Stumbling out of the block:

Thank you Vanessa, thank you Summer Walleye people, for creating a space to work at the thick plug of fear in my throat.  It is working.  I have spent many months afraid to write, write anything.  Even the writing that I have to do to be a ‘professional artist’ seemed like agony, like words would not form from the clouded jellyfish in my mind.

Unpacking and repacking many private family hardships over the last many months, my dear sweet sick husband struggling back through months of an anxiety disorder.  NOT wanting to write about it, I became stuck.  And my own fear that it would creep back, even when things were getting better, like the anxiety had somehow seeped into my bones instead.  I became paralyzed to write about making (or not making) work about weight and burden and labor.  So much pressure…

But as I take steps to set down those burdens, reaching out to things I’ve never tried before, finding different strategies almost at random, I’m seeing this paralysis as a friend to growth.  It just takes a nudge.

It’s like when you can’t get something open, because so much pressure is built up behind it.  And it just takes a nudge, someone else’s hand, running something underwater, or a drop of oil.  And the lid simply comes off with ease.

‘Summer Walleye’ facilitated by Vanessa Dewolf, a free meeting on Sunday morning of anyone who wants to write and move, move to write, write to move, read. Share. try.  Vanessa is director at Studio Current in Seattle, she’s a ‘Dramaturg for Dance, Creative Process Consultant & Feedback specialist’, and this I love what she says about herself –  “what do I want? Is it possible to keep befriending the unknown?
I’m unpredictable.”

I came to this meeting, almost at random, but really how any decision is made is through a build up of experience until the way to go seems like something to fall into.  I saw Vanessa’s piece “Score for an Unrehearsed Ensemble” at NW New Works Festival, and a wave of relief filled me up.  A tipping point.  What I was seeing and experiencing by watching,  is that we are all crazy, all beautiful, all exhausted, all exhilarated.  A beautiful clicking of energies as 40 people move across stage , creating on the spot their reactions to each other, the words, their senses, their own bodies and histories….and I felt like I was pulled into that safe space on the stage to unfold and unwrap.  So then I got out of bed on Sunday, and fell into Walleye, without thinking.

“Score for an Unrehearsed Ensemble”
photo by Bruce Clayton Tom

I have been like the child who has reached the point where they ‘can’t draw’, but I know that is wrong.  I know that everyone can dance, and sing, and draw and walk. I know I can do these things.

I’m going to rest on my Walleye writings, then transcribe them here, whatever they are.  The speed of timed writing after a series of movement exercises unearths energy in a way I need.  Then the resting and the transcribing gives me some time to process and let the words I wrote sink in.  There may or may not be anything worth ‘mining’, but I am quite sure that is where I have gotten myself into trouble this last year…feeling as if every moment has to be visibly productive, like I’m an art worker on an art assembly line.  Will people still respect me if I’m just fucking around?  Yes, duh…and who cares.

I have never at all connected writing and movement, but whenever I have needed inspiration for well-crafted words (when I was young and pretending I would be a scholarly writer of texts), I would walk about the room with my eyes closed seeing the words written in the air, and I would lay on the bed, and something would emerge out of the dark of my mind.  A good sentence, a hook, something that really meant it.  I never noticed my body in the mix of this activity, just the disembodied words.  But I see now it was the visualization from moving my body into an unknown inner space that would unlock what I was looking for.  And I do the same with my work, when stuck for specifics beyond a general direction, I move quickly about then lie still enough to coax an image into my grasp of what I need to make.

At this meeting, in this writing, I see old time-worn Washington Hall as a landscape, and environment, a body to act upon and with.  I also see my own body surfacing, with my focus brought back and back to my grinding crooked bones, the pain in my hip.  At this meeting we began with “journey” – allowing the landscape in front of us tell us where to go. Then we traced with our bodies a site from Childhood and our favorite grocery store.  With writing, we jerked back and forth between these sites when Vanessa told us to jump.

What I have always know is that Childhood is a place I fled, did not belong, not a site of nostalgia.  But I didn’t know Grocery would hold the intimacy of motherhood, of being in love with a child.  What I also didn’t know was after two weeks of these meetings, I feel empowered on my own journey to Iceland, I have new tools to do what I want and tools to find an anchor in the unknown.  I am also most grateful to listening to the timed writing of the other participants, how we diverge and cross back on shared experiences and archetypes. Their imagery, so close to the edge of my own, but with a radical different magic, was like walking in another person’s skin for a few moments.

Summer Walleye in Washington Hall, July 21st

JOURNEY

I arrive

Aimless, to textured veins, to falling apart but staying together.  I arrived to a corner, to a darker place, to an away, from the space, to a stopping point, to a wall, to a place with layers. 

