How do we transform our creative visions into artistic expressions? How does the intellect imagine form, and then breathe life into it, animating it, imbuing it with spirit? What magic ingredient gives one story the deep resonance of soul, while another lies limply on the page?
To embody is to make manifest, to bring forth - whether on the page, on the stage, on the screen, in clay, or marble, or paper, with raw earth or molten glass, whether tempering steel or spinning gold. In the classic Grimm's fairytale Rumpelstiltskin, it was the magic words of an old song that turned the spinning-wheel and spun gold out of straw. In Romeo and Juliet, metaphor was the magic Shakespeare used to first manifest Juliet on the page.
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
In this 1870 oil painting, Ford Madox Brown vibrantly depicts Romeo and Juliet in the famous balcony scene. In living color, we see Romeo's lips reaching to kiss Juliet's neck, we see her arm embrace him, we see the fluid movement of her night shawl, the whiteness of her bosom. These star-crossed lovers become more than figments of our imagination. Our eyes behold them. Shakespeare's vision is made manifest through the tactile imagery of the physical world.
bronze funeral urn sculpted by artist Roxanne Swentzell, embodies both the physical and the spiritual. The figurine embraces the ashen remains of the body of a loved one, at the same time symbolically clinging to that which cannot be contained - the spirit. When my mother died in my arms a few years ago, I clung to the vessel that had housed her spirit and felt her slip away - not her body, which had been slowly withering away for months, but her spirit.
"What man experiences most fully emotionally," wrote Wyoming poet laureate Peggy Simson Curry, "knows intuitively but cannot explain away intellectually, is embodied in the world of symbolism."
Emotions. Intuition. Symbolism. The mysterious workings of an artistic mind determined to make meaning from life experience.
Twenty-four hours before my mother's death, John Gritts and I were in New York City for the American Indian College Fund's Flame of Hope Gala, where Iraqi POW Jessica Lynch and the family of Lori Piestewa were guests of honor, along with four of the remaining Navajo Code Talkers from WWII. Lori, of the Hopi Tribe, was the first Native American woman to die in combat for the United States Military. John and I spent the day at Central Park with Lori's mother and father, who were now raising her two children Brandon and Carla. Little Carla grew tired of walking, so I lifted her up and as I wrapped my arms around her, I thought of Lori, no longer alive to hold her child.
The next day, back in Colorado, I held my own frail mother in my arms and thought of Carla and Lori, and of the circular love between mother and child. I felt Lori's spirit reaching out to my mother and felt the invisible union of mind, body and spirit. Someday, I thought, I will write a story about this, and then it will all make sense.
May the Spirit of Creativity bless you in the New Year, and may the artistic visions that you bring forth help reveal at least an inkling of the Great Mystery. I wish for you all things bright and beautiful.
NOTE: "It is said that Picasso could paint a yellow spot and turn it into the sun. Our lives are worthy of such transformation...." From "Writing Life" by Page Lambert (published by the Peaks, Plateaus & Canyons Association in Sojourns: Journal. Memory. Land.) Contact Page to receive a complimentary PDF of the rest of the article.