photo by Teri Petz, http://www.worksofbeauty.ca
Welcome to my world this April! I’ve just finished two university classes that I’ve been auditing this semester at the University of Lethbridge: God on Trial, a philosophy course that dealt with theodicy — the question of how to reconcile a good God with the presence of evil and suffering, and Comparative Mysticism, a religious studies course. Both were great, but together, just about killed me off —- I reluctantly have to admit that going out every day (or 4 days a week) is just not sustainable for me, health and energy wise. I had thought that since I was very excited about the courses and that the logistics were manageable, that I would be able to add them to my days. But no, getting to the courses took almost all my energy, and other projects suffered.
It was really delightful, though, to relate to the profs and other students in lively intellectual discussions, something I’ve missed for many years. I’m a life-long learner, and am always taking courses on-line or in person, but the intellectual banter of the academic courses was stimulating and fun.
Art-wise, I’m experimenting in new styles. I’m painting in rhythm with the new moon, including simple ceremony and a monthly intention. Here’s what I just finished an hour ago:
There are about 5 layers of paint in here. Here’s an image in progress:
The words in the background are “feel, think, remember”. They are cues for associating to images from dreams or stories: “When I think of x , what do I think, feel, or remember about this image?” Associating to personal images, especially in dreams or in experiences of synchronicity, is one of my prime ways of accessing inner knowledge, and in this painting I was pouring a whole set of my current concerns. A new medication I’m trying suppresses the remembering of my dreams, and that’s a big issue for me! I’m re-teaching myself all my tricks to remember dreams, and appreciating the fragments and stray images that still manage to come through.
The cauldron is reminiscent of Ceridwen’s cauldron with the magical elixer — where even just three drops are enough to grant full wisdom and knowledge. The decorations on the cauldron are two intertwined snakes, visually associated both with healing (the caduseus) and with the shape of our DNA molecules, a tripartite intertwined shape reminding us of the movement in groupings of threes (thesis, antithesis, synthesis; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; Maiden, Mother, Crone; the phases of the moon; etc.), and a row of frogs. The frogs are imaged in the shape of a woman giving birth. For me, frogs are symbols of irrepressible energy and new possibility. In a dream I had many years ago, I was carrying a bucket that was lidded, but it was filled with a few frogs that kept leaping out of the bucket no matter how I tried to tighten the lid. The rose is a symbol of so many ideas for me, also associated with so much mythology, especially the European mythology of my ancestors. Here, the rose reminds me of the unfolding mystery of life, which never fails to pull me in.
My intention for this New Moon is to develop a new habit: I will check email and the internet no more than three times daily. I don’t have a problem with internet addiction, but I’m certainly not immune to the dopamine hits of an email here, a FB message there. And I want more of my time to be invested in exploring the mysteries that call to me, rather than finding that I’ve unintentionally spent an hour, for the 3rd or 4th time today, lost on the internet highways. So! We’ll see how it goes. If only three drops of the magical elixer are enough for all wisdom and knowledge, then I figure that three check-in’s per day on the internet is enough for what I might need, too.
Thank you for reading this far, and thank you for the many wonderful comments so many of you share with me about my artwork and blog. May your Spring blossom beautifully!
With much love and many blessings,
White car in a snowstorm, (c) Cat Charissage 2018
Just a few days before the Spring Equinox, just before today’s New Moon, after a wonderful thaw that was melting the mountains of shovelled snow —– we got a snowstorm! It looked just like my photo above!
We got our car stuck in the snowy alley. Then dear spouse went to his sister’s home here in town to use their car (the sister is in sunny, warm Mexico at the moment!). He got IT stuck, though fortunately it’s stuck in front of their house out of traffic. Lots of activity has ensued, involving shovels and frustration. Both cars are still stuck.
Here is my fine literary response:
Please, summer, come!
I want warmth and some
security in walking without slipping,
in moving forward without flipping.
