For several years before I started Shift, I had been working with the image of water in relation to my own spiritual growth. Water kept recurring as a aural or visual symbol in my times of prayer and meditation – sometimes flowing freely, sometimes slowed to a trickle or clogged by debris. Ocean water has been a powerful spiritual home in my life since earliest childhood…and wells, pools, fountains, streams and rivers have been a common thread running through my travels.
When this series of six images came to me, surprisingly water only appeared in the fifth image and although it appeared as a fountain, the name associated with it — in that way that you see something in a dream and know its name — was Chalice Well. I had seen the stream that flows from the Well in 1991 when we were in Glastonbury for the first time, and it was an experience of joy and delight. The stream flowed down the side of the Tor and it was filled with crystals and other small objects that people had brought to be blessed. There were little candles and shrines set up everywhere in chaotic abundance. I took a bottle of the water home with me from that time and it is still crystal clear. I have used a drop or two in every baptism I have done since then.
I visited the Well again in 2011. It was a completely different experience. During the intervening years, the natural stream had been channeled through a beautifully designed seven-step flow form which empties into the Vesica pool. It is a place of peace and beauty and healing, but I miss the human connection, the uncontrolled and messy desire for blessing in a place of enormous power and mystery.
The flow form which now carried the stream became the central section of the lexicon — not a fountain, exactly, but more of a waterfall. The other symbols emerged from that first vision of this piece: the triple flame and the cross of St Bride (Brigid), the dowsing rod (and the runes for hazel and ash which are traditional trees from which dowsing rods come and, interestingly, are mirror images of each other), and the three aspects of the moon which represent the life cycle of maiden-mother-crone. There were also trees, but not the yews with which the Chalice Well is associated. Instead, I kept seeing birch trees. Only much later did I learn that birch are associated with renewal since birch are among the first trees to grow in fire-scarred landscapes.
I would have thought with all those symbols as clear as they were, that the piece would come together easily. But I sewed and sewed and sewed some more and still had five sections (one central piece and four smaller pieces) that wouldn’t settle into place. The triple flames were a particular problem because they cross a seam line and I couldn’t sew them onto the background until I had the central area affixed, but…
…but I had a problem. The four sections are not interchangeable: the two to the right (the cross and the dowsing rod) are wider than those on the left. When I sewed the cross and dowsing rod together and then sewed them to the canvas backing and then set the well section onto the canvas to their left, it looked wrong. So I carefully picked it apart, sewed the dowsing rod and cross to the left side where they still didn’t look like they belonged. So, I reversed them (with the cross to the bottom and the dowsing rod above it), reattached the well, put the moons and the backing for the triple flame in place on the right…and realized it still looked wrong.
In despair, I took it all apart a second time. There was no other option since I knew the moons needed to go above the flames. So, I resewed it in the original configuration. This time, it seemed content. I hesitated for almost three weeks, waiting to be sure this was what it wanted to be before I dared to take the three flame shapes and begin the laborious process of satin-stitching them in place. With the last stitch, there was that (by now) familiar whirr-click.
But I had no clue what its name was. Unlike Journey and Matrix and Shift, I didn’t even have a working name – just silence. I had to leave it for a period of time while I drove east to see our daughter in St Paul. Between North Platte and Grand Island, I paused to see a small group of sandhill cranes — a miraculous treat since I had missed the migration time. As I stood outside the car marveling, the name slipped quietly into my mind: (Receive) Emerge. Perhaps the silence was the space I needed to accept that the name was two words rather than just one.
I returned to Colorado and made the name panel for the back of the piece and set about preparing to make the sixth piece, but that image – still evocative and “ready” will not accept my fingers yet. And so I wait. It will invite me to start cutting and sewing when it is time.
[Click on the image to enlarge it.]
I think the fifth chapter brought me through the transition from one way of being to another. As I interpret the story at this point it involves a shift to a new center, and a release into a new process (journey), so that what I have received in abundance can flow out into the world. Now I rest here. Other images continue to come and seem willing to be created, but not that final one of the series that tells the story of my transition. And so, I pause. I know it will come when it is right. I have learned something.