On Presencing — fair warning to my friends on this artificial platform, which is any social media platform you choose to use because all pit us against each other for ungenerous, teensy-weensy, Lilliputian amounts of limited and fractured attention. And, these platforms continue fracturing what conscious attention we have left as a human species, so if you bring up presencing with me, you will trigger my anger.
Let’s Define It
In the past year, I have been observing more and more individuals who have become completely captivated and activated by this movement called prescencing. So, I looked it up:
“Presencing is a movement that lets us approach our self from the emerging future. In many ways, presencing resembles sensing. Both involve shifting the place of perception from the interior to the exterior of one’s (physical) organization.” — seems that Otto Scharmer may have begun this movement.
Pat Yourself on the Back
I say to you — congratulations! Now you know what all of life knows, you are submerged in a sea of consciousness that is becoming visible through your senses.
Now, I ask you, what are you going to do about it?
If you are just going to bask in the beautiful (and terrible) light of consciousness (for consciousness has both sides–they go together like two sides of a coin) but do nothing with it but look to your left and then look to your right and smile in the glory of being: why not be incarnated as a sponge on the bottom of the ocean, or a flower basking in the glory of the sun, or a bee buzzing about a flower.
You have grown out of this Earth for a reason. You are aware of your consciousness for a reason. So, I ask you again, what are you going to do with your tiny plot of consciousness?
I made this video yesterday after sinking down to figure out why I got angered by this word.
Where you put your time and attention grows in this world. So, I ask you again: What are you going to do with your plot of consciousness? Where are you sowing your seeds of time and attention? What grows in this world right now in this very moment because of where you are putting your time and attention? These are just some of the places individuals are placing this most precious resource in the universe, human time and attention:
This is a part of a comment sent to a local public radio station for a segment about protesting in America, which is washing over the United States after George Floyd was brutally murder under the knee of a cop.
My hometown is Minneapolis. I am white and of Norwegian heritage. My father was a Lutheran minister. We moved to Minneapolis from South Dakota just before I entered middle school. I hated the city and longed for the vast and empty prairies that my family had left, but in the course of my time living in North Minneapolis, I grew to love this city, the people, and culture deeply.
I attended North High School, which at the time was considered one of the most dangerous high schools in Minneapolis. There were riots at this school regularly back then. White people were a minority. At times, it was very hard such as the day I was punched in the head by a black man riding past me on his bike while I was walking to my school bus after school. This shook me deeply. But I participated fully in my school. I ran track and cross country and went to state in cross country skiing. I grew into my school and made many, many friends of many different skin colors than me.
After seeing George Floyd brutally killed, all my early years flooded back into me. I could feel the land and the people—and it was crying out with the pain of injustice and racial tensions that so many of my childhood friends had to live within. Friends who had showed me how to endure pain and injustice with courage and grace.
I Never Protested Until
I have never considered myself a person who protests, but when the Woman’s March took place, I was compelled to go down. To my great surprise, not only did I go down, but I interviewed more than 30 people attending the march. I was terrified to go up to people and ask to record them and their reasons for coming, but I did it. Everyone I asked was happy to express why they were there. As I grew more comfortable going up to people and doing this, I realized I was falling back on my implicit bias and only going up to older white women. So, I challenged myself to find individuals outside of my invisible, internal bias. This is when I met Sioux Z Dezbah who protested at the Standing Rock protests, which had occurred before the Women’s March. Police had turned violent, and she had been hit in the eye with a rubber bullet or tear gas canister that caused her to almost lose her eye.
She was spectacular. I have attached this interview. I went on to interview as many different individuals than myself as I could.
I Am Afraid of the Police
Now, I realize I am afraid of what the police will do. Last night at Lafayette Park spectacularly demonstrates why I harbor this fear (i.e., Trump’s photo op at the church). And, the images of so many violent confrontations with peaceful protesters around the country is greatly disturbing. I understand that there are agitating, anarchist agents at work. But there are more peaceful people who are in pain. I am in pain. My country is in pain. There must be a better way.
The Mayor of DC said in a press conference after Trump’s photo op and what resulted afterwards (as well as before) that she was overwhelmed and could not take the time to discriminant between peaceful protestors and nefarious agents. I don’t buy that. If we don’t take the time now to understand what is going on, when will we understand this pain and hear it and honor it? Yes, the nefarious agents need to be detained, but hurting peaceful protestors, detaining peaceful protestors… I am distributed by this.
This is not the right direction now. Just as the coronavirus has made all of us stop and take more time to do ordinary things like going to the grocery store and change our behavior to protect each other. Now is a time to do the same around issues of white privilege and structural racism that have been baked into our systems, which are unsustainable. We need to take the time to find the people who are clinging to their fear of losing power and looting and hurting police from the peaceful protestors. We should not be hurting and arresting peaceful people who are joining together to embrace a new, braver, better America.
Also, women have long suffered from the stringent, misogynistic, brutal rules made by fearful white men. I experienced this in Denver when I was hit by a car while biking. The white, male police officer who came to the scene followed me to the hospital and harassed me for not wearing a helmet instead of looking for the driver to never even stopped and there were many witnesses he could have talked to get details about the car and driver. But instead he followed me to the emergency room and then threaten to write me a ticket and make me appear in court for not wearing a helmet. For goodness sake, it’s on me if I landed on my head when I fell. Rather I landed on my tailbone, breaking it, which was very painful and frightening enough. This was a mild case of police abuse, but the fear is real, and it spans across every interaction that bad Cops have with ordinary people who they are supposed to protect. I understand the mistrust. I have it too.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square — Are We Losing Our Democracy?
As more is coming out about what happened on Monday, there is good reason to fear the police, especially a militarized police being directed by a leader who interested only in amalgamating his power. For anyone interested in drilling down on the truth, here are two podcast produced by The Daily, one aired on June 4, 2020 and the other on June 5, 2020.
The Showdown in Lafayette Square: What happened outside the White House, and what it reveals about the debate inside over using the military to quell protests. Click the link to listen to this 31 minute podcast.
Why They’re Protesting: “Hate killed Mr. Floyd,” one said. “This kind of conduct has been allowed for far too long against people of color. And enough is enough.” This podcast is a series of interviews with individuals and what motivated them to take to the streets and protest now. It is a series of stunning interviews.
