There is a special place in our hearts for artists who live big, bold and fully committed to their creative mission. Their vibrant lives act as a strident call to action that prompts, or rather demands, that we follow their example and explore, experience, and share our personal creativity. We are the voice of this time and place, the generation whose moment has come to write our story within the narrative of humanity.
Spanish artist, Okuda San Miguel is one of those bright lights who motivate us to seek a deeper understanding of where imagination takes us. His work is recognized for its geometric prints and multicolored style and design. There are mythological undertones that speak to the need for meaningful dialogue.
Okuda San Miguel’s mural, “Canada Secret Mountains” has come to Vancouver and resides on a building at 325 West 4th. The stories of the British Columbia’s west coast, embedded with Okuda’s insights, has been written for all to see and experience.
May we answer an artist’s call to action and, today, live big lives.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Anaïs Nin
I have often thought of this quote by Anaïs Nin – not in the context of a writer, but in the framework of a photo. Ever since Joseph Nicephore Niepce clicked the first photo in 1814, humanity has been beguiled by the ability to capture something important. It is our only way to stop time, to remember our journeys, and proclaim that we have lived, felt love, endured challenges and sustained losses.
I confess that I am a “photo hoarder.” Yes, even the photos that I consider “second best” remain safely stored on external drives in hopes that some day there may be an editing program that will be invented that will enhance and bring out their beauty. By beauty, I mean the emotional impression of that event.
Just last week, I went back to “taste life twice.” The year was 2004. I had purchased my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot A70, for a long-awaited trip to Italy to enroll in a 3-week Italian language course. The reviews were as generous as I was enthusiastic: “The PowerShot A70 is much more than just a 3.2-megapixel version of its predecessor, the A40.” I was convinced that this was an excellent purchase.
With a camera in hand, there is added emotional drama at play, more clarity, more interest in the “now.” This awareness was most keenly felt when I walked the lush paths of Frederick Stibbert’s Garden. It was a late October afternoon. A gentle light settled on the trees and aging walls, a faint wind tossed the leaves. A quiet solitude lifted my spirits. I had recently finished an arduous academic journey and was at a crossroads.
Looking back on these photos, I remember a pivotal decision, made with a recognition that we move in tune with the music of time, surrounded by those who came before and those who will come after. Our myths, our struggles, our joys are intermingled. Perhaps it is in the retrospective, in knowing what happened afterwards, that reveals a greater understanding. And with that knowledge, we move forward with profound resolve to embrace the next moment.
Seasons have unpredictable natures, and struggle to retain influence over earth days. Winter has lost most of its control over Vancouver, but has sent a covering of snow in parts of Eastern Canada. Transitions are never smooth, and seasonal weather patterns, which can take on a tug-of-war appearance, seem to adopt human characteristics. Is it any wonder that mythologies build upon this idea?
In my farewell to winter, I came to know the one-eyed giantess Beira, Queen of Winter, the mother of all the gods and goddesses in Scottish mythology. Wielding a magic hammer, her brilliant white hair set against dark cobalt skin and rust-coloured teeth, she formed mountains to serve as her stepping stones and set up Ben Nevis to be her mountain throne. Loch Ness came into being when she transformed her inattentive maid, Nessa into a river that gave us the spectacular Loch that draws thousands of visitors to Scotland every year. In her more reflective moments, Beira herds sheep, but she is ever vigilant against “spring,” using her staff to freeze the ground upon which she walks. The Winter Solstice defines the end of her reign as Queen of Winter, and ushers in Brighde, the goddess who rules the summer months.
The Queen of Winter will return, for on the longest night of the year, she drinks from the enchanted Well of Youth and grows younger day by day.
There is a wistfulness when we let go of what is, to accept what comes next; even a goddess feels a sense of loss. Yet, the possibility of renewal is always present.
“Folk tales and myths, they’ve lasted for a reason. We tell them over and over because we keep finding truths in them, and we keep finding life in them.” Patrick Ness
“Remember tonight… for it is the beginning of always”
I love beginnings, a fresh start, a new adventure with promises of open roads and opportunities. Energy, anticipation and hope are all wrapped up in “firsts.” As a whole, we understand what is required in the early stages: set up a plan, identity a goal, make a list, share the list. Oh, the rush of adrenaline as we race into the future. There will be an end, of course. And what a glorious feeling it will be when we come to the end of our journey, knowing that we have given our best.
Beginnings and endings are the bookends of our existence. Two points of time that frame the experiences, both good and the not so good, that nuance our lives.
And then there is always…forever.
Forever is a very long time. We may say that we will love forever and remember forever, even though we are not here forever. Since the beginning of time, however, we have been pursuing the concept of “always” with a boundless passion. Ancient Egyptians believed that death was only a temporary interlude before rebirth and a new journey. The ancient Etruscans envisioned sea horses and dolphins transporting souls to Elysium, the Islands of the Blessed. Ancient Greeks crossed the river Styx on a boat, steered by Charon.
Are we so different from the ancients? William Shakespeare, in his play Hamlet, called death: “The undiscovered country from whose bourn, No traveler returns.” This thought is echoed by Chancellor Gorkon, in Star Trek VI, The Undiscovered Country. (You may recall that Chancellor Gorkon stated that Shakespeare could only be perfectly experienced in the “the original Klingon.”)
We recognize and embrace forever for it seems to be in our DNA to press forward, to take “a next step.” Here’s a thought: what if “forever” was in the moment? That every breath we take (the average person takes between 17,280 – 23,040 per day) the possibility of always is before us. As Emily Dickinson once wrote:
“Forever is composed of nows.”
Sigmund Freud once wrote, “Dreams are the royal road to the unconscious.” The other day, a close friend confided that she had the most wonderful dream about a brilliantly plumed rooster. This was an extraordinary event considering that my friend’s last contact with chickens was as a child many years ago. From what I understand, the rooster decided to live in her yard, which was problematic given strict city ordinances. The main focus of her dream was problem-solving on how to keep the rooster.
I was curious. What was the significance of a rooster? Compared with other mythological birds such as the Gryphon, the Thunderbird and Phoenix, the rooster seems rather commonplace. Quite the contrary. Over the centuries, the rooster has garnered a prodigious status in the magical lore arena. A powerful masculine symbol, he embodies the brilliance of the sun, and exudes the excellent qualities of bravery, strength, prudence and honesty. Of course, there may be a tendency to exhibit some arrogance and excessive flamboyance. But with the frilled comb on his head, and vibrant plumage, it would be difficult not to “strut his stuff.”
In ancient times, the rooster, with his solar power and masculine energy, was the sacred sign to the gods, Apollo, Persephone and Zeus. Later, people believed they could harness this same energy by eating the bird, a foreshadowing of one of our most popular soups – chicken broth, which is thought to have an invigorating effect. In the Chinese Zodiac, those who are born under the sign of the rooster are enthusiastic and have a marvelous sense of humour. Many Christian churches have chosen to include the rooster on their weather-vanes, which can be seen as a sign of spiritual enlightenment.
Roosters that appear in dreams are said to be reminding us to the passing of time. With their spirited cock-a-doodle-doo, they prompt us to live boldly, to use our talents, to look within, to awake.
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”