Posted in Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Heather Blakey, Just Killing Time, Lemurian Adventures, Nature Fix, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Wild Play

Building Upon Ancestral Foundations

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week four and the creative force has produced the Possum to build on the lessons that Australian birds, animals and habitat are initiating.

The tradition of using possum skins for the making of cloaks, waistbands, belts, armbands and headbands was practised by Aboriginal people across eastern Australia.

One of the earliest documented accounts of a possum skin cloak is from Governor Macquarie. In his journal on 10 May 1815 (Bathurst), he recounts that three Wiradjuri warriors, led by Windradyne, visited him and gifts were exchanged. Macquarie gave Windradyne a tomahawk and a piece of yellow cloth; in return he received a possum skin cloak.

One example of cloak-making from this region is held in the Smithsonian Institute (Washington, DC, USA). Known as the Hunter River Cloak, it was collected during an expedition in the mid 1800s by American explorer Charles Wilkes. It features four rows of six rectangular pelts sewn on the back, edge to edge, with very fine overhand stitching of corded sinew. The fur has been left on and the skin side is completely covered with large diamond-shaped designs made by scraping up a thin layer of the skin so that it stands up in a little curl.3

Traditionally, cloaks were used for ceremonial purposes: in dance, drumming, initiation rites and also in daily life. They were primarily worn as a means of protection from winter conditions, but also used as a shelter from heat and wet weather and to carry babies and small children.

A local example of how valuable the cloaks were in trade is suggested by stories of the Darkinjung nation trading them with inland tribes in exchange for spears and woomeras. In the Dandenong region of Victoria, the trade value of a cloak was said to be worth a greenstone axe. They were also given as peace and marriage offerings.

Possum skin cloaks were created for individuals when they were born and were added to throughout their lives. The intricate designs and ochre decorations were either made by the individual or by others, depending on the design and the purpose for which they were being added.

This practice reminded of a gift that I was given when I visited the  Isle of Ancestors. The Isle of Ancestors is a part of the Lemurian Archipelego, a fantasy world that I created during the hey days of the Soul Food Cafe. It is well worth a visit! Travellers have left rich stories of their meeting with their ancestors at this revered island.

At a point when I was feeling quite low I hitched a ride with the Ferrywoman and visited the sanctuary on the Isle of Ancestors. It was a moving experience as I met all my grandmothers. Before insisting that I return to the world I had come from, they gave me was a cloak filled with raven feathers to wear and provide comfort whenever I felt low.

This cloak held the life stories of the ancestors who walked before me and upon whose shoulders I now stand.

In her iconic book ‘Women Who Run With The Wolves’ Clarissa Pinkola Estes talks extensively about the importance of Soulskins. In her chapter, Homing: Returning to Oneself she talks about how women who have lost their pelt, lose their protections, their warmth, their early warning system and most devastatingly, their instinctual sight.

Possum urges us to see our life as being built upon the foundation of our ancestors; to wrap ourselves within a cloak and find anchorage with our ancestors.

There are many ways that we can honour our ancestors and to actively remember them.

Possum urges the creative to take the time to use some of the ways suggested in the linked articles or to make a metaphorical coat to record the journey. Actively taking tangible steps to honour our ancestors provides a foundation upon which great things can be initiated.

Personally, I found that I viewed my potential differently when I pulled the cloak I had been given out of the cupboard and celebrated wearing it on a daily basis.

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Killing Time, Nature Fix, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Wild Play

The Advantages of Playing Dead

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week four and the creative force has produced the Possum to build on the lessons that Australian birds, animals and habitat are initiating.

This morning when I was out with the dogs, Archie alerted us to the fact that there was a possum tucked in the branches of one of the shade trees. It took us a moment to spy the frightened, frozen creature whose bright eyes seemed to be looking far far away. Given the fact that we were anticipating that temperatures would rise to 42c our primary concern was that this creature and its access to water. I have been filling vessels for the bird life at my house but with no tap in sight, there was little we could do.

Possum medicine uses a great deal of strategy. Possums are well-known for one of their tricks. These small animals are amongst a group of animals who have the capacity to play dead when predators are near. This way they trick other, larger animals, that they are dead and then attack them or avoid them after they give up on the hunt. This trick helps possums to survive in often dangerous habitats.

Despite idleness being dammed as slothfulness, as one of the seven deadly sins, inactivity plays a perfect role in human life! When we are idle we are actually keeping up a valuable tradition. There are many advantages to inaction! For a start, immobility conserves energy. A half an hour siesta can ward off coronary disease. Plato tells us that Socrates stood still for nearly 24 hours while ruminating on some particularly intractable problems.

Most people would recoil at the idea of doing this but they would be wise to learn from a possum. Sometimes we need to go into a torpor and not think about anything much. Sometimes we need to rest our brains and replenish, in readiness to receive messages from the creator and enjoy another creative spurt.

 

Posted in Archie, Neeks and Me, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Back Yard Bird Life, Heather Blakey, Nature Fix, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience

Rally Your Personal Spirits

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week three and the creative force has produced the Musk Lorikeet to build on the lessons that Australian birds, animals and habitat are initiating.

