Friday, April 24, 2009

Shroud Lady talks about Art and Death in Arcata, CA!

Shroud Lady talks about Art and Death in Arcata, CA!
(Photo graciously offered from Frisco Ramirez...whose site I will talk about in another posting soon!)

"Funeral fun at the Fellowship Saturday"
That's the headline on page three of the

Arcata Eye...the local community newspaper. I'm the keynote speaker here for the annual meeting of the Humboldt Funeral Consumers Alliance. I'm pleased to have been invited by member Charlotte August who has put together the program with the theme of Death and Art.

(And yes, those are bones in the picture!...from the Seldec Ossuary in the Czech Republic)
I'm happy for the chance to develop an area of my presentation that I usually only touch on...and I've had great fun collecting images (obviously!) to illustrate my premise, which is that

'Making art from and for the post-mortal body is a deeply human impulse'.
It seems to me that art and creativity are most excellent tools with which to address death and grieving....and that humans have known this for a very long time. Along with the simple and dignified process of caring for the body of someone we love who has died, creating art that expresses our feelings is something that people have done since the beginning. Neanderthal humans buried their dead with flowers. 17th century Romans and Parisians laid their dead to rest in the catacombs, visiting the dressed skeletons and arranging bones of older 'residents' into elaborate patterns and archways and murals. Mid 19th century Americans made elaborate photographic portraits of their dead loved ones....and also made 'mourning jewelry' from their hair, intricately woven into bracelets and brooches. That's just a small smattering. It turns out that Death can really fuel a creative impulse!
I call myself an Artist but I don't think that means that I have the market cornered on creativity. Being creative is a function of being human. So tomorrow, when I speak, I'm going to share a few of the more startling artistic expressions I've found addressing Death... and hopefully inspire people to unleash that well of powerful inspiration that can bubble up as we take a closer look at our feelings about the ending of a life.
So go on! make that chandelier out of those skeletons you've got hiding in your closets!
I'll let you know how the talk goes!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Big Doings at A Fine Farewell!


First, oddly, I can't seem to correct the date on this post! It's actually Sunday, April 19, 2009!
So... in this time of spring, Easter, Passover, and general indications of "risin' up from bein' dead", I'm wanting to report some new developments for A Fine Farewell. Today I am featured in an article in the NY Times, Business section, about funeral alternatives,
I've also launched my new website, (version one, anyway!) in time for this incredible opportunity.

Today's picture is the one from the article, taken by photographer
Brian Lee, Brian's a pleasant fellow based here in Portland. The Times sent him out on Monday and we had a lively couple of hours yakking and snapping pictures in my new studio. And here's one more of those little 'confirmations' from the Universe that I am so often startled and delighted by.... Brian's assistant, Scooter, (he never did tell me his last name!) told me he had been in the military and been part of the Honor Guard. According to Wikipedia; "The primary purpose of an honor guard is to provide funeral honors for fallen comrades." Now, how 'coincidental' is that? I can't tell you how many of these sorts of 'coincidences' arise as I pursue this work.
He told me some wonderful information about the symbolism in the stately, comforting ceremony that is offered for the families of our military dead. And I thanked him for the gift he'd given to those soldiers and their families.
It's Sunday, and I'm headed to my Sunday dance 'reset button' for the week. Enjoy the article, and remember to take a peek at my new website!
and I'll be having a 'guest blogger' for my next posting...stay tuned!
Blessings to all,

Monday, April 6, 2009

Green Burial at the Green Festival!

GREEN Burial at the Green Festival!
Hello My Friends!

I'm back from the Green Festival in Seattle, which was last weekend. You can see me in the picture, with Char Barrett, from A Sacred Moment. There we are, under the banner of the People's Memorial Funeral Cooperative...the Seattle chapter of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.
The whole Festival was just a splendid experience! I'm thankful to Char for inviting me up there to help out in the booth. She prominently displayed one of my shrouds, which she uses in teaching her home funeral guidance workshops. In addition, we had two different biodegradable caskets in the booth with us. One made of wicker and the other of sea grass. And a projection screen with a cool video running. It made for a pretty eye-catching display!

In terms of my mission, I must say that this was a great experience for me. It was such an interesting place for us to be... sharing our message where it was least expected!
I had the experience countless times each day of watching people move toward our booth, watch the video on the screen (from one of Char's workshops), and then try to 'grok' what they were seeing as they looked at the shroud.
I'd walk toward them and say something like "Not what you were expecting to see at the Green Festival, eh?" They'd look at me and say "No! It's not!"
And then I'd say; "Think of it like this...if you live most of your life trying to embody principles of sustainability, why would you stop at the very end? "

The light would just go *on* in that moment and we'd begin talking. As all of us in the booth fielded questions and helped people to get over this little 'hurdle' of not quite believing they could actually stand there and talk about Death, we heard the most heartful expressions of gratitude! We'd talk about the People's Memorial, about Home Funerals, Green Burials...about the choices and options people have for (literally!) 'Going Green'. (that got a few laughs). We answered lots of questions, we listened to poignant stories, we passed out cards and brochures, we made contact with many hearts, and we helped open many minds.

It was extremely satisfying to see people walk away from our booth feeling relieved and empowered.
* Relieved to know that they have options to personalize and"re-sacralize" the experience of a death and funeral ceremony.
* Empowered to make a sustainable choice for the end of their lives or the lives of those they love, and also empowered to wake up from this pervasive cultural trance around the subject of death.

I am still so moved by this! Lately I've been in another swirl of intense focus on the 'left brain details' of building my business. There at the festival I was nourished by all of those people sharing all of their stories. That's why I do this work. Sometimes I think of my work as simply giving people "permission" --to honor Death in ways that are sacred, creative and satisfying.
( and, to be honest, I'd really like to add "fun" to that list!)

Thank you again,Char, for inviting me, and thanks too, to Jan, John Eric and the others who helped out in our booth.
Blessings 'til next time,