marlene mountain
painting series 12
'in circles toward healing: visions downtimes affirmations journeys'
exhibition statement and titles


in circles toward healing: visions, down times, affirmations, journeys

Titles: Cindy's Magic, Weeding Pain & Fear, Moon Fill, Beneath the Sacred Grove,
The Blues Pass Through, Haunted, Sleepless & Then Some, Comic Relief, Backyard,
A Big Hug, Entering the Moon, From the Rock, We Call to Her, Our Dance,
Teraphim, Shelter.

'just a little after hello he says i've got something'* Whatever it is, it hurts like fire.
3000 dollars worth of tests say a lesion on the myelin sheath of my spinal cord.
MS suspect. (Takes 2 lesions to name it completely.) More pain, excruciating. Hands,
arms, band around chest. Weakness, can't drive, wash my hair, paint, nor hold things very
well. Bad feeling in my legs. Oh no. Confusion. Fear. Dread.

One evening a friend visits. She is a midwife and I ask her about meditation. She sits
on the bed, puts her hand on my forehead, says a soothing word or two. Instantly my
mind expands and there is a strange sensation I am outside of myself. Something magical is happening, something handed down from the old days of our Sisters, the Witches/Healers.

She asks me to visualize the demon (it is an ugly glob, a 'big eater' I am later to understand),
to roll the pain into a ball (which becomes so large and heavy I'm unable to lift it from
my chest, but can flick away parts of it), and to find a safe place (several appear but are
not right). By now I am laughing, crying, talking, cursing. Eventually the safe place
becomes the lower part of a tree. Floating near me, its roots are exposed and the
dangling root hairs attach to my arms. It appears they are trying to draw out the pain.
Get out mean-shit stuff, I call out over and over, get out, go away!

The vision fades and I am still miserable. Something however is different. The release of
anger, the mourning of loss, the naming of evil, have left empty spaces into which can
come positive forces. A turning point. The tree, though, what does it mean, where does it
come from? She points to my last painting, from a series of women's ancient symbols, a
tree. A stylized design from old Canaan of the sacred tree: the body of the Goddess.
(Later I am to realize I had been afraid of hurting the tree, of having my pain go
into it--how little did I understand.) The night is long and harsh. Morning I awake
and the excruciating pain is gone. Gone! Did the tree take it? You know it did. The pain that
is left is bearable. Not welcome, but bearable.

One afternoon I am able to relax deeply (to sink into the bed) and there is another vision.
For some reason I want to be in my tiny garden. I try and try but I can't get there. I quit
trying and suddenly I am there. That is, my legs which have been hurting are there, lying
among the weeds and with weeds growing out of them. With invisible hands I begin to
weed the garden, and oddly enough, my legs. As each weed comes out, so does some of the
pain, some of the fear. I weed for a long time.

It is another bad day. I see myself lying in bed, full of bad stuff. I want it out. There is a
cork in the small of my back. I pull it out and the bad stuff begins to drain. A hose attached
to a tiny moon appears on my belly. The moon is full of good stuff (and is drawing it from
a moon symbol in one of my paintings). The hose inserts itself into my navel and fills me
with good stuff. I am better.

Some say MS doesn't hurt, others say it does. My legs (though the lesion is near my neck)
have pain. I see inside them. There is a cardboard strip in each. Slowly one of the strips
begins to roll into a tube. As it rolls, it catches up pain inside it. In another vision I see
my back, then a wooden table and on it a tiny paper mint cup. A spoon appears. Somehow it
scoops bad gunk from my spine and fills the cup. Another cup appears, and fills.
Another, another, another.

By now much of my strength, coordination is back. A painter friend suggests I paint
the visions. Those weird things? Impossible, I say. Yet, almost as if to insist, the tree
reappears--it is whole this time. Then it reproduces itself into many trees. They transform
into a clump, a grove, and look similar to one I painted over 20 years ago. Again, hairs
hang down and are like pea vine tendrils. They begin attaching to my body. I am not
afraid of hurting the trees. My mind puts the hairs into places that hurt, 2 or 3 in some
places. Even in places that just itch. I talk, OK now I am going to sleep, if I move or turn
over the hairs will stay in place. I will feel better when I awake. Much of the pain and
fear goes through the roots, into the trunk, and out through the leaves--recycled.

Sometimes the blues get to me. In one painting I am underground--in fact, down deep in a
groundhog den--under my house/mountain (a symbol in previous paintings). There
I stay for several days and wait out the mood. One day my room seems to fill with
floating wheel chairs and I am surrounded. Scared. Haunted. Sketch the image, design it,
paint it. Name the fear. I am less scared.

I look at my paintings. In most I am lying down. What is this? I can walk, can't I? I get
myself up, embrace the moon, She puts out Her arms and gives me a big hug. I begin
a series of journeys, drawn into the past, back to women's ancient symbols. (The
previous series had been resumed and was finished, or so I had thought.) Now I am
literally with the 'symbols,' beside them, talking with them, listening to them. I come
upon the Temple of Astarte; sit at the feet of Goddesses in the Sahara; stand at the altar
of Mother Goddess in Crete and call to Her along with one of Her priestesses;
dance and sing with other women of the world.

Back home I find Goddesses have taken up residence to watch over me. One night I am
sitting on the porch, Nut, the Egyptian sky Goddess surrounding, protecting. I become
aware that the journeys into the past have given me courage for the present, for the f
uture. Meh-urt, a very ancient cow/sky Goddess wanders in to visit. Around her neck is
the Menat, a symbol of strength, sexual pleasure, and physical well-being.

* from a one-line haiku sequence ('too much pain they keep saying') written in the
hospital during tests and ensuing weeks.

april 7 1985

painting series twelve
in circles toward healing: visions downtimes affirmations journeys
 july 22-october 21 1983 (16 paintings, acrylic on panel, 24 x 24")

1) cindy's magic
2) weeding pain & fear
3) moon fill
4) beneath the sacred grove
5) the blues pass through
6) haunted
7) sleepless & then some
8) comic relief
9) backyard [& mm]
10) a big hug
11) entering the moon
12) from the rock
13) we call to her
14) our dance
15) teraphim
16) shelter

Included in an interview ('Internal Mythmaking') in 'Katuah' ('Bioregional Journal of
the Southern Appalachians') Issue 10 1985-86 Cullowhee NC.

The Great Goddess Art Gallery 1984; Nominator, Valle Crucis NC 1985;
group showings:
6 of the paintings at the NMSS, NYC 1985/86; 4 of the paintings at the IBM
Gallery of Science and Art, NYC 1989 and on a year's tour.

Sections of the painting statement which relate to paintings:
Paragraph 2: Cindy's Magic. Paragraph 4: Weeding Pain & Fear. Paragraph 5: Moon Fill.
Paragraph 7: Beneath the Sacred Grove. Paragraph 8: 1st part: The Blues Pass Through;
2nd part: Haunted. Paragraph 9: 1st part: A Big Hug; last sentence: Entering the Moon,
From the Rock, We Call to Her, Our Dance. Paragraph 10: 1st sentence: Teraphim;
remainder: Shelter.
[4] in 'Woman of Power' #5 Winter 1987, Healing Issue. Our Dance published in
'Inside MS' 3:4 Fall 1985; Quarterly publication of NMSS, NYC
My diagnosis in March 1983 'MS suspect' or probable. At the very least I have a
lesion (on the spinal cord at my neck). I tell Mother Universe I have plenty and I'm
not getting any more, in fact, I'm getting rid of what I have.


'ps 12 exhibition photographs contents'
'handwritten statement'  'pain questionnaire'
'painting series since '79 contents'
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