I believe in the power and importance of dreams, because that has been my experience. No one taught me to listen to and pay attention to my dreams. When I was in middle school my dreams simply began getting my attention, and I listened. I began writing down my dreams of my own volition. There was a knowing within me that dreams are something more. I honored them and found solace and wonder with them.
Having worked with my own dreams for a long time now, I have learned that a decades old dream can still hold power and importance in the present, and for the future. There are some dreams that are powerful — and that power does not wane. Some dreams remain special because they hold a healing power and/or deep insight and Mystery.
When my then-boyfriend (now-husband) and I first went to Mexico, we became engaged on the beach under a full moon. It was a special time, and a beautiful trip. That was 21 years ago. (This July, we celebrate 20 years of marriage!) It was on that big first trip that we encountered the Mayan ruins together. On that trip, and for a time after it I had vivid, spiritual dreams influenced by being present there. I wrote them down, and honored the wonder and mystery of what was unfolding in my dreams.
If I hadn’t written those dreams down, I would have lost a lot of the crucial details, and would eventually have forgotten all of it. Instead, the dreams were active, living parts of my spiritual and personal growth and development.
About 9 years later, in 2007, I had another dream that seems somehow related to that time in 1998. In this dream, I found myself being a woman of another time and life. This dream was so powerful for me that I was moved to create a painting to honor it. The following is an account of that dream. I call the dream “Ixchel Dream” because the dream seems to indicate or is in someway reminiscent of the Mayan rainbow goddess, Ixchel.
I am an Indigenous woman. I speak a different language. I am aware of who I am. I belonged to a privileged class, but I left. I am now wandering, seeking something important. I approach the edge of a jungle that meets a river. There is a clearing nearby. I look down at the river. I see a wide vivid rainbow and feel a mystical presence. I say the name for what the rainbow means to me in the language I speak twice. (It sounds like: Ixchel-coatl or Quetzalcoatl.) I look at the rainbow twice. Then, I turn and walk to the clearing. It is vibrantly green. There is a sloping hill at the end of the clearing with large grayish boulders and smaller stones. A deer appears from that area and rushes towards me. I feel scared. The deer lightly brushes my shoulder and continues on, rushing down to the water. The deer then stands still at the river, maybe to drink. I get a good look at this deer now. I am surprised to see a singular unicorn-type horn on the deer’s head. The horn is at least two feet long, maybe longer. I feel a strong surge of hope within and around me.
The feelings in the dream were: determination, wonder, surprise, fear, joy and hope. The feelings upon waking from the dream were: astonishment, engaged passion, appreciation, bemused by the mystery. The action I took in response to the dream: I wrote it down, thought about it and sat with the gift and mystery of it, and I created a small watercolor painting of the woman pointing to and touching a rainbow.
The feeling from the painting and dream remains strong. It is: proof of hope and joy contained in a spiritual depth — at a time when it is desperately needed, as time has been rough.
The painting now resides in Guatemala, with a friend of a friend, who is Mayan.
What I got from this dream was a deeper sense of other lives and realities. There was not a sense of me needing to take ownership of this life. It was an experience, a gift, and a moment of beauty and insight. The deer seemed to be a surprise that gently touched on a loving affirmation that arrives when finding or being close to finding something important. This comes after leaving what was comfortable and familiar.
Dreams hold gifts that are timeless. Sometimes they can’t fully be appreciated until much time has passed. In writing down our dreams and in sitting with the memory of them respectfully, we may find that we track and access a natural magic, medicine, and hidden knowing that can make all the difference for our paths in our waking lives.
Even in accessing and thinking of this “old” dream of mine today, so many years later, I find the energy and gift of it is still palpable and special.
I walk the line between environmentalist and artist, fact-checker and mystic, activist and present moment being. I walk the line between critical thinking and faith in things that are unseen. And, the importance of realizing the miraculous within the ordinary and mundane is not lost on me.
