Wednesday, June 8, 2011

WEYA: Call for Actors, Singers & Musicians

ACTORS, SINGERS,MUSICIANS, both native and non-native, are sought by The Pomo Project and American Dream Players. Janey Hirsh has written an original serio/comic, musical play, Weya,  to premier this October in Sebastopol. Several roles are available for adult women and men of varying ages.

AUDITIONS Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26, 1:00 and 3:00 pm, at Coffee Catz, 6761 Sebastopol Avenue, Sebastopol. The American Dream Players are a warm, supportive group - awareness is more important than your resume. For more info call Janey at (707) 538-7543 or 478-1994.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Planning Sebastopol's Second Annual Pomo Honoring Month

The intrepid helpers of the Pomo Project are beginning to meet again, thinking through the challenge of creating events for this year's Pomo Honoring Month. 

We have among our active planners two new friends from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, Lorelle Ross & Jeannette Anglin. Their insights & connections with Pomo artists & speakers are invaluable.

Still, we need excited (yet calm) minds, extra hands & feet, & gifts of time & money to bring this celebration into meaningful form. Sharon Ledbetter, who did such a great job last year of creating weekly culture booths at Sebastopol Farmers Market has been called away by other duties, so we're especially looking for a Farmers Market coordinator.

Our theme this year is "A Sense of Place." We all appreciated how much we learned about this place & the sensibilities of its earlier inhabitants as we listened last October to Greg Sarris' brilliant talk. From the beginning, this project has been spiritually generated by the Laguna de Santa Rosa, & perhaps we can explore the sacredness of this world-recognized wetland more deeply, in beauty.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Vana Lawson: A Dream in Her Honor

A beautiful Pomo elder I had the pleasure & honor of knowing died on Monday. Vana Lawson was an anthropologist, author, ethnobotanist, jeweler, gourd artist, & invaluable supporter of many, many relatives & friends. Daughter of Kashaya spiritual leader Essie Parrish, Vana was also a medicine carrier, passing the traditional ways of her people into the future. I will always treasure the hours I was so fortunate to spend with her.

Last night I & three others from the Pomo Project--Janey Hirsh, Laura Shafer, & Sterling Hoffmann--attended a memorial service to honor her memory & her life. We were deeply moved by the outpouring of affection witnessed by so many she had sheltered, counseled, and nourished over the years.

In the pre-dawn, I had this dream:

The Pomo have built a homeless shelter near the Sebastopol-Santa Rosa seam of the Laguna. It is called Vana Lawson House. There are five squarish buildings with mansard roofs, painted a warm olive green, with the function of each stenciled in yellow ochre: Sleeping, Feeding, Doctoring, Learning, Playing. The Sleeping house has rows of bunk beds & showers. The Feeding house has tables & a well-equipped kitchen. The Doctoring house is a clinic where modern & traditional medicines work together. The Learning house has shelves of books, a few computers, displays of art & crafts, a circle of chairs for talks on Pomo traditions, job hunting, legal advice, & community life. The Playing house is where children enjoy happiness independent of financial fortune.

In this dream, I saw that this homeless shelter was not built for homeless Pomo, who might better be taken in by relatives. Rather, it served all kinds of people, especially those whose cultures fail at taking care of their members. It was created & run not just by Vana's Kashaya people, but by members of different bands of Pomo acting together for a common good. It was funded by casino money, from several different casinos. These were its benefits:

A warm dry place for people to sleep & rest with dignity while lacking the funds for rental housing.
Good meals eaten in a nourishing atmosphere for families & individuals going through hard times.
Health care & counseling to help people weather difficulties & find their way back to usefulness & prosperity.
Protection for the children of destitute families.
Sharing knowledge & building community for people feeling left out, left behind, so they can be embraced by the world around them.
Cooperation among different bands of Pomo, healing divisions & creating strong alliances.
The Pomo being seen & appreciated by the larger community as innovative, compassionate, effective contributors.
Increased interest in Pomo tradition by the larger community, as well as within the younger generations of Pomo.
Indian gaming seen in a new light.
Modeling Pomo values of caring & responsibility as a positive influence in a culture suffering from misplaced priorities.

This is my attempt to put into words a dream that was brief, vivid, visual & profound. While it was mostly images, all these elements were instantaneously contained in it. It would be amazing & wonderful if such a place comes into being. Otherwise, I understand it to represent some of what Vana held in her heart, for her family, her Pomo people, & the world at large. It was this generosity & hope that led her to work with us fumbling white people to create Sebastopol's Pomo Honoring Month, to trust our intentions to bring forth something good. It was this generosity & hope that ran through the witness of all those who spoke their love of her last night.

