“Autumn Dusk”….and Happy Thanksgiving!

November 24, 2014

 Pre Thanksgivng Mountain Range to the East

 

It’s Hard To Tell what this photo above is, but the morning brought this weak storm front…and a dark cloud that stretched from the bottom of the horizon.  It transformed Atlanta to the east into a mountain range.  It reminded me of New Hampshire or Pennsylvania.  Quite a sight for the morning, and more spectacular outside my window than in the photo.  But!  A startling and welcome gift for the day before Thanksgiving.  I called around (at before 7am) to neighbors to look to the east outside their doors, and went down to one neighbor, Don to come out with me and gawk at the ‘mountain range’.  Don is a good sport and was as awed as I was.

Thanksgiving is a good time for enjoying the mysteries of Nature….and putting on Copeland’s  “Appalachian Spring”…the music that evokes an earlier, peaceful time when Thanksgiving wasn’t followed by Black Friday.

Peace to my nation in a time of outrageous turmoil, chaos, and Happy Thanksgiving for those of us who still give thanks.

Lady Nyo

And just for the fun of it, pix of my kitchen, and the sacrificial pumpkin from Halloween now to be a pumpkin pie.

kitchen

pumpkin in kitchen

By the way, it’s a ‘pink’ pumpkin, though it shows up darker in this photo.

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0403Whe-R01-009, reflection pond, j.kohut-bartels, wc, 2006

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 This Autumn, a fleeting, transitory season, has brought heavy snows and bone numbing cold across our country.  Too early for this, but here in the South, it was just record breaking temps and rain.

Yesterday we had heavy winds, rain across Georgia and some areas had tornados. When the rain finally stopped, I looked outside and a huge rainbow spanned the sky.  What a visual gift to lift the spirits!  Then the clouds broke apart, their bellies turned pink and a soft blue mingled with the clouds.  Only a scant few minutes before dark fell, but what a Gainsborough moment. 

All week I have listened to the migration of Sandhill cranes, not seeing them, too high up, but hearing their cries. It signals the Winter to come, the smell of wood smoke and a landscape that is swept of fertility, just waiting the Earth to pirouette again.

Lady Nyo

AUTUMN DUSK

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Stuttering winds blow across

Clouds tinted by the failing sun.

Brittle air softens,

Now a faded blue–

Shade of an old man’s watery eyes.

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A late flock of Sandhill cranes lift off,

Pale bodies blending in the

Twilight with legs

Flowing dark streamers,

Their celestial cries fall to

Earth–

A harsh, chiding rain.

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The trees in the valley

Are massed in darkness

As waning light leaches

Color from nature,

Creeps from field to hillock

And all below prepares for the

Rising of the Corn Moon.

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Even frogs in the pond

Listen between croaks

For the intention of the night.

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Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014,

“Autumn Dusk” originally published in “White Cranes of Heaven”, Lulu.com, 2011

“The Shibari Series”…..

November 15, 2014
"Sea Eagle", jane kohut-bartels, watercolor, 2001

“Sea Eagle”, jane kohut-bartels, watercolor, 2001

I’m taking a chance  in posting these pieces.  They will not be liked, understood or embraced by many readers.  But I think this is part of our creativity: daring to write or even develop some rather outrageous pieces that go against the grain of what we are known for as writers, as poets.

Breaking open myths and creating new ones…..

These segments of “The Shibari Series” speak to transformation, and a rather weird tale at that.  I started them in 2007, when I was sorely pressed with many issues and some dangerous influences. They are rather a personal story, and though they came to me in a rush, it took me years to understand their significance. Perhaps we have to grow into what springs out of our unconscious, even distasteful and confusing things, perhaps this is part of the path of creativity.  We have to take chances.

People can look up what Shibari is if they are interested.  However, in my research, and my study of Japanese culture, shibari means to ‘tie’ (as in packages) but it earlier meant a military procedure:  soldiers or police would carry a small length of jute, hemp rope, and depending upon the status of the criminal, would tie the hands as he was brought into police review.  If the ‘criminal’ had high status, he was loosely tied, or not tied at all.  If a common criminal, his hands were secured tightly.  Also, shibari was never seen as a sexual proponent until the beginning of the 20th century in Japan (though there is doubt about this) but in the West, shibari has been very much sexualized in the practice of bdsm.  My husband and I both studied shibari and did some practice, but it’s intense and it takes a lot of consideration. And ….a lot of work to do it safely and make beautiful designs with the body as a canvas and the rope as ‘paint’.  We decided it was better to write about it as fiction than to practice it.  In some cities of Japan, the police still carry a short length of jute, probably symbolic of former usage of shibari.

The series details the transformation of a woman to different species, her empowerment and finally back to human.

These tales are also about compassion and empathy…and the form is just a unusual vehicle to ‘tell the tale’.  Nothing to be afraid of, though many will reject these short pieces because of their own moral and religious beliefs.  I hope others will try to have an open mind.

The Japanese words used to describe the shibari practice can be looked up easily enough. Tengus are shapeshifters from Japanese mythology.

Lady Nyo

1.

Japanese hemp coiled about the torso, creating diamonds where there was once only skin, looping back upon itself, over and over. Breasts now defined by a rope cut-out bra, while waist, love handles, now enclosed in more diamonds, thighs entwined. Added turns and thin jute split my cleft with a hard caress, the large knot on the bottom shifting upward. It would tease in mid air.

Dance comes from the earth, through the feet, up and out, giving shape to song. This time I would dance in flight, the pull of ropes challenging gravity, compounding my efforts.

Movements liquid and extreme startled me, the kikkou and hemp anchored me in space, my first taste of freedom in the ropes. Suddenly I felt the sting of a whip and I jerked out of time to the beat. I fell deeper into the dance, determined to continue. Again the whip’s sting and I faced a split reality: pain or pleasure. I went inward, deep into the music and rhythm, where movement was birthed and pain banished.

I flew, hollow bird bones filled with joy. Cradled within the ropes I spiraled up from heavy earth.

