Busy, busy, like a queen honeybee, pumping out ideas, designs, and information with little breaks in between to breathe. Ask for help will I? Why? Everything’s under control, yep…everything is errythang.
Whew. Who am I kidding??
These last two years, I had been producing works for publication and sale. After joining the band, I was compelled back into performance art. So, getting my Vaclav Havel on, I’ve designed an exhibit of empowered, proactive women sharing words of wisdom in the form of goddesses. Fun, right? The exhibit came from a place of concern, that pit in the gut where you feel something needs to be expressed, something especially important for humankind. This is what Art does for us, yes? Get those expressions out into the open.
I wanted to express my disappointment in humanity, specifically, in the way women refuse to support each other when it comes to social cues and laws defining our roles in society. But I didn’t want to be a nag about it either. Instead, I took a comic view. What is it that women typically deal with that we can all agree we deserve a break from? And so, I’ve developed The Living Goddess Exhibit.
The girls are here to tell it like it is.
Me, I’m going to perform as Inanna, my all-time favorite deity. I’ve blogged about her too many times to not support my obsession. Inanna is perfect! If I lived in the time of her worship, I would be her best high priestess. Why? She does what I do all the time: explore people’s dualities. I *love* to exploit either-or people (in a gentle way) in order to get them to see the world’s challenges as not which team one prefers but rather, what the global community could embrace if they considered both options. It’s easy to follow the herd, but ultimately, someone needs to shepherd. Inanna is that deity.
More details on the exhibit to come, but know this: I am in a place of deep creativity and also of calm. Things are moving at tornado speed around me but the inner cone is silent. I’m glad I’ve gotten to a point in life where I can manage the outer and inner worlds as a whole. Wish me luck in these next coming weeks!
I slapped on the visor and apron with uncertainty. Already I had worked the season opener for the local college team, now my volunteering efforts were geared towards opening day for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The USF game was its own special nightmare – scorching day, no breeze, collapsing bodies – but otherwise, sales at the Second Time Arounders Marching Band tiki bar boomed. I think it was because we were by the boat.
This time around, we were placed in a beer corner with not a lot of space to move between the six of us. Before I had finished dumping ice onto the premium beers it was go time! Customers lining up for all things frosty and salty. I did as trained – smiled as I took the order, if it involved alcohol I asked for ID, held the ID up to confirm face and date, then processed the sale with a cheerful “Enjoy the game!” to send their happy selves off.
And then, he came. A large, burly man dressed in Buccaneer regalia, beads dangling proudly from his neck. His face was cute, chubby, and pinked at the cheeks. He ordered two beers and a water. I asked for his photo ID. His chubby face became firm. He flared his arms, “Are you fucking serious?”
“Yes,” I calmly replied.
“I’m 54 years old! I could be your goddamn father!”
“I’m sorry sir,” I calmly explain, “I can’t sell you those drinks without an ID.”
I watched as he stepped backwards, almost into the couple behind him, then flare his nostrils and widen his chest. I swear he was going to rush the stand, but then he yelled, “Let’s settle this right now.”
My eyes followed his left hand waiving over someone. I’m thinking it’s his wife or somebody holding his ID. A dark blue suit with TPD on the lapel and a gun at the waist appeared instead.
Never in the history of me has a cop being waived my direction ever worked out in my favor. I’m flushed, I feel my heart start to race, and an “Oh SHIT” mantra starts looping in my head, all the while thinking, he called the cops on me, he called the cops on me…
The large man details the situation above and then tells the cop “She shouldn’t ID me.” Wow! I wish I had that kind of social authority! Being above the law, being able to tell a cop what should and should not happen to him during his good time at a privately-owned stadium.
The policeman looked at me, at him, then replied, “It’s her discretion whether she sells you alcohol or not.”
WHAAAT! He’s on MY side?
Never in the history of me has a cop agreed with me, even off-duty. I felt redeemed. And even though he was pouty after the fact, I still sold the big guy a water.
I don’t care how mouthy you are. Rule #1 in retail: get the sale.
I wasn’t worried about him, I was worried about the cop. He was worried about his beer, I was worried I was ending up in handcuffs. This is our world – a bunch of unnecessary worries. If I’m lucky in this lifetime, I shouldn’t feel threatened by the appearance of law enforcement anymore.
I’ve slept on this and still felt compelled to write, because it’s such a phenomenal experience. When you look a certain way, or hang out in a certain crowd, the labels and assumptions abound. Negative labels and assumptions unfortunately carry on with you despite social improvements. So when I describe this simple scenario, I wonder if you’re reading it as someone who’s been negatively labeled all their life, or if you’re wondering why the cop agreeing with me is such a monumental deal. It is a big deal. It signifies the necessary shift in the social wind. Not everyone who looks like me needs to be disciplined by the police. Moreover, people who look like me aren’t easily threatened by the gesticulations of the Great White Male, as was my friend’s mistake.
