xxx Talking about Big Mama

Courtni “Star Heart” Hale

Talking about Big Mama
A Conversation with Shaman Courtni Hale on Nature, the Divine Feminine and the energetic explanation for what went wrong on planet Earth… and what humanity can do about it

On a warm spring day, I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Courtni Hale at her Albuquerque residence. Artist, mother, gardener, shaman, visionary… she is a woman of many titles and talents, a well-traveled soul with a powerful mission. Coming to New Mexico was part of this mission, as has been her spiritual journey with tribal elder Don Patricio Dominguez. She founded the Center for Natural and Traditional Knowledge (thecntk.org) to support her vision of a future humanity in right alignment with Nature. Its purpose is “to develop and distribute templates for sustainable co-existence, and environmental education” and provide “education, nourishment and community for all ages and backgrounds.” After relocating to Bernalillo in early 2014, Hale reconciled her personal services as a medicine woman, healer, spiritual mentor and art therapist under the name Urban Shamin, a name that acknowledges the unique way in which ancient spiritual practices are fine-tuned for contemporary lifestyles.

The connecting foundation between all of Hale’s projects is the Divine Feminine, an energetic force that has been subjugated for arguably the past few thousand years and is now reactivating on Earth. She explores, celebrates and promotes the Divine Feminine in pretty much everything she does, from CNTK’s projects in sustainability, to the workshops and ceremonies she offers via Meetup.com groups Urban Shaman, Urban Edibles and Shamanic Journeys, and her fine artwork—odes to the Goddesses, the Flower of Life and the stories of our origins.

She walked me through the garden, a bountiful supplier of food for her, her children and friends; also, a teaching tool, a medium for getting the horticulture-curious into the soil and establishing a relationship with the Earth. She harvested some greens and assembled a simple salad with a flourish of sesame seeds, olive oil and lime juice. We dined in her adobe house and meditated on a variety of topics with the Divine Feminine interweaving.

APRIL 2013

CH: Everything, in a way, is shifting people’s consciousness. I was told that the first thing to shift your consciousness is getting in a right relationship with the Universe, and the Universe with the Earth. Mankind has lost its ability to interrelate both with one another and with their environment. We don’t have to go back to the Stone Age and I really don’t want to, frankly. I wouldn’t want some huge collapse to happen, and I was really worried about that for a long time—you know, something was going to tip the economy and it was all going to crash.
JC: Like in 2012, you thought that’s what the shift might entail, to some level?
CH: A lot of the Native elders were talking about it like that, but it’s weird, because the people who are ethnically Maya are like, “What are you talking, about, man? It’s supposed to be the dawn of a more beautiful energy, actually.” Not doom and catastrophe.
JC: There is an elder who I remember said that his people had prophesized the collapse of the American Empire (and they also had prophesized it was going to come and rise), but how do you interpret all of that, what does “collapse” entail? Does it mean we’re all going to be starving and eating cat food? Or does “collapse” just mean it’s going to come to an end and something else will take its place. That could be a good thing.
CH: Nod ~ So I started thinking about really insidious things like, you know, ?(1:2:46)?  and lived in centuries when there had been a fairly successful socialist regime. So I looked at Spain, and at Chile. I studied Chiba a lot but I didn’t live there. So I was looking at different economic models and looking at the economic models that the Native Americans had—you know what I’m saying, how did things used to be? It didn’t always look like this.
So we’re not going back to the Stone Age and apparently things aren’t collapsing, but what would be like a virus of light, a virus you could spread that would contaminate people with happiness and the desire to care about each other again? I think we are living in a hell realm right now in our own minds, and I’m done. And hell is a place where you can only live in your minds, but what I think it entails is forgetting about how to love other people, how to love life, and hell is a place where you are too scared to care about anything. Our whole purpose being incarnate is to care for and care about, and when you can’t do that, then it’s so easy to fall into the pits of hell, because you’re so weakened by being out of your right place.
As soon as people come back into their right position in the world, then it’s really easy to heal, to forget about past trauma, and to be happy. So it’s like the garden is step one. And there’s also the piece: you relax considerably when you can walk outside your door and make a salad.
JC: Oh yeah. This is cool. This whole experience is really relaxing. I could just sit here and not think about what time is it, or what else do I have to do—just sit here and go with it, just enjoy it.