2.

(Spider Web)

Restrained by the hemp to a beam above and to posts at my sides, I was secure in a blue rope karada. It bunched my skin where it bound, creating its own mountains and valleys, distorting my natural figure.

Pain was the door, the portal, the whip applied until I cried “Mercy!” I had slipped into an altered state, far from where pain ate at my flesh. Just back from subspace, I had dangled in the infinite where time stopped and a crude salvation was born.

Looking up at the ropes I was now in a spider web, frozen at all points, the fly caught, splayed in a hemp web 360.

I glanced behind me. The spider was a big one, gently stroking my welts, drinking a glass of water, or perhaps it was green goo. He smiled, now aware I was conscious and with a questioning expression, picked up the single tail and shook it at me.

“More?”

I smiled slyly. Such gluttons we were, the spider and the fly.

 3.

Again, I am restrained on all sides, a fly trapped in the stickiness of a dismal fate. I can hear the spider behind me, warming up, flicking the whip, marking his targets on my body, my wings too shredded for further flight.

What am I searching for? I thought salvation, but there was little of that. Perhaps transcendence? At this point, I would settle for any transformation out of here.

The whip caught me by surprise. I jerked forward, lifted six inches in flight with a high scream, the sound pairing pain and confused need. Blackness poured in like oil and I went limp.

I awoke, the burn deep in my feathers. Looking to both sides, my eyes now two sharpened orbs with 6x vision. Hooked beak, my feet wicked talons. A furious shake and I was free of the web, free of the ropes. Extending strong wings, I flew to the top of the beam. With a loud hawk hunting call I surveyed the ground, hungry, need fulfilled – almost.

The spider saw me, only a moment of fear crossed its black eyes before bowing his head to fate.

4.

I flew high but it was spring, and the weak thermals did not support my flight. I was hungry, without food, except for the spider. A freshly fledged hawk must learn how to fend for herself. Beginnings are dangerous.

Cupping my wings, I hovered over a stream, watching the ice break apart far below. Three days of freedom had left me weak, confused and with a troubling need. Breaking my bindings I was now lost, abandoned to nature, cold and alone.

“Hep-Hep-Hep”. I heard the ‘call-in’ of the falconer below me, as I floated over the landscape. Seeing the whirling lure with a rabbit head was too much. Starved, I spiraled downwards, landing with a thump.

“Good Girl” I heard as the man beckoned me to his glove covered with fresh meat. As I mantled over and stepped up, he slipped a jess upon my left leg, another with silver bells on the right.

“Good Girl” I heard again as he tied me tightly to a perch.

“Good Girl” as the hood slipped over my head.

At least no one whips a hawk. And there is always the sky.

5.

For the next week I remained in the mews. During that time I was prodded, examined and weighed.  The Falconer was experienced and knew to avoid my feet when I was restrained.  I would slice him, even with bindings securing my wings and the hood blinding me.I was to eat only from his glove. He cooed, watching me as I greedily swallowed down the sparse meal, his dominance enforced.

When I was a woman I yearned for the ropes.  I wanted them tightly around my body, ‘tender is the bight’ so to speak, yet now I pecked, pulled at my leather restraints.  One day the Falconer found me hanging upsides down, like a bat, hooded and unhappy, but I gleefully bit him as he righted me on my perch.

Soon after, he put me to the glove and launched me into the air, I screaming in delight.

If I thought I had freedom I was fooled. The Falconer had tethered me with a long hemp rope. He jerked hard and I thumped back to earth.

“Good Girl” I heard through my outrage and humiliation.

“Good Girl” I heard as he pinned me to the ground.

6.

I remained in the mews for my fall back to earth broke my wing. The cage was large, one I shared with a goshawk only allowed to a Master Falconer.

One day Master claimed me from my perch, set me on his glove and launched me. This time I had no tether and made my escape. Screaming into the wind, I climbed high until he and the hated glove were invisible. I flew with the currents, my eyes bright with freedom.

Suddenly, I was changing, feathers dropping from my breast and wings. I spiraled, awkward in my descent, landing by the same brook once choked with winter’s ice. Instead of talons I had a woman’s legs and slowly my feathers molted leaving me naked, shivering, my limbs white as the remaining snow peppering the early crocuses. My cry now a sob instead of a hawk’s high shriek.

Instinct made me start at the sound of the hunting call and there was the Falconer, a blanket in his hands. He threw both of us down and took his rights, my cooing not of doves. Later, collared in steel with long jesses I walked behind his horse.

7.

The spring was gentle, tender rains like warm tears coursing down on sullen earth. I looked skyward and saw the palest of blue, everything fresh and transparent.   Sometimes, when I knew I was not watched, I spread my arms and called out to the wind. My voice was too thin, my bones too solid for flight, chained also with gravity.

One morning I brought meat to the goshawk in the mews. He sidled away refusing my meal. Admiring his powerful wings, thinking of the past, I called to him in chirps as I did when a hawk and he swiveled his head to me. Looking deep into his eye I could see my former freedoms as I passed over mountains and rivers, hunting and soaring, all given up for earthbound comfort.

Freedom and hunger traded for slavery and food.

I knew then what would happen. Captured, I had the power to free. Slipping on my Master’s glove, the goshawk stepped up and I worked the belled jesses from both legs.

A launch and he soared over me, screaming his delight. I raised my arms, my spirit in flight, my chains now looser for his freedom.

8.

The Falconer, now my Master, was not a cruel man. I found this out when he realized his goshawk gone. He did not question me as I served him his dinner, nor did he ask anything of me when we slept that night.

Only at morning did I find him watching me with a quizzical look on his face.

“Do you understand the point of keeping a goshawk, girl?”

I shook my head. Rarely did I use my voice in answering him. I did not trust it after so many changes

“Well, let’s say that in freeing him, you have upset the balance of nature.”

I looked at him curiously. What balance of nature?

With a slight smile he asked: “What do you intend to cook for dinner tonight?”

