Monthly Archives: February 2012

Dance, Lala!

Rivera Sun Cook dancing, photo by Steve DiBartolomeo

“Dance, Lalla with nothing on

but air.  Sing, Lalla,

wearing the sky.

Look at this glowing day!  What clothes

Could be so beautiful, or

more sacred?”

excerpt from Naked Song  by Lalla, translated by Coleman Barks

Many have asked, at this point, if there is a connection between our African-American Lala and the Kashmiri saint, Lalleshwari, born approx. 1320 AD.   I did not know of Lalleshwari until after poetry-filled dancing Lala came to me with her lyrical stories, but Lalleshwari quickly wound her way into my heart as much as her 1890 contemporary, Lala, did.  Lalleshwari was well known for her divinely inspired songs and dancing in the Kashmir region of India.  Also well-known for upsetting social conventions, and passionately following a profound spiritual path.  There is a saying that only two words mean anything in Kashmiri; Lalla and Allah, all the rest being just language.  Allah is one name for God.  Lalla means darling.   And, as our Lala says “God’s Word is Love.”

There are two books of Lalleshwari’s poetry I recommend.  One is Naked Song translated by Coleman Barks.  The other is Lalleshwari : spiritual poems by a great Siddha yogini, by Swami Muktananda and Swami Laldyada.

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Drawing Hope

Sketches for "Hope at the End of the World" -a new illustrated book coming Fall 2012

 

My ‘desk’ is a futon couch covered (like all desks) with mountains of utterly intriguing and invaluable scraps of paper, sketches, and tools of the trade.  Tea ware, incense, scrap paper, rulers, writing boards, laptop, an old fashioned suitcase full of art supplies, old poster designs, new sketches, ‘reference books’ of Alphonse Mucha & Trina Schart Hyman illustrations, music and video files from the plays, the to-do list (hidden somewhere under it all), and my wide-brimmed green hat to shade my eyes when the sun angles through the window around two o’clock.

 Today, Hope lies on the top of the pile.

Hope at the End of the World, an illustrated novel, (which I hope is as philosophic, beautiful, and heart-warming as The Little Prince), tells the metaphoric story of our times.  Beginning with a prayer for our world and ending with an answer, the heroine, Hope, embarks on a quest to find a way to keep our world from ending.

The Art Nouveau inspired illustrations keep my eyes and hands busy crafting beauty, looking for flow and grace in every nuance of my own life.  A walk on the mesa I live on becomes a study of form, foreground and background.  Incense taunts me, dares me to try to capture its curves and shapes.  All around me the majesty of our world smiles as I attempt to bring you a little of its wonderment in this book.

Much love,

Rivera


The Creative Power of Solitude

Rivera walking on the mesa.

The desert mesa stretches east and west and all around.

Taos-town lies five miles off.

Only our next-door neighbors know our names.

Here, in solitude, the stories sing themselves.

Two months of quiet and the creative juices bubble over.  Since moving to the Taos Plateau from Santa Cruz, CA, two new plays, the text of a new book, a few essays, poems, and artistic projects have sprung forth from total focus and sheer love of this work.

Everyday, I rise and dance.  Then I drink tea, meditate, and begin work, even before breakfast.  The rice congee cooking on the stove, the incense furling, and my mind listening for the stories, new material has flowed like the spring that Long Shoe dowsed in “The Imagine-a-nation”.

After hours of writing, with a break for food, I’ll stumble out into the afternoon sunshine to pace the mesa foot trails that stretch for miles through the sage brush.  In the evenings, by the fire, drawing and sketching soothes my mind and brings it with the pencil point to a precision of quiet that prepares my mind for sleeping.

The wind on the chimney and the coyotes yipping are the sounds of our surroundings.  The quiet brings me to the source, the listening, and the dedication to write stories on behalf of all beings.  I read the Mahayana Buddhist Sutras, the Shaivite poems of Lalleshwari, the Taoist verses of Sun Pu-erh.  I let the dross of all I’ve known and learned settle to the bottom of the pond, so I can see, with clarity, how tell stories that end all suffering.

With Love, Rivera Sun