Daniel Mack

The Portals or Exercises   10.09

Live like there are gods in everything

These two dozen Exercises are meant to short circuit resistance and jump start the creative process.  It is not a linear or progressive activity. You are looking for the Portal of the Moment.  It is probably in this list somewhere. It will likely be a different one tomorrow.  Your intuition will get drawn to one or some of these approaches more than others.  That’s the signal to go with.  There’s no one place to start.  You have to be alert to changing opportunities to look behind the visible, the evident... at the borders, the folds, the cracks 

We want to quiet the critic, the clock-watcher, efficiency expert, the Product Developer,  the Utilitarian.  This is a chance to meet the reptile brain. Look over this collection of items like it’s a menu in a local restaurant and you are hungry.


1.Experiment with Attitude

See yourself as a Researcher.  You are an experimenter. Your life is a laboratory

Assume that everyone you see, everywhere you go, everything you do is important… but you may not be aware of it. The stop at the fast food restaurant, the walk down the street, the passing of the mail man

Pay new attention to coincidence, accident, frustration, annoyances, ignorances, weather, anxieties, close calls, hunches and intuition … Greet them like friends; learn more about them; don’t ignore them

Assume there is a plan, but you forgot it. Or maybe you only know part of it and you have to bluff your way through the rest.  Imagine that everybody else is bluffing too.


2.Practice Selective Perceptions:  

Spend 15 minutes just noticing the Shadows

Spend 15 minutes just noticing the Smells

Spend 15 minutes just noticing Temperatures

Spend 15 minutes noticing how you breathe

Watch the same place for a few weeks and note the changes                   

Dm Tree photos

Notice or Focus on just a single Element:

         on Fire, on Air, on Earth, on Water         what happens?


3.Re-Visit your own Biography as a Wayward Artist: 

A Primary Portal


In what ways are you already a “maker”?

List what you make: food, song, trouble ?

Select a special object and tell others why it is special

What objects do you collect?  Look around as if you were an estate appraiser and list the objects in your life.         DM story of mothers candles

What food do you eat? Cook, buy?  Talk about Food 

Are you your own Cook?

What Elements do you work with:  Air, earth, water, fire, ether materials…

Recall experiences in the Forest, Trees, Woods, wood, making, building?

Assume that these objects are magical decoys, lures, bait...  

Who or What are they trying to attract?

How do your objects charge and discharge? …When does something lose its meaning, its charge?

What part of your body seems most prominent?

Do you have a movement with an arm or leg or hand? A special way of walking?

Do you have a sound? 

What smells are you aware of, respond to. Do you have a smell?

What are your lingering concerns, worries, diseases, complaints, addictions, discomforts  Dan's Ganglion Cyst Poem

What parts of your body make themselves most aware to you?


FAMILY What have you inherited? 

Story Themes: family ‘wisdom’..in stories, jokes, memories  “we always”

Tendencies,  ways of seeing, “symptoms’’… Ethnicity: Irish fatalism, 

Salvational, Resurrectional, stoned and crucified and risen... Misunderstood

Whose voice says: “never perfect enough” or Good Job

Are there Family physical traits/ patterns of handling material; nose, your “walk

What are your family jokes, the sense of humor? For joy or anger?

Make poems and gifts to ancestors, relatives

When do you feel most alive?

Are you: Victim or victor?  Mom or calling “Mom?”  a BOX or BOWL

Explore your griefs and sadnesses.  What are they?

Are there life-long goals, hopes, longings?

Write a secret.  Leave a secret or advice for someone coming after you. 

What would you have like to have known  (Patrin/herm) 

Make a legacy and trail marker.

Make an object for the otherside

Meeting the archetypes who deal with your theme:  personal, cultural, collective  Explore Trickster,  Enki,  Hestia, Dionysius (joy), Apollo (SOL)  Luna    Diamons: what does your Guide want

Pema Chodron urges   “lean into the sharp points” 

What are your sharp points, What do you avoid??

What are you “old wounds”… interited wounds?

Do you have unfinished buisiness? 

Can you make something to help finish it?


What do you do regularly?

Being as non-judgemental as possible about these behavior:

what is this habit helping you say or continue to believe in?


4.Experiment with TIME

Why has the pleasure of slowness disappeared. A where have they gone, the amblers of yesteryear? Where have they gone, those loafing heroes of folk song, those vagabonds who roam from one mill to another and bed down under the stars. Have they vanished along with footpaths, with grasslands and clearings, with nature?                                                                   Milan Kundera 

Have a long-term activity; I try to keep a moss garden free from weeds!

Try something to finish in just a few minutes

Work with the Time of Day, the Time of the Year


5.Experiment with Making Right NOW

Just put three things together in the next fifteen minutes,

              what jumps into your hand? where does  your eye land? 

What’s fallen lately? or blown near? Or seems out of place?  

Using Gravity, Put 3 things together that can rest in the palm of your hand.

Using string or wire, Put 3 things together that can rest in the palm of your hand.

Desk Exercises:  have five items on your desk and rearrange them often

FENG SHUI:  a Chinese proverb says that if you want to change your life,

move 27 Things.

What happens if you just change something's position, from outside to inside, up to down, shelf to floor?