Of course! The goshawk hunted and we ate what he killed.

“Know you goshawks are called ‘the pot bird’? And since he ate from the glove as you did he will probably starve. That is what I meant by upsetting the balance of nature, girl.”

I looked for the goshawk all day until my neck was stiff. My dreams that night were full of broken feathers.

9.

(Introduction to the Tengu)

It was weeks of anxiously watching the skies for the goshawk before I gave up. I never saw him again. I learned to trap rabbits and put offal on the roof of the mews in case he flew over.

My Master sometimes watched me from the window, never saying a word about his goshawk. I now set the traps and killed the rabbits and in effect I was the goshawk.

Trapping rabbits is tricky, but soon the spring would bring fiddlehead ferns and tender green dandelions to vary our diet.

One day I passed the mews and there sat a huge bird. I quickly entered, my basket of offal in my arms. He turned his head towards me, and I screamed, the first real sound I made since my capture

It was a beautiful iridescent bird, having a man’s head with a long, red nose. He shook his feathers and crept towards the offal and wrinkled his nose.

“Girl, even a Tengu eats better fare. Get me some meat and sake.”

I backed out of the mews, and ran to the house. Transformations be damned, this was a strange one!

10.

I ran into the house, panting with shock and exertion. A Tengu! Sitting in the mews.

No sake, just my Master’s single malt I dare not touch, but found sherry and some cold pieces of rabbit. I wondered if a Tengu, bird/man such as he was, would rather have raw fare. A bird of prey would disdain the cooked rabbit, but he did have a man’s face. The leftover rabbit would have to suffice.

My Master was gone, expected at dusk. I walked slowly back to the mews, hoping my mind was playing tricks. There he was, as big as, well, there was the Tengu scowling at my approach.

Human hands appeared from under his hummingbird colored feathers and he greedily grasped the sherry bottle and drank a long gulp.

“Not sake, girl, but good for a thirsty bird.”   He grinned and his nose got even redder.

“You are thinking, ‘why is he here now’? Ah girl, deep cosmic issues. You and me in the mix. One last chance for me to throw off some bad karma.”

He finished the sherry, belched and leered at me.

I heard my Master return on his horse.

11.

I ran out of the mews with my offal basket over my arm. I must have looked funny to him because he kicked his horse to hurry to me. Looking down he peered into my eyes and an expression of concern crossed his face

“What is wrong, girl? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

My eyes wandered back to the mews and his followed mine. Dismounting, he let the horse wander into the barn and walked quickly into the mews. I followed him with quick steps.

He pulled on the falconer’s glove and approached the Tengu, now looking very much like a large, normal bird. He looked for bands, jesses and bells but found none of course.

“Strange, girl, he would find his way here. Well, perhaps he has promise of hunting if he is young enough to train. I don’t know though, he looks rather old to me.”

Telling me to draw water and feed him some raw meat, he headed to the house.

The Tengu watched my Master retreat with hawk eyes.

He had a nasty cackle. “Your Master has no idea how old. Feed me well girl, I’ve got magic to conjure. Scram!”

12.

I came back with the Tengu’s dinner that I filched from my own. He wasn’t in a pleasant mood when I entered the mews, but certainly ate what I brought him with relish.

“Good”. He belched, wiped his mouth with the cloth that covered the basket of food.

Leering at me, he winked one eye.

“Sir,” I asked, “What am I to call you?” He had started to pick lice from his feathers, crush them and drop them on the ground.

“Sir will do nicely for now.”

“Where did you come from?”

“Ah, the eternal question! Well, I came from Mount Kurama, all Tengu do, but I prefer to haunt Toyko. Like to be a pigeon in a park and look up the skirts of the women there. Nothing more, just like to see muffs and thighs, favorite parts.”

I was a bit taken back. I read something of Tengu. “Don’t you hang with Buddhist priests?”

He barked a short laugh. “Picked on the wrong one. Powerful Yamabushi. Bad karma

now. That’s why I’m here. You need me.”

He wasn’t the pleasantest of Tengu, but he certainly was the first. Perhaps need went both ways.

13.

The spring warmed up and Tengu and I took walks through the countryside. He adopted the guise of a large, golden eagle in case my Master saw us walking in the fields above the house.

The soft air nuzzled my arms and legs and the Tengu shook out his wings, opening and closing his large beak, drinking in the sweet air.

I told him of my past, the strange transformations from woman to bug to hawk and back to woman. His eyes got big with surprise.

“You have one fucked up karma, girl. And I thought mine was shitty.”

My Master had placed me in light chains, and I caught the Tengu contemplating them.

“Ah”, he said, reading my mind, “I’m wondering if they will interfere with your wings.” I was afraid to ask anything, but my heart started to race.

Later that morning, he twisted my chains into a tighter bondage. He now used my soft body for ikebana, fertile soil for him to place the stems of spring flowers and twigs in my hollows, fill my lap and hair with long grasses, giving new meaning to gardening and beauty and gentleness.

The End, so far…..

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copywrited, 2007-2014

The “Shibari Series” was previously published in “Seasoning of Lust”, Lulu.com, 2009

“The Courage to Create”, Part II

November 15, 2014

Kohut-Bartels-LS-3

Watercolor,” Dawn Mallards”, 2005, Jane Kohut-Bartels

The Courage to Create, Part II

 

I came across a part of Rollo May’s book, “The Courage to Create” that had a particular interest to a number of readers who were raised by narcissistic parents. I am posting Dr. May’s words here just for further contemplation and discussion. I find this idea of May to be intriguing and thoughtful.

It is a particular discovery concerning a class difference in the behavior or the result of narcissistic parents on their daughters. In my opinion, it is true and reveals the basis for the misery of many young women from the early teen years but with an interesting class difference. Readers can draw their own conclusions. I think Dr. May revealed something very powerful, insightful.

Dr. May was studying the issue of rejection and anxiety of young women by narcissistic parents, mainly the maternal rejection. (This made it into the book under the section: “Creativity and the Unconscious”) What was surprising to him was what he and other psychologists had assumed to be true, that they would be hardened, apathetic so that they didn’t feel the rejection?

