him I ceased to doubt the process.
In researching horse symbolism and history it was interesting to learn that horses have been in partnership with us for over 5000 years and are probably one of the biggest contributors to the enhancement of our civilization. Honestly, I've been mostly afraid of them and not given them a whole lot of thought up until now. Only recently have I begun to feel on equal footing. I like this slow respectful development.
I've lived a week from hell. This piece was thwarted from the get go, everything in my life was going wrong; conspiring to stop me from painting. I'd started the foundation and I hated it, it was surely a mistake. I wasn't ready to deal.
My Aunt, Leah Hokanson, called and asked "how are you?". We've created a safe space to express ourselves to each other so I told her how I really was. How all this crap was coming up and how everything was wrong and how I felt I was failing myself and my family. She was drawn to offer a poem written by Rumi:
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
My avoidance came clear to me. I had such an intense desire to not look, to push away, to deny this dark dark part of me that lives just under the surface. The harder I ignored, the harder I pushed it away, the stronger it became. It was wreaking havoc everywhere I looked.
At that moment of understanding, I began to paint and poured that acknowledgement on the canvas. It told me it was stubborn, undeniable, headstrong, unstoppable... like a moose. I opened the door and laughing, I invited it in. I let it and its environment take shape, I felt SO MUCH better. I realized as I was finishing that I was creating a container for it. My final gesture was to gather the remnants of that energy and give it to the canvas. Seal it in. Let its realness, its existence always be acknowledged, always be seen. Never again denied.
Our scientists understand that modern humans date back about 200,000 years, with behavioral modernity coming in to play about 50,000 years ago. So many branches leading back to a very simple source.
I ask you to contemplate the patterns of your family, your parents, your grand parents. I invite you to ask how many patterns you are unconsciously repeating. How many of those patterns may very well link back to that initial evolution of modern humans. Of those patterns that do not serve you, your fellow humans, your planet well, how many have you defeated? Re-imagined? How many patterns will your children shoulder because you couldn't/didn't see? How many will they break? How many will make it to your grandchildren?
I ask you to consider that you don't have to believe everything you think.