In addition to the delightful fresh flavor of Hale’s homegrown greens, there was an impeccable robustness to them, a thickness and substance, so unlike those slightly sad packaged “organic” mixes at the grocery store, already beginning to rot before you take them home, sliding out of their plastic enclosures limp, uninspiring. I tend to crave pasta, bread or something equally filling with any meal, but this salad was so intensely satisfying, I desired nothing more. I was about to find out why.

 

Hale harvests some spinach

CH:If I had dried goods, gosh, I could go for weeks without going to the grocery store, in summer time. Different things come into season and you cook different things, you learn about different plants and it all kind of works. You can go for weeks without having to see another human being or go to the store.

JC: But you do see them because you actually desire to. It’s not like “Oh, people,” it’s not like you’re by chance encountering them when you’re in line at the grocery store and then you hate people because you’re in line…
CH: Bored.
JC: Yeah, standing behind them, bored.
CH: And if you eat healthy, you have to go to the grocery store like every few days, for fresh food, you know, and this way you have ultra-mega-fresh food that you had a relationship with and you know everything about it. I put special preparations on the soil that are called mycorrhizal nutrients. I looked at Paul Stamets work a lot, he’s amazing. I looked at the chemical breakdowns, he goes deep into it. Apparently mycelium produce fatty acids, and plants produce sugars. And so the plants don’t have those fatty acids and the mushrooms don’t have those sugars. But anyone who ever gets candida—like mushrooms, it needs sugars to thrive, to produce. So these I found for the plants, and they make these little route networks. But the mushrooms are really sensitive to chemicals and to drying out, so we’ve wiped out most of the mushroom networks on our planet, and the plants are nutrient-deficient at the very best if they don’t have the mushroom spores. The mushrooms have a little acid that they kind of spit out from their tuds onto stones and whatever kind of minerals, and it creates a solution, so that’s where are the minerals in plants come from. The plants have a limited ability to make those nutrients for themselves. So the plants are missing about 90% of what the nutrition is.
JC: Right, which means we’re lacking in it as well.
CH: Mhm, that’s why people are so crazy.
JC: There is a guy whose name I can’t recall but whom I always refer to as the “crazy mushroom guy”—
CH: Paul Stamets.
JC: Oh, okay! Yes, I saw a lecture of his, a TED Talk, and I just remember being overwhelmed with this feeling afterward that mushrooms are AMAAAZING. Because it’s almost mystical what’s happening—it’s a chemical process we can understand—but, when I first learned about it, that’s how I felt… they’re from another planet…
CH: I think so.
JC: …and I want to worship them.
CH: Yeah, we talked about how there used to be one gigantic mushroom that covered the entire planet. What was the biggest thing that ever lived? A mushroom. Really? Okay…. He thinks it’s the neural network of the plant kingdom and it used to be all connected, like nature’s computer, basically, because you could send a message instantaneously across the planet through mushroom.
JC: Wow.
CH: So the first thing I noticed is, when I started putting that preparation on, I could eat a lot less and feel really satisfied. And emotionally, I calmed down a lot. My nails changed, my hair changed, my skin changed, a lot of my wrinkles and dry spots and age marks went away… I know that sounds really weird, but…
JC: I totally believe it.

Now I understood what was so revolutionary about this simple salad I was eating. It wasn’t simple at all. It was more complex on a micro-level than anything I had probably ever eaten!

A glass of Hale’s home-brewed kombucha

CH: I think that a lot of the things that are coming from the mushrooms are the things that make us feel happy and health. I also drink a lot of kombucha, too, so I got that going.

Kombucha is an effervescent, fermented tea. Hale offers courses through Urban Shaman on its benefits and how to brew at home. It can be found in popular health food stores, though a home brew is the best way to guarantee the cultures are still living at the time of consumption.

CH: I think it’s really important. Every time I give away seeds I sprinkle some of that preparation on them; you just need a little of it, but it grows slowly—only one foot per year—so if you don’t have the preparation on the soil, it takes a long time for it to establish itself.
JC: I think that’s one of the things I’m noticing about gardening in general. You put in lots of love… and you are patient.
CH: Yeah. I would love to get the Liberty Gardens out there.