Another interview that aired on June 4 on FreshAir with Anne Applebaum is a must hear. She is an expert in authoritative governments and how people rationalize their complicity or collaboration in allowing a dictator to rise and grab power, then ruthlessly rule. She warns the United States is closer to this moment than we think it is.
Reality is complicated… and now it is more important than ever before to hold competing realities simultaneously in our mind to understand what is happening now. It is complicated and there are no simply narratives to explain it. It takes all of us to do the work to understand it, thus the title to Applebaum’s article in The Atlantic.
In the FreshAir interview, Applebaum tells how Trump’s intentional effort (along with many, many others) to simplify what is happening across the country due to the brutal death of George Floyd by a cop is an assault on democracy and a dangerous power grab — to which the Republican Senate is complicit like the Russian Duma or Hungarian governing bodies. She says that his and others attempt to blame the radical left and liberals as well as Antifa as the only reasons for the riots and looting is an intentional effort to divide Americans and grab more power.
Our own media doesn’t help by seeking the better shot on live TV of a trash can or police car on fire rather than a bunch of peaceful protestors doing the electric slide. Even our social networks tend to focus on these micro parts of a much bigger reality, thus amplifying or distorting them.
Applebaum says very poignantly that what we are witnessing is a Nation committing suicide (this is in the FreshAir interview when it is available), and history will judge harshly those who have been complicit in the destruction of democracy.
Another important interview occurring today was on The Kojo Nnamdi Show with an interview with Greg Carr Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University; @AfricanaCarr. A brief overview of this critical piece of information includes:
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked a movement.
All across the country, people are stepping out and rallying against police brutality and institutionalized racism. The District has seen a surge in protests, as thousands of residents have gathered for the last week.
As riots and looting remain a part of these protests, many see a comparison to the riots after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The comparisons between the fight for civil rights in the 1960s and today are easy to make, but how much do they have in common? What does this mean for the movement today and what happens next?”
A Better Way Forward
I think what the Sheriff in Flint, Michigan did before Trump’s disgraceful photo op is one model to follow. He put down his weapons and asked the people he knew and was there to protect what they needed him to do. They said walk with them, and he did! We need bridge builders now… not frighten white men who are blowing up our fragile community connections (I include our President and the disruptors taking advantage of and/or trying to hijack this extremely important moment).
I have been hearing the chant in my head that the white men in Charlottesville’s repeated over and over during that horrible gathering, which killed Heather Heyer. They chanted, “You Will Not Replace Us.” What terrible fear and smallness this chant embodies. I hear a new chant: “We are all connected.”
When we come to understand that ‘Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. Your suffering and loss of justice and human dignity is my loss of justice and human dignity. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other. And, as we heal, we can help Earth heal and recover from the damage we (the human race) has inflicted upon our planet.’
Climate Change Is Part of This Wave of Despair Too
Climate change is a part of this too because the same isolationist, authoritative, supremacist thinking is what is destroying our beautiful planet and accelerating Climate Change. The front end of the effects of Climate Change are already hurting and killing the people who have done the least to damage our world. The vast majority of people being impacted are black and brown and poor individuals who need to migrate due to deteriorating climate that is causing droughts, locus plagues, disease, lack of water, and wars. Then, when hurting humans try to escape these conditions in Europe and the US, they face another massive injustice with wave after wave of the anti-immigration policies thrown up against them, trapping them in dangerous places and situations.
Bridges to Hope, to Justice for All, and to a More Beautiful and Sustainable World
When we build bridges to justice and to hope and to sustainability, we build a more beautiful and sustainable world for all living beings on Earth.
Right now, in the USA, it feels like we are losing our democracy. We are no longer the land of the free and the brave. Rather, we are falling into a self-made chasm created by fear, injustice, intolerance, and oppression fueled by greed and a hunger to hold onto power. This hopeful moment of grief and outrage is being hijacked by small groups of people who are being selfish, or even worse, seeking to divide us. And, divided we fall…divided our beautiful world falls.
Just before Trump’s disgraceful use of St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo op of his power and authority, I had taken pictures of the moon rising over the Potomac. The juxtaposition of this beautiful and peaceful moment followed shortly thereafter by Trump’s use of force to clear Lafayette Park (the people’s park) just so he could walk across it for his photo op shocked me.
Your pain is my pain
I made this video and post as a creative act of defiance to capture this strange juxtaposition and terrible moment:
Moonrise Over the Potomac…Just Before Trump’s Photo Op
This is a moment symbolizing the Re-Feudalization of America. We are at the edge of turning the United State of America into an Authoritative, Dictatorial, Undemocratic Nation & Trump had a bible in his hand… give me a break. His deplorable photo op and call to use the military if governors could not stop the protests themselves occurred on June 1, 2020, if you can believe that. And now, he is building a fence around the people’s park.
It is important to remember that nature goes on so beautifully and perfectly without us… it’s our decision (isn’t it) if we decide to stick around here on beautiful Earth… or if she shakes us off, which she can do so easily…(more likely we will do that for her)
We are all connected–aren’t we. Your pain is my pain. Your weakest moment is mine too. When we help each other to achieve justice, fairness, equality for everyone (no matter the color of one’s skin), we heal each other, and as we heal, we help Earth keep being so beautiful (and she heals us too…). This little movie is a creative act of defiance against the forces that are crushing us. We need to join together like never before… all around the world.
As I posted the video and words above, my friend in Norway posted this:
“All is good. America is mad. USA and Brazil governed by demented psychopaths. Pandemic. Collective insanity in the world. Climate crisis. Extinction of species. People staring at small machines most of the time, seeing bullshit, vulgarity and trivialities. Disconnected. Arguments with ghosts and shadows. Truthers the liars, pro-lifers the killers, antiracists the racists, “we are waking up!” from the most asleep, cops the criminals, those with vision lacking power, those with power lacking vision, those speaking most, least to say. Pollution. Plastic, water, air, soil, language, mind, conduct. Hypnotic memetic parasites feeding on human attention, funded by internet profiteers, distracting from everything valuable. Numbness. Science fiction entertainment: evil, murder, death and doom on the menu. Lovers divided. Brother against brother, sister against sister, father against mother, parent against child, neighbour against neighbour, human against human, based on misunderstanding. Disease. Seldom ease. Worried, restless, wanting, rushing, thinking, thoughts of empty babble: state of modern mind. Round and round and round. Dreams replaced, laid to waste, by crap, with haste. Until this life shall meet its end. Finger pushes send. Message into void placing bet. Hope for something yet to get. And yet. All is good.“
His comments resonated so closely with the juxtaposition I was trying to capture in my video and words. So, I shared my video and some of my post.
