Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Fantastic as Entry to Reality

What happens when you gather the multi-dimensional likes of
 writers, Ari Berk, M.T. Anderson, Holly Black, artist/sculpture
Charles Vess, Canadian mythic  swordsmith, Jake Powning,
storyteller Charlie Bethel, Elizabethean scholar Kris
McDermott, psychologist and writer, Larissa Niec, and English
harpist/composer Elizabeth-Jane Baldry for two days of
presentations, readings and discussion in a 1920's movie
theater in Mt. Pleasant Michigan? One fantastic, energizing,
and thought provoking conference. And so "The Imagining 
the Fantastic" conference organized by Ari Berk and funded
by  Central Michigan University  April 11-12 was
 ....and much more

I thank Larissa Niec for encouraging me to hop on a plane
and come and hosting me while there. After looking over the
list of folks invited and topics to be discussed, I figured it was
something not to be missed.  I was correct.

At the conference and through casual conversations before
and after "formal" events, we explored "The Alchemy of
Beginnings"; discussed the use of imagination and the fantastic
as an entry into reality, rather than an escape; joked about
being kind to the Imp of the Perverse who nudges one to
distraction...or great ideas; the art of creation as an act of
healing; the need for the artist, writer or performer to leave
"space" for the reader or viewer to engage; how a story can
save one's life; the romanticization of the "madness of
creativity"; the necessity for grounding; world building in
art and story; the question of "how dark is too dark"
and on and on.
We were treated to amazing presentations including Charlie
Bethel's rendition of Gilgamesh and a screening of the
recently discovered 1924 American black and white silent
movie version of Peter Pan. Elizabeth-Jane accompanied
with the harp score she  composed for the film. She pointed
out that James Barry, himself,  chose the actress to play
Peter Pan and told us to look for the American, not British,
flag raised on the pirate ship after the defeat of Captain

It would have been especially fun to watch the movie with
my costume designer brother,  Peter.   He's been gone  now
over 24 years...but I'm sure he was there at the conference
with me.  He switched to using his middle name, Taylor, in
college, but said it was comforting when nurses called him
"Peter" in the hospital in London where he had lived for years,
Peter Pan had always been a favorite for  Peter and me. He
would have thoroughly enjoyed the 1920's flowing
sophisticated Tinker  Bell and her  dramatic dying scene...
not to mention the 1920's decor of the theater complete
with art nouveau metal seats.

The setting of the conference in the movie theater in
downtown Mt. Pleasant added an intimate and relaxed
atmosphere and encouraged engagement with the attendees.
A generosity of spirit prevailed as questions were taken and
answered and conversations continued after sessions in the
lobby or at meals. Although the age range (17-70's) and fame
of everyone there varied radically, the atmosphere was one
 of peers mulling over important issues together.

Sunday after the conference I was fortunate to be able
to hang out with everyone at Ari and Kris's home...
more discussion ...and a romp in the woods behind
their house where trees, perfect for sketch,story,
animation,...or perhaps habitation by one of my creatures,
were in abundance.
 We came upon a troll house - not there last time Ari
took a walk.  Charles and Jake seemed right at home.

Charlie and I found this tree which called to me. Charlie
offered to boost me up to the first branch... but sadly  it was a
bit  too high..  It would have been an amazing climb.

I returned home challenged.  I loved the painting by Charles
titled "Gathering the Worlds".used as the conference logo.
"What does the world world look like in which my creatures
exist? What sounds or music would they hear? Do they live
in a cohesive world or worlds? I also arrived home determined
to finish the editing of  the long mythic tale I've been working
on for ages, tentatively called Sophia's Quest.  I reconnected
with illustrator, Ingrid Kallick at the conference and
promised  to send her an edited draft to see if she decides
it is something she might want to brainstorm together on.
I've been busy at the computer.The draft is going out by
the end of the week.  The conference and discussions gave
me an insight into the complexities and pitfalls of the
world of publishing. But being tentative never accomplished
much of anything....It's time to leap forward.

