Showing posts with label damery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label damery. Show all posts

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Celebrating the Harvest: Reading for the Earth

An Invitation:

Harvest is an ancient and sacred ritual, marking the year’s cycle, expressing our gratitude for the fruits of the Earth. In these dangerous and fragmented times how do we give thanks to our Mother Earth and to the farmers who feed us?

We are three poets and a novelist, who engage passionately with ecological issues in our work. Please join us for a harvest of earth-centered writing at First Light Farm Stand.

When: 2:00 pm, Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Where: First Light Farm Stand, 4588 Bodega Avenue, Petaluma

Who Will Read: Novelist Patricia Damery and poets Frances Hatfield, Naomi Ruth Lowinsky and Leah Shelleda

If you’re worried about Monsanto and the loss of species, or want to know more about the poets who will be reading, check out Sharon Heath’s blog posting On Butterflies and Men

A Publication

My poem “Lust and the Holy” is featured in the on-line literary magazine Wild Violets, accompanied by a delightful image. I hope you’ll check it out.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

News From the Muse: The Serpent Muse

Patricia Damery and I are friends and colleagues who have known each other for over twenty years, and have read and supported one another‘s writings. I read her book Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation in manuscript, and connected Patricia with my publisher, Mel Mathews at my own book launching party for The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way. I knew they’d love each other, both being wild shamanic types, grounded in the life of farming. Patricia had read The Sister in manuscript and kept urging me on for years while I was looking for the right publisher.

Patricia Damery
When Patricia and I were in Los Angeles in April, celebrating the launching of Marked by Fire, which Patricia and I co-edited, Nancy Mozur, who runs the Los Angeles C.G. Jung Institute’s wonderful bookstore, handed me a copy of the latest Psychological Perspectives. Synchronistically, as these things seem to happen, the review I  had written of Farming Soul was in that issue: Volume 55, Issue 1.

So let's be clear hereI am no dispassionate critic with an objective eye. I am a friend, a fan, a believer in Patricia’s courageous process, an admirer of her life and writing, and most recently, her co-editor. We both write in the genre we think of as Jungian memoir, personal stories that illuminate the inner life.

Here are some sections from the just published review:

Farming Soul: A Tale of Initiation by Patricia Damery
(Fisher King Press,) 2010.

Individuation is not for sissies. If the Great Serpent of your unfolding demands you develop aspects of yourself that are frowned upon by the spirit of the times, disapproved of by your analyst, and considered weird by most everyone you know, you’ll need to cultivate your own truth. If, on the way to becoming a Jungian analyst, the Golden Snake of your flowering requires you to study shamanism, work with a psychic, commune with invisible Presences, wander off the beaten Jungian path to explore the path of Rudolf Steiner—a cousin of Jung’s in the lineage of Goethe—you may find yourself in various kinds of trouble. If you’re a farmer’s daughter who left the farm as a young woman but the Jeweled Snake of your essential nature transports you back to farming, and you find yourself growing lavender and grapes on a ranch with your second husband, following the magical practices of bio-dynamic farming—an alchemical process developed by Steiner—you’ll need strong muscles of body and of spirit…. If, on top of all of this, your Snake insists you are a writer, and that you must tell your story, you’ll likely learn how lonely it can be to follow your own path.

Farming Soul is the stirring story of a remarkable woman. Patricia Damery has developed all the aspects of herself required by her Snake. Clearly conceived, yet intricately layered, this memoir is a weaving of narrative strands that tell stories in time. They are weft to the timeless warp of the farming cycle, described in short chapters, mostly named for the months of the year. Those sections are more teachings than stories. We learn the mysterious practices of shamanic farming, the stirring of sun soaked waters with a tincture, for example, of valerian, to bring warmth to the grapes when it’s cold in early March. This requires stirring first clockwise then in reverse direction, which “throws the water into chaos, that state that Rudolf Steiner says is most receptive to the divine."

