Life Springs Forth

by Cari on 03/20/2017

in Wheel of the Year

Flowering Apple_Equinox

The mother pleads
Stay chaste
But chased the girl will be
by the course of her own bright blood
And dark desire
leads her away

A flowery meadow, a walled garden
are but a moment
For soon she is caught
in the net of time
Lured by the offered fruits
apple, pomegranate
the proferred crown, the throne
the forlorn dead

By herself
By all that is holy
She labors
she offers the fruits of her womb
Pleads to cheat the devil
This one time

The stories mix
but the end is the same
She joins the line
Her mother before her
And before her

She returns at springtime
but cannot stay
The dark workings of the body
ebb and flow
and fasten the blood
to the heedless wheel of time

Sweet life springs forth
Rolls around
in the grass, in the hay
New and not new

Fixed on a near star
the seasons come and go
Lift our hearts
Seduce us with every beauty

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Morning Prayer / Evening Prayer_Day Night Detail

Once again, I have visited and emerged brimming with ideas from the Codex Book Fair. This year I braved the concrete floor and many hours on my feet to see my newest creation, Morning Prayer/Evening Prayer, on display at the Vamp and Tramp table. What a pleasure it is for me to be represented at this show! Though my quiet bookwork about the meditative hours of dawn and dusk may be a bit overwhelmed by the cacophony, no matter. It is out in the world now, and will find its way. I promise to write more soon about this new work.

Of course there were many more reasons than this to visit the show. This year, I marked my fair program with the dozen artists and makers I most wanted to see. To do this meant putting on blinders while I passed other tables beckoning with so much creative candy I could hardly stand it. This biannual book arts event in Richmond, California is held in the old Ford Auto Plant in the enormous Craneway Pavilion. The show had 219 tables of handmade books, as well as specialty bookmaking tools, materials, leathers and papers. Each table could easily take an afternoon to absorb. Other years I have gone and let myself wander to see where my meandering takes me, and happy those times have been also.

The miracle was to feel so connected to a relatively few artists amid the chaos and crush of people. For a while I forgot to take pictures, so didn’t capture the enigmatic jungle-rich prints and books of Luz Marina Ruiz at Lapis Lazuli Editions. Thank goodness for websites that allow us to visit again the work we have loved seeing!

The rich shimmery pastepapers of Madeleine Durham captivated me and proved to be the only purchase I made. This painted piece is on a fine sheet of Kozo paper.

Codex_Madeleine Durham Pastepaper

I enjoyed a quick stop at Casey Gardner’s Set in Motion press to visit her immaculate and imaginative work, and was delighted with her enthusiasm.

Shanna Leino‘s handmade tools provoked deep admiration, particularly her tiny bone folders made from old-fashioned lady’s fans. I also had productive research visits to  Hiromi Paper, Washi Arts, and Cave Paper, all makers and purveyors of exceptionally fine papers.

A surprising window of quiet let me have a welcome visit with my dear friend and teacher Suzanne Moore and a visit with her luxuriant books. Her work is a treasure and I never tire of discovering it.

Codex_Suzanne Moore_Emily Dickinson Book

It was Suzanne who first taught me the wonders of translucent paper, and here she has utilized the effect in a most marvelous way, letting us see the poetry on recto and verso pages at the same time, while still maintaining the sequential experience. And her lavish colors just make my eyes happy.

Codex_Suzanne Moore_Lettering

Here is one of her delightful “Q’s” from her series of books on that letter. So much inventiveness from a single letter!

Codex_Suzanne Moore_Q

Her husband Don Glaister is making marvelous creations with aluminum pages, contrasted with the airy feeling of Walt Whitman’s verse on sheer vellum.

Codex_Don Glaister

Finally, at the end of the day, when I had such sensory overload I thought I could not absorb one more wonder, I made the altogether fortuitous decision to visit the table of an artist I did not know, Maro Vandorou. A friend, Georgia Angelopolous, did some Greek lettering for this book and told me about it. Once there I drifted through a portal into a very quiet place indeed, an enchantment of photographs, materials and story that was very moving. Persephone’s Chamber is a journey of transfiguation.

