Some years ago I became aware of a recurring dream image. That is, of the cardinal points and my endless pilgrimage in a northerly direction. Something was endlessly drawing me toward a north not found in a geographic atlas but whose co-ordinates marked a visionary topography. It is part of my personal myth, which has followed a trajectory along this longitude throughout my life. It’s a physical migration as well as soul quest.
Cowlitz shaman Grandfather Roy Wilson took me to a mountain top with instructions to call forth the energies, qualities and color of each direction. He made a medicine wheel of stones and sat me down for 4 days with no food. Finally, after 3 days the high cirrus clouds disclosed wonderful visions. The same, old cirrus fly over me still.
Sailing has taught me the lethal consequences of losing one’s bearings. From the ever shifting vantage point of Old Hand’s wheelhouse I’ve descried hidden shoals and sailed congested highways in dreams. And such lessons are so burned into us they become part of our psychic makeup.
They are the epic sagas of exodus, the collective dream of humanity.
Odysseus, on his epic homeward voyage, followed Athena’s way points to the Southern Gate and an Ithacan homeland that was fated to shelter his tomb. Through this portal pass those who’ve gone beyond the individual destinies the fates have woven them, and are no longer subject to the pains of mortal existence. Through it pass the Bodhisattva’s who, moved by compassion, re-enter samsara in order to relieve the suffering of others. It opens both ways.
In many traditional societies, it is through the south facing door the dead are carried to their final resting place.
I reworked the Southern Gate many times. If my endless northward travel is a flight from mortality, the continued attempts at the Southern Gate may be a compensatory preparation for the inevitable denouement to come.
On a new canvas I again reversed the color of the original painting. This transformed the vibrant yellow of the original into a cool violet arboreal scene. I’ve yet to decide whether this reversal makes the theme of this new painting the Northern Gate.
And now the fountain blazes, a cauldron of fire.
Dust to dust! But the pure spirit shall flow
Back to the burning fountain whence it came,
A portion of the Eternal, which must glow
Through time and change, unquenchably the same..
The fire has spread to the tomb itself. Is this a sign the painting is flaming out of control?
While working on this painting my mind returned repeatedly to the burnt Sufi shrines in Libya that were given brief mention in the news. This painting has now become a heartfelt elegy for the holy tombs where the faithful followed secret way points through time and space to drink from the living fountain of departed masters.