Liberty Gardens are one of CNTK’s sustainability projects, named in honor of the gardens made during World Wars I and II, “Victory gardens,” which were created to reduce pressure on the public food supply. “Liberty” refers to our liberation from a petroleum economy. They are raised beds, approximately 3×6 square feet, and despite their seemingly small size, can satisfy the vegetable needs of 2-4 people. To conserve water, small clay ollas are embedded in the soil—a traditional way of irrigation which enables the garden to thrive up to a week without watering. The latest model includes a translucent plastic cover, greenhouse-like, which shields the more delicate greens from the harsh desert sun. Liberty Gardens are designed to be eco-friendly but also modern-lifestyle-friendly, requiring little maintenance—just 15 minutes a day, at most, to weed, check water levels, and harvest.

Liberty Garden

CH (continued): That would be big for the foundation. For people to realize, there is a really simple way. For 15 minutes a day! And for me, that’s a cleaning process, like a car wash for your spirit, and the more you wash things out, then the more you can walk around and be conscious and be in your body, but be conscious of everything else at the same time. It’s not a process of forgetting that you have boundaries or that you have a body, it’s a process of really delighting in it.[Some people] are really missing a step. In one scenario, when someone didn’t get his way on certain issues with me, he tried to twist my thinking and say, “Well, why do you have these limitations?”
“Well, I have these limitations because you’re pushing on my boundaries, and I prefer for things to be this way.”
“But why do you want to limit yourself, Courtni?”
“No no no, I want to limit you. I don’t want to limit myself,” laugh, “it’s you that I wanna limit, and you don’t like it!”
JC: Laugh ~ Interesting.
CH: Interesting, yeah.
JC: I say “interesting” for lack of other words, other words might come to mind… but you are so right… we should feel angry, and there’s nothing wrong with feeling angry.
CH: Right?
JC: There is nothing wrong. If there is reason to be angry. I get really upset when I feel other people’s anger at times, for it can feel overwhelming, but I try to be patient, because I think—they’re feeling their emotions and expressing them, and everyone should do that. That’s the first thing we are supposed to learn when we study psychology, right?—let everybody have their feelings, because the only way we will work with our feelings is if we feel safe in them, and we won’t feel safe with them when people are telling us that we shouldn’t feel them—which is what I think we’re fighting against, for we were conditioned to do that: “Nope, no feelings. Have a candy bar instead, or have a glass of wine.”
CH: And have another glass of wine.
JC: And then a whole other bunch of feelings come out, but it’s ok because you were drunk and it didn’t mean anything.
CH: And the pills, there is a lot of pill popping in this country. And none of those pills are essentially effective in curing depression. The only thing that’s gonna cure depression is figuring out what’s really wrong. And what’s really wrong is we miss each other, we’re not allowed to love each other anymore, we’re not allowed to be human, and it’s trying to take all of the humanity out of all of us. To where, as soon as a mother goes to the hospital to give birth, she is right away put on a C-section track. From the epidural that makes you unable to birth properly, to being laid out on a metal table with blinking machines and the constant threat of “we gotta birth that puppy or we’re gonna cut you open!”
JC: And you’re not allowed to leave, apparently. Until you give birth, you and that child are property of the state. It’s like…. What?! It’s funny because people don’t really know that, people have no idea, they just think “Oh, it’s totally normal, just go in and lie on a table and feel super uncomfortable for like… a really long time. Because birth is supposed to take two days.”
CH: Only if the hospital wants to make money. I birthed mine in an hour. Ilyana… I began heavy labor and had birthed her and cleaned her off in an hour.
JC: I love hearing those stories because that makes sense.
