Salamander art

I said that I wanted to draw every day and that is not happening. I’m not making time for it on a regular basis, and when I do make the time (not enough, but something) I feel that I’m not doing my best. I make up color tests, rather than sketching something that is there. Or I do the praying-in-color thing, where I doodle and pray at the same time. It helps me realize something or get something out. It is something, but not what I wanted. It isn’t my best work. It is something. Currently I’m reassessing my drawing. There is only so much time in the day, and I wonder when I can shoehorn everything in.
Life is about choices. And it is about deciding what you are going to focus on. And it is also about admitting defeat or trudging on.
I’m glad I got over the objection that I wanted unlimited time to do this. I have a clock in my craft room that I look at, and I’ve not run late yet. I’d rather be able to spend as much time as I want, but I’ve learned that if I don’t have a time limit, I tend to not even get started. It makes no sense, but it is that way it is.
Praying or crafting is a little like swimming. I stop being part of time, of the “real” world, and I connect with the endless. I leave the known of the dry land and I enter another world, where the normal rules don’t apply. It is hard to want to come back, and it is hard to make that switch when I must come back because I have to go to work. Sometimes I resent having to go to work, because of the time it takes out of my week. I like my job – I’m grateful to have a job that I can do well, and it has health insurance and a pension. It is hard to be an adult sometimes.
Then I remember the salamander again. It is dual natured. It needs water to survive. It has to be near water. It was born in water, breathing it. It evolves, and then it can breathe air, but never fully is able to leave the water. It can’t breathe water again after a certain point, but it needs to be near water – it needs to feel the water on its skin on a regular basis or it will shrivel up and die.
I’ve heard that the Torah is the same as water. The Word of God is water. Jesus tells us that he is living water.
Funny how I got that salamander tattoo a long time ago, and it is my touchstone now. It is pulling me back to myself.
It is a reminder of then, and a reminder of a promise, and it is a way-marker and a milestone. It shows then and future at the same time. Like all good messengers from God, it has many layers of meaning, and it is always true. I just can’t interpret it all yet. But it helps. It helps me remember, and pull myself back in.
Funny how this tattoo, this symbol of a salamander, refers to opposites – to fire and to water. Funny how it is a tiny creature, yet has such a mythology around it.
I’m learning how to be creative and have a full-time job at the same time. I’m learning how to be the salamander – to be in and with and near and part of art and work, at the same time. I’m learning to not separate the parts of who I am into pieces, but integrate them into a whole.

(updated 1-18-18)

Getting hit by lightning. Or not.

While walking to my car on the way to work this morning, I noticed that the sky was very dark and heavy with storm clouds. The air was sticky with humidity. I had the distinct impression that a storm could happen at any moment, and that there could be lightning. Just ahead to my right, about four feet away I looked at the driveway. I had an impression that there was a lot of energy there, like lightning could strike. It felt then as if there was a strike, right there, too close for comfort.

This is hard to explain. It is as if I saw a lightning strike with my mind’s eye. I didn’t see the lightning, either real or imagined. I felt that it was simply there, beyond my normal perception.

What would I do if there was a lightning strike that close to me? Probably freak out. I seem to remember that you are supposed to drop to the ground but don’t drop flat. Just crouch down, so you aren’t tall anymore. Lightning looks for tall things. Lightning tries to bridge the gap and make a connection.

I stopped for a moment. Was I predicting a hit? Nothing happened. I kept going and went on to my car.

I was reminded at the time of the tale of Balaam’s donkey. It tried to warn him of danger ahead.

I’m reminded now of the tale of Moses and the burning bush.

A lot of crazy-sounding things happened in the Bible, to otherwise everyday people. But somehow we downplay such experiences today if a person says they are having a similar experience. We tend to think that the person is making it up, or needs to be locked up.

A little later on at work, I had the distinct impression that there was a man sitting in the chair just ahead of the area where I was working. It was approximately the same position from me when I was at home and I felt the lightning strike.

Weird. Is it a ghost? TheHoly Spirit? Again, I paused. Anybody there? What would I do if it was a manifestation of God, a messenger? Not a lot of training around for that.

Yet we are of a faith that tells us that God is seeking us. That God wants to connect with us.

God is that lightning bolt, wanting to make that connection.

In the Old Testament, people usually threw themselves down to the ground when a messenger from God appeared before them. Whether in fear or in humility, who knows? But whatever the reason, they made themselves smaller. Perhaps they didn’t want to be hit.

But I’m standing. I’m standing before God, saying here I am. Use me. Send me. I don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing, but I know that you are in control. It doesn’t make sense. But here I am.

I remember that every time I’ve needed a tool, a supply, it has been when I was unprepared. I was a good Girl Scout. I’ve got a first aid kit. I have phone numbers of community services. But every time that something big has happened, I happen to not have my kit or my phone.

So every time I pray, and God provides what is needed.

Perhaps that is what God is reminding me of.