Jane

“Where they sociopathetic or psychopathetic types who didn’t feel rejection? (these were young women who were unwed, pregnant and basically thrown out of their birth families, some the victims of incest) No, they weren’t.

As one, named Helen said: “We have troubles but we don’t worry.”

One day I was walking down the street, I was tired, and out of the blue, it struck me that all these women were from the proletarian class. And as quickly as that idea struck me, other ideas poured out.   A whole new hypothesis broke loose in my mind. I realized my entire theory would have to be changed. I saw at that instant that it is not rejection by the mother that is the original trauma which is the source of anxiety (in the daughters…); it is rather rejection that is lied about.

The proletarian mothers rejected their children, but they never made any bones about it. The children knew they were rejected; they went out on the streets and found other companions, (and I believe mother substitutes…JKB) There was never any subterfuge about their situation. They knew their world—bad or good—and they could orient themselves to it. But the middle-class young women were always lied to in their families.   They were rejected by mothers who pretended they loved them. This really the source of their anxiety, not the sheer rejection. I saw in that instantaneous way that characteristics, insights from these deeper sources, that anxiety comes from not being able to know the world you’re in, not being able to orient yourself in your own existence. “

Though Dr. May is talking about how concepts can be overturned, how the unconscious holding to something that might not be true in theory (what he was taught by his professors) there comes a point hopefully, where a radical rupture with what is ‘known’ is overturned and something new, a new development in theory …is formed.

I will just put forth my own speculation, and this is because of my own experience with a narcissistic mother and also from my own class position, or that of my mother. Middle class parents, or upper class parents have a social position to ‘protect’. They would be ‘shamed’ for outright rejection of their children, be ostracized by their peers, social class, IF they were open about their hatred, dislike, contempt, etc. of their children, and especially when the mother is the narcissist and a daughter is her scapegoat. They are protecting themselves, and hence the extended lies about their pretended love of their children. They will talk in ‘glowing terms’ (to outsiders) about the very children they dismiss, demean, abuse privately, but they don’t want to get ‘caught’ doing this by their social ‘club’. That would mean that they failed in some important way as a parent. Within dysfunctional families of a particular class, it’s all about protecting the ‘image’ of the family. Further, it’s all about protecting the narcissist.

I remember an incident in my ex husband’s family. The adult children were heavily involved in drugs. They were a prominent upper class family, with much social connections to protect. One of the sons wrapped his sports car around a telephone pole, and his mother said that “they had enough money to make anything disappear.” Again, it’s all about protecting image.

So, we have discussed this issue before of rejection by narcissistic parents, and our anxiety is never really knowing where we are in the family. We are kept unbalanced, anxious, by the (sometimes sociopathetic) behavior of narcissistic parents. Our anxiety comes from not being able to know the world we are in, not being able to orient ourselves in our own existence. “

 

And the narcissists in our lives take great sadistic pleasure in doing this, in increasing our confusion, our inability to know our place in the family. They depend upon this. And they up the abuse where they can, even when they are  ‘nearer to their God’. And others in the family fall suit because they are afraid of the Narcissistic Rage that will turn on them if they don’t obey the Chief Narcissist.  They are true slaves, although the ‘favorites’. 

 

 

For me, this above relates to what I wrote in the first part of this essay, that our creativity comes from our centeredness, knowing ourselves and believing, taking courage in our abilities regardless what and who are trying to throw us off our mark. When we attain clarity as to the functions of a dysfunctional family, or family member (and there usually isn’t just one….other members are impacted and take on the behavior of the Chief Narcissist) we can put these destructive people behind us and go on to developing our creativity and living a better and fuller life. They are only boulders in the road and we have to go around them.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

“The Courage to Create”…..a short essay.

November 10, 2014

"Eagle" Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2005

American Eagle, wc, Jane Kohut-Bartels…A Large painting.

The Courage to Create

This is going to be a short article on the roots of creativity as I have come to understand. It’s a first look into this issue. I can’t cover everything, but hope to expand this piece over time. This is the first section.

I have been struggling with the issue of creativity for years. Perhaps not the analytical process of creativity, until my nose was smashed into the argument by a dear therapist and a few other people. I didn’t really have a position, just was unaware of the issues behind the ‘ability’ to create.

I became more interested in this issue….what was behind our creativity, what propelled some of us to create, what stopped us and why perhaps we felt ‘strange’ or ‘unbalanced’ considering the general population. So many artists I know, in different disciplines, haven’t a clue as to ‘why’ or what is behind their own artistic endeavors, just believing in ‘chance’, or something undefinable, mystical. They also end up, as I have seen over decades, miserable, depressed, trying one creative medium after the other and sometimes abandoning all. That is generally the seat of their dissatisfaction with their lives. They give up any attempt to dig deeper and get some answers. They just hang onto the belief that they weren’t really creative.

I became interested in this for a number of reasons. I am a writer, a musician and a painter. I have been challenged by some to ‘pick’ a talent. I’ve been mocked by a narcissist, a thoroughly degenerate character who wrote that my ‘creativity’ was nothing but narcissism. Artists hear that a lot from people who would downgrade attempts at creativity. In fact, some people have become almost angry when I insist that there are no Chinese walls between these interests of different disciplines. I have recently come to believe that it takes courage to continue on in our interests: people are challenged because they want to pigeon-hole an artist. Perhaps this is human nature because labelling artists makes for a better grasp on them, and we can be kind of slippery. But overall, it is rather uncomfortable to have to feel that you need defend your talent or interests. Having to explain yourself to people who just don’t get it….the creative impulse, is exhausting. Further, it takes time and energy that should be used in creativity.

Recently I have been reading Rollo May’s “Courage to Create”. This book set me back on my heels. It is a little dated, having been written in 1975, and points to cultural issues, political issues of that era. However, the arguments about the issues of creativity are timeless.