CH: They are deliberately treating women like chattel because a regular vaginal birth makes the hospital like $1,500. C-section, 12 grand. Money maker. So they push you down that track, and they know. I don’t want to get too much into it, but your muscles are a sphincter there, and if you know your rectum is a sphincter and you know your birth canal and your uterus is a sphincter, how does that muscle work? As soon as you get even the least bit uptight, it clamps down. I have a friend… when we went to Chile, she couldn’t poop for three weeks because she was so nervous. And it just got into her head, no amount of ex-lax could make that girl poop, because she was uptight about that environment. Imagine taking a mammal, who normally hides in a dark, quiet place to birth, all of a sudden you put that mammal in a hospital under bright lights on a metal table with the threat of being cut open? Well off course they’re not going to birth, and of course it’s going to be painful, horrifically painful.
JC: And so you numb them to what their bodies should be naturally feeling. They have no idea what their body is feeling.
CH: Exactly. No idea. And it’s really hard to push or to feel or to be in touch with what’s going in because they give you an epidural, and so a lot of that is pushing on the downward track of C-section because it’s making her unable to birth, and it’s making it horribly painful, too. Even the difference between a birthing center in Rhineback with Adrian and a home birth with Iliyana—huge difference, in terms of the pain, in terms of the stress, anxiety. My midwife just sat on the floor and listened. She didn’t even check to see if I was dilated, she didn’t intrude in any way. She was like, “Yeah, yeah, you’re fine. I can tell when someone’s fine and somebody’s not. Why am I gonna tell you, ‘you’re not fine,’ when you are?” Decent woman. And that was really empowering. You know—a lot of herbs, and essential oils, those kind of things that really help with the natural birth. And a lot of that midwifery has been lost, or was almost lost. So few carry that knowledge on now.
JC: But they’re witch doctors.
CH: Of course it had to be demonized. Oh oh, and that’s another favorite thing of mine right now, the demonization of the Feminine. If I don’t agree with someone, all of a sudden I’m a bitch and I’m a whore, and I’m like “Really now, that’s fascinating, I thought I was a minister!” But I’m not allowed to say “no,” because then they’ll have their little temper tantrums, and then they’ll tell you that you’re the angry one. I listened to a man screaming at me saying that I have an anger management problem. Are you serious, are you not hearing yourself screaming? I don’t know, there’s a lot of craziness in the world, right now.
JC: Yeah. There’s a lot of resistance, because there’s a lot of shifting, and we’re uncomfortable. And some people are aware the old forms of power aren’t the healthiest forms, but we’re still very plugged into it, without realizing it.
CH: And a lot of sustainability is about healing. I think for me, it’s about community. In Cuba—now United States government wants us to think that the embargos really didn’t hurt anyone, in Cuba, like it was no big deal: “We should definitely go and bomb them on top of everything else because the embargo didn’t do anything.” But I’m looking at Cuba, I’m looking at their economic indicators—it slammed them. They were thrown back like 50 years into the past. It’s not 100 years where they are going back to donkeys and horse and carriage, but they don’t have parts to fix their Yugoslavian cars, and they don’t have money or anything to repair their machines for a long time, they don’t have imports, they’re not really exporting anything anymore. All of a sudden Havana becomes a huge European tourist trap, but Americans aren’t allowed to go there so that’s a little bit awkward. It’s just   ?(5:3:48)?    in economic  selfdom, and they did that like that. And they would have that everywhere, all over the place, and there’s a different party in everyone’s yard each night of the week, or in the plaza. It’s amazing.
JC: So when it all falls apart, what do you do? You have to help each other. That’s proof, that’s living proof.
CH: And they’re all dancing together and playing guitars, and singing, they have drums made out of garbage cans.
JC: It seems like they are very happy right now. I think my mom even made a comment recently, “Oh Cuba, not the happiest place to be,” but, I don’t know, they seem to be doing really well at this point.
CH: It just depends on how you count your wellness. Is it in money or in happiness? How do you measure happiness? And that’s the Divine Feminine thing coming back in, instead of quantity, it’s quality.
We’re in the butt end of the Kali Yuga. And the Kali Yuga is the most destructive, the most material, the dark side of Male. There’s a light side of Male and a dark side of Male, and a light side of Female and a dark side of Female. And we’re just talking about energies, we’re not talking about men and women, because we all have different energy in us.