This isn’t our first dance with snow and ice this winter. Two weeks ago, dear spouse sent this to some friends to chronicle this past-midnight adventure:
Thought you all might like to know what wonderful adventures you can have if you’re stupid. So Cat and I were out late last night and got home at about midnight. There’s been a fair bit of new snow but I felt pretty sure that I could drive the car through our alley, so I dropped Cat off at the front, and drove around to the back. I was right. I could drive the car down the alley. But I was inches away from getting it into the garage, and I got stuck. With lots of manouvering I managed to get it at perfect right angles to the lane, and then it wouldn’t budge. Dug for awhile. Called the AMA. Was going to suggest maybe they should wait till tomorrow morning to get me out, but got an auto-responder, and ended up with the choice to cancel or wait, but no chance to discuss it. Decided to wait. After an hour or so a tow truck showed up. It was a two-wheel drive tow truck. It got stuck in the alley, and had to call another tow truck. So I had a great conversation with the driver while we waited – we have mutual friends in Lethbridge, lots to talk about, etc. The second tow truck showed up. It got stuck too. By 3:00 am I wasn’t being any help, so I left the two tow trucks and their drivers and went to bed. They were still stuck when I left – I don’t know how they got out.\
I was wakened at 7:30 am by a third tow truck driver who said he was coming over. I told him what happened to the other two trucks, but he said he was coming anyway. So I went out, and dug for awhile. Somewhere in there while I was going in and out of he house he took a look at the situation and called Liberty, who told me, and I called the tow truck driver back. He said I should call the city and ask them to plow the alley before he went in. I called the city. The woman said “We don’t do alleys.” I said “How is the garbage truck going to get down the alley with my car blocking it?” The woman said “I don’t know” and hung up. I went in the house to get breakfast, planning to catch the bus over to Joan and Wolf’s to take care of the cats. While I was having breakfast the fourth tow truck driver called. “I have a four wheel drive” he said. “This truck is like a mountain goat. I’ll get you out.” So the fourth truck showed up. With a lot of manouvering we got my car unstuck, and I drove down the alley to the corner, but got stuck again. So we did a lot more manouvering, and he got stuck too. After about an hour of innovating in some very strange ways – putting a metal plate under the hoist, and using the hoist to push the tow truck along – kind of like a dog on ice propelling himself forward by sticking his tail in a hole in the ice and forcing himself forward a few inches instead of using his legs – the fourth tow truck got unstuck, and then got me unstuck too. So by noon I got to Joan and Wolf’s.
Before this is all over, the CAA/AMA will know us by first name. . . .
And too many of my friends are wearing casts as a result of the ice hidden under the snow!
With much love, many blessings, and lots of smiles,
Cat Charissage, (c) 2018
A new moon, Valentine’s Day, the first day of Lent, Chinese New Year — all in these three days of Feb. 14 to 16
Ever notice how people around the world celebrate the New Year on different dates? Lots of ways to proclaim something new. Day One.
I’ve taken on a gentle practice of noting and doing simple ceremony on each month’s new and full moons. Noticing the moon, feeling the passage of time, feeling the circle moving round again yet one more time, extends my mindfulness outside of my own psyche. It’s a challenge to be aware of what is outside of and around myself without also getting caught up in the daily new cycles, overwhelmed by the same old same old of “if it bleeds, it leads”. There is plenty of bleeding.
Yet this, too, is true: as our earth moves through space, we each day can see a different face of the moon. Things change, and things return, again and again. There are rhythmic points of newness (first sliver of moonlight after the dark of the moon) every month, and any of us can call any day our “new year”. Day One.
What new cycle are you moving into? What kinds of rhythms are you paying attention to these days?
This painting, acrylic on watercolor paper, is one I did two weeks ago on the Full Moon. I was thinking of fire and passions (not necessarily romantic), of the difference between bonfires and hot coals. Fire contained and directed can cook up the next alchemical transformation. . .
