It’s nice to be back. I am finished with the Fall Festival residency where I co-directed Romeo & Juliet at a high school with a student body of 2200. It was completely frustrating, completely exhausting and completely fulfilling. It is the kind of work I want to do, it makes a difference, it changes people for the good, it creates dreams and possibilities for youth, it gives me a chance to use my creativity and impulses to change the world I am in. It was one of the most difficult and exhausting experiences as well. But I influenced some of the most entrancing, diverse teens I have had the pleasure to come across.
I am taking some time to re-fill my artistic well and reflect, write, read and draw. I am reminded that this creative part of me is instrumental to my health and well-being. I decided to make a self-portrait today and without judgement put something on paper. It is crazy what came out. I do not consider myself a visual artist, I admire people who can express so much on canvas and marvel at my own daughter who can create pencil sketches that rival Edward Gory. But for myself, I have only a desire for expression and what comes out is not something I would deem audience worthy.
Tonight I started with a 15 X 20 piece of paper, pencil and markers, and without thought started swirling and swishing and the result was surprisingly pleasing to my eye. I just let my hand guide me and put my brain on auto-pilot, enjoying color and shape and nonsensical eruptions. I highly recommend it!
After I was finished I was able to see things that were not apparent at all in the creation process. My daughter, Audrey said, oh I see a quail and sure enough, my rubber ducky looking bird has a top-notch thingy like a quail plume. I looked up quail symbolism on the internet and not only is the quail the State Bird of California where I was born but here are some of the associations that were revealed….
In some cultures “the quail symbolized Spring and good luck, while in others it meant Summer. Many times this bird was classified as erotic and phallic. The Romans associated it with courage and victory in battle” (completely unassociated but I happened to watch Gladiator for the first time this week – not a quail in sight but lots of bloody Roman battles, not sure what I’m supposed to learn there).
“Magical attributes of the quail: Good luck, courage, victory. For success in a project.” I must say that I do have uncanny good fortune, so my quail talisman is working.
“The quail has a wonderful ability to easily spot danger. It takes off with a loud explosion. This startles the predator, distracting it and enabling them to escape. The quail is about nourishment of the soul, family, teaches how to elude problems, and can teach you to be mindful of dangers and how to explode to safety when threatened.”
In reading about quails I learned a new phrase to me, “Animal Totems.” Webster’s Dictionary defines a totem as: “A natural object, usually an animal that serves as a distinctive, often venerated emblem or symbol. A means of personal or spiritual identity.” Not unlike the Stag Patronus that Harry Potter conjured when he needed protection.
On the website whats-your-sign.com they propose that “animal totems play huge roles in our lives They aid in self-discovery and capture our imagination, giving us incredible avenues of self-expression and awareness. Additionally, they assist in understanding our past, and if we are attentive, our animal totems can reveal glimpses of our future.”
So go ahead, create a self-portrait. See if an animal emerges for you and maybe it will allow you a glimpse into your future. The next time I wave my magic wand against the forces of evil I won’t be surprised to see a pudgy quail flapping his brave little wings and shaking his plume in the face of danger.