Heather Martin
Labyrinths of Time
In Her Own Words

Including Some Words
by Martin Heidegger,
The Kama Sutra,
Rilke and Others

June 27, 2009

The intention behind this ritual of doing a daily sketch is to bring into the world evidence of wholehearted watchfulness; a notation of daily observation; meeting the self on the page. The daily sketch will incorporate either the psychic flavor of that particular day, a memory, or a glimpsed future possibility. So even though the installation of the sketches will be hung in a linear format, the content will represent a non-linear form of time, including past, present and future, folding in on itself and expanding again from the present moment. The installation itself is meant to be dynamic, in that the configuration will change every week, and on some weeks it will disappear completely – kind of like a slow moving dance.

I started this ritual when Sun just moved into the sign Cancer, which is a cardinal axis between the world and the personal. The timing was perfect from a Feng Shui perspective as well, but I had my apprehensions about starting at first. I was cycling through some difficult emotions at the time and wondered how an expression from that psychological state might affect a space that is intended to balance energies for the purpose of wealth, health and happiness. Then I happened to pick up an unread article that was given to me during art school, and felt compelled to read it for no particular reason. In that article was a quote from the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger:

“Contrary to public opinion, shadow is not merely the absence of light but rather a manifest, though impenetrable, testimony to the concealed emitting of light. In keeping with this concept of shadow, we experience the incalculable as that which, withdrawn from representation, is nevertheless manifest in whatever is, pointing to Being, which remains concealed.”

By meeting difficulties head on, we exercise the opportunity for valor and compassion, as well as self-knowledge. Everything is waiting for us from abundant joy to our eventual demise and disappearance. So, I decided to go ahead and start, despite the initial apprehensions. Around the sixth day, I started to experience an opening, which was encouraged further by a quote from the Kama Sutra: “I know love, therefore I am as supple as the wind. My heart is as open as the sky.”

October 15, 2009As you can probably discern from the layout of daily sketches, there were many ups and downs in my emotional well being during the first phase of this installation. I sought after healing through cleansing and pampering, and it seemed that every time I had some bodywork done, I would find myself wading through tough emotions in the following days. So my grieving process was intense, but shorter than it could have been. I have therefore dubbed the first phase of this Labyrinth of Time, “A Watery Beginning.”

With the Autumnal Equinox entering the Air sign of Libra, I sensed that the second phase would take on the quality of air in some fashion but I wasn’t sure how it would manifest in the work. Then, I picked up a book that I hadn’t read in awhile – The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram - with the intention of finishing something left undone. By coincidence, in one of the last chapters of the book, Abram starts by talking about air being a metaphor for both spirit and intellect. He leads the reader through ancient Hebrew, and Navajo traditions that link air, or breath, with the mind, and the divine. Below are a few quotes from the book:

The traditional Hebrew aleph-beth was made up of only consonants. “[T]he breath, for the ancient Semites, was the very mystery of life and awareness, a mystery inseparable from the invisible ruach – the holy wind or spirit…The Hebrew letters and texts were not sufficient unto themselves; in order to be read, they had to be added to, inspirited by the reader’s breath. The invisible air, the same mystery that animates the visible terrain, was also needed to animate the visible letters, to make them come alive and to speak.” With the texts being therefore “interactive,” they became organic and open-ended: a realm to be entered into and engaged. (pg.241-244)

In the Navajo tradition, “the Winds within us are thoroughly continuous with the wind at large…that which we call the ‘mind’ is not ours, is not a human possession…One’s individual awareness, the sense of relatively personal self or psyche, is simply that part of the enveloping Air that circulates within, through, and around one’s particular body; hence, one’s own intelligence is assumed, from the start, to be entirely participant with the swirling psyche of the land. Any undue harm that befalls the land is readily felt within the awareness of all who dwell within that land. And thus the health, balance, and well-being of each person is inseparable from the health and well-being of the enveloping earthly terrain.” (pg 237)

“When a Navajo person wishes to renew or reestablish, in the world, the harmonious condition of well-being and beauty expressed by the Navajo word hozho he must first strive, through ritual, to create his harmony and peacefulness within his own being. Having established such hozho within himself, he can then actively impart this state of well-being to the envelop-ing cosmos, through the transforming power of song or prayer. (pg 235-6)

Emotional storms can be like a veil that shrouds any visionary ability, and hozho breath is like cutting a hole into that veil to have a peek at another world full of possibilities. Who and what do I want surrounding me and how will I be in my ideal environment? Like the Hebrew texts, life itself is organic and open-ended. No matter how fixed we believe our situation to be, the truth is that we are never really stuck. Being able to breathe into and inspirit our given situation, we have the opportunity to shift the situation into something new and alive.

Our own personal intention carries with it a lot of power to manifest what we want. And we need to take a breath into that as well, because yes, we can create our own life the way we desire it to be, but there’s the possibility that in so doing, we cut off the opportunity for something even greater than what we could have imagined for ourselves. Recognizing the unity between our personal air with the universal Air is like letting go of our desires; to let them alight on the winds and wait with curiosity how they will return to us.