The biodynamic farmer listens to the land, sings to the vines. She does not impose her will upon it, as do industrial farmers. Like a Jungian analyst, she waits for what’s underground to reveal itself. Damery returns us to the roots of Jungian psychology, to Jung’s rhizome—the unseen “true life.” She takes us back to the alchemists, who stirred tinctures of flower essences, and invited the divine. She takes us back to Goethe, who was an alchemist. His great drama, Faust, influenced Jung’s psychology and his scientific studies of plant life influenced Steiner’s ideas about farming.…

A compelling strand of Damery’s story is about the group that followed the late Don Sandner into the Southwest to study shamanism. Sandner was a revered elder of our tribe. He had studied the Navajo and worked in the shamanic tradition. He did drumming rituals for candidates in the early years of my candidacy.…Those trips to the Southwest stirred Damery’s psyche, opened her up to the divine. The Great Serpent showed up during the drumming, in visions, in dreams and in active imagination. It shape-shifted into a Golden Snake, a Jeweled Snake, the Kundalini Snake uncoiling its sacred energies, which, in Damery’s case, erupted with such intensity that she set off car alarms.

Learning to contain and channel this energy required yet another initiatory path for Damery. She did not find her temenos for this work in her Jungian tribe. She had to go off and study with a wise psychic, Norma T, who helped validate Damery’s experience of the “spirit world."

Farming Soul is, as the subtitle indicates, a “tale of initiation,” actually several initiations. As I reflect on the long walkabout Damery had to make, the hermetic practices her Golden Snake required before she could return to her Jungian path and be certified as an analyst, I remember what Joe Henderson told me about initiation. Joe was a founder of the San Francisco Jung Institute and my control analyst. He explained that the initiate needs to leave the tribe, go off and have her personal vision, meet her totem, learn what her myth is before she can return to the tribe, bringing the gifts of her own nature.

Some years ago I was in charge of providing food for a Sunday afternoon event at the San Francisco Institute. Patricia Damery, now an analyst, was going to speak about the Horned Goat. Our community is housed in a gracious old home in an elegant part of town. Suddenly, entering the French doors from the garden, I saw three goats sauntering in. Goats in the Institute? My first thought was, “Oh my God, the food!” But I could see that each goat was firmly attached to a lead and a handler. My second thought was, “How perfect! This hallowed place is in sore need of goatsmell, goatsong, goat energy. And here is our own Patricia Damery, bringing in the vitality of the natural world, the ‘lumen naturae.’ What a blessing to us all.”

Farming Soul is a blessing for Jungians, a reminder of our roots in the Reality of the Psyche, and a challenge to expand our consciousness. Damery helps us remember Psyche as one aspect of the long story Mother Nature has been weaving, of plants and animals, humans and gods—like the Great Serpent who appeared to Damery during a drumming and informed her she needed to develop a practice. She has, and she is showing us the way.

Monday, April 23, 2012

News from the Muse: The Muse of Los Angeles

There are moments, if one is lucky, when the whole circuitous, confusing, maze of a life’s meander reveals its essential shape—Indra’s net is illuminated—everything is connected.  I had such a moment on a recent Sunday in April, at the beautiful book launching for Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way, sponsored by the Los Angeles Jung Institute.  My co-editor Patricia Damery and I were overwhelmed and deeply moved by the party Chie Lee, the President of the L.A Institute, had thrown for our group the night before, by the presence of almost all the books’ contributors (two by Skype) at the reading, by the generosity of the L.A, Institute which had gotten us a large hall and put out the word and ordered books and provided food. Patricia has written a beautiful blog about all this.  Check it out.