With so much to navigate with mindfulness and discipline, I was fortunate to have an amazing art mentor at university who walked those same kind of lines, and who walked with me for a time. He took me under his wing, and helped me to mature as an artist and spiritual-seeking being. The most important things I learned from creating art at university remain relevant and core to my passion to this day. These are my ten biggest lessons about being an artist, which I have whittled down to this summarized little list:
Art requires ongoing content. To create we must have: an ongoing impulse and need to create, ideas and perspective, and dedication to return again and again to blank objects (paper/clay/canvas/found object/etc.) and the various stages in between started and finished. If we don’t have these qualities, we will not be able to be an artist.
Make big mistakes, not a lot of little ones. When a mistake is made in a work of art, that mistake must ultimately be embraced as a part of the process and piece. However, we need to dedicate enough energy and focus to doing our best and maintaining an awareness for most possible issues. This is to prevent a work riddled with so many little mistakes that compromise the purpose and effectiveness of the piece. Lots of little mistakes are much harder to track, fix or redeem. A big mistake is much easier to learn from and integrate into a process. A big mistake most often leads to better and more joyful ways to create and work in the long-term. Embrace the big mistakes: work with them and grow from them.
Stick with the piece you are working on. When we draw or paint, for example, we may end up erasing or changing a lot of what was originally intended. Mistakes, layers, and reworked parts are not reasons to abandon a piece. Keep them. The work and layers may not ultimately be visible, yet keeping them creates a palpable energetic history that lives in the piece, as a work of art. It is also a conservation of materials. Instead of abandoning a “messy” piece for a fresh start, value the process and keep the layers as a living history, whenever possible.
Distance, perspective, and time apart are all important. All the stages involved in creating, honing, and resolving a piece can leave us enmeshed…too close to the work to maintain useful objectivity and purpose. If the piece is not resolving and we begin to dislike what we see, it can become absolutely essential to know when to: get up and stand across the room to look at the piece from a distance off and on, turn it upside down and/or sideways to work with it from those angles, and to put it away and take some time away from it — in order to come back a day, week, month, or a year later — to see it with fresh eyes that are more able to appreciate it, know what it needs, or…that it is done, and it is great.
Pay attention to both positive and negative space. It is not enough for us to observe, notice and draw the object or being in front of us. We must see what isn’t there, energy, and the empty space around that object and being as well. Until we recognize negative space and how it rests and moves around objects and beings, something will be missing from our work. This practice facilitates a more disciplined and objective process for still life drawings and paintings. It is also important to move back and forth and up and down throughout the process, rather than focusing on one small area at a time.
Seek balance in completing tasks and challenges. We may give ourselves a challenge, and work so hard on accomplishing it, that what should be easy and straightforward becomes neglected — of poor quality or effort. Spread the effort and quality to every layer and task. Even if one part is daunting, don’t let it take importance away from the rest of the work. Hold every part of the work as valid and important.
Art is necessary. An artist doesn’t create art in order to sell it. Earning money for art is payment for the result and quality. This is not the motivation for the act and practice of art. Artists create art because they must create art. The artists I most respect are the ones who go about their lives, always creating, with or without opportunities for public attention and sales. Selling and displaying art in galleries is not the point of creating. For us, art is necessary — an innate part of self and being — that takes many forms. Art is also necessary for the non-artist: it is therapeutic, enriching, informative, healing, supportive, challenging, and elicits various emotions and new thoughts.
Be honest and kind. When we praise someone for the art they have created, it needs to be because it genuinely impacts us. Being nice is not the same as being kind or honest. We don’t need nice. We need vision, feedback, and perspective. We cannot grow as artists if we are not able to give and receive constructive criticism. Just make sure the constructive criticism is kind and honest. There is no reason to be brutally honest. We don’t need meanness either. Almost any true statement can be said with compassion. When we don’t know enough about art and creating, or the specific genre and medium, then we need to include that in our feedback. Honesty, real feedback, and kindness are all important.