What’s being cooked up in your life? Something new? Something tried and true?
With much love and many blessings,
—Cat Charissage, 2018, collage.
owl artwork from Judith Shaw; antlered woman, artist unknown
For this first New Moon in January, here is my latest piece of artwork, a collage for the new year, incorporating my word (phrase) of the year, “Driven? or Drawn?”. It’s to remind myself that what I LOVE, what I’m drawn to, is what I “ought” to do and to be.
For too much of my life I’ve done what I’ve thought I ought to do. Which on its face is actually a very good plan. Yet, as a good Catholic girl I was thoroughly indoctrinated that the very best thing that one could do is to “offer up” what you love most, to God, for the good of . . . whatever/whoever. That is, to give up and to deny ourselves what we most want is the greatest sacrifice of all. You know: if you aren’t dead yet, you haven’t given enough.
I could write a book or three deconstructing that terrible, false, limiting belief. Actually, it’s social/religious brainwashing. Where were the ideas that we “ought” to do exactly the good that we are inspired to do? That we are uniquely gifted with attributes where we can joyfully offer who we truly are for the betterment of ourselves AND the world as well?
Yet old ideas, especially when inculcated young, and when they have to do with being good, or are about survival, or pleasing “God”, sometimes are rooted so deeply that it seems they’ve become part of our DNA. These are old beliefs that have harassed me for a long time. In early December I constructed a simple ceremony, with intention, the elements, using all the senses, and also including image and writing. It has really helped to release these final remnants. This collage is another way to reinforce this release.
On the collage, you can just barely see a man whipping a figure (me) to “do more, do more” — it’s on the left, on top of the honeycomb, where the upside down “U” is the curled whip. Then there’s the present figure of me (just above my photo) walking arms out toward what I love, represented by the golden sun. The owl and the antlered (shaman) woman are the companions I choose to help me with this, based on their ancient symbolisms. And the quote is from Rumi, the 13th century Islamic mystic who radiated love and joy.
Creating these types of simple ceremonies is also part of the work I do with others. Feel free to contact me for more information.
May you move into the year with joy, spaciousness, and “enough”.
With much love and blessing,
Roses Falling from My Shawl, Cat Charissage, (c) 2017 a.r.r. acrylic on canvas
Happy New Moon, in this week of light revealing itself after such darkness —- literally in the new moon appearing, in the Winter Solstice (in the northern hemisphere), in the lights of Christmas, and metaphorically in the sunflower of my painting as light at the center of my being, in perseverance in the darkness of depression, in hope that justice and compassion will prevail in the conflicts of our world.
I wish you could see this painting in real life. It is full of texture: the flowers are literally three-dimensional. The painting references the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when Juan Diego visits the bishop with the message from the Lady, and in the middle of winter, fresh red roses tumble from his tilma (poncho or shawl) —- a miracle to show the bishop that our Lady’s words are true. If you know me, you know that I often wear shawls. I’d love to dance under the stars with my shawl, with ease and joy. As well, I hope that goodness and compassion come as a result of my presence, my intentions, my actions. We rarely know of the far-reaching effects of our lives, for good or for pain, and I would hope to send ripples of joy and compassion out, without concern for knowing exactly what has come of it, without concern for gratitude or recognition. (Well, one can hope. . . . . !)
Both sunflowers and roses have deep meanings for me. Both unfold petals, and seeds in the sunflowers, in beautiful patterns of universal growth: Fibonacci sequences of beauty and practicality, “sacred geometry”. Sunflowers are such happy flowers. I love how they move throughout the day, following the light of the sun. They model for me how I want to be in the world: to be of use, as sunflowers give nourishment through their abundance of seeds, and to be of beauty and encouragement. They live and offer themselves wherever they are, whether in a backyard, a florist’s shop or a roadside ditch. I want to be like the sunflower —- beautiful, among so many others who are beautiful; special, among so many other special individuals; ordinary, among so many other ordinary beings.
