August 13, 2019

Birthing From Within Postcard Exchange 2019

I signed up to do a postcard exchange with other Birthing From Within mentors and doulas this summer.

Assignment: create four postcards to share with four sibling mentors/doulas.

I decided to use watercolor colored pencils on card stock.  I began by writing words from songs floating around in my head on each quarter of the page:

Then I decorated or illuminated each lyric, adding some more words as I went:

From here, I plan to print a postcard formatted thing on the back, cut it up into four pieces, and send them off.  I know they won't be perfectly divided - I didn't write and draw exactly proportionally.

What I want to print on the back is a way for people to access information about the songs in case they want to learn more.  And also because I'm doing this while at a 15 hour workshop on multicultural inclusion and I'm very aware of what I am doing here as borrowing, art built on other people's art.  I want to honor the sources I drew on and direct people to those sources wherever possible.

It's hard to fit that much information on a postcard.  So I'm doing this blog post so I can put the link on the postcard to keep it simple.

Starting in the upper right corner, going clockwise around the page, the songs are:

The Eye by Brandi Carlisle from her album The Firewatcher's Daughter.  Available from major streaming services.  This lyric speaks to me about many things in my life but also about the way people in labor can dive into the center of the experience of intensity and dance through it (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively).

We Are by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  The link is a to a video of a woman who choreographed interpretive dance based on ASL to the song. Originally recorded on their album Sacred Ground, and available from major streaming services.  This lyric is a reminder to me that every child born is a holy child.  

The Underground Stream by Mary Grigolia.  The link is to me singing the part of the song which was in my head as I couldn't find any existing videos.  The words are a quote from the Sikh/Hindu/Muslim 15th century mystic poet Kabir.  This lyric reminds me of the many kinds of knowing, and that for me, the inner knowing of my heart is one of the most important kinds.

The last quarter sheet has words from three different chants.  On the edges are words from Opening by Mary Grigolia.  Again the link is to me singing the song.  In the center are A Circle is Cast which I learned from the Libana album by the same name, although I suspect it is an old/traditional round.  Available from major streaming services.  And We Are a Circle, which as far as I can tell is an old/traditional round.  I remembered the words as "there is a circle" rather than "we are a circle" for some reason.  These song lyrics evoke the labyrinthine, spiraling nature of birth and living for me.

AND ... then I messed up.  When I went to print a postcard layout on the back of my images, despite carefully doing a sample print first ... I printed on the images.  

In my defense, I spent the last two days and nights at a very long, very arduous birth.  I am tired.  But oh, my goodness, how frustrating.  "Mama, what if I tried to carry our eggs, our precious ptarmigan eggs, and I tried to be careful, but I tripped and fell and all the eggs broke?" (from Mama, Do You Love Me by Barbara Joose).

I am resilient and persistent.  I printed (at great length; our printer has its foibles) the image I took for this blog post, and printed (on the back this time) the layout.  I regret to say that the colors are not as bright as on my original artwork, the edges not as defined or sharp.  I cut them out.  I put them in the envelope for mailing.

Then I went and read the directions.  (This is unlike me.  Normally I am a read-the-directions-first kind of person.  I may or may not follow them, but I do usually read them before starting the project.)

Apparently my artwork was supposed to be about crossing the threshold.

Sigh.  This artwork, friends, is not about crossing the threshold.  It is about birth and birth work.  I hope you enjoy it, mentor colleagues!

I guess I would say my reflection on thresholds and how they relate to this project is that you don't always know when you're crossing the threshold.  Sometimes it takes a while to be able to look back and see the turning point, the gateway you walked through in the dark, the bridge you crossed on a foggy night.  You can shoulda-woulda-coulda yourself about ways you may wish you hadn't taken.  Or you can become aware of the twists and turns you've taken, accept that where you are now is where you are, and make choices about how to act going forward.  I'm choosing to send the postcards on as planned, despite their shortcomings.  They are enough.  I am enough, tired and behind as I am with my children fighting over me like dogs over a bone after my 4 day absence.  Progress, not perfection, gets you closer to the next threshold.

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