Chapter 24 “Dream Walking” from “The Unfathomable”

 

A Place to Dream Up a Storm

Alice and I are walking on the desert together. There is no trail so we are skirting around lots of prickly-pears pointing angry spines at us. Giant Saguaros are also watching us suspiciously as we walk by. Cottontails scurry to hide, but stop in their tracks, freeze, then stare at us with one eye. Numerous lizards streak by.

I ask her, “Can you see the future?”

She looks at me strangely as if I’d said something shocking. “No,” she answers, “But I think logically and that makes me skilled at understanding what the natural consequences might be when people make certain choices. But I’m not always right.”

“So you can’t tell me how long I will be here?”

“No, I can’t. Can you tell me why you are here?”

I’m surprised by her question. I wonder if she is asking it to avoid elaborating on her answer to me about understanding the future.

“I don’t know.” I say. “To paint, I guess. I’m not here by choice.”

“So you don’t know who put you here?”

“No, I don’t. I thought it might be you.”

She laughed. “You seem to be making the best of it. Am I right?”

“What else can I do?”

“I don’t know.” she says. “I guess, I would do the same thing you are doing if I were in your place. But now you know that you can dream your way out of your cell, because here we are walking on this awesome desert. The sky is so beautiful today.”

I look up into it’s blueness and at the huge billowing white thunderheads. Indeed, it is stunning. When I look back at the earth we are standing before something shockingly strange. It’s a bed high above the ground mounted on what looks like up-rooted trees. It reminds me of an indian burial stand, but it is a bed with white sheets and pillows. There are prayer flags and other interesting objects hanging from the branches of the nearly leafless tree trunks. Instead of roots at the bottoms of the trees there are animal claws gripping the earth.

I am stunned and stand looking with my mouth open.

“Don’t be surprised.” she says. “It’s a dream.”

“Right.” I say. We walk under the bed and sit down on the ground in the shade. There is a cool breeze and the ground beneath us is sandy and soft. A little chipmunk happens upon us. Surprised by our presence, it shrieks loudly, turns and runs. We laugh.

She begins to communicate with me again and I become aware that she is not talking but transferring information to me from her mind to mine.

She continues. “I can’t see the future, but sometimes it seems that I do. I am not like other people. Most humans don’t think through the choices they make because they are acting out of fear or they’re drunk, hypnotized or just plain stupid. Then stunned by the consequences of their actions they look for someone else to blame. But there is more to it than that. It has to do with their feeble intent to control everything around them. I don’t like to use the word ego, but for lack of a better word we can call it that for now. There really isn’t anything called an ego. Ego is a process, not a thing. This process only wants to avoid suffering at all costs. But by trying so hard to do that, it causes more pain and chaos. Control is an illusion. The ego only thinks it can control things. But it never really does. People are generally idealistic, not pragmatic. They think they are the center of the Universe and that they can demand perfection. And they want it now!”

I can feel my forehead crunching up as I try to decipher what she is saying. I’m wondering if she means I could have prevented being abducted and brought here.

She stops and looks at me and sees that I am staring at her with this concentrated look. Then she and laughs.

“You are beautiful,” she says through giggles. “Not only your outward appearance, but inside too. I’ve never met anyone who has received her destiny as gracefully as you have. Most people, would be angry and climb the walls trying to get away, but you are making the choice to co-operate with the inevitable. You take advantage of your situation rather than fight against it. That is why I am so interested in you.”

“I never thought of it that way,” I say. “But are telling me I could have prevented being brought here in the first place?”

“It’s possible. Tell me what led to your being captured.”

In a matter of seconds she had the story without me uttering a word.

“Possibly you could have made some different decisions on that day, like calling the director of the museum at his home before you went. You could have done any number of other things to change that event, but to be honest, I think you would have only put off the inevitable. There really aren’t many things we can control. We can choose how we accept what is happening. I’m not saying we have to like it. But it is what it is. Fighting to change something usually leads to more distress. It’s complicated, because we can do things to improve life, but we first have to realize what is happening. Most people don’t realize what is happening, but decide they don’t like something based on their unique way of viewing things, then act in a big way to make changes without understanding what it is they are changing.”

