Secrets of the Bear Lodge
“What is your practice? What do you do to bring creation into your midst?” She said to me challengingly. My mentor for creating art was speaking directly to my heart. She was challenging me to consider that there is something that the artist does which is not making art, but the step before it. A breathing in so to speak, so the art can be breathed out and into the world. Many things ran through my mind, but the one that popped forward with overwhelming resonance was lodge.
I don’t pretend to understand lodge in totality and I am hardly one to consider it to be a religion or spiritual tradition in my life. Rather it is a practice. A thing I do which works. It opens up the creative channels within and connects me to silence. I don’t expect to see things in the lodge and often nothing but sitting in the dark and listening to others and the songs is just about all that occurs for me. There are no expectations of magic, no drama of healing, and nothing related to vision… rather it is a return to that which is simple. Fire, rocks, water, steam, breath and a simple structure of willow all combine to allow me to just sit in silence.
When recently building a lodge, there were challenges of direction and purpose, intent and creation. But what it came down to was an idea… the bear in her cave just beginning to awake as the spring leaps forward into newness. Bear lodges, I discovered, often face north a direction many traditions decry as wrong. But to the north it faced… right into the direction of the ancestors, the elders, the elder part of life itself. The bear awoke and found his years were dragging on him.
And there was little to say, chant, or do. Just sit in silence as the intent of the universe combined these elements together in an overwhelming simplicity that shocked me to the core. The earth pulsed and shared her sacredness with us. The directions were just there as they always have been and always will be. And light leapt from the center to connect us all to the awe of above and below. We circled around and settled into a serenity that was profound.
As often occurs, artwork follows. Words can do no justice to the breadth and depth of a profound experience of silence, but often images get close. The words in this artwork remind one of stepping out onto the great cliff of life where the unknown is, of valuing who and what we are without an agenda of what we are supposed to be, of linking to a center that is everywhere present and nowhere evident. The bear, not a real bear, but the idea of the bear, witnessed our emergence into spring. The teachings were not specific to any path, but just being in dreaming awake.
My love of the red rocks frame this work… as well a love of staining paper with string and allowing the reticulations to emerge of themselves. There is a connection to awe that I feel in work that I cannot control which is why I chose water and paint and paper. The artist is challenged to let go in every step as the ink dries and the images emerge. Nothing in the creation of this work could be closer than this to what happens in a lodge. We know nothing of what Intent has in store for us in lodge… all we can do is be open to something without knowing what will happen.
Art is a radical act of trust. Creation is the motion of the multiverse. We are witness to this constant unfolding in time.