He responded saying: “Wow this video really hit home with me!😀 I know just this feeling, from some of those enormously wonderful summer days when the whole world explodes in wild beauty and song. This really hits the essence of what I wrote about last night as I was supposed to go to sleep, when then this sentence «All is good» suddenly came to me like a wise whisper. I realized that this simple everyday expression which points to an eternal truth, is also a container that can hold all the painful and mad absurdities of our time safely. Like that great big sky we catch a glimpse of in the video is always in the background, looking over and holding us, safely and patiently and gloriously.”
I said: “Yes, this is such a raw and painful moment in the US. You could not have known what was happening here, nor did I know what Trump was going to do as I filmed this beauty in DC just before one of the most disgraceful moments of our modern age in the US. I felt the juxtaposition of our collective human now with nature’s beauty was so powerful. This is what we will lose if we lose ourselves.”
Thank You Because You Are the Change We Need Now
If you cannot protest, take the time NOW to understand reality from many different angles and perspectives. We all have time right NOW to understand our reality better because of COVID, so take it to become informed, to become an expert. This is the strong medicine we are all going to need for what needs to be done next — when the protests calm down and COVID subsides (or doesn’t and we go into lockdown again) — when we emerge from this NOW, we have a devastated economic landscape, fractured communities, broken justice system (as well as just about every other system)… in short, we are in trouble.
Stay informed! I rely on you and you rely on me to understand Now.
Thank you for reading! Your time and attention is precious because where each of us puts our time and attention reality grows. I choose to put mine as much as I can on peace, love, and understanding. I choose justice for all living beings.
“Painting to me is a truth, and maybe…a memory..” — Andrew Wyeth.
What a beautiful documentary on Prime on his life and painting. I have been self-isolating for some time due to several changes in my life and am examining the deeper purpose of ARTISTS in this time of complete uncertainty. What is our role as helpers when many are suffering? I do not have the answers but I know because we cohabitate on a living breathing planet we are all effected. I can’t imagine anyone could not be effected in some way. If the Earth suffers we suffer. Many things that are happening now my grandmother predicted, she has been gone 24 years and told me stories long before that. Anna Mae. Wise Woman.
The Lost Bird Tribes
I always loved moody weather. Fog. Rain. Snow. Gray days. Sun present then not. Today I woke to misty fog with raindrops and if you close your mind you can pretend none of what we face now has happened. Of course it’s an illusion. I still want to paint beauty now and my Spirit Birds. I think we are starving for it. I love to surround myself with flowers, vibrant colors, art, textiles, textures. Jungian analyst Ellen Sweeney my dear friend said to me: “Does this feed your soul, or your despair?” I am looking at that question each day as I remain isolated due to respiratory issues.
How can you feed your soul today? How can you practice lovingkindness to yourself and others? How can you love this Earth more? This living breathing home that sustains us? Tell me what is helping you as you stay home, reflect, and be present to this narrative. Sending love. Thank you for following my art. I hope it brings a breath of beauty to your day.
I woke up in the night full of fear, the only thing that shakes it off for me is painting, art, Romeo. I will continue to paint beauty even in the depths of deep uncertainty. My heart went to CA. Blair and I loved our bohemian community in Trinidad. I was lucky to do additional studies at The Center for Sacred Studies in the Guerneville/Bay area. The energy there is infectious, alive and free. I think of my dear friends there I love. This is based on a dream I had years ago where I was in Tehran. I was in an opulent store full of gold and women were in full burkas. I was the only Westerner there having no idea why I was. The women went outside in the street in unison, their burkas fell off and they became a flock of ravens in the clear teal skies…off they flew. Free. I never forgot that amazing dream and finally painted it. ONCE UPON A TIME IN TEHRAN…holding all of you in my thoughts….🌿
Frida Kahlo suffered so immensely in her life. She survived a horrific car/bus accident, had so many surgeries, was lame and became one of the most incredible artist of our times. She had many miscarriages and despite the depth of her pain she painted continually. She endured alot with Diego Riveria which caused her heartache. She remains one of my favorite artists because she was so completely raw, authentic, bearing her soul in spite of her suffering. She could be not be caged. Her art was her partner too. I relate so deeply to that.
We can not nor would I want to compare peoples suffering. It is all relative and when you are in the midst of it this is your personal narrative. I know many are suffering with worry, family, anxiety of the unknown. I will still repeat my mantra: WE NEED ARTISTS MORE THAN EVER AT THIS TIME. Whatever form that takes. Many of you are artists that follow my page and I thank you for what you bring to others. Who knows maybe in this time of creativity/adversity a great art exhibit, a novel will be finished, new music and lyrics will find new homes. Let’s hold that thought and exhibit what we did in these times to bring HOPE to others. Art is home. There is no place like home. Sending love to you from my studio. 💖
My first Pandemic piece about the Virus. I wrote several pages on this. In this dream I saw horses that were skeletal like I could see their features but they were bones and air. They were balancing one another holding all the energies dark thoughts, suffering, hope and rebirth. To the right is a figure already reached by the virus going through a life review. Re-remembering all memories. All good, bad and mundane needing to make a decision if his soul will stay or not.
The left is a nun like figure dressed in a habit and covered veil. In the beginning I saw a large black and prussian blue moth in front of her. She has a mask covering her mouth. She too is having difficulty breathing. The apparation then becomes this moth being. Expanding. Breathing. Cleaning our lungs and the Earth working on us thoroughly whether we feel Her or not.
We are rebirthing a New World, we are One. This brings to our us to our raw truth, our essence. Feeling between the worlds something so much larger than us is happening….So much larger than us…Soul Beings this is a Ceremony that needs all of us. Lovingkindness. Thinking of all of you. 💖💖
I worked on this 2 straight days while reflecting on this virus. Here is a poem I wrote 19 years ago that I feel connects with this piece. 2001. Image and poem copyright. 2020.