In Signs of Love from Heaven Above, Liz Winter explains that our angels and guides are with us all the time if we just care to look. In this article she describes how a lorikeet kissied her back to life and bought her into the present moment. She saw the lorikeet as a sign, a sign of love from Spirit. The Lorikeet seemed to be telling her to look at the beauty around her, look at where she was in that moment. She felt that the bird reminded her that she was not alone.

Loneliness is the elephant in the room for many creative people. Creating can feel lonely even when you are surrounded by others. Paradoxically, it is creating that is a salve to this sense of loneliness.

If you want to be an artist you  need to understand about the difference between aloneness and loneliness. Lorikeet reminds us that we do all have our personal Spirit Allies, ready and waiting to serve us. We only have to rally them for support. Their reward is the joy in our heart. We do not have to feel alone. We do not need to be shy about the Spirit World. We can talk to our guides, unload on them and ask for signs. They are there to help.

Even if it seems to be flitting from one place to another Lorikeet will listen today!

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Back Yard Bird Life, Expressive Arts, Heather Blakey, Just Killing Time, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Wild Play

Exploring the Expressive Arts

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week three and the creative force has produced the Musk Lorikeet to build on the lessons that Australian birds, animals and habitat are initiating.

Lorikeets are full of silliness and humour, and they are also inquisitive about their surroundings. These comical birds remind the writer and artist to be expressive and bring colour, humour and light into their work. Lorikeet has drawn me to examine Expressive Arts. Expressive Arts and Art Therapy are creative therapies. The concept of expressive art resonates for me because it honours the process, rather than the final product.

With the arrival of Lorikett I decided that this 52-week project is an expressive art project. I am unashamedly doing this for myself. Committing to 52 weeks is huge and it represents a major shift for me to be genuinely creating FOR MYSELF and FOR THE CREATIVE SPIRIT. I do not actually care if many people engage or follow what I am doing! I am interested in observing and researching the process of being responsive to and feeding the creative spirit.

The web is full of expressive art material. It is a huge field! I was particularly impressed to find the work of Shelley Klammer. On her site, she has an updated list of a popular internet list of art therapy activities which were originally posted by the Nursing School Blog

Lorikeet has suggested that I reprint the section on relaxation, along with a link to Klammer.

Relaxation

Art therapy can be a great way to relax. Consider these exercises if you’re looking to feel a little more laid back.

  1. Paint to music. Letting your creativity flow in response to music is a great way to let out feelings and just relax.
  2. Make a scribble drawing. With this activity, you’ll turn a simple scribble into something beautiful, using line, color and your creativity.
  3. Finger paint. Finger painting isn’t just fun for kids– adults can enjoy it as well. Get your hands messy and really have fun spreading paint around.
  4. Make a mandala. Whether you use the traditional sand or draw one on your own, this meditative symbol can easily help you to loosen up.
  5. Draw with your eyes closed. Not being able to see what you are drawing intensifies fluidity, intuition, touch and sensitivity.
  6. Draw something HUGE. Getting your body involved and moving around can help release emotion as you’re drawing.
  7. Use color blocks. Colors often come with a lot of emotions attached. Choose several paint chips to work with and collage, paint and glue until you’ve created a colorful masterpiece.
  8. Let yourself be free. Don’t allow yourself to judge your work. If you think your paintings are too tight and controlled, this collection of tips and techniques to try should help you work in a looser style.
  9. Only use colors that calm you. Create a drawing or a painting using only colors that you find calming.
  10. Draw in sand. Like a Zen garden, this activity will have you drawing shapes and scenes in the sand, which can be immensely relaxing and a great way to clear your mind.
  11. Make a zentangle. These fun little drawings are a great tool for letting go and helping reduce stress.
  12. Color in a design. Sometimes, the simple act of coloring can be a great way to relax. Find a coloring book or use this mandala for coloring.
  13. Draw outside. Working en plein air can be a fun way to relax and get in touch with nature while you’re working on art.

Perhaps I will get back to drawing a donkey and a raven a day!

Posted in Apothecary for the Creative Spirit, Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Wild Play

Freeing the Caged Bird

Caged Bird By Maya Angelou was first published in her book, “Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?” in 1983. The poem is a Metaphor illustrating the differences between African-Americans and Whites during the civil rights era. The author, a black who grew up in the South during this era, is expressing her feelings at the discrimination she faced during her life. Her first autobiography published in 1970 is titled, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”

Flying Free by Heather Blakey 2004

Angelou’s poem, Caged Bird, speaks to many who have known what it is to be caged, to have their wings clipped and struggle to leave the cage even when the door is opened. Over the years I have found that many creative people have had their wings clipped by the inner critic.

The inner critic or “critical inner voice” is a concept used in popular psychology and psychotherapy to refer to a subpersonality that judges and demeans a person. The inner critic is usually experienced as an inner voice attacking a person, saying that he or she is bad, wrong, inadequate, worthless, guilty, and so on. It feeds on the words of some teachers, parents and other societal influences.

