Balam with Vision Serpents

Cover

Balam Vision Serpents Detail 1
Balam Vision Serpents Detail 1

Balam with Vision Serpents : medium: graphite and digital
20″ x 20″ digital print on canvas.

Rising
by Martin Stensaas http://www.martinstensaas.com

Rising
Like a wet tooth in the sunlight,
A smile in the glare,
A shiny hollow fang.
Some new element carried within
Aluminum rises almost to space
From the fuzzy jungled mountains
Up through the florid coat of air.
This treasure arcs.
By what miracle do we arrive
Here at the pinnacle of time?
The whole infinity engine
At our backs
Gently guiding
The parabola of our emergence.
Within this cone of experience
Rides this improbable rarity:
Our collected family
Having maneuvered the past,
Even nourished in careful craft
As single cells under glass,
In the prefect medium,
We are always playing God.
Once again, spores of the future
In a gleaming hull.

Over the Sea
Through the light and over the living skin,
Thick air on trees,
In and out of lungs,
These vapors, risen off the ancient Dream.
We have been
Over these waters so many times.
Through these distances, rain and river.
The air, too, slowly pulled
Through shell, rock, volcano, and leaves.
Oxygen, carbon, and on through the profusion…
All this a fossil
Prayer enduring
Of a long gone Great Grandfather Star,
A parting gift from the Core.

These voices,
A comfortable knowing
Of souls that fit,
And the littler voices,
Variations on a soul:
Shared and split, shared and split.
We look out the windows of the plane:
Sapphire night deepening into stars.
And little golden webs of light below.
Behold the patterns these creatures make,
Decorating the darkness.
Around us, little golden voices
Weaving stories
Shared and split
Shining in the void
So rare and concentrated
These gems of long-ago
Stars.

The Crone

The Crone Detail 1 by Sunny Strasburg
The Crone Detail 1 by Sunny Strasburg
The Crone Detail 2 by Sunny Strasburg
The Crone Detail 2 by Sunny Strasburg

The Crone : medium: graphite and digital
16″ x 20″ digital print on canvas. Signed by the artist.

The Crone
We begin life in Solutio- the element of water. We are One…merged with both our personal Mother, as well as the Cosmic Mother.

As we grow and develop from adolescence into adulthood, we feel the itch to explore the bigger world. We heed the call of the wild. We leave what is known and embark on our own heroine or hero’s journey. We enter the dark depths of the unknown–the Calcinatio, the element of fire. It is here we find our ultimate fear– the Dragon of our shadow. We must conquer this dragon in order to snatch the treasured pearl it clutches in its claws. The symbol of this pearl is our individuation.

During the next stage of development, we emerge into Sublimatio- the element of air. We have successfully navigated our own fears and life’s challenges, and arise triumphant. The kundalini rises from the fire of will into the airy expanse of a spiritual zenith.

The Crone:

As we move into the phase of pro generation, and feel closure in the sublimated celebration, we descend from the lofty heights of Sublimatio down into Coagulatio, the earth element. We ground back into Mother Earth. In our adventures, we have developed into wise old crones and wise men.

As crones, we have returned home after a long, arduous journey. The thirst to have new experiences and challenged is quenched and we are satiated.

In the place of Grandmother/Grandfather, we sit back and muse. We culminate life experience and knowledge and pass it along in story. And then we prepare for our own deeper descent into Mother Earth, into the arms of Death.

Gaia

Gaia

Gaia Detail by Sunny Strasburg
Gaia Detail by Sunny Strasburg

Gaia : medium: graphite and digital
20″ x 24″ digital print on canvas.

This piece, Gaia was inspired by a dream of climbing up a giant goddess’ leg as she lumbered out of the water. In the dream, I was male, and so tiny. She glanced down at me briefly and smiled– as one might notice a grasshopper, and kept on moving. I clung to her leg desperately, in utter astonishment and awe of her power.

Balam with Shipibo Octopi

balam shipibo

Balam with Shipibo Octopi
Balam with Shipibo Octopi

Balam with Shipibo Octopi : medium: graphite and digital
20″ x 20″ digital print on canvas.