I am going to pose some of his arguments and also some of my own conclusions. I do this because I believe the issue that is so many times pressed, that creativity is all about will-power, is wrong and limited.

If this sounds like a book report, tough. I am struggling to understand the deeper issues around creativity and Dr. May has produced one of the best books that breaks through to new territory.

Rollo May (a world distinguished psychologist) wrote lucidly about creativity. Besides being in a medical field, he was also a gifted watercolorist. Actually, he was many things and embraced for his humanistic writings by many people all over the world. In his “The Courage to Create”, May parcels out his theories of courage in six parts which I will cover in only a small way. Very crucial to this issue of courage is what he defines as not the absence of despair, fear, insecurity but the capacity to move ahead in spite of all these things. I think many creative people do this without thinking: I think we are deeply mired in these negative obstacles but we move ahead anyway, full of doubt, haltingly. We do it because of our personal, emotional involvement with creativity. It’s the issue of acknowledging courage that throws a new and confusing concept in the mix.

May made the observation that a chief characteristic of this courage was that it required a centeredness within our own being, without which we would feel ourselves to be a vacuum. The ‘emptiness’ within corresponds to an apathy without and apathy adds up, in the long run, in my belief, to cowardice.

For me apathy extends to an inability to move, to think. Just giving up on life. And creativity. I have known people forever who end up apathetic. They might be very talented, but they hit a roadblock in their pursuit of creativity and they give up. They don’t pursue because they don’t feel this centeredness. They just give up. They may have talents, but they flail around and in the end, they abandon the process.

We must base our commitment to the center of our own being, or else no commitment will be authentic. And real courage isn’t bravado or rashness.

This issue of centeredness is interesting.   It accounts for many years of feeling alien, different, out of sync with the people either you meet or know from family ties. It basically is a denial of ‘difference’ in order to feel ‘connected’ to people. I have found that it also means that I ‘dumb down’ myself just to ‘fit in’. In the end (and beginning, middle) it’s just not worth it: this behavior delays, denies any creativity that might be brewing. This behavior denies the courage to create. And that creativity is the center of self.

In humans, courage is necessary to make being and becoming possible. In nature, this isn’t exactly so, as an acorn becomes an oak by automatic growth, but a man or woman becomes fully human only by his or her choices and the exhibited commitment to them. Our self-worth is predicated on our choices. This is a hard lesson to learn because it doesn’t come fast or easy. It’s something that comes only with an understanding of what choices lead to clarity, against choices that derail us. And it’s time consuming and something we do over and over.  It is also key to avoid the people who more than doubt, but would rather see us fail.

May describes the physical, moral, social courage and finally, what he sites as the most important courage of all….creative courage. Whereas moral courage is the righting of wrongs, creative courage is the discovering of new forms, new symbols, new patterns on which, in part…. a better society can be built.

Why is creativity so difficult? Why does it require so much courage?

George Bernard Shaw put forth something that has a profound truth to it: “Creativity provokes the jealousy of the gods”. And a creative person, IF she or he is authentic to their art, is always in some sort of turmoil. Either internally, because of doubt and fear, or externally because the gods: those in authority, or something like this, the status quo…are never accepting of something new and strange to them. I remember a gallery owner who challenged me as to whether I was a painter or manufactured sculpture. I was both, but this rather narrow woman could not accept this. My painting was fine, and my sculpture was fine, but she demanded that I choose between one medium or the other. I couldn’t and was very confused by her mentality. Now I can understand her limitations. For a while her perspective deeply affected my thoughts about my own creativity, and then I came to my senses. Who was she to limit my creativity, regardless of medium? (Her gallery closed soon after because what she carried was rather boring and stilted ‘art’.)

I faced this mentality for decades with my own mother who tried to diminish my own attempts in being creative. She was no paragon of creativity, preferring to produce ‘safe’ poetry that was pretty dull, trite stuff. Regardless of emotional ties, we need to see what boxes people attempt to stuff us into. If we are truly committed to the center of our own being (and we know what that entails) we will break free of this enforced dullness, this oppression. It leads only to a depressing state of affairs. Some people can try to enforce this dullness because they aren’t the people who create. And some are just envious of another’s creativity. My mother ‘suffers’ (or actually others suffer from her) from narcissism. And narcissists deny anything of creativity that they can’t claim…especially if it is produced by a family member. This came home to me in a real way when the last letter I received from her in 2012 stated this after the publication of my third book: “I can never be truly proud of you because you haven’t allowed me into your artistry.” Well, hell mother…had I done so, there wouldn’t BE any ‘artistry’ as you call it. But further, this statement from her, a functioning narcissist, is the leitmotiv of a true narcissist. It is always about them, regardless who holds the pen or paintbrush.

How Religion Also Screws With Creativity

In Judaism and Christianity, the second commandment states: “You shall not make yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens, earth or sea”. But this commandment holds the fear that every society has about its artists, poets, writers, those that express their authentic creativity: These are the people who threaten the status quo. In Russia for generations, and in many countries today, the struggle to control speech, art, dance, writings, poetry, etc. is continuous. We see this in our own country in many ways. And we certainly see this in Muslim/ Middle East countries (and India and Pakistan) where women especially are denied access to their creativity. To do so will upset the status quo and get you in a world of trouble. And probably stoned to death.

Mythology’s Impact

Our human psychology and social evolution is also seriously impacted with mythology. The Greek myth of Prometheus, who was chained to a rock on Mount Caucasus, (because he gave humankind fire) where a vulture would eat away his liver, only to have it grow again at night. Zeus was outraged, the gods were angry, and it is very common for artists to be exhausted at the end of the day, to despair of ever completing their vision, to have their ‘liver’ grow back at night, and for them to have a fresh perspective the next day. Artists strive with renewed hope and vigor in the smithy of their soul. (Funny, in my studies of the Berber culture, the liver is the seat of the soul, and the soul is destroyed if the liver destroyed.)