I stood at the podium, introducing each contributor, and felt the strands of kinship libido—the memories and associations that connect me to all those who had written essays out of the vital stuff of their lives—their soul stories, their inner landscapes—the fiery process of becoming themselves. Listening to the voices of these friends and colleagues, my heart resonated with their eloquent expression of so many themes that move me: the power of dreams and synchronicities, the dark confused and painful times out of which new life emerges, the twists and turns of fate, luck, grace and individuation that brought us all here together on this bright Sunday afternoon in the Social Hall of Temple Isaiah across the street from the Jung Institute.
[from the left: Chie Lee, Sharon Heath, Jackie Gerson, Naomi Lowinsky,
Karlyn Ward, Patricia Damery, Dennis Slattery, Jean Kirsch,
Robert Romanyshyn, Claire Douglas, Gilda Franz]

The City of Angels
In the midst of all this I found myself musing about my relationship to L.A. There is something about L.A. I had been trying to find words to explain it to my friends from the North. Is it the light? The colors? Is it the beach runners, walkers, skaters, cyclists, the casual but trendy dress—sensual and a touch wild?

Suddenly it hit me. Los Angeles is the City of Angels. A procession of angels have visited me in this town. Almost twenty years ago, back in the day when Northern and Southern California analysts worked together in the initiatory process to become an analyst, I was certified at the L.A. Institute. It is such a vulnerable thing to bring one’s inner life and one’s sacred work with an analysand to the eyes of the members of a committee. To be seen and understood is a blessing—a visitation by an angel. 

 Around that time Charlene Sieg, the managing editor of Psychological Perspectives—a fine journal published by the Los Angeles Institute, which describes itself as a “journal of global consciousness integrating psyche, soul and nature”— called me up and wondered if I wanted to be poetry editor. I thought: this woman whom I don’t know has just handed me my place in the community! I have lived there gratefully ever since, at the intersection of Poetry and Jungian Analysis. Charlene is one of my angels.

Dan and I have traveled to Los Angeles twice a year for the board meetings of Psychological Perspectives. We had family in the area for much of that time, and enjoyed our time with them. We made deep friendships and began the threads of connection which eventually led to Marked by Fire and to this event. Psychological Perspectives has itself has been an angel to me, nurturing and supporting my writing over many years, connecting me with a community of writers interested in expressing the direct experience of the unconscious. Robin Robertson, the General Editor, a wonderful writer on science, psyche and the arts, whose most recent book on alchemy and chaos theory is called Indra’s Net, mentored me through many years of wandering in the wilderness, seeking a publisher. He always said it would happen. He, too, is an angel. So is Gilda Frantz, co-editor of the journal and contributor of a marvelous essay in Marked by Fire, who has always given me the courage of my own idiosyncratic vision.

On the Nature of Angels
Speaking of idiosyncratic vision, you may wonder about all this talk of angels when I’m blogging on the muse. Are angels muses? Angels, according to someone named Walter Rigg, writing in Harper’s Bazaar in 1962, “are powers which transcend the logic of our existence.” I found this quote in Gustav Davidson’s Dictionary of Angels, an essential reference for anyone into angelology. Yes, indeed, you are walking along the known path of your life and suddenly an angel enters the scene and shifts everything. You’re invited to be Poetry Editor and it changes your life, transcending the old logic of your existence.

My take on angels draws from the Jewish tradition, which, like Islam and Christianity is chock full of angels—perhaps compensatory for all that monotheistic singularity. Just look up angels in the index of Tree of Souls, a marvelous reference on the mythology of Judaism, and you’ll see what I mean. For me, personal angels are powers connected with our souls from before we were born.  They remember who we really are when we have forgotten. They tell us, as Robin Robertson often told me, that it’s not my way to write the conventional Jungian teaching book—I needed to write as a poet.  The Sister from Below is the result of that wise counsel.

In my life angels often take human form. They are ordinary people who connect with something of your eternal nature, which seen, fills you with the light of your own essence. Sometimes they are beings of the imaginal world who show up in vision, dream or active imagination. They have our backs, stand behind us, pointing the way. Sometimes they show up with flaming torches and burn down the world as we know it. Sometimes they see where we’re going years before we do. And yes, sometimes an angel can be a muse.  

The Angel/Muse of Watts Towers 
Such an angel came to me in L.A. years before I’d even thought of being a Jungian—this was the angel and muse of Watts Towers. That angel/muse flew me to L.A. for the first time in my life, and into a larger vision of who I could be. I was a young mother, hemmed in by family demands, shaped by babies and kitchen and laundry. This angel whispered in my ear: “You’ve got to get out of here. Leave the kids with your husband and get away for a weekend. Remember who you are.”  “And go where?” I wondered. “Visit your friends in L.A.” the angel advised. And so it was I found myself in the home of dear friends whom I’d known when we were all in India together, associated with Peace Corps.

