Odyssey Spirit Caves Mom's Bones Tikkun Olam Weaving Totems


Land of the Lotus-Eaters:
The Drink of Oblivion, Letting Go, Forgetting Home

Lotus Eaters sculpture, wood with silk petals and lotus seed pods

11"h x 20"w x 20"d
Maple, oak, sycamore eucalyptus, clay, stone, paper, silk, fiber, lotus pods

Blown so far off course by the storms that hit his ships, Odysseus is cautious with the crew, still mourning the loss of their crewmembers at the hands of the Cicones. He has learned at least one lesson as leader of these men.  If he plans to get them home safely, he will have to take a firmer hand directing them, and on this occasion, to shelter them from the unknown as they recover from the recent losses. He sends three trusted scouts ashore to reconnoiter. In the town, the serene residents receive the scouts without harm, offering hospitality and a refreshing drink made from the lotus fruit. The scouts are unaware of the power of the potion to induce stupor, chronic cessation of urgency, and forgetfulness. They relax, abandoning mission, companions, and memories of home.

When his men do not return, Odysseus himself goes ashore. He collars the errant scouts who are still high on the local pharmaceuticals. They weep but he corrals them back to the ship, where he ties them at the rowing benches. Odysseus hopes that the rhythm of the oars will speed their recovery and that the company of their shipmates rowing beside them will remind them of the goal, returning home.

The land of the Lotus-eaters is an ancient la-la land, the equivalent perhaps of the modern mall, or the inebriated Caribbean cruise, Or a potential portal to altered consciousness, relief from spiritual emergency, or the honeymoon chamber of addiction. In the land of the Lotus-eaters, the warrior lowers his guard, relaxes from worries, past and future, and rests his war-weary soul. Is he lost, or found? Has the unwitting traveler entered the “sacred now,” or abdicated his life forever? In modern terms, is he inadvertently caught in the drug/alcohol experience, trapped in the rosy fluorescence of the well-lit mall, drowning in credit card debt, losing his home, relegated to the margins through foreclosure and despair?


Beneath the canopy of the Lotus-eaters, deep stream, new blossoms

I have a dear younger brother who spent many years as a homeless addict in Vancouver's Eastside. When I returned to the Northwest, I would travel to Vancouver in an attempt to find him. When we finally did reunite, he told me what he felt it was hard for people outside the addict community to understand. That beyond the drug trade outside the Carnegie Library central to the community, beyond the police station a block away, beyond the many prostitutes who had recently gone missing and the refusal of the police to investigate, beyond the young people, toothless, gaunt, dazed, dirty and bedraggled, shooting up in the alleys, or with lips burned crispy by the crack pipe, there were moments. He could see that I had lost my footing in that environment – had no markers left. Did I realize, he asked me, that for the addict, that few moments of relief after the drug-laced deep breathe or the "shot in the arm" were the rosiest few hundred seconds of the addict's day?

Lotus pod and blossoms

The rosy canopy of this sculpture is a remembrance to that sharing. The tall broad, brown, miniature trees in the scene are actually the pods of lotus flowers, available from most florists. The seeds remain within and when the sculpture is moved, the seeds shake within the pods and sound like the invertible rain-stick, thought to have come down from the Aztecs.

The petals and leaves of the canopy are a transmutation of an old hat my mother made when I was a teenager. There was always a struggled for the feminine in our house, with its five, powerful, different male presences. One winter, my mother took a hat-making course, perhaps as an antidote to the male squeeze. Each evening for weeks, she cut up little snippets of silk in shades of pink and rolled the edges by hand, first running a thin line of glue around the edges, then rolling the glue and silk, as she might lick and roll a cigarette, but much tighter, and with more delicacy, into these exquisite petals. When she had finally sewed all the petals on to the starched interior armature of the hat, she modeled it for the family. The boys rolled off the couch laughing --- as to them it looked like the synchronized swimmers' bathing caps in old movies. "Ridiculous!" was their verdict. I never saw my mother wear that hat again, but she did keep it, and after she died I found it stashed carefully in the back of her closet in a lovely hatbox. It was one of the few precious things that I kept from her estate after she died. I dyed a few of the petals green, to add leaves to the scene I was creating, in her honor. She would have appreciated that I went back for my brother, who looked a lot like her, and whom we older kids always thought was her favorite.

Ragged edge of drug scene, the far side

I also have other family members who have spent time "under the rosy canopy." Note the darker, ragged edge on the far side of the sculpture. These other family members have also spent time there. That ragged edge is too often the haunt of today’s lotus-eaters, the addicted, the homeless, the abandoned, the wandering mentally ill, the war-wounded, lost on their way home, or "outsided" by neglect, or by the sadness of it all, which can also overwhelm those who step in to help. Statistics suggest that as many as 50% of homeless in the U.S. are ex-military who never successfully made the journey home, and recent military statistics indicate that more soldiers die of suicide than of battle wounds. We obviously need a different way to consider the wounds of war. Meanwhile, alas, the waves of drugs, heroin, cocaine, meth, continue to flood into our communities, destroying cohorts of all sorts, from military units, to families, to friendships. So many lives are lost, living high, living dead.

Have you ever lost direction? Does anyone know where you are now? Do you? If you are lost, might someone be looking for you? Where might you find caring allies? Whom might you approach for guidance or support?

Like this scene of the Lotus-eaters, with its ragged side, hanging off the edge in tatters, unfinished, several of the sculptures in this series reveal a different view of that "island of experience." As you sail among these sculptures, check out the “far side” of some of the pieces.

As the website develops, I hope to include a small album of various orientations and close-ups of each sculpture. The Odyssey is a very powerful story, a book for all-time, a huge container, not only of the tales within it, but also evocative of the stories within us all.