Tree of Life – a diagram for universal energy

She pulled out a Da Vinci-esque hand-drawn diagram containing connected lines and circles, the Kabbalistic “Tree of Life” {pictured right}

CH (continued): So if you look at this—this is the Chinese system. Right here you have the Dao, and beyond that is like, the disparate conscious being. And then you got Yin and Yang. I’m not an expert on the Chinese system, but all I know is: my grandmaster of Kung Fu sat down with this kind of Kabalistic map of the universe with me once and he said, “It’s absolutely almost exactly the same, the way the Hebrews have dissected the energies of the universe as the way we did.” He showed me a really old map of the Dao and the Bagua—the sphere—it looks exactly like this. This is Form and this is Force. So the primal energy comes down, right, supposedly into this. The unknowable is up here.

She was pointing to the circle at the top, Dao, which channels into the two circles just below it, Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang are also Form and Force, Female and Male. The “unknowable” or “disparate conscious being” is the space above the top circle.

CH (continued):  And this is the first thing that happens. They say the Male and Female popped into existence at the same time as a result of this wanting to explore what Form would be like.

She referred to the two distinct sides of the Tree. Like sides of the brain, the Tree of Life diagram is split into left and right, Female/Form and Male/Force.

CH (continued): The first forms—circles, triangles, squares—are assigned to Feminine, this side of the Tree, Form {left in the diagram above}. It’s the Female energy that defines form. All the geometric forms are assigned to the Feminine. We’re the ones who design boundaries. And we’ve stopped defining boundaries, and just been kind of overwhelmed by the forces of war, dominance, and the rational. I keep on saying, we’re the ones who define the Form. You have to stop telling women that they’re not allowed to have boundaries. You have to stop violating women’s boundaries and start listening to the women saying, “this is what we feel would be an appropriate boundary.”
JC: I know in Egyptian art, some of the older stuff when it was more of a matriarchy—they talk about how women weren’t, like, ruling the planet, there was just more of a balance—and the women are putting their arm around the men, in the art. And I guess the way that frames it is: women are defining the Form. The women are saying, “I created this. This is my creation.” Not “I have power over and am dominating him.” She was saying, “I’m dominant in a way because I created this.” But we seem to jump into black and white, our language these days. When I’m talking about stuff like this I stop and say, “Oh wait, let me qualify this. If I say the word ‘dominant’ I don’t want it to come off the wrong way.” But that’s probably an insecurity, “Oh I’m feeling very forceful there, I’m setting boundaries and having an opinion, and uh oh…” Even with another woman it’s like, “Please don’t get mad at me!”
CH: Yeah. We’ve been so trained and so pushed into pleasing men, and so many of us have been so emotionally abandoned by the men in our lives that it’s almost like we’re willing to do almost anything to please them. And I see a lot of my friends and a lot of the students just constantly kowtowing to men, and rolling their sisters under the bus. And I think for me, a lot of what this is about is, you know what? Women first. Just for now. Not forever. But just for now. We need to figure out amongst ourselves what we want, how to move forward, how to support each other, how to create some peace and love and harmony. And then, after we’ve defined what we need and what we want, then it’s kind of logical what the guys’ role is, in order to make us happy.
Because you know in the old days, it was like this: “If you’re not making me happy, I’m not birthing your children.” And that’s a really big thing. I’m not birthing your children. We could end the human species tomorrow. If we all decided tomorrow, no more nookie until you put your guns down, and until you stop the violence and the domination and all of that. No more babies. Help yourselves, do whatever you want, but I’m just telling you, if I don’t have my way, you’re not having your way. And since men have such an obsession about spreading their seed, my goodness, I think that would get their attention.
JC: There are extremes—what’s the extreme of patriarchy? It’s men raping women and controlling them: “Ok, you’re going to marry this man and have his children. Oh wait, you know what, you should marry this one. No actually, this is the one, because this will be most advantageous to me.”
CH: Right, help them spread their empire.
JC: And that to me is the extreme of patriarchy, men literally running our lives and owning our bodies.
CH: Oh yeah, and telling us that we’re all ugly, basically. That’s my favorite, too, constantly picking at women. I’ll hear them say, “Oh, she’d be so much more good-looking if she just lost a few pounds, if her breasts were a bit bigger or her legs a bit nicer”—constantly, constantly picking and demeaning women in so many ways.
JC: And we do it to each other, because we are under that pressure. And that to me is the saddest thing, when we are turning on ourselves and we don’t have to.
CH: I see so much beauty in all the women around me. And all that, too is something that comes through the garden. That’s the Divine Feminine to me. And Mother never turns her back, Mama always loves us. If you put a seed in the ground, you take care of it, it’s gonna give back to you. And it’s like that with women, too. If you love your sisters and you really look out for them, and you’ve got their back and they can feel that you’ve got their best interests at heart, and there’s no agenda and no judgment, it changes everything. And she’ll always give back to you. I find women to be very giving and loving and thoughtful. And I think men just don’t have that depth of sensitivity, naturally, like we do. It’s biology. And we can’t really expect them to. I’m not mad that they don’t. I’m hopeful that we can help them to develop it. But first we have to get it back for ourselves. And a lot of my art is about the beauty of the Feminine, and I’m hoping people will get that.
JC: Is the Women’s Circle one of your main focuses now?
CH: Yeah, and really filling it. Pat McCabe is coming, and she’s gonna do a lot of teachings around the Divine Feminine, in Navaho and Lakota traditions. I’ll be bringing in as many women as I can. No men. Just for now. I’m a man lover, I love men, and life is miserable without them. There’s a certain point, like when you have to send your kids to their room, and you miss them and they’re crying and they’re unhappy, but they still have to be sent to their room for a little while. And I feel like… I want a little separation from men for a while. Women are ok with the transition. We can bring in the Divine Feminine and ask a lot be given to the men.
JC: Like you said, healing is a big part of it and we are the healers.
CH: If they knew how to do it right they already would have.
JC: And it’s on so many levels, the way it manifests. We could talk about this for hours. But tell me about your art. You mentioned it’s about the Sacred Feminine; your artwork is very spiritual. What I noticed right off the bat is you are not afraid of color. Just like in your garden.
CH: Someone went crazy out here! Laugh ~ It’s all metaphysical. It’s all allegorical. Some of them I use as teaching tools. This one is a teaching tool.