What happens if you change/shift size, materials, proportion, position, add motion, enlarge, miniaturise 

Play with ratio of order/disorder  geometry/free form     casual/formal


6.Experiment with Movement:

Make objects that shimmer, flicker, bob, tip, twirl, flutter


7.Experiment with ephemerals the transients, the fleeting:

rain, snow, ice, dawn, fog, smoke, twilight, liminal, leaking, something only glimpsed. effervescent, evanescent

This can be done in the course of daily routines.raking leaves, bundling newspapers, shoveling snow…

Look at books by Andy Goldsworthy, Chris Drury, Nils Udo

8.Encounter the Exotic: 

Learn about something new: Kuba Cloth, Mud Cloth, Ikebana, Bonsai


9.Make a Map

to Special local Places of beauty, antiquity…. finding Genii Loci


10.Wander somewhere              What do you experience

11.Poetry  Read it. Write it. Read it out Loud. Memorize it. 

Try Haiku

Try Paint Chip Poetry

Here are some of my favorites


12.Collect metaphors: Is life really like a box of Chocolates?   eg cooking, restaurants,  windows, doors. Follow errant images Twist the metaphors around a bit:

What else are you making?  doorways, windows, bridges, coffins…see Dream Interp material


13. Explore Tools        

What is you personal history with tools?  Are you “handy” What tools do you own, do you really like the feel of?

Start making with just a few simple tools see what happens  Maybe just a drills, an awl

Make a tool. 

Explore the rhythms, demands, pleasures of the tools


14. Explore Materials

Start with an empty container: cigar box, coffee can, candy tin,

      glass jar…where does it take you?

Work with something fresh and moist

Work with somehting hard and dry

Work with something brittle


15.Explore unusual crafting techniques   What can be said with plaiting, braiding, sewing,   notching, gravity, lashing, pleaching, stacking, arranging gluing, welding, soldering, drilling, wedging, .  The grammar of combined techniques is dazzling!  Each evokes or resonates with each of us personally and then has a larger cultural meaning.  But essentially crafting is about joinery… to joine re-ligare To bind back religion.

Using the mortise/tenon, Put 3 things together that can rest in the palm of your hand.


16. Make “Smalls”:  dreamcatchers, willow fetishs, bark frame, bark box, peach pit carvings, origami, whirligigs, willow whistles, whimmy diddles


17. Matter Emotions… Look at the list of feelings and emotions pick a few and make things that convey those feelings. Use symbols, stones, sticks, paper, movement, color, sound.


18. Make a few Imaginal Cards: small casual collages


19. Memorials  make something that helps you remember a person or event

20. Making a new identity: Beheading/Maskmaking/Redressing          

Birch Bark Masks, rework old clothing


21.The Baton/Wand  Start with a Stick, shape it, add to it. 

What's it turning into?

Give it away


22 Experiment with ambiguity 

Make something that means a few different things;

Try to hold opposites together. Don't they really belong together?


23.Experiment with Sharing and Giving

Potluck model: What can you bring TO this?                                         Story:  Trish dream catchers  Share your making with children in school: have the pleasure and distress of engaging 20 or 30 children in something you are passionate about.

Make a series of Gifts for your selfs: the unrecognized s’eflf,


24. Bring the Wayward Artist to the Workplace, the Marketplace

Hey, what if the Wayward Artist was artist in residence at the Dollar Store, The Mall?

see David Whyte’s work, Mindfulness in Marketplace


We are working with the Low Tech, the Casual:

We are seeing, finding, arranging, dissembling, resembling

Try pater-n and mater-l, geometries and natural materials to retain animation of nature and indication of hand 

Make a simple understructure and an elaborated overstructure

regular materials irregular ways....  irregular materials-regular ways

select, re-position, combine, enlarge, shrink, appropriate, join

WHY? to see and reveal the less visible; to hear and speak the less spoken

Art/Spirit travels accidentally, at a glance    This is called “flow”


Questions after First rounds of Making

Who Visited you while you were making? 

Who dropped in to admire, to comment, to judge?

In what ways did this making

connect you to your father

connect you to your mother?

to your older s'elves?

to your deferred s'elves?

your other s'elves?

In what ways did this making disconnect you?

Look  for Patterns in your Materials and Making major currents, themes, stories, myths 

All objects are magic decoys

Who or what are you trying to attract (or repel) with what you’ve made?

Does your work create dialogue/interaction with other people?

What else are you making? Follow the Image:Chair is seat of power, Trellis is a structure for growth  Bench is a modest seating for more than one.  But are your objects ALSO doorways, windows, bridges, coffins, screens.                               

Consult your Discomforts?  what is your body saying? They’re often Dressed as Resistances, Complaints, Whinings,  the eeeees :  if onlys, buts

Recognize yourOld Ways”: rituals, space, time, attitudes, need for help, judgments…

What if I did it differently” Just try a change… Invite in what you usually avoid… Experiment with levels of the need for control, straight, scale, order… what happens?

Resist safety of Function:  the forest need not be a Garden; The stick need not be a Chair


Start Again!… the Tide come in and out twice a day.  It’s never and yet always the Same

WRITE POETRY!       DM's Collection:

Being that the crow is darker than its shadow

It understands much about shades of black

It is amused by the concept of “black or white”

For the crow, everything is always both.


The Oaks and Beeches have held their leaves through the winter

In the March air, they klackle to softly waken the earth