I’m debating taking some classes. I’m thinking some classes about how to perform life-event ceremonies would be helpful. You know, weddings, funerals, the like. People need ceremonies and rituals to mark changes, to say “this has happened”. It is like how the Israelites were forever putting stones on top of each other in the desert to indicate that something amazing happened there. They’d mark that spot so when they came back to it they would remember. Ceremonies are like that, but for time. They mark not a place, but a transition from one time to another. Marriage, birth, graduation, a death – we have ceremonies for these things. I’ve looked online and the classes are long and expensive. It might not work out with my work schedule.

Maybe God is saying stop worrying about this. You don’t need a certificate to do this. Remember every time you needed to have something with you, it wasn’t there? Relax, and pray. Just like with the disciples, the Holy Spirit will give you the words.

But maybe God is telling me something like Noah. Build an ark. Get prepared.

So now I’m waiting for the third instance. I’m waiting for another sign. When I have them all together I’ll have enough data to go on. Maybe. That is what I’m telling myself. Sometimes the path for following God isn’t clear. It is like stepping from one pool of light, to one small stone, to another pool of light that just appeared right then when you stepped on that stone. Sometimes you just stand there and no light appears, and you just go forward anyway.

Meanwhile, this all sounds crazy. But I don’t feel crazy, and both times I was I knew it. And I get solace from the fact that there are a lot of crazy-sounding stories in the Bible.

Just look at Elijah and Isaiah and Daniel and Jonah. Look at Abraham and Jacob. Crazy stories. You’d have to be crazy to think that God is talking to you, right? Yet we have a book that is full of these stories. We have a faith built on these stories.

You’d have to be crazy to think that God isn’t talking to you.

On salamanders – part one. (The heat is on.)

I have a tattoo of a salamander on my right shoulder. I got it probably five years ago. It is specifically a Yonahlassee salamander. They only are found on Grandfather Mountain, which is in North Carolina. There are bluets surrounding it, and they grow on Grandfather Mountain in May. That is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and when we got married. It is a reminder, and a promise. It is a marker of the past and of the future. But there is even more to it.

I’ve loved the idea of salamander for many years. I was in a medieval re-enactment group and used the salamander as the animal on my device. I guess you could say it is my totem. The salamander may not look scary or fierce, but there are hidden strengths to it. The salamander was a medieval Christian symbol of “strength through adversity” because they thought it walked through fire. They would notice that salamanders would come out of a forest that was on fire, and they would often come out very late after the fire started. They wouldn’t come running out at the beginning of the fire like the rest of the animals did. They also would notice salamanders coming out of a log that had been set on fire in a fireplace, so they also thought that salamanders were born from fire.

Now, science wasn’t a strong suit for medieval Christians. In reality, salamanders sleep a lot of time in rotting logs. They love the moisture and the quiet, and how safe they are. They use the logs to hide from enemies because they can’t be seen in there. So when there is a forest fire, they are often the last to know. They are curled up all snug in that log and they get warm when the fire is going full force. They escape the fire late because they are aware of it late. They can’t exactly run because they have really short legs. I’m sure that a lot of salamanders die trying to escape the forest fire. But, they do have really moist skin so they have a small level of protection from heat.

But the symbolism remains.

I like the idea of them because they are very small but they survive. They make it through the storm. They endure. In the midst of something bad, they don’t run away. I’m reminded of the Hindu image of God called Ganesh. Ganesh has the attributes of an elephant. Instead of walking around obstacles, he walks through them.

Somewhere in the middle of last night I was up again because I was too hot. Middle age will do that to you if you are female. The heat wakes me up. I’ve learned to just get up for a little bit and cool down. These days I write during this time. It is a quiet enough activity that doesn’t wake my husband up or get me so engaged that I can’t go back to sleep. Plus, writing helps get the words out of my head.

In the middle of writing last night I realized that the salamander is a good symbol for this time too. It walks through fire. This fire of perimenopause is pretty annoying, but instead of seeing it as a bad thing, I can use it as a chance to transform myself. I can see it as a sign that I am changing, and becoming a wise woman. This time is a time of growth, of shedding my old self and growing into my new self. Or maybe I need to think of it as the self that was always there, just hidden beneath layers of stuff that was put on me. It is an opportunity to strip down and make a leaner, faster, better me.

I’m thinking of it as if I was going on a journey, and I keep finding out that the more I carry, the shorter the distance I can go. The more I get rid of, the faster I am. The stuff to get rid of isn’t just stuff – it is ideas and old ways of thinking. It is relationships that aren’t healthy. It is anything that doesn’t serve, isn’t useful, and doesn’t work anymore.

In fact, some bits never worked in the first place. Some of it is stuff that was given to me – either real, tangible things, or instead they are ways of thinking – that never worked at all but I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know that there were other choices, and that the person giving them to me wasn’t healthy or healing for me. Not all people who say they are teachers or leaders really are. And everything should be tested. Is it true? Is it helpful? Does it work? Does it fit with other things that I know to be true and helpful?

Sometimes the best teacher is to be found in that still small voice, that quiet moment when you have that “ah-ha!” in the middle of the storm, where it all comes together and makes sense.

I’m becoming grateful for the fire inside, the heat that I’m feeling these days. It is waking me up.