Roses speak to me of the Great Mystery of life —- mystery not as something that can never be known, that we just have to accept, but rather mystery like a rose that continually unfolds, revealing more and more complexity, and beauty, as the mystery unfolds in our hearts and lives.
And it’s the Mystery of life that is the “Beloved” of my poem below. I don’t know what “God” is, if God “is”. So much I don’t know. (Ask me 35 years ago and I would have had lots to say. Now, not so much.) But I do know there is Love, and the possibility of Love, within ourselves, able to be offered and received.
So in this season, be of good cheer, be as well as possible. Don’t lose hope in love.
With much love and blessing,
“Roses Falling from My Shawl”
I raise my eyes to you, my Beloved.
Let me attend to you, my Love, my Life.
Let me hear your song,
O One in whom we all are,
so that every step is my path in you,
that the dance of my life reflects
your geometries of Beauty, Love.
Let roses fall from my shawl
to bring your fragrance into our ordinary
til “ordinary” reveals
more than enough of
whatever is needed.
May I follow my dance with you
so that healing, joy, goodness
are known wherever we step.
Let me not be distracted by other voices
nor by accolades
nor be concerned with “doing it right”
or if I’m doing “enough,”
but let me simply do what is mine to do,
simply be what is mine to be,
til following you, my Love,
Mystery unfolds, and
seeing You, I see all.
Bus 22. (c) Cat Charissage, 2015 a.r.r.
I had an image today: I saw myself as an old woman in the middle of a noisy open market, like a farmer’s market. I felt a lot of affection for everyone there, but I also couldn’t hear myself think. So I lovingly turned, walked away, and walked into the forest where I had a tiny cottage a la Baba Yaga. I looked forward to getting back to the quiet, to listen to the angels singing.
I’m spending more time offline theses days, and REALLY appreciating that. I didn’t realise how much I needed it until I’ve been listening to the silence. Of course I’m still on the computer more than I’d like, but am slowly overcoming my FOMO (fear of missing out). Actually, fear of missing out is only a small part of it for me — I’m interesting in a lot of things, and want to learn a lot more about those things. And, of course, there is so much to be found of people’s writings and blogs and online courses. . .
Fortunately, Facebook doesn’t tempt me too much. While FB is a useful tool to find people, and for me to let people know when I’ve added a new blog post, I can’t possibly keep up with my feed, so I don’t even try. (Reminder: if you’re one of my FB friends, please don’t assume that I know about whatever it is that you’ve been talking about in your FB posts. I DO, though, respond to all personal messages.)
What does tempt me is all the googling of my interests, finding the serendipitous articles that keep me clicking on the next article or video. Following authors’ blogs is a strong temptation. Two or four is reasonable, but not 28. Shall I even mention Pinterest? (No, I do not go there!!) I can keep instagram down to a dull roar, even though I’m deeply interested in images. Yet I’m mostly interested in how people come up with their symbolism and how they make meaning in their art, so instagram often doesn’t have enough for me.
Those of you who have been reading my posts know that I’ve been in this process of limiting my online time for a long time now, sometimes less successfully than at other times. What has helped me put the computer world into perspective and right priority are a few questions I’ve been asking myself after a session online. Perhaps they might be helpful to you, too:
“So, did reading that teach me anything new?”
“Did I really enjoy myself?”
“Can I even remember what I did yesterday online?”
“How much of all this has me interacting with real people in an intellectual or spiritual or friendship or serving way?”
“Am I doing anything good for anyone else by being online/reading this/commenting on this?”
“Do I understand anything more deeply as a result of reading/watching this?”
“Would this time perhaps have been better used in reading this author’s books where she has developed her ideas more deeply than here in this article?”
As a result of these questions, I’m realising that at least for right now, I know what I want and need to know for what I want to learn and to do next.
May you find peace and balance in your relationship with all that clamors around you. May you hear the angels (as well as the mermaids) singing. Happy new moon!
