Nov. 16, 2012
My first blog post – a milestone in my path towards emerging fully into form. I started out looking for a job, and found myself looking at my life …
The following is inspired by a cover letter to www.getstoried.com written November 6, 2012 throwing my hat officially into the ring for a coveted spot at the Tribal Council… I await a call from the command center to see if I make into the next round for an hour-long Skype interview. Beam me up!
Technology now wizards us away into virtual worlds of creative innovators – brilliant geniuses at the tip of our fingers – this little keyboard and black glass transport me into realms of artistry I never dreamed of.
I’ve been transmigrated into lokas of Avatars and Tweets that is more fascinating than the turn of the century fables I’ve immersed myself in since the age of three. The bright images of Princess Irene and Curdie in the goblin caves opened this passage way that has led to this little barn in the backyard of a little ranchette in the little burg of Woodland Hills, Southern California. Low Impact LA I call it. I trundle out the back deck, stepping among the tribe of four wriggling dogs and three cats who observe me coolly. Nestled in between the kumquat tree and the Banana fern, this barn is my hideaway for writing – I walk in, turn on the computer and in beams the wide world accompanied over the internet by mellifluous music written by a secret love from the sacred oaks who cascades his soothing sounds into my soul while I embark on smithing this lyrics to my life.
So here it is – as told to Get Storied as a challenge to narrate where I am, what I dream of doing, and why I want a seat at the table as a myth maker.
What makes me tick?
At heart I am a storyteller. Always have been. Born in Memphis and raised in the original Storyville – New Orleans – I grew up on reclaimed swampland. As a little spitfire, I spent my time at the feet of the old folks and mingling with artists and intellectuals in the French Quarter, absorbing countless well-woven tales.
As one of five kids it was hard to get attention, so I kept close to Lucille, our maid, who cooked up the best red beans and rice evah! In the safety of the 50’s, she sent me off on my tricycle with three braids in my strawberry blonde hair, bacon and a biscuit wrapped in a kerchief to daydream in the woods. Or to visit Miss Dee, Mr. Gus or Miss Betty to hear the latest. I remember carrying on endless “Kick the Can” forays or Swing the Statue in the sprinklers, heaving alongside the sweaty band of neighborhood kids until the streetlights came on and natty mosquitos swarmed. At dusk we’d run in billowing poisonous clouds of pesticides trailing off the sprayer trucks. Enchanted by the greenish fog, we skipped hopped and jumped gleefully in the tarred streets, heedless of the toxicity.
Our overgrown back yard, kept at bay from the woods by a chain link fence was home to an array of wild life. Kinky, the exotic kinkajou (South American honey bear), joined Racky the raccoon saved from the oil pipelines. The marauders would piss off the neighbors and my mom, hiding in dryers, stuffing rags in the kitchen sink, and riding on my neck holding onto my pigtails as I rode speedily down the block on my trike. Turtles, rabbits and various snakes and birds rounded out the menagerie, as if 5 kids wasn’t enough. We were at the edge of the new housing development, up against the undeveloped pungent piney forest. Reminds me of the wildness left for the garden devis in Findhorn and other places in the old country. My father was a builder in those days so we always had a playhouse made of left over materials that got added on to as the surplus arrived from the jobsites and our imaginations changed as we grew.
The woods contained a boggy pond, out behind the new Presbyterian Church my dad built up on Read Boulevard and the Chef Mentour Highway. It was a ways from my territory way back in the dark of the woods.
