Saturday, May 21, 2011

She Who Watches

Photograph by Marilyn Laufenberg
She Who Watches is both a petroglyph (carved into the rock) and pictograph (art drawn or painted onto rock). Tsagaglalal, as she is called by native Americans, is larger than I imagined—about 16 inches across. 

     She Who Watches can only be visited on a guided tour to the Columbia Hills State Park located on the Washington side of the Columbia River. All along the trail, you can pick out petroglyphs depicting deer, mountain sheep, owls, salmon, and a mysterious creature with long flowing tentacles. It's like a treasure hunt with Tsagaglalal as the grand finale. 
    I spent a day here with my women's hiking group. Amidst the chatter and photography, I felt a stillness and power from these rocks. I've experienced this before in Mesa Verde and other national parks in the Southwest—a tightening of my chest and pulsing throat. As we sat and gazed back at She Who Watches, our tour guide told us the legend. 

A woman had a house where the village of Nixluidix was later built. She was chief of all who lived in the region. That was a long time before Coyote came up the river and changed things and people were not yet real people.  After a time Coyote in his travels came to this place and asked the inhabitants if they were living well or ill. They sent him to their chief who lived up on the rocks, where she could look down on the village and know what was going on. 

Coyote climbed up to the house on the rocks and asked "What kind of living do you give these people? Do you treat them well or are you one of those evil women?"

"I am teaching them to live well and build good houses," she said.

"Soon the world will change," said Coyote, "and women will no longer be chiefs." Then he changed her into a rock with the command, "You shall stay here and watch over the people who live here."

All the people know that Tsagaglalae sees all things, for whenever they are looking at her those large eyes are watching them.

    There are several legends, of course, including one that interprets her large staring eyes as a representation of death and disease brought by white settlers in the 18th and 19th centuries. But, sitting there quietly after everyone has left, it is not death that I see in her eyes. It is spiritual energy emanating from rock.

New York Odyssey

Chrysler Building ©  Margaret Chula

John and I often visit New York in February. Winter is a good time to be in Manhattan: few tourists, discounted hotels, and the museums feature exquisite exhibitions at a time of the year when people enjoying spending time indoors. Manhattan is a cornucopia of delights—from the variety of architecture styles to international cuisines, to the finest museums and art galleries, music of every genre, theater, and a colorful babble of languages in the streets. Like tourists, we constantly gaze upward at the skyscrapers and the shapes they form against the sky, juxtaposed to other buildings, and viewed from many angles.

We have our routines: going to our favorite places like the Metropolitan Museum and taking in jazz at the Village Vanguard. And don't forget the earring store at Blue Ice in the Village. On this visit we spent more than six hours at the Met, even meeting our friend Arnold Steinhardt there for lunch at the Petrie Court Cafe overlooking Central Park. The Japanese wing is our favorite, particularly the Isamu Noguchi water basin. We always stop to relax, gazing at the water spilling over the rim. It reminds me of my tanka book title Always Filling, Always Full. This fountain is always filling.

Maggie in front of E.V. Day painting

We also enjoy discovering new things each time we visit—like strolling around Chelsea dropping into galleries. There are some amazing artists, both new and celebrated, exhibiting their recent work. One of my favorites was E.V. Day and her show at the Carolina Nitsch Gallery. Entitled "Seducers", walls were covered with gigantic flowers which were indeed seductive, drawing the viewer into the center like an insect. E.V. spent three months in residence at Claude Monet's estate in Giverney where she collected blooms, pressed them in a microwave, scanned them digitally, and printed them on paper eighteen times their original size. My favorite was the gorgeous pink peony. I could almost smell its fragrance!

Shinichi Maruyams's show "Gardens" was a very modern take on Japanese gardens. "The Zen garden is the expression of boundless cosmic beauty in a physical environment, created through intense human concentration, labor, and repeated action," Maruyama says in his artist's statement. For us, these were more cosmic and surreal than Zen, but they were powerful as art pieces. The colors were spectacular and the images reminded us of Miro. 

Shinichi Maruyama