There are many examples in literature and poetry of the relationship between blindness and seeing. Homer was said to have been blind, and Milton, James Joyce and Jorge Luis Borges. Pablo Neruda’s poem about how poetry first came to him “out of the branches of night”
describes himself at this moment saying: “My mouth had no way with names, my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul...” It has been a discovery for me to realize that we can actually
see something in closer detail if we spend some time investigating it with our eyes closed.
The exploration between blindness and seeing is a theme that is fueling my teaching, writing
and a new series of paintings entiltled “Seven Nights”, from the book by Borges with that name,
and the seven kinds of night listed in the Maori creation myth.
To set one’s foot into the door of death and be overcome with amazement (Mary Oliver)
I dreamed I was traveling down a rural road and came to a door standing in the middle of the path. It was called the Amen Gate. The entry was arched and the number ten was inscribed across the top. I could see on the other side of the door a gathering of my ancestors.
As Borges says, what matters in a dream is the impression that it leaves. This dream aroused eelings of joy and completion, of readiness and affirmation, as in the expression, Amen. Amen can be traced back to the Hebrew aman meaning certainly, verily, to be firm, have faith, to believe.
Some time ago, I had another dream in which I was standing outside the door of death, and this time my ancestor handed me a basket covered in white cloth. The Huichol Indians have a word, Nierika, to describe the door between the worlds, between waking and sleeping, between night and day. It was only long after my basket dream that I discovered Nierika also refers to a vision, a glimpse of a god or ancestor, and is often shown as a round offering, representing an ancestor.
Nierika comes from the same root as Nieriya, “to see”. These findings have brought me back to the image of the ancestors in my dream, and tie this series with the one of the blind seer in ways I don’t yet understand.
For years the artist and poet have looked to the muse, that invisible source of inspiration and exchange, in order to create. I have been intrigued with the history of the muse. From Greek mythology we know that Zeus the Creator united with Mneumosyne, the Goddess of Memory, to give birth to the Nine Muses; to Calliope, Clio, Eutrerpe, Urania, Melpomene, Thalia, Terpsichore, Polymnia, and Erato. Memory makes love to creation, giving form to the inspiration. The uniting of memory with creation indicates that the poem, the creation, already exists. The act of discovery and invention are the same, come from the same Latin root (venire: to find). As Borges says, to invent, to discover, is to remember. The act of creating gives the impression not of discovering something new, but remembering something we have forgotten. It is worth beginning with the idea that what you are in the process of creating already exists.