When I slipped through the portal into the imaginary world of Lemuria I found a world where I could become a bird and float on the back of the Lemurian breezes, dip my golden wings and claim the sky as mine. It was a glorious sense of freedom! More recently I have collected old bird cages and leave them, with doors wide open, scattered throughout the garden.

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/i-know-why-the-caged-bird-sings-by-maya-angelou

Posted in Aussie Birds and Animal Wisdom, Aussie Birds and Animals, Back Yard Bird Life, Contemplative Practice, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Wild Play

Courting the Creative Spirit

Over 52 weeks I will be learning all about how to live and work creatively. My teachers are Aussie birds and animals. It is week one and the creative force has produced the Superb Blue Wren to provide some lessons!

Of all the facts about the Superb Fairy-wren’s life that have been discovered over the years, none is more charming than one small detail of the male’s courtship behaviour. While wooing a potential mate, either in his territory or in somebody else’s, a male Superb Fairy-wren will pluck petals from a flower and present them to the female as a kind of bouquet.

Males are also known for the ‘seahorse flight’, named for its seahorse-like undulations, during which the male—with his neck extended and his head feathers erect—tilts his body from horizontal to vertical, and descends slowly and springs upwards by rapidly beating his wings after alighting on the ground. The ‘face fan’ display is also noted as a part of sexual display behaviours; it involves the flaring of the blue ear tufts by erecting the feathers.

Whether this increases his chances of mating or not is hard to know; but it’s hard not to smile at the thought of this tiny, colourful bird carrying such an offering.

Artists who court the muse want to tap into that mysterious source of artistic inspiration all creative people seek. They search for a more knowing, more spiritual inner wisdom – something inside or even outside themselves that will inspire and inform their art. That inspirational, essential wisdom points the way inward, toward the emotions, the psyche, the soul. It calls upon us to cultivate a healthy relationship with the deep well of creative mystery that lies within.

What ritualistic displays might you devise to court and nurture the creative spirit? How will you use the reflective faculty we have within?

“Discipline is very important. I think we’re creative all day long. We have to have an appointment to have that work out on the page. Because the creative part of us gets tired of waiting, or just gets tired.” — Mary Oliver

“If Romeo and Juliet had made their appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet — one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere — there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them. Writing a poem is not so different—it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to keep them: count on it, nothing happens.

The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem — the heart of the star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say — exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious. It learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be. Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine. It waits, it watches. If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself — soon it begins to arrive when you do. But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.” Mary Oliver

♥ Make an appointment with the creative spirit today! It is enough to just hang out together!

♥ Visit Contemporary Aboriginal Artist, Mirree and learn about how Wren Dreaming can help nurture your creative spirit. Perhaps you will treat the creative spirit to some of Mirree’s beautiful Oracle Cards and her Dreamtime Colouring Book. I use a deck like this to determine who will be the next animal to enter my space and insist that their voice be heard.

Posted in Artistic Almshouse, Artistic Midwife, Dak Bungalows, Heather Blakey, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Self Portraiture

Towards a New Shore

Turtle symbolizes both new beginnings and endings. It is the ending of something that allows space for something new to arise. This ending may be an outer circumstance or a change or shift that occurs within ourselves. There may be a sense of loss or even grief over what has passed and yet it is through the energy of Turtle who is very long-lived and thus very wise, that we can come to understand why something did need to leave our lives. Turtle can help lead us to that space where we can finally move on, to let go of what has been, celebrate it for the gifts it gave us and finally to turn and head for a new shore.

I found it no surprise that as 2018 dawned Green Turtles swam into my life to affirm that a shift has taken place and it is time to leave the past behind.

These drawings depict some aspects of who I have been. I have been an Enchantress, Sibyl Riversleigh and Ebony Wilder, the Riversleigh housekeeper who comes out as a pirate, and leads adventures around the Lemurian Archipelago. I have been the spirit of a volcano, an Abbess presiding over the Lemurian Abbey and the keeper of the alluvial mine.

Now I am simply Heather, artistic midwife, purveyor of creative stimuli! I am happy to travel alone but delighted to find companions as I travel. It is not particularly important where I finally come ashore.

I am reminded of the much-loved poem, Ithaka! It is the journey that is important. For now, I am looking at where I am right now. From a creative point of view, right now I have established a virtual base in an Artistic Almshouse and I am doing some Dak Bungalow hopping.

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Posted in Art and Healing, Artistic Almshouse, Contemplative Practice, Killing Time, Lemurian Adventures, Purveyor of Creative Stimuli, Resilience, Self Portraiture, Tarot Story Starters

Tarot Story Starters

Sometimes, when I need fuel injected creativity, I turn to a Tarot deck. This deck is far from complete, but there are some stories lying behind my version of the Tarot. 2010 was a traumatic year for me so there were many swords appearing in my drawings.
Heather Blakey Pencil Drawings 2010