Codex_Maro Vandorou_Georgia Angeloupoulos

I have a deep connection to the Persephone story, as I think many of us do: her visit to the underworld, by choice or no, there to become something else, transforming from a girl into the Queen of the Dead, or perhaps simply mist and light. Everything about this book was soft and mysterious and oh so beautiful. After the pictures was this delicate text. The whole experience took my breath away, or rather caused to me let it out in a long, long sigh.

Codex_Maro Vandorou_Persephone

Finally, a visit to Jan Owen‘s table offered not only her intricate calligraphic books, many written on pages of gauzy Hollytex, but a bracing statement of one of our most important founding documents, the First Amendment.

Codex_Jan Owen_First Amendment

So many of the works I saw made use of translucent papers. These diaphanous pages let the light shine through, seeming insubstantial and yet strong, allowing deeper layers to be seen and to emerge slowly. To me this is the delight and the duty of art, to let us see the in-between spaces where nothing is quite what we thought it was, allowing discoveries about ourselves and other people. We are living in such black and white times that the ability to see nuances and layers is sweet, and rare.

Though the show was full of the physical exchange of objects, the deeper transactions were the opportunities to see one another and our creative work. Most artists work alone, and every artist I know has played the refrain “I’m not a real book artist” (or ______ fill in the blank). Sales might help this self-doubt, but most artists will tell you our deepest happiness comes when someone really “sees” our work. It is only by making our art, and then by sharing it with the world, that we can shine our light, and be illuminated in return. It is how we “ordain” each other.

At the end of the day, I was flush with inspiration, enlightened and grateful by the outpouring of beauty in that great room full of artists.

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Come in, Bride!

by Cari on 02/01/2017

in Wheel of the Year,Writing

Brigid Eve Altar

Brigid Eve

Quickly now.
Sweep the hearth.
Dress the altar
with daffodils and flowering quince
from the wild verges.
Add small things.
A blue pitcher of holy Glastonbury water,
a jar of poppy seeds,
a quill for me, and a crystal inkwell.
Grandmother’s anvil,
and from my daughter
a tiny twin of the Newgrange spiral stone,
portal of dark tomb, ancestral womb.
Lastly, woven by my hands from western wheat,
Her sunwise cross.

Over the thousand miles and years
I keep to the old housewifery.
Light the candles.
Tie the muslin strip to the sacred tree.
My worktable is still,
and the teakettle is on.
For tonight She comes
to bless me,
and I have made ready.

Come in, Bride!
You are a thousand times welcome!

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Holy Water at Brigidtide

by Cari on 01/30/2017

in Writing

Creek Goddess

She Rises

I have news for you:
The creek swells, ducks dive, the dry time has gone.
Trees tremble in winter storms, deep green the land;
Shadows long, sweet the sun, warmth wanted.
The hawk sings in a sapphire sky.
On the ground, souls quicken, breathe clouds.
This is my news.

As we move into the early spring and toward Brigidtide, poetry again enchants me. This was written after the evocative ninth century Irish poem, which you can read here. The photo was taken on a chilly late afternoon walk after much rain. With the goddess Brigid on my mind, she seemed to appear in my image, her breasts, her belly, in the holy water. Yes, she rises.

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Blessing the Year Old and New

by Cari on 01/06/2017

in Writing

Blessing of the Hands

A Blessing of Hands

I warm my hands at the fire of my soul.
My hands that broke my fall last spring.
My hands that grasped the walker, clasped the brace,
all summer, all autumn.
My hands that wrote and rested.

Other hands cut me and healed me.
Other hands held me and fed me.
All hands reached out, to and from me.
Some hands gave, some hands took.

