Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Josephine's mandalas: #18 of 21


Gulf War


Saudi Arabia
Tel Aviv

(click on image for additional details)

am's notes:  On January 18, 1991, Iraq launched SCUD missiles on Israel. The U.S. deployed Patriot missiles to Israel and Saudi Arabia.  See Gulf War link above for additional context for this mandala.

This process of sharing my mother's mandalas is transformative. Perhaps it is time to begin to make some mandalas of my own.  I do have two drawings (one from 1999 and one from 2007) that would be my mandala #1 and #2. They were inspired by a book about healing that I bought in 1999 during a time of turmoil and little inner peace in my life.

It has just occurred to me that I made my first mandala in 1999 in a room in a motel on the north end of Arcata, California, just off of Highway 1 and that I also stayed in Gualala during that time and worked on the exercises in the book there as well.  

As the end of 1999 approached, I had been seriously thinking about moving to Humboldt County, and I stayed there for the most part from late September to the end of October, also spending about a week in Gualala in Mendocino County, which was another place I thought I might like to live. 
The events leading to my being in a motel room in Arcata are coming back to me now.  

In spring of 1998, I had found myself feeling so distraught that I left my work station at the Catholic hospital where I was employed as a transcriptionist, and I went to talk with a social worker who was employed in Pastoral Care as a chaplain.  She was a Roman Catholic nun from the order of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace.After talking with her, I went to the non-denominational hospital chapel (with its wooden altar built by a fine woodworker who identified as both Jewish and atheist) and sat quietly in meditation until I was able to return to my work station. As a result of leaving my work station without letting anyone know where I had gone, I was sharply reprimanded and sent for mandatory counseling through the hospital's employee assistance program and from there I was referred to a Gestalt therapist in Bellingham.  Now I'm wondering if that therapist was the one who suggested the book to me. 

Since the spring of 1998, I had been working with that therapist on emotional issues after the suicide of a former boyfriend (we were together briefly in our early 20s) on his 50th birthday in December of 1997 in Bellingham and also because of my increasingly strained and demoralizing relationship with my father after my mother's death and my distress in connection with my Richard's rapid descent into late stage alcoholism which had involved prison time.  I had distanced myself from Richard for my own safety, but he remained a constant presence in my psyche.   

As a result of living with Richard during the first five months after his return from Vietnam in 1970 and as a result of a terrifying episode while talking with him over the phone on Veterans Day 1989 during the Gulf War, as well as my anguish in response to the Gulf War,  it became increasingly clear that I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.  

In the spring of 1999, in a futile attempt to sort out the mess that my life had become, I abruptly quit my job at the hospital and cashed out my IRA that I had been building up for 14 years.  I thought that a new career or moving back to California, specifically Humboldt County, might be the answer.  Spending a month in Humboldt County seemed like a good idea.  Certainly the solace of the ocean and the redwoods would heal me.  

Because I found myself in severe emotional distress despite being in one of my favorite places on the earth, I went to the hospital in Eureka and talked with a hospital chaplain who referred me to a counselor in Arcata who helped me during that month in which I realized that I was in no shape to move alone to Humboldt County.  

Just now, I found my copy of the book that prompted me to make my first mandala.  My notes in the book show that I bought The Mythic Path, by David Feinstein and Stanley Krippner, in July of 1999 and that I may have finished the exercises in January of 2000.  The last page that I dated was January 23, 2000.  In December of 1999, against my better judgment, I had impulsively contacted Richard in California and was shocked to learn that he had been diagnosed with oat cell carcinoma in his neck and throat and had undergone drastic surgery at Stanford University Hospital.  To my dismay, there was no word from him again until September 2001 when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, and I flew to California to visit with him at his parents' home, where he was living at the time.  In spring of 2002, his cancer went into remission, and he began drinking heavily and using drugs again. Again, for my own safety, I had to keep my distance from him.    

In 2007, in a time of increasing inner turmoil and intermittent severe migraine headaches, close to a year before my Richard died, I went through the exercises in the book again and made a second mandala. With a little research, I see that I was moved by this poem at about the same time.  

Now in 2014, I can say that my daily experience contains close to an equal measure of inner peace and inner turmoil.  The yin-yang symbol has meaning for me.  Oneness.  The balance of darkness and light. Dynamic.  Alive.  

For so much of my life, I had very little sense of having any inner peace and only experienced unceasing inner turmoil.  Right now I'm wondering how life was for my mother.  What was the balance for her? I don't think she found the peace she sought, but she did continue her creative output in a way that has eluded me since the First Gulf War.  

The years between 1980 and 1989 resulted in nearly 200 drawings and paintings coming through me.  What a shock to do the math and see that 25 years have gone by since that unprecedented period of creativity.  I will be 65 years old in October.   

Then I remembered this:

"From the age of 6 I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things.  When I was 50 I had published a universe of designs.  But all I have done before the age of 70 is not worth bothering with.  At 75 I'll have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am 80 you will see real progress.  At 90 I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At 100, I shall be a marvelous artist.  At 110, everything I create; a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before.  To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age.  I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself "The Old Man Mad About Drawing."

-- Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

Since December 2006, blogging has been keeping my creative energy alive, although it has resulted in only a few drawings and paintings.  Here are my top 10 blog labels:

   Here are the last twenty of a long long list of labels identified with a single post: 

Here is one of the first bloggers who found my blog and comment.  I've been hoping she would post on her blog again.  She wrote the poem that meant so much to me in 2007.  Her posts are worth waiting for.  Look back through her archives for "pictures, poems and other souvenirs and artifacts."

Thank you to anyone who read this far.  I didn't expect to write so much when I sat down 6 hours ago. 

Thank you to my mother for giving me a perspective on keeping the creative process alive in times of turmoil.  

Porch meditation:  Summer-blooming Amaryllis

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such an interesting mandala of chaos and war. There is a lot of unsettled fragmentation.