“It’s crazy. It all has to do with viewing the world through the veil of their belief systems rather than gathering actual facts. Almost everyone in the world does this, even super intelligent people. You are different because you didn’t waste time trying to change your situation. You started off by gathering facts about where you were. You haven’t spent a lot of time asking why. You just got busy living life right where you found yourself to be.”

“The people who brought you here must have done a lot of research in order to pick just the right person for their plan.”

“What plan is that?” I ask.

“I don’t know.” She says. “But I can tell you, I don’t believe they mean you any harm. I can’t say why I think that. It’s just a hunch. I think you will be released and there will be great things in store for you after this.”

“What makes you think that?” I ask.

“I guess I can be arrogant enough to say I only encounter people who are on magnificent journeys. People whose destiny it is to contribute great things that benefit the world and it’s inhabitants. The paintings you send out of here touch people in unique ways. The messages are embedded in the images. But it’s not just the images. It’s also the way you paint them.”

“Seriously?” I respond. “I’m only a teacher. Not a master painter.”

“Oh shut up!” she snaps. “Do you think Leonardo De Vinci thought he was a master painter? If he did he would have painted more. What about Van Gogh? He died being rejected by everyone. In fact he died from a self-inflicted wound. I don’t think he thought very highly of himself either. Humans are conditioned to believe that thinking highly of oneself is a sin, while at the same time believing they are made in the image of a god. It’s crazy-making!”

“Okay,” I say. “What am I supposed to get out of this discussion?”

“Nothing.” she says. “Absolutely nothing at all.” She stares at me, her green eyes are shining and she’s smiling like she might laugh out loud any minute now.

Suddenly I wake up and find that I am lying on the blue sofa and have been dreaming. Was I dreaming with Alice? I look at the rainbows on the walls. They are beautiful. The whole space is beautiful. Alias comes bounding in from the cat door and leaps on top of me, purring loudly. He mashes on my body with his front paws. I can see that his life is a miracle. That all life is.

I don’t know if Alice is right about the possibility that I might be let free. I think that I’ve learned to accept that there is a chance I will never leave here. Never go back to my former life. Something terrible could go wrong with this whole operation. But what I’ve come to understand is that this has always been true about life on this planet. So I don’t see any reason to ruminate over my present conditions.

After Alias and I have breakfast I start sketches for a painting of a bed raised up to the sky. A name came to me right away. I will call it, A Place to Dream Up a Storm. I only make one sketch then start painting in oils. I find an image on the internet of a huge thunderhead in an ultramarine blue sky and choose that for a reference. All the rest I make up as I go along. I work on the sky, thinking that if I don’t get this right I’ll start over before I dive into doing the detail work of the bed and trees. I end up working on it for three days before I’m pleased with the clouds. While I allow the oil paint to dry and before adding the next layers I spend time lying on my back on the top of the tool shed looking at the spectacular Southwestern sky. I love monsoon season.

The painting goes faster than I thought it would. It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve done a whole painting in oils. I didn’t feel the need to work out the composition in fast drying acrylics. I’m somewhat disturbed by the toxicity of oil paint. But this studio has an amazing ventilation system, and the powers that be have provided me with Gamblin paint which is less toxic than other brands. I use Ivory hand soap to clean my brushes.

As soon as the painting is finished I place it outdoors to dry and store the tubes of oil paint in a plastic container.

I’ve given myself a lot of time to think about what Alice shared with me in the dream. She was right that I haven’t put a lot of energy into trying to escape. I’ve thought things through and know I’d be wasting time and energy trying. I’m not sure what has made me act this way. At first I thought they were giving me happy pills, but I’m now positive I am not being drugged – no common side affects. So maybe I’m content to be here because it is a peaceful place.

