Moonlightning Studio

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December 18, 2000-Nature Note: I have been listening to wolves howl. No, not at The Lair, they were exterminated from this area long before we moved here. I have been listening to the wolves, to tundra swans, owls, frogs, songbirds, turkeys, crickets, among the songs of other critters on a CD that Tresa thoughtfully gave us a couple of years ago. It is so suitable for The Lair and for what we are doing here. It is A Natural Christmas by NatureQuest, an adventure in nature and music. It is distributed by North Word Press, Inc., P.O. Box 1360 Minocqua, WI 54548. It is distributed in the United Kingdom by GALLANT  Heywood, OL102JG. Tel, (0706) 622202. They have other similar CDs. On this one, Christmas carols and natural sounds are beautifully blended into a pleasing addition to the ambiance of our home at this time of year. I even detected the faint sounds of a horse-drawn sleigh along with a flock of Canada geese.

 It certainly put me in the mood to view the special Christmas gift we received this week. For the first time, we have three wild surface feeding ducks, or dabblers, swimming in our new wildlife pond! They have been here for three days now, and for a while this morning, a fourth joined them. I  park on the drive to the gate and watch them with my binoculars. They swim all around the deeper end of the pond so peacefully, then go into the shallower end between the trees where they are sheltered from the cold wind by a hill and begin to dabble, their tails sticking straight up as they go after food under the water; their white bellies shine like beacons. We need a spotting scope to see them clearly from that distance, and although we are not absolutely sure what kind, I think they might be Gadwalls, a male and two females. They have the plumage and the straight head profile that the Mallard does not have. I will continue to observe them, for Gadwalls are one of the few types of surface feeding ducks that also dive like the bay ducks. If I see that, I will feel more confident in my identification.  I am elated, and  I savor this best of Christmas gifts from Nature as I watch the ducks enjoy the gift we have given them--a safe, comfortable place to rest and paddle and feed.

December 14, 2000: We have moved into full domestic mode preparing for Christmas. I have been baking and making candy. I have made Milky Way Fudge (really sour cream fudge, a cream-colored candy that tastes something like Penuche, but I renamed it), our Killer Chocolate Fudge, Toll House Cookies, Ginger cookies (they flopped spectacularly and were thrown into the trash can), Russian Rocks with raisins and Russian Rocks with dates for those who need a softer cookie. I still have Divinity candy to make on a clear day and a birthday cake for my brother Ed, who will be with us this year for the holiday. Next week I will turn my attention to the serious food cooking. I like this time of year because most of my recipes for goodies are from long-time friends and family and I always have lively memories of these loved ones to think about as I cook. We decided to skip all the sweets one Christmas and I found that took away a large part of my enjoyment of preparing for the holidays. The making of the goodies is more important to me than the eating of them, or as I say about my art work, the process is more important to me than the product. So, I give some away, serve some to my guests, and consume more than a sensible share of them myself.

This year all our children are coming right after Christmas. Mitch is returning Friday from three weeks working in Paris, France. He will be returning there from time to time, and fortunately he has enjoyed the people and the country, although he is REALLY ready to come home. With Jene and Ed here for Christmas and our daughter, son, and daughter-in-law here the day after Christmas for a few days, it is going to be a happy time.

Mitch installed surround sound on my computer and I am enjoying listening to Christmas carols and popular Christmas songs as I cook and work at my graphics. We had a mild ice storm this week and Farris and I spent time before the fireplace drinking hot chocolate, talking, reading, and enjoying the seasonal weather:

Our Fireplace

Lots of birds were feeding on the ground during the ice storm and I caught a picture through my window of a Cardinal and a companion I can't identify from the photo, although I think it is a Black-crested Titmouse. They are prettier than any artificial tree ornaments.