It is obvious to most artists that the creative artist and poet, etc. must fight the actual gods of our society- the gods of conformity, apathy, material success and exploitative power. These are the usual ‘idols’ that are worshiped by the multitude. And it is across the board regardless of culture.

The Nature of Creativity

There is no general agreed upon definition of this nature, especially amongst psychologists and the therapeutic field. Some hold that creativity is reductive: in other words, they reduce creativity to some other process. Also, it’s an expression of neurotic patterns, or “regression in the service of the ego.” This last immediately smacks of a reductive theory.

No wonder artists, creative people, have a hard time of it! When your attempts at creativity is seen as neurotic you lose confidence. You seriously doubt your sanity. And the general public isn’t at all helpful.

But there is a consideration (of which I won’t belabor here….) that when we define creativity, we must make the distinction between its pseudo forms and its authentic forms. Superficial creativity (art forms) that deals with only appearances or decoration, but not with reality is part of this collection of pseudo forms. True artists give birth to some new reality….and it is usually fought against by the multitude because of its alien-ness. Picasso was a good example of this, (and his creativity took so many forms and not all of them embraced) and it can take generations for acceptance by the status quo. And then the artist probably is dead and only the super wealthy can afford the genuine art.

 

The Encounter.

 

Dr. May is big on this issue of encounter. He states that escapist creativity is that which lacks encounter. (the reality of encountering life, etc. and it’s impact upon creativity. In escapist, exhibitionistic forms of creativity there is no real encounter, no engagement with reality).   We all know people who have great, elaborate ideas: they can talk about them forever, but they never actualize them. They are all fantasy and in the end….they lack the encounter with reality. I have found, (being a poet) that poets are some of the worst offenders of this encounter. Recently, I left a prestigious poetry and literary journal because the vast majority of poets and writers wrote abstract, academic work that had no reflection of the myriad problems of their respective countries. (unfortunately, these were all male poets.) They refused to. In fact, I was told basically ‘not to rock the boat’. How much more interesting and informative it would have been to read essays on the social issues of India, Pakistan, Africa, etc. and some solutions to the troubling issues of these countries…especially concerning the oppression of women. I have little patience with what I feel is an ingrained misogyny of many writers who just “aren’t interested” in these social issues, and consider them beneath the level of ‘true’ creativity. I put these writers and poets on the level of escapist creativity that lacks true encounter.

The Difference between Talent and Creativity.

And that brings up the question of the difference between talent and creativity. A few years ago, a woman who was a writer and artist was a house guest. She said she was writing a novel, and as she elaborated on it, I could see that she hadn’t put down a word. She was making it up as she talked. It was all fantasy, all in her head, and not in a very collected state. I shouldn’t have been surprised. As I knew her from five years on different writing sites, she had exhibited a lot of emotional issues: she couldn’t face them, but they certainly directed her life and her ‘creativity’. She refused any consideration of therapy and continued to stroke her wounds. At that time, I tolerated her behavior. Now? I avoid her. We are all responsible for the choices we make in our lives. She certainly had talent, but her creativity (the act) was truncated. She refused the encounter with reality in her own life and her creativity suffered because of it. She stuck to unicorns, dragons and flowers.

I’ve had this struggle of encounter with a therapist for a number of years. The concept of encounter also allows us to make clear the important distinction between talent and creativity. Talent might well have its neurological parts and can be studied as ‘given’ to a person. But creativity can only be seen in the act. Picasso is again a great example of this: great talent, great encounter with life and this produces great creativity. He is great because of his intensity of encounter. It is not necessarily pretty or polite, but it should be intense on a fundamental level.

This is the second part of the creative act: the intensity of the encounter. Genuine creativity is known by this force or power.

Many readers of this essay will recognize the altered state that comes when one is deeply involved in their creative process: time disappears, sound doesn’t impinge upon the project, hunger is ignored, a single mindedness becomes absolute until the creative person comes to a stopping point, either through exhaustion or something that intrudes too hard to ignore. The creative spell is broken. But it definitely is an altered state.

I have written only a few words about this intensity of encounter, but I intend to write more as I figure it out. I also want to get to what in my own life has been a propellant in my creativity. And that is that Creativity is born in the Encounter with Opposition. True creativity needs this frisson to birth or reveal itself.  At least this has been my experience.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

 

“I Remember….”

November 8, 2014
"Early Autumn Dusk", oil, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003

“Early Autumn Dusk”, oil, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2003

It has been 25 years this November 5th, that my father, Albert Kohut, died.  He was the parent who loved me, his only daughter,  though I didn’t always recognize  he did.  Now?  I have only memories, nothing tangible except a mouthpiece of his French horn,  but memories and that, small enough.  Of course, his DNA courses through my veins and considering his nature, I believe that this is where the poetry was born.  You don’t forget and you don’t ‘get over it’.  He was the only adult who showed unconditional love in my childhood. He is loved by me.

Lady Nyo 

-

I Remember….

 

I remember the scream

In the middle of the night

Of something dying

Down by the river,

Killed by an owl

Or possibly a fox.

-

I remember bolting awake

In my parent’s bed,

My heart in my throat

My father just died

The funeral over

Sleeping in

His bed,

Afraid to move from this reality

To the next,

No comfort to be had

Even with the scent of

His tobacco in the sheets.

-

I wandered the house,

Touched the walls,

Looked through windows

To a landscape not

Changed over years,

Ran my hands down the

Black walnut banister,

Smooth, smooth

As if the days would turn back

Just by this touch

And he would be here.

-

That scream somewhere on the banks

In the middle of the night,

When I jerked from sleep to

Awake, knowing, he was dead-

The father who loved me

Was gone forever.

-

I knew then

I was unmoored from life

floating out of reach of love.

A scream that challenged dreams

He would come back,

He wasn’t awaiting the fire

He would wake up,

Much as I did,

In a cold-sweat fear

And slowly, slowly

resume his place in the living.