With much love and blessing,
There is so much going on at this time of the New Moon. There are so many crises needing our attention and our material help. So many issues need to be addressed to stop the ongoing crises that they engender.
It’s enough to drive a person to Pinterest (crack for artists). . . . or cute cat photos.
Actually, my favorite distraction is reading yet another book (no, not simply a 5 page article, but a 300 page BOOK —- my latest is Work Clean) on organizing oneself, on getting things done efficiently AND effectively. Most of the time I even convince myself that I’m learning something new and important that WILL make me more efficient AND effective in all that I choose to be/do.
I remember as a young woman hearing about a community or societal need, and having the time, energy, and usually even the resources to help. Needless to say, that was before the internet and 24/7 news, and before I understood most of the underlying issues that cause such tragedies. Now, there is so much begging for our attention and help that I don’t even have the time to figure out what I can really do something about and what I am powerless to influence, much less which is the genuine news and which are distractions, “false-flags”, or fake news. Remember, Facebook and many, many, many others spend lots of money figuring out how to grab our eyeballs and focus our attention on their agendas.
Oh, you feel that way, too? Well, I’m not sure I can offer any real help —- though if you need help organizing your daytimer, I sure can offer a lot of advice!
What I do know, though, is that silence and “non-thinking” time is the greatest investment I can make in taking responsibility for my human life and energies — gifts, skills, and limitations, all. It often feels as though I simply don’t have time for that “luxury”, but when I start getting annoyed that Jesus in the Christian gospels took time away from the crowds, or “wasted” a whole night praying when there were so many people to heal, that’s my clue that I’d REALLY better step away from the computer and all my “good things to do that can help”. Time to step away from the frenzy.
Let’s not even ponder the hopefulness and the hubris that I, one person, can even make an appreciable difference for the good.
One of the things I do ponder, though, is why it is so hard to follow my own advice, to do what it is that I really know helps. Why do I still get pulled off center? I’ve known this wisdom for at least 35 years, yet I can still get sucked into frantic action, or at least frantic worry. I deeply resent the time I need to sleep and the time it takes for me to attend to my health issues, the household chores and the cooking, even washing my paintbrushes (when I allow myself the “luxury” of creating art). Objectively speaking, I’m doing pretty well —- I waste very little time, and the things I spend time on ARE really “my” things to do, the best use of my time and energy. But still. . . .
Do you ever get really tired of your own issues?
Well, here, breathe. In a moment of grace remember that reality is what it is: we are limited, we are imperfect, and we are also endearing and beautiful and powerful. So much is out of our control, be it a Type A personality and health challenges, the psychologists hired to figure out how to distract us (the better for corporations to control us), or (twisted) religious teachings that urge us to give, like Jesus, unto death, because if you’re still alive, you haven’t given enough.
Yet, we are also enough. Love: yourself and those within your reach. Love with your actions, and love with your thoughts, prayers, and intentions. And do whatever you need to do to remember this.
I’m going to go color a mandala and write in my journal now. (Andrew calls it my “superconscious life”.) What are YOU going to do, or not do, now?
With much love and many blessings,
(c) Cat Charissage, 2017, a.r.r.
Hello dear Friends,
Many blessings to you in this season of new beginnings: the new moon, the beginning of fall (here in the northern hemisphere) on Friday’s Equinox, and the beginning of my Story Circles and fall activities. My dreams are all pointing to my wanting something new, a new beginning of some sort. Yours too?
With all that is going on around us on our dear earth, we seem to be living that old curse that intones “May you live in interesting times!” In the midst of all, there is something small in me that holds an unreasonable hope. Here in this painting I wanted to create an image of this hope in the midst of where you might least expect it to come from: from the parts of the world, and of our own consciousnesses, that seem dispensable to those in arrogant power. What are we taught to fear that might hold a new promise? In the painting is a small book —- remember the power of education, of reflection, of creating our own journals of thoughts, ideas, poetry.
