Monday, March 2, 2015

Buried in Quilts of Pine Pollen Dreaming

In the places where ghosts might be sleeping, it is good to bring gifts. We brought bishop pine pollen and shook it, yellow veils that could turn anything to joy. 


I want to show you the pathway into my March Tinderbundle. The word is BURY. The word came out of a place, a day, a walk into a sleeping world protected in its dreams, in its brambles and tall grass, a day shared with a very special kindred spirit, whose artwork will grace this bundle instead of my watercolors this month— Catherine Sieck. This Tinderbundle is the secret alchemy between two adventuring wild-hearts (mine and Catherine's, bearing picnic foods and notebooks and one cup of chai between us) and a sleeping place with bones buried in its earth and benevolent spirits at its gables.

Catherine Sieck's incredible paper cut work! 


This is a sacred place. A place half-forgotten, protected in its forgottenness. I will keep its name in the earth for now.  I don't know the real one any way, the true one named thousands of years ago. The bishop pines dusted it all in pollen. Each one of these towers, these strange ladders of catkin, unfurled quilts of pollen when touched, silken. Initiating us into this descent into a brambled dream in a cove on the edge of Tomales Bay.


Quiet your eyes, and your mind. Pluck a hair from your head and leave it as a gift for the wind. You are entering a place out of time, pollen dusted, buried in vine. 


Step in through the world-round window, step in through the tin rippled door. 




A great bishop pine not giant fifty years ago watches over the ruined redwood cottages, veiling them in silken exhalations of pollen. For thousands of years Coast Miwok people lived in this cove. Without a doubt their bodies are buried here. There is a sense in the air of benevolent eyes, benevolent hands who love this land very, very dearly, who found joy here, despite all hardship. A sense that you must come here bearing love, or be chased away. In the late 1800's, a Coast Miwok family built the cottages here, working on ranches and as fishermen to stay afloat in a world utterly changed. It was no doubt a hard life, and yet unlike so many of their people, they were able to stay on their ancestral land. This land. They were not taken away. 


Later, in the 1960's, an artist of great and whimsical heart bought the abandoned cottages just before Point Reyes became National Seashore. He painted and built and dreamed here until 1996, when he died. His name was Clayton Lewis, and his was a happy place, and the ghosts who lived here before him liked him, I think; he saw beauty like they did. He honored it, his whole life here. You can feel it everywhere; how people have loved this place. 


I say these facts and names because it is good to honor the dead, those who came before; but also this is a place of no names, a place out of  time. The glass is blown out of the windows. The houses are drifting back into the arms of the land--ivy and eucalyptus and pine. Daffodils from some long ago garden bloom and so do calla lilies but the grass and hedgenettle are taller, fiercer. 


Birds fly down chimney pipes, and die, and make piles of bones.


Buried in green. It will all soon be buried in green. Asleep inside the thickets. And I am reminded of the Sleeping Beauty tale. Not the girl, nor the prince, nor the spindle, but the sleeping realm overgrown in thorns. The way the land heaves upward to protect, to bury, to hold, something precious. I find I agree with Ursula Le Guin, and Sylvia Townsend Warner, who lament that wakening kiss, who cry out that the heart of the story is this "still center," as Le Guin writes, "the silent house, the birdsong wilderness" (Sylvia Townsend Warner). (From Le Guin's essay "The Wilderness Within: The Sleeping Beauty and 'The Poacher'")


Asleep; Arthur is asleep on Avalon, his bones in earth; Mother Holle sleeps in the ground, in some great barrow; Snow White and Brynhild and Oisin sleep too. There are so many stories of sleeping queens and heroes whose bones protect a place, who will rise up at last when the land which sleeps with them is in need of their protection.


Asleep, this place dreams in green ladders and windows opened with vine.


It dreams in tiny sacred towers whose windows are air and eucalyptus naves, where the light ghosts through, blue.


It dreams in bobcat prints along the sandy bay shore, walking slow in the shading cypress trees, in the slip slap lap of salt water, the peering faces of harbor seals and mergansers in the rippling blue. 


To wake such a place-- this would mean tearing down or fixing up, bulldozers or tins of paint and hammers and a neatened pathway down, a sign marking the way. This is a thought almost physically painful for me to bear. There are too few places left in this world to the rhythms of simultaneous collapse and rebirth; too few places left in the quiet of kinglet and raven calls to dream. Too many places ripped out of their ancient sleep. I can only say--let it fall, let it fall, let it fall at the pace of this dreaming, no faster, no slower.



Catherine and I, we dreamed with it for a while, touching the wooden doorframes gently, with love, spilling out offerings of chai and strands of hair and soft words, because it is always good to give something in exchange. We spoke quietly, like we were in the homes of dreamers. We sat barefoot in sun like two cats and the word BURY came out of it all, a word whose root is bhergh, related to barrow and burrow, borough and burg and borrow, and, amazingly, the name of the goddess Brigid, the root meaning to protect, to defend, to preserve, as well as a dwelling, a hilltop place, defensible (barrows are also hills, after all...). Buried treasure. Buried seeds. Buried bones. Deep burrows, protecting moles from snakes. The ground the body of the mother, the earth, the goddess, protecting. Things buried rise again, when they are ready. 

What an enormous honor and joy it is to work with the wonderful Catherine
We gathered yarrow, green feathers standing up from the earth. I took them home and cut them up, poured oil over them, and buried the jar in my garden. An old world way to keep your medicine temperature controlled, dark, cool, but also, I think, to infuse it with the great old electric earth, protected entirely in her hands. 


And we gathered leaves and sticks and seedpods from the sleeping place itself. I laid them on raw silk and wrapped them to make an ecoprint, in the tradition of the incredible India Flint, then buried both bundles in the earth too.


The yarrow, the bundled fabric, they are dreaming now in the ground, treasure to be unearthed anew, and given to you. Along with a story, the story that this sheltered cove of  cottage and raven and kind spirits wants to tell. This is a secret, yet. A secret that will fly to your doorstep by the darkness of the moon, March 20th, when it is buried in the sun's shadow, if you so desire.... 

8 comments:

  1. What a lovely post! I love Catherine's Papercuts too!

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  2. Dear Sylvia, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post! What a magical place you explored. I too am into ecoprinting and -dyeing so I am very much looking forward to seeing your results. Tinderbundle is ordered! :-) Thank you for your magic that you bring to everything. xoxo

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  3. What a wonderful hidden place, and the brightly colours shine out, such a lovely read

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  4. Such and enchanted journey! Love the word-roots... the thought of the sleeping ones protecting the Earth - the connection to Brigid. I've been thinking about all the traveling, moving, relocating we do in our world and how when our ancestors are buried in the Earth (without all the junk) we might be that much more connected hearing the Earth's whispers through the river of our DNA. But we bury ourselves in armored tanks, full of chemicals, and move away from the source of the blood-wisdom-spring. So much to ponder.

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  5. I spend a lot of time unearthing and burying. I have ever since I was a child. This post reminds me of the child-like wonder that follows each act! Such magic and curiosity! I love what the earth adds to the process, the alchemy. Lately I've been wondering what will one day be discovered beneath the soil by our future folk...the plastic, the toxic, and what that will say about us.

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  6. I am enticed by this "eco print" and would love to see the finished result and learn how to. I like the idea of making a print of a day in nature. What you saw, smelled, touched, a visual journal entry.

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