Mother of the Night of my interior silence and shame of top heavy scarlet peonies shedding into your rich terrain So tender to touch. Mother of the Night Whom hears our muffled cries yet knowing. You stand beside me as the cool winds descend torrents of rain, fresh green upon my thirsty soul. Mother of the Night of dreams entering my consciousness, You are here. This I know In my sojurn of hellos and goodbyes of the completely unexplainable. You know me inside and out. Mother of the Night, I release my heart Amongst the astral skies Remembering last Spring’s weeping This May at Peace. Mother of the Night, It is getting easier to breathe. Mother of the Night it is getting easier to breathe.
*One year from now I hope we feel this next Spring. Love. Love. Love.
Lost Horse Tribes
I wrote this on Dec. 6, 2001.
“Once I thought I would die of a broken heart. Now I live because I am broken.” The Horse Spirits of my dreams comfort me in my dreams. Awakening me at 3:33 a.m. to get out of bed telling me to continue to write and make my art catalogue. NOW IS THE TIME as my father always said. It is my gift to others in these times. Artists creating in this New Age difficult as it is, we were made for these times. Here we are ready to change the narrative, adapt, build hope, bring light, love, perception & compassion through empathetic lens…May be shared. @2020.
Lost Bird Tribes
Excerpt from my night monk hour poem:
” Please don’t tell me you are not afraid. Please tell me the truth. Not what you think I want to hear. Not a heartless platitude. Emptiness. If you really and honestly are doing great I want to know your Divine secrets Because the night hours call me Taking me down endless roads and universities With no names. I never know where I am. And tonight I feel so lost.” 3-28@2020. Fear of the Unknown. #NeoVirusArt. THE LOST BIRD TRIBES AND LOST LANGUAGES.
Rainy night Pattering on my window to WAKE UP Marc Chaghall visited in my dreamspace He said, ” Be fantastically playful!” The composition of my twilight hours painted itself Two Asian Strawberry Finches A Blue Horse leaping into an ethereal Walk About Interconnected One Tribe. They said to me their names were The Awakening. @2020.
Inspired by the great artist Marc Chaghall. 1887-1985. Russian, French, Belarusian Jewish origin. He painted ” dreams of our humanity.” Colorist. Surrealism. Cubism. Expressionism. Modern Art. Symbolism. Fauvism. I am deeply inspired by his art. I would define my art as a Visionary Colorist Birthing The New Earth Movement. Loving Awareness, Donna Alena
Lost Horse Tribes & Possibilities
If I lose HOPE I will have lost everything. What is something that brings you a sense of peace and hope today despite adversity? Loving kindness, Donna Alena. @2020.
Oh Empty Spaces The Silent Night Hours We are Living Texts of this time. Breathing into this Holy Moment Listening to my inherited narrative Knowing this is the catalyst of Infinite Possibilities.
The Luminance Hour
From my journal I wrote this:
The Luminance Hour has arrived I think we deep down knew this moment was possible. A sudden urgent STOP Catching our breath Hearing the words the Period of Impermanence The moment of Reconcilation. We have no choice other than to Awaken.
Crossing the Atlantic with the Mermaids
To my Aunt Ann whom has been gone 23 years. When she was crossing the Atlantic, age 15 she said “the mermaids followed the ship to Ellis Island.” This was a devout Catholic woman whom believed in mermaids! Yes she saw them, yes they guided her ship. She was to live in West Mifflin, PA the rest of her life near her parents meeting my incredible Uncle Andy. I see these mermaids as beacons in the journey guiding us to new places, new homes. Something we all need!
Raven & Lost Horse at Night
Evening is when I love to paint. The lighting is uncertain, the colors a question.These are the Night Companions we cannot see that help us. Maybe we do see them, I imagine them & paint them like a novel. Someone asked me yesterday how disciplined should an artist be. I say draw, paint, and sketch everyday and when you do this for years you will witness the metamorphis of your techniques and art. I know these times are so difficult. Keep doing your art, don’t stop. We need your stories and dialogue!!
The Story Begins
Good morning friends. My prologue to my book passed my editor’s approval. Chapters forming. Good vibes while I am home healing and painting please.
I have been dreaming on it for awhile and have begun writing. Hint the story begins in Mongolia where the horses originated before crossing the Bering Strait. They were Medicine Helpers, companions, and nomadic travelers. May be shared. More awaits the story. 💖💖
She is a Mirage. She follows the Nomadic air. No-one owns her. The tundras are full of arctic moss, bearberry, and labrador tea cradling her feet where no map has existed. Like fog that appears and dissipates she is led purely by instinct in the North Lands.
Super Moon couldn’t sleep so I worked on the fauna and plant life that will be in the book. Another chapter ready for my editor. Will not share what I wrote but oh it is good, I feel it in my Slovak bones. This inquiry started when a 5 year old client asked me if flowers could talk. I said “of course!” He said “I knew it because I heard the dandelions today….”
Another Blue Horse on the journey from THE BERING STRAIT. Imagination is such a gift. I think I have been writing and plotting stories since kindergarten. God bless my mom and dad. Dad used to tell me to publish my book! “I don’t always understand what you are doing but I am proud of you.” Eventually, he even bragged I was an art therapist! When I was 18 in college he begged me to not major in art. “You will never find a job.” Imagine his horror that I would be an art therapist. Well it took Post Masters work to be certified so I think he was relieved I would get a job. 30 plus years later out of college I am still creating art and doing art therapy with trauma and grief. It’s been a ride. Thank you dad and mom. All the family!
Almost finished. In the beginning blue horses roamed the lands of Mongolia and Siberia with unabandoned freedom. They were on an Ancient Walk About following the interior maps they inherited for centuries. Migration was something that was the divine makeup of their beingness. There were so many territories to roam. They could be not be stopped, owned, hoarded for this too was unattainable.