Set out to make something ugly. We need to challenge ourselves to put intense feelings and energy into making art that is ugly. Not only does this release us from crippling patterns of perfectionism, it also releases us from the restrictions of expectation and conformity. In addition, sometimes in seeking to create something truly ugly, we instead create something intriguing and new. Some of our most beautiful work may be inadvertently created by channeling the energy of anger or grief. While aesthetics, symmetry, and pleasing creations can and do have importance, it can be more important to leave all that at the door, in order to allow our emotions and raw energy to create without restriction. This can lead to hidden doorways of creation: new approaches and techniques.
Consider context and need. This is a broad topic, but I will summarize three main aspects. One, there is always context, meaning, and need to be found as model and inspiration in Nature — no matter what medium or genre we work in. Two, we need to consider how our materials, use, and waste affect our health, collective health, and Nature — and adjust what we are doing, as much as we are able. There may be no ideal solutions, but some choices are better than others. Three, consider saturation level for the topic and genre. Do we really need to create another version of something that has been made over and over for decades or centuries? We must ask ourselves: do I have something different, unique, valuable to say? Is this practice? Is this something bigger? What is the intention? Is there a need for it?
This article is dedicated in loving memory of Peter Fletcher.
Right now the Sun and Neptune are as one in the sign of Pisces. It is Pisces season for sure. At the same time, Mercury is also in Pisces, and will be in retrograde mode until the 28th of March. This combination of big influences in the territory of Pisces and Neptune symbolism has an affect on all of us this month. So, let’s break this down into parts that are easier to digest. We’ll start with the sign of Pisces, then Neptune, and then how Mercury re-mixes it all. Then, I will give you some friendly advice.
It doesn’t matter if your Sun, Moon, or Rising signs are in Pisces or not. We all have all of the signs and planets somewhere in our birth charts. Collectively, we all deal with these energies and influences.
The sign of Pisces is symbolized by two groovy fish swimming in opposite directions, swimming along, letting go and moving on. Often, our greatest talents are the metaphorical “double-edged sword”. This means that what we are best at can also be the source of our greatest weakness and blind-spot(s).
Gentle, paradoxical Pisces is able to harmonize and swim with ease between worlds — even between those with conflicting purposes and ways of being. This is an ongoing gift and growing edge for Pisces. Pisces can become adept at utilizing the insight, creative skills, and knowing they bring back with them from deep journeying into the imagination and sacred dream realms. At the same time, they are mostly able to find ways to work in the mundane world in efficient, routine, and practical ways. They seek to be of real use and service to humanity, and to uplift their fellow beings (human and other living beings — they don’t discriminate). This is an immense talent. Pisces energy fills the following archetypal roles naturally: healer/shaman/psychic, teacher, priest/ess, musician, artist, magician, and rebel-champion for the underdogs.
The challenge and weaknesses, the other side of the Pisces gifts are clear: both porous and poor personal and psychic boundaries — which often lead to unhealthy relationships patterns — internally harsh self-punishment, and martyrdom. There is also the habitual reaction to escape painful and harsh realities via escapism: fantasy, drama, and any and every kind of addiction. Side effects may include a tendency towards self-pity, depression, and going to extremes when trying to find balance. In addition to this, when the Pisces energy has trouble balancing and navigating between non-ordinary and ordinary realities, they will also find that they become more easily confused, disorganized, and display confusing behavior towards others.
After looking at the main gifts, strengths, potential, and pitfalls of Pisces energy, it is important to also grasp the general qualities of this symbolic Zodiac sign: claircognizance, versatility, and emotional fluidity that changes often — carrying a huge range, from impossibly shallow to the deepest of depths — ebb and flow, finding and letting go. A Pisces is potentially courageous too, with an innate instinct and desire to help, heal, inspire, explore realities, affect realities, and create.
Pisces is mutable in approach — a yin energy, and water element. This means that Pisces, the psychedelic and practical fishes, are: flexible, adaptable, and compromise (to a fault). The qualities of yin and water make them: indirect, passive, receptive, secretive, intuitive, sensitive, empathic, creative, humorous, efficient, and seemingly irrational and subjective.