Be proud of me. This is my 1st event flyer of 2016, and it’s August. This represents a huge sigh of relief. A difficult start I had this year, but I’m proud I was able to recover within the 12 months. It’s the Ishtar in me, I suppose. Can’t keep a woman down too long!
And so here’s my new project, Spoken Works. Why Spoken Works? Written words are the definition of a generation’s experience. In my experience, too many well-written words by exceptionally talented artists remain unshared because of personal barriers: shyness, terror of public speaking, fear of judgment. Knowing that, I asked myself, “What can be done to avert those challenges?” Then I asked, “What helped me?”
Group sharing in my Creative Writing courses. Discourse amongst colleagues in closed environments. Finding the right tribe, and sticking to them, because I can trust them. Those experiences helped me. When I had a home base for my sharing, I was not inhibited anymore.
This workshop program is part of my POP Pinellas venture, a grass-roots poet outreach program. To poet and to be a poet, to me, is one in the same. Just as people use “their” as a gender-neutral derivation, I use “poet” as a title-neutral derivation for those who write their truth down. Makes sense right? Instead of listing, oh I’m a poet, author, lyricist, short story writer, blahblahblah. I’m a poet.
And this wasn’t my original idea. From James Baldwin’s 1963 speech, “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity”:
However arrogant this may sound, I want to suggest two propositions. The first one is that the poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets. That’s my first proposition.
Which, heads up, a review of James Baldwin is gonna be my next blog post because I’m absorbing his words right now. If you want to book club it, I just started “The Cross of Redemption” and am still reading through the speeches.
Questions? Comments? You know how to reach me. And check out POPPinellas.com when you have a moment. I haven’t officially launched it yet, but it’ll eventually be where I post about Spoken Works and other local projects.
Progress report on my awesome ‘do. I’ve got about an inch and change of growth since the buzz down. The curls are coming in really tight, yet still distinct – soft, wispy curls along the temples, thick twists cover the rest. There’s still the weird patch of hair that grows longer than the rest of the head.
Been riding quite the wave this week. Got my spoken word workshop green-lighted, received positive responses from exhibit participants, and I’ve even lined up some local celebs to bring flair to my projects! Man, am I a lucky girl. Thanks for delivering, Universe.
On Thursday, my arty cohort and I traversed the local Joann Fabrics and Michaels stores. I needed to brainstorm. As per usual, I’m taking the most complicated route to satisfy a very simple project; in this case, trying to get my goddess apparel together for my November exhibit.
Still going with the Queen Puabi crown of course. As we perused row after row of notions and beadings and sheets of both paper and cloth, I realized yup! I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.
Here’s sketches of what I’ve designed. Found the “easy” dress pattern and some bamboo cross-stitch hoops to make a crown base. The key is to make the head gear as light as possible.
A simple cross-stitch hoop makes for a crown base
The dress is easy, not me!
The dress? A yummy purple floor-length number with an empire waist. It’s not so much the cloth adornment as is the emphasis on jewelry. This is an elaborate crown, indeed, and so to compliment it, I’ve pulled down accents to the arms. As you’ll see there’s little anise-shaped stars that go along the crown which I’ll also make an armband of. And that elaborate strip of gold foil? I’ll have that carried down the other arm. At least this is what my ambition is coming up with; hopefully we’ll exceed expectations!
Nice thing about an empire waist is you can expand below and not have to adjust much.
Notice the tyet loop to the front? Inanna was represented by a reed knot gate. A bent reed, then, was a symbol of her royal presence. Since I’m playing her priestess, Enheduanna, I wanted to include this detail.
The first time we went out on the water, BF spent more time looking back and stopping for me than he did enjoying the adventure. For the inconvenience, on this time around, I assured him he could enjoy the trip without worrying about me, now that I knew the course of the river from launch to landing. Besides, with his shirtless back facing me, his sculpted shoulders busy at work, I had someone quite pleasant to focus on.
We planned for one more day on the New River; the cool, clear water beckoning us to enter and clear our souls. My soul was a bit heavy, having to bear the uncomfortable feeling of entering a home in distress. We didn’t know anything about our host family’s marital split prior to our arrival, and even more so, I didn’t know I had to be on the defense as the only woman among related men. For me the water was liberation from the snarls and scowls of a wounded male, a free moment to tune to nature and scale off the superficiality of man.