Water and Bones
She is composed from the Waters crossed long ago to a home unseen. Leaving everything behind not sure one would ever return. Her granddaughter became a vivacious swimmer and everytime she closed her eyes she saw her grandmother Bubbie and Aunt Aunt knowing they were in her bones, always present, a melody that haunted her softly in the blue light…
The Story Continues
Meet INGRID: SIBERERIAN HORSE RIDER. She comes from the lands of snow. The myth goes no one knows for sure how she ended up in Mongolia but she was seen with the Blue Horses. She was so fair and ethereal that the Original People called her Ingrid. She was the color of the expansive plateaus, caribou moss and the endless turquoise skies. This painting was started by Andrea Dawson-Johnston at my house as a sketch and I asked her if I could paint my interpretation she said yes and so she became a character in my book. So TY Andrea! Perfect day for her debut as faint tender snow is falling. Storytelling heals…
Vandana means Worship. She is a strong character, named after one of my dear friends from Graduate School. She is committed, brave, decisive based on instincts, allie to all birds, and a culture keeper, one who holds the Stories. First sketch of her so she might evolve and change. She is a dreamer of big adventures and nothing gets in her way to try!
Dreaming Sacred Places & People
The original painting I will post below later. I painted it in 2018 and yesterday I went back in and updated it.
Two times I was to go to Kathmundu and the Tibetan Plateau but both times I had siginificant life changes and could not go. Interestingly, the places I don’t go to I dream about. Do you dream of places you want to visit? I totally believe we can go their in Dream Time. I count on it!
Yesterday, I dreamt I was there surrounded by Shamans, Inuit, Mongolian, Tibetan, and from India. They were so beautiful in their regalia from their homelands. I am leaving out a lot of details but when it was time to go I pleaded and cried for them to take me HOME with them. At first they were in disbelief that I wanted to do this then they knew I was very sincere. I asked them what my job would be. They said ” they would place me in front of one of the monk’s houses, people would come to me and my job was to only Listen.”
I know as an art therapist that has worked with trauma, and bereavement for years this is what I do. But this listening was different. It is Sacred Listening. Being present in everyway possible. No judgement. I felt this was very relevant with grief and the New Virus Age. I have had daily conversations with dear friends where they are there for me. I deeply listen to them back. Maybe in this time we begin to learn the true responsibility the sense of hearing and how we use it.
I still hope to get to Kathmundu one day and place some of Blair’s ashes near the Himalayas. Meanwhile, I can dream…yes I can always dream….Love…..
It’s all a dream but it is getting closer to reality. PAST PRESENT FUTURE.
In the dream I wear a Ukrainian cornflower blue crown. I am holding roses that will be planted on Great Zetal’s land. Added rain and rose water. Memories of all the Grandmother’s. Bittersweet. Based on a suggestion by Reda Rackley. Site of BONEWOMAN. Thank you Reda.
Based on a dream. I see the back of myself in what appears to be the future. I am wrapped in an ochre blanket. After so many questions, dreams, travels, I finally see the deepest desire I have revealed. I am sitting in Zetal’s village. Looking at the low line hills. The air is clear. The hour is sunset when I was born. It feels like a mirage, like rain softly falling. It feels so deeply familiar.
My niece will be giving birth during this pandemic. This is for the new mothers. The Ancestors that stand with them. The trees. The seen and unseen. This is also the rebirth of ourselves. The New Consciousness that the virus is teaching us. The birth of a New World. The knowledge that some cycles of life must fade, they no longer serve humanity. Birthing a new way of living. I hope you have made new decisions of living. 🥀💖
For all our Mothers here and on the other side.
SERIES FOR BLAIR. Third Anniversary nearing. Many many layers. I am bewitched by the Patinas of Eastern Europe. I was trying to recreate them to look like ones I saw in Poland. They form these lovely palettes of color naturally. Reference for fields of poppies in Slovakia.
I was with him when he died. I was reading him the story I have been working on for the past 7 years. The previous night, I made a very difficult decision. He had been making phenomenal recovery from what should have been a fatal event 10 days earlier. But on the 9th day, he was sitting up in his hospital bed. He had a bible under one hand, and a pen and paper in the other. He immediately greeted me warmly when I walked in with a huge smile on his face, and I greeted him equally warmly. I asked him what he was doing. He told me that he had a lot of thank you letters to write but didn’t know where to begin. The nurse came in after a little while and fed him his medicine crushed up in pudding so he could swallow it. That was the problem. The day before, he had been more in a state of delirium than lucid consciousness. That day he worked his feed tube out of his stomach 4 times due to coughing or by using the back of his tongue. His entire critical care team was flummoxed by how quickly he was working it out, requiring it to be reinserted (not a pleasant experience… in fact, quite traumatic). The night nurse that night decided to leave it out. Dad rested peacefully. And, then I found him so happy to see me and wanting to write thank you cards. Everyone was so excited. Nurses who had cared for him earlier popped in to make sure I saw him. There was so much hope he would pull through this devastating event–where his heart had been stopped for more than 15 minutes as first responders worked so hard giving him CPR to get a shockable pulse.
So, here was the problem. To get him back to full health, he needed the feed tubing reinserted to get all the medicines he needed, and the doctors were not certain yet if his swallowing reflect had been damaged. How could we know after reinserting the feeding tube this final time that it would send him into a delirium he would never return from. That’s what happened. If I could do this over, I would have followed my gut and not allowed it. He would have died… I know this… but he would have died possibly more peacefully.
After almost 48 hours of non-stop movement of mind and body, my father was lost in space and time and utterly exhausted. The medicines were not calming him any more. Just before I was about to leave at midnight on the 10th night of him being in the ICU, his night nurse said, “If he was on Comfort Care, I could give him more medicine to help him calm down and rest.” The doctors had talked to us earlier that day about our options. I knew Comfort Care meant he was dying. And, so before I left, I gave instructions to move him to Comfort Care.
The next morning, he was sleeping. He nurse told me he had cleaned him and was doing everything to make him comfortable. He looked peaceful. He never woke, but I talked to him. I had a vision that morning about what I needed to do for him. So, after the nurse left, I told dad what I was going to do. Earlier that summer I promised to send him the latest part of my story. I hadn’t sent it yet. It is set in the time of the Vikings. My father was pure Norwegian. The girl in my story was on a glacier between Odda and Rosendal, Norway. My father’s family is from Odda. This girl in the story had just been in a terrible accident that left her companion unconscious and with broken ribs. My father’s ribs were broken from the CPR.
I told dad I was going to read him the story. It was going to be a sleigh made of sound to help him get across to the other side. In my story, my girl had just made a sleigh out of a bear hide to pull her injured companion across the glacier. So, my voice and this story they were going to serve as a sort of sleigh to help him cross. I told dad that his mother, his brother, brother-in-law, and all the people he knew and loved who had already passed were waiting for him. I told him he could leave any time during the story or wait until the end. Then, I started reading. The hospital Chaplin came after a while, and I told him all about dad. He said a prayer incorporating all the things I had told him. And, he recited Psalm 23.