Cardinal and Friend

I was a guest at a Christmas luncheon today and the favor was a little yarn and pearl angel
Christmas Angel

accompanied by a (Christian) Legend of the Candy Cane that I had not heard before. It seems that a candy maker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would symbolize the meaning of Christmas, so he made the Christmas Candy Cane. He used a stick of pure white hard candy, the white color a symbol of the Virgin Birth and the sinless nature of Jesus. The candy was hard in order to symbolize the solid foundation of the church and the firmness of the promises of God. The candy was made in the form of a "J" to represent the name of Jesus, who came to earth as Savior. It also represents the crook or staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches out to lift and rescue lambs who, like all sheep, sometimes go astray. The red stripe was added to represent Jesus' blood shed on the Cross so that we can have the promise of eternal life if  we put our faith and trust in Him. Although the candy became known simply as a Candy Cane, a meaningless decoration seen at Christmas time, the full meaning is still there for those who "have eyes to see and ears to hear." (I have no idea if the legend is true, but it makes a neat story at Christmas time, and the favor is a nice little tree decoration.)

And now to all of our readers, here is this year's Christmas Card for you:

Christmas Card

May your Christmas
be Blessed
the New Year
be filled 
Peace and Joy.

Farris and Rheba

November 16, 2000: A enchanting  website called invites readers to submit information about their personal altars or sacred spaces and each month they choose one of the remarkable stories to feature on their website. I have received notice that they are featuring my story about my sacred space for this month. I think the fact I was the first to submit an entry garnered me the honor of appearing in their lovely space and Valerie Rickel, founder of Soufulliving .com was gracefully complimentary. She generously is sending me a beautiful book on Altars as a prize.

I decided to add to the picture and information exhibited on their site by showing some other parts of my studio here at The Lair. On the left door is a beautiful rendition of my birth sign done by the late Susan Seddon Boulet and another of her lovely prints called Sanctuary. On the right door is the name of my  sacred space printed from the computer onto canvas:

Moonlightning Studio & Still Room

As mentioned on the Soul Living site, my studio is for painting, it is a still room for preparing the culinary herbs I grow in my herb garden, and for creating aromatherapy products for the use of our guests. A comfortable blue lounge chair gives me space to read, study, watch art instruction videos on the small TV/video player, or listen to music from the CD player.  I must add that I sometimes take refreshing naps in this sacred space. The studio can be completely closed off from the rest of the house, yet lets the beautiful nature scenes in by virtue of  four windows and a doorway of clear glass. This is where I often see the deer going up the hill, colorful birds in the trees, and an occasional wild turkey pass by. The windows overlook my herb garden and several bird feeders and a hanging bird bath; I always have plenty of company.

It is not a large room, and is cluttered with open shelves for supplies, a large bookcase for my art books, storage for paper, canvas, boards and all the trappings with which an experimental artist surrounds herself. That's okay, for I also have a little logo  that says "Geniuses thrive on clutter" .  A small sink with cabinets perches just to the left as you enter, my source of water for water media painting, for washing brushes, mixing pigment with water and, when dry, for safely burning my custom Lair Incense sticks and cones to bring the aroma of the grasses and wildflowers into the studio. I also prepare and store aromatherapy supplies here.  Others often remark that there is a special feeling to this sacred space of mine. I hope that comes from all the colors, the thoughts and prayers and creative activity that go on in here. I have brought in nature objects such as a hornet's nest, part of a patterned shell of an armadillo, shells, a shed cicada skin, a shed snakeskin that I sometimes use pieces from in collages, special stones, lichen, the skull of a deer, anything that honors Sacred's creation.

 I have two main painting areas: The first is my drafting table where I carve block prints, sketch designs, write in my journals, make greeting cards, and write letters by hand. I also use rubber stamps at this table. Stamping supplies and carving tools  are at the right.
drafting table
Drafting Table

My next  painting area and the one most used is a table I had made tall enough for me to stand and paint monoprints, and I use it with table easels for watercolors, acrylic, oils and other media. I have other easels for outdoors, but seldom use them in this windy climate. My paints are stored in the  drawers and cabinets on this table. Color wheels  I have painted for different color schemes and use frequently are mounted on the wall below a lovely print called "Talk to the Moon," and a living elegy given me by Jene, a pattern I strive for in my life, and a framed copy one of my poems. At this table I sometimes make paper, or marble papers and make collages or create various art objects other than paintings. The particular palette shown here is made of an old tarnished tray from my great grandmother' house, with a thick oval glass cover so it can be used with oils, acrylics, printing inks or watermedia. I print at this table also. 

painting table

The picture below is a little niche between my art library on the left and the beginning of my supply shelves on the right. In the niche is a magnificent owl  print by Meinrad Craighead, called Wisdom and in the inscription she gave me the name of "Owl Woman". The hook to the right is where I hang my mesh herb dryer when I am harvesting herbs. 