Crimson Ribbon Atonement

Sunny Strasburg, MFTI
*names have been changed

I am gripped with fear. My heart is pounding in my throat.
I’m dizzy.

I look over at the man I’ve spent the past twenty years with and he looks like a stranger. Marty smiles, reassuring me, nonplussed. Marty is ready to delve into every nook and cranny of both inner and outer space. He seems perplexed by my doubt and writhing fear.

I swallow hard and lean over to whisper in Marty’s ear, “Screw this. I’m out of here.”
Pause….
“Should I leave?!”

Here’s that damn, benevolent smile still, and a pat on the knee, “I can’t make that decision for you. Only you can.”

We are all seated on the floor in a circle, our backs leaning against the wall. The lights dim in the circular thatched hut. It looks quite beautiful. Imagine a jungle scene and a group of twenty people all dressed in white, glowing in the dim light. The image of lambs going to slaughter flashes in my mind.

The presiding shaman walks in and a hush sweeps over the circle. Deep reverence for all that is holy settles over us. We all know there is no chance at even attempting to be elusive or fake here. These experiences are notoriously ego shredding and humbling.

The shaman begins speaking in a firm, crisp Spanish. I can’t understand her, and this intensifies my anxiety.
“What did she say?” I hiss to Marty.
The “Helpers” pass out puke buckets into which we are to purge the evil spirits. Everyone smiles and nods as the buckets are placed in front of them. This is nuts. How in the hell did I agree to participate in such insanity?

Suddenly the translator’s commands interrupt my escape plan,
“Stay Centered.”
“Remember Gratitude.”
“Breathe Deeply. Breath is essential in this practice.”

As a Jungian therapist and regular meditator, I am keenly aware of all the defense mechanisms and elaborate mental constructs we create to defend against facing the unknown. We have a strong propensity to create the illusion of control as a coping mechanism, and to help us make sense of what seems like a chaotic world. Inevitably, what lives beneath a desire for control is straight up fear—the fear of chaos.

This fear of chaos is nothing new. Our ancestors’ food supply was completely dependant on the weather. Its moods affected their basic survival. In order to create some semblance of control, they performed rain dance rituals. Elaborate rituals of sacrifice and prayer have been created to mediate our fear of death—the ultimate surrender of control.
And the fear of chaos continues, perhaps even intensified, today. Maybe we check our stocks online five times a day to be sure our investments are still there—to gain a sense of control over an unpredictable environment.
Today, we are feeling more out of control than ever. I believe that has partly contributed to the pervasive archetype of the apocalypse in the psyches of North Americans. There are vast arenas of life where we have no clue about how it all works, let alone an ability to participate in the outcome. For example, a very small percentage of North Americans know how or where their food is grown. Most of us have no clue how to survive without the food production complex we take for granted each day. Ponder the enormous amount of trust we place in the elaborate system from seed to growth, fruit, collection, transport, shipment and finally, sale to bring that banana from Chile to your fruit bowl.

And in the past few weeks, knowing I would be here tonight, facing all of those fears, has created an acute awareness of my need for control as a way to negate my very intense fear of unpredictability.
By all accounts, a spectrum of stories has ranged from absolutely terrifying to sublime, but involved dissolution of ego and surrender of all control.

The shaman calls us up one by one to take the sacrament. When I crawl on my hands and knees to the altar, I beg, “Chico….Suave….Muy Sensitiva!”
She’s an alchemist, pouring the brew back and forth in different containers.
Her eyes twinkle and a warm smile spreads across her face. It reminds me of a sunrise. She hands me the cup and says, “Salud, Sunny.”
The Circle repeats, “Salud, Sunny”
I hesitantly swallow the contents.

Rewind back three months ago. I am standing in my kitchen crying and looking out of the window at the snow falling. I am in the throes of addiction. Not to heroin or cocaine, but to coffee, stimulation, chaos, sugar and deep sadness. A chronic ennui has settled in and I feel numb. I desperately want off this treadmill of the anesthetic boredom and the chronic low level anxiety that pervades my life.