May my heart live in love at the hearth of my home.
May my spirit be kindled at the forge of my art.
May my words be steady and true
as my hand makes, as my voice speaks.

Deep in this winter night
my cold hands stir and sift my soul,
a trace of faint inklings
to flourish and nourish me in all the hours
of this new year.

- Cari Ferraro

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Longest Night Card Altar

When the longest night of year is here
Our friends and family gather near
To light a candle against the night
And warm our spirits in the wonder of light

The longest night of the northern year arrives tonight, and for a few moments, the world stills.

Since writing the verse illustrated in this card, the first I ever created for Yule, I have made a more serious study of embracing the shadow, polishing my skill with endarkenment. Since I was young I practiced this in the night, forgoing a light that I might find my way by my other senses. It is a way of playacting at blindness – what would it feel like to not see?

And yet, and yet . . . our need for light is primal and ancient. We may learn to be comfortable in the fertile dark, but it is in our nature to resist it by bringing light. At my age, I no longer walk in a dark house. It is safer for me to see my path. This year, many of us collectively feel a dangerous darkness drawing near; we will need all of our skills.

Tonight though, I will rejoice in the simple magic of sitting in a darkened circle with my dear ones. In this quiet dark we will light a sun candle, and then another for the Mother, and then my grown children will run! through the house and turn on every light! It is our oldest ritual, and one they still love. And thus will I warm my bewildered spirit.

Blessed Yule to all, as the holy Wheel turns again!

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Cal Revels_Dragons

Once again, I have gone to the Revels well, and been filled with light, song, myth and magic. As always, the show was pure enchantment, offering the singing and storytelling that are deep in the bedrock of Wales, this year’s honored culture.

The days are dark indeed this year, leading up to Yule and the turning of the great wheel of time. So it matters all the more to foster any little flames of personal happiness I can find. To be in a theater full of people, singing, is balm for the disarrayed soul. A simple thing, really, to just sing, and be with family and friends. And a chorus line of dragons is a supremely silly antidote to existential despair.

Cal Revels_Dragon Chorus Line

J. R. R. Tolkien, a writer who borrowed liberally from Welsh language and myth, wrote,  ”. . . the Pot of Soup, the Cauldron of Story, has always been boiling, and to it have continually been added new bits, dainty and undainty.” Revels stirs that cauldron and offers the new bits, retelling the old stories and making them fresh. Especially compelling for me was the old tale of the bard Taliesen’s birth by the goddess/witch Cerridwen, taken from the earliest prose literature of Britain, the Mabinogion.

Cal Revels_Cerridwen Cauldron

Cerridwen is known for her cauldron of wisdom, which she creates to help her unfortunate son. When the servant boy Gwion splashes a few drops of the magical “awen” on his skin, he suddenly knows all the wisdom of the world. Cerridwen pursues him, as they both sequentially shapeshift into animals, until finally, when the boy is hiding as a grain of wheat, Cerridwen becomes a hen and swallows him whole. Nine months later she gives birth to Taliesen, who is often thought to be Merlin the magician of Arthurian legend. The puppetry in this story was delightful, and the line of women singing a lullaby, enacting ocean waves with blue gloves, passing the baby Taliesen from one to the other, was downright magical.

Cal Revels_Cerridwen Chicken Grain

The fearsome Mari Lwyd ghost horse is a strange and terrifying presence in Welsh lore. This is an old custom, the strangeness of it pointing to pre-Christian origins. The Winter Mare demands, upon knocking at a door, the recitation of poetry.  Her “nightmare” visage, though frightening, brings verse and hilarity as she travels through the streets on the darkest nights of the year, reminding us that despite all the frivolity of the Yule season, it is still the dark time of ghosts and death.

Cal Revels_Mari Lwyd

For more about this uniquely Welsh practice, here is an absorbing account written by Welsh Druid Kristoffer Hughes, which includes some vintage photos and verse showing the antiquity of the tradition.

