Saturday, January 31, 2009

Reaching into the Medicine Bag


What do you put in your medicine bag?
Walking the dogs this morning (a crisp, clear, warm and sunny morning), it occurred to me that I need to consider the kind of medicine that we give to one another and the kind we give to ourselves.

Poison...We give to ourselves when we listen to the negative thoughts from an unsettled mind, from the unwarranted criticism of others, the result of our choices or about art and act upon them.

Sustenance...Ah, this is what we give and receive when we count as legitimate the good comments and the healthy internal dialog that we speak out loud as we recognize the courage it takes to approach a canvas, to make a mark. We decide who we are. As we present ourselves to the world, it is not always possible to be received well. What we do with those responses...

I reached into my medicine bag today and found some healing 'food':

My fellow artists:

I'm fed by your work. You can do no wrong when you are authentic and because of you, I am drawn to go forward.

My artistic ancestors:

How did Frida overcome? How did Joan Brown navigate a path with family and professional art?
What did Georgia O'Keeffe say and how powerfully did she dig in her heels for her own beliefs? How hard was it for Käthe Kollwitz to create uncomfortable things and thereby comfort us?

Words that comfort, in winter, in recession, in the face of an unpredictable future:
"Whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are pure....think on these things."

Symbols:

A leather medicine bag (drawing, 5 3/4" x 6") that I made for Ell before going off to college. Secret nourishment inside that I cannot reveal.
But in mine:
There is mesquite meal that always calms my tummy when I've waited too long to eat.
Prickly pear fruit that reminds me that I am often hard to get close to, but I do have a colorful center that is not too sweet.
A sacred rock that informs me that there are immutable things that cannot be traded for shifting sand.
A feather telling me that my spirit soars like an eagle whenever I connect with paint-- when I dream.
A container of water like my body--changing as it moves through the landscape, yet forever able to erode that which seems to be more powerful than I. Water wins every time.

May I always offer you good medicine as a fellow traveler.

30 comments:

Karen said...

With this post you make me stop and think about what's in my medicine bag, too...and the metaphor then extends to encompass what surrounds me in my studio, in my house, in my life, in my thoughts...and I think about how careful and considerate we should be about what goes in there. And to weed out the stuff that's slipped in accidentally and does no good. Really beautiful.

The drawing itself has a wonderful 'painterly' quality to it.

daviddrawsandpaints said...

Caring and thoughtful words. Comforting words.
And a good drawing too.
I especially like the mention of Käthe Kollwitz, a strong hero of mine.

It makes me wonder what I keep in my sporran? :o)

Deb Schmit said...

I stopped by today and saw your post on the death of a child. What an amazing poem! I think the loss of a child has got to be the hardest thing any person could ever have to endure. I have noticed however, that those parents who have, are the strongest members of our communities. Able to council anyone in their time of need.
So thank you for your thoughts on the Medicine Bag. We all needed the reminder.

Melinda said...

Hi Karen,
It was a long time ago, but someone talked about how some people have no medicine for others. Disturbing. But, we are not like that.

I was reminded of this while sick with a cold and feeling down recently. Then I realized that we can give ourselves medicine and share it as well.

If I could have thought of something good regarding blue (your "Blue of Distance" is still in my head), I would have put the color blue in too!

Melinda said...

Hi David,
I love your reference to the "sporran". It is so good to know that by any other name the utility value of the medicine bag is universal.

Now...If you're going to check your sporran, I think you should do that in private. :0) You can get back to us later! I'll hazard a guess: It contains a bit of mischief, kindness and a great wit!

Melinda said...

Hi Deb,
I'm so glad to hear from you. I'm glad that you visit and I think of you often, especially when I watch weather reports!

I agree re: strength from tragedy. However, there is a kind of emotional limp that always remains.

Jala Pfaff said...

What lovely sentiments, thank you.

Linny D. Vine said...

You give good medicine, Melissa!
Thank-you for sharing your thoughtful words!

Melinda said...

Jala,
Thank you for visiting!

Melinda said...

Hi Linny,
Glad the medicine sits well with you!
Thank you for stopping by.

Joan Breckwoldt said...