I wonder, where has my sparkle gone? I used to be curious and inquisitive, precocious in my connection to synchronicity and magic. I feel alone and disassociated, although I am surrounded by a doting husband, three rambunctious kids and tons of friends.

I also feel void of spirit. My job as a therapist has me caught in an intellectual reductivism in which everyone, including myself, seems like a tribe of lost souls– sad, dysfunctional and misguided with distorted coping skills and elaborate defense mechanisms.

When the offer came to go deep into the jungle to meet the “Ultimate Grandmother Spirit” it felt like it was time, perhaps even a second chance at rekindling a holy relationship to this life of mine.

As I sit in the circle awaiting the effects of my medicine, I send out a series of last minute, desperate pleas for help, “Please Grandmother, help me find magic. Help me overcome these addictions. Help me love myself.”

I wait in grueling anticipation. From all accounts, this isn’t going to be a gentle, Sunday drive. It will be a gut wrenching (literally), gritty, ego stripping, denial blasting rollercoaster ride. And I am trapped in the rollercoaster car. It’s ratcheting up a gigantic hill.
Click…..Click….Click…..

But just now, a delicate vision of a neon triangle begins subtly pulsing on the horizon. The shaman begins a lilting whistle—an ancient melody thousands of years old. It’s so beautiful and soothing. I feel my jaw soften and relax. However, this nice effect is bluntly interrupted by someone 10 feet away belching loudly, and then retching with a splash in their bucket.

Ugh.

Then another and another…in some kind of crazy call and answer Barf-o-rama.
“Oh my God! This is ridiculous!” I say out loud.
My husband begins shaking uncontrollably and lurches forward, puking into his bucket.
But then, thankfully, I am saved by my attention shifting back to the pulsing triangle against the velvety black backdrop of my closed eyelids. A face emerges almost like a toy pinscreen. Her face transforms into a jaguar and star constellations spread out and away from her divine face.
I whisper, “Mother.”

The vision morphs into a tactile sensory one, rather than visual. My awareness moves into the body of a jaguar cub. I can literally feel my face as if I had a blunt, furry muzzle and my articulate fingers and hands have been replaced by big, club-like paws. I knead these paws into a warm, soft belly, seeking a nipple to suckle.
I am startled by a warm breath in my left ear, She says, “You are of the Puma Clan.”

This medicine had been working in my body for weeks before I actually took it. I found it to be unsettling and strange. A special diet was requested of the pilgrims. I was strongly advised to give up sugar, salt, miscellaneous foods, alcohol, and most challenging in my case, caffeine. It was extremely difficult, that is the caffeine and sugar part. I realized I hadn’t gone without either of those substances for a single day for the past six years. The withdrawals were intense. It was very enlightening to realize how I had been abusing my body to kick start it with empty energy. Force it to take action—get through long days at work, to exercise intensely, and power through long study hours in graduate school.
My utter exhaustion had been masked for years. Adrenals were blown; thyroid was on the fritz—burning out on caffeinated nitro.

Then, the night before ceremony, as I was stirring to consciousness from a vivid, strange dream, I heard a gong and loud, and these clear words.

“BONG!….Atonement. BONG!….Atonement. BONG!…..Atonement.”

The fading dream was of certain family members, and how our family culture was pushing what we didn’t want to face down into the shadows of the subconscious. I realized I individually do the same thing. I saw how my past actions have turned my heart cold to Marty, my kids, family and friends. This disassociation was a form of blind cruelty- both toward my self and them. I had been twisting a blind knife, unknowingly. However I remain responsible for their confusion and hurt. I had become so afraid of being victimized, that I turned into a zombie, unable to love and connect fully with anyone, including myself, and therefore becoming the victimizer—emotional neglect. This happens to be a quite common affliction in the West, a coping strategy that most people employ. Out of a fear of abandonment, I was continuing the legacy of that two sided coin of victim/victimizer.