I continued reading the story.
I read to him until 2:40 p.m. I held his hand as I read. I had just finished reading the part of the story where the priest meets a woman who mysteriously washes up on the shores of Dublin, Ireland. He helps her recover, find work, and get a home. They fall in love. They have to keep it hidden. They have a baby, but she dies during childbirth and the priest cannot admit he is the father, so he gives his daughter to the nuns who live in a nearby nunnery to be raised. I had read to him about this girl’s early childhood and a very scary nun she encounters. I was about to read him the part about Resurrection Sunday when I heard his breathing change–dramatically. I saw his pulse rate dropping–dramatically. I knew what was happening and rushed to him, my heart pounding. I told him mom and my brothers were 15 minutes away, he needed to wait. His breathing quicken and pulse went up, but only briefly. Then, it plummeted again. I knew the nurses could give him a drug through his IV to bring his pulse back up, but I also knew I had moved him to Comfort Care last night. Instead of running to get the nurse, I threw myself over him and hugged him fiercely. His nurse and doctor came in. They held my hand and hugged me. No one said anything. After some time I looked up and asked the doctor if he had gone. With the kindest face and deepest empathy, he nodded. Neither he nor the nurse left. They stayed with me and never once did I feel like they had anything more important to do–though I knew they were responsible for many people in very serious conditions. My mother and brothers arrived 10 minutes later. They had indeed been 15 minutes away, though when I told dad I had no way of knowing this. My brother thinks at the time of dad’s passing they were at the last rest stop, and mom was picking daisies. I had just been reading to dad about daises.
So, one year later, this is my telling of the journey I have been on since his death. It is told through music and art. The starting image I drew on the plane on July 27, 2018 as I flew out to be with my father one day after this heart attack. As I drew, I listened to Asura’s Life2 album. I listened to one song in particular over and over as the image took shape. This song was Celestial Tendencies. Each song from Asura’s album held special meaning and energy for me during this time. The music was a way to hold onto some divine and sublime at a time of great crisis and ultimate tragedy. The visual journey is an expansion of my original drawing in my notebook. Please forgive my indulgence as I spent a lot of time drawing the different layers. Ultimately, I decided to use each of the songs that helped me to be strong for dad and my family during this terrible time. I realize it is a video that probably only I will ever watch in its entirety.
The visual story of this journey can not be viewed. I have tried, but I believe algorithms used by most of the major social media platforms flagged this image possibly as a man on a cross and this has been tied to White Supremacy. I understand this concern. It is validate given our time. I would just say that this is how the vision of my father appeared to me as I flew out to be with him, and that during my 10 days with him, he indeed held his arms out this way many times for he was suffering. I think outstretched arms like this are also a symbol for the suffering of the world, and my father felt this deeply, our collective human suffering. It powered him and transformed him as a force of compassion in the world. As this image progresses, it transforms from an image of human suffering into one of transcendence. I am sorry I cannot share this work at this time, but that is our current reality and I accept the collective wisdom of our time.
You may be able to view the video if you can get to my Art Page on Facebook; here it is pinned to the top of the page.
As COVID-19 has steadily made its way around the world and really hit the United States of America particularly hard, I have thought a lot about those 10 days in the hospital sitting by my father’s side, hoping for the best but knowing he was skating between two realities–one was life, the other death. No one wanted to talk about the death reality, but it was there. It was always there. I could see it in the doctors eyes. I could feel it in the nurses voices. I drew it as I flew out to be with my beloved father.
He fought for life, absolutely he did. But, he was up against incredible odds, unbelievable odds that cannot be conveyed to a living person in good health because until you are at this threshold, you do not know. But, healthcare professionals learn to recognize the signs of approaching death, especially when people are fighting to just breathe, which is what dad was doing at the end because his lungs were filling up with the fluid. The doctors were watching for it because they knew Pulmonary edema or pneumonia is often a result after CPR because to do it right to save a person’s life, the first responders has to push hard often breaking ribs and pushing debris into the lungs, which causes the pneumonia.
This episode that I just heard on This American Life captures so vividly what I saw dad suffer through. I tuned in just as the nurses were describing what has to be done to save a person’s like can feel like torture. And my dad absolutely felt this way that day when he woke up, and he was writing thank yous, and we had a precious, fleeting moment of normalcy, until the feed tube had to be reinserted. This haunts me so much because he was wide awake and to him it felt like torture and he was counting on me to stop it…and I failed because I wanted to save him.
And now so many beautiful people are suffering through the very same thing. To find out more about this episode, click here.
I would like to end with two stories about my father that were given at his memorial service. One is by one of my brothers and the other by me. My father was one of the kindest, most caring, and compassionate human beings anyone could ever hope to encounter. His deep and unconditional love for everyone was felt by all who got to know him, even when they messed up, he held them in patience and love. What a lesson for the times we live in now.
This is my brother’s eulogy:
Monrad Kicks the Hell’s Angels Out of Yellowstone
As we go through life, our impressions and feelings toward our parents change. I’m going to share with you some impressions from my childhood, Around the age of eight or nine when we lived in South Dakota. At this age boys want a tough dad with street creds and unfortunately, I was convinced my father was a wimp. The previous sunday he had preached Yet another sermon on love. By my count the 4th sermon on love that summer .
But it didn’t matter because we were about to commence on a treasured family tradition ; the summer vacation. We’d take a popup camper and head out West for one or two weeks . On this trip, I believe we went to either Grand Teton or YellowStone, let’s just say it was Yellowstone.
We had the camping routine down pat. We’d set up camp, spend a few days hiking or fishing then move on to the next location. In these popular parks you needed to get to the next campsite early, well before 5 pm, or the campsites could fill up. On this particular day we had had a long drive and almost all the sites were taken but we finally found one and a nice secluded spot at that. After we had set up camp and were settling in, some loud motorcycles pulled up to a clearing just across the road from our camper. They wore leather jackets and skull caps. We kids immediately knew who they were because they had been covered in last week’s TV news. This was none other than the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang. About this time Monrad notices what is going on and Yell’s across to the gang “that is not a campsite, you can’t camp there.” The reply came back to “Mind your own business” or something similar. Monrad responded even louder and more angry “That is not a campsite you can’t camp there “. We kids were terrified, we were sure our dad was going to get beat up … or worse. But to our surprise after a few more exchanges, maybe a few insulting gestures exchanged as well, the bikers revved up their engines and moved on.