In the second phase of this installation, you will still see some sketches that are similar to the first phase…I started to cut holes into those to represent the inspiriting of air/breath into that space. Others will have a lot of the page left white, representing infinity, and the unknown. And still others are loose representations of desires. These also will have holes cut into the paper, to allow for other unknown possibilities. That kind of openness is stressful sometimes because we like to have things more concrete, planned, or settled. But it is there, on the edge of chaos, where the real magic occurs, and it is absolutely inspiring to watch it unfold. I close this segment on the next page, with a poem that inspires me.

“Ah, not to be cut off, not through the slightest partition shut out from the law of the stars. The inner – what is it? If not intensified sky, Hurled through with birds and deep With the winds of homecoming.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

November 8, 2009

Today, I took away earlier sketches for the first time. I know that some of you thought that I was going to keep adding to the installation, but that’s not really how life works is it?

There’s a time to build up and another time to tear down. I can’t explain why now, and not last week…or next week. Life doesn’t often explain either. Things happen and then we’re left to analyze the why of it all we want. I just sensed that it was now time to put away those old emotions. (Never fear, they will show themselves again at some other time, in some other form. The sketches at least will be compiled in a clamshell box within the next few weeks.)

I did leave traces of the removal – the tower of tape, the fishing-line draperies on the front door, and the unused hooks left in place. These serve as a palimpsest; an imperfect erasure, of what came before, like a faded memory. A fading of certain memories is now what is desired in this particular instant of my life. It feels good to leave that gaping space on the walls. What freedom!

March 17, 2010

When the sun reached its nadir in the sky at the winter solstice, it entered an earth sign. And true to the nature of earth, things started to manifest for me in all directions. That’s why I’m writing this segment almost at the end of this phase, because busy-ness was the norm, and several opportunities popped up here and there. Some manifestations were not so fun – like getting a really bad chest cold about the same time that my dad had heart surgery. I and my siblings had to help him wade through a period of a lack of control over his body and mind. He’s better now, I’m well again and now for the good part.

I sold my house, and found out just how many nooks and crannies I had found to put a 13-year accumulation of stuff. So even though I felt like I had purged three or four times, there was still too much to move. (I told my landlord that I was never moving that much stuff again, so if he wanted to move back in, we would just have to be roommates.)

The house I moved into has a very nice living space upstairs with wood floors, two bedrooms, a large kitchen and lots of light. The downstairs is the same size as the upstairs, which gives me plenty of room for my studio, an office, and storage. In order to be able to afford it, I negotiated to trade my artistic aesthetic in finishing the remodel and designing the landscape, in exchange for lower rent. While spending time together with my landlord, shopping for plants, we discovered that we had a lot of fun together.

Which leads to the manifestation of a new love interest in my life. He’s a much different kind of man than I have had in the past, and actually a close resemblance to my request to the universe during the first phase of this labyrinth project.

In January, I acquired two new clients, so my main source of income expanded. One of these new clients is an artist and a construction contractor, and his wife is a philosopher. I have enjoyed many enjoyable conversations with them over lunch, which is a real bonus.

One of my prior teachers at the SF Art Institute called me in to substitute teach for her in March -- which was an absolute joy to do. Teaching art is the next best thing to making art! While I was there on campus, I saw another former teacher, who asked if I had started teaching in any of the Extended studies programs, here in the Bay Area. When I replied that I hadn’t yet, he encouraged me to put together a class description of the perfect class that I would want to teach and he would get me in touch with the right people. (I was a TA for his painting class and he thought I did very well.)

I also had the great idea, as part of my positive identity, to organize public art projects that would help heal the surrounding community by using feng shui principles. Fortunately, our lovely John Mini had the same idea, so we decided to collaborate at some point in the near future.

Finally, I was approached by an extended family member to become a member of the board, of a foundation that works with non-profit organizations who are, in turn, working to enhance the sustainable and diverse quality of life by addressing global climate disruption. Part of my role will be to go and visit the proposed organizations to learn what they are up to. In my 20’s, I occasionally stated that I wanted to be a philanthropist when I grew up. I have to admit that, at the time, the statement was somewhat self-serving since I assumed that it would be my money that would be donated. So, at this time, it is someone else’s money, but it is still a role that I have had to grow into and I am very happy to offer this service of love as a part of who I will be in the world.

There’s a CD that I’ve been listening to the past few weeks, called “Making Friends with the Unknown.” It contains a lecture given by the poet, David Whyte, who is very incisive regarding some of the mysteries of life. One pattern that he pointed out is that it seems like life is filled with these cycles where we’ve made our home in the world, and just as we’ve gotten all the furniture in place and the last picture tacked up on the wall, there’s a knock at the door, and we’re out. And no matter how much we protest, we’re still out, wandering around in unknown territory again. He goes on to point out that some, because of this phenomenon, view the world as malevolent, when actually the universe is quite merciful, because there’s a much larger life out there than we have imagined for ourselves, and it is pulling us towards that bigger life. That bigger life is different for each individual. For some it could mean doing international trade, providing entertainment, or creating businesses that support people, for others it may mean keeping a kitchen garden and providing hospitality to all who come to visit, or devoting time and energy to raising children. If the heart is engaged then the energy to do the task is available. When exhaustion has set in, that is a sure sign that our heart is no longer engaged, and our life has become too small for us. That is the time to start having some real conversations with ourselves, and those conversations will bring about the appropriate change that is required.

Heather Martin

Elixir of Belvedere-Tiburon