Plus, in so many ways I am enjoying myself because of the time I have to work on art. Now with the garden and Alias, the visitations from Alice and Romero, and of course, Max, I know I’m settled in for the long haul. My desire is to take full advantage of the opportunity and to paint furiously like a mad woman, only taking breaks to deal with the plethora of weeds the rains have brought. Where do they all come from?

Ron English

 

Ron English

My son and web designer, Jeff Moon, suggested I post some blogs about artists that I like who have inspired me and influenced my work. The first one that popped into my mind was Ron English so I brought up his web site and wow I can see why I was so attracted to his work and I would like to tell you why.

I first saw English’s work in Juxtapoz Magazine and was drawn to it first by his skill as a painter, and secondly by the fact that his images held my attention for a long time because they made me think. I was caught up by all his work, but one that sticks in my mind is an image of Lee Harvey Oswald as a boy. Maybe it was because he didn’t paint him as a man, and by presenting an image of him as a child it made me think and question: was Oswald always a killer, even when he was young or was he a man who never grew up? Did his mother love him when he was a child like I loved my son or was he the way he was because she didn’t? I could ponder things like that endlessly.

Not only does English’s work make me think, it makes me feel. One of his popular subjects is clowns. I had no idea until recently that I have an intense fear of clowns and after hearing about clowns on the podcast “Things You Should Know” I understand why. One of my favorite clown paintings of Ron’s is “Coulrophobic Clown” because it reveals a lot of the same information I heard on the podcast. This has helped me to get beyond my fear and appreciate the role clowns have played for centuries.

As a painter I feel I have a lot to learn from English; his use of color combined with dynamic compositions knocks my socks off. And I can’t even find the words to express the complexities of his creative expression. Since I live in a very conservative place where tourist art rules, his art reminds me that I don’t have to think about what others in my town like. So when I go into my studio to work what comes out is what wants to come out. No censoring allowed, and that is true freedom. Art is not and never has been simply decorative although there is nothing wrong with purely decorative art.

That said, some of you might, at first be repelled by some of the darker images, but I invite you to linger in his online gallery because you might see something that flips your wig rather than wigs you out. Or maybe both.

Besides being a master painter, Ron English is known for his street art, toy designs and digital images. You can spend hours pouring over his web site http://popaganda.com. You might recognize some of his images from museums, books, movies, and television.

 

 

 

The Little Indian

“The Little Indian” by Rose Moon

There is no doubt in my mind that my dad loved us, my brother and me. He seemed to love all children, but we were special because we were his. He would hang out with us, play games, tickle and wrestle and take us on hikes in the woods. He bought us toys from Sears and Woolworth’s and brought us souvenirs from foreign lands where he traveled as a tail gunner in the Air Force. He would spend hours helping my little brother build model airplanes while I hung out around the table looking on.

When I was much younger, before my brother was born he would tell me long stories about animals living in the woods and sometimes, when in the right mood, he would draw pictures of those animals surrounding a cartoon character he called “The Little Indian.” This Indian was a pot bellied man with long braids and one feather held by a band around his head.

The little Indian was always alone in the woods with the animals. He carried a bow and arrow, but the animals did not look to be afraid of him. The smudged graphite on paper seemed to melt them all together on the page like the image was coming though out of some ancient mystical place. Watching him draw was like watching a magician because I could never tell what the picture was until he was completely finished. I would argue with him and say things like “that’s not a dog” and he would say “hang on, don’t be so impatient” and then suddenly the canine would appear right before my eyes. Looking back, I’m sure it was a wolf.

The Little Indian was even at peace with the wolves. I was too little to wonder if there were other Indians in his life. Did he have a wife, kids, a tribe somewhere? The little Indian was small, but he was also big because he was the forest and the animals too.