That was the day I was proud of my father, he just kicked the Hell’s Angels out of Yellowstone.
This is my eulogy:
Born: April 16, 1935; Died: August 4, 2018; Age: 83
My father… Monrad Mandsager… He is why you are here today… Monty! And, do you know what he would have said?
He would have said, “Goodness sakes… you’ve come all this way… for me! You shouldn’t have… thank you… thank you so much… thank you for coming!”
SHOWING UP & PAYING ATTENTION = LOVE
His whole life dad never felt worthy. In his mind, he was a poor, simple farm boy from Iowa who could never quite do all the things exactly the way his dad wanted them done, and he grew up without his mother’s kind and loving warmth and support. These early beginnings always left him questioning his worth. But my dad would always show up and give any task (big or small) his best! For him, what was most important was making time, paying attention, and creating a space to understand the needs of others because dad knew this is one of the greatest gifts we can give each other… for it is the most basic way we show our love to each other. Dad’s capacity to create and hold a sacred space for others was one of his superpowers! He would listen with empathy, kindness, and unwavering attention to someone’s life story, latest frustration, or good news. And, he would remember what you told him and ask you about it the next time he saw you.
SUPERPOWERS OF ATTENTION + LISTENING + UNDERSTANDING
Dad’s ability to pay attention and listen combined with his humbleness allowed him to be there for people at their greatest time of need. I remember one tragedy where dad demonstrated his tremendous capacity to empathize and be there for a grieving family after their 16-year-old son was killed in a hunting accident. I don’t remember all the details, but I remember my parents explaining to me how this family had lost several children before this tragedy and this was their last son. I remember going with mom and dad many times to visit the family after dad broke the terrible news to them. I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness and sadness. But, I also remember knowing being there with my parents was important. I was no older than first grade, but I remember this experience vividly, and I’ll come back to this later for as I was reading through dad’s writings to figure out what I would say today, I found his reflections on this same tragedy for it had profoundly impacted him too. Grief it turns out is not bounded to one day or one week or one year… it is a deeply personal journey and dad understood this. He understood a time of grief is not a time to give people “pat answers” about why death or a tragedy occurred… neither is it a time to tell the person how and when to recover from it. He knew he didn’t know, but what he did know was he needed to be there for however long it took and at whatever capacity the family or individual needed, even if it meant just sitting in silence with them. I’m going to share with you several of dad’s amazing traits (I call them his superpowers), and now that he’s gone, I realize they were precious gifts given freely and in love to me and I suspect he gave them to many of you!
One of his wonderful superpowers was his adventuresome, wandering spirit. Little more than 6 weeks after being ordained at Luther Seminary and marrying mom, they took off to Brazil where dad was to serve as a missionary in Sao Paulo and the surrounding area. Mom and dad had to learn Portuguese and spent almost a year studying and learning it before dad began his mission work. He was one of the first missionaries to give all of his sermons in Portuguese, and of course, this is where I and my brother Craig were born. We learned Portuguese too and spoke it to everyone outside of our immediate family. I am told when we returned to the states, and I met my grandparents for the first time, I sat on their knees chattering happily away in Portuguese as they smiled and enjoyed meeting their granddaughter and grandson for the first time. I was pretty young in Brazil, but I have snap shot memories of life with my parents such as galloping on my father’s shoulders through the jungle with monkeys shrieking at us from high in the trees (that was magnificent)! Watching a steel drum band at a gathering and marveling at the beautiful music coming from the steel cans the musicians had turned into their drums dad had explained all this to me for he loved the steel drums! I also remember traveling with dad in our jeep over muddy, rutted, red roads and being surrounded by hundreds of sheep on their way home, leaving dad and I to revel in the wonder of the moment.
From Brazil, we flew back to the Midwest, this is where my brother Phillip was born. From there, dad helped his brother-in-law Bob start a new church in Southern CA – so, we moved to Sunnymead where my brother Peter was born – and, then our family was complete! I won’t go into all the places we moved or family vacations we took, but dad loved to travel, and he wanted us to experience and see the vast, beautiful, wondrous places of this land, and we saw many thanks to him!
THE DREAMER & LEARNER
My father was also a dreamer and lifelong learner! He loved geology, astronomy, anthropology, paleontology, and even astrophysics; he transferred his love of learning to me and my brothers! Dad would tell you that his love of learning and interests in science was sometimes disturbing to his faith, and he often navigated between the waters of faith and doubt. But, this made dad stronger, not weaker for he was able to transform his doubt into a deeper, vaster faith in God.
In his own words, he says, “Since I am often between faith and doubt, my stockpile of “pat answers” has diminished considerable. Life is discovery, growth, affirmation of faith in God in the midst of doubt. Life is affirmation of the creation of oneself, of others, of the goodness and love of God. Christ is our best light of this, pointing us to a loving Father God through the goodness and light His life has given for us in loving service through suffering even onto death.”
And, so here again you glimpse dad’s superpowers of kindness, compassion, and deep empathy for people and all living beings, and this guided him through his journey between the waters of faith and doubt; and it greatly informed his ministry for he saw himself as a humble servant who would stop to help anyone in need—and this is a gift he gave freely and frequently!
TRANSFORMATION OF FAITH
As I was reading dad’s writings, I found one piece he titled an Account of My Life to Age 43 where he describes honestly and elegantly his life journey, especially about the transformation of his faith. Here he accounts the same story I remembered about the 16-year-old boy. (I’ve changed the names for it seems even after all these years, the family is entitled to their privacy) Dad writes: “…the summer of ’72, we moved to Redway to serve Grace Lutheran Church. At that time, the KindFamily was a family of four: Joe, the father, a Roman Catholic and lumberjack; Corothy, the mother, a member of Grace; David (16) had been confirmed that Spring; and Lucy (13). Previous to our acquaintance, they had been a family of 7—two boys had been born with progressive muscular dystrophy and died in their young teens and a baby girl died of lung cancer at age 3. … About two months after our arrival Corothy talked about going to stay with her husband for a week in the woods – something she had never done before. She was apprehensive about leaving the kids. They ended up taking Lucy, while David was to stay with the next-door neighbors who were trusted friends. They left Sunday. Late Tuesday afternoon, council member, Karl came running up our steps, out of breath, a strained expression on this face. “Pastor, Pastor, something awful has happened, they found David dead beside his motorcycle and rifle along a trail. He’s been shot! This is awful. I can’t believe it… David’sthe only boy they had left! They were so proud of him. He was such a good kid. What are we going to do?”
