THE STORY OF THE VIRGIN MARY APPARATION; SWEDEN
It had a been a struggle for months:
1. Translating the plane ticket language from European time/info to NY time and info.
2. Quieting thoughts of flying and then returning to NY on Sept 11, the memorial day of the Twin Towers Fall.
3. Wondering what it would be like to perform not only outside for 5 days but also from a moving train for two of those days.
4. Hoping I had enough left-over chops to reach/communicate to a mixed audience of non English speaking children, and elders in their outside plaza.
5. Wishing my costume were flashier so that I could successfully make myself performatively visible and still be a dignified 74 year old elder!
Those were just a few of my concerns.
But one of my more pre–journey pressing 3 AM worry–concerns, the one about getting from the airport to the hotel using THEIR MONEY/exchange, always an issue for me in foreign lands, must have been communicated subliminally to the gracious European Curator–host, because at the last minute he sent me a text saying, “I’ll meet you at the airport.” And another boon-statement, …”and we are going to give you a private room at the hotel.” This news was almost equivalent to my winning an appearance on the Jimmy Fallon show, accompanied by Bob Dylan. And of course I would be doppleganging Bob…that is, with me, disguised as Bob since we Do look alike! That’s how happy I felt for a few hours!
It is curious that sharing a bathroom and bedroom had never been an issue previously, but now, a new awareness of age-related impermanence with the resulting body odors absconded with my once always there courage which, when I was a mere youth, allowed me to defecate on demand, burp with a smile, pass gas with confidence and act as a deserving Natural Homo-Erectus-evolved animal at all times. But now my 7 score cells were showing/smelling of slowly decaying wear and tare; something that a Dollar Store room deodorant spray could hardly handle or hide. But not to worry, I was told that I would live alone. Natural and solo. Yayyyy.
Besides the worry, the real reason for my visit was to participate in an International Performance Art festival with 20-somethings/millennials who I “thought” didn’t speak my art-language which is: the language of Arte Povera; the language of LESS IS MORE; the language of becoming a Heyoka so as to absorb/act out the unconscious fears of the audience; the language that says that the body is the ONLY material for art and action; the language that declares that every action is sacred and healing. I’m not saying that their performances did not include my prejudices, I’m just saying, these are my game changing opinions about what performance art IS & ISNT. But despite my first judgment that we even had aesthetic differences I discovered that we were communally united by the fact that we were housed in a more than 5 star feng shui hotel which included a see-through swimming pool, cantilevering over the street, 8 floors in the air. We were the rowdy, sloppy, loud, disheveled, rebellious artists, often dripping with post-performance detritus …but for a week, we rested and lived in the lap of beauty and luxury. This respectful treatment softened my mental hijacking and helped me defer my pre-performance focus from what about me, me, me and my always incessant internal blah, blah, blah which precedes my performing in public and allowed me to seal the “intention” to one of doing art, not for applause, but for healing and service to all, the intention I religiously cull most of the time. And as a friend said, before I left the US, “Have a good pilgrimage,” a kind, send-off wish that became etched in my memory bank of words to live by, affirmations to remember, things to always do. That is, enjoy the pilgrimage (divineness) of these very brief days in this beautiful country you are visiting on this rotating/ever moving earth-ball, no matter what! Performing or doing dishes on a blustery cold morning in the Northeast are both pilgrimage worthy activities I would imagine, no? His words shifted everything, even before I left the US because I decided to go there to be blessed, not to wow them with my 74 year old brilliance that age had afforded me . Not to impress anyone with the wisdom I had accrued from my 40 year performance career/shenanigans, as if I could!!!
After a luxurious bath in the healing, non lead-laced waters in this eco-friendly, non-Monsantoed, unfracked fairytale safe zone, I devoted my mind and time to hearing and reading spiritual teachings thanks to a gratis WIFI connection on my new repurposed/gifted from my brother’s IPhone. For hours I studied at the school of Google:
1. How to be really still.
2. Why be silent?
3. What is suffering and why do we suffer?
4. What is my method to cessate my own suffering?
5. What do I need to do before I die, now that I have stopped making videos?
6. What is my soul’s work?
Because of these jet-lagged hours of retreat and study, I birthed a new courage and surprised even myself when I “performed” saying a Catholic Rosary publically while fingering the beads/moving my lips in prayer on the train, during our public “train performance”, which afforded us a chance to improvise, interrupt, radically alter our own minds and the minds of the sleepy/sedate/non-confrontive early AM passengers who were nudged out of morning sleepiness to include our wonderfulness, our creative antics/actions, our strangeness, our trespassing into their “What is this nonsense?” minds. And I thank the wee young one’s for inspiring me to break my pattern of , “I only do 948 hour performances, on stage, for audiences of 390 thousand.”
Obviously eating well, taking approximately 45 baths a day, learning from 10 other committed and passionate performance artists, listening to profound internet teachings and being included in this lively art-tribe lovingly cared for by curators from the best possible scenario, mystically massaged into me an atmosphere of focused retreat, readying me for miracles the most dramatic being an almost blinding tree apparition of the Virgin Mary outside of the Catholic church, one mile from the festival. I saw her, really I did, because the day before I left, I was pulled by I don’t know what? Was it the smell of the Canadian artist’s expressed Mother’s Milk which I dreamt I drank or really did drink? Did that make me find Mother Mary in the tree? A mother-to-mother happening? I wasn’t going back to the church expecting anything like this, but to visit the wooden statue of Mary with the gargantuan hands, the Mary with the big blond hair (a Nordic meme?), the Mary statue inside the church, the Mary holding an oversized light haired, big footed Infant Jesus in her muscular, carved wood arms.
But at the entrance to the church I was stopped by Her. Outside, in the freedom of air and trees, she was ecologically/ naturally present and her light stopped me cold because there, right there next to the front door to the church, she called and said, ” You don’t have to go inside, I’m right here, beaming light, wearing
a blue cloak, white dress and I’m flashing you with a Transfiguredesque light show! Stop, look, listen. AND I’m NOT A PERFORMANCE, I’m REALLY me! “
Luckily I had been using my brother’s gifted IPhone for a month and as a result was able to take a photo, preserve the miracle and like all folks who snap, snap and snap and refuse to see, I fell into the trap of documenting and refusing to experience. As a result, I captured the prayer instead of praying but because I did have proof of the miracle, that did allow me to get a holy imprimatur and ok from Orthodox-minded, pious Catholics and non Catholics back home who had had similar Visitations. And they all said, “Yes, that looks like Mary!” By then, everything seemed non-ordinary and liminally supported by Delta Brain waves stirred by my new artist-friends brilliant performances and our mutual excursions into creative hive-mind.
A day later I flew out of fairy land, knowing the dream had just begun.
Linda Mary Montano, 2016