Many years later when I was an adult and moved to the New Mexico desert, for my birthday, my dad sent a drawing of the little Indian living in the desert. There were cactus, coyotes, turtles and birds. He was right at home there too and up above him was a huge sky and a sun with a smile.

It would be a long time after that, that I discovered my grandfather, my dad’s dad was a Chickasaw Indian who had passed as a white man, moved from Mississippi and married my grandmother who was from a Mormon family. My dad told me this and said I should never mention it or tell anyone. Apparently that is how it works when you pass. I had never heard anything about my grandfather’s family until right before my dad passed away, when he told me about taking a trip to Oklahoma to see his uncle’s grave, my grandfather’s brother. Ada Oklahoma is where the Chickasaw Indians were marched to from Mississippi, their native land.

As my dad grew older, he became more distant. He was a retired military man living in Texas, and was a conservative Republican, an alcoholic, and was mentally ill. I had grown up to become an anti-war liberal hippie with a college education. My dad held tight to the belief that women above all were put on earth to serve men. I wanted him to recognize my accomplishments, to be proud of me, but he was embarrassed by who I’d become. We didn’t see each other much and when we did our conversations were brief and hostile. No matter the distance that grew between us, the image of the Little Indian reminded me that somewhere in reality there was a love so great and so deep that everything would somehow be all right.

I still have the drawing he sent to me in New Mexico, and it hangs in my studio and reminds me not only to keep drawing and painting, but that love lives on in this deep river that runs below the surface of everyday life’s ups and downs and differences. I have no doubt that my dad knew this too and what better way to express it, artist to artist, father to daughter. Days before he died at ninety-five, because he had trouble hearing on the phone I thought he could understand three words, so I told him I loved him and he said “I love you, too.”

In My Opinion

My friend Ginger, told me one time she was teaching a children’s art class and in order to have more discipline in the classroom, she taught the children to say “in my opinion” before each comment they made of the other children’s art work.  They learned to say things like, “In my opinion your painting sucks.” or whatever.  The children took to this new communication skill like ducks to water.  They were not told to shut up or only say positive things and it freed up the other children to know that maybe their work did not really “suck” but that a certain person thought it did, and that didn’t mean it was true, or that everybody thought that.  This worked quite well for everyone, especially the teacher who was relieved of having to spend precious time monitoring the kid’s behavior.

One day a parent showed up after class and said she had a story to tell about her son’s “opinions.”  They had gone to grandma and grandpa’s house for dinner and while at the table passing the food around their son sat up straight in his chair and loudly said “In my opinion, brussel sprouts suck! I’ll pass on those.”

This is a great lesson for us.  We’ve all heard the term “feedback” which is something we all need and ask for from time to time.   We’ve heard the rules, like always start out with something positive to say.

This is all really very tricky.  I just heard  Alan Watts whisper that in my ear.  I would recognize his voice anywhere.  Lets just see what else he has to say.  “Alan, are you there?”  No, well, guess I’m on my own.

Feedback can easily be confused with criticizing and is often just that, especially when you didn’t ask for it and the person didn’t start off with “in my opinion.”   It’s a good idea if you want to make a comment on someone’s art work that you ask first if it’s okay to do so.  If they say sure, I wouldn’t start off saying “That sucks!”

But what if there are no redeeming qualities.  I find this to be true sometimes in my critique group and in my classes.  Then what?  I usually say.  I’m so glad you spent the time working on this.  I’m sure you’ve learned a lot.  Can you tell me what you’ve learned from this exercise?  Questions are the best for such an occasion.  You can ask things like, “So, why did you paint the apple with purple stripes?”

Surely, I don’t always get it right.  That’s probably why I’m writing this.  So I can learn how to be a better communicator, to have better discipline and to be compassionate and understanding of another person’s feelings.  I am honestly happy when people try something new.  I genuinely want them to succeed.  I don’t worry that they will become better at art than I am and compete with me to be top dog. It reminds me that I’m not in grade school anymore like Ginger’s students.