We have lost a great one. May we carry Vana's generosity & hope far forward.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Pomo Dancer & Prayer for the Gulf

I was working on paintings for Sebastopol's first Pomo Honoring month during the weeks of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even before I took time out to paint specifically a Prayer for the Gulf, my concern for the beings of the Gulf waters was spilling into my work.

In Dancer & Pelicans (acrylic on canvas, 24 x 18") I depict a young dancer sending healing energy to the Gulf, where the pelicans visibly benefit from the power of her dance.

Weeks later, when the spill had been capped & the painting was on exhibit at Sebastopol Gallery, the dancer saw this painting of herself. Tears came to her eyes as she told me that all summer she had been offering her dancing as prayer for the Gulf: its waters, its creatures, its people. Which brought tears to mine.

The pathways of healing are mysterious. I'm reading Nassim Taleb's book, The Black Swan, about the "impact of the highly improbable." He mentions the possibility that our most important heroes are unknown, because their obscure work has actually prevented the disasters where more standard heroes shine.

I'm certain that Rose's dancing is heroic, & hope that at least some of my paintings are a force against disasters that never happen.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Watercolor Image about Healing Pomo History

This watercolor painting, Black Wolf & the Pomo Girl, arose in the mysterious way that images in the Blue Coyote series arise. First the title, then a wondering what it might look like, how to paint this request from the unknown.

It isn't until after I've painted it, giving my best effort to bring it forth accurately, that I think about what it means. Often, as with this one, I'm puzzled by the elements, coming forth uncensored, with a life of their own.

Black Wolf has come to me in healing meditations as a spirit who releases what is painful, toxic, or no longer needed. The Pomo girl is dressed in the traditional tule skirt. I see her as someone who lived in the brutal times when Europeans & Americans were killing her people & destroying her land.

Black Wolf comes to release her bitterness and suffering, so that the Pomo people of today can be happy & at peace. They are by the ocean, the place where way-ya, spiritual power, is renewed. Night signifies the other side where the dead dwell, the hiddenness of Pomo history, & the creative unconscious.

The two gulls witness the dance of Black Wolf & the Pomo girl with calm approval. One is adult & the other a juvenile, showing that what is happening is good for coming generations.

May it be so.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Painting Pomo Dancers & the Speaking Land

The Pomo Project began with a Pomo dancer's response to my art work. Most traditional Pomo culture available to experience today, at least as a non-Pomo person, inhabits the beautiful dancers, dance songs, & regalia.

So naturally I'm painting dancers.

Armando Williams saw something in my work that he trusted. He has a beautiful way of holding confidence in me & the other artists. He helps us learn Pomo medicine, then believes that what we bring create comes from spirit.

I both love this approach & tremble within it. How can what I do be right? Ah. Relaxing into the mystery & trusting. Oooh. Hard work, & joyous.

This 18 x 24" acrylic painting, Dancer & Swallows, is actually painted over an older work. In the flush of a relationship that later fell apart, I painted my dear one & me sitting romantically among the wonderful skimming violet-green swallows of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. After things ended badly, I gessoed out the figures, leaving the swallows ready for some better purpose.

The twist that Armando's faith allows to emerge in my paintings is something I see in the Pomo dancers' ceremony, feel in their rhythms: that dancing keeps life healthy, heals the earth, invigorates our sacred relationship to other life.

This dancer's movement & prayer helps the swallows be abundant. Their abundance helps her dance.

This isn't something any Pomo person told me. It's something the land speaks. I'm attracted to Pomo & other native people because I hear the language of the land in their seeing & doing. Like everyone, I've starved to hear the fact of conscious land spoken aloud.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Essie Parrish watercolor study

Preparing to paint for the Pomo Project involves a lot of research. Some of the most fascinating aspects of Pomo history & culture involve healers or dreamers of the Maru tradition.

Essie Parrish was a Maru dreamer of the Kashaya people up on the coast. Our library system has old VHS videos of her dancing & leading her people in dance. The costumes & flags come from her dreams.

I was very moved by stories of her evolution as a healer & the power of the dancers she dreamed.

This is a watercolor study, 10 x 8", showing her moving in time. Often my process of painting is like dreaming while awake. The 4 stars came like that, honoring her powerful gifts to her people.