Heaviness gripped my chest and I began to uncontrollably sob. Marty rolled over and soothed me, which only amplified my guilt. I sobbed and confessed my guilt of a closed heart. Of course he accepted my apology, but this exoneration was not his to give. I felt we are all in a great, karmic wheel. I had to fully and undeniably experience how I have affected others before I could be forgiven.

Finally the retching in the circle has subsided. My jaguar-cub awareness shifts into a past life vision of an existence as a Spanish Conquistador traveling to the New World. I feel pride in my heart to serve the Queen. I am an important representative of my country, and a spreader of the true word of the Holy Church. I am standing in tall grass. It is incredibly hot and humid. I am weighed down by the partial armor I’m wearing, and can smell the sweat, saturated in my clothing. We stand, weapons drawn as the natives emerge from the jungle. They are innocent and small, like children or animals. They reach out to us and we brutally cut off their hands.

The next horrific scene jumps ahead to the devastation after the massacre that followed. There are natives strewn across the jungle floor, their bodies bloody and rotting, covered with dirt and leaves. Baskets are spilled, and children are starving next to dead mothers.

Again I am sobbing with guilt. I thought I was doing well for my country and for my faith, but now I realize that I have been extraordinarily cruel.

Then Jaguar Mother startles me again and repeats her firm words in my ear, “You are of the Puma clan.”

I flew back through time and landed in yet another past/future(?) lifetime as an indigenous man living somewhere in South America. I am sitting in a long house with others. I am young, having just walked through the portal of becoming a man, sitting with the party of hunters. Each month, on the full moon, we hunt the nocturnal animals at night. We are preparing little bundles of cooked paste—a magical vine/leaf combo that makes us able to see in the dark– night vision. I note that it is comparable to the technology we employ in the modern times (metal, silicon and plastics to create weapons, computers and vehicles). In this life as an indigenous, we use plant and spirit “technology” to enhance performance.
This lifetime has an ease and harmony—a counterbalance to the last vision as a Conquistador. We speak gently to each other, smile and joke with love in our hearts.

The shaman’s ancient melodies tune in again. The harmony becomes synaesthetic crimson ribbons spilling from her tongue. Each note becomes a ruby feather slowly falling to the ground. I am now lucid enough to form organized thought. I have this incredibly strange realization that several iterations of my “Selves” are split and having a myriad of experiences. One part is witnessing- void of emotion or judgment. This is the ego, or separate Self, merely observing. Another Self is organizing thoughts. Yet another is tuning into the music and the ribbon metaphor. And yet another had turned inward and scanning my physical body.

As I scan my body for illness or disease, I am told to send love to each organ. I begin with my uterus, thanking it for the way it has beautifully served me, nurturing and bringing my three children into my life. I send love and thank my ovaries, my large intestine, my liver…each organ and system is thanked and sent love for all it has done to support and host my soul in this lifetime. When I reach my thyroid, I see it’s energy is a bit off. To heal it, I am told to do yoga postures which will open the throat chakra, to breathe deeply, continue being gentle with my body, and compassionate toward myself. My thyroid gland turns into an iridescent, blue morpho butterfly and vibrates as Grandmother heals it.

I ask Grandmother if I am too hard on my body by exercising too much. I am surprised at her response, that no, our bodies are meant to be used. She showed me that throughout human existence, we have worked all day and modern, sedentary life is not what our bodies are evolved and built to do. She added to continue with the diet—lots of organic, fresh vegetables and fruit, less sugar, and no coffee. It was surprising to me how practical her advice was—like a real grandmother might offer!

Another shift and I found that one of my Selves is scanning members of my families’ bodies. In one, I could see a fatty lump on one side of the heart and the need to exercise more and eat less sugar and fat. I also see that the colon was developing problems and to encourage the person to get a colonoscopy. It is conveyed that because this person has suppressed trauma both from childhood, and then built upon this suppression in adulthood by further denial, it was resulting in a physical manifestation of coagulated, toxic energy in the body….A symptom of a heavy heart.