I had never been away from husband and kids for an entire weekend. It felt wicked. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. My hip felt empty without my baby girl. I don’t remember how that angel/muse spirited me to Watts Towers but there I was—a memory imprinted in my soul for life—contemplating the sacred space Simon Rodia, a poor immigrant from Italy, had created out of steel rods, cement and junk. I imagined him, wandering around in his life, picking up small pieces of broken glass and crockery, using them to create a mosaic in cement—his Sanctuario. Had he known about the Taj Mahal? I had been to the Taj; those small bits of glowing color creating intricate and glorious designs seemed to me to be part of the same artistic lineage.
I remember reflecting that if I could just be like Simon Rodia, picking up small pieces of glittering, broken fragments from my every day wanderings and gathering them into sacred shapes, I would be happy. It would be years before I could dedicate myself to that practice as a poet, years before I would write a poem about that visitation, but the angel/muse of Watts Towers had shown me my path.

how Simon Rodia showed me my craft

before I’d launched a single soul
or heard the cat call in my voice
some sanity insisted that I see
the joy leaps of your towers
                Simon Rodia

in flat exhausted Watts
where no tree grew
                afraid of my life
                looked up at your craft

                a maze of spires
                cathedral of steel rods
                a  window washer’s labyrinth of tile

what wind had ripped you loose
of the gray grind?
motorcycles growled revenge
Spanish mothers prayed
their baby Jesus would survive

cement  and broken dishes
your creation:  the ark
still pushes at the backyard fence
baptismal font awaits
the new born
and here a bench for sitting

in your Italian Sanctuario
inlaid with jewels from the garbage
are all the treasures of a boy:  blue of broken tile                  
green fire of soda pop
seashells from the bottom of your pocket                             
                of broken wine decanter  

and in my northern neighborhood
when no wind blew
and nothing happened in the house
I would imagine I had a craft
like yours              
                Simon Rodia

and every broken bit of color
that life washed up
would have a place in my design

the city fathers
tried to pull
your towers from their roots
                Simon Rodia
not even swinging cement balls
could shake your work
                I saw you
                riding your joy leaps over their upturned faces
                your laughter
                ripped me loose!

(This poem is published in Adagio & Lamentation)

Monday, December 26, 2011

News from the Muse: The Muse of Fire

Marked By Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way

This life is the way, the long sought after way to the unfathomable which we call divine
—C.G. Jung, The Red Book

Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way is a soulful collection of essays that illuminate the inner life.

When Soul appeared to C.G. Jung and demanded he change his life, he opened himself to the powerful forces of the unconscious. He recorded his inner journey, his conversations with figures that appeared to him in vision and in dream in The Red Book. Although it would be years before The Red Book was published, much of what we now know as Jungian psychology began in those pages, when Jung allowed the irrational to assault him. That was a century ago.

How do those of us who dedicate ourselves to Jung’s psychology as analysts, teachers, writers respond to Soul’s demands in our own lives? If we believe, with Jung, in “the reality of the psyche,” how does that shape us? The articles in Marked By Fire portray direct experiences of the unconscious; they tell life stories about the fiery process of becoming ourselves.

A Word from the Sister
The publication of “Marked by Fire” is exciting. I want to share a portion of Naomi's essay in the collection, especially the part where I show up and play a pivotal role. I hope you’ll want to read more....
Drunk with Fire
How The Red Book Transformed My Jung

Support me for I stagger, drunk with fire. . . . I climbed down through the centuries and plunged into the sun far at the bottom. And I rose up drunk from the sun . . . The Red Book
There has been a breach between C. G. Jung and me. How could that happen? I had no idea who I was until I met Jung, nor had I had a decent conversation with my soul. Jungian analysis showed me my way into the world, and into my inner life—it opened the door to the poet I'd left behind in my childhood. But when I encountered Jung's suspicious attitude toward artists—so like a Swiss burgher—the poet in me was offended.