Hale referred to a painting hanging in the dining room next to us with which I was already familiar. She had used it the night I first met her, during a Soul Retrieval workshop. The large silk painting depicts the tree of life in Mayan cosmology: the gateway between three planes: the underworld, the physical plane of earth and the sky. The workshop involved a conversation on symbolism, dreaming and lucid dreaming, all preparing us for a group Journey—the shamanic practice of visual meditation. A traditional Journey begins by visualizing the knotted, exposed roots of a tree—gateway to the Underworld, a place similar to the subconscious. The painting depicts an underground river, comparable to the Greek River Styx, which must be crossed in order to reach the Underworld. Journeying to the Underworld is a healing method and can be done alone, though group energy maximizes the strength and power of the meditation.

Ixchel – Silk Painting by Hale

CH (continued): A lot of them have symbolic or mythological value. There are a lot of paintings of goddesses and female heroes. Like this over here is Ixch. This is Ixchel—and this is like Sekhmet, right?
JC: Right.

Hale made the comparison for my reference, Sekhmet being a goddess in Egyptian mythology, my primary area of study in ancient cultures.

CH: Ixch is the jaguar—it’s my sign in the Mayan system. Ixchel was the goddess in the Yucatan of wisdom, beauty and knowledge. Also love, childbirth… fornication.

She uttered “fornication” in a low, purring voice. We laughed.

CH (continued): So that’s that one. That’s a really powerful Divine Feminine thing. This one is a Maya design. They are transparent as you can see.

She was referring to another silk painting full of geometric patterns. She paints on silk, a medium which produces a dual nature to the pieces. In front of a window or lamp, light pokes softly through the watercolor, her medium of choice.

Ghost Dance – Silk Painting by Hale

JC: I love that about them. So when you put them up in the window it’s almost a different painting, illuminated.
CH: And some of them change. In this one I used part acrylic, so the light doesn’t pass through the buffalo’s skull; it looks totally different between one and the other.
JC: That’s almost playing with the transient nature of things, nothing is quite what it seems.
CH: Yeah. And all of them are based on sacred geometries, too. So instead of using a basic setup, like they teach you in the studio so it looks like Raphael, like the Renaissance stuff—the way they do perspective is different—I use concentric circles. I use the Flower of Life, and if I want the bottom to seem bigger then the circles are bigger at the bottom and they get smaller at the top, like that painting. But basically I’ll lay down the Flower of Life and stare at it, pray on it a little bit, and start moving around the lines of the circles, and they say that everything in the universe came into being through the Flower of Life geometry, so that’s what I play with to create, and to let Spirit come through.

We visited another large painting with a female form atop a mountain of colorful shapes and symbols—coyote, dragonfly, cactus, tree—gold light shooting out from her hands.

CH: ?Haromen?
JC: She looks like she came from another planet and came down from the heavens. Laugh
CH: Laugh
CH: And that’s coyote, that’s like our animal nature, and that’s our spiritual nature—

She pointed to the dragonfly.

CH (continued): …anything with a winged creature is potential for radical transformation. That’s my Ghost Dance regalia. That’s like a cape. I wear it to dance.

She was now referencing a linen textile embellished in the same style as her silk paintings. It is similar to a painted skirt I had admired during a previous CNTK event which she organized and translated, a lecture at Albuquerque’s Pueblo Cultural Center with Mayan wisdom keeper, Ac Tah.

