by Dunya Dianne McPherson
Last summer at Movement Monastery in New Mexico, when I am no longer a young pretty dancer, when the ground and sky, the weather, ideals, and my bones have the temerity to shift—Catherine Ryder does a sketch of me. She does many sketches: sunset, the road, people dancing in the studio, squirrels, ravens. In her sketch of me holding a raven, I see something more real than a reflection. She has caught something…For the first time in my life, I see me—a real woman with a real life. This woman, who is me, is also Everywoman. We have a few conversations about her doing a painting; I want to commission this if she is interested. Yes, she is. We part ways and over the autumn she works on it, sending me photos of her progress until we both know it is done.
I send her money—which felt amazingly good—and she ships the painting, It now hangs over my writing table in my studio where every day it can remind me of who I am. It is newly in my life but I feel a deep swell in the ground under me. I feel that this vision will help me. It will ameliorate the struggle to keep my heart fire lit. It takes so much to keep going. Not just rent and lunch. Yes, it takes that. And it also takes being seen. A witness to one’s truth. That I have something hanging on my wall that does this for me is some sort of miracle.
This is what I wrote to Catherine when the painting arrived:
“I knew where she would hang so I waited for a quiet moment in the afternoon to put her up. I love her so much. An amazing vision. I love the veils emerging from sky and land, hair combed into the wing feathers, the legs part of the mesa. I could see this in the photo but the reality is far more moving and deep. It is a beautiful painting. A real vision. I am glad I am part of it but it goes far beyond me. Yet I also know I am not just a model. And the raven. Just right. The eye gazes at me. I love the sun glowing at the edge, not a big feature but not absent. I love the tree raying up and the earth raying down, the feeling of roots and source and the ground growing into and emerging from the planet. I love the claws and the hands making diagonals. The glorious raven claws! My eyes closed as if letting my being see through the raven’s bright eye, hearing the wind around us. I love how the raven’s eye and my ear make an attentiveness between them. Everything moves out of everything else and yet there is beautiful definition. You have made something so wonderful.”
My work and writing are sponsored by Dervish Society of America (DSA), a nonprofit 501-C3 organization dedicated to the Path of embodied mysticism. DSA provides opportunities for personal development, exploratory inquiry into embodied spirituality, and community connection through practice, service, and performance. DONATIONS are tax-deductible.