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30 X 40 watercolor, 1983

spiritual trailblazers

the story of this painting



I float on solitude as on water . . . there is a road

I felt the road first in New York, in that great room

reading Rilke in the womanless loneliness.

How marvelous the great wings sweeping along the floor,

inwardness, inwardness, inwardness,

the inward path I still walk on,

I felt the wings brushing the floors of the dark

trailing longer wings,

the wing marks left in the delicate sand of the corridors,

the face shining far inside the mountain.

Robert Bly "The Night Journey in the Cooking Pot" (a passage)(1)

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The Story of this Painting

Fred Martin said this painting reminded him of an experience he had of the universe while in an isolation tank. Hawk Woman definitely came from the watery depths of my being. There have been times when I've lifted my face to the starry night sky and screamed until I exploded into a swirling galaxy, becoming one with the darkest part of the night. They call her Kali in India, and when she lifts her multiple black stone arms and rages through spiraling space the earth, our bodies tremble bowing in reverence to the embodiment of fear.

"The approaching night in her display spreads over the twilight which is but the reflected remnant of an apparent consciousness itself but the veiling power (avarana-sakti) of ignorance (avidya), of unconsciousness. It seems to us that it is impossible that night may ever entirely drive away twilight as well as all remnants of thought or perception, but the absolute night is the ultimate form of consciousness, and when perception of all appearances vanishes, she appears supremely resplendent. By comparison with her dawn and twilight are obscurity. Just as dawn vanishes when the sun rises, so also the veiling power of ignorance dissolves when illumined by the power of consciousness. When the veiling power of which appears to us as light is consumed to the root, and 'previous deeds' (pararabdha) cease to bear consequences, then the non transcendent darkness which is the root of unknowing is forever destroyed."(2)

I had no real understanding of Kali when this painting poured out of me, first emerging through swirling candy colors, overlaid by a black space spiraling and folding through time. The hawk was an intimate friend flying over the hills at the base of Mt. Diablo, beckoning me with its piercing cry to pay attention, and diving into the earth with its willing passenger to explore the nether realms. Only later as I looked through my extensive notes and images of the Goddess from my travels in India, did I recognize a one-ness of the energies. Kali black with many arms winging a dance with the space around her, penetrating through an abstract painting of brilliant puja powders, flowers and garlands in cerise, fuchsia, marigold yellow, and vermilion. The black stone universe walls reflected scintillating blue night sky, flickering with candle light stars. A fan tail crown of silver feathers framed her face and magnified the speed of her sky dive. A fagged mouth open, tongue piercing the evening song, she sounds KRIM, a blast of fiery breath reminding us that through detachment or letting go, we gain power over death's terror and gain transcendent knowledge. Dancing on the inanimate Lord of Life Shiva, she swallows all that exists, as the hawk imbibes the essence of his mouse prey.

Stepping through the plane's doorway onto India's shores I entered another time, a different energy, a new dream of reality. Her people embrace fearsome images such as Maha Kali as they do their own shadows, understanding her from multiple levels of perspective. The common people approach Kali through her mythic implications in a fabulous array of stories that come from ancient primordial sources as well as the heroic and miraculous true life stories of women in various villages who were seen to embody her essence. They were venerated as women of wisdom or healers and shrines were built to honor them such as the great Meenakshi temple in Madurai or the smaller Kali temple in Chidamburam where she is shown only in her benevolent form. In Chidamburam, Kali and the Cosmic Dancer Shiva, Nataraja, performed a great contest of dance for the rule of the world (an example of the many stories to explain the change from a matriarchal farming society to the Aryan patriarchal hunting society). Every one looked on with great awe and fear of the outcome, for it seemed there would be no winner. Then Shiva played a trick that tipped the scales in his favor, by dropping his earring on the ground, picking it up with his toes, lifting his leg and replacing it in his ear. Because of Hindu tradition and shyness Kali could not lift her leg and expose herself, so Shiva won the dance. She became very angry but then realized her jealousy and the wisdom of the god, thus becoming benevolent at the last stage, this form being revered at her sacred shrine in the south of India. The temple manager, her heartfelt devotee Raja, recounted this epic story and with eyes shining relayed to me how she slays demons, being our protector, so terrible and fierce, yet at the same time so benevolent and beautiful.

The mystic or yoga practitioner perceives a more sublime understanding of this feminine principle in her dual aspect. "Kali is only fearful relatively from the point of view of existence and worldly enjoyment. When in the course of mans' spiritual adventure, the relative is transgressed, his individuality dissolves into primordial infinite joy. Kali, the power of destruction has a dual aspect. She is from the point of view of finite existence the fearful destroyer of all that exists [impermanence]. As such she is known as the Power of Time. But when all is destroyed and the Power of Time appeased, the true nature of the eternal night reveals itself as limitless joy, as eternal peace. Kali is then known as the Transcendent Night (Maha-ratri)."(3)

In the west the dark mother or crone, the essence of spiritual consciousness, remains hidden or ignored until she raises her angry head and demands our attention through crisis, illness or death of a loved one. We project our fears and our shadows onto a realm of evil or the Christian devil, some amorphous entity or place outside ourselves. This image of the dark feminine principle is hard to look upon, but within her cosmic body is the map to our survival as a people on this planet.

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Muvwelema Awakens

I am the passionate-fertile-earth garden

dressed in the still-black-night of anger.

My body abides in perfect harmony with this penetrating darkness

I know this cycle of day and night, day and night, day and night

the dark sky in continual meditation embraces me

a blanket of stars permeates the looming shadows of my mind

see these radiant exotic flowers that burst from my chest

energy storehouses that reflect lifetimes

their huge essence encapsulated in tiny seeds

Seeds-- blown by the winds of my consuming anger

Seeds-- to lands barren and unreceptive

Seeds-- trodden into the earth by my once clumsy feet

Seeds-- nurtured by kind-deva-hands

Seeds-- sprouting endless Karmic repercussions

Circles of Seeds, sprouts, roots, leaves, flowers, fruit and Seeds

Seeds-- embryo beacons of light

Seeds-- dancing into form.

forms dying-decaying-darkness anger

forms dying-decaying-darkness-anger

forms dying-decaying-darkness-anger

inevitable isolation and frustration of my desires

Nature reveals renewal

nature Reveals renewal

nature reveals Renewal

my anger decomposed into passion

passionate life sustaining compost

lying on the earth face down

energy-compost-permeating-nurturing the Earth

lying on the earth face down

my eyes pierced Her darkest secret places

fine-root-hair-eyes absorbing knowledge

learning about dark-fertile-earth

passionate fertility of darkness

passionate fertile earth garden

dressed in the still-black-night

anger becoming passion



seeds becoming flowers

seeds becoming trees

passion forms my body

love animates it

Beloved Earth Daughter

Ancient Ancestress

passionate fertile-earth-garden

dressed in the still-black-night

-by KHK

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1. Bly, Sleepers Joining Hands, p.59

2. Danielou, Hindu Polytheism, p.270

3. Ibid., p.274