A meandering was in order.
Depending on which data you reference, the New River in the Appalachian Range is one of the oldest rivers in the world. To ask the locals you would be certain to believe it is the oldest. I’m not here to contest any of that data, but I will say this: from water to stone to tree to sand, the entire universe of that river felt primordial.
Pushed off and well into our course, I smiled, looking through clear water at the mica-flecked stones along the bottom. BF wondered if they were flecks of actual gold. I told him how mica is used in cosmetics to offer that under skin “glow.” In the moment of that interaction, I felt the goddess Isis widening her giving wings over the both of us. As much as I wanted to share, “Isis is here!” I remember the unfortunance of the double meaning, and hold back.
Our small barques wound their way over pure water, hugged by rocky shores with faces almost a billion years old, deciduous trees lording over us as the sky laced between their green fingers. The sun loved us enough to warm our shoulders bronze. A breeze, like a subtle tongued kiss to the neck, won over my frazzled spirit, and finally, I could relax. My stroke through the water intensified, my shoulders winding fluidly as I searched out the deep pockets. In the shallows, I dug with might and determination, “No! I won’t get out of this boat!” BF was far forward. I sensed he’s on his own journey, and let him be.
At the thought to allow my love to float along and be with the river, I came upon the most curious sight. Bear in mind the north-flowing current was constant but not strong that day. The water itself was cold, but not unbearable. As I paddled to the right of a patch of moss, I saw a yellow and black snake completely erect, protruding from the center of the moss. I slowed to admire this behavior. I don’t know of a snake that would sun in the center of a river, let alone do it standing up! Then I noticed he started to wave, along with the current, but I took it as a “Hello!” A glow of yellow-gold light, filled with good, fortifying medicine, swaddled me. Oh Snake, I prayed, thank you for your gift. I kept looking back at that vertical creature until the river pulled me from view. The entire time, Snake stayed in that tall position in the moss. Imbued with blessing, I hurried towards my love.
The New River curled towards our landing. We came across a black and white border collie, feverishly digging a hole along the shore. As there was a makeshift swing nearby, we figured he was a member of that riverfront household. The collie, more preoccupied with his find than us, leaped from his post then climbed up the hill ostensibly towards his home.
But he didn’t go home.
This collie followed us the remaining few miles of our trip, swimming between the kayaks, landing on either shore, taking off into the woods; yet he’d always return. I heard the words, “Wolf Medicine” echo between my ears, then, experienced an unavoidable snag in the river. My kayak landed on rocks. I watched as the collie and BF continued, then realized, Spirit wants me to hang back. From my landing it was abundantly clear, this wolf descendant and this mountain-spirited man were meant to meet. Side by side, Wolf and Man paddling, quietly as to not disturb the existing serenity. It was overwhelming to behold. To the mountain I prayed, “thank you for his Wolf medicine” before returning the barque to a deeper pool of water and paddling on.
The topless silo signaling our stop, our wolf company disappeared into the nearby tree farm. On our landing, BF found a perfectly flat, round stone which he pocketed. I helped myself to a larger stone, the width of my hand, so that I could enjoy ancient river medicine anytime.
As the Parade of Nations at the Olympics passed onscreen, I couldn’t take my eyes off of a certain African athlete dancing along with the stadium samba music. Djibouti’s small yet excited delegation entered in matching clothing, but the dancer added beautiful jewelry across her face! Found what it was, a version of this ceremonial headdress.
August = productive so far, and delighted to report it’s a very positive experience! So far, I’ve drummed up interest on my two projects, and it looks like we are totally greenlit for The Living Goddess Exhibit. What is that, you wonder? Word will be out soon on the details, but if you have been following my previous cosmic-based posts, this was in the works for a while.
Currently I’m in design phase: how I want my exhibit to look, how I want the performers to appear, and most importantly, how am I presenting myself? Since the preferred date of the event falls after Halloween, I got the idea to costume the event (and the idea for you the attendee to dress up as well).
Immediately I went to my sketch book and freeformed how I imagined the engagement to appear if it had to be described entirely in drawing. Tendrils swoop the hands and crown of the Oracle I had drawn. Yes, this is going to be a very interactive, connected event. If you don’t leave feeling spiritually charged, then I didn’t do a good job!
Inspiration for the goddesses come from Queen Puabi the Sumerian ruler of Ur, whose crown and jewelry can be found on display in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the Penn Museum. I’m considering re-creating this crown for the event. It is quite intricate, but I love a challenge!
The headdress and beaded necklaces were found on the mummy of Queen Puabi, reassembled in her likeness