I scan another person’s body and it comes to me that she is overall healthy and that it was beneficial to her physical health that she lost weight recently. This had averted a disastrous path and was cleansing for her mind, body and spirit.
Suddenly, this triggers a sadness I have about my family being estranged and distant. I request Grandmother to heal the split. (Incidentally, two days after the ceremony, my mom sent me a message she was invited, out of the blue, to her brother’s house for dinner, where the entire family, aunts, uncles, cousins were gathered. She felt very healed to reconnect after ten years of distance). I request Grandmother to help me become less judgmental and more tolerant of others’ differences. I ask to be willing to listen and open my heart more to those who are different than I am.

Once again, my dominant awareness shifts back into my present time and space. The beautiful chirping insects and croaking frogs are not just the usual background textural noise, but layered deeply and singing along with the shaman. The volume is becoming louder and louder and louder in intensity until it’s a deafening roar. Then a “RRRRrreeeaaaaaoooOOOOooowWWW!” and a “WWwhhhooooosssshhhhh!”. All sounds disappear, leaving only a faint crumpling, wax-paper sound.

The imagery shifts and one of my Selves stands up and leaves my physical body sitting in lotus position. I walk down to my room on the farm. I go outside, to the beautiful, outdoor shower I had been enjoying all week. Standing in the space, to my utter shock and amazement is Brad looking absolutely radiant, just showered, with a towel wrapped around his waist. I am so surprised because Brad was killed the year before in a horrible car accident. He was young and beautiful and just awakening to his potential and intrinsic joy. His death left many, many people in deep grief and sadness at a beautiful life ended prematurely. But here he is, incredibly real, with the big, infectious grin I remember.

The first day he arrived at the farm a week ago, one of the helpers, Jake warmly greeted us. I was taken aback at how much he resembled Brad- his face and mannerisms, even his voice had an uncanny similarity. I was so impacted by it, I had remarked to Marty on the way to our room that I was shaken up by the resemblance. I had shed a few tears reminiscing about Brad because Jake had evoked such a strong presence of him.

In the vision, Brad looks deeply into my eyes and says, “Thank you, Sunny. Thank you for the way you helped me. I came to tell you I am OK.” I lean forward in my lotus position and spontaneously move into child’s pose, crying. The image of Jake’s resemblance to him flashes in my mind as a question. Brad rests a hand on my shoulder and says gently, “Sunny, its no accident he looks like me. I am here with you. You helped me and now I am here to help you.” I receive an understanding that all my psychotherapy clients heal me as much as I heal them in a beautiful balance of co-creation and collaboration.

One by one, each of the autistic children from the school, the site of my first internship, approaches me with a huge smile and thanks for my care. Their faces come close to mine and hold my eyes in deep compassion and connection—a silent gesture of deep appreciation and gratitude. All of my therapy clients appear, from the drug rehab center to my present clients, one at a time in a wordless parade of gracious smiles and loving, twinkling eyes. And I cry, I cry with gratitude for their thanks, for allowing me to witness and accompany them on their beautiful unfolding journeys into self awareness, and most of all for healing me along their journeys. Then the parade extends to my children, my family, my friends, past co-workers and even old enemies, each person presenting a smile and deep, witnessing eyes of appreciation.

The exquisite exchange of energy we have provided one another, for growth and ever-increasing self-awareness is duly noted and witnessed. I also see that the art I create is incredibly powerful as a healing tool. And that it’s creation and distribution is an important contribution to help heal people in this time of great change and challenge.

These are the sounds, sights and smells that my journey concludes with. I find myself landing, touching the earth again. I sink down into the cushions I have been sitting on and drift off to sleep with the shaman’s lullabies to accompany me.
In what seems like a moment later, we are awakened with the shaman’s clear voice, this time in English (?).
“Now we are going to ask each person how you are feeling and if you want to share.”

It had been six hours. As I listen to each person in the circle speak, it becomes clear that every single journey has been completely varied in content and emotion. Some experienced intense horror and fear, others bliss, and some, transcendental expansion.
My journey was “muy suave” as requested. Spirit conveyed that much of my shadow work had extended outside of ceremony in the weeks of preparation.

