One concrete way of accomplishing this change is to submerge ourselves in the rest of Nature and stay open to the appearance of animals, birds, plants, etc., and by paying close attention to images and words, nudges, synchronicities, dreams, and fantasies. Especially while caregiving, perhaps the most exhausting job of all. S/he provides us with a means to deal with the crisis of Covid 19 by staying in the present moment as much as we possibly can. Debra’s flowers/ four-leaf clovers, owls, stars, all speak to the importance of the presence of nature in different ways.
It is hard to miss the change of expression on Everywoman’s face. Held by the bear, her eyes are focused and there is a sense of peace that permeates the woman’s countenance. Clearly, Everywoman is able to be present to what is. This woman has once again found home.
To the right and below the moon there is a small leaf-like image that seems to be drifting. When I asked Debra what the image was she responded that the leaf was a simplified four-leaf clover. It symbolized the role that luck plays in the spread of an impersonal virus, but memories of being with her grandfather on Sunday afternoons searching for four-leaf clovers, and the way the two were connected with nature were also part of the reason she included this image. Once again we see the archetypal and the personal intersecting in Debra’s work. On an archetypal level, the impersonal presence of luck/trickster/fool determines viral outcomes, on a personal level this symbol attaches Debra to nature and her love for family.
The clover-leaf, like the flower, isn’t attached to anything, and it is not green which might suggest something about outcomes. In fact, the color green is totally absent from the entire series, a sobering thought if one attaches the color green, as I do, to the greening of all life. However, Debra has made the desert her permanent home, and the color green when present is muted in this environment so the lack of this color may have more to do with the artist’s context than anything else.
Notice how the first round of yellow ‘blossoms’ into a larger sun in the west as more light penetrates the relief. This sun is also a star and indeed these two yellow objects might be other stars. If the star is our sun it appears to be rising from below (possibly from the realm of the unconscious) and it is moving west not east. Here we see other reversals akin to the upside-down wishbone. The area of golden light has reached the woman’s torso and seems to be moving upwards towards a still very somber multilayered charcoaled sky…
Night is still with us. But so is the power of the Great Bear.
Now, as promised, I will attempt to briefly situate this relief in the storied frame of the series as a whole. When I first saw the other two pieces I wasn’t sure that they were all crafted at the same time but I had the sense that all three were intimately connected. I saw parts of a story unfolding that were specifically related to all women, expressing an immediate problem as well as pointing to shifts that might help women as a whole.
In the first relief my eye is immediately drawn to the deep blue-black sky and the Great Horned Owl’s penetrating yellow eyes, its direct flight towards the viewer. The details of this owl are exquisite and stand out against a threatening sky. Below, in ivory and cream, we see two women’s heads facing each other and these figures complete the round. The woman on the left has eyes that are open; the other woman’s expression is unfocused but both faces turn skyward gazing towards the owl, which is a Great Horned owl. One way of interpreting this image is to say that woman‘s unconscious intuitive eye remains open, she sees/comprehends the message, while the ‘conscious’ woman’s eyes remain blurred. I think of the two anonymous women as depicting both conscious and unconscious sides of one female figure who is also ‘Everywoman’.
The owl – the Great Horned owl in particular – is a bird of Omens, and often associated with Second Sight. S/he is also a Messenger. Furthermore, the owl is also specifically related to woman’s power. For example, the Greek goddess Athena had a small owl that sat on her shoulder. All owls are associated with the Powers of Night but throughout the Southwest and Mexico, the Great Horned owl is called Tecolote and is associated with death by Indigenous peoples. To hear the call of the Great Horned owl for many peoples is a premonition of death or some other kind of disaster. In this country, the Lakota Sioux are terrified of women and men who have “owl medicine” because these people are believed to harness the powers of death for their own means.
The moment I saw the first relief I felt the presence of death, the fear that accompanies it. The pandemic struck suddenly apparently out of thin air (at least for many – impeccable scientific research had predicted such an outcome that had been ignored by the public). That this fear was related to the pandemic’s sudden explosion seemed quite obvious. Here the two parts of the anonymous woman are dealing with the threat in opposite ways. The intuitive woman on the left can face the threat; the woman on the right cannot… Consequently, we are dealing with an inner female split. There is another image of the flower or four-leafed clover in the center between the two women.
When I turned to the second relief I ‘saw’ how the specter of fear/death threatens to separate woman from her body and instincts, but happily, she recovers them by uniting herself with the bear; she is given the power she needs to deal with the crisis that is building.
In the third relief, we see the two women again only this time the woman on the right is breathing three flowers/four-leaf clovers into the air that are attached by almost invisible threads to her mouth. This woman’s head is thrown back, while the woman on the left is the smaller of the two ivory/cream images, and she peers sideway at the other woman with a quizzical look. The sense I have is that she is not taking a position on what she observes. This woman’s mouth is closed, while the other woman is exhaling, filling the air with flowers. Is this wishful thinking or does the image refer to the regenerative powers of nature? Both? It may also be that the unconscious is receding but we don’t know why.
The woman on the right breathes flowers/four-leaf clovers into the air suggesting to me that the use of breath is also critically important to healing during this time. We won’t be able to breathe deeply until we recover our instincts. These two critical components help woman to deal with the pandemic and any other threats that might come her way.
Recovering our instincts and breathing through our fears also allows us to stay emotionally present to ourselves, and to others in a meaningful way. To put ourselves in the arms of nature helps us do all of the above.
In this series I do not see an answer to our present dilemma; the Coronavirus continues to spread, but I am heartened because women are being offered priceless ‘gifts’ through Debra’s work.
Sara is a naturalist, ethologist ( a person who studies animals in their natural habitats) (former) Jungian Pattern Analyst, and a writer. She publishes her work regularly in a number of different venues and is presently living in Maine.