And that’s my opinion.

Just Starting

Just Starting

The book, “The Artist’s Way,” by Julia Cameron, appeared on shelves in bookstores years before I finally bought a copy and read it.   I don’t know what took me so long.  Maybe I was jealous of her success.  Maybe, I thought I knew everything I needed to know about being an artist and that book had to be for beginners, not me.   Reflecting on this a few years later, I understand now that I am, and always will be, a beginner.

Each morning when I start my day with the “morning pages” that Cameron introduced to us, I know, without a doubt, I’m a beginner.   Years ago when I first read her book, I tried writing the morning pages and thought it was a waste of time.  I’m an artist, not a writer.  I have nothing to say. What I did write in the morning pages consisted of complaining about having to perform the exercise. I soon quit.  I could be drawing, I thought, which I did, and that was not a mistake.  However, last year I started writing them again.  But now I was writing without judging the experience with my ego.

For those of you who are not familiar with Cameron’s morning pages exercise, I fully recommend reading her book to learn more about her method first hand, but here is a short description. First thing in the morning begin to write three pages about whatever comes to mind.  Do not edit or censor, just write, and don’t show your pages to anyone.  If you miss a day, pick up where you are, and don’t try to write more than three pages, or less than three pages each day.    Sorry Julia, I changed it to two pages, because that really suits me better.  Oh well, I never was good at following directions.

The journal that sits on my bedside table is now filled with all kinds of worries, complaints, gratitude lists, belief restructuring, affirmations, I Ching readings, doodles and scribbles and no complaints about having to write it.    It’s a place where I can freely make a total mess and not worry about anybody seeing it.   It clears the slate for the day and opens my mind to creativity I never knew I had.

So I used to believe I couldn’t write, but I’m writing this blog now.  I’m a beginner.  So be it!  Please let me know what you think.  Have you tried writing the morning pages?  Let me know how that works for you.

Rose

“The Jonses” – An Essay

Very early May 2, 1995 before school, Anzel Jones, a seventeen year old African American boy slipped quietly from his bedroom and out of his house. There was a time, before Anzel was born that blacks were not allowed to live in this part of town. He had no feelings about that now. He had only one thing on his mind that morning. He had to kill somebody and it had to be today. It was a small town and almost everybody knew everybody else, but the white people didn’t know the blacks very well and the blacks didn’t know the whites even though they lived in the same neighborhoods.

He didn’t want to venture far from home because he needed to get back before his mom or sister came in to wake him for school. He knew who lived in the house across the street, two women, one old, the other middle aged. It would be a piece of cake. Quietly he eased open the gate by the side of their house, but not with out setting off the dogs in the neighbor’s yard. He froze by the back door hoping they would forget he was there. He didn’t wait long, because to his surprise the back door suddenly opened when Sherry Kay went out to see why the dogs were making such a ruckus. This is just too easy, he thought as he grabbed her arm pushing her back into the house before she could let out a scream. In the kitchen he held a butcher knife to her throat as she begged for her life.

This is where the gruesome details faded from the pages of the newspaper article sent by my mom. I held the unfolded pages I’d pulled from a dainty stationery envelope displaying her perfect cursive. I had anticipated the usual family news and an announcement of someone’s wedding or graduation party. But this letter and this news article was dark. The note attached to the article simply said “Sherry Kay Jones is dead.”

From both articles I pieced together the puzzle. Anzel Jones, no relationship to his victims, made it to school on time. He was in the shower when his sister and mom rose to make breakfast. He put on clean clothes and a different pair of Nikes leaving the bloody ones near the hamper where he had mindlessly dropped the soiled clothes. He took a different route to school through the backyard, ignoring the sirens and firetrucks at the house across the street. He didn’t even worry whether or not both of his victims were dead or if the house had burned enough to cover all evidence. It was just another school day, where he would pick up his life again as an average student and star athlete.