Cal Revels_Mari Lwyd Fearsome

Other highlights:

Robert Sicular channeling the Welsh bard Dylan Thomas, with lovely lines from A Child’s Christmas in Wales, gave us all a taste of the “close and holy darkness.”

The Welsh spelling bee was hilarious– Welsh is world famous for its long and perplexingly-spelled words – and with a virtuoso performance by James Galileo, whose Welsh seemed to be perfect (but how would we know?).

The song “The Weaver and the Factory Maid”, sung by the women and arranged by Shira Kammen, was accompanied by a weaving dance of the girls.

The well-known lullaby “All Through the Night”, sung by the incomparable soprano Susan Rode Morris, brought tears to more than one eye. And Margaret Davis of Broceliande played her beautiful harp.

Kevin Carr’s spellbinding storytelling was most welcome, for he is a true bard.

And other best-loved Revels touchstones were all here: the Border Morris, an especially fierce and raucous version of the dance,

Cal Revels_Border Morris

and the well-loved Abbots Bromley Horn Dance, always performed in a dim light.

Cal Revels_Horn Dance

And of course, The Lord of the Dance, sung by Fred Goff.

Cal Revels_Lord Of The Dance

There are times when the house lights come up for everyone to sing when my throat catches and my eyes fill with tears. In those moments, I bask in the sound of a thousand voice singing together, and here is the well: the feeling of community and a shared joy. These adapted lyrics by Susan Cooper to the classic Welsh hymn “Hyfrydol (Sing We Now)” – “Sing we now to greet the morning, radiant in the bright sunrise / Sing to turn the year to springtime, as the rule of winter dies / May our world so turn tomorrow, driving fear and want away / Facing t’ward the sun forever, joyful in the long, bright day.” As often happens after visiting the Revels world, this tune has been a welcome guest in my head all week.

Cal Revels_Sing We Now Program

This year there were many stories strung together like lights on a tree, with proper measures of song and dance, hilarity and solemnity. And it was all just right, the alchemy of entertainment and the intimacy of sharing a laugh and a tear with dear ones. We go our separate ways at the end of the show, but for many of us, coming together every year to celebrate is core to our feeling connected to something greater than ourselves in an increasingly turbulent and confusing world.

There are three more performanes this coming weekend, December 16-18. Visit the California Revels website for tickets. You will be glad you did!

 

Photos by Gabriel Hurley, Paul McMillan, and Cari Ferraro

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A Bevy of Yule cards

by Cari on 12/05/2016

in Calligraphy

Yule cards display

A wise friend once suggested that a nice way to fill the well when feeling sidelined was to look at past work. And it’s customary toward the end of the year, and on one’s birthday, our personal year, to “take stock” and look back on the triumphs and trials of the past year. The trials, tedious as they were, are not the subject of this journal. Suffice to say, they kept me from my art studio most of the year and away from that particular strand of my creative life.

It’s gratifying, to say the least, to see the fruits of past labors and to gather some of them together for a family photo. The cards pictured here are a significant harvest of the last three decades. They were popular enough for me to invest in offset printing them, some of them multiple times. They still sell in retail outlets and at Revels shows around the country in December.

This crop of Yule cards is available over at the Prose and Letters storefront, some of them in limited quantities. They are available as singles, or more economically in 6-packs, to mix and match, or in 10-packs of the same design for the best price of all.

I’ve shared in this journal some of my inspirations and art techniques that led to the making of some of these cards, in particular, The Longest Night, The Horn Dance, Yule, Dona Nobis Pacem, The Holly and the Ivy, and Let Union Be, (and again here).

Many of these cards are approaching “limited edition” status. The writing is on the wall, so to speak; the greeting card market is changing. It won’t make sense for me to print these cards in such large quantities anymore. Sales have been slowing down in recent years, though people seem to be buying more prints as gifts. The evergreen favorite, Fra Giovanni’s “Letter to a Friend”, is available here, as well as many others.

