The Sea
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Whales and Handmade Paper
I scrambled down a steep double black diamond slope loose with shale to a hidden cove in Big Sur. There amongst gray and green boulders, just above the mighty Pacific I finally found what I sought, for I had made many futile attempts. Pure ivory form, winged, 4 feet thick, the cranium. I lay my body over it, and press my cheek into its cool firmness. I place my hands, then my face onto the two nodules, breast-like and peer into the round hole where the spinal fluids passed into the brain. Catching a trace of whale scent I began to weep. For me it is more eloquent than the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. I have returned many times to listen to the bone, to marvel over its ingenuity and function, and to dance.
  Shortly after the World Trade Center Tragedy, the bones of a juvenile humpback whale washed ashore. Some were brought onto the land where I was living and began to inform my waking and sleeping dreams. I began casting sheets of paper over them.

To my amazement when I lifted the sculptures off of the bones I felt the aliveness of the whales transferring into the paper. I decided to bring my handmade paper sheets in my backpack to the cove and to form them over the cranium. After several days of drying amidst noisome fogs and full moon seas, I lifted the paper off of the bone, and held it up. Someone exclaimed “AN ANGEL!”

Through the bones we can purify ourselves of negative energy. When I am politically active on the whales’ behalf, I am purified. When I dance with the paper sculptures, they purify me. In Eastern spiritual practices handmade paper is imbued with healing and mystical properties. It is in this spirit that I work. I feel their energy penetrating my shoulder blades and spinal column. Similar to the shamans who take on the power of an animal by putting on its skin, I know I am taking on the essence of the whale when I place the whale guardian over my shoulders and head. At the beginning I am often overcome with the portent of the mission, for each time I seek to fulfill the inexplicable. Linear time ceases. I enter into cosmic stillness. By the end my body is vibrating with the whale body as contained in the paper.


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