Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Pomegranate Exercise

So back in December I began a project that has just been completed. I found pomegranates on the ground here in Ojai that had been eaten out by birds and animals that looked just so beautiful to me that I began to collect them. Pomegranates, one of my favorite fruits, symbolize the womb and also the fruit of the tree of life. Since I am writing a novel about older women, Crones, saving the world through their creative endeavors, well one thing led to another and I decided to see if any of my friends would be inspired to meditate on a symbol of an empty womb. Twenty three women responded and each one transformed a pomegranate into an amazing work of art. You can see the results on my website patballen.com
(Once on the website, click on 'collaborative projects')
Sallie Wolf hosted a show of the work at her place, Calypso Moon, in Oak Park for a month and then using all the photos, writings and documentation, Hannah Jennings put the show up on my website.

My major creative work right now is writing, an every day endeavor that sometimes make me very lonely for the camaraderie of the studio and the touch of materials, so the Pomegranate Exercise served to connect me to other artists and friends (and friends of friends, since many women invited others). I loved all the organizational details, mailing out the poms, receiving them back transformed, and reading the wise words and reflections of other creative crones or, in some cases, crones-to-be. This project feels like a great experiment in 'virtual community' which I have been working towards since I closed Studio Pardes.

I hope you'll go and visit the exercise and let me know what you think. My deepest thanks to all the artists and to Hannah Jennings of HJ Designs who put the pages up and made them beautiful and easy to navigate. Anyone with ideas for more collaborative projects is invited to get in touch, many of the Pomegranate artists are interested in participating in more such efforts.


elizaBeth Benson said...

this is such a moving story of contemplation and connection. i love every bit of the journey through this pomegranate exercise.

recently, in kaleo & elise's chi gung class, i found and encountered my own empty womb through the exercise you first taught me that magic hour in the jfku studio at the conference back in february. in recognition of my empty womb i wrote this in response to the piece i created with him:

and so i sit across from myself and look up. i sit in the stillness of the room--still nestled in this womb of room and i think--feel--be back to before i ever learned to talk to my paintings--to dialogue with my art work. i sit. i be with the pen on the white page in the emptiness of what only existed as idea and outline before--before--before--and here in the womb of room i bear witness to that which exists in just this way. just this one day. i look to see the bouquet of feathers grafted on to daisy stems--a memory of my mother--of my motherhood--cage for womb and emptiness--wide expanse of empty caves of womanhood used for their usefulness and now abandoned never to know what it was--what is is--what it will never be again--new life never taking root again--never blooming--never growing empty womb emptied--and so it goes now--so it can go now--the grand house that was the first sweet home of my beloved beloved--my babies, grown and growing living instead inside the cage of heart--the protected box of treasure flanked by keys and mirrors offering their believing in the core--the earth pump the blood pump the life pump that is my being--is my place inside where i reside--too intricate to see--too overwhelming, me--too many layers and utterances--too much to touch to reach to feel deep inside the deepest side i come alive with heart and blood and chi--i come alive with breath and sound and beat. i come alive this one completion day. i come alive. i come alive--and life it seems--the widest breath. the silver string that does its best to connect the dots and hold together what is only an idea. i see--i see--i see him see. i see, i see, i see him see. i see the stories, buried pain. i see the integration game. i see the breath and blood, the hearty hub of all that comes and flows. i see the reason and the dread--i see the fear mistakes in red. i see the quiet heart of deep. i see the angel--makes me weep. i see the bitter nest of fall. i see the spirit, po and all. i see the longing to take flight. i see the memories of light. i see the funny dainty hue. i see the longing far too soon. i see the ache of day and night. i see the trying to get it right. i see the weight of all my mights and one days taking flight. and soon to stumble through the stories. soon to write the words and longings. soon to take apart this dream. soon to steal this pleasant thing and store it lonely in its box of waiting--lost beyond the heart of this thing--this chi kung longing breathing reaching taking in and deep. this red dress longing--evening fire--soon to take its sleep. and oh, for how wild alive i’ve felt--oh for the richness of what’s dealt--oh for the others learning too, oh for the making dreams come true--and here inside this happy heaven--here inside this brazen lesson--i will live as this idea--these words that tell the tale. temporal--just like the breath--the life that beats and breathes--these vital organs pass away--flotsam, jetsam all they leave.

and so the goddess speaks:

she says let go of womb and winter--

let fall away the loss

let go beyond the longing

give way to one more off

delight in inner wisdom

rejoice in freedom’s free

inside you soar delighted

let weight and pain release

their hold no longer needed

the chi kung holds you now

breathe in and deep belonging

transform the body home

ignite the fire within you




and the minute it’s over--no--minutes before it’s really over--an hour, actually, i begin to mourn. i sit across the room from the culminating creation and consider what it is to look at her--she is, at once, too much--and i feel the despair for her complexity--her layers and layers and layers of seemingly bigger than life that is, in fact, the exact size of it--hers--mine--just as big as life itself.

and it is all it is--for each one of us--unearthing our chi--our life force, our spirits--made plain, layed open, hung, precariously on the wall. here we all are--HERE WE ALL ARE. and it is as it continues to be--unfolding miracle after unfolding miracle--flower of life opening and opening and opening and opening and opening and opening and opening and opening awakening after awakening sacred spirits taking flight gorgeous earth, fire, water, and air, metal--cutting metal--grounding spirals of energy uncoiling with discernment this time--red of former self pulled back in wings of promised flight--lungs breathe earth and air, fire and water and live to tell about it in remembered tendernesses of breathing truths in searing final releases from fear of death--from life itself. and courage coils. spirals. up and up and through and through one integrated dance of life and death, memory and longing, freedom and abundance--so much, so full, so delighted--angel taking flight swirling up in flotsam and jetsam symbols and memories assembled from the wreckage of another overflowing dream. there is this--only. there is this--her and now swirling. there is only this. sitting here in this chair. sitting here in this dream of here and now, there and then, someday and this moment. form, experience, song and ever lingering memory to pass away in time--to pass on past the emptiness of rebirthing only one’s self for the rest of the cycles that remain.

and then there is this--what i read in class when it was my turn to share:

and so it is

the heaven pours

wraps itself around the life

leaves its footprints

its fire trails

in whispers of

remembered touch

deep breath

tan tien breath

forcing the stuff

of the insides


in sweet massage

whisper of wind

travels down into

the depths of me

offers its sweet wisdom

to the rest of me

gives what can be given

and helps the passing on

life lives out its excellence

breathes in deep its opulence

i move forward in fiery abundance

looking forward to the dance

and utterance of winged prayer

a careful yes invites the air

the breath of sweet discernment

now, i pack away my youth

i put my buried past to rest

i give the gracious last its breath

i let go

i let go

i let go

i go on

Anonymous said...

People should read this.