Pisces wants to deal with what is hidden and unseen by most everyone, and they don’t need to talk about it. They want to be of service to others without a need to be in the spotlight (even though they naturally do get the spotlight due to their talents). The big-hearted zaniness, humor, and passion of a Pisces is enchanting, despite their maddening self-sabotage that can creep in from time to time.
Neptune rules Pisces, and so, some of their main qualities are shared. Neptune is an outer planet, and so spends time in one Zodiac sign for the long-term, for years. Any interpretation of Neptune and other outer planets (like Pluto) in a birth chart needs to take into account that, no matter how big their influences are, the process is deep and over a long period of time. Neptune is in Pisces until around 2025, and has been there since 2012. The symbolic and archetypal themes and influences of Neptune have a wide spectrum and different octaves — from inspiring to nefarious. Since we have a wide range of diversity among humans, in regards to ethics, values, qualities, personality, and choice — so too is there a wide range of possibility in each planet and signs symbolic meaning, patterns, cycles, and dynamics.
Neptune’s symbolic strengths reflect a choice and ability for: endless, enduring holistic altruistic thought. This occurs most often as creativity, invention, expression, and actions — in the realm of: art, music, dreams, sound, vision, ethics, spirituality, other realities, and energy. Neptune archetypes may include: the mystic, ascended being, genius, priest/ess, transformation, transfiguration, visionary, shaman/healer, transcendent/empowering music, art, creativity, spiritual care and modalities of energy work. It also includes values and actions that are inclusive and based on equality/equity — transcending duality, reactivity, and polarization.
Neptune’s shadow or blind-spots and weaknesses include: fanaticism, dogma, negative/predatory/parasitic cult-type behaviors and leadership, addiction/drug abuse, deception/con, illusion, confusion/mental fog, manipulation, and becoming stuck — in illusion, deception, manipulation, wounds, and/or confusion. Neptune is one of the giant gas planets. Gases can be far-out groovy, toxic, life-giving, stinky, light, or heavy. It’s all there.
The potential is great over this stretch of time from now into 2025. Yet, the dangers we face are clear as well. Much is on the line. Much is in crises. And the deceptions and illusions have been revealing themselves at great length for some time. Yet something more and better is going on than it seems. The unseen matters. Pisces and Neptune energies do need containers, grounding, and light in order to be made tangible for us. We need to deal with these energies and influences in ways that use equal parts common sense, logic, and intuitive creativity. Otherwise what needs to be built upon will get lost and forgotten.
What is not to be missed here is the impact the Mercury retrograde of this month has on this Pisces/Neptune energy, given a spotlight by the Sun.
Mercury Retrograde With Pisces/Neptune Vibes
Mercury retrograde is usually a time to expect the unexpected, to prepare for obstacles, delays, roadblocks, and inconveniences. When we accept, and even expect and make time for, possible issues/problems/delays, we create an energy of adaptability that plays well with the Universe’s ebbs and flows. The Universe likes us to be specific about what we want, but it also wants us to be loose and flexible with how things may happen (not according to our plans). Welcoming a delay or perceived problem as an opportunity for new awareness and opportunities may seem radical or weird, but it is true wisdom that gains respect from the Universe at large.
Usually mercury retrogrades are not times to begin something completely and utterly new, or to sign contracts that are completely new and unexpected. It is not usually a time to get a new contractor, seek a new service, or find a new doctor. Yet, life isn’t neat and tidy, and we can’t live our lives dictated by the symbolic and archetypal information from astrology. So, what I have found is that when we must engage in and trust something completely new during a mercury retrograde, it is helpful to accept and prepare for anything and everything going wrong. When it doesn’t, we can be jubilant and thankful. When it does, we can be relaxed and open to inspiration, having prepared for the unknown and unforeseen best we could.