We all stand up slowly, exhausted and stagger outside. The moon is full, the sky is full of glitter, giving us a light show- not only are the stars outrageously sparkly, but the fireflies are continuing the constellations in 3-D all around us. We are standing in an iridescent cyan fairy land. Pilgrims dressed in white blink wide-eyed and innocent, like babies just born. Our hearts are cracked open and swollen so big, we can almost see them beating in one another’s chests. We hold one another and cry in gratitude.

The Baptism

baptism

The Baptism Detail by Sunny Strasburg
The Baptism Detail by Sunny Strasburg

The Baptism : medium: graphite and digital
20″ x 24″ digital print on canvas.

I had an interesting dream last night. An owl hopped into the bedroom of our casita here in Costa Rica. Everyone was afraid and ran to the back room, but I stayed, not frightened at all by the owl. She turned her head and peered at me from what became just one huge, owl eye. In the dream, as they often do, the body and head of the owl morphed away leaving just the one enormous eye. As I examined it in more detail, I noticed the eye had peculiar feathers around it like the ticks of a clock.

Hmm….wisdom, seeing into my inner life, and the clock’s ticking!

I find I’m settling into a rhythm that feels very much like “Sunny Heaven”. Perhaps the owl was telling me to pay attention to what I am feeling, awakening to here on my travels through Costa Rica.A typical day here looks something like this……

After a long, comfy sleep snuggling with my man, kids tucked in safe and listening to the tropical crickets, I get up with the sun while everyone else stays curled up under the covers. I tiptoe into the kitchen of our little casita and put on coffee. I get my running gear, strap on my iPod and heart rate monitor and gulp down a cup of café negro. Then I head out for a run on the trails, the beach, along the road, whatever offers itself in the different lodges we stay in.

Inevitably, at this early hour, the birds are going nuts, singing their hearts out. Sometimes I spot animals, come across a surprise waterfall. Sometimes I run past Ticos walking along the roadside. We both smile and nod, “Buenas Dias.” My biggest fear when I’m out alone like this is being bitten by unfenced, unleashed dogs as I run past Tico homes, but I have yet to face any real threat. I’m not even fazed by the whistles from the Ticos. I look pretty tough and determined—way more muscular than the lithe Ticas.

Running back to our lodging, I’m drenched with sweat, deliriously happy and unusually covered in mud from slipping around some random trail I found along the way. Now, if you haven’t experienced this, I can’t even express in words how sublime and unrivalled a shower outside in a garden is. There is something so soothing to my soul to be out in nature in my natural state, looking at greenery feeling the cold water. Follow that with a slathering of warm coconut oil on tired muscles and I could die right then, happy and completely fulfilled.

Marty and the kids are just getting up, sleepy eyed and hair sticking up all over. We all meander down to whatever the long house style kitchen is for a hearty breakfast of Casado, usually Gallo Pinto—eggs, beans and rice with a side of bacon or friend plaintains, more café negro. Delicioso!

The rest if the days are usually filled with adventures with the family—driving listening to the iPod on the rental car stereo. There’s something surreal about Glitch or Dubstep spewing out of the speakers as we drive past farmers wearing knee-high boots and coffee bags with stray dogs trotting alongside them down in the road.

The afternoons are spent napping, playing at the pool, or trails to waterfalls, the beach, or some great discovery—like a fruit stand with soursop juice, or an indigenous craftwork stand.

The sun sets and the crickets begin their uproar. Sometimes we listen to howler monkeys or the ocean waves crashing under the moon. Marty and I have wine and talk. That kind of idle conversation we never have in the States—where time has slowed down and there’s room for consideration, long pauses and thoughtful replies.

This for me is when old memories spring up, having hibernated for decades in the back recesses of my mind. Random memories of little trips Marty and I took together long before we had kids, conversations we’ve had, summers as a girl, my sullen teen years. Last night, I remembered a specific time I walked my little Jenny dog around the canal next to the house where I grew up in a small town in Utah. I smiled, comparing how I am the same even to this day—needing that alone time to think, to process. Now I take my black lab, Squid trail running.