Hale in her painted “Indian Costume” skirt

Ghost Dance is a Native ceremony traditionally performed by women, during which the participants’ ancestors are summoned and healing work is performed for all generations involved.

JC: Like the skirt you wore at the Ac Tah event. You painted that as well?
CH: Yeah. That’s my Indian costume. I’ve got tons and tons of stuff.

We entered her foyer to explore several more paintings.

CH (continued): And it’s starting to sell down at the Range.

Some of her artwork is on display at the Range Café in Bernalillo.

JC: Wonderful.
CH: More goddesses.
JC: I love the goddesses. So you’ve been painting your whole life, since you were a kid?
CH: I have a problem. Laugh  ~ A serious problem. I was an only child. I had nothing else to do, except for read, and paint and play the flute.
JC: So what was your artwork like as a kid?
CH: Mmm, a lot of geometric stuff, a lot of flowers, not really very different than it is now, just not as advanced. I did a series of watercolors for a novel.

She pulled out the novel of paintings and leafed through.

CH (continued): I went out and interviewed a bunch of people for this novel called World Womb—people like Masaro Emoto, Fred Alan Wolf, people I’m sure you know—all of these watercolors went along with it, because I would be gifted a vision and then specific instructions for who to go to, and I would take them a painting, and say “Hey, if we start with a painting, will you grant me an interview? I had this vision of coming and speaking with you, do you have a key piece of information?” And they were all really cool, pretty much everybody asked to talk to me, talked to me.

JC: Mmmm.
CH: Patricio was actually the hardest. This is his painting.

She pulled up a painting of an interior, table in the center with a bouquet of poppies.

CH (continued): He gave me business, the whole wax on, wax off. It was impressive being around him, though, because when I met him it was one of the first times that I ever heard anyone say the truth about how things are. He was like, “Courtni, you’re absolutely right, the world is really fucked up and it may just actually explode pretty soon. What do you want me to say? There’s a way out of it for some of us, but, maybe most people aren’t gonna choose that way.” There were a lot of things he said that were really fascinating, and he just has a lot of ancient wisdom passed on to him from generations.
JC: He was here at the Ac Tah dinner but I never had an exchange with him.
CH: It would be worthwhile. And he’s hilarious, too. A lot of medicine people are just funny as shit. Because they don’t care. “I don’t care. No one’s going to make me do anything anymore.”
JC: And it seems like that is how you feel. So it’s like finding kindred spirits.
CH: Smile Yeah…

We paused to discuss her artist profile for Albuquerque’s Local iQ magazine, eventually circling back to CNTK.

CH: And then the environmental education, I think you already know about that, right?
JC:A bit, yes.