Library Niche

This is a close-up of the core of all my altars, the little Soul Altar in the middle of the main altar shown on the Soulful Living site:

soul altar
                                Soul Altar

It is round, the shape of wholeness. You can see the cross in the center with  the carved snowy owl in front, and the light and dark crystal symbols I mentioned in my write-up on the Soulful site. Also on this altar are shells and stones that contain spirals or other symbols of the feminine. Cantering outward from the cross are two identical crystal and silver perfume vials given me by a beloved aunt who brought them from Venice. They have multi-meanings. The one on the left contains a perfume I have had since I was a young woman, called "Surrender," and while I like to apply that to  my relation to Sacred,  the other meaning of the perfume comes from a scripture that speaks of the Fragrance of Christ. The vial on the right contains anointing oil from the Holy Land, a symbol of Sacred as a healing balm in my life.  Directly in front of a colorful crystal ball that represents a life of wholeness, is a small pewter figure of a woman  holding a small round crystal. That image also appears on the blue personal shield shown above the main altar.  These are symbols of my connection to Sacred. Next comes my dark altar, or altar of transformation. 

dark altar
Dark Altar

I wish you could see the images more closely, for this altar celebrates the mystery of life, the deep, dark areas within the psyche where things are created, die, and are transformed. A pottery figurine on the right symbolizes death of whatever kind, for without death there is no transformation or space for new ideas. A black stone celebrates Sacred. Various carved Indian fetishes associated with creativity and transformation are here, such as a snake, a black owl, some crows and a fox, all of which have meaning for me. A crone or wise woman sits in front of the plate. A spirit rattle is to the left of the spiral plate. The beautiful and honored civet skin on the plate is an example of transformation. The poor animal died for no good reason other than for someone to have the pelt. After some thought I chose to give it a place of honor and recognition for its sacrifice and the sacrifices of many animals  throughout history, and as a reminder that the civet, a type of animal that someone said makes a skunk smell like perfume, commands respect. It reminds me to live in such a way as to command respect for my life. Also on this table are black feathers, a little figurine I made of the Black Madonna, a bowl containing fairy dust and "fairy wings" I have collected from time to time. If you visit me I will show you some, if you have the right attitude. On the right rear, a hand-made pink pottery bowl called "flight of the spirit" contains some Anasazi shards gathered back in the nineteen twenties by a couple before such sites were protected. They had them for years, and Charlie sent them to me because he knew I would give them a place of honor. They represent all the ancient ones and our ancestors. On the wall above the altar is a plaque honoring the story of Persephone and Demeter, a gift from a friend, and a crone mask I made, plus a deer skull found on the place. Above all this is a striking print of Persephone by Susan Boulet done in red, with tears running from her eyes. This represents the pain of psychological and spiritual development and honors all the tears shed by all women throughout history.

Other meaningful things for me are my celebration music makers,


and a close-up of my journey rattle, a lovely leather-covered rattle with a colorful spiral painted on it, symbol of my ever-renewing  life-journey. 

journey rattle

The wonderful thing about altars is they can be a single image or corner of a room or they can be as elaborate as one wishes. In a way the entire cosmos is our altar, certainly grand enough to call forth wonder, a sense of well-being and a sense of the holy and thankfulness. 

Now, go make another altar in your sacred space!

Later: Someone rightly took me to task because I failed to show the symbol of the Guardian of the Portal to my Sacred Space.  She is the Moon Fairy, extending her star-tipped wand toward the fairy moon. One must be careful not to slight fey creatures, you know. Here is her symbol, beautifully stitched by my daughter-in-law, Tresa: 

Moon Fairy

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Last revised: November 26, 2010

Copyright 2001-2010 Rheba Kramer Mitchell. All rights reserved.