To where others had hid, skimmed the outside, to when energy was only at our backs, to pits of peeling layers had covered meek hands, yet the oils will surface.

To the water. To the time. To the downward desire of the water, the seep, the minerals, the quiet and the noise of all the time that hit the walls.  The rubbing, the hiding, the finding of the soft dark to see others in the center of doing.

And when I left

I pushed myself to go against myself, to go into the space, the place where I wouldn’t usually go.  To just be without walls, without dark, without myself and myself’s walls and see if I could feel anything, feel okay. 

Fine, I feel and it was just fine.  But it wasn’t the destination. Just a space to travel through.  I wasn’t afraid of it, or rejecting it or anything but passing through it.  It did not have me , but I had it.

Along the way

I look from where I started, kept my eyes there and so I did not know where I went, so had to feel where I went.  Had to see it all spread out before me, slowly rocking with my pain, my gait, my lumber. 

And the pattern of the place emerged.  One side led to tiny patterns, to a herringbone, from the ribs of the fish, the bones of the place. To the labor, of the making, of the tradition to small details, of task, of purpose. 

Then every energy played out on top of it all, now worn, but once gleaming in the wood.

Movement

Led by the flat bones, the grinding in my hip to the bones dragging, led the leg pulled by gravity more than no other.  Dull pain moves everything, influences everything but I move anyway.

Try not to do battle with the dullness but more with it.  Let it lead instead of trying to ignore its presence.

Its presence, old pain, old stillness old things.  Born things, usually afraid of them, of the things they take over, how they stop me, slow me down, but I let it lead.

I open my eyes to the lines on the floor, to my hands on the floor, to the waxy hips that seem to ride and navigate around the dull pain, the misplaced bones, the old bones, the rubs, the mishapers, the records of things undone and not cared for, the gifted body unopened, the fluidity unused.  But knowing it is time to embrace, time to open, time to ride out the bones and they will their embrace.

The bones, the stones, the place that will not move.  I will love it, I will remember it to make it know.

That was the first pain the labor took away.

(It feels pleasurable transcribing this stuff, like I can walk through the physical acts again of the exercises and remember processes that helped loosen pathways.  It is very simple, no great earth shattering revelations, but to see the movement experiences naturally translating into both my real experience of the site and the things reverberating in my mind and body, how they blend back and forth between inner and outer world, is exciting to see that revealed and be clear…just by writing quickly after movement with a time limit and no real sense of purpose.

Someone said writing and reading words are in different parts of the brain.  While reading is a wild flourette of sensation and experience, I really only write with a pragmatic purpose.  Not simply to practice, to feel around in that part of the brain that writes…this challenges that.)

Grocery or childhood

Childhood

So empty I could hardly find a way around.   There was nothing in there but the bed, the texture of the cotton woven spread, the wide bed, the bed that took the whole space in its grips, the rough feel of synthetic carpet, the smell of no history of nothing of no one of no energy.  I moved around rectangles and angles, looking for my things, what were my things, things I have no memory of but the ability to let them go.  There was just empty.  But I found the closet that was long and used to be a place to hide, to play.

Grocery

Always always spend spin with the boy, the boy in my arms, the boy

Childhood

Nothing, nothing to start with, with, with alone, but the cat, under the covers

Grocery

We find a place to touch, he leans into my chest, he goes to it, the fruit.  He feels a part of the life that surrounds him.  We go slow, we fill up with the abundance, of being able to choose, of imagining and yearning, of taste of feel. 

To feel together, to get it done that needs to be done, but to be together, to explore, to want, to treat one another, to be naughty.  To make out own choices and remember the gift of small pleasure.  To find peas and chocolate the milk the soaps to smell the wine.  The wine to bring to nights alone.

Childhood

Still, nothing.  Still nothing there.  The bland carpet, the cat jumping, the cat biting, the hidden, the puppet show, the awful agony of putting on layers of long underwear to go in the snow.  To try to see a way to make a world, that isn’t trivial, to everyone, to sneaking about listening for clues that I don’t actually belong there.  That would make sense.  I am bored out of magic, no magic at all.

Practical notes to me:

-take the time and luxury of space to TRACE memory in the physicality of my body…se what is there or not there, NOT making it there, but be in alignment with its absences also.  Give over enough of yourself to find the quiet narrative…

-My head was so warm to the touch, a comfort, yet I never touch my head, though I know that energy flows out of it like a field or a pole above me.  I can make the magic for him, the energy, the intimacy needed for a rich imaginative blooming world.  The layers, the layers of memory, of presence, soft and lonely.