This is also when I dream about who I really am, what I really want in life. Not pressured by external forces, it most often happens here in Costa Rica. I feel free to consider my natural cycles, what makes me feel fulfilled and happy. Its surprising that I really like simplicity—nature, family, friends, art for sure are central for my well being. I love how minimal the separation is between dwelling and nature in Costa Rica. It feels like a reawakening to my natural state—my wild self.

The biggest insights come to me here in Costa Rica. I am forever grateful for this discovery. I am forever grateful for the benevolence of Gaia to make such a gorgeous Eden for me, for you, for all of us to experience, enjoy, play in. My wish for you and me, may every one of us find what brings us deep, divine joy and find a way to live that as often and as honestly as we can.

Twin Medusas

Cover

Twin Medusas Detail by Sunny Strasburg
Twin Medusas Detail by Sunny Strasburg

Twin Medusas : medium: graphite and digital
18″ x 24″ digital print on canvas.

We are so drawn to the pretty blossoms above ground–but what fortifies us from below in the depths–
of our experience, our challenges, our collective unconscious?I also thought about the Greek myth of Medusa.
She was a beautiful maiden in Athena’s temple and all the men in the village were wildly attracted to her ravenous beauty.
But she was a virgin–dedicated to serving Athena–not allowed to embrace her own sexuality.

One terrible day, Medusa was raped by Poseidon, God of the Sea.
Athena was infuriated and blamed Medusa, rather than her perpetrator.
The negative feminine aspect–enraged, Athena shamed Medusa and cast a spell on her–she gave her hair of writhing,
venomous snakes. And to make it worse, Medusa could not look at anyone for if she did, they turned to stone.

Medusa lived a terrible life of solitude–cast away, alone and rejected.
Unable to be witnessed and loved because of her curse, she grew angrier and more bitter as the years went by. Eventually she was slain by Perseus. A tragedy with no healing.

I wonder–what would happen if she had been nurtured by the Positive Feminine? What if she was loved rather than shunned? What happens when we are shamed and brutalized,
and then witnessed in our trauma, loved and surrendering– allowing our shadow to be seen by others?

And what part of ourselves do we shun- cast away and blame for feeling like a victim? Where is each of our own Inner Medusa?
Because this is the projected scapegoat that we disown–it is the bogeymen, the terrorists..those bad people OUT there that we project.
If we owned our shadow and incorporated it–there would be peace.

This is psychic healing. This is owning our feminine empowerment.So, this artwork, “Twin Medusa” is about incorporating the positive feminine. Not just women, but men too–
Learning how to mirror and witness ourselves so that we can become whole, internalized in our locus of control and resilient.

Ophelia Emergent Psyche

Cover

Ophelia Detail by Sunny Strasburg
Ophelia Detail by Sunny Strasburg

Ophelia Emergent Psyche: medium: graphite and digital
16″ x 20″ digital print on canvas.

The myth of Ophelia……

Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius and rejected lover
of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. Ophelia is a symbol
of innocence gone mad. A dutiful daughter, she is manipulated into spying
on Hamlet and must bear his humiliating and brutal remarks. She believes
him to be mad, commenting sadly “O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown.”

Having lost Hamlet’s affection, she herself goes mad when her father is killed by
Hamlet. Her mad scene is one of the best known in Western literature.

And the Emergent Psyche…..

This piece, for me, is about internalizing the projected animus– the masculine
and stepping into our own empowerment through internal versus external validation.
(i.e; The perception many women feel that men need to care for them). Ophelia is
abandoned by her lover, Hamlet, as well as her father’s death. All the men have gone,
and she is left in her abandonment, fear and distress.
Ophelia submerges intothe waters (Solutio). Throught htis death, the body is colonized
by the tree of life. At her heart, Ophleia nourishes the tree as it supports both
the moon (the feminine) and the solar arc of time (the masculine).

