"The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend"
--Henry Bergson

 

For me, the alchemy of learning to see began in 1995 when I followed a self-created map of symbolic meaning written on the U.S. western and southwestern landscape. The journey’s first stop was Death Valley, to die to my old self. I went on to experience alchemical marriages at Utah’s Virgin River and in Arizona’s Rainbow Forest, to face dying beasts in Sedona, Arizona’s canyons, and to be broken open by shattering heartbreak in New Mexico’s Sangre de Christo Mountains. The culminating moment of the quest was being impregnated by the desert night sky while fasting on my 28th birthday. I returned home to a basement apartment in San Francisco and birthed a black velvet room, in homage of that desert sky. My life was centered around a master’s degree program in Arts and Consciousness, and the room, which was my primary living space, was my art studio, performance art piece, alembic, womb, cave, altar, and underworld for twenty months. Synchronicities abounded, many of which tied my process to the Eleusinian mysteries of the Demeter/Persephone cult, the ancient myth of the underworld and renewal.

In 2006, I created a second black velvet room in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to write about the first, but I found instead that I needed light to balance the darkness, so I turned to the Shenandoah River. The generosity has been endless. I was surprised when some of the photos I took of her could be mistaken for paintings or were beautiful beyond words yet unrecognizable as water. I was more surprised though when a few showed clear elemental beings--a hummingbird, an owl, a skull descending into the waters, a bearded man with a woman with bangs, and most magnificently a gorgeous and powerful canine being with sharp teeth and, in the moment of capturing, an unmistakable presence. Most of these beings made of river and light can—if so desired­—be tied to early versions of the Persephone/Demeter myth, as if I am being shown the earth through Hadean eyes. Even more fitting, since Shenandoah is believed to mean “Daughter of the Stars” as if it were her spirit calling me through that desert night sky.

In 2011, I camped at the river on the fall equinox. Instinctively, I brought both a wedding dress and a velvet altar. Serendipitously, on my campsite was a perfect bouquet of wild mushrooms, the likely sacrament of the Persephone/Demeter cult. Claimed by and married to the land, I have camped at the river on most summer solstices and fall equinoxes since.

In August of 2014, my father died, and we scattered his ashes in the shallow part of the river where all these river beings had emerged. On that year’s fall equinox, that part of the river ran dry. It was in that dry riverbed, grief-stricken, that I began to write the story of the river elementals, a sensitive young artist who stumbled upon portals, and a dying king. That night, having been unable to photograph the river, I took pictures of my campfire instead. Elementals appeared through the flames and have continued to dance across in front of my camera’s lens since that night.

In 2018, I went to Scotland, the land of my ancestors. On the Isle of Skye, in the rock behind a waterfall at the Fairy Pools, I found my mythic king, one in need of regeneration, the brother that according to some both Demeter and Brigid have been seeking. Now, not just in images but in elemental beings, I have an imagistic mythic story offered not only from me, but also from the Earth. This website is the organic unfolding of a collaboration among realms.