Magdalena is the mark of the feminine that made it possible for me to embrace the passion and mystery of life.
My Mama Pearl’s church had two doors, and the men entered one door. The women entered the tiny wooden sanctuary through the other door. The preacher I remember as an angry man who referred to his sermons as The Good News. I most remember the sermons that explained situations that required angels to manifest themselves to mortals. The first thing an angel would shout to a person is “Fear Not”. The preacher explained it this way. “Fear Not” he yelled the words of comfort and told that the angel appeared to Mary the Virgin in her room and announced, “because of your worthiness you are with child by a ravishing of the Holy Ghost”. I grew up afraid and exotic vocabulary words stayed in my curious child mind: Virgin, Ravishing, and Holy Ghost.
Another “Fear Not” sermon told about the angel manifestation that blinded the wicked Saul and transformed him from sinner Saul, to servant Paul. I feared that either sinning or sinlessness could trigger an angel to manifest. Mama Pearl weighed 93 pounds and she died when she was 93. I imagined that she used up a pound a year until she just departed like air to her own angel incarnation. She wore dark dresses, her long white braids wrapped around her head; she did not believe in haircuts, jewelry, airplanes, or putting pictures on the wall. When I turned 12 years old, her Christmas gift to me was my own cemetery plot beside the church in Mississippi. She walked me to my plot and explained that if I accepted salvation, I would escape the mortification of the flesh and be cloaked in a glorified body that is genderless, does not dance, feel pain or eat for all of eternity. I have spent most of my life running from that hot dirt waiting beside that church in Mississippi. My constant prayer as a child was to beg God that if he thought I was worthy that he would not send either an angel or a ravishing Holy Ghost, and if I was wicked to please not strike me blind, just tell my mother or Mama Pearl to let me know what he had on his mind.
Mama Pearl was the matriarch and the arbiter of morality for the family. After we worked on the farm, she always supervised the swimming outings to the chilly Cedar Creek. The water of Cedar Creek was icy swift, and exactly the same color as root beer. She had a dependable ritual each time we were in the water. She would scold us from the sandy, rocky shore then wade in for more emphatic emphasis and then stumble all the way into the water. Once the stumbling was accomplished, she would announce, “Now that I am wet, I
might as well swim”. She swam powerfully, dark dress swirling beneath the dark water. Her braids would loosen and her white waist length hair would unravel and float on top of the water like magic snakes. She was my first angel manifestation, fully woman, human and passionately connected to the water, the earth. This sacred vision has ignited my passion for raw honest beauty, and fueled a quest to cherish each moment of this fragile human mortality.
Objects and images seem to carry spiritual import long after humans depart. Therefore, for me, making images is a way to stir the language of the angels and to try to manifest both mystery and truth.
Now that I have fallen into Life, I might as well swim.