At the Sacred Heart Cafe, I make art to feed the hungry heart. Open all night, a warm place to wander and browse, savor and enjoy.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I'm getting ready to go fishing in New Mexico. Poles and tackle, waders and vests have been mailed ahead, and await us in a friend's garage in Albuquerque. I've packed my bead box, wee vials of essential beads for a half dozen necklace sets, plus tools and findings. This designing "ahead" of the making is a discipline for me since I prefer to make my jewelry intuitively, choosing from my plethora of mica clay, ancient glass, gemstones and vintage beads at my fingertips. Like any process that feels unfamiliar, it is a worthy practice. So I design and choose and organize, culling it down to the essentials. Getting ready to go.
In the midst of my getting ready, my elder friend June, recovering from heart surgery in January, asked for me help when she found herself with an infection that required some big decisions on her part. For the past two days we have been dancing through her fears of returning to the hospital "prison". We waltzed and jigged and tangoed through two emergency rooms, cat scans and blood work and mighty decisions as she stood on the threshold between this life and the next.
After doctors' consults in office and on the phone, June decided to return to the hospital, but before we did, we played hookie. Yup. I took her to the beach. In our tiny coastal town Oceano, you can park in a sandy lot at the edge of the beach and gaze into forever. We got there at high tide, with the waves coming as close to our car as possible (good timing!) and sat there breathing in the salt sea sounds and aromas. June is Otter Woman, a swimmer in fresh water and salt, who swam a mile a day for decades. We sat there in the car, parked nose into the sand, and talked about what she wanted. Turns out she wanted a few simple pleasures. She hadn't been allowed to take a shower since January. She wanted to take a shower, to swim again, to immerse herself in the waters of life. A shower. Check. She wanted a window that opened to the fresh air in her room so she could feel the breeze, see the sky. Open window, sky, breeze. Check.
On our way up the coast to the hospital, almost there, she spoke longingly of a tasty lunch we had shared last year at a favorite bistro in town. On a whim, I asked her if she was hungry...and to my surprise (she had lost her appetite since her surgery) she answered YES. For what? Golden Curry Noodle Bowl! Big smile on my face, as I turned the car around and backtracked through town, and she laughed out loud "You mean NOW? Before we go to the hospital?" No time like the present, and anyway, it's lunch time. Time for some sacramental food from the Sacred Heart Cafe, which just then, was at June's favorite window booth in a tiny Thai cafe. We shared a golden curry noodle bowl with gusto, her first awakening of hunger for several months. Holy food. We spoke more, between spoonfuls, of what she wanted. Inclusion in every decision, every procedure. Check. The option to say no, if her heart said no. Check. A whole different experience than her last one there. Check. She insisted on picking up the tab. Check! And on we danced to the hospital.
In the ER, the tango began, and June knew every step, because we had practiced them beforehand.
She was met by compassionate nurses and her surgical team and more tests, more options, more decisions. Every single thing she wanted, she asked for, taking all the time she needed. Our last steps twirled her into a quiet private room, with an open window, with sun streaming onto her bed, with a nurse who remembered her and treated her with loving dignity, getting her ready. Ready for a procedure that would require frequent showers, promised by her doctor.
I'm home now, getting ready to go again, to go fishing for heart rocks and brown trout, for time together with my husband of thirty years, for time alone with my journal and bead box, for celebrating my sixtieth birthday at holy mineral springs, sinking into hot healing waters, fishing for a new place that may call us home. Getting ready to go. Check.
Monday, March 2, 2009
During late October for the past eight years I have created a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ofrenda (altar) during my Open Studio Tour. For many of my central California coast customers, it was their first experience of this vibrant celebration remembering our beloved relatives and friends who have passed on. On my altars I place bouquets of freshly picked marigolds, "the flower with 400 lives" which I grow each year in my garden. Named cempazuchitl by the Aztec peoples, the scent of marigolds is believed to draw the souls of our loved ones back to earth, forming a welcome path for them to follow home.
Also on my ofrenda, I place photographs of my dearly departed in colorful frames, alongside an offering of their favorite food. For my Minnesota dad, a plate of snicker doodles or divinity fudge, specialties he loved when made by his mother, my stalwart Norwegian grandmother Lila. For my mama, a child of Sicilian immigrants, a glass of deep burgundy table wine. For Marya, my "other mother", it has to be chocolate, bittersweet and dark, and plenty of it.
It was in Marya's memory that I set up my first Our Lady of Perpetual Chocolate Shrine and Snack Bar. The shrine is sculpted from clay, fired, painted and gilded. I usually balance some dark chocolate kisses on her head, and surround her with organic, fair trade chocolates, bon bons and brownies, cocoa dusted almonds and butterfingers.
Guest to my Open Studio are invited to enjoy some chocolate, as well as fresh baked Pan de Muertos (Bread of the Dead). I bake this bread (or ask my eleven year old nephew Aiden, a fine gourmet baker to do the honors) once a year for my altar. Redolent with anise and decorated with skull and bone shapes, the oval loaves of pan de muertos fill the air with an aroma to die for! This year, the ants found one loaf and invaded it. I set it outdoors as an offering to all the ants I have killed over the years. They seemed to enjoy it very much.Please visit our Day of the Dead Market showcasing the creative work of six unique artists:
Here is a prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Chocolate, which I wrote the year my other mother Marya passed away, suddenly and too soon.
Oh, Bountiful Mother, our Solace and Comfort. Give us this day our daily bar of dark and sweet delight. For all the children of war, transform all the bombs.....into bonbons. Where there is fear, let there appear.... a comforting cup of cocoa. For those who hunger and thirst for justice, gather us together and shower us......with fondue. When there is sickness and no desire to eat, bake us some magic brownies. For all the lonely hearts of our world, deliver a heart shaped box of......nuts & chews. Where there is bitterness in our lives, infuse it with the sweetness of.....fudge. Oh, Truffled Goddess of Delight, we yearn for your cocoa kisses. Be always present at our parties. Wrap us in your creamy arms. Melt in our mouths. Amen. Alleluia. Pass the brownies.