Though it’s becoming old-fashioned to send cards in December, Yule cards are still a nice way to greet friends and share a little bit of art and verse.

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Soul Tending

by Cari on 11/13/2016

in Writing

Ring The Bells_Leonard Cohen

This week, I have had few words. I have felt such a deep sense of despair it borders on catatonia. I am tending to my soul, and doing all the right things to begin to heal the shock and disillusionment that have threatened to sink me, and so many of us. My time-tested way to deal with trauma is to seek out words to frame it. In framing it, I think I find a slight remove from the raw feeling. Many writers are following the same course, and many who I follow have offered me succor and sense. So I read, and move, and breathe, and stay in my body, and gather with friends, and write. Here I share a few writers with you who I have found especially helpful for dealing with fear and despair.

A compassionate counselor in an online Hillary group shared this excellent list of tips to help yourself with stress, if you are having trouble with extreme anxiety, if you are surrounded by abusive people, or if you are just still strung out about this election. Please visit the link if you need help. Take care of yourself.

A simpler version of this is here: why staying embodied is so very important, for all of us.

One of the wisest writers I know, Rebecca Solnit, has responded to this national trauma by making her book, Hope in the Darkness, available as a free e-book to download at this link. I have shared excerpts and sent paragraphs to friends when hopelessness overtakes them. It will hearten you, and help you see a way forward.

The powerful Alice Walker writes on the importance of studying and learning, now more than ever.

The wise and wonderful Joanna Macy writes of the Great Turning and the power of grassroots movements, one of the great social revolutions of our time. This offers some ideas to consider now.

I visit hecatedemeter, an eloquent and passionate blogger, when I need an infusion of searing truth and sometimes fiery anger. She never fails me, and just reading this made me feel a little better.

And finally, saying farewell to the bard Leonard Cohen. Brain Pickings is one of my favorite places to visit for wonderful writings about writing and reading. A sanctuary of sorts. The selection of his lyrics and musings about the creative process, including our “laboratory of democracy” is well worth a read.

Good writing is often a lifeline for me, and these writers have helped keep me afloat this week. I share them with you in the hope that it may also be so for you. Go well, stay well, and keep the faith, tribe.

 

p.s. The art above is a piece I made about a year ago; it is paper painted red, gilded and then inscribed with the words through the gold leaf. I regret now that I did not include the attribution, but it is from a Leonard Cohen song called Anthem. Full lyrics here, and many of his other songs. You could begin your study with just reading this brilliant writer’s lyrics.

The birds they sang 
at the break of day 
Start again 
I heard them say 
Don’t dwell on what 
has passed away 
or what is yet to be.Ah the wars they will 
be fought again 
The holy dove 
She will be caught again 
bought and sold 
and bought again 
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs 
the signs were sent: 
the birth betrayed 
the marriage spent 
Yeah the widowhood 
of every government – 
signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more 
with that lawless crowd 
while the killers in high places 
say their prayers out loud. 
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up 
a thundercloud 
and they’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring …

You can add up the parts 
but you won’t have the sum 
You can strike up the march, 
there is no drum 
Every heart, every heart 
to love will come 
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That’s how the light gets in. 
That’s how the light gets in. 
That’s how the light gets in.

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All Hallows Eve

by Cari on 10/31/2016

in Wheel of the Year,Writing

Hallowmas altar

Hallows

Dear ones
Your mute voices clamor in my ear
Thin fingers pluck at my hem
Your dry tears clot my throat
I bear your unquiet loss.

I light the candles
I call the directions
I bring the flowers
I keep the faith, the waste, the plaint
I give the breath, the blood, the bone

It is for me to write
Your untold stories
But the ink runs out
I write words with air.
I carry you and I lay you down

You are dust now
Shades that flicker behind my eyes
This body has its own riddle to solve
Rest you now. Rest.

In the dim light, at the dark moon
I tarry at the crossroads
Wrap my holy heat close
And dance in all the worlds

- Cari Ferraro

Cauldron

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