Last week my Story Circle “A Poet’s Words” began. Everyone was so enthusiastic and so open — it gives me hope that we can save what it is we love so deeply. I facilitated the first meeting, sharing the poetry of Rumi and my love for the comfort, surprise, and challenge his words give me.
Here are a few lines I’m thinking of today:
“Move from within.
Don’t move the way that fear wants you to.
Begin a foolish project.
“Run from what’s comfortable.
Live where you fear to live.
Destroy your reputation.
BE NOTORIOUS. [emphasis mine]
I have tried prudent planning
long enough. From now on,
I’ll be mad.”
Over the next few blog posts, I’ll share more of my favorite lines from Rumi, and a little about his life and times. Did you know that for him, poetry was just part of the way he communicated with his students? He didn’t retreat to a private room to write his lines, revising them until “perfect”. He formulated his lines as he taught, and in the last 12 years of his life, the translator/interpreter Coleman Barks estimates that Rumi created 12 to 14 poems A DAY that his followers would write down as he spoke. Think of the abundance of creativity available to him! Might we be capable of that — or at least more than what we currently access?
I closed the Story Circle with this question: “Why am I, a post Catholic, interspiritual, nonviolent feminist of the 21st century teaching about an Afghan/Turkish Muslim male of 800 years ago? Because we can learn from surprising sources, and because I always want to challenge the stereotypes handed on to me. Have you ever had the experience of learning something very valuable from a surprising source? Have you ever had your stereotypes, or your culture’s stereotypes, blown open?”
Maybe our “interesting times” hold new hope, if we can access our creativity. “Reasonable” doesn’t always get us where we need to go.
With much love and many blessings I will close with another line from Rumi:
“You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?”
(c) Cat Charissage, 2017, a.r.r.
Greetings on this September Full Moon. Now that the fall season has started, I intend to return to blogging regularly on the full and new moons.
Here is my most recent painting, the archetype of compassion. There is much in the world right now that is tragic, from the rise of white supremacy groups and the immigration policies of the United States, to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the many wildfires in the west of Canada and the United States. Those are just in my continent; many in the world have huge challenges around them. And many of us have huge challenges within us, of heartbreak, trauma, and physical, psychological, or spiritual pain.
At previous times in my life I was quite active in small-p politics, working for the causes I believe in. More recently my work is quieter, including this painting and writing and working with small groups and individuals. I often wonder what might be the best response to the tragic. Anger energizes, resistance with others brings solidarity. Yet always, the best response is love, and compassion. Compassion comes from the Latin, “to suffer with”, and I think that true loving compassion comes not when we feel sorry for, or pity others, but when something in their suffering touches our own hearts where we, too, have known pain.
For almost a thousand years, the Black Madonna of Christianity, in her hundreds and hundreds of forms, has stood witness to the suffering of humanity and our earth. She knows the dark, knows our pain, and is with us in the tragic. She holds the idea, the possibility, of the deep compassion that is possible within us as human beings. The energy of compassion, the archetype of compassion, is huge, dynamic, almost more than we can understand. To love is never all sunshine and lollipops. Roses also have thorns, and are often the color of blood. What makes them grow is bone meal. Blood, and bones, then the possibility of beauty coming from what has been broken.
My lady wears the colors of alchemy, the black, white, yellow and red of transformation —- the spiritual journey of our souls and psyche. The old alchemists’ attempts to transform lead into gold is, symbolically, our own attempts to bring something beautiful, whole, and precious out of something common, dull, and harmful. Lead poisons. Gold is the sun of photosynthesis, of life.
When I paint faces, I only have partial control of their expressions. Here, this lady, appeared almost fully formed — turning toward us with such love and acceptance, inviting us to come to her. Yet she knows the tragic. She knows the suffering, has lived it.
May we all, with the help of deep compassion, alchemize the suffering within and around us into healing, wholeness, an beauty.
With much love and many blessings,