And in this process of suicide–looking through the Jungian lens of a PSYCHIC death–
in the symbolic sense–to go crazy, strip away the dross, the fear–and surrender to the
fear and depression, give up all hope to arrive at this moment where we find a strength
within we never knew we had. In this process, we forge ourselves into rebirth–resiliency.
As Ophelia emerges from the depths of Solutio (the water, the drowning) and emerges into
her consciousness–her power. And she steps into Coagulatio (Earth) and into her conscious
mind. It is the archetype of the Phoenix–rebirth, awakening to what can’t kill us,
what cannot be destroyed. Another layer to this piece is a Creation Myth. Evolution–from
water, life emerges. In the macro sense–the evolution of all species on earth, as well as our
own micro evolution from single cell, to embryo, fetus, to fully formed human.

In Mayan mythology, the subterranean waters were seen to be the blood of the earth–
much like the sap of trees is the blood of plants.

Fractalpus

Cover

Fractalpus Detail by Sunny Strasburg
Fractalpus Detail by Sunny Strasburg

Fractalpus: medium: graphite and digital
24″ x 33″ digital print on canvas.

I have been dreaming of The Octopus. After watching several nature
documentaries, I have been deeply inspired by how intelligent
and magical these creatures are.

The Octopus is symbolic of Purity, Psyche, Motion, Emotion,
Fluidity, Intuition, Creativity, Flexibility. and Intelligence.

I also think of the spiral–the labyruinth with the tentacles
and thus the fractals sprawling in the image

Feminine and masculine balanced. Creation is born from a balance
between expansive freedom and working within an established parameter.
Water perfectly illustrates this balance.

The Octopus moves skillfully in a realm that is in constant motion.
Ever changing, shifting, and wafting in accordance with the pull of the moon,
the Octopus’ depth of mystery is enhanced by its own environmental aura.

Although vastly mobile and quite the traveler, the octopus
is primarily a bottom dweller. In symbolic (totem) terms
this is analogous of being grounded while still having
the ability to exist in the watery world of the psyche.

It reminds us that we may be spiritual and intuitively
gifted; nonetheless we are physical beings and must temper
our psychic gifts with strong foundational grounding.

Three Generations

Cover

3 Women Detail by Sunny Strasburg
3 Women Detail by Sunny Strasburg

Three Generations: medium: graphite and digital
24″ x 18″ digital print on canvas.

This painting is of the three generations, the child, the maiden and the old woman. It is also symbolic of the three developmental archetypes of the Virgin, the Mother and the Crone. The orchid is a symbol that we bloom and exist on this beautiful earth for such a short moment. We grow and develop or new bud, unfold in momentary splendor, and then wither, to be reabsorbed by the very same mother who gave birth to us.

The Orchid Goddess

Cover

The Orchid Goddess Detail by Sunny Strasburg
The Orchid Goddess Detail by Sunny Strasburg

Orchid Goddess: medium: graphite and digital
16″ x 20″ digital print on canvas.
She had opened an immense hole in the soft ground, ­which she quickly digs up with her skeleton fingers, and bendi­ng h­er ribs and inclining her white smooth skull, she heaps togeth­er in th­e ab­yss old men and youths, women and children, cold, pale, and stiff, whose lids she silently closes.
“Ah, sighs the dreamer, who sadly and with heavy­ heart sees her accomplish her work, “accursed, accursed be thou, destroyer of beings, detestable and cruel Death, and mayest thou be dominated and desolated by the ever-renewed floods of mortal life!”
The grave-digger has arisen. She turns her face; she is now made of pink and char­ming flesh; her friendly brow is crowned with rosy corals. She bears in her arms fair naked children, who laugh to the sky, and she says softly to the dreamer, while gazing at him with eyes full of joy: ‘I am she who accomplishes without cease and without end the transformation of all. Beneath my fingers the flowers that have become cinders bloom once more, and I am both She whom thou namest Death, and She whom thou namest Life!

Theodore De Banville (Translated by Stuart Merrill) Quoted in : ‘The Soul is Here for its Own Joy’ Ed. Robert Bly