However, this mercury retrograde (March 5th — March 28 2019) isn’t quite a usual one. This Neptune/Pisces influence defines it, and it will last until the end of this month. A lot can happen in a month. Since the flavor of this month is deep, tender, magical, and paradoxical Pisces — as well as, the vast and confusing mystical potentials of Neptune — we are in for a lot of inner emotional, psychic, creative, and spiritual content that keeps changing and fluxing about. Don’t believe everything you think, hear, or see this month. And don’t forget it either.
No matter how much self-work you have done, if you are not dealing with and facing your inner pain, passions, longings, dreams, and activated wounds — Neptune working with Mercury in retrograde will get you — they will get the better of you. It has already started.
A virtual Neptune fog is in place right now, set to place us all on a mystical journey that will be ample in emotional ups and downs, illusions, delusions, inspirations, and the promise of healing and transformation — if we don’t get stuck. The kick to it is that, the fog makes everything confusing and confused. Things are not what they seem, and what you think and feel one minute may be contradicted by your own self in the next. Be sure to ask for help when you need it, and take breaks from whatever is really intense. Balance the ordinary with the non-ordinary as needed.
When we cannot handle all the pain and harsh reality of this broken world, we may seek to escape a bit, and maybe we even do it productively and constructively. That is impressive.
Maybe we know how to honor and respect our dreams, inner worlds, and sacred imagination. Perhaps we know how to balance the two worlds. Yet, what we are processing collectively is too much — for one generation or two to process, let alone an individual. So, the call is to face our own inner wounds that are activated right now, and apply all the reasonable and wise self-care we can to it. Even while we feel confused, dizzy, cloudy, and spun about — know that the mist of this fog will disperse and lessen. But for a time, this month, we will all get a bit lost.
Lost, wandering, and confused are all real locations, and even religious-type experiences. Watch out for the cult-like responses to it though — that trap of becoming addict to the spiritual highs, and master of the power that comes with it — without ethics or care.
Better to apply the medicine of nature, water, breath, creativity, friendship, and healthy boundaries to all and everything.
Remember to treat water, in particular, with great care, respect, and honor. Consider water as our true/symbolic self and true god at this time. How are we treating, interacting with, using, caring for it? Water is essential to Pisces. Water is life. Pisces needs baths, showers, drinks of water to regenerate. At the same time, water is at the center of many of our crises environmentally, and related to class and privilege. Something to sit with, and see what messages from other worlds and in between worlds that may arise this month.
Needless to say, this is a special time to tend to our dreams, keep a dream journal, create and respond to what our dreaming selves are doing.
If you are looking for an event in the New Year to get some inspiration and support with like-minded people who care about the Earth, Nature, and the health of our communities — the event I am presenting for on Tuesday, Feb. 5th could be just the thing!
This event was rescheduled due to the polar vortex in January. Below is the current information.
The Greener Life with CS Sherin
Feb 5th, 2019 7 pm – 8:30 pm
Location: Ho-Chunk Nation, Three Rivers House (724 Main St. in La Crosse, WI) Hosted by: Coulee Region Sierra Club
Description: Explore a holistic approach to sustainable living with Chandra (CS) Sherin, author of “Recipe For A Green Life”. We will address some of the most pressing issues of our time that impact our environment, habitats, wildlife, resources, and collective health. We will learn about the importance of a holistic approach to sustainable living, and the positive impact we can have through our daily habits, choices, and do-it-yourself recipes. We will discover and discuss the most effective sustainable living choices we can make, at home and with our families. ~ Coulee Region Sierra Club
Past Works, Part 10: Paintings, Illustrations of 2015
Chandra S Sherin
April 5th, 2018
This is the conclusion to this 10 part retrospective series featuring various examples of works of art I have created from 1998 and onward.
Posts will return to a more current portfolio of works starting next week. You will find my artist statement here. Go to the bottom of this post for links to the previous posts in this Retrospective series.
This series closes with some vivid colors and fantasy themed illustrations in the form of acrylic paintings with ink that I created in 2015. If there is a piece from this series that you are interested in, please contact me and I will let you know if it is available, and in what format. Here they are: