Season One, Four Seasons Project, 2019
My spring was punctuated by rather intense rat sightings in broad daylight. In late winter, I came across a rat who was actively dying in the middle of the sidewalk in the rain. It was large and adorable and struggling and I spent a long time trying to figure out how I might save it or comfort it, eventually realizing that there was nothing I could do but let it be. I feel deeply connected to animals and was absolutely heartbroken by this encounter and the feelings of powerlessness and sadness it evoked in me. Come spring, I encountered a completely dead rat on my path and weeks later, a second dead rat in front of me -- this one with its face missing, gnarled and bloody. My fourth and final rat sighting came in late May, this rat was also large and adorable and very much alive. It scurried right across my path and then took a seat in the brush looking at me without fear, as if saying a sweet hello.
Although sometimes a rat is just a rat, I'm a Jungian who doesn't believe in coincidences but in synchronicities and the magic of symbolism. Having never been closer than about ten yards to a rat on a city street at night (save a friend's pet rat years ago), all of these rat encounters in a matter of months were no accident to me. I decided to do a visioning journey to more intentionally meet these rats and understand why they so dramatically made their presence known to me.
In the journey, hundreds of rats showed up and came to die in front of me, one-by-one, until the floor was covered in their blood. It was gruesome and I asked them why they were doing this. They replied that they were dying in front of me so that I would become more comfortable with death in all forms - death of the body, death of all of life's circumstances, death of parts of the self, etc. They said they knew I would respectfully bear witness to this and would both honor their lives and properly grieve their deaths. So it became this exchange, they were to show me how to more gracefully sit with the impermanence of all things (something I am admittedly terrible at) and I, in turn, would witness, honor, and grieve them. Then, a paintbrush showed up in my hand and I dipped it into the rats' blood on the floor - with clarity that I was to create art from this blood.
After this visioning process, I set out to cover a canvas with blood red paint. All I felt inspired to do next was to make circles on the canvas and so I began to make hundreds of tiny circles realizing that this was now a meditation on the birth-life-death(-rebirth) cycle. I recreated this cycle over and over again on the canvas while reflecting on this truth - eventually adding the rats to the canvas. I want to lift up the qualities of the rats themselves because this wasn't just any animal who showed up. While rats are often seen as unclean pests, they also model for us: vulnerability, courage, perseverance, resilience, adaptability, creativity, resourcefulness, intelligence, honesty, ambition, shrewdness, and abundance. These are all qualities that are necessary to successfully navigate the continual waves of impermanence - the birth-life-death cycles - that we experience in our lives. I gave the rats golden crowns to honor the regality of these qualities. Their sweet little crowns are my favorite part of this piece and certainly helped make it look like a page out of a children's book... (perhaps one that would teach children some of these lessons before they reach adulthood and require several dead rats on their path to open their eyes :).
So please take a moment to sit with these Royal Rats of Impermanence and reflect on the cycles happening in your life right now. Claim which of their regal qualities you already possess and are actively using to move through your days - and, if needed, set the intention to bring more of these qualities into your daily experience so that you may more easily ride these waves. With love & reverence for the impermanence of all things, Talia 🖤
I initially started my Four Seasons project in the winter. During this time, I was going through an intense grieving process due to the recent ending of a long-term relationship. The finished project (a video) ultimately became too vulnerable-feeling for me to share publicly but here are some frames to give you a sense of it.
In late fall and winter, I was in the height of my grief. My days and nights were filled with tears and a dizzying cycle through the five stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In addition to the assistance of my healers and loved ones, I knew I needed to create art in order to constructively work through all of these emotions and so I began by writing a poem to capture what this process and season was like for me. I had had this strong metaphoric imagery coming to me that I had closed the door to the past and was now just sitting at this door processing all of these big feelings. I titled the poem, Winter at the Door.
The imagery was so strong, I wanted to expand beyond the poem. I scouted out a good door to use and enlisted a friend and creative collaborator (huge thanks to Candace Roberts) to shoot photos of me ritually acting out the poem in front of the door. With hundreds of photos to sort through, I set out to learn the intricacies of iMovie and then spent hours upon hours editing these photos into a stop-motion video set to an audio track of me reading the poem. This was a labor of love and grief. When waves of grief arose within me, I welcomed them and used them as fuel to keep going on this project.
Acting out the poem at the door and having this witnessed was a powerful, embodied experience and then watching it come to life on the screen gave me an important bird's eye perspective on all I had been working through emotionally. A part of the poem addressed my propensity for rumination and I chose to show this via a flashback montage of sweet and loving photos from this several-year-long relationship. This part was both difficult and beautiful to work on -- although it was painful to sift through these photos, it felt like a way to deeply honor this love while at the same time, call myself out on my patterns and the ways in which I still needed to grow and heal.
Every piece of this project was a salve for me: it kept me focused and moving forward through challenging days, it gave me a chance to express and be witnessed in all aspects of this grief, and it allowed me to honor this painful story of love, learning, and loss. I wanted to share the process of this project even though I'm not sharing the video itself because it is a perfect example of the power of creative expression as a tool for growth and healing. I am beyond grateful to have had this tool available to me during this time.