Dad writes he was equally shocked as he attempted to reassure Karl that with God’s help they’d find a way to help the Kinds. Karl asked if dad would be there when the family arrived home to tell them what happened. Dad said yes, and he’d like Karl to be there too since he was a supporting friend of the family.” This event solidified for dad at a moment of great tragedy and grief, it is not a time to theologize or to tell a person not to protest to God as they grapple with the question why… why… why… Dad describes how he simply sat in the ditch with the father as he wept, and when he asked questions dad answered them simply with the information he knew. Then, they wept together, talked a little more, and wept again. Dad was there for days and weeks later walking with the family one small step at a time. He came to understand, as he tried to answer the agonizing question why, that we live in a world where accidents and disease happen, death is a mystery, and we don’t know all the answers. He came to believe it is not God who appoints the hour and manner of death, but more evil and death have come into our world through the backdoor (as it were). However, God is on the side of goodness and life; nevertheless, since evil, accidents, disease, and death have come among us, God Himself in Jesus, went through suffering, sorrow, and death… because he loves us and wants to show us he understands, cares, and shares our burdens and carries them with us during our greatest times of grief, pain, sorrow, and need. And, so the gift of faith was given to me—a gift dad demonstrated vividly throughout his life!
The Gift of Courage
The last gift I’ll mention today is courage. It was a heart attack that took him down the evening of July 25, and it was the heroic efforts of first responders and hospital staff in Albert Lea and the Mayo Clinic that brought him back along with our good neighbors who brought Mom to both hospitals that night to be with Dad. One nurse who had also been an EMT told me about 4% of patients flown in after such an event survive, so dad was a miracle—even if it was just one week. Each day on the ICU was a battle, but dad made amazing progress regaining consciousness and recognition surpassing the tempered hopes that the excellent doctors and nurses held for him and worked tirelessly to achieve. The best the team could work out is dad probably went without oxygen to his brain for 15 to 20 minutes—most agree after 9; severe brain damage can begin. Despite tremendous gains coming back consciously, his body continued to reel from catastrophic system failures. The doctors figured out one problem was a blockage in an artery in the heart, which they fixed this with a stint, but the other required a pace maker. This was a challenge because dad had several broken ribs since CPR is really only effective when ribs are broken. But, pneumonia set in creating a vicious cycle of needing to cough, which caused pain that sent him into cycles of delirium. It was a delicate balance the medical team at St. Mary’s walked, moment by moment to figure out what dad needed.
Two days before his death—I call it his Lazarus day. I arrived in the morning. He was sitting upright in bed with wonderful color to his face and a sparkle in his eyes. He was holding a pen, paper, and bible and exclaimed happily as I walked in: “Debbie!” I returned: “Dad!” I sat down beside him and asked him what he was doing. He told me he had a lot of thank yous to write but was having a hard time getting started.
The day before had been pretty rough for he had worked his feed tube out 3 times, earning him the title of the Hundi of Feeding Tubes. He still did not have it reinserted, and so his nurse fed him pudding with his pills crushed in it. It was slow, and dad was having a hard time swallowing. But, this day, everyone was so hopeful he could recover at least to this point; however, to do so, he would need the feed tube reinserted. This sent him into a delirium he would not come out of, and this is where the courage comes in… I had to have the courage to see the totality of his reality – I needed to reconcile the hope of his recovery with the despair of cascading system failures in his body. After 36 hours of continuous delirium, I made the tough decision to move him to comfort care, allowing the nurses and doctors to give him stronger medications to keep him comfortable and out of pain. The Mayo team was magnificent in providing me and our family with all the options ranging from further invasive interventions to comfort care, and it was his night nurse, Luis, who said something about being able to give dad stronger medicines that night, which finally made me understand the reality of dad’s situation. We had never made it out of the Sea of Delirium, and dad was suffering and needed me to make a courageous choice. So, I did.
When I returned the next morning, he was sleeping—the delirium was over. His day nurse told me he had cleaned him, and they were making him comfortable. He looked at peace. I could hear the gurgle of the pneumonia in his lungs, but he was not struggling for air. I sat down next to him and began to read part of the book I have written for I had promised to send him the manuscript but had not yet sent it. The Chaplin came in after a couple of hours. I told him all about dad and the past week. He recited the 23rdPsalm, and then he said a prayer incorporating everything I had told him. I resumed reading. His nurse came back to turn him. I continued reading holding his hand, comforted by his warmth. Less than 45 minutes later, his breathing suddenly changed. I looked at his monitor and saw his heart rate dropping just as it had been doing over the past week (this is why he needed a pace maker). I felt panic and pleaded with dad to wait for mom to arrive (for I felt she was 15 minutes away). Dad breathed, and his heart rate went up, but for less than a minute; then it plunged again. I wanted to run and get the nurse to give him a drug to increase his heart rate, but I didn’t… I knew he was going and I needed to let him go… this took tremendous courage… how could I let my father go? I couldn’t, so I threw myself on him, hugged him and cried. His nurse came in and put his arm around my shoulders as I held onto dad, and his doctor came in and held my hand. After a while, I looked up and asked, “Is he gone?” His doctor simply and compassionately confirmed dad had gone. My brothers and mom arrived 10 minutes later. His nurse and doctor stayed with us for a long time. I did not feel for one minute they had anything more important to do than to be a witness to dad’s passing and our grief—a tremendous gift.
The Gift of Love
So, thank you all for being here to remember dad and to celebrate his life and the many gifts he gave to so many of us.
I know dad never felt he deserved this sort of attention, but dad, if you are listening, you deserve it, every last bit of it for your gifts have healed so many people in our broken world, which desperately needs the compassion you shared and your capacity to listen and be with others during their greatest hour of need and to do so in kindness and with empathy, all of which came so natural to you.