Meanwhile, Edith Jones, Sherry Kay’s 76 year old mom was in the emergency room, raped and badly cut, but very much alive.

Holding these news articles, I sat for a while and stared into space feeling my heart race in my chest, then got up and checked all the doors in my house to make sure they were locked. Sherry Kay had not been my best friend in high school, in fact I really didn’t like her very much, but as a teenager I didn’t know anything about over-achievers with abusive, controlling parents like Sherry Kay’s. They would have severely punished her for failing to make straight A’s in all her subjects, or not be elected homecoming queen, drum majorette, and tennis star. She was only allowed to date one nerdy boy who came from one of the best families in town. She had to have been a total mess inside. Looking back it was easy to see that behind her pretty face and plastered on smile was a really stressed out individual.

I didn’t know her after college. She moved to New Orleans to work in a bank and I moved to New Mexico to become an artist. I only heard about her from a mutual friend I still saw occasionally She said Sherry Kay had turned out to be a really nice person, who never married like the rest of us. When her mom needed care, Sherry quit her job and moved back to Paris. People liked her. I don’t know if she a racist or not. We all were racists when we were young. It’s how we were raised and nobody we knew thought any differently. We just didn’t think to question it at the time.

I don’t know exactly when things changed in Paris. Like I said, when I lived there, the blacks (and we didn’t call them that back then) lived in one little part of town and we occupied the rest. I know some of them came over to work on our side of town because my rich aunt had maids. I’m sure some of my friends did too, but somehow I just didn’t see them. I heard stories though. I heard stories because the nerdy guy that Sherry Kay dated was the son of the man who owned the mortuary and my girlfriends and I would hang out with guys who worked there. They told lots of stories about driving ambulances and being at some really gruesome scenes. Some of the stories were about what happened when a black man got drug behind a pick-up truck or tied up and beaten. I must have just shut out all feelings about that because those stories were just too hard accept. I didn’t think about it much back then, but I did become very morose.

After college I moved from Paris and lived in different parts of the county where racism seemed like something from the past. I raised my own children in a world where their friends came in many colors, sizes and shapes. They never thought to judge someone for being different from them. We thought we lived on Sesame Street.

In the 1980’s when I went back to visit Paris Texas I learned my old high school had been torn down. A new and integrated school had been built and now African American people lived white neighborhoods. When I drove by my aunts old house I saw a black woman brandishing a big butcher knife chasing a black man down the street. I had never seen anything like that before.

Even then I could not have expected fifteen years later I’d be holding these news articles in my hand and feeling frightened in my own house lightyears away from where the crime happened. I began to become obsessed with locking my doors. My husband traveled a lot and my then teenaged son was busy in his own world of friends. I wouldn’t sleep with open windows, I bought pepper spray, I thought of a gun, but I had kids in my house and I wasn’t sure it would be of any help anyway. I longed for a German Shepard, but really favored chihuahuas. It was a fear I had never before experienced.

One day, I took those newspaper articles to a local want-a-be Shaman who did a magic ritual and had me drop them in a fire. I had hoped to have some great relief and never think about this again, but now in 2012 I find myself looking on Murderpedia, for information about Anzel Jones, Anzel Keon Jones #999193 DOB 02/04/78, now 34 years old, the same age as my son. His execution had been stayed when Justice Scalia passed a law that it was illegal to execute someone who had committed a crime before the age of eighteen. I read that Anzel was now being referred to as a psychopath. Wow, isn’t that some kind of a mental illness?

I’m sad that Sherry Kay died such a violent death and that her poor mom, no matter what kind of parent she was, had to live through something so terrible, but I also feel grief for Anzel, his mom, sister and any other friends and relatives close to him. I feel sad for the whole town of Paris and all other small isolated towns where racism has driven men, women and children insane. Somehow to me it just seemed like a big gray cloud of hatred that hovered over that place swooped down like a phantom tornado into that young man’s head and drove him to do the unspeakable.