Adventure on.  Wendy

Monday, April 7, 2014

Stones, Stories and Sharing

It's taken a while for me to sort through my thoughts
and musings about our Jan/Feb trip to Ecuador and
Peru. Although we've been home almost two months,
I feel like I'm just beginning to understand the insights
it offered.  In this post I focus on our time in Peru.

About a week ago, I  awoke from a deep sleep in the
middle of the night with the words "sharing","stones"
and "stories" bouncing around in my sleepy blur. Before
we left, one of my questions had been whether I would
find quiet alone moments to soak in the spirit of
the wondrous places we would experience.  We were
going to be traveling to the Sacred Valley of Peru
including Machu Picchu with our daughter, son-in-law,
his Dad,and  our 5 and 8 year old grandkids.
What would that be like?  Well - truth is, it was a bit
chaotic at times, there were not many opportunities
for sitting alone in silence, and yes, logistics were
complicated by traveling in a group of 7. But in the
wee hours that morning, I realized, all that just
didn't matter.My favorite photos and memories from
the trip all involved shared moments...the ones that will
produce the stories for years to come. Silent moments
of soaking in spiritual essence have their place, but it's
a blessing to share adventures  across generations.

We watched our granddaughter take photos of her ragdoll, Lily, 
including ones of Lily sitting in the window at Machu Picchu, on
the Ollantaytambo Inca seat,on the steps in Cusco. (Our 
granddaughter says she is going to write a book of Lily's
adventures.) It was a  brilliant parenting move to give each of
the kids the use of their own digital camera so each could choose
what they wanted to photograph.  (Both are developing quite 
a photographer's sensibility.)

We comprehended the scale of the Incan terraces by watching our
grandkids climb up the stones from one level to the other.

We appreciated how exhausting it would be to trudge up and down
the LONG deep staircases created to help  navigate the terrain
by climbing down them oursleves..hard on the knees.

I realized Machu Picchu with the Incas in residence would have
been a place brimming with sound, people, and animals, hardly
places of quiet awe.  The stone paths  and walls certainly hold
story upon story , some passed down through oral history -
most only imagined by those walking the corridors today,
though I suspect some seep through shoes into those who tread.

 I  marvelled at the amazing craftmanship and artisanry of the
stone masons, extraordinary architectural vision, engineering
expertise and astronomical understanding involved in the Incan
 planning. Whoever carved or designed the Intihuatana at
 Machu Picchu certainly had an amazing sculptural eye.

I loved seeing the old part of Ollantaytambo which has been
inhabited since Incan days, same streets, thresholds, and
doorways ...and seeing  our grandkids walk down the streets
...and visiting a potter there

I empathized with the artisans in the market town in
Pisac, setting up  early each morn, dealing with rain,
hoping for some customers. We spent two days there
at the welcoming small Hospedaje Familiar Kitamayu

We talked  a long time to artist/jewelers, Miguel Valeriano
Lecaros and Margarita Quispe Rocca (Joyeria Miki Marga)
in Pisac They  shared with us the meaning behind the
symbols in their  work and  the philosophical core of
Quechua culture.

We heard stories from Gils, who offered up delicious
croissants and coffee (and a scrumptious piece of
chocolate cake for my hubby's birthday) at La
Boulangerie de Paris in Aguas Caliente....a rather
frontier feeling town.

And on and on and on and on... concluding with sharing
the  experience of seeing a newborn alpaca manage to
stand for  the first time in the Sucsayhuaman ruins
above Cusco.

Reflecting on the trip also clarified for me why I still hang in there
participating in fine craft shows. It's the sharing that goes on at
the shows that is important to me...sharing one's art, being
inspired by others - keeping creative energy flowing in the world.

Speaking of creative energy - This coming weekend,  I'm heading
to the  "Imagining the Fantastic II" conference  at Central Michigan
University organized by the energetic and fantastic,Ari Berk.
I'm looking forward to all the sharing that will occur among the
artists, writers, musicians and storytellers,  both presenters
and attendees -Watch for a blog post about it soon.

Adventure on!   Wendy