-

There are unseen things

That happen in the night,

Down on the river bank,

Where life is challenged by death

Where a rabbit screams his mighty last

Where the heart leaps to the throat,

Where the most we can hope

Is a silent ghost

Who walks out of the river’s fog,

Extends his arms

And embraces the sorrowing.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2014

“Samhain- A Celtic Winter Song”

November 1, 2014

Kohut-Bartels-LS-3

“Dawn Mallards”, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels

I love the Celtic Seasons and the mystical qualities that go with them.  After decades of struggling with the major religions, feeling beaten down by Christianity and Judaism in oppressive measures in the hands of oppressive people,  coming to Celtic Spirituality was coming home.  There was something about this devotional that fit with so much of my own questing nature. It was part of the spiritual practice that reflected an earlier, primal animistic spirituality and in a real sense, also reflected that which I had been finding in my own study of Shinto.  I felt no dogmatic pressure and found a particular peace.

There is a small book I find most helpful in a daily way:  Caitlin Matthews’ “Celtic Devotional”. A few words from this book on Samhain (Sow-when)

“The winter quarter of Samhain brings the gifts of restoration and renewal as the cold weather closes in. The soul is lead to more reflective depths.  It is traditionally associated with the remembrance of the ancestors, with the coming of death and the conception of new life. Samhain corresponds with the period of old age, when wisdom, freedom of spirit and clarity are experienced, a good time to celebrate the lives of wise elders, and those who have brought resolution and peace.”

The season of Samhain is from November 1st to January 31st.

My father, though he has been dead twenty five years this November 5th, is one of those who impacted me with his own freedom of spirit and unflagging courage.  He didn’t live to read this poem, but every line has something of him in it.

Lady Nyo

-

Dark mysterious season,

when the light doesn’t

quite reach the ground,

the trees shadow puppets

moving against the gray of day.

-

I think over the past year

praying there has been a

kindling in my soul,

the heart opened, warmed

and the juiciness of life is

more than in the loins–

a stream of forgiveness

slow flowing through the tough fibers

not stopper’d with an underlying

bitterness

but softened with compassion.

-

This season of constrictions,

unusual emptiness,

brittle like dried twigs

desiccated by hoar frost

just to be endured.

-

I wrap myself in wool and

watch the migrations–

first tender song birds which harken

back to summer,

then Sandhill cranes,

legs thin banners

streaming behind white bodies,

lost against a snowy sky.

-

They lift off to a middling cosmos,

while I, earth-bound,

can only flap the wings of my shawl,

poor plumage for such a flight,

and wonder about my own destination.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014, first published in “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by Lulu.com, 2011

“Halloween A-Coming”

October 27, 2014

Halloween 2

Cinderilla Pumpkin

My beautiful picture

The gate where the Candy Witch stands…..

crescent-moon

I love Halloween.  Or I used to before the Southern Baptists and Methodists stuck their noses into a holiday that was a lot of fun.  I remember getting dressed up as witches, beatniks, when I was young and getting sick on the candy we got from far flung neighbors.  The Sabatillas were the best, with a house that you had to transverse fields in the black of night to get to their tables laid out with candy.  I remember my father and his scary antics behind us, when we were most vulnerable in the dark, clutching our paper bags and of course the UNISEF boxes for the coins.  This was all in the country, up in central New Jersey, and considering the lack of any streetlights and the river that stretched out for miles, we were brave young kids. My father would accompany us unseen, and would further scare us with moans and a blast from his French horn that made us realize  it was he who did the mischief in the dark of night.

In my Atlantan neighborhood, it’s these Baptists and Methodists who turn their lights off and probably sit under their kitchen tables, shuddering at the words: “Trick or Treat!” 

They call this “Devil’s Night” but I think it’s just a chance to deny the local children any fun.  For years, before the Methodist church on the next block closed their doors, they had a “God’s Night” where they had a few sad and abused ponies trucked in for rides, and the kids got to sing hymns and bob for apples.  Big Woo.

Why can’t adults leave this holiday alone?  Why must everything be seen through their damn religions?  This year, as on every Halloween, we will decorate and have a big basket of candy.  About two weeks ago, 4 kids from the neighborhood came to our gate and asked me if I would have candy this year.  I promised I would, but two of the kids were Jehovah Witness. They sadly said that they couldn’t come because their parents didn’t believe in this holiday.  I promised to save candy for the NEXT day for them.  A couple of years ago we ran out of candy.  A few of the older kids offered back handfuls from their own bags so we wouldn’t run out so quickly. 

We don’t get a chance to see kids much, but if this is the behavior of these young teens, giving some of their own loot to an adult who ran out of candy, I can only think that Halloween can bring out the best in our youth.

Lady Nyo

 

It is almost Halloween.

The early dark of dusk

Creeps in before finishing

With the day–

Strange imaginings

Cause shadows to rustle,

Briars entangle

And nothing seems exactly…right.

-

In the mountains

Clouds dip low

Smothering the landscape.

Only the moan of winds

Round eaves shaking the skeleton hambones

Hiding in attic corners

Breaks the silence–

A strange cacophony.

-

Monstrous, ghost trees

Wedged together in

Stumbling rows,

Indian Snake arms

Wave warnings

To all who dare approach

Their Joseph’s –coat-of- many colors

Blasted by Autumn winds

Tearing around the mountain.

The hoot of the owl

Drives on dis-ease until dawn.

-

Roads dip and swell

In a frenzied, jagged run

Straight into the heart of danger.

Nerves uneasy,

There is too much mystery in the night.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2010-2014

“Twelve Tanka”…..

October 23, 2014

 

"White Cranes of Heaven", cover painting by the author

“White Cranes of Heaven”, cover painting by the author

These tanka were composed when I was writing  ” The Kimono”, yet to be published. Some violate the pivot line and other ‘rules’ of tanka.  There are many parts to tanka and it is wise to learn them.  It just takes time.

A few of these tanka are published already in “White Cranes of Heaven”, Lulu.com, 2011.

Lady Nyo~

-

This is the problem!

Do not give over your soul,

it returns tattered.

What tailor can mend the rips?

The fabric too frayed by life.