Girasols – silk painting by Hale

CH: We are going to schools and teaching about sunflowers. That’s our flagship. You can go to the website (thecntk.org) and it will tell you everything you need to know. But the foundation is a template project, and precisely because we pop out templates for sustainability. The Liberty Garden is a template; the sunflower project is a template; we are doing Standards-based education, so you just have to follow certain standards for testing. So they’re [the teachers] given categories with, like, 5,000 bullet points they have to teach in order to cover the stuff on the test, and they’re basically rated on how well those kids do on the test. So they really vigorously try to cover it, and all of them are just so swamped that they’re not able to do original stuff necessarily. So we’re making lesson plans for them and taking the kids out in the garden, making gardens for them, doing some sunflowers, doing some math, science, art, literature, humanities—everything. And it’s really amazing. So that one should go viral, if nothing else.
JC: Laugh ~ Everything in it’s own time. If it all went viral at once, it would be like… ahhhhhh! Laugh
CH: If it all went viral at once, there would be landscapers in my backyard by the end of the day. They would be taking my plants out and reinstalling them in an EcoVillage, not far from here. All I need is like, three or four acres. And I would want to live in the city. And I would so love to have an ashramy thing. Everyone can have their own space. I do not want to share a bedroom with someone ever, ever, ever, ever again.
JC: Laugh
CH: Ever, ever, ever, ever. Let alone my living quarters. We could all have our own little living quarters, and we could all have common areas, too.
JC: Mhmm
CH: This is how crazy I am: in all of those visions I had, they were really specific with how you could build it, what it could look like. There’s the central part right here where we gather, we all have our own little pods that are separate, but they give to the outside, into the inside. You could have a potty and a shower in each one of those, and then have a main kitchen in here. So there are certain things you have to replicate for each family and certain things you don’t.
JC: Right. It reminds me of the common living in—I think—it’s Sweden? (Switzerland?)
CH: Yeaaaahhh
JC: Where they have been starting to do a lot of that and people are just so happy there, and life seems so much easier. It’s like: “I’m never lonely because I have people to go to, but I have my own space. I never have to come home and feel like I have to cook for the kids every night.” There’s a big community of people and someone’s cooking every night, and everyone helps each other.
CH: They have gardens, they have one playground for all the kids. And all the kids are all different ages, from babies all the way up to teenagers, so there’s always someone for the kids to interact with.
JC: That’s kind of how I visualize—like, ok: what’s missing in the world right now? I mean, there’s so many things, obviously. Laugh.
CH: Laugh
JC: But I always come back to: we’re not living together in a community anymore. We’re all isolated. If we were to help each other, we would feel better and we would be healthier as a result.
CH: We’d be living a lot lighter on the earth. There would be a lot less waste.
JC: Mhmm
CH: A lot of issues with sustainability are people working 60 hours a week. How do you come home and do sustainability, then? At that point you’re going to Whole Foods and buying prepared foods. You bring home your dinner, fall in bed, and get up again and do it all over.
JC: And you go to bed still hungry! You know, that never-ending hunger. When you mentioned that you eat less now and feel satisfied—that makes so much sense to me, because depending on what I’m eating and what’s better and what’s worse, I notice that I’m just feeling more fulfilled from the things that are better. And with the things that have almost no nutritional value to them, it’s literally like there’s no value at all to them, you could just eat boxes and boxes of these “foods.”
CH: And it’s fun to do that! Laugh ~ Get a bag of Doritos…
JC: Yeah, now and then! But then you’re like, “Well, I’m still hungry, and I gotta fix this somehow.” Laugh ~ But yeah, I always think about that level of community, especially because I remember being very lonely as a kid.
CH: Were you an only child?
JC: No, but my sister and I got to a certain point when—she was older than me—she decided, “Well, I’m not going to play with you anymore”—
CH: Ohhhh.
JC: So I went through this phase of feeling very disconnected with those around me. And that was really when I experienced any depression—anything like that, at all—it completely came from being disconnected from other people. Or from the Earth, too. I mean, what I did to make myself feel happy as a kid was I would go outside in the backyard and sit in the trees. It’s that simple, I was like, “This is great! I feel awesome!” Laugh ~ It’s so simple!
CH: It’s not that hard! Everybody has made it so hard, and now they’re even talking about things like Nature Deficit Disorder, you know, as a clinical condition. They’re spending millions of dollars on researching Nature Deficit Disorder but I can’t get a $5,000 grant? I’m doing it! Stop talking about it! Sustainability is a verb, it’s an action verb, it’s something that can plug you in right away. I don’t know… people are so silly.
JC: Laughing still
CH: It’s a guy thing. It’s the up-in-the-head thing. It’s the believing that you can control, that you can dominate, that you can own something.
JC: Yeah, I feel like that’s maybe one of the qualities of the darker side of the Male, this need to analyze. “Let’s experience and isolate it in this sort of vacuum that has no relevance to real life, and test that and see what it does. And we’re doing it in a way that’s, like, really shady and not ok, but no no no, this is important and official business that we’re doing.”
CH: Laughing
JC: “And nobody else can do it! And if you are doing something that you think is similar, no no, we don’t want to talk with you, we don’t care what you’re doing. It’s not valid. We’re not interested.” It’s kind of an illogical, almost insane form of control. It doesn’t really lead anywhere. It’s pathological, to me.
CH: Yeah, absolutely.
JC: But at the same time, we worship science and those mad scientists who do those kinds of fucked up… Yeah, they’re just pathological, not really very helpful to society at large, but… Ohhhh!

As if on cue to lighten up the atmosphere, the two teeny kittens, just weeks old, were wandering into the room. One white with grey ears, the other long-haired with a Tortoiseshell coat.

JC: Where have you been, babies? Laugh ~ They were just missing in action this whole time, and then all of a sudden…!
CH: Oh, they sleep for hours.
JC: You guys are cuuuuute.

I cuddled with the kittens as perhaps my favorite subject—CATS—commenced, winding down our afternoon conversation.