Warned to stay away from the water, I recall pushing through the legs of adults long enough to glimpse a drowned black boy laying at the reedy edge of the foreboding swamp pit … deep darkness enveloped the scene, with flashing lights, and silhouettes of firemen, marshals and distraught grownups hovering, gnashing their teeth and wringing their hands. Like a strobe, the swirling blasts of white-hot light stilled the images in filmic sequences. My vulnerable senses grasped to make sense of it – clashing sounds of wailing, moaning, sirens, feet shuckling in cloying mud, cicadas and frogs signaling disturbance. Fireflys buzzing in and out. Car swooshed by in the distance and headlights streaked through the layered outlines of black trees along the shell-sided highway – the drivers oblivious to the unfolding drama. Being pushed back and away but relentlessly sucked in by insatiable curiosity. I felt transported into the wood-cut images of my story books inherited from my mother’s Canadian childhood. I could smell the mud, see the clothes dipping off the boy, who instead of shivering in the moistness and fecundity of the Louisiana night – was still. Eerily still, wet and sleek like a nutria’s glistening fur – a caricature of life, with something gone out of it but still loitering, tendrils of spirit cloud laces still clinging to his beautiful perfect face. I knew in my body this was an imprint carved into memories that I would carry forever. It tweer de soun ah day boogah mahn cryin de treez dat steel hauunts mah sool.
Summers were spent with ancient Aunt Bessie on Lake Onondaga in the old trees and softened foothills of New York State. On that lake, I learned to respect deep water and the ancestors, moving among the cabins nabbing homemade cookies, listening to stories and studying sepia toned photos of Rough Riders and the like.
When in the olive drab city house in Syracuse, Aunt Bessie hosted elaborate meals with full table settings where my 3 brothers (Andy, Dickie and Bruce) – and older sister Deborah Rose – learned old-fashioned table manners. Glistening glasses, heavy cut crystal, real silver that felt heavy in our little hands, and the good china where all laid out on ironed table clothes with napkins on the red mahogany dining table in the front room. No effort was spared, and no infraction tolerated. My personal favorite was my own little salt dish and spoon, which I handled with an elaborate flair.
A Unitarian, Aunt Bessie was our ‘adopted’ aunt who had befriended my mom’s mom, Hazel Bracken Spafford, who had my mother late in life and my mom became the only child of three couples. Mom, Norma Bracken Spafford, was teased by her Canadian cousins with the taunt, “Norma Bracken from Syracuse chews tobaccah and spits out the juice.” A lonely child of strict parents (my grandfather Harold Spafford was a chiropractor and painter among other things. He had the most beautiful skin and a shiny bald head. When asked how he kept his skin so nice, he’d smile and lean down and say – Why, I eat a raw potato every due,” in his Canadian accent), my mom told me she would go down into the damp basement, where she kept a frog that she would put in her pinafore pocket. When her mom finally discovered her secret, she scolded – that old toad will give you warts when he pees on you?”
An endearing brunette with a creamy white complexion, my mom was voted Most Beautiful in high school. Hazel died when Norma was 15 and the evil step mother archetype ensued. More about that I’m sure as this story unfolds … I did not realize until I did a portrait of myself, my mother, her mother, Hazel, her mother’s mother (my great great grandmotherAnn Berry Bracken), and my great great great grandmother, Mary Maloney Bracken – that I had missed out on having a relationship with a grandmother. My communication to Hazel was through this one hand colored photograph my mother kept on her dresser. Her pure white coifed hair, sweet smile and string of pearls conversed with me when I go exploring in my mom’s drawers. When I figure out how to attach images, I’ll add a photo of the pencil drawing that hangs in my family room.
In my primordial phase, I lived the quintessential life of the starving artist. I walked the streets of Soho and Greenwich Village, smelling, tasting, reflecting. Hung out with Avant Garde artists Peter Dean and Dennis Oppenheim, Tom Marioni and Terry Fox. Earned an MFA in Missoula in Fine Arts/Religious Studies/Sacred Dance. Spent time in San Francisco, Paris, New York City, and Los Angeles – Took a 4-month pilgrimage to India, lived in an ashram in Oakland for five years, learned Jungian Tarot. A free spirit – I followed my inspiration, honed my craft, hobnobbed with my tribe, wandering and wonderstruck.
In my 30s, I settled down into a corporate life and then spent half of my 9-month baby vigil on bed rest to bring to life my only child, Emily Kate, a creative whirlwind who took over from the point of inception in the hills of Topanga.
Further insights into influences I bring to the table will be revealed in this blog. Be creative every day is the current maxim.