Enter The Red Book. When I sat down with that enormous tome on my lap and leafed through its gloriously illuminated pages, its visionary poetry, its astounding paintings and mandalas, my heart opened to my illustrious ancestor—all was forgiven. I felt vindicated. Jung, as I'd always suspected, was a closeted poet.

What is this Red Book? During a difficult time in his life, after his break with Freud, Jung was deluged with powerful images and visions. He wrote them down and painted them. He created a strange and beautiful book—bound in red leather—to hold them. It looks like a medieval illuminated manuscript. The Red Book was not published, even after his death, because of concerns that its wild, prophetic tone would cause people to dismiss Jung as a mystic or a madman. When it finally came out in 2009, it surprised the Jungian world by creating a media sensation and selling out its first printing

With the publication of The Red Book my Jung has been transformed. He is "outed" as a poet and a painter. He writes directly out of his vulnerability, working out his relationship with his soul in the depths of the mythopoetic imagination, just as I do. In The Red Book Jung reclaims his soul—or rather she reclaims him. She appears to him and becomes his guide. She is an inner figure with a mind of her own. This honoring of the voice from within, which Jung would later call active imagination, is one of his greatest gifts to me. Instead of ignoring or dismissing voices that speak to me from within, Jung taught me to listen and to engage in dialogue with them. When "The Sister from Below" began speaking to me, telling me she was my muse, my soul, my writing life took off....

When Jung implores, "Support me for I stagger drunk with fire," I feel a tug and am deeply moved. Why is this? They are wildly poetic words—in the Dionysian mode. They take me down to that primal level of religious feeling—worship of the sun, our source. I know the states he describes. To be drunk with fire tells it all—the creative ecstasy—at once wildly enlivening and demonic—fire as Dionysus, fire as Shiva, fire as Pele. Certainly being a poet can mean being drunk with the sun from the bottom of time. One finds oneself climbing "down through the centuries" pursuing a word, an image, a phrase of goat song.

It has been essential for me to write directly out of the experience of being in other realities, rather than describing such states from a safe distance. In The Red Book Jung contains his intense and overwhelming experiences by writing them down, by painting them. I recognize that urge. I have shelves and shelves of journals in which I've worked to contain my own fire, to follow inner figures, to work with poems and with dreams, to dive below the surface of the times to what is moving in the depths. And I always feel better, more grounded, more real to myself after I do.

Enter, the Sister from Below. She's got an idea:

Why don't you take your own advice? Do an active imagination with Jung, now that you feel this warm glow of kinships libido for him? Imagine you two are sitting by the primordial fire, as he puts it in The Red Book:
An old secret fire burns between us. . . . The words uttered at the fire are ambiguous and deep and show life the right way. . . .
[We] will respect the holy fire again, as well as the shades sitting at the hearth, and the words that encircle the flames.
This makes me nervous. Jung is the master of active imagination. Is it hubris to invoke him? But I have learned to listen to the Sister. So I sit down, with my notebook. Jung, I discover, is reluctant. He is not at all sure he wants to engage in this exercise...

Marked By Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way

Volume 1 - Inaugural Edition, Edited by Patricia Damery and Naomi Ruth Lowinsky. Available Spring 2012

Contributors to Marked by Fire: Jerome Bernstein, Claire Douglas, Gilda Frantz, Jacqueline Gerson, Jean Kirsch, Chie Lee, Karlyn Ward, Henry Abramovitch, Sharon Heath, Dennis Patrick Slattery, Robert Romanyshyn, Patricia Damery, and Naomi Ruth Lowinsky.

Paperback & eBook editions - Advance Orders Welcomed

Product Details
Paperback & eBook editions: 150 pages (estimate)
Large Page Size Format 9.25" x 7.5"
Publisher: Fisher King Press; 1st edition (April 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1-926715-68-3
ISBN-13: 978-1-926715-68-1