Dear Melinda, This is one of the BEST posts I have EVER read. You are so brave, I can't thank you enough for sharing your thoughts. You are truly an inspiration, you are the best kind of medicine!
Joan
A very nice drawing too!

Leslie Avon Miller said...

I have enjoyed looking at your blog, your art work, and writing. Heartfelt work, which is authentic and genuine. Thank you Melinda.

Melinda said...

Thank you so much, Joan, for such a generous comment! I am humbled by your kindness.

You are good medicine too!

Melinda said...

Hi Leslie,
Thank you. It is high praise coming from you--your words, your art are so elegant and honest.

Hope you'll visit again!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful food for thought.

I'm wondering, just what am I lugging around in my medicine bag? I must admit my journey would be more pleasant if I traveled a little lighter. A wee bit less arsenic.

I identified with and was comforted by this passage;
"A sacred rock that informs me that there are immutable things that cannot be traded for shifting sand." Beautiful.

Thank you Medicine Woman. You have such a great gift for soothing the soul.

Melinda said...

Silvina!
I really like the label "Medicine Woman"!

Truth is, I need a lot of 'medicine'--and I think most artists do.

Just as I would never put arsenic in my child's medicine bag, I wouldn't let any in mine. I hope that if you have had some in yours...it's time to let it go. Treat yourself as well as you do your beloved children.

And, when you accidentally pick up some 'arsenic' during your daily walk, throw it down immediately--don't let it anywhere near your bag.

This is how I am beginning to hold only those immutable things, carrying them in front of my eyes, in my ears, as the poison is ground away--dust shaken from the fabric of my walk.

You are heading in that direction too. I can tell.

Edgar said...

Yes, 'Medicine Woman' fits: we use art to heal ourselves and our communities. Art is about making 'big medicine,' for restoring balance, or mediating peace in ourselves or in our audience. Artists were originally shaman... and the calling still fills that social need.

daviddrawsandpaints said...

Had a look, Melinda, but it's very dark in there!

Melinda said...

Well, David, I've heard of those who'll curse the darkness rather than turn on a light....Mr. Artyfice suggests, "Light a match."
;0 (!)

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Melinda,

I loved your blog -- you are such a deep thinker. I also love the drawing. I put myself in that bag -- the child who could allow herself to delight in putting colour on paper with a big wet brush. And friends like you -- but instead I let you fly from your space to mine, and a flashlight to remind me that there is light in the darkness (you are part of that light too), and my family who heal me over and over with their love, their humour and their kindness, and
my friends. Other than that if the visual world could fit in a medicine bag, it would be there for the constant flashes of joy it provides.

Maybe we all need healing mid-winter, and I felt my spirits lift when I read your thoughts.

xoxoxoxBarbara

Frank Gardner said...

Great post Melinda.
It's good to think about this kind of stuff. In art and in everything we do.
It is nice to catch up on your latest posts.

Jeffrey J. Boron said...

Wonderful medicine for the mind and soul Melinda...one can't help but contemplate these things after reading your piece here...you do good medicine girl!!!!

Jeffrey

daviddrawsandpaints said...

Funny ha ha!

That's the last time ah listen tae Arty's advice - ah've jist ruined ma St Valentines celebrations :o{

loriann signori said...

Wow Melinda...I always come to your blog when I need food for thought. It's like a banquet in here. Thanks so much.

Melinda said...

Thank you, Barbara, for your wise words. I love what you have chosen for your medicine bag.

Always important to have a flashlight, too! ;)

Melinda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melinda said...

Hi Jeffrey!
Thank you for visiting and for the encouraging words!

I love your work so much and think of your paintings as very good medicine indeed!

Melinda said...

Hi David (Lord Tatties),
I don't have a suitable rejoinder ;)....hope you recover for Valentine's Day.

Melinda said...

Thank you, Frank, for stopping by. How we approach our lives is pretty much how we approach a canvas, yes? We need a little help finding our way sometimes, but it is ours to fill with those things we find most important.

I think you've mastered the process!

Melinda said...

Hi Loriann,
Thank you for visiting! Hope you'll continue to stop by.

I find your work to be nourishing and important. It feeds my soul. It's good to offer anything useful to such a passionate artist!