-MOVE in that space like I have a mirror under my nose again,to shift my focus into a space of memory…not memory, but the thread of things knit together that all lead to THIS moment.

-Of being here in this moment, this new situation, I never would have come to except for being LOST, so honor being lost, being brought here by lostness.  Lostness means many other ways are open to me.  All things lead to this, this leads to all things.

Poet Sierra Nelson’s ‘Rune Library / Runasafn’ poetry installation is up at TPR, now until Sept. 2

“Like many games, sacred and secular, the Runes are meant to be played upon a field.  The field represents the world that is always coming to be and passing away.”  – The Book of Runes, Ralph H Blum

Poet Sierra Nelson came by The Project Room yesterday to install a quiet but bracing installation of interactive poetry, the Rune Library / Runasafn.  She used the word ‘bracing’ to describe the effect that one can feel when reading the meaning of Runes, and I think it is a fitting word for her entire project.  Going through the process she sets up for you, selecting a small volcanic stone out of a tattered black satin-covered box lined with purple velvet – found in an antique shop in Reykjavik Iceland – you catch a glimpse of your hand as it passes in front of a decaying mirror, like a disintegrating membrane between this world and another just behind the glass.  Whether through chance or luck, fate or the sensual attraction of a particular shape of stone, you are selecting a poem that will be yours, that you then find in the library and sign out on the traditional library cards we no longer use, writing your name behind the others who share your poem.  Then you have a few bracing moments with Sierra Nelson whispering in your ear, her voice coming back from a time she spent in Iceland as she interpreted longer voices coming through the Runic language, ideas that still resonate with our daily lives now.

I’ll be the caretaker of the Rune Library / Runasafn until I leave The Project Room on September 2.  Please drop by and find your poem.  Also Sierra will be back on Wednesday August 31, 2011 from 6 pm – 8-ish to share more of her work created in Iceland, talk about her experiences and just generally letting me pick her brain.  We’ll start with an Icelandic pancake feast, cooked here at TPR, while Sierra roams the room asking you to fill out a survey she created in Iceland about the mythic and mundane activities of ‘sending and receiving’.

More about the Rune Library / Runasafn….

M: What inspired this piece for you?

S: I’ve always been interested and curious about runes, and while doing a residency at SIM in Iceland, it seemed like the perfect place to investigate and work with them … in a Nordic land where runes were once used, and where people still find it interesting.

I wanted to make my own set, so I began gathering stones, and many of the ones I used are small volcanic rocks from the Vatnajokull glacier.

I also was gathering notes during my stay in Reykjavik and while traveling to different parts of Iceland, images and ideas, the way I would for any kind of poem. Then when I sat down to write the rune poems, I culled these images while thinking about the different runes, to find which pieces would resonate together.  As I was learning about the runes, a poem would emerge from these images coming together.

M: Your Rune Library in The Project Room has with it “The Book of Runes: A Handbook for the Use of an Ancient Oracle” by Ralph H. Blum.  Did you have this book with you in Iceland?

S:  I did, I had the book before I went.  It’s from the 80’s and it does have a very different take on Runes, just as any book would that has to do with esoteric ideas, every era has its own perspective.  But I really liked his approach to Runes; it’s a little bit more philosophical.   A little less “This Will Happen to You,” and more describing a process that we are all in, that your life is always a cycle and this rune can help show you where you are in that cycle, and maybe offer some insight or advice for that state.

Blum uses a great deal of imagery from the natural world, which made a lot of sense to me, considering where runes are often used, often scratched or written into a stone or carved into a tree or wood.  Each letter symbol has an individual meaning that was thought to have a symbolic power as well, and could be used as protection, to create a spell, for divination, or to give you some sort of strength during a process you are going through.

M:  Have Runes always been used this way?  To help people make choices or decisions?  Or have they also been used to record narratives, as well?

S: They can come together to express words as an alphabet, so they can also be used to communicate ideas, as a means of expression.  But they have also always had that connection with the power of the actual word itself, that symbol itself, as well as the tradition of writing the individual symbols on different pieces (stones, or pieces of wood cut from a branch) and them drawing them out individually, an act of chance or divination that could provide meaning. People could also carve them and carry them as a talisman, to invoke some sort of power that they needed to go through an experience.

M: So their function is to carry the power of the word in a physical form?

S:   Yes, to me runes speak to the power of word itself.  The action of creating the marks for the words brings something into being.  Which is exciting!  Especially in the world of poetry, when each word has quite a bit of weight…and you’re thinking about what is happening in that small space of the written poem, each sound and letter can have a resonant meaning as well.  You can say Runes out loud or incant them, but the actual marks themselves carry weight and meaning. I enjoy the importance of their physicality.

