She was the myth slipped down through dreamtime. The promise of feast we all knew was coming. The deer who crossed through knots of a curse to find us. She was no slouch, and neither were we, watching.
— from "Deer Dancer" by Joy Harjo
This work came by music, by a melody, lingering and swirling. I've often talked about the song "Don't Come Back" by O'death and the importance of it to my work. Sometimes you find a band and the music just gets you and you get them, and somehow each of you has received a key to the others mind.
I had been walking around Roosevelt Island again. I like to call it Blackwell these days as the name seems to fit. I had been thinking of creating a new piece but was unsure of the direction, as my mind shuffled through thoughts so did my ipod. "Don't Come Back" had eased it's way through the headphone and into the locked parts of my subconcious. Slowly the images came, one by one, like being haunted by small ghosts of time.
. . .but I imagined her like this, not a stained red dress with tape on her heels but the deer who entered our dream in white dawn, breathed mist into pine trees, her fawn a blessing of meat, the ancestors who never left. - from "Deer Dancer" by Joy Harjo
I had been deer haunted. Images of antlers, pulling animal cards, seeing them on the California highway, and jewelry with antlers showing up at my door. Everywhere deer, and here this song, putting the images together. As a totem deer means gentleness, as a myth she is a power being, part deer, part woman luring men too lustful to their graves. But none of these stories particularly pertained to this deer woman that day. She came as an image, a poster, a sunrise, and connection to a melody. She was born through music and when I showed the drummer of that band he basically said the same.
There is a common Southeastern story that teaches us of our origins: that we were born of ancestors who came from the stars and mated with the people born from the earth, from the Mounds that still exist in the southeast today. We are descendant of earth and stars, and being born from the earth and sky we are on a relentless move westward, to the land of sunset. We chase the Sun, who is female and whose power is regenerative and creative. As we move westward, away from our traditional ancestral homelands, removed by force and by will, we are taught that the stories move with us. - Paula Gunn Allen in her collection of stories Grandmothers of the Light (Beacon Press, 1991)
And within the last couple of days "Deer Woman" has found a new home with much adored friend Nicole Fiorentino of Smashing Pumpkins. The moment she told me she loved it was the moment it slipped away from my fingers and out into the ether. I couldn't be happier.