-

A modest woman

does not seek comfort with thieves

Emptiness is fate.

Better her eyes turn upwards

to Heaven, soul comforted.

-

Human frailties

wounds that bleed such heated blood

leave a dry vessel.

Without the moisture of love

the clay reverts to the ground.

-

Tears soften venom.

Knives bring satisfaction to

hands still covered with love.

Trembling, can’t find the mark

but the shame returns, pierces.

-

The heart is brittle.

Hands can not soothe its aching

only honest words

can make the sore mind attend

unless pain ever constant.

-

A woman in grief,

is force that races nature.

Better now anger

contempt will replace her love.

She will be stronger for it.

-

Minute to the hour

The heart races on the edge,

sharpened existence.

Feet trammel the rocky ground

While pain flies up to Heaven.

-

Birds fly in the blue.

All is gray upon the earth,

heart is stopped with bile.

White crane lifts off lake water,

my heart follows them.

-

The tanka below is the Lady Nyo’s (from ” The Kimono”) death tanka.

-

Shall an old gray wolf

subdue a woman like me?

I shall be born soon.

The wolf head I will cut off

and nail the pelt to the cross.

-

The morning wren sings,

I stand in the moonlit dawn

kimono wrapped tight.

Last night my final peace made,

now free from all attachments.

-

Bolts of lightening flash!

The sky brightens like the day

too soon it darkens.

My eyes opened or closed see

the futility of love.

-

Had I not known life

I would have thought it all dreams.

Who is to tell truth?

It comes at too sharp a price.

Better to bear flattery.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2008-2014

“Autumn Tanka”…..Tanka for the morning.

October 20, 2014
 Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007

Marsh Geese, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 2007

Autumn wind startles–

Lowered to an ominous

Key—Ah! Mournful sounds!

The fat mountain deer listen-

Add their bellowing sorrow.

"North Carolina Stream", watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

“North Carolina Stream”, watercolor, janekohut-bartels, 2008

It is just the beginning of the Autumn season here in the South.  Only the temps would tell of this seasonal change, but there is something definitely different.  Just a few short weeks ago, we had full-on summer, but now?

The smell of wood smoke, the crackle of fallen leaves, but still little color  in Atlanta. The dogwoods are a blaze and some other trees, like sumac, but these huge oaks and pecans that surround our house and street are hanging on for dear life.  Our red maple is still green with only a few outside branches in red and rust display.

Tanka is my favorite poetry form of all.  It’s something I fell into about 8 years ago, and wrote a lot of it before I actually began a study of the inner guts of this ancient form. There are definite classical rules that one should learn before one dismisses these things. I need to go back to this study because I’ve forgotten a lot.  It is unfortunate that many poets think they are writing tanka but they are just writing freeverse and dare to call it tanka.  I did this, too, but am trying not to do this now.  I find tanka the best medium for observation, expression and sentiment.  Being  allowed only 31 syllables culls a lot of verbosity and that can be only to the good for poetry.

And…..tanka takes your mind to a very different level. It’s not just a simplification, a clarification in the verse but something that instills a sense of  peace and satisfaction.  Worth plumbing the depths of this ancient form.

Lady Nyo

-

Autumn Tanka

I look up at blue

Sky this morning, watch leaves fall-

Whirling, colored tears.

Clip my face like dull razors,

The stroking of memory.

-

Is the whistling

Of the wind- a train, a plane?

Nature plays fiddle

And our senses are confused.

We dwell in chicanery!

-

Shooting star crosses

Upended bowl of blue night

Imagination-

Fires up with excited gaze!

A moment– and all is gone.

-

This grim November,

The month of my father’s death

Always bittersweet.

My memories float, weak ghosts-

Haunting in the fog of life.

 -

So lonely am I

My soul like a floating weed

Severed at the roots

Drifting upon cold waters

No pillow for further dreams.

 -

A late Summer moon

Floats above the conifers.

Autumn is coming.

Do pines know the season turns?

Their leaves don’t fall; do they care?

 -

Come into my arms.

Bury under the warm quilt.

Your scent makes me drunk

Like the wine we gulped last night.

Too much lust and drink to think.

-

When Autumn enters

Inexplicable sadness.

Season fades to death.

Hunter’s moon sits in Heaven–

Garden spiders finish, die.

-

Out with the gold fish,

The bullfrogs croak their sorrow.

Summer is passing

Autumn brings sharp, brittle winds

But Winter is the cruelest.

-

Like the lithe bowing

Of a red maple sapling

My heart turns to you,

Yearns for those nights long ago

When pale skin challenged the moon.

-

Overhead, the cranes,

Sandhills, swirl in board circles.

Broken GPS?

No matter, their cries fall down

Celestial chiding rain.

-

To end this  with a simple poem, not a tanka.

 

Autumn night winds

Hiss over the land

Round corners

And pulse under eaves.

Clashing wind chimes add sharp discord

As bare branches answer with a grating groan.

Above all,

The moon casts a feeble light

Too thin to fatten the road. 

-

(this poem from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by Lulu.com, 2011)

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2011-2014

 

“Musings On A Closing Day”

October 16, 2014

mount fuji, 2

For Peggy, a friend of 45 years….

-

I move my chair

to observe Mt. Fuji-

monstrous  perfection

topped with the cooling crust

of spring snows.

-

Languid movement

of a branch,

like a geisha

unfurling her arm

from a gray kimono,

makes petals fall,

a scented, pink snow

covering my upturned face

with careless kisses.

-

Timid winds caress

my limbs,

a fleeting relief

to tired bones

brittle now with

a sullen defeat of life.

-

Raked sand of garden

waves barely disturbed

by feet like two gray stones

as grains  flow

round ankles.

-

I realize once again

I am no obstacle to

the sands of time.

-

My heart is quieted

by the passage of nothing

for in this nothing

is revealed the fullness of life.

-

Jane Kohut-Bartels,

copyrighted, 2011, from “White Cranes of Heaven”, published by Lulu.com, 2011


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