M:  So each poem in the Rune Library has to do with the rune symbol it’s associated with but also has to do with your own observations during your residency as you lived your daily life.

S: Yes…a bit of both.  I was gathering imagery as I walked around Reykjavik and to excursions around the country.   I was also gathering images from the traditional symbols and their meanings.   So then as I sat down to write each poem, I’d read a bit about that particular rune and look back through my notebook and see what resonated from my experiences and what stood out in relation to the particular Rune.  They are my own slant on the rune, but I really view them as gifts from Iceland, experiences that I was able to put into the poems.

M:  I’ve only read two of the poems — the one I chose and the one that Hazel got — and they are remarkably like little windows onto an intimate experience of place; being in a new location for an extended period of time, once you are there for a certain period, you get to have a certain quality of daily life, an ‘ordinariness’ instead of a ‘specialness’ which actually leads to what feels like a deeper understanding of a place.  I think I gasped when I read my poem!  I really love the flip-flop between such a sense of history and permanence of the Rune – carved in stone —  and that you could translate and record something so transitory as your lived experience of private moments into forms of an ancient language…

S: A lot of contemporary images were coming through the poetry from when I was gathering impressions from my experiences.  But it seems like part of what the runes are as well, what they have always been used for – reflecting back your actual life, but you have to find what those connections are.  What some of the symbols represent can be quite intense – ice, disruption – they have this bracing quality.  When you find yourself in that moment, within a broad range of strong emotions, it’s really nice to have the reassurance of the runes that this is part of the natural cycle too, to have them reflect that back at you.  The rune meanings give you a helpful framework to realize it is transitory, the intensity of emotion…you are a part of a much larger cycle.

M: I looked up the rune I chose in your Blum book and it did catch my breath, how the ancient meaning behind it was oh so pertinent. I chose ‘constraint’, it said ‘…the role of nauthiz is to identify our shadow, our dark or repressed side, places where growth has been stunted resulting in weaknesses that are often projected onto others’.  And then in italics like I was suppose to really remember this…..‘don’t take this world personally’. It was, to use your word for it, bracing!  I am so drawn into this work of yours right where it intersects with my own process in making art; I am always hunting, sometimes randomly, and usually by luck for those moments in mythologies or archetypes where I see my own life reflected back at me.

I wonder, what has it been like for people to choose a poem at random, by luck or chance and their reactions to the connection they find in ‘their’ poem?  I guess that is a question I should answer (laughter)…..

S: I can speak to that somewhat…It was such a pleasure writing these poems because I didn’t feel like I was writing about me or just my own experiences — other than pulling images through my physical person.  My intention behind each poem was thinking more about that person who might be pulling this rune, what they might need in that moment, what the poem might be useful for in their life.  That is why I did not want the poems to live in a book  — though they certainly could — I wanted to present them in a way that people could have some kind of active experience connecting with a particular poem.  Being able to choose a poem through chance or fate, it becomes a more meaningful event because it came together in that way; it creates some energy and aliveness between the reader and the poem that doesn’t have to do with me.

M: This interactive quality seems important to you, both with your own work and what you have done with Rachel Kessler with Vis-à-vis Society and earlier with Typing Explosion.   Putting things in flux…it seems very important to you for a long time now.

S: There just is something so great that happens during those interactive moments… Rachel and I both are very much interested in the public/private relationship.   There are these kinds of moments we all have all the time, and Rachel and I aim to find ways to look closely at them.  Our intention is in finding ways to reflect back those moments through the process of making art, like say, with the making a graph of data of private experiences.  We try to find ways to facilitate and value the way people have a private moment of reflection, and yet we can create the opportunity for people to see their own private thoughts collectively through graphing and recording the patterns in everyone’s experience.

Vis-a-Vis Society

Vis-a-Vis Society

So it is an important private moment, choosing your rune stone from the box.  But to also have to sign out the rune from the library functions as a public way to mark and record the larger patterns. The Rune Library records what is happening on any given day, and potentially providing a larger sense of where patterns might emerge. It’s a library of experiences.  Were there certain rocks that people were drawn to on that particular day? Are there some runes that are pulled more frequently over time?  Is there some pattern to these random meetings?

 

Directions for Rune Library / Runasafn

 

1. Choose (or select at random) a rune stone from the container.

2. Find the corresponding symbol on the library card envelope.

3. Write your name and the date on the card.

4. Find the corresponding poem to the symbol and rune name.

5. The poem is yours to keep.

6. Return the rune stone to the container.

Takk fyrir!