My Thinking, Feeling Friends,
This holiday week in Dallas has been amazing. I’ve driven around to see the holiday lights in lovely neighborhoods, I’ve had insightful conversations with new friends, and I graduated an academic level. Two nights ago, I met a brilliant, and exceptional Doctor who works with veterans and is known for his amazing bedside manner and meaningful interactions with his clients, his patients. We had a great conversation, and one visit to his Facebook page opened my mind to new instruments, music and inspirations.
I learned of this musician Loreena McKennitt, the Celtic goddess, from the good doctor. Her song “The Mystics Dream” called to me, and the images along with her sound, her tone prompted the question: “What do the mystics dream?”. Well, I dream of teaching others to craft beautiful handmade objects like paper, books, soap and yarn, so that we may use the quiet centered part of our creative self to recreate our sense of Self. These objects are simultaneously necessary items and luxury items. The quality of the product reflects the attention to detail, and care for the process and end result; it is symbolic of how deep we go. Only the arts and artisanal activities allow this possibility. Creativity is the key to our internal alchemy lab, the place where we create our Self.
I dream of working with people who are aware of the arc of their healing journey, and who are ready to dig deeper into the meanings of major life experience. To excavate one’s experience is to find one’s personal treasure. My dream is to help others learn to map their way to the treasures within, treasures born of intense experience, what others call “trauma”.
As I listened to this song and thought about the person who led me to it, I started to think about the ways in which I could facilitate the healing journey with Veterans. I would like to practice the alchemy of papermaking and storytelling with veterans. I envision doing this work in the VA Hospital, because it is the liminal space between the walk of the warrior and the civilian reality. The veterans are profoundly changed from walking the warrior’s way because they must now swim heart-deep through the healing process. They perceive the world through a filter that most people will never know. I would like to offer them the creative space to examine and recycle that filter to create new intent and an integrated self. The way to recycle that old filter is to recycle symbolic recycled materials to create new objects with renewed purpose and function. The way to integration will come from guided reflection on the lessons learned during their time in the service, at war, and returned to civilian life.
If I were so blessed to work with veterans, we would create paper from the pulp of their active duty paperwork (and other significant personal papers). We would then use the new paper to make bind custom books. We would fill the books with what we uncover in our alchemical laboratories. What does the Service mean to your whole self? What have you learned from your travels? We would recycle the remnants of active duty (as represented by the papers) into a blank medium (new paper / peace paper) on which they may verbally or visually explore their vision for an affirming, generative, integrated life of their own making (by hand-binding books from their paper).
The next video features veterans who make paper from their combat uniforms. This project launches from the participants stance on the war, while acknowledging the transformation of the uniform and the “negative” mememories, into paper that is a vehicle for expressing those concerns. In our project, there would be room for those types of expression alongside guided thought exercises to transform the understanding of the combat experience into a pool of wisdom they can draw from.